Goodbye to Our First Home

I’ve always had a love for real estate. Long before the days of HGTV, Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, I used to watch the streaming photos of local real estate listings that was on Sunday morning TV and episodes of “This Old House” with my dad.   I opted for electives like architecture appreciation at Penn State, and took all the real estate classes I could get my hands on in law school.  I’ve been a practicing real estate attorney since 2003, and I just recently obtained my real estate sales license, so I am officially a real estate agent as well.

Even with all of that, nothing can quite prepare you for the emotional highs and lows of buying and selling your first home.

One of my best friends is about to close on her first home later this week, and she is going through the same emotional roller coaster I went through when I bought my very first house. At times you are super excited and making plans for new furniture and imagining how wonderful it will be living there, and then you think about the mortgage, the obligations of home ownership, and five minutes later you are freaking out, wondering “Is this all a huge mistake?!”  I think this pretty normal, and actually, a healthy reaction.  While it is exciting to think about the future and new beginnings, it is a monumental life change and it’s only normal to have questions, fears and concerns.  It just means you understand the obligations you are about to undertake.

Last week, I just sold my first home.  The first home I purchased all by myself as a single gal, years and years ago, was my very first listing and closing as a real estate agent.  I think experiencing everything as a seller and a listing agent at the same time gave me a great perspective for future clients, and made me realize that selling a home can be every bit of an emotional roller coaster is buying one.  Prepping the house and doing minor repairs is one thing, but nothing quite prepares you for saying goodbye.

Many jobs ago and long before I was married, I scrimped and saved every month hoping to put away enough money for a down payment on my first house. I searched high and low and couldn’t find anything that checked all my boxes, but eventually I found a house that had “good bones” that I could afford in a location that worked for me.  Over the next several years I chipped away little by little at the renovations, window blinds in the kitchen one month, curtains in another room the next.  Over time I would eventually install all new floors, renovate the kitchen and bathrooms, landscaping and a new swimming pool.


It was all a labor of love.  Something that I put my blood, sweat and tears into.  That house was my baby, and eventually became the house I envisioned it becoming, except it was without a family.

I eventually met my husband and we got married.  That was our first house as a married couple. We dreamed of starting a family there, but we didn’t know just how challenging that dream would be.  Shortly after we were married and he moved into that home, we found out that I had some pretty extreme fertility challenges and it would be very difficult for me to have a baby.

As a family of two (plus a few fur babies), we started our fertility testing and treatments while living in that home.   I got call after call about failed IVF cycles and bad test results in that home.  I had my first miscarriage in that home.  I spent countless evenings shedding tears in that home, hugging my sweet puppy dogs and in the arms of my husband, wondering if it would all ever work out.  We endured years of IVF in that home, wondering if we would ever hear the pitter pattering of little feet on the floor, running toward mommy and daddy.

But among all the tears, it was also a home of hope. We never gave up hope we would have our child one day.  I still remember the exact spot where the guest bathroom met the hallway where I received news for one particular IVF cycle that eventually gave us our toddler son was successful.  He had just grown into the beautiful strong 5 day old embryo that we were hoping for.  I somehow knew in that moment that this would be “the one” that would work, and I shed tears of joy knowing that he was strong and ready to become our child one day.

Max was born in our current home, but before closing last week we took him to that first home in which he was still just a vision, our hope, our dream. He quickly ran around the house exploring all of the cupboards, closets, and other nooks and crannies.  He also tried his hand at using the hose outside on the pool deck (he is obsessed with anything related to water).   Before we left, I took Max over to that spot where our guest bathroom met the hallway, and told him that this was a house of hope, and that that was where I knew our dreams would come true.  I know he will be too young to remember, but I wanted to show him anyway, and it was part of my way of saying goodbye.

As we were at the door almost ready to leave, I finally heard the little pitter patter of steps headed toward mommy and daddy, and in that moment realized that all of my dreams that I had for that home had finally come true.


