Parenting & Travel Blog with tips, guides, reviews and honesty about family travel and parenting.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

What's in my carryon

I aim to try to pack light for myself and for my kids, mostly because I don't end up needing nearly as much as I think I do. After years of having my carry on filled with all things kid related, I'm finally in a place where my own tote has whatever I need to make my flying experience as enjoyable as it can be.

My carry on bag: I invested in a large Longchamp Le Pliage Tote Bag, because I like the sturdiness of the leather handle, the zipper to keep everything inside, the durable fabric that is easy to clean and the fact that I can fold it up into a small little pouch for easy storage.

My essentials inside my tote always include the following:

  1. Hand cream : I love L'Occitane's shea butter and this one by Nivea is a long time favourite because I like having a thick cream for the plane, plus it remind me of when I was younger and would sneak into my mom's bathroom and slather myself in it!
  2. Lip Balm - I'm liking this one by Sun Bum with SPF 30 right now but my go to is always EOS.
  3. Passport Holder: I use this Tumi passport case that fits in our passports, nexus and  airport lounge cards. But this one is super cute and on sale now!
  4. Air pods - because I need to get onto the entertainment system ASAP. Air pods or sound cancelling headphones such as these by Bose are always in my travel bag.
  5. Swell Water Bottle because hydrate, hydrate hydrate!
  6. Gum - nothing like a minty gum to help refresh my breath and to help with the pressure in my ears. I like Pur gum these days.
  7. Caudalie Beauty Elixir - a spritz or two of this helps refresh my skin by moisturizing and toning it. And frankly I like having a little bit of the luxury in my bag with me.
  8. Reading Material: while I could pack a whole library, I try to stick to one book and one magazine, this one I couldn't put down during our flight to Maui.
  9. Blanket scarf - on our last flight we were freeezzinnggggg! Thankfully I had packed a light blanket scarf, but I'm looking for something warmer and more chic like this one from Cuyana
  10. Snacks - I try to stock myself with healthy snack such as trail mix, nuts, dried fruit or dry chickpeas. I'm really not this healthy, but I like to convince myself that I am, when really it's all about keeping my hangry self happy.

What are your essentials for your carry on?


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Bullying: What role parents play - my latest for Masala Mommas

"When I was in kindergarten, my bibi (grandmother), would walk me to school everyday. The short distance I walked towards my classroom by myself (I was a big girl after all), was long enough for me to have my first bullying experience.  I had been pushed down by two older girls and called “paki.” 

Sadly, this wasn't the only time growing up that I heard those words. The racial slurs that I didn't quite understand as a child, were common to hear growing up in Malton, a suburb of Toronto that had a lot of Indian immigrants such as my family.  While the the scars of hearing these words have faded slowly, one thing that stands out clear in my mind is how my parents, specifically my mother, reacted.

Her strength, determination and intervention paved the way for how I try to deal with bullying now that I am a parent, because the sad reality is that bullying is very common.  Bullying says that 1 in 3 youth report being bullied recently, that doesn't even account for all of the incidents that go unreported.

Read more on Masala Mommas where I write about the role parents play in Bullying.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Sephora Haul

I'm obviously no beauty blogger or beauty queen. My general philosophy is to use whatever it is I have. The problem is actually that I have a lot of products. Things I read about, see online or have someone recommend I often end up getting and trying.  It's a bit of a problem, especially since I rarely ever finish products before moving on to the next one. So I decided that I was going to streamline and just focus on the products I love and not buy anything until I had completely run out.

