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As much as I love traveling abroad there is nothing like discovering local gems and that is why I love the concept of staycations. I personally am not one to take time off from work to stay home and so the idea of being able to take a short car ride for one or two nights away is perfect. I’ve been wanting to start a staycation series for some time now and hope my tristate readers [NJ, NY, PA + CT]  find it useful.

I want to begin this series with an overnight trip my family and I took last month.

Pocono Manor Resort & Spa

Pocono Manor is located in Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania – about 1.5 hours from North Jersey and less than 2 hours from NYC. I’m not sure why it took us so long to venture up to the Poconos. This may have been out first visit but it won’t be our last.

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Pocono Manor is a historic hotel which opened in the 1900’s. There are a total of 240 guest rooms and a ton of amenities onsite – three restaurants, indoor and outdoor pool, golf course, spa and various recreational activities. They offer live music on the weekends and a ton of seasonal activities such as horseback riding, hiking, tennis and snowmobiling.

We were in town for the Lantern Festival so didn’t have much time to take advantage of all their amenities but were really happy with the accommodations. The room was very spacious with a pretty view, the game room was a great addition to the property and every staff member we spoke with were not only friendly but super helpful. At the end of the night we were able to grab a drink by the bar to bring up to our room and then enjoy a family breakfast (which was delicious!) before heading back home. It was the perfect little night away! A big thank you to Pocono Manor for hosting us and we look forward to another stay in the near future.

Here are some photos from our stay as well as some pictures of the property and their amenities/activities courtesy of the Pocono Manor website.

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One year ago my family decided we would meet in Orlando and spend the weekend in Disney! Seriously… is there anything better than family reuniting at the most magical place on earth?? Nope.

Luckily for us we also happened to be visiting during the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! This was Victor’s first Disney trip and everyone else’s first time visiting for Halloween.

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This event runs until November 1st this year and is a separate ticket than the normal admission into Magic Kingdom. You will absolutely want to pre purchase your ticket and ASAP as this event can sell out. While the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is from 7pm-12am, holders of these tickets can enter the park at 4pm which is what we did and I highly recommend others doing as well so that you can maximize your time in the park.

Some of the highlights of this event are trick-or-treating throughout the park, Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, Happy HalloWishes Fireworks Show, Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade and the character meet & greets. We also found the park to be a lot less crowded than it is during the day which was a plus since the kids got to go on quite a few rides.

Here’s a look back at our time at the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!

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Traveling has been my number one passion for quite a number of years now and if you know me, you know I like to do it on a budget. I am totally one of those people that after I book I will check the flights over and over again to make sure I got the best deal. [FYI: Don’t follow my lead on that, it’ll drive you nuts] Budget airlines have been around since the 70’s and to be honest I never paid much attention to them… until now. Iceland has been on my radar for awhile but it just never happened. One random day in October of 2016 I was browsing flights for Iceland and came across a super low rate from an airlines called WOW air. When I told my husband the rate he insisted we book immediately and that is how our trip to Iceland for February 2017 came about.

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WOW air is an Icelandic low-cost carrier that is headquartered in Reykjavík and based at Keflavík International Airport. The airline was founded in November 2011 and serves 38 destinations across Europe, North America, and Asia.

Ok – so lets talk details.

Firstly, they offer direct flights to Iceland and that is also where you will connect to continue onto wherever your final destination is. You have to remember they are a budget airline so don’t expect the works but I promise you will get from point A to point B comfortably and at an incredible rate.

One personal item measuring 17x13x10″ is always included with your paid ticket as well as checking in either a stroller OR carseat for your little one but that is where the extras that are included end. There are additional fees and they will vary each flight based on time of travel and final destination. Here is a breakdown of the additional fees based on a random flight from Newark to Reykavik.

Departing Flight:

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Return Flight:

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For a Basic, no added extras, flight you would pay $250!

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Guys – $250 RT nonstop for 4 nights in Iceland??? That is a steal! Can not upgrading your luggage be tricky… of course, but get creative when it comes to packing. Attire for Iceland is all about layering so pick items that you can reuse to make different outfits each day and wear your coat and winter boots onto the plane.

Since I was traveling with my husband and a 17 month old when I went, upgrading the luggage was a MUST for us. Here are the additional luggage prices for this itinerary:

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If you decide to upgrade to a standard size carry on luggage you would then pay $330 per person for this flight.

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This rate is over $100 cheaper than another budget airline that flies this same route on these dates. Other airlines were over $600 for this same flight.

You also don’t get to pick your seat unless you pre purchase and here is a look at those costs.

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I’ve flown with WOW for 2 separate trips and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and roomy the standard legroom seats were so don’t feel like you have to go for that XXL seat…. unless you want to of course. My first flight with them we did not pre book seats and upon check in the agents were super accommodating in making sure our party sat together.

Another option for this flight is to book WOW Plus and that includes an assigned standard seat, a carry on bag AND checked bag for $400! That is a steal.

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If you are traveling with someone and you were able to share luggage they could purchase the Basic rate and it would come out to a total of $650 for 2 adults for a 4 night trip to Iceland.

All food and beverages on flight are also an added expense. I’ve had a few items from their menu and it was all tasty but if you want to save money, just make sure to pick up a bottle of water and something to eat prior to boarding.

Overall I have nothing but great things to say about WOW Airlines. My family and I have had great flights with them and always experience really good customer service. As a mom, one of my FAVORITE features they have is the lap baby seat belt. I have never been offered this on any other airline.

We look forward to our next flight with them!

Have you flown WOW Air before?

