April Holidays and Celebrations

April holidays listed

Happy April, aka First Full Month of Spring!

Here’s a list of holidays to inspire you to get out and have some fun, and to make a difference.

April is:

National Gardening Month

National Poetry Month

Autism Awareness Month

National Grilled Cheese Month

Holidays:

2          World Autism Day

2          International Children’s Book Day

7          World Health Day

10           National Siblings Day

11           National Pet Day

18           Tax Day

22           Earth Day

22           National Jellybean Day

23           National Picnic Day

27           Administrative Professionals Day

28           Take Your Child to Work Day

30           International Jazz Day

April 24-30th is National Princess Week!

Shopping the Souks of Marrakech, Morocco

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A hypnotic, mesmerizing and intoxicating labyrinth of metalwork, woodwork, rugs, leather, spices and more. That’s how I describe the souks in Marrakech, Morocco.

And this exotic marketplace of shops and stalls was one of my favorite places in Marrakech.

We spent a sunny afternoon perusing the colorful stalls, each with its own unique finds, and many with craftsmen in the back creating goods.

My favorite vendor was Mohamed, and I purchased three of his bags. If you go to the souks, LOOK HIM UP! You won’t be disappointed.

Shopping for leather bags in souks of Marrakech Morocco

Mohamed’s  business card

When I walked in Mohamed was in the back working on a bag, but he greeted me and let me peruse at my own speed. In a place where many of the merchants can be aggressive, this was a welcome approach.

leather bags from Marrakech Morocco

I fell in love with this yellow suede bag, so much so I bought it in gray, too. And the navy blue with fringes? Yes, please!

I walked back to my riad completely pleased with my finds (and wishing I had budgeted for more bags).

Here are tips for getting the most from your Marrakech shopping excursion:

  • Embrace the overstimulation of color, crafts and beauty. It is A LOT, and it is beautiful. The best thing is to relax, browse and then decide what you truly want/need.
  • Don’t get sucked in to the trap of buying the first thing you see, because you may see something a few stalls down that you like better.
  • If time permits, walk through and then decide what you will buy. I walked through and then purchased as I made my way back through the souks.
  • Don’t be intimidated by shop owners. Some are pretty aggressive and may try to guilt you to buy from them. Don’t give in to the pressure.
  • Haggling is a part of the culture, which can work to your advantage. Decide what you’re willing to pay, and don’t be afraid to compare pricing.

 

Enjoy!

Canon SELPHY Mobile Printer Perfect For Instant Prints

canonprintermobilereview
                            photo from Barbados trip

My Canon SELPHY Compact photo printer has become one of my favorite tech purchases. It’s portable, the prints come out great and it’s very easy to use.

Here is a review of my favorite features, in no particular order:

Quality prints. To the average eye these prints are fine. I’ve printed plenty of color photos and they all look nice. The color is vibrant, the photos aren’t pixelated and the borderless printing option adds to the professional feel of the photo. I’ve given away prints as party favors at different events, and the feedback has been glowing.

Pairs with my smartphone. I LOVE that it’s wireless and Bluetooth-enabled, which means I can easily print from my smartphone! I quickly edit the photo using my phone, and then print from the Canon app. For my daughter’s last birthday party it was all I needed to print photos from the photo booth. The girls had a blast and were so excited to take their picture home that day. It takes each photo over a minute to print, but the ease of printing makes up for the time. I printed photos while they were enjoying their snack, J.

4 x 6 size prints. The size of the print is standard, making it easy to find frames or add to a photo book. In a time when most photos live electronically only, it’s been great encouraging my girls to display printed photos.

Small and portable. This mobile printer is very small, making it easy to carry and use no matter where you are. All you need is an electric outlet and you are set.

portable printer for easy photos

A few other things:

  • When you buy the printer, don’t forget to pick up printing supplies. It comes with a starter kit, but this only prints 4-5 photos. I bought this set of extra photo paper and cartridges, which will give you over 100 prints.
  • I love the wireless option and being able to print from my phone, but you can also print from a camera using a cord.
  • It doesn’t come with a carry bag, so consider picking up a small bag to keep your printer and supplies in one place. I use a repurposed lunch bag, :-).

Enjoy!

Barbados 2016 Girls Trip

barbados itinerary long weekend girlfriend getawayBarbados Getaway! Where we stayed, what we did and where we ate

Landing in Barbados in the wee hours of the morning is exciting. The humidity of the Caribbean air hugs you, and the energy from other passengers is contagious. We know that in a few hours we’ll be privy to a beautiful sunrise over some amazingly blue water. And if we’re really on it, we can view it from our balcony or from the beach… WITH our tropical juice, :-).