At the closing last week, I learned that the couple who bought the home has little boy of their own.  It made my heart happy to think that maybe this house that I turned into my home would become their place of hopes and dreams.

A house full of love, and the pitter patter of a little boy’s footsteps…

Weekly Look | Ready for the 4th! 🇺🇸 


Summer is finally in full swing, and everyone is getting ready for BBQ’s, pool parties, and the Fourth of July fireworks. Can you believe it’s less than two weeks away already?! 🇺🇸 

My go to weekend outfits in the summers almost always consist of jean shorts and a sleeveless top.  This gingham print poplin halter from Abercrombie is on sale now for less than $25 – it’s breezy and cool for hot Florida afternoons.  I love the crisp cotton pleats, and the scalloped detailing at the bottom is really cute. It also looks great with wedges and white jeans.


I’ve been wearing these great neutral tan suede Sam Edelman stacked slides with everything, and they are super comfy.



Poplin Cutout Halter | (Similar) Jean Shorts | Bracelet | Sunglasses | Necklace |Chanel Perfume

Shop the entire look in my ShopStyle shop HERE!

How to Limit Your Wait for Pandora’s Avatar Flight of Passage

Late this spring, Walt Disney World Resort’s Animal Kingdom debuted the visually stunning new world of Pandora, the beautiful land depicted in the visually stunning movie Avatar.   In my blog post below (1) I’ll tell you a little bit about the latest thrill ride, and (2) share my tips on how to avoid a long wait!

Consistent with messaging of other attractions in the park and the movie Avatar, there is a heavy focus on the importance of conservation and the beauty of mother nature.  Pandora’s story is that you are a visiting eco-tourist, offered the opportunity to join Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) for the transformational experience of a lifetime, filled with thrilling expeditions, floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest and winged mountain banshees.  In partnership with ACE, visitors have the chance to fly through the beautiful Valley of Mo’ara.  The two new attractions in this land are the thrill ride Avatar Flight of Passage and the winding river cruise, Na’vi River Journey.

I recently had a chance to visit Pandora and ride Avatar Flight of Passage.  On this ride, guests fly on the back of a mountain banshee during an amazing 3D ride above this amazing landscape.  As you pass through the phases of the que for this attraction, first you will experience the beautiful floating mountains and lush landscape out doors.  Inside, you will pass through ancient caves, a bioluminescent forest, and the science base/lab as shown in the movie.  After leaving the lab you will travel down a long corridor and wait through a few video presentation before moving on to the ride.  As you enter the staging room you will be given a pair of clear 3-D goggles and be instructed to board a motorcycle type apparatus.  Before the ride begins restraints will secure you firmly to your flying banshee from the back.   The ride is  thrill ride version of the simulation ride Soarin’ at Disney’s Epcot Center, but it is exponentially more amazing.  The movie screen for the ride is  the 2nd largest screen in the world, so you will feel absolutely immersed in this land.  I have been sky diving on a couple of occasions, and this experience really felt like flying to me. It is a must do for anyone.  You aren’t permitted to take any videos during the attraction, but if you watch the movie again that will be a pretty good indicator of what is in store. I was able to capture some photos of the que that I’ve included below.


HOW I ONLY WAITED 25 MINUTES

For a limited time, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is open until 11:00 PM , giving guests more time to explore the land of Pandora.

Avatar Flight of Passage is so popular that it’s not uncommon for the line to be several hours long, and I have heard that the que was constructed to accommodate up to 5 hour waits. Note that seating and restraints may prohibit guests of certain body shapes or sizes from riding, there is a. minimum height restriction of 44”, and expectant mothers should not ride this attraction.

The Fast Pass + program will definitely be a great option in the future, but as guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels can book their Fast Pass + 60 days in advance and there are a limited number on any given day, it is pretty difficult to actually get one in the near future. Guests staying at the hotel can, take advantage of special “Extra Magic Hours” some mornings, and from 11PM to 1AM for a limited time.

So what do you do if you don’t have a Fast Pass +?

