Let Them Be Kids: Encouraging Creativity and Empowerment

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but we are within the initial moments of my children’s 8th and 10th summers. I suppose I should be telling you it makes me feel old….old as in ‘mom years’, but the truth is, I feel FREE.

Free from scheduling their every minute.

Free from worrying they might fall down the stairs.

Free from stressing they are going to argue their summer minutes away.

Free from hearing someone bellow, “Mom….I’m BORED!” (those words are banned in our home)

Free from having to make their breakfasts, plan their snacks and stop work to prepare their lunch at exactly noon.

I’m free because they are older, I’m free because I believe in them, I’m free because my husband and I have empowered the kids to make some decisions on their own this Summer.  We are lucky we work from home, so we are here in an emergency, but the small people know we are, in fact, working…this means, they are to use their imaginations, their free will, their smarts and their sense of fun to keep themselves busy.

Sure….we set some guidelines:

TV and electronics are extremely limited – think rainy-day limited. As a member of this family, we do require they ‘help’ around the house. Walking the dog, making their beds, keeping their rooms clean and tidying up after themselves are non-negotiables.

Beyond that – they are required to be creative.

Find something to do outside every single day. Throw on bathing suits, whip out the water guns and soak each other. Pull out the balls, bats or soccer balls and have a game. Go old-school and play tag or hide-and-go-seek. Feel free to get the other kids in the neighborhood involved too.

Kids Soccer

When you get hungry? Eat. I trust you to know that meals and snacks are both important. Balance your meals with the foods you love and the proteins, fruits and grains that are good for you. I make sure that the fridge is stocked with the fruits you love the most – apples, bananas, grapes and strawberries – and the Horizon snack crackers  you love to pair with lunch meat, peanut butter and even eat solo (the chocolate) are handy.

HorizonSnacksImagination2

You are old enough to slice fruit, to create a plate that includes great options and ones the two of you can share.

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HorizonSnacksImagination4I am confident you will sneak bites as you dish out your plates….but you’d do that even if I was standing over your shoulder watching you.

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Also? Sharing is so good for you.

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It makes me so proud to believe the two of you can pull this off. Maybe I will have you start making dinner for the family every night too.

Use your imagination. Do something that works your mind. Write a letter to your grandparents. Play a board game. Read a book. You know what? Read a little every day. It is good for you. I can’t wait to hear what you have learned and loved.

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Maybe it does make me feel a little old to watch them grow up in front of my eyes after all….no matter how beautiful it is to see. What do you encourage your children to try on their own?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organic. The opinions and text are all mine.

Spring Style: Five Ways to Wear a Button Down

A classic oxford or button down is a staple in every woman’s wardrobe, but are you tired of wearing yours in the same old ways? Well get ready to break out of your button down rut because I have five new ways to wear ’em!

1. Knotted

tie a button

 

Knotting a button down feels fun and playful. Size up if you’re worried about exposed skin, or knot over a dress instead to fake the look of a skirt!

2. Layered under a dress

oxford under a dress

Layering an oxford under a dress is perfect for transitional weather. You’ll love how much extra wear you can get out of your sleeveless dresses!

3. Open over a tee

button down over a tee

This is one of my favorite ways to wear a button down. Layer with printed and graphic tees or lace like I did here!

4. With a vest

button down with a vest

Layer a vest with your favorite button down for a casual-cool weekend look. Go edgy with faux leather or more classic with a utility vest!

5. Over a dressbutton down over a dressJust like with tees, think of wearing a button down like a denim jacket and throw it on over your favorite dress. I prefer pairing with a more form-fitting dress to keep from looking sloppy!

What other ways do you wear your button downs?

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops: Celebrating 100 Years of Pyrex #Pyrex100

I lost my grandmother when I was only nine years old. As my mother’s mother, my ‘Nana’ and I didn’t have much opportunity to grow close. Though I was the first grandchild of what would grow to be dozens, she lived many hundreds of miles away…leaving us with little chance for hand-holding, storytelling and cuddling. I was left to get to know her through the lens of my mother’s heart and hand.

I would grow to understand my Nana’s love of her work as a teacher.

