Fashion Friday: Finding Your Style Over A Certain Age

fashionWhen I used to work as a fashion consultant, one of the biggest rules I preached was to ignore trends—to not get sucked into a fad just because it was hot, especially if it didn’t work for your body type. But that rule becomes rather difficult to adhere to when fashion changes and certain styles of clothing become appealing. For example, the straight-legged jean was something I thought I would avoid at all costs because of its tendency to make hips look larger than they are, especially for those of us who have undeniable curves. I look better in a boot cut jean that is fitted properly. All my years of hoping that the straight-legged jean would not come back in fashion was wasted, as it (a) became fashionable and trendy, and (2) because I ditched my own advice and now wear them, curves and all. The trick is to outsmart the straight-legged jean and find some balance with it…in order to keep your body in check and in proportion. I tend to wear mind tucked into tall boots, or with the right style of shoe.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-7-23-23-pm

Even though the straight-legged jean is in, this boot cut jean works best on my body. The cut of the leg balances out my hips, but I still wear the straight jean, as you will see below.

fullsizerender-15

This trend is popular–flutter tops. This is the one I got from Anthropologie. And notice that the straight-legged jean is tucked into my boots, which elongates the body and tricks the eye. I look taller than I am.

I think we tend to believe that as we age, we have to let go of some trends simply because we are aging. There is definitely some truth to that. However, there is also truth in this statement: it’s your life—wear whatever the hell you want if it makes you feel good about yourself. When I go into Anthropologie, I know I’m not going to be able to sport all the different kinds of clothes that are in there, but I LOVE that store, so I search for pieces that will suit me now, at my age, in order to remain trendy and stylish. I’m not trying to dress like my students, mind you (I couldn’t pull that off), but there are certainly some things I still have the gumption to try and wear. I do like to stay current.

overthekneeboots

I wasn’t sure I could pull off this trend, but I do like it a lot – Over the Knee Boots. So fun!

 

fullsizerender-19

The Cold Shoulder Trend. Very popular right now.

SATURDAY | #FROCKTOBER | Day 22 Spending the day with family, catching up on grading papers, and being a chauffeur to my children in this comfy #ootd. Top from #charmingcharlie; stretch leggings #verawang; cranberry boots by #francosarto. An old leopard bag for fun and shades on my head from #anntaylor.

Another example of the Cold Shoulder Trend from my Frocktober posts.

 

img_4652-2

Another variation of the Cold Shoulder sweater.

fullsizerender-19-copy-2

Because I’m petite, I’m always afraid of being out of proportion, but I love faux fur. This poncho has just the right amount, keeping me balanced.

#FROCKTOBER Day 27 | Singing in the rain 🎶 as only 4 days remain of my month-long fashion feature for the blog. Today's #ootd features faux fur and lace. Dress #anntaylor; faux fur vest with thin belt by #jolt; lace-up black boots by #stevemaddenluxe. Fishnet stockings. See what I mean? Somehow I always gravitate toward black clothing. Happy Almost Friday, all! 💌💌💌

Another faux fur piece…a vest with a tie around the waist to keep me in proportion. Love this piece. I wear it with dresses and jeans.

Nevertheless, the true trick to dressing well after a certain age it to always consider proportion of the clothing. Just as you must consider proportion when you are decorating your home, the same holds true when decorating your own body. It’s all about proportion.

Colors also play a huge factor in how clothing looks on you. Be sure to know if you are better in warmer tones (earthy tones such as browns, beiges, greens, yellows, oranges, etc.) or in cooler tones (often referred to as jewel tones, such as emerald green, sapphire blue, true red, black, and deep purple). If you are a cooler-toned person, you may not want to wear severe colors around your face, or, if you are a cooler-toned person and you love orange, you can wear it, but it would probably be best served on your lower half. The color of your hair, skin tone, and eyes play into what colors generally look best on you.

This is a good example of how a vibrant jewel tone can give your face some life.

This is a good example of how a vibrant jewel tone can give your face some life.

But all that is just a bunch of hogwash unless you feel good in the clothes you wear. If you need help finding out what is best for you, hire a consultant to take you shopping and do your colors. Once you learn what works best both proportionally and color-wise, you’ll never wonder again.

That’s not to say we don’t break the rules now and then. We all do. But you’ll find confidence and stay fashionable all your life if you remember this one thing:

Style is truly what you make of it; it’s about how you wear the pieces you choose, not the pieces themselves.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

If You’re Going To Call Me A Name, Let It Be This

heart-1187037_960_720I’m 5’1″.

I’ve been called short before, and a lot of other names, too, that I’d rather not recall.

Nobody’s perfect.

But now that I’m all grown up (debatable), if you are going to call me a name, let these words roll off your tongue:

That girl is a hopeless romantic.

That’s a nomenclature I hold in the highest esteem.

I find the terminology particularly flattering, for in doing my research on what it means to truly be a HOPELESS ROMANTIC, these are the findings:

  • Hopeless Romantics are NOT hopeless. Not at all. They tend to be very true, caring, and loving people.
  • They believe in passion, chivalry, and true love.
  • The are in love with love.
  • They tend to believe in fairy tales and happy endings.
  • They have most likely loved intensely at one point in their life (minimum), discovered that heart-stopping, mind-tingling love, and can’t understand why it was not returned in the same fashion.
  • They are dreamers, idealists, and sincere.
  • They expect a full return of love for their efforts and caring nature—to be loved as much as they loved. (Cue Edgar Allan Poe’s lines of poetry: “We loved with a love that was more than love.”)
  • They can be let down in the long run, even though they gave all they had to give, which might include money, love, time, housing, or belongings.
  • Hopeless Romantics give 100% all the time, and hope for the same in return.
WEDNESDAY | #FROCKTOBER Day 19 | Today's #ootd ... classics with flair from #anthropologie. #moulinettesoeurs polka dot dress with lace trim; #cidra jacket; #apt9 shoes.