SHOW UP BEFORE THE PARK OFFICIALLY OPENS!

Although the parks have official opening times, you can enter the main entry portal of the park in advance of the official opening time and wait to enter your designated land. For example, at the Magic Kingdom you can enter Main Street USA early in the morning and the park greeters will open the gates to Adventureland, Tomorrowland, etc., when the park officially opens.  

The day that I visited Pandora, I checked to make sure there were not Extra Magic Hours that morning and verified that the opening time was 8 AM, I arrived around 7:15 AM and parked in the first two rows of the lot.

By the time I walked to the entry, passed through security and entered the park it was about 7:25 AM. I turned left down the path to Pandora and found this crowd already waiting to enter the land.   

Although officially the park didn’t’ open until 8:00 AM, they opened the gates to Pandora at 7:30 AM and we were off! As the crowd approached the open pathway, half the crowd turned to left to the Na’vi River Journey and I continued to my right to begin the que for Flight of the Avatar.  I slowly walked through 2/3rds of the que and I didn’t’ actually wait in line until I reached the last holding room that is inside the attraction.

In all, I waited about 25 minutes to ride the attraction, walked around Pandora, rode Expedition Everest, and I was home around 9:30 that morning. (We are lucky to live about 20 minutes away from the parks).


OTHER ATTRACTIONS

I waited to experience the Na’vi River Journey with my toddler Max and his daddy later this year, so I can’t provide a personal account of that attraction yet. From what I have read, in this attraction guests float along through a sacred bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Na’vi Shaman of Songs.  I have heard, think Pirates of the Caribbean meets a crazy beautiful bioluminescent rainforest. To learn more about this attraction, click here.

The land offers some great walking paths to get up close and personal with the crazy plants and waterfalls.

You  can visit Windtraders to pick up your favorite Pandorian souvenir to take home.  For a bite to eat, visit the Satu’li Canteen, a quick service restaurant, offering entrees and drinks below $15 (note, alcoholic beverages are sold here).  For offerings on the menu, click hereYou can try some some funky fun beverages at Pongu Pongu, including a bioluminescent frozen cocktail!  Check out the menu for Pongu Pongu here.

To read more about the new land of Pandora, check the official Walt Disney World Resort Website.

 

Weekly Look | Banana Leaf


Summer officially starts this week, and time to start packing for your summer vacation.

Whether you are headed to the Caribbean, Mexico or here to the beaches in Florida, this tropical print tunic dress from Show Me Your MuMu should be added to your packing list. Easy and breezy, it’s perfect for day or night and the flowy cut will keep you cool all day long.

Pretty natural woven bags are popping up everywhere on fashion blogs and Instagram this year.  They are a versatile neutral that will go with every outfit for your small grab and go bag. I found this bag on Amazon for only $20.



Tunic dress | Sunglasses | Woven Bag

A Little Boy this Fathers Day

Matt and I are always busy, struggling with balancing demanding work schedules as attorneys and quality time with Max, but I think we are doing a good job so far.  Max seems to be thriving in daycare, and honestly, we call it school when we talk about it because they have a designated curriculum daily, and his teachers have backgrounds in early childhood education.  He takes swim lessons, takes part in age science and math lessons, reads stories, goes crazy at outdoor play time, and loves trying new messy projects.  Plus is loves is daycare bothers and sisters – some of which he’s known since he was 4 months old.

Max is now an independent, compassionate, and kind little boy.  Yes, his own little boy now, no longer our little baby.

He is a boy with opinions and thoughts of his own.  He will ask with words when he wants to eat and drink, and promptly say  thank you when you give him that food, or even his favorite toy.  This boy has very stubborn parents, and the apple does not fall far from the tree.  Max knows what he wants and goes after it.  He explores, jumping off the back of the sofa and climbing the outside of the stairs.  He will let you know when you are not making him happy, usually with a demand of “MINE!” when a favorite toy has to go away.