My mom would share her committment to her family – her husband and her seven children, often evident through hard work, discipline and even cooking.

I am left with snippets of her dedication to mealtime, preserved, nearly two lifetimes later in her own handwriting….one like this that I’d love to share, not only because it was one of my mom’s favorites, but because it has been in my family for more than 75 years…..

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops

Since I am helping Pyrex®, a World Kitchen brand, to celebrate their 100 year anniversary, it is only fitting that at the time my Nana used to make these Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops, the ONLY glassware she used to cook were Pyrex®. As I chatted with my mom about this recipe, she was quick to point out that they didn’t say ‘glassware’ or ‘baking dish’….they simply said Pyrex as they cooked with their mum.

Let’s get to some of the good stuff, shall we?

On the surface, this recipe looks remarkably simple. You need pork chops, seasoned flour, brown sugar, ‘catsup’ (ketchup) water and slices of lemon. But I was a bit suspicious of the seasoned flour. Surely, it would require more than a little salt and pepper, right?

Right.

This inquiry netted me an entirely new index card and recipe from my mom AND a mixture that can be used for a variety of dishes.

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops

Do note the inclusion of ‘accent’. As this wasn’t a spice familiar to me, I did a little investigation and found it is, quite literally, MSG (a commonplace ingredient many moons ago) and clearly not needed…so feel free to skip that ingredient when you go old fashioned.

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops

In a matter of minutes I created the seasoned flour, dredged the pork chops and browned them lightly in olive oil with a little help from my assistant. (Yes, his tongue is out….he told me over and over again that his mouth was watering as we cooked.)

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops

We transferred them to my Pyrex baking dish and added some lemon slices.

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops

We poured the remaining ingredients over top and baked for about 30-40 minutes total at 350 degrees.  As our chops were both boneless and thinly sliced, they didn’t require a full hour of baking.

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops

I’m happy to share, every member of my family returned for seconds and I was able to save the left-over seasoned flour.

Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops

I love that Pyrex has updated their product line with a vintage twist to mark this special 100th anniversary milestone. You can add to your collection by visiting the Pyrex100 Website.

Do you remember Pyrex having a special place in your childhood home? I’d love to hear the story. You can stay connected with Pyrex and all they have to offer by following them online:

Instagram: Pyrex Home ~ Pinterest: Pyrex Home ~ Twitter: World Kitchen, LLC ~ Facebook: Pyrex Home

You will have to let me know if you make our family Old Fashioned Lemon Pork Chops – and naturally, what you think when you do. And don’t forget, you can also enter to win in this wonderful Pyrex sweepstakes below. Good luck!

The Pyrex® 100 Days of Giveaways is sponsored by World Kitchen, LLC. There is no purchase necessary to enter. In order to participate, you must be a legal resident of the fifty United States or the District of Columbia and must be at least 18 years old at the time of entry. Entries will be accepted from March 22, 2015 at 10:00:00 a.m. ET until June 30, 2015 at 9:59:59 a.m. ET.

Disclosure: I have happily partnered with World Kitchen LLC to share the wonderful Pyrex® 100th Anniversary product line. All opinions are my own.

Pyrex® 100th Anniversary Giveaway

Bridal Hairstyles You Can Do Yourself!

As the wedding invitations start rolling in, it seems like that time of year has come again. Spring brings the bridal showers and Summer ushers in a slew of weddings. But what a fun time of year…. to be witnesses to two people making the commitment to love each other for a lifetime. So today I thought it would be fun to share some bridal hairstyles you can do yourself!

Whether you’re a bride, a bridesmaid, mother of the bride, or just a guest it is so fun to get all dolled up for these special events. Often we find ourselves wanting a new, fancy hairstyle, but not too fancy. I know you don’t always want to front the bill. No worries, there are plenty of bridal hairstyles you can do yourself, let’s get started!

4 Bridal Hairstyles you can do yourself!

bridal hairstyles you can do yourself

This style looks harder than it is, promise. I created a video for you guys to check out because it’s easier that way. The run down is that you start with a messy bun at the base of your neck and build on that with twists and pins. Check it out below!