Ruffles and romanticism.

My own father has told me that I think life is like living in a magazine. He’s also said, “Life isn’t like Sex and the City.” I have been known to, on occasion (okay, almost every day), wear rose-colored glasses. And I favor quite feminine clothing, preferably with ruffles and softness…also harkening back to the period of romanticism.

I will say it proudly today as I sit here editing and reworking bits of my forthcoming novel, which does, undoubtedly, have romance in it:

My name is Stephanie, and I’m a HOPELESS ROMANTIC.

Are you?

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Friday Fiction: A Haunting One and A Romance

Creative fiction writers out there tend to dabble in flash fiction, which, quite simply is short form writing. It’s just like writing a short story, but even shorter. I practice writing short, short stories often, as they help writers tell a narrative within a minimum word count. I have my students engage in writing prompts, too. They are a great place to get an idea going to see where it may lead you. Of all of the pieces of short fiction I’ve written, the two below are my favorites because I think there’s potential for a longer story to grow out of each of these, whether it’s a short story or a novel.  The first is a ghost story (I never write ghost stories, so that one surprised me), and the second is the beginning of an interesting story that involves love and a fortune teller. I hope you enjoy them. Have a great Friday, all, and let me know what you think about these two that I picked and whether you think they are worth tackling in longer form.

If you’re looking for an update about my upcoming novel, I’m almost done editing. Looking forward to getting in your hands shortly!

Story #1 : AFTER I WAS DEAD

Photo credit: Daily Mail

A F T E R   I   W A S   D E A D

The enduring span of lifelessness is enough to drive me mad, as if I wasn’t driven half as mad when I lived in this ramshackle of a cottage. The cobwebs in the corners seem to have lingered for years, and yet, I haven’t been gone that long. The chandelier is full of heavy dust, the curtains look as if they may disintegrate into nothing, and the rug is almost unrecognizable, as it is covered in soot and dust and grime. It angers me that no one has cared properly for this place—this place I tended to daily. I’ve become bored with waiting, and so I decide to visit the larger home on which the cottage is set—the Hamlin Mansion.

After I was dead, I set out to let people know the truth about what happened that wintry Friday evening when the wind whipped and the trees were bent with snow. No one ever suspected that someone could have murdered me on the grounds of Hamlin Mansion, just five steps from the front door of the cottage. Why would someone want the governess dead? I could hear the roars from the folks in the town…she must have fallen and hit her head…the winds must have caught up with her and she did not see the tree limb…it was an accident of happenstance. I grew weary of hearing the townspeople make excuses for my death. It was covered up so well, I have to give him credit. There was little to no bloodshed, you see, so he was lucky in that regard. He struck me in just the right place, and where he became luckier still was that the snow piled so high that Mother Nature neatly disguised his tracks. All for the better for him, you see.

Light as feather, I can walk through walls now, something I only dreamed of doing when I was alive. I find my way to his room in the mansion, to the seemingly unlikely murderer, a boy of just sixteen, with demon eyes and glossy, albino hair. He is still unlike any other person I have—had—ever met in my lifetime. There was always something ruthless and unsettling about his looks as well as his manners. In this he is frighteningly unique. I dare say, he has no remorse about anything he does or says. He is an unlikely offspring to the lovely husband and wife who own Hamlin Mansion, Greta and Theodore Hamlin. This child of theirs is a sad outcome of what should have been proper breeding.

He sits in the corner of the room reading by lamplight, though the room is dingy and unkempt. He is permitted to treat his belongings and his part of the home with a complete disregard, and that is perhaps one of the final straws where I was concerned. As his governess, I did not accept his lazy ways, his cruel retributions, his off-putting mannerisms. It was my mistake that I stood up to him…questioned him…demanded that his studies be turned into me before the snowstorm hit…and reported his questionable behavior several times prior to my demise to the Mistress of the house.

I glide toward him. His water glass is next to the lamp on the table, and I focus with all of my might and lift it, then tilt it ever so gently, so that the full glass fills his lap with water. He screams. He stands up and begins to frantically wipe the water off of himself. He stares at the empty glass on the floor. I’m going to have fun with him, I think. Again, I concentrate and will the glass to float in the air and place it firmly in its place back on the table.

His face goes whiter than it ever has been, and his hair stands on end. He is a most unattractive creature.

“Who are you?” he shouts into the air, a frightful, frantic question piercing the silence.

I try to yell, but realize I make no sound.

But there is a quill pen on the table, and his book remains there as well.

I use all the power I have inside of me to open the book, grab the quill, and start to write. Much to my pleasant surprise, the ink is showing up on the page.

“You killed me,” I wrote.

He begins to hyperventilate, and I stand by and watch. The little brat. The little brat who got away with murder.

This could entertain me for days upon end, I think.

Story #2: THE FORTUNE TELLER

“That boy loves you,” the old woman next door calls to me as she sees Nick peel away in his black BMW. She is sitting on her stoop in the 98 degree weather, her dyed red hair in old-fashioned rollers, her socks gathered at her heels in her slip-ons. The look on her face indicates that she wants me to engage in further conversation. We have been friendly since we’ve lived next to each other in the row homes of Baltimore, but have never had a long, in-depth conversation.

“He may, but he’s leaving,” I say.

