Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Give Mom What She Really Wants For Mother's Day - A Time Out At The Four Seasons Hotel and Spa

I remember my very first Mother's day as if it were yesterday. I had been a mom to one little boy for nearly ten months and although it's one of the very few days per year that I could be totally and understandably selfish with my desires, in true first-time mom fashion, I wanted nothing more than to spend the day with my little family- doing all of the things. Exploring Baltimore, visiting the state aquarium and wait for it- I even wanted to eat out, AT A RESTAURANT, with my husband and ten month old in tow.

 
Looking back, this now seasoned mother of three little boys cannot fathom how anyone would willingly want to take their small children out to a meal on one of the busiest days of the year with the expectation of truly enjoying it. A total lapse in judgment, am I right?

As the years passed and our family grew, my desire for how I wished to spend Mother's Day has changed significantly. While I continue to appreciate time spent with my family, after all, they are the reason I am a mother, I would also very much appreciate a breather, or a Mommy Time Out, if you will.

- Let me let you in on a little secret; 
So would nearly 90% of the rest 
of the motherly population. -

A mother's work is never, ever done. We're on the clock working diligently to keep our families safe, healthy and happy twenty-four hours a day, 365 days out of the year. Very rarely do we get "time off" from that tireless and sometimes thankless job and if you're wondering what to get that special mother in your life for mother's day, here's the best idea anyone could offer:

- Give her the gift of TIME 
and do so at the nearest Four Seasons Spa. -

I recently had the opportunity to escape to the Four Seasons Hotel and Spa in downtown Baltimore with a few of my girlfriends who also happen to be deep in the trenches of Motherhood and it was hands down the most wonderful twenty-seven hours I've had to myself in a very, very long time. 

I must admit, it felt a little strange to leave the kids at home in the capable hands of their father and hop into a car where KidzBop wasn't playing on the radio. I'm so accustomed to a daily life full of task lists, play dates, school schedules and errand-running that I truly forget what it's like to leave all of that behind and just be non-mom me.  


From the minute we arrived at the Four Seasons we felt like celebrities. Even better, we felt like the women we were before we had children. Some days I forget that I even existed prior to having babies and raising pre-schoolers, that carefree child-free life was so long ago.  It was absolutely wonderful to spend some time reconnecting with the old me. 

Think: When Stella Got her Groove Back 
but with less rhythm and dancing. 

The staff and accommodations was nothing short of exceptional. Within minutes it was clear that the front desk was willing to go above and beyond to make our short stay a relaxing and memorable one. It wasn't long after we walked into our beautifully understated room with a stunning view of the harbor that our doorbell rang with a delivery of champagne glasses, a bucket of ice and a delectable cheese plate (which we all got to enjoy sitting down, with two hands, no one screaming "Mom? Mom? MOMMY? MAMA?" in the background). 

After settling in and popping one (or two) bottles of champagne, we rang the front desk to inquire about making a dinner reservation. They were more than happy to oblige and within minutes had secured us a reservation for four at Ouzo Bay, a Greek restaurant located in Harbor East. 



The food was AMAZING. Now, keep in mind that my bar for AMAZING food is rather low. I don't have to cook it, I can eat it hot AND I don't have to share bites with anyone? Immediate 5 stars all around! All kidding aside, the fare was delicious and I definitely suggest ordering the classic sampler the next time you go. The spinach pie is to die for and the baked feta was just... incredible.

While there are so many wonderful things to be said about the Four Seasons Baltimore property, one of its greatest features is its proximity to so many great attractions and shopping destinations in Baltimore. Whether you wish to take a stroll along the water, partake in a little bit of shopping (Anthropologie, Lululemon and JCREW are each a mere stones throw away) or perhaps catch a quick matinee at the nearby Landmark theater, there is something pleasing for every one. 

If you're thinking of giving Mom a Time Out, I wholeheartedly suggest there's no better way to say "thanks" and "I love you, Mom" than with a reservation at the Four Season's renown spa. All four of us girls opted for the spa's Signature Massage and it was fifty divine minutes of the perfect amount of pressure and soothing ambiance.


The amenities at the spa are not to be missed. The vitality pool, steam showers and sauna were personal favorites and I'm looking forward to scheduling my next visit for a Signature Hydrafacial, as I've heard SO many great things about it. 



That evening when we returned to our rooms after being rubbed down, relaxed and pampered in every sense of the word, we popped yet one more bottle of champagne and ordered one (okay, two) of everything from the in-room dessert dining menu. Looking back, I wish we had ordered twenty-seven warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies because they were the best treat to end our day with. 

For Mother's Day Weekend, all Moms and Moms-to-Be that book a spa reservation will be treated to complimentary Prosecco and chocolate truffles.

