The Ultimate Staycation

How about purchasing your own Palm Tree? Photo creditL

How about purchasing your own Palm Tree?
Photo credit:

One of the benefits of my day job is it comes with a nice chunk of vacation time. At one point in my life that was an amazing advantage. Now, however, I find free time to just be a Petri dish for anxiety. Being a working mom has a few advantages in that most days we are programmed to survival mode. The minutiae of life are the farthest things from our minds. The downside to that is when vacation commences the details we often ignore come swooping in on us like a gigantic black fog…the Harry Potteresque dementors of middle class mommyhood.

Suddenly every little thing we’ve ignored for months becomes gigantic. The spot on the wall, the stain on the rug, the fact that the dog hasn’t been groomed in ages. It becomes overwhelming. How did we  survive all these months that I’ve been so neglectfully keeping a roof over our heads and food in our bellies?

Many of my co workers get to escape during these breaks. I’ve lost count of how many are in Disneyworld as I type this. I, however, am not. My kids are just too young to justify such an expense that they would scarcely remember, that and the fact that Snakes On A Plane would be Bambi compared to confining two three year old boys in a flying tube. So lest I spend my vacation a slave to home maintenance and doctor appointments, I’ve devised the Ultimate Staycation plan. Amidst the chaos of catching up on, and trying to ignore,  the usually overlooked details, I have a plan to enjoy almost every indulgence I would at a resort…without the packing, the price, and the TSA detaining my children :

Strategy 1: Itinerary

Just like getting to a destination involves commitment and work, so does staycationing. You have to get your itinerary together and promise yourself to complete it. The problem you face on a staycation is that you are in your home surrounded by your everyday obligations…sans work. It is easy to fall into housework mode, or, even worse a lazy pattern of time wasting on social media. If you social media time waste from a beach it’s still vacationing…if it’s on your couch…well, you just saw a couple of hours to accomplish some pretty cool stuff pass you by. Your itinerary should be a schedule of all the things you like to do when you are away and have the venues and times in which you can do them locally.

Strategy 2: Relaxation

One of the benefits of going away is you can’t fret over laundry, bills, and polishing the stainless steel. You are removed from all of it therefore making it easy for you to relax. Harder to do that at home with all that crap staring right at you. Also hard when your family and friends know you are around, thus asking favors and commitments of you impeding on your downtime. You are going to have to find ways to relax. I recommend going to a spa for a body treatment and a massage. Do this at the beginning of your staycation to set the tone for the rest of the week. Continue that spa feeling by spending some time each day meditating or, my personal fave, creating your own steam shower by turning the water all the way hot, aiming it at the wall, closing those shower doors, and breathing.

Strategy 3: See a Show

It’s very common to be entertained while vacationing away. It’s fairly easy to recreate that while staycationing. On the high end you can see a Broadway type production or concert, on the low end community theater or an open mic night at your nearest comedy club. Staycationing with kids? Seeing a show geared toward them counts. Get creative if you are on a budget. Is the local high school running a production? What about a matinée at the movies? The point is get out and watch something happen!

Strategy 4: Don’t Cook

Cooking involves shopping, planning, and cleaning…and unless it’s pleasurable shopping…we will get to that…none of those things scream vacation to me. Spend the week dining out, preferably with a cocktail, and ordering in. Budget super tight? Pre cook and freeze your meals for staycation week the week before and use paper and plastic!

Strategy 5: Gamble

Gambling is a huge part of vacationing for many, but if it’s not your thing feel free to skip this section. I will be the first to admit that I love to play slot machines, especially the new fangled ones that work like video games that pay you money…sometimes. Gambling is no longer restricted to Vegas, Atlantic City, cruises, and Native American Reservations, now there are racinos and even online casinos…some offering free games you play for the fun of it! So carve out a night to take your chances, even if it’s in your own living room! Who knows you may win big and be able to take an away from home vacation. Just please don’t make it a habit.

Strategy 6: Sight See

When visiting a new place we love to explore the area, but when was the last time you explored your own backyard? We often take for granted what is available to us, especially when we live near a big city. Imagine you are a tourist in your own stomping ground. You’ll realize how many attractions are at your disposal that you’ve ignored!

Strategy 7: Buy a Souvenir

Shopping is a vacation pastime. Tour companies know this and often have deals with retailers in which they bring their relaxed vacationers in by the droves. Plan a staycation shopping day, but just to purchase something you want. This is not a trip to Sears to get that new dishwasher you’ve been contemplating. This shopping trip is purely for the joy of browsing and picking up something just because you like it. If the weather is nice go to an outdoor mall or better a craft fair or flea market.