“Probably for the best,” she replies.

I’ve lived beside this odd-looking woman for almost a year, and she pretty much keeps to herself. She knows nothing of my personal life. Her name’s Mable, and I’ve heard others on the block refer to her as “the palm reader,” though she has no official business. I don’t believe in fortune tellers and have never engaged in any sort of it.

“Come here,” she says. “I’ll show you.”

For curiosity’s sake, I walk down the steps from where I am, and climb the four steps to meet her on her stoop. I’m tempted to see what she knows, trying not to let the tears fall in front of her. Her appearance alone warrants concern; there seems to be a twitch in her eye, and she’s wearing more mascara than a runway model. It looks uneven and gloppy. Her coral-colored lipstick goes beyond the outlines of her lips. It is difficult to take her seriously.

She stretches out her hand and asks for my palm. I extend my hand and turn my palm over for her to see.

PalmreadingShe examines it. “There is a lot of passion, here,” she’s pointing to the line that runs up across my palm in a curve where the line ends at the base of my fingertips. “There’s a great deal of love for that boy.”

I nod.

“However, you will not see him again after today,” she says.

I feel a lump build in my throat.

She continues to look at my hand. “You have a good career, but you’re not quite sure if you want to stay in it. You’re thinking of uprooting yourself and moving someplace far away.”

I get a little chill up my spine. I’ve had this particular thought on and off for the past month, and I’ve told no one. Not even Nick. Not my own parents, or my best friend, Ava.

She focuses on one particular line on my hand, tracing it with her fingertip for what feels like hours, studying it with concerned eyes. She looks puzzled.

“Interesting,” she says.

“What?” I ask, now confused.

“You will travel. You will go where you’ve considered going, and you will be happy.”

“Without Nick,” I say, more as a statement than a question.

“Yes,” she says. “There will be passion again, but only if you go.”

Nick and I have been together for a year. However, I can’t be with him long term, nor should we ever have been together. Nick is unhappily married. He lives apart from his wife, but they are not formally divorced. Nor are there any plans for them to be so. The passion with which Mable speaks is true; it currently exists, but it is a sick, twisted, unhealthy passion, and it has become the ruin of me.

Three weeks ago, I was offered an opportunity to work for my friend’s father’s business in Rome. I’ve always wanted to go abroad, and have seriously contemplated accepting it.

I scoff at the idea of leaving for a moment, and then I stop. She sees my face, and gives me a crooked, quirky smile.

Mable is offbeat, eccentric, ridiculously dressed, and the oddest person I’ve ever talked to, but something tells me to listen. Something makes me take her seriously.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

7 Tips For Working From Home

working-from-home

Sometimes in the winter, I’ll take the laptop into the dining area and sit next to the large picture window to get some light.

Many people have the luxury of working from home; in our digital age where more and more work can be done via texting, emails, Skype, and phone conversations (yes, some of us still like to use the telephone), the ability to work from home offers people wonderful liberties. However, with that liberty comes our own responsibility to get the job done, without distractions. How can you set yourself up to work from home to be the most effective? Steph’s Scribe has seven quick tips to help you be as successful as possible.

1-Shower and get dressed in the morning, even if you’re not going to leave the house. Psychologically, this works great for me. If I know I have a lot to accomplish that day, even if I will never move my car from the garage, I still shower, dry my hair, put on makeup, and start my day fresh. Just doing this simple exercise in the morning helps me to know I have things to accomplish, and I approach the day as professionally as possible. This does not mean I wear a suit and high heels, but I do NOT wear sweatpants and sneakers. (Actually, I typically DO wear heels because they make my 5’1″ frame taller).

2-Set up a space that is your own. In my previous home, I set up my office upstairs, because when my children were little, I worked at night and wanted to be on the same floor as they were. I painted the walls a light blue, hung pink curtains, and, yes, I got a chandelier. I have to be inspired by a space, but I also have to know that when I go in there to work, it’s all about work. In our current home, it came with a built-in office on the first floor, so that’s where I work now. And yes, it used to have a ceiling fan, but now it has a chandelier. Again, I have to be inspired and everyone in our family knows that when someone is working in there, it is all about the work.

The office in my former home.

The office in my former home.

Our current home office.

Our current home office.

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-12-02-55-pm

3- Take breaks, but don’t stray. Sitting for long periods at a time isn’t good for you either. Be sure to take breaks. When you have your lunch, move away from the work area and eat in another room in your house; don’t be compelled to eat “at your desk.” Also, take a short walk in the middle of the day. It will clear your mind and offer you a new perspective.

4-Make a “to do” list to prioritize tasks the night before. As a writer, sometimes my “to do” list may just say “write a chapter.” As a professor, my “to do” list may say “write the syllabus” or “draft an assignment.” Years ago when I had my own consulting business as a writer and designer, I aimed to tackle the administrative work first and left the creative endeavors for the afternoon. Whatever tasks need immediate attention, write them on your list and take pleasure in crossing them off so that the first thing you do is GET STUFF DONE. This will make you feel as if your day is off to a good start and you are on your way to completing aspects of your job.

5-Set time limits for yourself when your loved ones are around. If you work from home and have a family, you may want to set up some parameters. For example, you may have to work on a Saturday. Saying, “Mom will be in the office from 8 a.m. until noon, so I’d like to plow through my work in order to spend the rest of the afternoon with you guys,” may be a great way to communicate that you have to accomplish some tasks during a specific range of time. The same could be true in the late afternoons or evenings. Sometimes, while my kids are doing their homework, I’m working on my own work or projects, so doing it together is also an option.

