f t g m
Copyright 2018 - The String Quartet That Rocks

Are you an expectant Mum? Dress your bump!

Being a Mum is a daunting, exhilarating and joyous experience. Likewise, being a Mum-to-Be has both its terrifying and wonderful moments. During this time, you are on a roller coaster ride, looking forward to meeting your little one. There’s so much going on, so many things to decide on. Do you tell your close friends and family straight away, or do you wait to the three month mark? Do you find out the sex of the baby or wait? What names do you like, where are you going to give birth… the list is endless.

With so much on your mind, visiting your local department store to look at the maternity collection is probably not at the top of your to-do list. However, it is a good idea to start thinking about maternity clothes early on during your pregnancy, in order to be prepared to dress your best when your bump grows bigger.

The Maternity Wardrobe

When you start to think about what maternity items you will need, make a list of clothes you want to wear. Will you need formal work clothes? Do you often wear jeans and hence need to buy maternity denim? Consider what baggy clothes and leggings you already own, as you may be able to continue to wear these for some way into your pregnancy. There is also the question of footwear to consider, as pregnant women often find that their feet swell up. Comfy sandals, pumps and flip flops are a good way to handle this problem. Don’t forget also that you will probably need a few sets of maternity lingerie to see you through the later stages of your pregnancy.

What style do you like?

After you have decided what kinds of clothes you are looking for, research maternity fashion trends for 2013. Do you want to be ‘out there’ with your bump, showing it off at every opportunity? Or would you prefer to be a little more subtle and discrete, merely showing a hint of your bump to the world? If the former, you will probably opt for sexy, tight-fitting maternity wear. Whilst doing so, remember that your comfort must be of the utmost importance in anything you choose to buy. If the latter, you will channel the lovely K-Mid, donning flattering tops and dresses which flow over your bump. Should this be your look of choice, try emphasizing other slender parts of your body to make a contrast between bump and bearer.


Size matters when it comes to maternity styles. Try to buy clothes which will last you the remainder of your pregnancy, where possible, or at least until the end of your next trimester. Materials which expand with your body are a good idea, such as spandex or Lycra. Make sure that the materials are breathable and allow you room to move and feel at ease. Trousers should be comfy and have lots of give around the waist. Ultimately, comfort should be your goal.

Above all have fun with your baby bump. Buy fashionable clothes that will expand with your baby. Enjoy every minute and don’t forget to start planning baby wear!

If you're expecting, shouldn't you be saving?

Lately I’ve read a lot of long, well thought-out blog posts on how to save money. Often times my downfall comes more from the waste of money than from shopping, gambling, or not saving, and I thought I would go down the list of expenditures that I call Money Wasters. Very simply put, there are things people waste money on, that could be avoided. From unnecessary expenses to general waste due to lack of research or comparison shopping, read on to learn some simple ways to save money.

Top Money Wasters

  • Keeping a Cell + Landline and the under-use of one of those services.
  • Satellite Dish/Cable over Antenna or Streaming Video via your Blu-ray device.
  • Paying Full Price; not shopping around or checking the clearance sale ads.
  • Going cheap: clothes and shoes that don’t fit correctly.
  • Vacations without perks. Ignoring all inclusive options or vouchers for freebies.
  • Purchasing packing materials, boxes for holiday gifts, and gift wrap at full price.
  • 3-ply toilet paper. Really?!
  • Loans and credit like payday loans, see here.
  • Not even making an attempt to bargain.
  • Buying kids clothes at full price.
  • Paying for auto maintenance/repair services that you can do yourself.
  • Buying produce when you can grow your own vegetables year round.
  • Parking passes, VIP parking, Parking lots. We could all use some exercise. Just walk. Use an imexpensive pedometer to track your miles!
  • Buying cleaning supplies at full price, when the Dollar Store sells the same for about 75% less, or you can buy cleaning supplies in bulk and save even more..
  • Choosing sirloin steak over pork steak. The savings here is definitely notable. Besides: pork IS the other white meat.
  • Online shopping… you should rarely have to pay for shipping if you look for coupon codes online first.
  • Eating out excessively.
  • Businesses: overlooking the free networking & marketing opportunities social media offers.
  • Home heating bills.
  • Renting DVD’s from a retailer store – kiosks are cheaper
  • Bank fees/monthly charges. This includes OVERDRAFT fees.
  • Overeating.
  • Ignoring coupons, daily deals and discount codes.top sirloin steak
  • Abusing the air conditioner in your car or the air conditioner in your home, if outdoors temperatures deem it unnecessary.
  • Discounting the benefits of barter, trade and DIY projects.

Graffiti for your health!