He can be rambunctious, rough and tumble, as lots of toddlers are, but he also shows compassion and love.  The world is so crazy now, a foundation of kindness and compassion for others is more important than ever.   When Max sees someone sad, and he will give a kiss to say he is sorry. At school last week, one of Max’s teachers told me a younger girl was crying one day in class and Max’s response was to place his hands on her face to stroke her cheeks softly in attempt to make her “all better”.   I am filled with gratitude that he cares about the feelings of others and understands, in some way, that his actions can have an impact on those around him.

Sometimes he gets frustrated or mad as all children do, and we try to teach him what to do with those feelings.    I’m really happy he has reached the age where he understands taking a “timeout”.  I never thought it would work this young, but he stays put in his chair and listens.  We will explain what he has done and what to do next time, and he sits there with his lips pouted and tears welling in his eyes.  while I never like to see him sad, it makes me glad to know that he can understand now when he has done something wrong and timeouts seem to help in redirecting his actions.  Who knew at 20 months? (probably lots of people actually, but I was utterly clueless!)

And then there is our friend the potty.  Max is still pretty young so we are just experimenting with his kiddie toilet, usually on the way to and from his bath.  Last week he did pee pee in the potty for the very first time, and several times thereafter.  I was so proud of that kid, and the look of accomplishment and satisfaction of a job well done on Max’s face was priceless.  While we’ve started making progress on the pee pee, our batting average is not quite as good for number two…  Baby steps…

I know talking, opinions, growing, timeouts and potty are all just normal kid stuff.  He is the same as any other toddler.  But that being said, watching him learn and grow in all of these new ways is fascinating to me, and we are so very proud of him.  In our eyes, he’s the most special kid in the whole world.

Some days Max will just bring tears to my eyes.  He will shoot me his coy broad smile, accidentally step on my fingers as a sit next to him on the floor, and clumsily wraps his arms around my neck and squeeze.  Then he will pull his head away and look into my eyes, flash that huge grin again, and fall back into that giant hug.  I can’t believe that’s our little boy, and that we are so lucky to have such a special little man in our lives.  When I look his eyes and feel that gooey baby slobber on my face after a giant smooch, my heart feels like it will explode.   I don’t know if it’s because we tried so long to have him we feel like this, or every parent just feels like this about their child.  He is more than we ever dreamed we could have, and having Max in our life exceeds all of our expectations for how happy we would be…

There are so many complicated things he will have to learn about someday in this world.  Some things will be scary, and some things will be difficult, but above all he will know that he travels through this life with love from so many people, including his daddy.

Daddy plays baseball and wrestles with him – he’s the fun guy who that lets him try sour patch kids and chases him around the house.  But daddy also does the hard stuff.  Daddy changes the disgusting poopy diapers, gives him messy baths, and rocks him to sleep so many nights when Max is teething and can’t get back to sleep.  Daddy is a safe place for Max, a place of love and caring, a place of fun and a place of happiness.

Max will look high and low in the house calling “Dada?” when Matt is still at work, searching for his best buddy.  If he doesn’t hear anything, occasionally he calls out “Matt?”, hoping for a different response.  All the love and caring that this daddy brings into Maxwell’s life has helped our little boy grow into such a clever and compassionate boy.  He is full of passion, determination and smiles.  I’ve read that a dad is a son’s first hero, and luckily for Max, he’s got a superhero.  Max’s daddy never once gave up hope though 5 years of Infertility treatments that we would have our little boy one day, even when I felt like giving up.  Sometimes I would get annoyed, wondering why he didn’t cry the same tears and react the same way as me.  I know now he was just being the rock that I needed him to be, and he knew that in his own time, our boy was coming to us.

Hat Trends this Summer

I’m a hat lover. You’ll find me wearing them all year long in Florida, especially in the hot summer sunshine.

Not only are they an easy touch to cap off the perfect outfit, but the added benefit of sun protection is wonderful, especially when you live in Florida. Keeping those UV rays off your face will keep your skin tone more even, helping you keep younger and healthier looking skin, not to mention helping to protect against skin cancer.