Available Friday May 6th through Sunday May 8th, the Four Seasons Spa has put together a variety of packages to honor mothers and I will include them with pricing at the bottom the post.

The following morning we awoke early (but not nearly as early had there been children poking our eyeballs and whispering "Mommy" 479 times while standing three inches from our side of the bed) and took our time showering and getting ready for brunch at Wit & Wisdom, the Four Season's in-house dining establishment. 

This isn't the first time I've enjoyed the buffet-style weekend brunch at Wit and Wisdom and it remains, hands down, one of the BEST brunch spreads I've been to in a long, long time. Sure it's pricey but I firmly believe the fare really stands up to the expectations and is well worth the price. I know many typically cringe when they hear the word "buffet" but trust me, there is nothing cringe-worthy about brunch at Wit & Wisdom. 

Especially worthy of noting is the attention to detail we received from the waitstaff. Naturally I ordered the bottomless mimosa and I swear I don't think my glass ever ran dry not once. From the charcuterie and oyster stations, to the crepe station and freakishly adorable kid's fare favorites table, to the dessert table piled high with confections of every shape and size, I could have stayed and eaten my entire Sunday away. 

But alas, there was shopping to do and finally, three sweet little boys to get home. 


While the amenities and accommodations truly made our stay at the Four Seasons more than we moms could have ever asked for, the real highlight of the weekend was the company. Being able to sit back, relax and reconnect with myself outside of the Mother role and without my girlfriends without having to worry tirelessly about the kids and the house and the laundry and the chores and the sports practices and the volunteer hours and the pediatrician appointments- well that in itself is just priceless. 

So give Mom the gift she really wants this Mother's Day- and that's a Mommy Time Out at the Spa at the Four Seasons. Happy Mother's Day to all of the selfless, exhausted, frazzled and haggard moms out there. I see you in the trenches and we're all in this together!  

* * * * * * * * * * 
Mother's Day Weekend Spa Packages at the Four Seasons Baltimore

Mother’s Bliss 
Discover just how smooth your skin can be with the Spa’s new Chamomile Body Scrub treatment. Your body will be gently exfoliated with a soothing chamomile body polish, then revitalized with a chamomile scrub and chamomile body lotion, leaving your skin feeling flawless. - 50 minutes - $175 

The Pampered Mother (includes all of the below) 

Chamomile Body Scrub 50 minutes 
Discover just how smooth your skin can be with the Spa’s new Chamomile Body Scrub treatment. Your body will be gently exfoliated with a soothing chamomile body polish, then revitalized with a chamomile scrub and chamomile body lotion, leaving your skin feeling flawless. 

Pedicure with Honeysuckle & Chamomile enhancement 50 minutes 
Relieve stress while soaking your toes in a milk & honey bath infused with chamomile and honeysuckle flowers.  A sugar scrub exfoliation reduces hard skin followed by a shea butter mask and a massage with hydrating scented moisturizer renews and softens your legs and feet. Nail shaping, cuticle work and callous softening are all included, followed by a beautiful polish finish. 

Express HydraFacial 25 minutes 
This rejuvenating skin resurfacing treatment is designed to immediately reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, acne, hyper pigmentation, congested pores and uneven skin tone on the face. - 125 minutes - $470 

Mom-To-Be Massage 
Spoil yourself or an expectant mother-to-be with a soothing massage designed to improve skin elasticity, reduce fatigue and relax areas prone to tension during pregnancy. (Must be in second trimester) - 50 minutes – $ 175 or 80 minutes – $ 245 

Wit & Wisdom will also be open on Mother’s Day serving à la carte breakfast from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., and a special Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 

Chef Mills will feature breakfast favorites like scrambled eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes and smoked salmon. A delectable assortment of additional fare includes an artisanal cheese and olive bar, fresh fruit, raw bar, crepes station, and a Chef’s carving station. 

Mother’s Day Brunch will be served from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
$69 per person, $30 per child under 12.  Prices do not include tax and gratuity.
 
Live Music from 11 – 2:00 p.m. 

An à la carte dinner menu will be available from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. as well as a full tavern menu from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. 

For reservations, call (410) 576-5800. 


A special thanks to the Four Seasons for generously discounting our stay and spa treatments and truly going above and beyond to make our stay an excellent one. Thoughts expressed above are honest and my own and I look forward to returning to the Four Seasons Baltimore and other Four Seasons properties in the future! 
 


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Friday, April 22, 2016

Our DIY Neutral Kitchen Renovation: Before and After's (Featuring eFaucets.com!)

I've said it once before and I'll say it again- six years later and I still cannot believe we purchased our home in the state that we did when we first "met" it. Surely it could have been much worse but for first-time home buyers, it wasn't exactly the house of my dreams and would require some hefty elbow grease on our part to just make it livable let alone loved. 