Simple Twisted updo

twisted hairstyle

For this style, you start with a basic ponytail using just the bottom section of your hair. Tease the left over hair from crown down to the ponytail base and then separate the left over top section into three different sections, two in the front and one main back section. Twist back the main section first, then one side next to the first twist and then the other side on the other side of the twist. Voila – you’ve got it! Here’s a video in case you need the visual.

Braided Twist

Simple braided twist

In this hairstyle, believe it or not, you only need bobby pins….That’s how easy it is! However, you DO need to know how to French braid, but that’s all. Start off with braiding your bangs in the front to the side you prefer. Once you get to right above your ear, stop French braiding and finish with a normal braid all the way down. Secure the braid to the rest of your hair as well as you can. Then take the hair from the side without the braid and twist it over through the entire the braid. Then do the same on the other side, and you’re done! Here’s a video if you’d like!

Triple Twist Bridal Hairstyle

Side swept bridal hairstyle

If you can twist and pin, you can do this hairstyle. Start with curls and by teasing your hair all over. Then take a large middle section and twist it and pin it off to the side of your choice. Then start with the side that has less hair (depending on where you part your hair) and bring it back over the twist you already did and pin it just under it. Repeat on the other side and continue repeating until you’ve pinned it all up! So simple, right?! Once again, here’s the video for your hair styling pleasure!

I hope you’ve liked these bridal hairstyles that you can do yourself! They really are easy and you’ll look gorgeous, I just know it! Enjoy dressing up for your next fun event!

The Education Conundrum

When my husband and I relocated our family from St. Louis to Tampa four years ago, it seemed the perfect time to make an educational transition as well. We weren’t sure where we were going to live, so we didn’t know where to enroll the kids, and I’d been thinking about homeschooling for awhile anyway, so we made the decision to educate our children at home.

I’d love to say it was a magical year, and that I loved having my children home with me. But I can’t say that. It was really hard.

There were things I loved. The freedom to get up and do the things we wanted to each day was top of my list. Living in Florida meant we had no shortage of activities to enjoy together as a family.

Being new in town, however, left me very isolated. It really was just me and the children who were all very young at the time. I wasn’t confident in my ability to educate them well, and about six months into the homeschooling process I began to feel a lot of anxiety.

I also felt like a failure.

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I’d observe other women who homeschooled their children, and they seemed to just love the process. It all looked so fun and easy. So why did I feel like I was drowning? Why couldn’t I pull it together and embrace the beautiful art of being my children’s teacher?

After one year, we felt settled enough to enroll the kids in our local public school. I sobbed the first day the bus came and picked them up, so afraid we’d made a bad decision.

I’ve learned a lot in the last three years since the’ve been in public school, and I feel much more confident in my ability to teach my children now. Looking back on our year at home, I’m able to see with a clearer perspective why it was so difficult.

We’ve decided to bring two of our children home again next year. There are several factors that we weighed out and discussed as we mulled over the decision.

Athletics: These two children are extremely involved in sports, and the time spent on their sporting endeavors makes life hectic if they’re in school all day. Homeschooling allows us to give them the opportunity to continue growing in their sports, while not sacrificing their education in the process.

Resources: I know more now than I did four years ago. Tampa has a lot of really great resources to offer homeschooling families, from virtual school to hybrid school programs and co-ops. Our children will attend a co-op one day a week, and the other days they will be home with me.

I also spoke with our elementary school and explained our reasons for leaving, and I asked them what options the kids had for remaining involved in the school. The offer has been extended to our children to continue to take music, art and P.E. at their public school, which is a huge relief to us as a family.

Our oldest son will not be homeschooled, much to his chagrin. Because he is entering middle school, I felt it best for him to continue on his current educational path. He is also the child who functions much better with a very set structure.

What we have to remember as parents is that education is not one size fits all. This is one of the challenges most schools face as they shuttle kids in and out of grade levels based solely on age. But we also have to be willing to take that same approach with our own children.

Not all children within the same family are cut out for the same educational path. Based on your family situation, it’s good to know that you have options to help your children best succeed. Even if private school or homeschool are not an option for your situation, with a little bit of effort you may see that there are resources to help your child best succeed right where she is.