Getting through immigration and customs was a fairly easy process at the airport, and it was very easy to get a cab to the Hilton Barbados. Upon arrival I knew we had chosen a good place to call home for a few days.

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One pool at Hilton Barbados Resort

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Infinity pool at Hilton Barbados Resort

The grounds were peaceful, with a slight hum of the ocean in the background. Talk about a welcome soundtrack!

The staff was great, too. Very friendly and accommodating.

Our first morning we ate breakfast at the hotel (they have a buffet) and decided on two excursions for our vacation – a driver to show us the island and horseback riding. The hotel concierge was extremely helpful in setting these up.

When I tell you that Barbados is GORGEOUS, these photos don’t do it justice…

barbadosview2

 

barbadosmountainoceanview2

 

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These animals know how to choose a home…

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Horseback riding near the beach

Now, y’all know I’m about my food, and Barbados did not disappoint. Our driver suggested Brown Sugar so we ate there the first night. This is the crabmeat-stuffed fish fillet with seasonal vegetables.

barbadosdinnerbrownsugar2

O.M.G. It was divine! The green vegetable is christophene.  If you ever see it on a menu, order it! Really, take my word.

The next night we went to Oistins where I took the servers suggestion and ordered the blue marlin. When the plate came I couldn’t believe how much food was on the plate. See how the fish is hanging off the plate?!

barbadosmarlindinneroistinsbay2

I have never had a server bring a second plate because my plate was overflowing. Nope, never.

There are other things you can do in Barbados, too. Snorkeling, kayaking, sightseeing, etc. But above all, make sure you schedule plenty of time to do nothing but enjoy the beautiful blue waters, caribbean breezes and good company. I took a two-hour nap on the beach, and waking up to this view was enough to make me want to do this again.

barbados long weekend itinerary

If you’re looking for a place to go with friends, for a romantic getaway or even a solo trip, I strongly recommend Barbados, :-).

Happy Travels and enjoy the Caribbean breeze!

 

p.s. Here are a couple of short videos of Hilton Barbados from my trip to get you ready…

View from Infinity Pool

Sounds of the ocean and view from the UNESCO site!

 

Amazon Kindle Unlimited, Get the Most From Your Subscription

ebookskindleaffordable_freeThe hunt for free Amazon Kindle ebooks can be exhilarating, or it can be a path to the rabbit hole of headaches, stress and “WHY did I ever decide to do this?!”.

For me, it’s the latter.

I like “free,” but not at the cost of my sanity. So, I decided to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

I look at it this way. For the cost of one book per month, I have access to an unlimited number of ebooks that I can easily download to my Kindle app. It’s like buy one, get an unlimited amount free every month.

Better yet, I’m not stuck reading mostly summaries or teasers that lead me to books I have to purchase anyway.

I access my account via the Kindle app, and read on my iPad and phone. I love that it syncs so I don’t have to figure out where I stopped, even if I want/need to read the book on a device I didn’t use to start. The app is compatible with most ereaders, iPhones, Android phones, and tablets, including iPad.

Here are three ways I get the most from my unlimited subscription:

  • I think of it as my on-demand library, that’s accessible anywhere. Sure, there are lots of fiction books, but it’s excellent for nonfiction, reference, textbooks and cookbooks, too. I was able to download a Paleo diet cookbook and a “how-to” book one day. The next day I was downloading fiction from a couple of my favorite authors.
  • I am sure to download and read at least two books monthly. Since the fee averages the cost of one ebook, if I read at least two, it’s like I bought one and got one free, :-). . Right now I’m reading The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, with a couple of light-hearted fiction ebooks on the side.
  • I set aside time weekly to read and learn. I read at least 15 minutes every day. This way I know I’m not wasting my money.

Now for my one caveat. Kindle Unlimited will not take the place of purchasing all new releases or some very popular authors. However, you can use the 30-day free trial subscription to test the waters, see what’s available, and try out my tips, :-).

Happy Reading!

 

Disclaimer: This post may include affiliate links, which tells companies how you found them, and may result in my compensation from the company. This compensation will not effect your final cost for anything and it definitely doesn’t effect my reviews or opinions. I think of it as a finder’s fee for the company, :-). Read more about affiliates and my complete disclosure here.

Super Soul Sunday Takes TV Tabernacle to Another Level

supersoulsundaythankstooprahDear Oprah,

As a bona fide member of TV Tabernacle I must thank you for SuperSoul Sunday.

Yesterday I was only going to watch the 11 a.m. show with Rob and Kristen Bell, but next up was Brene Brown! When you introduced me to her a few years ago, I raved for weeks about her to anyone that would listen.

I can’t tell you how much I love her research, findings and how she shares these things. Now I must watch the reruns every time they are on.
Then Marianne Williamson?! Yes and yes.