Whether you are sitting by the pool for the afternoon, or heading farmers market on a Saturday morning to buy pick up fresh flowers, try picking up one of these finds this summer!



1. Panama Resort Hat, on sale for only $25 right now at Gap.  This classic will never go out of style, and looks great in all of your vacation photos!  Last season’s version of this hat at Gap is pictured in the photos above.
2. Caslon Raffia Panama Hat, $39 right now at Nordstrom.  I love how this hat folds down so it’s easy to pack in your carry on.


3. Tassel Wide Brim Fedora, on sale right now for $25 at Gap.  I love the subtle incorporation of tassels that make this hat more contemporary without the risk of being too trendy.


4. Pattern Band Floppy Hat, on sale right now for $21 right now at Gap.  The wide brim is fantastic for keeping the UV rays off your face at the beach this summer.


5. Raffia Boater Hat, from Gap is currently sold out, but hoping they get more in stock soon.  I love this cut of hat this season.

6. Clint Bolero Hat, by Janessa Leone is the most expensive on the list at $185, but if you want to invest in one hat this season, this is it! I love everything about this hat. Swoon!


Happy shopping everyone!  (And remember, still use moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher on your face every day!)

Click Here To shop this look!

Weekly Look | In Love with Lemons

I fell in love with lemons when I found them everywhere during my first trip to Capri, so I’m thrilled lemons seem to be just everywhere this season.


There are some beautiful dresses out there like the one above from Dolce & Gabbana, but this dress would run over $1000.  I searched high and low for something similar at a more reasonable price, but everything seemed to be sold out before I could find it.

So at that point I turned to my reliable old friend, Amazon, and it didn’t let me down.

I found this great skirt for under $20.  It has an adjustable waist band, a perfect feminine length, and a personal favorite – pockets!  This is really a great look for less.

I paired this skirt with a light chambray shirt from J Crew and necklace from Banana Republic that I picked up a few years ago. Shop the entire look below.

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Lemon Skirt | Chambray Shirt | Similar Necklace

5 Tips to Make Your Summer Vacation to Orlando Even Better

If you have a trip to Orlando coming up you probably have started planning which parks to visit and what attractions to see. Maybe you’ve even booked a special character breakfast for your little ones to eat pancakes with Mickey Mouse. But lets face it, summers in Florida are hot and the lines for rides can be long.  Follow these five simple tips to help make your Orlando vacation this summer the best yet!

Cinderella’s Castle at the Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom


1. SUNSCREEN

Slather it on.  Immediately. I’m not kidding.  Lots of it and often. Starting the very first day of your trip, before you even leave your your room in the morning, put on that sunscreen.

Don’t try to “get a good base” for a few days – protect that skin from the get go.  Over the years I’ve seen one too many tourists walking around the parks looking like a human tomato.  The summer sun is super intense in Central Florida, and a bad sunburn can make things simply miserable for the rest of your trip.  Don’t use anything less than an SPF 30, but I recommend using SPF 50 or higher if you have sensitive skin.  Reapply throughout the day, find lip balm win sunscreen to keep on those lips, and bring a hat to protect the top of your head from the summer rays. Bring sunscreen from home because it will cost an arm and a leg in the parks.



2. PACE YOURSELF

A trip to Orlando’s attractions is a marathon, not a sprint.  There’s a little bit of Clark Griswold in all of us, determined to see the most that we can.  It’s only natural to want to get the biggest bang for your buck and make sure your family has the best trip ever. The pressure of these expectations can be daunting.  The truth is that you may not get to each attraction at every theme park, but they key is to make sure the time you spend there is enjoyable with your family.

Maxwell tuckered out from a long day in the stroller.