“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing.  And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.” ~Banksy

Graffiti started out as an expression outside the world of art and the law.  Slowly these initial pioneers transformed this illegal expression into an acceptable form of art.  The Museum of Contemporary Art presented Art in the Streets earlier this year in Los Angeles, which was the first major U.S. museum exhibition of the history of graffiti and street art.  The exhibition traced the development of graffiti and street art from the 1970s to the global movement it has become today.  It showcased installations by 50 of the most dynamic artists from the graffiti and street art community, including Fab 5 Freddy (New York), Lee Quiñones (New York), Futura (New York), Margaret Kilgallen (San Francisco), Swoon (New York), Shepard Fairey (Los Angeles), Os Gemeos (São Paulo), and JR(Paris).  It also featured projects by influential local artists such as Craig R. Stecyk III, Chaz BojórquezMister Cartoon, RETNASABER, REVOK,and RISK.  According to museum spokeswoman Lyn Winter, the attendance was among the highest ever in MOCA’s history- closely tracking the record attendance for the Andy Warhol retrospective at MOCA Grand Avenue in 2002.

I think that this statistic alone proves that graffiti and street art have claimed there rightful place in the world of art and culture. Tours and workshops are popping up from New York to the UK for kids and adults to learn how to paint and express themselves through this new and exciting art form.

Top Dog Workshops

Top Dog Workshops offers a wide range of creative visual and performing arts workshops for young people.  Options include Graffiti, Photography, Fashion and Design,  DJ-ing, Rock School, Guitar, Circus skills, and Breakdancing. If I were still a kid I would be begging my parents to send me to this place!

Hire a Graffiti Artist

This is another great option if you live in the UK. You can hire a graffiti artist to teach one day workshops one on one, for a school group, at a party, or for a place of business.

Graffiti Tours

Graffiti tours takes you on a tour of famous street artists’ work around New York City and at the end for the low price 0f $10 you can paint your own graffiti. They also offer workshops if you want to learn how to paint.

 I have a personal love and passion for graffiti.  I like that graffiti and street art have such a broad audience and really reach out and touch our society as a whole.  It’s raw and beautiful and anyone can see it and enjoy it.  One of my dearest friends is a graffiti artist in San Diego.  He goes by the name Persue, and is probably best known for his character BunnyKitty (which is an adorable kitty dressed up as a bunny).  Seeing his art always makes me smile and inspires me. He is one of the greats. I dedicate this blog to him and another good friend and very talented artist Monstrinho, who gave me some painting lessons.

The Sundance festival part 1

“This place in the mountains, amid nature’s casualness toward death and birth, is the perfect host for the inspiration of ideas: harsh at times, life threatening in its winters of destruction, but tender in attention to the details of every petal of every wildflower resurrected in the spring. Nature and creativity obey the same laws, to the same end: life.” - Robert Redford

With some of the earnings from the success of the 1969 film he starred in called Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kida young Robert Redford bought some beautiful mountainside property in Utah. Redford acquired a small ski resort, and renamed it Sundance in honor of his character’s name in the movie. Redford’s love of the arts and nature were the driving forces behind his creative vision for Sundance, which blossomed over the next 30+ years alongside his career as actor and director. His idyllic mountain location became the creative nest and origin of the Sundance Film Festival (set up to support independent cinema, now one of the world’s most influential film festivals), Sundance Institute (set up to support aspiring filmmakers), Sundance Channel, and the Sundance catalog. Robert Redford has always been a vocal protagonist for environmental protection and a big supporter of the arts, so when I found out that the eco-friendly Sundance Resort offered learning vacations it seemed right up our alley- and the perfect romantic fall getaway for the surprise I had in store for Natazha.

Natazha had no idea where we were going this trip, I only told her that she should pack for cool mountain weather. She didn’t know we were flying to Utah, and had no idea that there was a blue diamond ring in my jacket pocket that I was waiting to give to her. Was I nervous? Let’s just say that the only time I’ve been more fidgety than when I had that engagement ring in my pocket was the time I ordered a quadruple espresso drink called the Keith Richards. I wasn’t really nervous about asking the question, I was mostly nervous about losing the ring, spoiling the surprise, or bumbling the moment in some other way before the delivery. Natazha and I have known that we would spend all the rest of life’s adventures together since the day we met, and I’ve asked her to marry me every day for at least the last 6 months of the 7 we’ve been together. Nevertheless, I wanted the “real” proposal to be special, and the beauty of Sundance made that easy.

We got settled in on Sunday, and after grabbing a bite to eat in the restaurant we jumped on the ski lift to head up the mountain. The ski lift runs in warmer months for hikers and mountain bikers to enjoy the trails and panoramic views. The mountains were exploding with color and in my nervousness I actually forgot to bring either of my nice cameras (still or video), so we did our best to capture the moment with our Iphones. We got off the lift and walked along a small trail to a private spot on one of the peaks, and that is where I popped the question and got that burning ring out of my pocket and onto Natazha’s hand. My planned speech melted into a jumble of smiles and a couple of sentences that I can’t really remember; I’d like to say that my breathlessness was due to the altitude, but apparently I’m a softy at heart. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

We spent the rest of that evening celebrating with some great wine in front of the fireplace in our cabin. Sundance has real wood burning fireplaces in the rooms, and each room has cool furniture and a rustic chic styling that makes it perfectly fine to throw another log on the fire, get cozy, and order room service.