This is the clock I ended up buying for the porch. Fun, blue, a little girlie (but not too much), and it's deceiving in this photo. It is actually enormous.

If you have trouble keeping track of your time, get a bigger clock! I’ve got this one on my screened-in back porch where I work during the warmer months. I love working outside when I can.

6-Find music that inspires you…and play it! I’m always amazed at people who can put their ear buds in and work as music hammers away. I’m not one of these folks. However, I do enjoy background music sometimes. When I am writing and I have the house to myself, I either have to have silence or music without words, such as classical music or those relaxing CDs you can get from Target near the card aisle. The difference between working in an office or working from home is that you can play your music at your own desired level, and no one will tell you to turn it down (unless your kids tell you to do so…and that’s called irony!)

7-Enjoy your freedom. You are blessed to be able to live this type of lifestyle. Embrace it and enjoy it. You’re getting the opportunity to balance work and home life. And every once in a while, schedule a lunch date. You’ve worked for it, after all.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Save

Yes, You Are Creative

bigmagicpbI can’t tell you how many times in my advertising and writing classes I teach at the university that I hear students tell me that they are not creative, or that they just don’t have a lot of creativity in their bones. As someone who has been teaching for over 25 years, I think I can safely say at this point that people underestimate their power to be creative, and that more often than not, they are quite capable of creating something that is better than they expected.

All they need is a push and someone to convincingly tell them that they’ve got creativity brewing inside them.

I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I’ve wanted to write a book about creativity for years, and in fact, have presented ideas on creativity at conferences for several years. Truthfully, it has become a big fascination of mine. Gilbert’s book is so spot on and insightful; within the text, grants us permission to be creative and put our talents to work, just in case no one else ever gave us room to do so. She carefully, humorously, and convincingly builds the argument that we, as humans, have always made things. So, if we wants to be writers, painters, or any other type of artists or inventors, why do we feel the need not to put that dream at the forefront of our endeavors? As she states on page 85, “If you’re supporting yourself financially and you’re not bothering anyone else, then you’re free to do whatever you want with your life.” She further states on page 89 that “creativity is the hallmark of our species.”

quotes-from-elizabeth-gilbert-big-magic

So why do so many people believe they are not creative? We must believe we are.

writerA writer myself, especially when I am writing fiction, I must go to that deep place of creativity often, and I have to rely on empathy to be able to feel or understand what a certain character might be going through. This kind of writing requires you to be inspired—by place, person, or thing. But we cannot even get to this place if we don’t believe we are creative. Believing we are creative is half the battle.

Bloggers understand this, too. If you are to be a consistent blogger, it requires consistent creativity to come up with article ideas and then implement them for readers. Even sitting here now, I feel as if I’m in my creative zone drafting this piece for you to read.

I highly recommend Big Magic to anyone who works in a creative field, for students who have to make things or write things in classes, for moms who have an idea to make something that will simplify life at home or with kids, and for any other folks who have a strong yearning to break out of the everyday drudgery of what they do and tackle that creative thing that will make your heart sing.

You ARE creative. We all are.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-6-05-18-pm

That’s me holding the draft of Inn Significant, which I wrote almost entirely on my laptop on my back porch last summer. I find a lot of inspiration when I am outside listening to nature.

 

xx |

 

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Magic Comes Alive at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando

img_3524

Diagon Alley and Escape from Gringotts, Universal Studios

***

After years of considering this trip, our flight descended into Orlando’s airport. We are not like many families I know who seem to go to Disney World like I go to Safeway. We have not been to Orlando for six years, and the Mouse is not our destination this time. Instead, we are bound for Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Days ago our kids opened gifts for Christmas that asked them this question: Are You Ready to Fly on a Broom?

Welcome to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

I’d been to Universal Studios over twenty years ago with my parents when I was single and didn’t have children; my father had invited me on a trip with his company to Orlando, and I decided to go. Wow, has it been improved and expanded and updated since then.

One of the things my husband I want to do for the next couple of years until my son is in college is to do more travel together. My son, daughter, and I are big Harry Potter fans, so we’ve wanted to go to Universal for years. I worried slightly that they may have been too old for it, but I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I thought I’d give an overview and some tips for anyone who has not been and who is planning a trip in the near future. Part One today is all about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I will follow up with a second blog post about other attractions and experiences in both parks next time.

img_3571

One of the many goblins inside the bank; Escape from Gringotts

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

If you’re like our family, the first things we wanted to see were the Harry Potter attractions, which are split between the two parks. Universal Studios hosts Diagon Alley and two attractions: Escape from Gringotts and The Hogwarts Express (which can take you to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure). Islands of Adventure features three rides: the ride in Hogwarts Castle called The Forbidden Journey, a flight simulated ride; Dragon Challenge, a high-speed rollercoaster; and Flight of the Hippogriff, a smaller rollercoaster for kids. You will want to spend time in both places, so make sure to block out time for each. Each place offers dining, shopping, and rides.

img_3604

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure

To Buy the Wands or Not Buy the Wands, That is the question…

One of the questions I had before I left was whether or not to buy the wands at the Ollivanders shop in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. My kids both have two wands each, however, they are not interactive. The verdict is to buy the wands (at least one for your family; we got two). The wands have interactive tips that allow you to do magic around the Potter areas. Some of the spells are really cute and worthwhile. If you go to Ollivanders in Diagon Alley, you can get a tour with a wizard, and true to the books and films, the wand will choose the witch or wizard. It’s a great thing to do; my daughter was selected, and the wand chose her. (You do not have to purchase that wand, even though it’s kind of special. Instead, she opted for Hermione’s so that her set is now complete with Luna’s, Ginny’s, and Hermione’s wands.) Spells such as turning on lights in windows, making umbrellas rain, getting information from Marauder’s map, and making a quill pen float and write something are just some examples of the many spells around both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.