Strategy 8: Go Swimming

…or at least wear a bathing suit. Most vacations are to warm weather locales. Ski bunnies are far outnumbered by beach bums for good reason. Chances are if you were taking that out of town vacay you’d be packing your swimsuit so find a reason to wear it. Can you get a day or week pass to a gym with pool? Do any of the local chain hotels offer pool passes? How about the Y? It sounds ridiculous but just the act of putting that suit on and reading a book on a towel in your living room will put your mind in vacation mode. Play ocean sounds in the background and sip a fruity cocktail.

Strategy 9: People Watch and Read

Watching people and reading books are totally vacay activities for me. Rarely do I have opportunities for either which means it is definitely part of my Ultimate Staycation plans. So get on a park bench or head to Starbucks. Sit, relax, and let your mind wander about who and what you see. Bring your favorite book or magazine with you.

Strategy 10: Get that Tan

The biggest tell tale sign of vacationers is that glow from all the abundant sunshine they have soaked in on their travels. Who says you can’t get that on your staycation too? Moisturizing with a product like Jergens Natural Glow during your staycation week will have you looking fresh from the beach by the time you are back to work. Want a faster fix? Go back to the spa you started your staycation at and get a spray tan.


Recipe: Staycation Drink: The Drunk Arnold Palmer

This is my fave staycation drink. I love it because it’s easy to make and the ingredients will last all week:


Iced tea I use Arizona

Pink lemonade I prefer Newman’s Own

Malibu rum

Fresh mint

Crushed Ice

Fill a highball with crushed ice. Pour a shot of Malibu on he bottom. Fill halfway with lemonade. Fill remaining with iced tea. Garnish with fresh mint.

Working It Out with Jolene Matthews

imageFitness trainer and enthusiast Jolene Matthews wants to change the world one body at the time. The brand new mom knows just what us busy women need to stay in shape. Below she shares her tips for everyone to have a banging body in 2014! Get motivated by the same gal who motivates RHONJ’s Jacqueline Laurita!

TBB: Many people are either starting or relaunching healthy lifestyle plans this month. What is your best advice to ensure that theirs doesn’t end up another unfulfilled resolution?

JM: It’s possible, it’s doable! The first couple of weeks are the hardest, but stick with it and you will find that exercising is something you want to do every single day! It’s one of the best things that will change your life! Don’t overshoot, don’t have unrealistic expectations. Just take it day by day.

TBB: What about people who say, ” I hate to exercise”, how can they make it a more enjoyable experience?

JM: I’m a big fan of group fitness classes because there’s something for everyone and so many wonderful trends. If someone isn’t motivated to workout by themselves they can meet new people who can help them get motivated. There’s something out there for everyone to embrace from boxing to ballet, even poll dancing classes. I teach fitness classes and I often see people come in late and leave early. If a full class is too much at the beginning, then take a half a class. It’s better than not showing up at all.

TBB: Real Housewives of New Jersey fans might recognize you from working out with Jacqueline Laurita. How long have you been training her?

JM: I’ve been helping Jacqueline workout for three years, or in Housewives time, since Season 2!

TBB: What does Jac’s fitness regimen consist of?

JM: As women legs and glutes are our largest muscles groups. Jacqueline has amazing lower body muscles. She really has great legs for which she loves to do lunges and squats to maintain. We don’t do a lot of weight lifting on her lower half. She’s naturally fit.

TBB: Last season there was a scene in which you were training Jac as she vented about her feud with on again off again friend Teresa(Giudice). During the segment you seemed to be rolling your eyes in exasperation. What really happened? 

JM: It was funny because that’s not really how it went down at all. The way (production) cut things together made it look like I  was losing patience. When we workout (Jacqueline and I) talk about a lot of things. She works hard, is a lot of fun, and our sessions are enjoyable.

TBB: Congratulations on the recent birth of your son, Hunter. What is your advice for pregnant women?

JM: It is so important to stay fit during your pregnancy. I know so many people who think it’s an excuse to sit on the couch. Look, I know what it’s like to be tired and have morning sickness. It’s easy to succumb to the feeling of being tired and just take a nap, but the best thing for you and your baby to stay somewhat athletic.

TBB: We hear a lot of people, specifically busy moms complain that they just don’t have the time for exercise. What are some ways to incorporate exercise into a new mom’s schedule?

Being a new mom gives Jolene an extra reason to stay fit and healthy!

Being a new mom gives Jolene an extra reason to stay fit and healthy!

JM: Myself being on the go with a newborn, I don’t think it’s hard to fit in exercise. If your baby is taking a nap do push ups and squats, whatever you can. It all adds up.

TBB: What, in your professional opinion, are five essential exercises for everyone?

JM:* Triceps dips make your arms look lean and mean!

*For chest and biceps do 20 to 30 pushups daily on your toes, not knees.

*Use abdominal exercises that incorporate all four muscles. Bicycles, which are bringing your elbows up to opposing knees are perfect. Just 100 a day and you are set!

