Tuesday, February 26, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays (on Tuesday!) A winter commute home by sled #winterfun

Today my son had a brillant idea: "Mom, let's take the sled today!" Certainly the Chicago weather called for it.

Normally, every day, I arrive home and my son and I walk together to pick up his sister at preschool. It's only a ten minute walk each way, and rain or snow, we usually walk/buggy it.

Commuting by Sled - it's the only way to do it
on a snowy Chicago day!
I treasure these walks with my kids, every day, after school.

Happy snow day!

Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm a 2013 Illinois Farm Families Field Mom!

I'm so excited to be a part of the 2013 Illinois Farm Families Field Mom program!

Farmers from across Illinois will be opening their doors to give 20 city moms - including me! - the chance to peek inside their lives. I'm looking forward to touring six farms this year, where I'll have the chance to get a firsthand look at what our farmers do every day. Like many people, I worry about pesticides and hormones in my food and how they affect my children. I hope to talk to farmers, see what the processes are for growing food and learn more about their livelihoods. I'll be posting photos and videos of the tours so others can follow along from home - so if you have any questions for our Illinois farmers, please email me at amy.bizzarri@gmail.com and I'll be sure to get the firsthand scoop. 

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Fierce & Fabulous Girls Night Out #Chicago #MOREmagazine

One of my favorite magazines is coming to Chicago to host a Fierce & Fabulous Girls Night Out!

More magazine will be hosting a fab evening featuring everything from fashion consultations to professional profile photo ops. And no one will be leaving empty handed: the gift bag that will be distributed to each attendee is valued at $150+ and filled with all kinds of great beauty and fashion products!

Fierce &Fabulous Girls Night Out
When: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Location: Prairie Production/1314 West Randolph Street/West Loop, Chicago

Here are just some of the evening's offerings: 

  • Experience a fashion consultation with NIC + ZOE
  • Sign up for mini-massages, mini-makeovers and nail polish changes from Bliss
  • Get a Tarot Card reading
  • Taste wines from Women of the Vine and learn more about MORE Uncorked!
Join me for this awesome evening - the perfect end-of-winter pick-me-up!
For tickets, head over to http://moregno.eventbrite.com/ - and hurry up - tickets selling out quickly!

Time: 6:00 – 8:30pm

Disclosure: I was offered tickets to this event for free. That said, all opinions are my own! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays Clotilde Arias - Not Lost in Translation

I would love to spend a few days - or even weeks - exploring the museums of the Smithsonian. We squeezed in a visit to the American History Museum when I was in DC last week, where I was lucky to catch a small, temporary exhibit: Not Lost in Translation: The Life of Clotilde Arias.

I had never even heard of Clotilde Arias, but through the exhibit I learned that she immigrated from Peru to NYC at age 23 and was a composer, musician, journalist, activist and educator. And she did it all while raising her son as a single mom. Here in the US she is best know for being commissioned by the US Department of State to translate our national anthem into Spanish.
Clotilde Arias and her son, Rogelio
After her death, her son Rogelio, age 82,  shared some words of wisdom that his mother passed on to him before she died:

"A dendequiera que vayas o lo que sea que hagas, siempre deja ese lugar 
un poco mejor de como lo hayas encontrado." 

(Wherever you go and whatever you do, always leave the place a little better than how you found it.")
Learn more about the life of Clotilde Arias here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Shot@Life Champion Summit Recap

I fell off the blogging track this week and landing in another world: Washington, DC, where I found myself learning a new trade: Advocacy 101.

I spent hours trudging along from office to office, meeting with my state representatives on Capitol Hill, to educate them, to urge them to support the movement at hand and to ask for continued support. During the 3-day summit, the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life team, which I am proudly a part of, met with over 100 Congressional Offices. 

Because every child deserves a shot at life.

Did you know that 1 in 5 children lack access to the vaccines that they need to survive? That every 20 seconds, a child dies of a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine? Those kids will never get a shot at blowing out the candles on their 5th birthday cake or setting off to a first day of school. 

The goal of the Shot@Life campaign is to stop the 1.5 million vaccine-preventable childhood deaths that could be eliminated with a simple vaccine. By providing 4 target life-saving vaccines (polio, measles, pneumococcal and rotavirus), we can provide children around the world with a shot at life. A simple contribution of $20 will immunize a child against these four diseases.
Our team also spent time urging our representatives to support our goal of eradicating polio for good. Polio is only endemic in 3 countries around the world (Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan). In January, 2013, India marked two years without reporting a single case of polio and thus went from having having half of the world's polio cases in 2009 to becoming polio-free. We must push for polio eradication in the 3 remaining polio-endemic countries before we begin seeing more cases spread to previously polio-free countries.  

I am now in planning mode, and looking forward to hosting two upcoming benefits for Shot@Life. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about Shot@Life - please post in the comments below or email me at amy.bizzarri@gmail.com. Consider donating today - Just $20 can give a child a lifetime of immunity. 

Travel Guest Post by Catherine Lavinia

What Board Basis Suits You?