Enter the Sephora VIB sale this past August. Gulp.  I had to take advantage one final time (or at least until their next sale), and stock up on some of my favourites, and try a couple of new products out. But hey, with Sephora's amazing return policy I can return whatever doesn't work out for me. So here's what I bought in my recent haul, some items are repeat and some are new.
On Repeat:

Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer: This is the one make up product I would not want to do without. I love the texture, the coverage and the colour matches to help cover my under eye circles. 
Re-buy? YES

Caudalie Premier Cru Anti-Aging Eye Cream: I was introduced to Caudalie first during a facial at Toronto's Miraj Hammam Caudalie Spa and was hooked instantly. This eye cream is thick and perfect to help moisturize my delicate under eyes.
RE-buy? YES

Caudalie Premier Cru Anti-Aging Cream: I matched the eye cream with the Premier Cru cream that I use primarily when my skin is dry, such as in the winter months. I don't breakout from it and it's not greasy or oily.
RE-buy? YES

Herbivore Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish: I love love the rose smell of this body scrub, plus the hydration from the coconut oil. But mostly it's the smell I love.
Re-buy? YES

Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Heat & UV Protective Primer: I purchased this after I used a trial sample that I got from Sephora. I love the smell and how it protects my hair from the heat torture I put it through.
Re-Buy? YES


Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick (Colour: Pillow Talk) : I bought this one a whim, mostly because I liked the packaging and I saw it recommended somewhere online (I forget where). But the colour doesn't work for my skin tone. It washes my lips out. I still love Tom Ford's Indian Rose as a neutral pink for my skin tone ( that is on my Re-Buy list for sure)
Re-Buy? No

Briogeo Apple Super foods Shampoo & Conditioner: I decided to purchase this Shampoo and Conditioner duo once I tried the free sample I had. I was able to get two uses out of my samples, and was hooked! It made my hair so healthy and shiny.
Re-Buy? Most likely

Caudalie VineActiv Vitamin C Anti- Wrinkle Serum: So as a Caudalie fan, I'm keeping with the same line of products. I had been using the Premieur Cru serum, but it is pricey and I didn't love the smell. So I'm trying this one out because it has Vitamin C which should eliminate a step before my serum (or is that for after?)
Re-Buy? Undecided 

Earth's Nectar Jojoba & Tea Tree Scalp Oil: Lately my scalp has been a disaster! It's been very dry and flaky and even the medicated shampoo hasn't been great. I've been using this oil lightly on my clean hair on the spots that are super dry and then use more as a scalp massage before I wash my hair. So far I really like this product! When used sparingly the smell is very mild and it absorbs well onto my scalp and has been helping with the dryness without making my hair weighed down with oil.
Re-Buy? YES

What are your Must Have Beauty Items? Any that I should add to my list for the next sale?


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Celebrating Year One on the blog!

It's officially been one year!

One year since I set up my blog.
One year since I posted my first post.
One year since I got out of my comfort zone.
One year since I stopped making excuses.
One year since I finally just did it.

The idea of starting a blog had been circulating in my mind for several years. I've always  enjoyed writing, I've always loved to share my honest experiences and reviews on places I've been to and talk frankly about my parenting truths. Plus I needed a creative output, the endless cycle of laundry and dishes wasn't doing it for me. I needed something else. So a good friend planted the idea of writing a blog. Then another friend whispered some kind encouragement about writing online, then another friend yelled at me and basically told me to get off of my butt and just do it already.

So I finally did it. I set up a blog. This Mama Needs a Vacay was born. It took multiple false starts for this blog. I was trying to find the right focus, the right name, the right look. Nothing ever felt perfect, so it all just lay lost someplace out on the inter web. But somehow, this time one year ago, I just did it. I created this site, imperfect as it was, imperfect as it still is. But it's here, and it's been one whole year.

But in this last year, every like, every click, every comment, every DM, every share, every text message, every word of support that I have gotten from family, friends and strangers 
has given This Mama a purpose. So I thank you. I thank you for all of your support. I thank you for every click, comment, share. I thank you for reading this.

What's up next? I don't know exactly. But I do know that I started this strictly as a family travel blog because I was playing it safe. I had also had a banner travel year celebrating my 40th birthday so I had lots of content to share. However I've got more to share. So slowly I'm helping the blog turn into a different direction where there still will any kind of travel related content that I can muster up (which also means, ahem - honey, I need to book some trips!). I'm also going to share more of my parenting thoughts and journey. I'm going to share my interests in reading, fashion, eating out and basically thoughts on whatever may be happening out in the world. I'm going to share more of this mama.

I hope you continue to stay on this journey with me. But more than anything else, I thank you for being here already and for reading this.