A Special Spot

Diagon Alley at night, located in Universal Studios, is truly magical. I sat directly underneath the Dragon on top of Gringotts Bank for a while one night and just took it all in. NOTE: The dragon breathes fire about every fifteen minutes, so be sure to capture the moment on camera or video. He gives two grunts before the third fireball comes out. If you are standing underneath him or nearby, you will be able to feel the heat of the dragon. With muggles crowding the streets in the daytime during the busiest hours, you will do well to visit Diagon Alley as close to closing time as possible (luckily for us, when we were there, the park stayed open on New Year’s Eve until after midnight; on New Year’s Day and the two days following, it was open until 10 p.m. until it switched to its winter hours of a 9 p.m. closing). You can see Hagrid’s motorbike, cast some spells, shop in uncrowded shops, and just sit and be amazed that you are in Diagon Alley, the night sky lighting it up. For me, it was the most magical spot in the park.

img_3767

img_3782

img_3739

img_3721

My Favorite Harry Potter Rides

Hands down, my favorite experience is Escape from Gringotts Bank in Univeral Studios. The whole setup in Diagon Alley, the tour through the bank with the goblins, the story of the escape, and the ride itself are so much fun. Also, I must confess, I’m not a roller coaster lover; in fact, I avoid them at all costs. While Gringotts does have a big dip in the beginning of the ride, even us chickens can get over that and enjoy having Bellatrix and Voldemort talking to us and zapping us with their wands. My son and I repeated what Voldemort says on the ride a hundred times, because he says it right to you – “I know you’ve seen Harry Potter; he was in your vault, Bellatrix!” I convinced a couple of people to go on it who were talking nearby and were wondering if the ride was too scary because I, too, was chicken. I assured them that there’s one drop, and that they would be fine because the interactive nature of the ride is so amazing. The woman I convinced to ride it, who was my mother’s age, turned to me afterwards and thanked me for telling her about it—that she wouldn’t have gone on it if it weren’t for my endoresement and that she was amazed by it. We all were.

img_3789

The Forbidden Journey, located in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at Islands of Adventure, is a fantastic ride, as well. Fair warning, though: it is a flight simulator, and your vehicle swings and turns, simulating flight (and flying on a broom behind Harry). It is absolutely mesmerizing—however, I could only go on it once as it made me a little queasy. (This could also have been because I didn’t eat anything that morning, so the jury’s out on that). Nevertheless, my husband and kids went on it three more times and loved every minute of it. During those times they were on the rides, I took in Hogsmeade…the stores, the picturesque setting, and the mind-blowing castle that the ride is housed inside. You have to go on it for the experience; it really is a state-of-the-art ride.

Some Tips

1-If you are planning on visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, I would strongly suggest staying in a hotel on the grounds. With that comes a pretty substantial perk: guests who stay in hotels on the grounds get an early admittance pass and can enter the park an hour before everyone else. This affords you the advantage of getting to Harry Potter rides early and eliminates long wait times (some rides could take 45 minutes to 80 minutes of waiting during peak hours). We entered the park early two days, and it made the biggest difference.

img_3704

This Night Bus Driver and my kids

2-Be sure to interact with some of the wizards and people from J.K. Rowling’s novels and films. For example, the driver of the Night Bus and his Rastafarian bodiless friend are a hoot to chat with. Additionally, “Sir,” one of the goblins who runs the bank exchange in Diagon Alley, is hilarious. He interacts with you and talks with you. My kids were amazed by this.

Prettiest candy store in Hogsmede

Prettiest candy store in Hogsmeade

3-The Harry Potter merchandise is fun; however, some of the merchandise is not found in both parks. For example, I bought a Harry Potter Daily Prophet scarf with newsprint on it, but it could only be found in Diagon Alley and not in Hogsmeade. So if you see something you like, buy it, especially if you have no plans to come back to that particular park.

4-If you like the taste of Cream Soda and Butterscotch, be sure to try the Butterbeer. You can get this in both parks, but be sure to get it frozen. It’s much better that way.

img_3798

Picturesque Hogsmeade and the Butterbeer stand early in the morning

5-If you take the Hogwarts Express between the parks, you will get to cross through Platform 9 ¾. You will want to do this. The train station will blow you away; additionally, be sure to ride the train both ways, as there is a different story both ways. Be prepared to wait in lines at times, and know that the ride between parks isn’t very long, but it’s still worth it. It is an exact replica of what you see in the movies.

img_3672

You will go through Platform 9 3/4…Must do!

Summary of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I’m not gonna lie; I’m a middle-aged woman, and I think it’s one of the most fun places I’ve been. You get to forget about life for a while. You get to have fun, and you certainly feel like you’ve been dropped into a magical village. I think the two early mornings I spent there, along with the late evenings, made a difference. Without crowds knocking me over, I was able to immerse myself into this magical place.

img_3779

Outside my favorite ride, Escape from Gringotts

I’ll follow up this blog post with another about the attractions in both parks soon. Hope your found this helpful, and I wish you a fabulous journey when you go.

Happy New Year!

