The Appeal of ‘Just Once’

The Appeal of Just OnceA handful of years ago, when my daughters were preschool- and elementary-aged, I surprised them with a Valentine’s Tea. I set out my china, made tiny cucumber sandwiches cut in the shape of hearts, baked cookies, and brewed up some hot tea. When they arrived home at the end of the school day, instead of after school snacks, we sat in the living room and enjoyed afternoon tea.

They drank daintily, holding pinkies high in the air, sipping gingerly. They munched on sandwiches and chattered about their school day, being careful to place their teacups on saucers and wiped at their mouths with the cloth napkins I’d set out.

It didn’t take a lot for me to put on this special holiday tea for them. A bit of baking and sandwich making. It was a pure delight to me, something I’d been wanting to do with my girls since the first of them was born. And the effect was marvelous. They ate it up, literally and figuratively. I’d loved them by spoiling them with something different that Valentine’s Day.

We haven’t had a Valentine’s Tea since then. My girls still talk about it – it is probably one of their most memorable Valentine’s celebrations. And that actually is the point of it. It’s memorable because it happened just once. I had wanted to do it for them. I did it. We enjoyed it. And now it is a fond memory.

As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I see where more moms could use a “just once” bucket list approach to treating their kids to something special. Because many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s celebration memorable. And it wears us out.

Many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s memorable. – Tweet This

So as you contemplate what you will do to love on your children this February 14th, consider this: what would you do if it was only “just once”? Is there a special way of celebrating you have wanted to do for a while, but haven’t (like my Valentine’s Tea)? Then ask yourself whether this is the year for it or not. Recognize that your children do not know about all the wonderful ideas you have that you may not execute. If you don’t have any “just once” Valentine ideas, then give yourself a break. Going overboard does not make you any more loving, nor will your children feel any less loved if you do not.

And if last year you made a terrific display of affection for your kids, release yourself from the need for a repeat performance. Let it stand on its own and relish the memory. Relax and stop beating yourself up over what you don’t do. Show yourself some love this Valentine’s. Even if it’s just once.

Ever done something amazing for your kids one time, never to repeat it? Or have you been wanting to do something special for them “just once,” but haven’t yet? Share your story in the comments.



February Bucket List Life Dare: Date Night Novelty

February 2016 Bucket List Life DareIt’s February. How do I know? Suddenly my inbox and mailbox are filled with ads encouraging me to save money on flowers, get a deal on chocolates or reserve a table for a special Valentine’s dinner.

The pressure is on. And that tends to turn me off.

I’m a bit of a rebel, but all the commercial trappings of Valentine’s Day – the need to go somewhere special, give a romantic gift, and be all woo woo on February 14th make me crazy. Because all of that feels like it’s about fulfilling a cultural obligation. Not about honoring and loving my husband.

Still, it is a good reminder that we need to give our partner the attention they deserve. We need to set aside time (regularly) for romance. So, with that in mind, I challenge you to this month’s bucket list life dare: plan a special date with your spouse to a place you have never been or where you can try a new activity.

For a bit of date night novelty, you could try out a new restaurant. Or take in a live show at a comedy club, a play at a local theatre, or music at a club. Sign up for a dance class or couples’ massage therapy. Head out to an arcade or laser tag arena. Check out a shooting range or rent a fun car for a day.

The point of the challenge is to break out of the date night rut and do something different that you’ve always wanted to. Your relationship will benefit from the refreshment and you might learn something new about your spouse in the process that will make you appreciate him even more.

Don’t just wait for romance to happen. Make a plan for something new. Put it on the calendar. [Tweet this]

If you want to keep track of your ideas, download my free Date Night Passport.

Taking the challenge? Tell us in the comments what you plan to do (or just that you have a plan, if you want to keep it a secret from you-know-who).



Photo by Azrul Aziz on Unsplash via CC License

Winter Survival Bucket List

Winter Survival Bucket ListOne January when Evelyn, our youngest, was in preschool, we took our kids to Disney World in Orlando. It was a bucket list trip (our second as a family, but the first for Evelyn to really experience it) and I expected that the real excitement would begin when we stepped through the gates of the Magic Kingdom. That was the quintessential bucket list moment I was looking forward to (that and seeing our youngest interact with her favorite Disney characters). What I didn’t expect was my own reaction upon stepping out of the airport shuttle at our hotel.