When booking a hotel - whether it’s part of a package holiday or an independent trip under your own steam - at some point you will need to consider the board basis options. This basically means whether or not you want to dine at the hotel or make your own meal arrangements. When you book Thomas Cook holidays or travel with a similar type of tour operator, you’ll usually be presented with a choice of board basis options, with the corresponding prices shown alongside.
If you opt for an apartment you’ll usually see room-only or self-catering options. This is perfect for those who plan to eat out of an evening and who are happy to take a picnic or grab a quick sandwich for lunch. Self catering is ideal if you fancy cooking whilst on holiday - even if it’s just preparing the odd salad or enjoying some snacks before dinner. In fact, shopping in the local markets and cooking up a storm in the kitchen is a wonderful - and cost-effective - way of immersing yourself in the local culture. 
If however you can’t be bothered to cook and you’re happy to eat out most evenings, a bed and breakfast option should suffice. If you’re planning to be out and about during the day but back at the hotel in time for dinner, and if you’re happy to dine in the hotel, then half board (typically breakfast and dinner) or full board (three meals a day) would probably work best.
Whilst researching holidays you’ll probably see a number of all inclusive holiday deals. All inclusive typically includes three meals a day with snacks, along with soft and alcoholic drinks. This is perfect if you plan to spend your time in or near the hotel, and if you’re happy to dine in for the majority of your time. Most hotel rooms can be upgraded to all inclusive for a supplement, and in some cases it can actually help you to save money in resort.
It’s just a matter of finding the arrangement that works best for you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Packing 101

I have always encouraged my kids to pack their own suitcases. I believe it fosters independence for little travelers, and gives them some ownership over the trip. As I packed my suitcases last-minute for the Champion Summit in DC, my kids buzzed around the home, too, gathering, folding and packing. 
At age 11, my son can pack his own suitcase. I did a quick check of his suitcase, and he had remembered everything, including all the components of a suit. 

I packed my daughter's essentials (clothing, toiletries, etc.) inside my suitcase, but she was in charge of packing her bumble bee carry-on. 

Chiara did sneak a penguin and a pirate ship into my suitcase.  

She packed all her essentials, all on her own: some intellectual books (Highlights, The Bones Book of Skeletons) balanced with some fun reads (Cinderella, Baby Animals), crayons, coloring books, wooden letter figurines. She packed both her favorite stuffed frog and of course, a tiara. And she's right: you just never know when a social occasion might call for a tiara on your travels!

I love traveling with my kids. There are so many places I want to take them to before they fly the coop and begin exploring on their own. 

Today's Guest Post on Travel is on Clubbing Holidays 2013: Managing Your Money for Malia
Clubbing holidays 2013 don’t have to leave a humungous hole in your pocket. Knowing when and where to book your Malia session can save you serious amounts of cash, leaving you more to splash when you land down in Crete.
Although your mates are probably on at you to leave it until the last minute to “get a good deal” on your clubbing holiday, they really couldn’t be more wrong. Booking in January or February gives you longer to get to grips with the balance of your holiday, and come up with a weekly plan to pay it off little by little.
Rather than cramming in a ton of overtime just before you fly, booking earlier in the year means that you can stress less and just look forward to the capers and carnage that your summer abroad is guaranteed to bring.
Ditch the travel agent as well. It may seem like a bold move, and they are very pretty breeds of humanoids, but cutting them out completely and selecting your session online will mean you benefit from web exclusive discounts and other lovely bits and bobs.
Don’t try to cut corners either. Although you might be a bit tempted to put together a DIY package, you will not enjoy your holiday half as much as you would if you had booked your break through a clubbing holiday company.
Not only do clubbing holiday companies know the score when it comes to shots and Malia sands, they also have various arrangements with clubs and companies on the island, which their party rockers benefit from directly.
Other than that, cut out a few nights out on the bevvy before you go to save up a bit of spends, and you have yourself one stress free and affordable way to do Malia 2013.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I'm Ready for the Champion Summit! #Shot@Life

I am so excited to depart on Sunday for Washington, DC, where I will participating as a delegate in the Shot@Life Champion Summit! The UN Foundation's Shot@Life Campaign educates, connects and empowers Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. I am elated to meet a new group of like-minded women who will be working together to take simple yet impactful steps towards reducing the mortality rate of children under by 2015. 

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, earlier this year, I was thinking of ways to give back as I turn the big 4-0 (on March 19!). Then the invitation to the Champion Summit arrived in my inbox. Coincidence? I view Shot@Life as my chance to give back just a little bit - for all the blessings that I've been gifted with these past 40 years on Planet Earth. I'll look forward to giving gifts on my 40th birthday rather than receiving. 

Check out the Shot@Life blog and join me as voice my support for global immunization programs. The 28 days of Impact posts have been especially touching. I just can't wait to get starting on my own journey with Shot@Life!  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Free Love Note Printables Just in Time for Valentine's Day

Here is a sweet treat just in time for Valentine's Day: free love note printables from Papercoterie.

I especially like the 5 Things I Love about You card and the You Amaze Me maze.

Download them here.