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

7 Meaningful Takeaways from 2016

Hello Friends, Readers, and Fellow Bloggers,

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of the year again—a time to reflect on the past year and see if there were any takeaways and lessons learned from the last 365 days. In my college classes, I always have students write a final reflection that permits them the opportunity to critically analyze what they have learned over the course of the semester. I figured I’d do the same about what I’ve learned in 2016.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-4-37-37-pm#1: Your Health Is Everything

This past summer, I made a commitment to becoming healthier all around. This included diet, exercise, and my own personal health. Setting these goals allowed me to lose weight, feel better about myself, and engage in activities that were beneficial to my well-being. In addition to dropping nearly 30 pounds, I stayed committed to regular exercise and fitness. (I won’t lie: I think I ate a few too many holiday cookies, but we’re all entitled to a splurge now and then, right?). Additionally, I stayed focused on things that make me happy personally: writing, reading and fashion. These three hobbies of mine make me happy–and we’re all entitled to some personal indulgence now and then. (A day at the spa doesn’t hurt, either).

Image result for heart health

#2: Really, Your Health is Everything: Don’t Ignore A Medical Issue

While I never made this public here on the blog or on social media, my students and colleagues who saw me regularly were aware that for the months of November through December, I wore a heart monitor for 30 days. After experiencing racing heartbeats and the feeling of my heart skipping beats, I took myself to my general doctor who then sent me off to a cardiologist. I had two EKGs, a heart sonogram, and wore the heart monitor that had a node and wire below my breast, above my other breast, and then the monitor that had to attach to my clothing. (I teased that I looked like Britney Spears wired up for her concert; all I needed was the microphone). There wasn’t a way to hide it, really. Plus, the thing made a high-pitched noise like Rudolph’s nose when my heart skipped beats. While I was terrified as to what the cardiologist might find, during those 30 days, I learned to appreciate my health more than I ever had before. I continued to exercise (though not as strenuously as I had previously), and I was determined to keep myself healthy when the monitor went away. Luckily for me, what I learned after the study is that I am prone to an extra heartbeat that can be set off by a lack of potassium, magnesium, electrolytes, and stress. When I hugged my cardiologist after hearing the good news, I likened my extra heartbeat to having extra love to give.

Well, at least that’s the way I’ve chosen to look at it.

Nevertheless, this episode taught me never to take things for granted, and that taking care of ourselves should always be a top priority.

DSC_0803

#3: Don’t Say NO To Travel

I saw California: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley and San Francisco. I almost didn’t go on this trip with my husband. I’m so glad I did. It was lovely–I absolutely loved it. As well, our family traveled to Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, where we did a lot of things, but primarily, we made memories.

That’s why you can’t say no to it. It’s not something you can purchase and give to someone–it’s experiential, and it’s something you should do as it bonds you and brings you together in more ways than one.

glittershoes

#4: If The Shoe Fits, Buy It

I know material things shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all, but I’ve come to a conclusion in my middle-age years: if you find something you love and it will make you happy, buy it. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothes, music, a ticket to the theatre, movie, or sporting event, a purse you’ve saved for, or a diamond necklace—if it makes you happy and you can afford it without going into debt, get it. We only live one short life, so we might as well make ourselves happy.

#5: Make Time For Your Friends

This one’s a tough topic for me because I’m feeling like many of my friendships have changed and morphed over the years, and I blame a lot of that on social media and our busy family lives. My opinion is that because we are connected on social media 24-7, we think we are having meaningful relationships with people we used to talk on the phone with our go out with regularly. However, the truth is, these friendships have lost their special qualities when we think we can stay connected just through Facebook or Instagram. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to reach out more to friends the old-fashioned way–by calling them, inviting them to dinner, or by mailing them a handwritten letter. Reconnecting with our friends in the old way is what makes these friendships last…not posting and viewing each others’ photos on Facebook at the expense of spending time with one another.

Image result for what's your superpower#6: Inspire Others With Your Superpower

Whatever your amazing talent or gift is, you should consider sharing it with others in order to inspire them. For example, I received a lovely letter (mailed to my house, by the way!) from a student who told me I inspired her in many ways: to write, to pursue writing as a career, and maybe even to getting a master’s degree and teaching someday. I was tickled pink by this letter and will treasure it always; it made me realize that I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing—teaching. That is my superpower. What’s yours? How can you inspire and encourage others? When you answer this question, I challenge you to do it. You will feel wonderful as you begin to help others find their way.

inn-significant-cover-verni#7: Don’t Let Fear Stop You From Doing Something You Love

In a few weeks, I’ll be putting out my latest novel entitled Inn Significant. I’ve worked on it all year, and I am almost ready to let it go. Let me tell you something you probably already know: putting something out into the universe leaves you very vulnerable. It’s not an easy thing to do, and you must have the strength and gumption to do it. Do you think I second-guess my characters, plot, and story line? Of course I do. Do you think I worry that people won’t like it? That would be a ‘yes.’ However, we cannot let these self-doubts and worry consume us. I love to write. I love to tell stories. I know my type of story isn’t for everybody, but guess what? That’s okay.

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-3-39-50-pm

If you love what you do, you must be confident in that love for it. Nobody wants to put out a bad product…we do it for the love of what it is. So, I am encouraging you to not let FEAR decide whether or not you get to do what you love. YOU get to do that.

That’s it folks. I hope some of these ring true for you as well. Here’s wishing you a very happy and prosperous New Year filled with blessings. I’ll see you in 2017.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

Save

Coming in January: Inn Significant, A Novel

inn-significant-cover-verni

***

INN SIGNIFICANT by Stephanie Verni…Coming in January.

What if three weeks after suffering a miscarriage, you faint and find yourself on the floor of your own home’s cold foyer, and as you regain consciousness, you have to acknowledge the horrible news that was relayed to you moments ago by two police officers: that your husband of ten years—the love of your life—was tragically killed by a tractor-trailer on the slick, rainy interstate?