Take courage, moms. You know how to best help your children through their triumphs and challenges. And, no matter your circumstance, you have options when it comes to education. There’s no need to argue over which educational path is the right one, because the determination of right changes with each child.

And no one knows what’s right for your child better than you do.

How To Wear Denim on Denim

The denim on denim trend is one that is not going away anytime soon, but if you’re at a loss as to how to pull it off, I’ve got some great tips that will have you rocking that Texas tuxedo with confidence!

Don’t go to matchy-matchy with your denim pieces. The best denim on denim looks pair lighter with darker washes!

how wear denim on denim

If your blue denim and chambray pieces don’t have enough contrast, then try colored denim! White jeans, black jeans, and every color in between will pair perfectly with chambray.

wearing chambray with colored denim

And if all else fails, ease into it! Break the look up by wearing a graphic tee or other detailed top and layer your chambray over it.

button down over a tee

Now, you tell me….what is your favorite?

Outside the Walls

I was eight years old, dressed in whatever costume I’d chosen for that particular Halloween, and my brother and I walked tentatively down the hallways of a local nursing home. I don’t remember much about this experience, but I remember the smells made me want to hold my nose, and I was scared to talk to the older people who grinned wide at the sight of us.

My mom gently prodded us, and so we’d walk forward with a timid “Trick or Treat,” then hold out our bags where the grey haired men and women would drop chocolate goodies in our pillowcases.

It seemed strange to me at the time, but looking back on it now, I get what my mom was doing. She wanted us to see that we could serve and bring joy to others, and it could still be rewarding to us.

My parents never shied away from encouraging my brother and I to serve others. From local service projects where we helped clean up our community or serve meals to people in need, to foreign mission trips with our church, my parents were quick to push us outside the walls of our own home so that we could see the way others lived.

My mom and dad understood they were raising my brother and I in a land of privilege, and because of this they were intentional in how they raised us. They pointed us outward, and made us aware that with the grace of a life of privilege comes responsibility.

I like to lovingly refer to this as the “Spiderman Principle of Living.”

Now that I’m grown, I appreciate even more the effort my parents took to make sure I wasn’t caught up in all that my cushy American life had to offer. It’s hard to live life intentionally. It’s hard because it requires effort, and it would be so much easier to simply sit back, indulge our children, and pretend that the world around us isn’t actually hurting.

Now I’ll confess, I’m not always good at encouraging my children to serve. I get lazy and comfortable in my day-to-day routine, and stepping outside of that requires more effort than I’m often willing to exert. But what’s the alternative?

Maybe you, like me, long to point your children outward, to show them that this world is full of needs, and to empower them to see and understand that they can make a difference. We can never underestimate our children’s ability to make an impact. In fact, children are often the greatest harbingers of change in a world crying out for someone to take notice.

LandonSK

For those of you desiring to take a step toward service with your children, I offer this encouragement:

1.) Watch your child’s natural bent and follow it

Whether shy and timid, or outgoing and gregarious, there are places for your children to meet needs. From local food pantries to nursing homes, lemonade stands to local service projects, getting your children outside their own walls and into the world around them can be fun and pleasant for everyone.

2.) Let your children see the sacrifice

Serving others outside our homes will require sacrifice. As we offer up our time, our skills, our money, and our energy, our kids will observe and see how that affects us. Let them know it’s okay.

Show them that skipping a few meals out and eating more dinners at home gives you more money to give away. Let them see the physical effort of mowing a neighbor’s yard, or taking a meal to a sick friend, or serving at a food pantry.

Bring your children into the process of serving with you, and let them know that it might be difficult, but in the end the satisfaction of knowing you brought joy to someone’s life was worth the sacrifice.

3.) Introduce your children to other kids who are making a difference in the world

A quick Google search will lead you to countless websites and articles featuring young children who are having a big impact. Let your children see this, and show them that just because they’re small doesn’t mean they can’t make the world a better place.