Since SuperSoul Sunday has come into my life, my spiritual journey has not been the same. In addition to my favorite pastors, my soul is now fed by people I may have never known otherwise. I love that you share a variety of experiences and perspectives on spirituality. I love the “aha moments” and tweetable quotes.

Again, thank you for using your platform for this. I am so blessed by the conversations and thoughts.

Sincerely,
Towanda

Valentine’s Day, Elementary School Style

valentines day cards gifts elementary schoolValentine’s Day in elementary school means class parties and card exchanges. So today I took the girls shopping for cards, and it brought back all of the stress I felt in elementary school, trying to pick the right card for the right classmate. It was easy enough to make sure my friends got the cards with the best candy, but what if there were rumors of an unreciprocated crush?!

I couldn’t give the unreciprocated crush a card that was too nice. I mean, it would be cruel to offer hope when there was none. But, it was very important to be cordial, because I didn’t want to make them feel bad either.

Or what about the person that I did have a crush on, but didn’t want them to know?! I couldn’t give them a card too nice because I didn’t want them to figure out the crush.

And what would happen if I mistakenly gave the wrong card to a person?

See how confusing that sounds? Imagine how it felt.

There were so many variables and my kid-mind was just not ready for it. So every year I reluctantly filled out cards, passed them out to my classmates, and prayed none of my choices would backfire.

Because in grade school, making a social faux pas could ruin your life, for about a week, and that seemed like forever, :-).

By the time the day was over, I was just happy I survived, with candy and cards as a decent consolation prize.

Luckily, my girls didn’t seem stressed about it. They were excited tonight, happily choosing cards for their classmates and teachers.

On another note, if you’re looking for free Valentine’s Day cards that you can print at home, check these out. Using a printable is a great way to avoid the chaotic row of cards and candy at the store.

If you’re looking for a game for your party, family night or classroom, here’s a Valentine’s Day board game I created over on my other blog.

Enjoy Valentine’s Day!

California Pizza Kitchen’s New Menu

californiapizzakitchenfoodreviewYesterday I tried California Pizza Kitchen’s new menu (and some old favorites) with my #BlogCharlotte crew. I was really looking forward to trying the updated dishes, and thankfully I was not disappointed.

Even better, I was pleasantly surprised. For starters, I expected it to be mostly pizza, but there’s so much to choose from… who knew?!

We started with drinks, and I went with the strawberry mango cooler. It was the perfect non-alcoholic drink, and a good choice if you want to save your calories for food. MyFitnessPal has it listed at 90 calories.

After drinks we were served appetizers and salad. Everything was tasty, but this harvest kale salad spoke to me.

harvest kale salad california pizza kitchen review

Just look at all of the tastiness in it.

Next up was pizza. I tried the barbecue chicken pizza and mushroom pizza.

californiapizzakitchenbarbecuechickenmushroomreviewBoth were great, though I found myself reaching for seconds and thirds of the chicken option, :-). However, when I’m looking for vegetarian options I’d definitely order the mushroom.

After pizza we moved on to the ribeye and halibut dishes.

ribeye and halibut from california pizza kitchen reviewBoth are good options, but the ribeye was my favorite. See that creamy blue cheese butter? How can that not be good?

After the main dish I was full, and expected to pass on dessert.

Until they brought the salted caramel pudding and butter cake to the table.

salted caramel pudding review from california pizza kitchen

Salted Caramel Pudding

Then amazingly, I had room for a little more.

As a proud chocoholic, I totally expected the caramel pudding to win my heart, because there are chocolate cookie crumbs in the bottom. However, the butter cake not only won first place, I asked for one to take home.

butter cake from California Pizza Kitchen review

Yes, it’s THAT. GOOD!

Overall, I really enjoyed everything and I’ll be going back. There’s an asaparagus + spinach spaghettini I want to try, and the butter cake must happen again. It’s only right, :-).

 

A couple of other notes:

  • If you’re looking for gluten free options, they have a great system in place to make sure the food is not cross-contaminated. My friend ordered the gluten-free barbecue chicken pizza and she said it was “really good and the crust was not like cardboard.” She added pineapple to hers, just in case you’re wondering. Gluten-free options are hand-delivered by the manager and they’re marked with these cute toothpicks.

gluten free pizza california pizza kitchen

 

  • The kids’ meal options include pizzas, salads and pastas, along with desserts. So, you should be able to find something for them, no matter what they like, :-).

Enjoy your visit!

 

Disclaimer: Our meal was complimentary, but that has no bearing on my opinions expressed here. I value your readership, and would not jeopardize that for a free meal. It goes against the Towanda code, :-).