I was six months pregnant when we purchased this home and while I'd like to blame pregnancy hormones for rash decision making (seriously, NO important decisions should ever be made while pregnant!) I'm so grateful for my Dad and our realtor who truly helped us (me) see the potential of this house. While it has taken the majority of these last six years for me to discover and really come into my sense of interior decor style, I'm so thrilled with how we've turned this house into a home. 

Everyone knows that the kitchen is of the heart of one's home and let me tell you, the original kitchen of this house was much more orphanage-chic with its burnt and crumbling laminate counter tops, faded peach-pink cabinets (the photo below does them no justice!) and cracked, peeling vinyl laminate flooring than it was a nurturing, life-sustaining room of a home. It was the very first room of the house that we tackled and in doing so, took on most of the work ourselves. 

Here is the only "Before" picture we have of our kitchen. What's not pictured is the enormous antiquated eyesore of a white fridge that literally took up 1/4th of the wall space of the wall opposite the sink. Trust me, it gave new definition to the word "monstrosity."

 
Our biggest project in this space was refinishing the pre-existing cabinets. I knew I immediately wanted to create a farmhouse-inspired feel to this room and it wasn't long before I decided we would need some whitewashed cabinets. Thankfully the cabinets, although a hideous color, were in excellent condition which set the foundation for our first DIY. 

Once the cabinets were primed, painted, sealed and stained, the kitchen immediately took on a different feel. Coupled with new hardware, hinges and the 4" hardwood flooring planks that we chose that went down throughout the entire first floor of the house, the kitchen was already giving off the desired farmhouse vibe. 

We swapped out the laminate counters for a neutral granite that, I believe, complemented the dark flooring and light cabinets perfectly. While we went nearly four years in our home without a kitchen back splash, once we decided on white subway tile with contrasting gray grout, the kitchen finally felt like the space I had envisioned in my head so many years ago. 

The finishing touch to this space didn't come, however, until a full six years after we moved in and it came in the form of that beautiful vintage lighting fixture that hangs above the kitchen table. What's that saying about patience is a virtue? 


A nod to the true olden days, the Edison bulbs really give the Feiss Urban Renewal chandelier from eFaucets a truly authentic feel and I love how it ties together the rustic accents that we have going on throughout the kitchen. I could have (and probably did) peruse eFaucets for hours before finally settling on this chandelier for the kitchen. With so many different and distinct options, it was really hard to narrow down my top three favorites! Ultimately I'm so glad I chose the one I did and I love sitting beneath it as a family when we gather for dinner each night. 






In case you're wondering, my other two favorites were the Kichler Ahrendale chandelier and the Quoizel Laila Laila chandelier. In fact, I continue to swoon over that last chandelier on the daily and am trying to finagle a way to make it mine! Perhaps a She-Shed is in order?



After replacing the stock lighting fixture in our dining room last month and the builder grade chandelier in our kitchen this month, I've officially been bitten by the Fancy and Decorative Lighting Design bug and cannot wait to update the flush mount "boob light" in our foyer next. After all, the foyer is supposed to give your guests a quick glimpse into the style and feel of your home and right now, mine screams "OLD BOOB!" 

Thankfully eFaucets.com makes swapping out old and dates fixtures and putting those desired enhancements into motion both easy and affordable not to mention, a whole different kind of DIY fun! 


Sources:
Lighting - eFaucets
Curtain Panels - World Market (Similar)
Farm Table - Ezekiel & Stearns
Paint Color - Wheat Bread by Behr
Rug - RugsUSA (Similar)



Thanks to eFaucets for providing a light fixture for the purpose of our home update in exchange 
for an honest write-up of our experience. The thoughts and opinions expressed are 100% my own.
No additional compensation was received.








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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dear Collins: This Is Two.


Happy Birthday Collins, this is TWO! 

Two looks so much different on you than it did on your brothers. If I wasn't absolutely certain you came into this world, on this day, a warm afternoon exactly two years ago, I would swear that you're closer to three than newly two and that isn't just because you're the oft-rushed third baby. 

With two older brothers leading the way, you quickly learned to talk fast and move even faster. At just eighteen months old you started stringing words together in short sentences and it wasn't long before you and I could carry on a conversation. You keep up with your brothers at an alarming pace- running all over the backyard with them, scrambling across the jungle gym without pause, even racing down the driveway on your tricycle with them. 

Growing ahead of the curve has been tough on this mama's heart, as I would love nothing more than to keep you, my last little baby, little for as long as possible- but if anyone realizes how silly and impossible such a request is, it's I. 