*For lower body do squats with weight or just your own body resistance.

*Lastly cardio is really important. 20 squat thrusts in the morning before breakfast and 20 in the evening can fit into anybody’s schedule and will get your heart pumping.

TBB: Having appeared on reality TV is being on television something you’d like to do again?

JM: I do! My goal is to be the next Jillian Michaels, the blonde version! I love sharing my message of fitness and health with other people. Right now my focus is my family and my child, of course, but hopefully I will be back on TV in the future. I look forward to sharing my enthusiasm with a national audience.

 *Jolene Matthews has been featured in magazines and television as both a fitness model and expert. Want more stay fit advice from Jolene? Follow her on Twitter @JoleneMFitness and see what she’s up to at

Spa 101

One thing I resolved to do this year was to spend less money on things and use some of that savings for experiences. With two three year olds there isn’t much adult stuff to choose from as escaping to Bali (or anywhere that doesn’t have a dopey cartoon mascot) is nowhere in my near future. However, an escape to a spa for a couple of hours is possible, especially when my work is closed and daycare is open-cue all the “horrible mommy” type flames.

I’ve found these little ventures to not only soothe my achey toddler lifting joints, but my soul. Recently on 100 Days of Summer  Phillips Demming mentioned she’s only had about two massages in her lifetime. She reminded me of the occasional person who doesn’t like visiting the spa. I remember my first massage, I was a little out of my element, but as the years went on and I gathered more gift certificate funded trips I learned how to relax, enjoy, and make the most of my spa time. Here are some things I’ve learned that could make your next spa trip the spa-mazing experience it should be.

Choose the type of  massage therapist you are most comfortable with:  Don’t just accept whoever is available, if you prefer a specific gender ask for it. I, personally prefer a female therapist. Unless he is 6 foot blonde gay Sven, I really can’t relax with a strange man touching me. I also prefer someone who doesn’t talk to me. When you make your appointment be specific about who you want. Some people are perfectly fine chatting away or with a member of the opposite sex. You may eventually find somebody who is amazing and you will never again even think of going to someone else. (By the way I was kidding about the Sven part, kind of.)

The modest need not shy away: My first few massages getting on a table au naturel was a bit intimidating. As time went on I realized a good masseuse will respect your modesty and privacy…and if they don’t get the hell out of there!

You don’t have to wear those paper thongs:  When having body treaments you  don’t have to wear those annoying see-through uncomfortable paper wedgie makers. It  is perfectly fine to bring a bathing suit bottom. The whole point is relaxing and if you are uncomfortable with something strung up your butt, or your nether regions exposed you are not going to enjoy the experience. That being said, if you really must, you can also wear your undies during a massage.

Speak up: If you don’t like the way something feels for Pete’s sake say something! Getting knots out is important, but not if you feel like you are being tortured by Madame LaLaurie. Remember you are paying for this experience. Let your therapist know if the pressure is too deep or not deep enough. Also if there is a certain aroma therapy oil you prefer ask if they have it or ask to smell different ones and pick what you like best.

Experiment: Usually I am a creature of habit when it comes to most things. I can go to a restaurant 40 times and always order the same thing, but when it comes to  spa visits I like to try something new. Being adventurous at the spa, though, often means not setting your expectations too high. It can be hit or miss like the time I ordered a Deep Sea Dive at a fancy New  York City location. What sounded like a scrub that started with 30 minutes of quiet time in a private jacuzzi turned out to be $150 for a tiny Asian woman to give me a bath in a wooden bucket in orange peel and flower petalled water. I felt like I was taking a dip in Sangria and I just couldn’t stop laughing at the awkwardness of the situation as she “washclothed” my back  and limbs. At least she was kind enough to offer to “Wash breast?” Ummm no thank you.

Small local places offer better deals than the big guys: It’s always fun to visit world famous venues like The Mandarin or Elizabeth Arden, but it’s the local small business places that I have found give more bang for your buck and more personalized attention.

Combine treatments: If you are carving out the time to go  consider making it a real event and getting more than one treatment. My latest obsession is to get some kind of scrub or wrap in the wet room…everyone must try a vichy shower…followed by a massage. Ask the owner or manager about specials and packages.

Ask questions: I learned this one just the other day. I signed on for what was a called a “warm algae wrap”, not knowing that the mud went on warm, but while it set the mint oil used to knock out the stench would make me feel like I was being cryogenically frozen.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune: Be on the lookout for deals. Many spas both big and small put out special savings on sites like Groupon. So sign up and grab them when they come along. Spa treatments aren’t something that are exclusive to wealthy Housewives and stars. Everybody deserves to be pampered, even if only once a year!

Do you have a funny tale of going to the spa? Share it below, we’d love to read about it!