In the summers the park hours run late, so you will have more time to tackle the rides on your agenda.   Wake up early to wait in line outside the park before it opens so you can hit a few of the busiest attractions before the park gets busy, then leave around 1pm.  The mid afternoon hours can be the hottest of the day when you will be the most miserable and accomplish little because of the long lines.  Instead leave for lunch and go back to your hotel for a swim in the pool, or just rest up for a couple of hours in the air conditioning back in your room.  After you had a chance to regroup and cool down, head back to the park in the late afternoon and stay to until closing.  Later in the evening the parks start to clear out because the all-day park goers will finally throw in the towel.  If you don’t want to catch the parades, that is another great time to try to squeeze in a popular ride too.

The resorts on Walt Disney World property offer two other options that speed up the waiting process.  Fast Pass + allows you to book up to 3 rides during scheduled times where you can ride the attraction and bypass the line. You can obtain them at the park or ahead of time on Disney’s mobile app (up to 30 days in advance generally, and 60 days in advance if you are a resort guest).  The Disney resorts also offer extra magic hours where only resort guests can enter a park early and stay after the park closes. The parks for extra magic hours vary by day, so check in advance on-line or with your concierge to for more  details.


3. BEACH DAY

Hitting the theme parks every day for a  week will leave even the most seasoned athlete weary.  Plan a day trip to the beach in the middle of your vacation for a little rest and relaxation. There are tons of fantastic beaches close to Orlando.  For bigger waves and some surfing, you’ll find Daytona, Cocoa or New Smyrna Beach about an hour away on the east coast, and the cute beach town of Vero Beach about an hour and a half away.

Max and daddy enjoying the water in Naples, Florida. Naples and Miami area between 3 and 4 hours away, so plan for an overnight stay to visit those destinations.

The white sands and peaceful clear waters of the gulf shore’s St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach are a little over two hours away. Getting off your feet for the day will do wonders!

Looking out to the water in the pretty beach town of Vero Beach, about an hour and a half from Orlando. Disney has the Vero Beach resort there as well.

The white sands and peaceful clear waters of the gulf shore’s St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach are a little over two hours away.  Getting off your feet for the day will do wonders!


4. EMBRACE THE RAIN

You can count on daily afternoon thunder showers in Orlando between 1 and 5 pm.  The good news is that they don’t typically last a long time, but rain will come down in buckets when it does.

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Standing in line waiting at Hard Rock Live at Universal’s Citywalk.

Before and after the daily rain shower, expect lots of sunshine.  Buy Ponchos before you leave home and carry them with you into the park. The theme park rain gear may have a cute little mouse on it, but it cost much more than that $2 poncho you can pick up at Walgreens.  If it is lightening stay in a safe place to let the storm pass, but otherwise run around in those ponchos and hit as many rides as you can.  Make the most of the time others are waiting for the storm to pass.  The storms clear the parks out, so crowds will die down substantially after the rain too. (The clouds can make for really fantastic sunsets!) To avoid delays at the airport due to thunderstorms, consider flying into Orlando later in the evening and departing the city before noon.


5. EAT WELL

Hydrate with water, as much as you can and whenever you can (not soda). Drink even when you aren’t thirsty.  Summer days in Florida are very hot and humid, making it easy to get dehydrated quickly, especially  little ones. To help save money, consider buying bottles of water and refilling them throughout the park for the day.

Maxwell staying hydrated with his Florida water.

Vacations are full of invitations to eat naughty foods.  Sometimes you just need to snag a funnel cake, but the better you eat, the better you will feel when you are out and about in the parks.  Try snaking on fruits and veggies as much as you can and steer away from fried foods.  Nothing will make you feel more sluggish during a sunny 97 degree / 100% humidity day than pounds of greasy french fries or doughnuts sitting in gooey lump in your belly.  Lots of vendors throughout the theme parks have options to substitute fries for apples at meals.  Hit a local grocery store to pick up some bottles of water, juices, healthy snacks and breakfast items for your room.  You will feel better throughout the day and it will help you save a few dollars along the way too!

Amazing Acai bowls at Press’d at Plant Street Market in Winter Garden, a nearby town about 15 miles north of the parks.