I began crying.

The 80 degree air and the sunshine, the blooming flowers and the freedom of walking around in short sleeves and sandals overwhelmed me. I hadn’t realized the toll that weeks of winter weather beating down on us in Chicagoland had taken until I experienced relief from it. Previously I had understood, in concept, why snow birds fled to the south and why people we know often take winter trips to Florida, Southern California and Arizona. But I hadn’t been prepared for how much I needed the break myself.

Since then I’ve been a little more aware of my need for respite from the effects of winter in the Midwest. I’ve implemented practices and found resources that help me weather (if you’ll allow the pun) this season a bit better. With that in mind, I offer you my list of winter survival must-haves that should be on everyone’s bucket lists to own/experience at some point in their life.

Winter Survival Bucket List

Smartwool® socks. I have always been a cold person, but I hadn’t thought much about how a good pair of socks can make a difference – until I borrowed a simple pair of thick athletic socks from a friend. Wow! Since then I’ve slowly outfitted my wardrobe with a variety of extra-warm socks. My favorite are Smartwools. They are warm and not itchy and come in a variety of cute patterns. I wear mine with Mary Janes to work because they look nice enough to be seen. (By the way, I’ve been looking for a way to help provide socks to the homeless, because of the difference I’ve seen a warm pair make. Today I discovered Bombas – a one-for-one program where every pair of socks you purchase buys a specially designed pair that goes to a homeless shelter. So now that I already have a few pairs of Smartwool®, Bombas are going on my bucket list).

Sheepskin-lined shoes. I stumbled upon a pair of Merrill shearling clogs on a clearance rack one year. I couldn’t believe the difference in how warm I felt while wearing them. It was like having slippers on all day!

Heated car seats. If your car seats are leather, like in my husband’s Honda Pilot, then these are a must. My car doesn’t have heated seats, but for one winter I did enjoy a plug-in heated car seat cover that I picked up at Aldi for cheap. It only lasted one season, but it kept me warm while it did. Someday I’ll have built in heated seats.

Remote car starter. Since in the coldest weather I tend to scurry from house to car and back, it’s all the better that the car be warm before I get in. One year my husband installed a remote starter on my car as a Christmas gift. It was soooo nice to be able to stand inside and with a push of a button have my car warmed and ready a bit later. My current car doesn’t have a remote starter and I have to say that I do miss it.

Fleece- or flannel-lined pants. I love jeans that are lined with warm fabrics. Denim is just….brrr! So it’s much cozier to put on a pair with a flannel or fleece inside. It’s better than having to wear thermals underneath. And for Christmas this year my mom gave me a pair of fleece-lined leggings. They’re as awesome as they sound!

A weeklong getaway to somewhere warm in January or February. The Caribbean. Hawaii. Even Florida, Arizona or Southern California. The Gulf Coast. I haven’t escaped winter that way since our Disney World trip seven years ago. So back on my bucket list goes a tropical winter getaway!

What is on your Winter Survival Bucket List?

 

Bucket List Travel Using Airline Miles & Reward Points

Where do you want to travel in your lifetime?

Bucket List TravelYou would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have travel destinations on their bucket list. More often than not when I ask people about their bucket lists, the first item they mention is a place they’d like to travel to. However, travel is expensive, especially international travel. That’s a big part of why so many destinations end up on a bucket list – we’re waiting for the day we can afford to go.

Which is too bad. Because bucket list travel doesn’t have to be expensive or inaccessible – if you know where to look and how to plan. In fact, I’m taking my husband to my number one bucket list destination this year: Italy. We’ll be spending two nights at a 5-star hotel near the Vatican in Rome. Then we’ll head to Florence and spend several days there, exploring the city and touring Tuscany (I’m booking us a tour that includes lunch at a winery). After that, we’re staying at a cute apartment in the oldest mansion in La Spezia on the side of Mount Santa Croce overlooking the Gulf of the Poets, the Apuan Alps, and the Versilia. We’ll spend two days there hiking between the five towns of the Cinque Terre and enjoying the views and the food. Actually, I imagine we’ll be enjoying the views and the food throughout our trip! And we’ll cap off our visit to Italy with two nights at the Park Hyatt Milan. I’m hoping to find Mike a chic hat (he often wears hats) in Milan’s fashion district.