Two years after receiving the horrifying news of her husband Gil’s death, Milly Foster continues to struggle to find her way out of a state of depression. As a last-ditch effort and means of intervention, Milly’s parents convince her to run their successful inn during their absence as they help a friend establish a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Milly reluctantly agrees; when she arrives at the picturesque, waterfront Inn Significant, her colleague, John, discovers a journal written by her deceased grandmother that contains a secret her grandmother kept from the family. Reading her grandmother’s words, and being able to identify with her Nana’s own feelings of loss, sparks the beginning of Milly’s climb out of the darkness and back to the land of the living.

DSC_0142Set in Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, readers will experience Milly’s return to life through vivid description, lively characters and dialogue, and glimpses into the Depression-era as Milly learns more about her grandmother’s past…and that she, too, is capable of moving beyond tragedy.

DSC_0169

This is the premise of my new novel, Inn Significant, which will be released in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to sharing this story with you, and hope you will enjoy reading it.

As always, I thank you immensely for your support of my writing and creative endeavors. I will let you know when it launches and is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Thanks, all! Wishing you a very happy holiday season filled with blessings.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

8 Last Minute Cozy Gift Ideas For That Special Lady

These pajamas from Target inspired today's post...I love putting them on, drinking a cup of tea, and watching Hallmark Christmas movies this time of year! The best...

Yes, that’s me with no makeup on snuggled in these pajamas from Target; in fact, they inspired today’s post. I love putting them on, drinking a cup of tea, and watching Hallmark Christmas movies this time of year! It’s the best…

Christmas Day is less than a week away, and if you’re like me, you’ll be shopping your tail off at the malls over the next couple of days to finish up your lists. I’ve put together some last minute gift ideas for your favorite lady–that woman on your list who loves being warm and snug in the colder winter months. I hope these suggestions help round out your shopping list!

 

Tealicious by Alder Creek Gift Basket

Tealicious by Alder Creek Gift Basket, Bed Bath & Beyond. $39.99.

Happy shopping, all!

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

Home Inspiration: How To Display Collections From Your Travels

ornaments

This tree in our dining room is filled with ornaments from our travels. The ornament in the middle is our prized possession: Santa on a gondelier made of Murano glass from Italy. The one on the left is one of our newest from our trip to Savannah, Georgia this year. The fishing boat is from Cape Cod.

Traveling is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Experiencing things together builds memories that you all will cherish forever. No one can take those remarkable moments from you. There are some places, however, that you visit whereby you may want to bring home a physical remembrance of the place. In those instances, items may collect in your home in a pile unless you know exactly how you will display or use them.

My husband and I don’t mind having things from our trips as long as we know exactly what we will do with them and that they won’t just sit in a box. Here are some ideas to help inspire you to think about what you can do with your travel collections.

book

Coffee table books | As a lover of ALL KINDS OF BOOKS, this coffee table book of Rome is gorgeous. It’s 360 degrees of Rome, and such a great memory jogger if you haven’t been back to a place in a while.

seashells

Seashell Collection | When my kids were younger (and even sometimes now), they like to collect seashells from our trips. This collection is from our family trip to Duck, North Carolina. I display these on our porch.

matchbooks

Matchbooks | If you read my first novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, you may remember that one of my main characters, Michael, collected matchbooks. Truth: I based that on my husband’s penchant for collecting matchbooks when we travel. It’s become more difficult over the years, as fewer people smoke and less matchbooks are being produced, but we try our best to collect them as we go. We display them in a glass bowl we got from our wedding in the foyer of our home.

minibooks

Tiny Book Shelves from Italy | These miniature bookshelves are from Venice, Italy. The man who handcrafted them sold them on the streets. We negotiated for all three, and every time I look at them, I think of walking the bridges of Italy listening to the gondoliers sing.

cotswolds

Cotswolds Print Collection | My husband and I fell in LOVE with the Cotswolds in England. (If you haven’t been, think Kate Winslet’s house in The Holiday–it was filmed in the Cotswolds). We bought these prints there and had them framed when we got home. They are displayed on the wall in our piano room.

travel-calendar

Travel Calendar | This travel calendar was given to me as a gift from Georgia Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles. She gave it to me when she knew I was going to travel. I’ve always cherished it because of our working relationship and our friendship. She was always very kind to me.

travel-tree

Travel Tree | This is a better shot of all the ornaments on our travel tree. With any luck, it will continue to grow and fill up over the upcoming years.

If you happen to collect postcards from your travels, I blogged last year about what you can do with them—click here to see some great ideas for displaying postcards from travel and life.

I wish you all the best as you continue your journeys and encourage you to get a few keepsakes. Just knowing they are around my house brightens my day and reminds me that the next trip is just around the corner.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

Save

Annapolis Sparkles For The Holidays

15337503_10154717573428954_5928100103350877546_n

***

Apparently, my hometown knows how to do Christmas right, and I’m here to tell you that I think the judges from two of my favorite publications have gotten it right.

Country Living magazine ranked Annapolis at No. 10 in its list of America’s 20 Best Small Towns for Christmas. Additionally, Travel and Leisure magazine ranked Annapolis No. 15 on its list of America’s Best Towns for the Holidays. We’ll take it.

15380416_10154717573158954_1900079665721376027_nWith wonderful events such as last night’s Parade of Lights sponsored by the Eastport Yacht Club, residents and visitors can stroll the streets of Annapolis, shop, eat, and watch the boats parade into the Harbor. Families, friends, and couples arm in arm strolled the streets of Annapolis as the city was in the holiday spirit. The boats moved in and out of Spa Creek near the Eastport Bridge and into the City Dock area where boaters waved, sang carols, and tooted their horns at the spectators.