I'm also gathering craft ideas for my daughter and my son's 6th grade class - check out my Pinterest Board and follow me!

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Friday, February 1, 2013

From the archives: ragazze che si perdono * girls that get lost

The day after high school graduation, I flew far and away to Rome, Italy, all by my lonesome self. It was a trip that would mark me forever, because when the travel bug bites, it bites hard. Once I had a taste, I was insatiable. For the next ten years, my one desire was to live out of a suitcase, to see the world.
Overlooking Versailles, while on a road trip from Rome to Edinburgh
I know it was hard for my parents to let me go, and I thank them tremendously for swallowing the lectures I wouldn't have listened to anyway. They saw me off from O'Hare, and I remember their hugs and kisses and "Have Fun!"s and "Send us lots of postcards!"and I felt their gulps. I can imagine now what that must fell like, as the mother of a son and a daughter myself. To let a child go into the great unknown that is the world - trying to dismiss as much as one possibly can all the disasters that can possibly befall a young woman traveling on her own - it must not be an easy thing to do, to wave goodbye that last time, from that glass partition that separates the travelers from those staying home. 
Working girl in Rome
At the time of my first extended trip overseas, Italy itself was enthralled by the disappearance of Ylenia Carrisi, the daughter of showbiz parents, who had run away to New Orleans, where she fell in love with a street musician and then disappeared into thin air. Did she commit suicide? Was she killed? Espresso, the Italian version of Newsweek, ran a cover story featuring the pretty, blonde haired, innocent looking Ylenia under the ominous heading: Ragazze che si perdono - Girls Who Get Lost. The gist of the article was: How could Ylenia's parents have let her do just that - get lost? Were they off their rockers? What kind of parents would permit their daughter to go off, on her own, halfway around the world? More than one Italian had asked me "Your parents let you travel - alone?", with eyes questioning their sanity
Today Ylenia's sad tale has been replaced by that of Natalee Holloway, who happened to fatally run into the obvious sociopath, Joran Van der Sloot, and once again, it appears that the backlash has caused many to hem and haw about young women traveling on their own. This gist today is, "Um, not a good idea." Just check out your latest People magazine and you're bound to find an article on the latest young woman attacked, missing, or murdered. 
On the topic, check out this one blog post by Theresa Walsh Giarrusso of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution here.
Thinking of my own travels as a young woman: Did disasters befall me? Yes. But nothing major. Did I make some poor decisions? Yes. Here and there. Did I hop onto a Vespa with a stranger (albeit a gorgeous Italian)?  (Ms. Giarrusso recalls a girl doing so while participating in a study abroad program she too was a part of). Well, I did. And I fell in love with him too. Do I regret it? Not at all. Did I buy a Vespa of my own, to drive around the crazy streets of Italy? Yep. And I had a few accidents too, which I survived with scratches and bruises. Did I get lost? All the time. 
I made a few more questionable choices: I dove into the Red Sea of Egypt, with just a bikini and a flashlight. I hitchhiked. A few times (in the company of friends, though, never alone). I lost my way - in the West Bank. I slept in a room, on the floor, with 30 or so other complete strangers (yet again, with a good friend of mine). I jumped off cliffs, into the Mediterranean. I climbed a mountain in rickety sandals. I had a seance with a witch doctor in Africa. I scuba dived alongside hammerheads. 
But no one ever hurt or harmed me.  99.9 percent of the world is not a sociopath, and you can't hide in a closet trying to avoid that .01%. In fact, most people welcomed me warmly and were eager to share their culture with me, young and old. Even the hammerheads were kind - or at least they were oblivious to me!
Besides that, travel gave me the chance to  to live history and languages, really know other cultures, to really know myself. And there is much joy in sitting at a cafe overlooking Piazza Navona watching the world go by, window shopping with a Bertillon glace en main, around the Ile St. Louis, hiking up Masada and arriving at the break of dawn, to see the sun rise over the Dead Sea and then coming back down to float in it, slathering yourself in mud at the shores. Swimming in an emerald lit grotto; exploring a lonely hill town. To wander. Alone. At your own pace. With your own thoughts. 
No one will ever have to worry about me running off to Eat, Pray or Love, because I already ate a ton of pasta and gelato and pizza in Italy, I already prayed a lot around the Holy Land, and well, I never went to Bali, but I did fall in love with a Brazilian like author Elizabeth Gilbert (and married him, to boot).
I am so thankful for my parents who let me go and even came to visit me. They listened to my adventures and only encouraged me to follow my heart, without ever really saying so, rather through their actions and support. 

The point is that disasters can befall young woman whether they stay home or not. And the world is too wonderful to miss, or worse, to be afraid of. Let's face it: travel is best when one is young and unencumbered - and the safety and security of a tourbus filled with other Americans or Mom and Dad, or a head filled with worries about paying the bills at home, hinders exploration and connection. For this reason, I hope to someday see my daughter off at O'Hare, whereupon, with much effort, I'll too swallow my tears and offer up the best proud smile and happy goodbye I can muster, wishing her only many happy trails.