Looking outside the walls of our own homes will beg sacrifice, yes, but the sacrifice doesn’t have to be a major one. You don’t have to leave the country to make an impact. You can change the world right where you are, with your little ones by your side, and in so doing you will raise up a new generation of servant-hearted individuals who are ready and willing to meet the needs of the world.

And isn’t that a beautiful thought, indeed.

 

Dear Moms….I See You

Dear Moms...I See You...Dear Moms….

I see you there on the sidelines diving for that invisible ball, willing your son to be just an inch taller as the opposition’s rocket sails *just* over his head.

You watch his shoulders slump, his deep breath, his attempt to shake it off.

You cup your hands over your mouth and yell encouragement, ‘You’ve got this, Buddy.”

But you feel it in your gut. You may as well have just missed that goal yourself.

You can’t win for him.

You can teach him the power of teamwork, of getting back up when you are knocked down, of how to handle disappointment and to keep from giving up when you are frustrated.

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I see you on the bleachers, your girl coming up to bat. She’s been working on her swing and feels like she has something to prove. She’s been falling in the lineup. You tell her…if she wants a better position, she needs to work for it.

The first pitch sails over her head. Nothing she can do about it.

The second one comes in. Hard. Right at her knee.

You hold your breath.

Three years ago, a hit like this had you at the fence nearly in tears, but, she’s no longer in t-ball. You can’t go running on the field to carry her off.  (no matter how you WANT to do so)

She shakes it off and limps to first.

Years ago….a hit like this, and the fear it inspired, nearly kept her from the game.

But not this time.

Mom…. you might have felt sick to your stomach when she was up to bat next time, but the lessons you and dad taught her about fighting back the fear and pounding the ball? They worked. A line drive and 2 RBI’s later, you can say your girl got right back in the game.

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I see you there…. listening with your ears and your heart as your little one tells you the stories from school, from the playground, from the neighborhood.

He was left out.

She wasn’t invited.

That girl made fun of my clothes.

He called me a name.

She kicked me in the hallway.

He pushed me at recess.

She called me ‘braceface’.

“I asked if I could play, and they said ‘no’.”

With every sentence, you hurt, you ache, you teach them how to respond, how to use their words, how to stand up for themselves, how to find the friends who will support them. At least you hope you do. And sometimes you put on a great big, brave face and then walk away and cry.

Because not everyone will like you. And not everyone is kind. And this is life. Definitely not our favorite part of life, but life. So you teach them, ‘YOU be kind, ok?’.

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I see you there, watching him, tongue out in concentration. It is math. He wants to do it on his own. He wants to ask for help.

You feel the same way. He needs to learn to do it, but you want to help. You are watching the gears moving, but something isn’t clicking.

You watch a big tear sneak from the corner of his eye.

This parenting business is tough. 6th grade math is hard. He’s a tough kid – nothing, I repeat NOTHING brings him to tears – except the confusion that comes from math. You feel helpless.

All you can do is be there just as you are: Help. Guide. Support.

You’ve got this, Mom.

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I see you hiding in your dining room as she practices for her choir audition in the other room. She refuses to perform for you. R-E-F-U-S-E-S.

She is terrified and you know it.

You build her up the only way you know how…complimenting her gift, offering words of advice. Her false bravado has erected a wall, deafening her to your advice. You are wasting your breath.

You slap your arm on the counter, willing her to allow an infusion of your 42-year-old courage to flow to her 10 year-old-body. She’s having none of it.

She will sink or swim on her own.

When she buckles under the pressure and you are certain you have failed her, you will lie next to her as she sleeps, listening to her heartbeat, reminded that her heart, not yours, will be her guide.

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Friends…. I used to think I wouldn’t survive the early years – the lack of sleep, the refusal to eat certain foods, the toddler years, good heavens – the POTTY TRAINING. But with each new age and stage there are new heartaches and challenges. Some of these, I am experiencing, some YOU are experiencing and some, I know, are yet to come.

Either way, I see you.

I see you loving your kids.

I see you guiding and trying, hurting and helping and yes, sometimes having to let go. We will get through this together, ok?