Monday, September 9, 2019

What I read this summer

I had grand dreams of sitting poolside with my book, soaking in the warm weather checking off my summer reading list. But I had forgotten about the kids. They were there too. Usually happy and in the pool but there was splashing and calls of "Mom! Watch me! Watch this! Are you watching?", all which makes reading a little distracting. But I was going to read and get caught up on my Goodreads reading challenge ( alas, I'm still quite far behind).

So I choose some books this summer that were more entertaining and light that some of the others that are sitting on my bookshelf beckoning to be read ( yes I see you The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: A Novel, I'll get to you soon!) I wanted to read books that were a form of escapism where the noise of the splashing wouldn't distract me. But I also stuck to a bit of a theme, I choose book by female authors from a South Asian background. The fact that there were so many new choices for me to pick from this summer was a win right there. There was a time not long ago when I didn't see so much diversity reflected on the shelves at the bookstore.

Here's (some) of what I read:

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters: A Novel, by Balli Kaur Jaswal: Follow the adventures of three British born Indian sisters who embark on a journey to India to fulfill their mother's last request. This was a fun read which made me emotional (which isn't saying much to be honest, I'm a crier), but also was enjoyable reading about the sisters' adventures in different parts of India.  I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the different parts of India and comparing them with how I had recently experienced them. Balli Kaur Jaswal also does a good job with touching upon a lot of issues that South Asian women living in the diaspora have to deal with in different stages of their adult life.

The Chai Factor, by Farah Heron: The fact that the author, Farah Heron is a Toronto based desi mom had me excited to read this. The story follows Amira the engineer who doesn't date and stays laser focused on her professional goals but who unwillingly falls for a lumberjack.  I didn't expect a romantic novel like this, but I savoured it! 

Pride, Prejudice and other Flavours, by Sonali Dev: Dr. Trisha Rajee breaks some family rules and has to redeem herself in the eyes of her family, but falls in love along the way. Another romantic novel, but set in San Francisco in an affluent, over-achieving Indian family with Jane Austen's themes woven throughout. Part of me wanted this book to hurry up and end so I could get my happy ending and stop being so frustrated by the two main characters, but then I felt bored and lonely when it was done!

Stories for South Asian Super Girls by Raj Kaur Khaira: I bought this for my daughters, but I also loved going through it to find so many stories about South Asian women and their amazing accomplishments. The illustrations are beautiful as the stories are inspiring, and really this book should be on the bookshelves for everyone as it seeks to empower young brown girls by telling stories of women who look like them. It would make a great gift!

What did you read this summer?


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Why Los Angeles is the perfect place to take your teen

Southern California, home to surfers, palm trees, perfect weather and Hollywood stars galore. Los Angeles is the epitome of cool. Which makes it the perfect place to take your teenager to help earn you some "cool mom" points.  (My kid is cringing even as I write those words.  Consider my "cool mom" card to be revoked). 

In trying to carve out special one on one time with our kids, we decided to start a new family tradition : taking a short trip with each of our kids before they start high school. They get to pick the place as long as it's within continental North America (sorry kid - no Maui for you!). So Los Angeles it was!

Our requirements for this trip were that our teen had to come up with a general itinerary, or at least a list of places she would like to see and what she wanted to do in LA.  While Universal Studios made that list, it didn't make our itinerary as we had 3 short days to discover all we could in la-la land.

Where we stayed:

For starters we contemplated where to stay, should it be in glamorous Beverly Hills or ocean side in Santa Monica. We ended up opting for the Fairmont Miramar. You can find out why we chose this property and other thoughts on a full blog post that I wrote here.

The Fairmont and location in Santa Monica made for a pretty good choice for our teen.

Other hotels that we had considered were Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, which is directly on the beach and the ultimate in luxury. Except that the rooms couldn't accommodate the three of us in one room and upgrading to a suite was $$$$. We also considered the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills where good friends of ours recently had the most exceptional stay.