But two? My God, how much I love this age. How much I love you. If there's anything I want you to remember and look back on years from now is how totally rad you are, even at such a young age. At two you've become this pint-sized human being with (very strong) opinions and the most ridiculous sense of humor. If I had to put money on it, your senior year superlative will read, "Class Clown" or "Most Likely To Have His Own Reality Show." At just two years old you go out of your own way to make all of us around you laugh and you won't quit until everyone in the room is giggling, no matter what it takes. 

  
Much like your biggest brother, you love big for such tiny heart.

You wake every morning with the sleepiest, dopiest grin on your face. Once you've stretched and sighed and stretched again, you immediately start calling out for each member of your family. As we come running, one by one, you greet us with bright eyes, a huge bear hug and sweet laughter. Throughout the day you continue to keep a running tally of your family, always asking where Carter is (school), where Daddy is (work) and where Gammie and Poppy are (New Jersey). 

Even at such a young age, you constantly think of others before yourself. The greatest example I have of this is whenever I offer you a snack. You immediately respond with "nack for Car-cer? 'Nack for Mackie?" before taking one for yourself. While I'd love to take credit for your selflessness, I really do think it's Carter that's taught you so well. You are so incredibly lucky to have both Carter and Maclane as your big brothers but that Carter is an extra special one. He always looks out for you and seeks to include you in whatever he is doing. It's difficult for me to talk about because tears immediately fill my eyes when I think about how truly amazing he is. Mac, well, he's three and a half and he's the one whose taught you how to turn anything into a gun and use "dammit" with appropriate context and exclamation. He's definitely a special one, as well.

Just thinking about all of the things I love so much about you is making me want to run upstairs and scoop you up from your crib- the same crib that you probably spend 70% of the night sleeping in before you wake, calling out for me to bring you into our bed. I always thought we'd transition you to a twin bed at 2, just like we did your brothers, but if there's anything I'm clinging to with you, it's sneaking in those early morning cuddles while I selfishly still can. 



  
Despite having two older brothers so close in age, with each day that passes you are proving to be your own unique individual. Not only have you nursed longer than each of your brothers and actually worn clothing sizes that correlate directly to your age, you're also the first one to show an obsession with sticking foreign objects in both your nose and your ears. 

In the last several months we've learned that while Cheerios dissolve in warm, moist environments (like your nose- halleluiah!), little tiny Lego pieces do not and no matter how much Mommy picks up after the big boys, a tiny little Lego siren will undoubtedly turn up inside one of your ears. (Just in case we find ourselves in a similar situation in the near future, blunt travel tweezers are a wonderful thing to keep on hand). 

You love to eat, love to cuddle and request M&Ms after every meal. You are quick to point out school buses, choo-choos, puppies and motorcycles by name but the minute one of them makes a loud noise, you're even quicker to cover your ears and cling to my hip. You love everyone even though it may take you a minute or two to warm up to them and every time we step outside, you look to our neighbors house calling out, "Mr. Steve? Where arrrrre youuuu?" 

"It's spicy" does nothing to deter you from stealing bites of whatever I'm eating and the minute you see me sit down with a bowl, you sidle over with those big brown eyes and the sweetest, "Bite? Pease? Can I bite?"

But perhaps my most favorite Collins-ism is the fact that while we all notoriously refer to you as "Baby" or "Baby Collins" even you, when asked what your name is, respond sweetly with "Baby!" It's something that drives your Daddy nuts but I refuse to correct you, I just love it so so much. Won't you stay this little forever?

Much little your middle brother, you give us an even bigger run for our money.

I often refer to you as my little sour patch kid- first you're sour and then you're sweet. At two, you are a pusher of boundaries and an overstepper of lines. The phrase "don't make me count to three" means absolutely nothing to you and in fact, that's probably how you learned to count to three at such an early age- it was something you heard nearly every minute of every day. With an emphatic "NO!," pouted lips and a turned shoulder, you're quick to walk away and do exactly what I told you not to. In a way, I'm proud of you for knowing what you want and sticking to your guns but along the same vein, I shudder to think that it was me from whom you inherited your stubbornness.

It is with a single bat of those deliciously long lashes that I fold, giving in to your childish demands, scooping you up in my arms and smothering you with kisses. It isn't difficult to give into you, my sweet beautiful boy, my last little baby and it's because of your place in our family that we will always give you whatever your little hear desires with the least amount of resistance. 





It has been nothing short of incredible being your mother these last two years. You've added an indescribable depth and completeness to our family, filling a hole I didn't even know existed. All four of us, your Daddy, two brothers and myself continue to fall madly in love with you each and every day. I would even go as far as saying we're so very completely obsessed with you. 

Happy Second Birthday, Collins Mason. 
We cannot wait to see what this year ahead of you holds- 
We love you more than carrots! 
Love, Mommy (and Daddy, Carter, Maclane and Sheepie, too!)


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