This Thursday, three of my friends and I will get into the holiday spirit as we fa-la-la in the historic area for Midnight Madness. The shops stay open until midnight, and we’ll dine and get presents for our dearest friends and families. Many of the stores will be offering discounts and specials to those shopping on Thursday.

If you haven’t visited Annapolis, you should plan to come and visit. It is a charming little city with a lot of spirit—Christmas or otherwise.

15356536_10154717573313954_8758524803897986975_n

15380422_10154717573178954_747904831001453214_n

15380849_10154717573218954_2526902262149320753_n

15380401_10154717573243954_4199621707261603544_n

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

Friday Fiction | She Said, I Know What It’s Like To Be Dead

Ebenezer Scrooge

If you love the classic story of A Christmas Carol featuring Ebenezer Scrooge like I do, I hope you’ll be amused by today’s Friday Fiction.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I posted a short piece of fiction. I haven’t written flash fiction is so long. Today, I’ve attempted to write a short fictional story using a prompt from Brian Kiteley’s book, The 3 A.M. Epiphany. If you are a writer, and you don’t have Brian’s book, you should get it along with the sequel, The 4 A.M. Epiphany; they both contain writing prompts to get you thinking—and writing.

I worked hard this summer to finish my third novel, and I hope to have that out to you in January. In the meantime, Kiteley asks us to simply start the beginning of the piece with the following words that he pulled from lyrics written by Lennon and McCartney: She said, I know what it’s like to be dead. Here we go, as I beg Dickens for forgiveness, and allow Ebenezer Scrooge to say it like it is…from his perspective and not that of a narrator.

SHE SAID, I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE DEAD

She said, “I know what it’s like to be dead.”

She scared the Dickens out of me when the clock struck one, and I cowered under the covers. She was a frail looking thing, and I wondered what exactly her last meal had consisted of before she arrived at her current state. I thought about what I had eaten earlier: methinks it was a bowl of broth with a bit of bad beef in it. Marley had screamed at me at the top of his lungs when I questioned the integrity of his ghostliness, as I defiantly blamed his apparition on what I had previously consumed. However, seeing this petite, white-haired woman made me wonder just how long dead she was. She stood there staring at me, motionless, as her white garb gently floated around her body.

“What is it like to be dead?” I asked, hearing the words echo in my bedroom chamber.

“You tell me, Ebenezer,” she said. “It seems that something inside of you has been dead for some time.”

I had no idea what she meant, as the last time I checked, I had been very much alive. I took immediate offense to her statement.

“And how is it that you are abreast of my current disposition, Madame?” I retorted.

“Death does have some benefits, Ebenezer. Your behavior has indicated much to me over the years. And you didn’t always have such a miserly and miserable approach to life.”

I felt this apparition’s presence as an annoyingly bothersome invasion of my privacy, like a wart that wouldn’t go away. The last time I had a woman in my bedroom had been many years ago, before my sciatic nerve became an issue, and I can assure you things didn’t go too well. Prior to that, I had lost my one true love, Isabelle, because I apparently worked too much trying to make the perfect life for the two of us. She was ungrateful for my dedication to the future we had planned together, and mentioned on too many occasions that I was ignoring her and her needs. I struggled to find truth in this statement. Hadn’t she liked the fur muff I had given her? The angel brooch? The plethora of books to fill her shelves? How many more material things does a woman need, and how could I have devoted more time to her when I had to keep the counting house afloat? Truthfully, I hadn’t had too much luck with women, and I was assuming the same was going to be true tonight. I’d forever sworn them off and vowed to live in solitude. Hence, my particular vexation at what I was dealing with presently.

Image result for christmas holly sketch

“So—do you have a name?” I asked.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“That seems way too formal for this uncomfortable moment of familiarity and intimacy, wouldn’t you agree? You don’t have another name?”

“In life, my friends called me Eunice.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Why?”

“Well, that wouldn’t have been a name I wanted to be called in life,” I said.

“I beg your forgiveness, but Ebenezer isn’t that much better.”

“I like it fine,” I said, “though most people just refer to me as ‘Scrooge.'”

She scratched at her brow. She seemed a bit unnerved by my candor. I wasn’t often one to mince words. I’d always appreciated a direct approach in all of my interpersonal relationships, no matter how brutal it might come across, like when I scolded Bob Cratchit earlier for wanting to leave early on Christmas Eve, or when my nephew Fred begged me to come for Christmas dinner. What’s wrong with wanting to spend my only day off during the month of December alone?  I’ve got a stack of books to catch up on and I’d heard from reliable sources that Fred’s wife’s cooking left many leaving her dinner parties either still hungry or sick.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but is there a point to you continuing to float above my bed? Marley said you have something important to show me.”

“Yes, Ebenezer. I was sent here on the matter of your redemption,” she said.

“So, what you’re saying is that I have no choice in this matter. I must go with you, relive my past, and see how I could have improved?”

“That’s correct,” she said.

“That sucks,” I said. “Who really wants to go back and relive every single detail of a life lived? Most of it will be utterly mundane, with good and bad bits thrown in for excitement. It’s going to be so depressing.”

“One could approach it that way, or one could look at it as an opportunity to see that change is possible and that one really has had a wonderful life.”

“Ah, Eunice, I believe you are confusing two classic stories.”

“You are quite right, Ebenezer. Now do shut up and take my hand and let’s get this over with.”

***

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save