What we ate:

A major part of our travels always revolves around eating good food! Luckily for us our teen loves to try new foods. I usually do my research before hand (this time we had recommendations by a friend who lives in LA and we also used LA Eater to give us suggestions). 
Breakfasts were in the hotel at the Fairmont's Fig restaurant where the teen may have gotten a selfie with The Terminator himself! (gimme back my cool mom points). 

Lunches were out and about, but dinners were researched and booked. 
We ate at:
Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica - a Michelin starred farm to table concept restaurant that was delicious and with great service.
Gjelina - a hot and happening restaurant in Venice,  which has good food and a cool vibe but personally we found the 20% automatic gratuity to be excessive (especially since the service didn't match)
Osteria Mozza - a Michelin starred Italian restaurant in Melrose, which was good.

Other notable restaurants that were recommended to us:
Nobu Malibu (tip - you can try a walk in since reservations are super hard to get)

What we did:

While the Los Angeles area is known for theme parks, in our short 3 day itinerary we opted to not do Universal Studios and Disneyland (after all we couldn't make the other kids at home too jealous!)

Instead we did:

Surf Lessons - this was high on the list of requests by the teen.  She's a natural water baby and loves the ocean, so her and dad got private surf lessons with the Santa Monica Surf School. Their instructor Adam was amazing and this kid is now ready to become a full time surfer!
    Surfer Girl

Beach Life: The L.A are beaches are perfect with huge stretches of soft sand.  We did the Venice beach and boardwalk, Santa Monica Beach and Pier, and the Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach.  We didn't spend a lot of time at the famous Santa Monica Pier because it was busy and what not things this time around, but it is a vibrant and fun place.

Santa Monica

Warner Bros. Studio Tour: We opted for a studio tour since we were in Hollywood after all. We did the 3 hour tour. We bought our tickets when we got to the studios but you can buy your tickets online ahead of time.  The tours run every 30 mins and are $69/pp.  We had a great time on the sets of Friends, exploring all things Harry Potter, seeing the props from Marvel movies and keeping our eyes peeled for any celebrity sightings (there were none though).

Warner Bros. Studio Hollywood

Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills: We had to make a stop here even though we weren't planning on doing any shopping (boo!).  There was a free Louis Vuitton exhibit that we went into and we have to say it was the highlights of our stroll along the famous street.

Inside the LV exhibit

Griffith Observatory and Park: This was a pleasant surprise, because it was a part of L.A that I didn't expect - the hills and the views of the city were beautiful.   The Observatory is free except for parking (ahhhh the L.A parking!). It is a great spot for some educational angles but also just for some beautiful views of the city and of the famous Hollywood sign.  Bring water and comfy shoes as well and place for a hike up there. The Observatory does have a little cafe to purchase food or you can bring a picnic and enjoy the grounds.

Hollywood Walk of Fame and Chinese TCL Theater: one of the most famous parts of Hollywood. It is crowded, busy and touristy but we found it was worth it - for the 45 minutes we spent there. Especially for the teen who enjoyed looking for the different stars on the walk of fame.

Malibu: ah Malibu, beautiful but expensive and busy on a weekend. We paid $8 USD for ice cream (each!) on the Malibu Pier.   Some cute shops and restaurants and some laid back casual style but also some dressed to impress stylish people. 

Other things we did:

We drove down the famous Sunset Blvd, during sunset through Beverly Hills and then Bel Air.  We didn't check out any celebrity homes because I didn't have an information on any of that, so we just took in the sights.

Abbot Kinny Blvd in Venice is a great place to stroll and take in the shops and restaurants, we spent a little time there before our dinner out at Gjelina.

The Santa Monica 3rd Street promenade was walking distance from our hotel so we decided to check it out. The street is closed off to cars and is pedestrian friendly with street artists and performers, street art and lots of shops and cafes.

The 3rd street Promenade in Santa Monica

Other Tips & resources 


Give yourself LOTS of time in traffic, especially for the airport. L.A traffic is a real thing ya'll!

LA isn't an inexpensive city as one may have guessed, be warned. Also be prepared to pay for parking everyyyywhhherrreee!

What are you not to be missed spots in LA? Share in the comments!

Blogger Template Created by pipdig