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AN UNENDING COMMITMENT TO SUPPORT

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING

October 10th is World Mental Health Awareness Day! More than 450 million people worldwide suffer from mild to serious mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, self–esteem and financial stress – all of which disproportionately affect women around the world. Recognizing that mental health issues are one of the greatest challenges women face, Philosophy created the hope & grace initiative which pledges an unending commitment to support mental health and well being. Previously celebrity ambassadors such as Ellen Pompeo and Zelda Williams have endorsed the program.

Through inspired action, Philosophy encourages the practice of self-care, not only in soothing and replenishing the skin, but the mind and soul as well. We would love for you to take the time out of your day on World Mental Health Day with us to restore you mind with these tips from Gabrielle Bernstein, best-selling author, meditation expert, and speaker brought to you by glamour.com –

  1. Begin each day positively. Happiness is your choice, so if you wake up feeling grumpy, remember that you can choose to be happy.
  2. Think of yourself as a lighthouse: It’s OK to feel your feelings, good or bad (in fact, it’s much better than disassociating from them), but use the lighthouse idea to rise above the trauma in your life and allow it to flow freely around you.
  3. Move. The human body needs to move, and movement is imperative for the lymphatic system to work properly and to oxygenate your cells. Bounce, jump, dance, or do whatever it takes to move the tension out of your body and get your blood flowing. 

Recently, Philosophy and the hope & grace initiative for women’s mental health hosted a discussion focused on re framing well being as a key to resilience and change alongside  Monica Seles, 9-time Grand Slam singles tennis champion; former World No. 1; Wellness expert Stephanie Covington, PhD., Co-Director of the Center for Gender & Justice; Kavita Beri, MD, Fellow, Regenerative Cosmetics at TRI Princeton; and Marie-Pierre Stark-Flora, Global SVP, philosophy at Coty, Inc. spoke at the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Paris, France. It is here the panel discussed ways to amplify the conversation around women’s mental health.

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Where there’s hope, there’s grace. The hope & grace initiative represents an unprecedented and unending commitment by Philosophy to support mental health and well-being. Mental health issues are one of the greatest challenges women face. More than 450 million people worldwide suffer from mild to serious mental health issues – such as post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, self–esteem and financial stress – all of which disproportionately affect women around the world. With the initiative, philosophy becomes the first company to place a deep focus on this important cause and the first major beauty company to make a brand-wide commitment to dedicate 1% of its sales toward the cause. 

For every product sold (this includes all products, no limitations), Philosophy will contribute 1% of sales to the hope and grace fund, and will award multiple financial grants each year to local organizations working to empower women through promotion of mental health and well being, and the prevention and treatment of related issues.

The majority of funding from the hope and grace initiative will support community-based programs doing the most good in mental health and well being. The funds will be distributed by an independent nonprofit organization with guidance from the world’s leading practitioners and experts in mental health and well being. With an average grant size of us $25,000-$75,000, the fund will support hundreds of organizations each year and touch thousands of lives.

The priority focus for the hope & grace fund is to support community based mental health efforts working to overcome barriers to and stigma around seeking treatment for mental health issues, providing access to mental health treatment, and fostering support networks for women with mental illness.

The funds are administered by the new venture fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to supporting innovative and effective public interest projects. We accept one proposal per group, per fiscal year (June 1st – June 31st). you must be a registered 501(c) public charity to apply. to apply, please contact hopeandgracefund@newventurefund.org

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  1. Soap & Glory The Fab Pore Purifying Foam Cleanser | $12 – I’m a huge fan of foam cleansers and this is my go to. I love the lather and how gentle it is on my face. It removes all of my makeup and makes my skin very smooth and just super clean. Since using I also feel like my pores have reduced.
  2. Laura Geller Quench N Tint Hydrating Foundation | $33 – This is an absolute summer must have that can also carry you throughout all the seasons. This foundation is weightless and just leaves your skin glowing. It has the perfect amount of coverage, not full coverage but not sheer, and you don’t feel like you have any makeup on which is a huge plus for me.
  3. Clarins Lip Comfort Oil | $26 – OK, raise your hand if you are obsessed with this lip oil!!! This lip oil nourishes, hydrates and soothes. The color is sheer yet beautiful. Candy is my go to shade but the others are equally as amazing.
  4. Amika Bombshell Blowout Spray + Perk Up Dry Shampoo | $24 – I’m a big Amika fan. They consistently put out quality products and these 2 are my current favs. The blowout spray is a game changer for me. It cuts out my frizziness while keeping my hair bouncy and manageable. The dry shampoo is super weightless and brings my oily locks back to life.
  5. Garnier Micellar Makeup Removing Towelettes | $7 – If you follow me on my other social channels you know this product is something I use daily. These wipes are so gentle on my skin and literally get all of my makeup and dirt off without irritation.
  6. Benefit Hoola Matte Bronzer | $29 – It’s been a few years since I used Hoola but I purchased it in the beginning of the summer and it made me remember everything I love about it. It’s the perfect bronze shade with no glitter. I’ve been loving this for both contouring as well as sweeping across my whole face for a sun kissed look.
  7. Fresh Sugar Lip Caramel Hydrating Balm | $18 – Fresh Lip products are game changers but when I tried their caramel hydrating balm I instantly fell in love. It’s sheen, super hydrating and smells DELICIOUS. This lip product is a staple in my purse.
  8. It Cosmetics Confidence In Your Glow | $32 – I love any palette that is multi use and the shades provided in this one are beautiful. One sweep across gives you an all around radiant glow or you can use each one separately.
  9. Nyakio African Black Soap Purifying Mud Mask | $35 – Skincare is in regardless of the season. This creamy purifying mud mask draws out dirt, impurities and toxins for soft, smooth, clarified skin. Infused with African black soap, rich in vitamins A and E, this gentle mask helps retexturize and detoxify skin.