 

7 Reasons Your Soul Needs Solo Travel

It was about this time last year that I found myself starving. Not for pizza or chips and guac. Not for the crazy mix of popcorn and chocolate that I sometimes like to sneak in my bed at night – much to my husband’s dismay (what? You think that might disturb his sleep?….ok, so maybe I have a few annoying habits I still struggle to give up – for the past 12+ years – from my days of living alone), but rather for me. For quiet. For a sense of self. For a missing piece of my soul that I know only travel and time alone can provide.

I have long loved travel and long loved traveling alone, but I know the marrying of those two words travel + alone can sound terrifying to some people.

I’m hoping to change your mind because I think your soul needs the two together.

Like you, it is easy to describe me with many titles – and some of them are incredibly important to me – Mother, wife, business owner, daughter, friend, volunteer. But when I travel on my own, depending where I am, I’m Danielle, or Miss, or, if I’m lucky, M’Lady (my personal favorite).

I could probably talk for days about the benefits of traveling on your own, but I teamed up with flights.com to share a few solo adventures that have my focus.

 7 Reasons Your Soul Needs Solo Travel

7 Reasons Solo Travel is Good for Your Soul

You Breathe: Life is a monsoon of activity. I have frequently lamented the lack of hours in the day and it hasn’t been so I can get more sleep, but rather because I am booked from 5:27am until 10:18pm. On a good day. Between practices and games, among homework, laundry, deadlines, meetings and yes….life, I miss taking time to simply BREATHE. A view like this will guarantee that you do just that.

Sit.

Absorb.

Appreciate.

Meditate.

Practice gratitude for the people you love and the chaos back home.

And breathe.

You Learn to Do for You – From booking your flight to making a reservation in a restaurant, from eating alone to navigating your way around islands and making plans to tour a village or snorkel, you are all adult. And it is good. If some of these skills are ones you already possess, stretch yourself and try something completely new. Take a sailing lesson, climb a mountain, try to learn the local language.

7 Reasons Solo Travel is Good for Your Soul

You Explore and Grow – We teach our children to explore the world around them. And then we grow up and all but stop this exercise. Follow a path. Try a new food. Visit with local farmers or fisherman. Consider canoeing, hiking, wine-tasting, cooking, paddle boarding, surfing or going beyond the ‘touristy’ areas to understand more of the culture. Learn how families create the wares they sell to those visiting.

You Control Your Destiny: You are at the mercy of only one thing: Your desires. You can plan a full minute-by-minute itinerary and then decide to scrap the entire thing. THAT is how much control you have. You can upgrade to First Class, skip breakfast every day, exercise at night, island hop or stay up until 3am for the first time since college. It is all up to you. And it is beautiful.

You Make New Friends: One of the most beautiful benefits of traveling alone is the opportunity to meet not only other travelers, but local people in the cities you are visiting. There is so much to learn, if only you are willing to listen. I find that more often that not, the people I meet are not from within 200 miles of my home, so their customs, their traditions, their likes and dislikes are so varied – and that makes them fascinating.

7 Reasons Solo Travel is Good for Your Soul

You Get to Know You: It is so easy to be absorbed in the lives of everyone around me, to identify with my family and business first and to forget what I LOVE TO DO. Traveling solo reminds me what I actually choose to do when I am all by myself. Do I sleep late or rise early? Do I watch every sunset, read three books back to back, take sailing lessons, indulge in daily dessert or skip it all together? Do I say yes to adventure or play it safe, happy to simply have the sand on my toes, the sun on my face and the sound of the waves as my soundtrack? By the time I come home, I know the answer and you will too.

7 Reasons Solo Travel is Good for Your Soul

You Find Happy: With only the sound of your own heartbeat for company, you have peace. You have explored. You have learned. You have accomplished it all by yourself. You remember everything you love about the life you have at home and you find peace in your own heart. This is happy.

7 Reasons Solo Travel is Good for Your Soul

Before you head off on any solo trip, do make sure your friends and family know where you are heading, both the destination and your travel arrangements. Safety is always a priority, check out these must read safety tips for solo travelers. And have fun!

Disclosure: This conversation was inspired by my friends at flights.com. A million thanks to them for encouraging me to write about something that has been on my heart for close to a year now.