Now, putting together a bucket list itinerary like this one could run you easily three to four thousand dollars. Or more. But I have worked it out for a fraction of that price and I want to share with you how I made this dream trip come true, and where you can find the resources I used to do it to put your own bucket list trip into action.

For now we’ll focus on the one key tool that launched our bucket list trip: airline miles (I’ll talk about the accommodations side of things in a future post). I was able to book our flights (Chicago to Rome and Milan to Chicago) on American Airlines for 80,000 miles and $121 in taxes and fees. Oh, and did I mention that Mike and I rarely fly anywhere? He happened to travel for work several times in the past two years to Finland, which accounts for a number of those miles. But even without that, we could have gotten the tickets with airline miles earned through reward credit cards.

Here’s how it works on the most basic level (below I provide links to three of my favorite travel blogs, where you can learn the ins and outs of using miles and points): applying for one or two rewards credit cards can earn you 40,000 or more miles in three months or less. Plus you can receive card-member benefits such as one free checked bag, priority check-in and Group 1 boarding.

Two cautions: you need to have a good FICO credit score to qualify for these types of cards. Applying for the cards won’t ruin your score (contrary to popular myth), although applying for too many at once can be detrimental. You also need to be a responsible credit card user – in addition to paying off your balance each month, you should know the amount you need to spend on the card in order to earn the miles, and how long you have to reach that “minimum spend.” Don’t apply for cards with requirements you can’t meet.

That said, here are the two mileage cards I started with, that earned us more than enough for this trip (these are not affiliate links):

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Currently 50,000 mile bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Annual fee of $95 is waived the first year.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

Currently 50,000 American Airlines Aadvantage bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Annual fee of $95 is waived the first year.

To learn everything you would need to know for planning your bucket list trip, check out the online video course that I learned it from: Make Your Dream Trip a Reality with Chris Guilleabeau and Stephanie Zito on Creative Live.

My Favorite Miles & Points Blogs:

What destination is on your bucket list? Have you ever used airline miles earned through a credit card to purchase airfare?

 

Photo by Matt John on Unsplash via CC License

January Bucket List Life Dare: Habits for the Dream Life

For 2016 I plan to read two books each month.

Habits for the Dream LifeThat’s not all I plan to do. And it’s not even really a bucket list goal. But setting that intention for the year, I believe, is going to be pivotal to the realization and enjoyment of most of the bucket list goals I hope to accomplish over the next twelve months.

Why is that? I have two main reasons for making reading a priority for this year:

  1. It means developing a regular habit and habits are one of the surest ways to reach your goals. I’ve learned over the past few years that small steps taken on a regular basis build up to big goals achieved. I’m always on the lookout for what day-to-day habits I need to incorporate that will bring me closer to the life I want to be living (habits for the dream life). I noticed last year that I was missing the joy I’ve always gotten from reading. I love to read books, but had let other activities displace that (like mindlessly surfing online). I want the joy back on a daily basis.
  2. Reading stimulates learning and growing, which also happen to be part of living out bucket list longings. And while we can’t all be achieving bucket list goals every day, we can be moving toward them through learning and growth (often, by reading). I have so much I still want to learn and experience. My bucket list reflects that. But with what I hope to accomplish in 2016, I can see where spending time reading in advance of going out on adventures can make them more meaningful. For example, I’m taking my husband to Italy this year for our anniversary. Understanding the history and the significance of the art and architecture we’ll encounter will bring more life to what we’re seeing. I also feel like I’m not as engaged with social justice and being compassionate toward the poor and oppressed – something I hope to remedy in part through reading.

This month’s bucket list life dare isn’t about creating a reading plan for 2016 (although if you do, please chime in. I’d love to hear what’s on your list). It’s about building a habit that brings you closer to living your dream life.

So think about it. What is one simple action you could take every day that will do that for you? If you don’t have any ideas, why not use the step-back approach (it’s one I turn to on occasion for finding a starting place toward a big goal)? Here’s how it works: choose a big goal – something you would like to achieve or a way of living you want to reach. Then ask yourself, what would you be doing just before you reach that end state? And what would you have to do right before that? Keep stepping back to the previous action until you get to where you are today. Then make that first step the one you will choose for this month’s goal.

The January Bucket List Life Dare: Choose a habit that will lead toward a life goal. Practice it today. Then repeat each day for the rest of the month.

Photo by Kate Williams on Unsplash via CC License.