We spent the next two days playing around in the mountains, taking photos and making art. The path from our cabin to the restaurant and store winded through the woods alongside a mountain stream, so there was no shortage of beautiful spots to take pictures along the way. Sundance has a store that sells art made by the resident instructors that work and teach in the art studios right next door. You can buy jewelry, hand blown glass, pottery, paintings, photographs, and other art that is all made on site. The “Art Shack” offers one day workshops, and Natazha and I signed up for the pottery and jewelry making classes. The pottery instructor Tim has been making pottery and teaching at Sundance for over a decade. With Tim’s guidance, Natazha and I had enough time in the two hour class to each make two items. I made a disbowl (okay, so I had to make up a new word because it is somewhere between a dish and a bowl) and a cup, and Natazha made a bowl and a vase.  My “disbowl” looked pretty good from the top angle (which is what I saw while shaping it) but the next day when I came back I was convinced that someone had replaced my masterpiece with a kindergartener’s art project- the base was much chunkier than I remembered. Luckily my cup turned out a little better! Natazha is still convinced that her bowl shrunk and got wobbly overnight. It is funny how our memory of the fun we had making them worked like photoshop to retouch our mental images of our first attempts at ceramics. Natazha had it down by the second attempt though, and her vase came out really nice. As with everything, practice helps. The next day we took a silversmithing jewelry class, but I am going to let Natazha tell you about that along with her version of the weekend story in next week’s blog!

The Glamourous and The Tedious

Natazha was planning on writing today about her shoot with Surfing magazine in Hawaii (that she just returned from), but she is in bed recuperating from a cold she got on the trip. I know everyone would rather hear about her seemingly glamourous adventure in Hawaii than the comparatively boring week at the computer in the cold grey of winter that I had! Don’t worry, she will be posting photos and a story next week.

While Natazha was posing for the camera on the beaches of the North Shore, I was chained to the computer indoors laying the groundwork for the launch of Learning Vacation Network- writing business plans, securing URLs, locking down trademarks and so on. Not glamourous at all. Rather than put you to sleep with the details, I’ll pass along an article that Conde Naste Traveler recently posted about learning vacations: Sun, Sea, and Socrates

Our learning vacation school of the week is Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. They have been around since 1950, offering studio-based workshops in clay, glass, metals, paper, blacksmithing, weaving, woodworking, and more. The campus is in a beautiful natural setting and the buildings were designed by award-winning architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. Click on the link and check out their website for more details!

They got married!

On the first day of the year, with a handful of witnesses in tow, Natazha and I walked down a narrow trail over train tracks and along an oceanside cliff in Del Mar, California, and stopped at a random spot with a million dollar view of the Pacific. Our small group circled close, temporarily cutting off the path and getting some puzzled looks from the sunset speed walkers and surfers that stumbled upon us. It was spontaneous, fun, and intimate. We exchanged vows and rings and confirmed what we had both known was to be since the day we met. Ideally we would have loved to have had all of our family and friends there on that cliff with us, enjoying the classic California sunset and monumental moment in our lives, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible. 2011 was a financially draining year for us and most people we know, and the logistics of bringing our family and friends from around the world to one place for a ceremony presented a sizable obstacle. Natazha and I decided that the best way around that obstacle was to “unplan” our wedding and make up our own rules.

Our ceremony ended with an interesting new tradition at the end. After the officiant spoke about marriage, read a Apache wedding blessing, and we repeated our vows, we asked each of our guests to participate in a “blessing stones” ceremony. Everyone brought a trinket (small stone/ shell/ etc) that was meaningful to them to add to our wedding “treasure bowl”. One by one they stepped forward, added their symbolic gift to the bowl, and said a few words. Some told stories, some gave advice, and some gave blessings. It was as if each person was giving a little piece of themselves, which made it a very personal and special moment that we all shared. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

Now everyone is asking where the traveling duo is planning to go for the honeymoon! Flights are booked for a week in Hawaii, but unfortunately not for me! I’m proud to say that my beautiful bride Natazha was picked to be one of the models in the 2012 swimsuit issue of Surfing magazine, and she will be spending a week in Oahu shooting (while I stay behind here in California to work on getting Learning Vacation Network started). I keep teasing her about going on a honeymoon without me, but the truth is that we have just had to delay any honeymoon plans for a bit while we get some other things taken care of. With the impending launch of our own learning vacation association and travel show there will be plenty of fun travel plans for 2012.

The Sundance festival part 2

Zach and I have been all over the place the last few months. My work has taken me to Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and Phoenix. Between jobs Zach and I have been back to Florida not once but twice, and Z also went back to Costa Rica for two and a half weeks. While Zach was away in Costa Rica we realized that the weekend after we both were set to return to California from our respective jobs it would be our 7 month-iversary. (Yes, I am fully aware how dorky it sounds that we acknowledge month-ivesaries, but a lot happens in a month and it is a great time frame in which Z and I can reflect and recall our adventures and travels and re-evaluate the goals that we are working towards!)

Anyways, dorky or not 7 is my favorite number and with our 7 month-iversary coming up,  Zach said that he was going to surprise me with a romantic weekend getaway! Music to every woman’s ears! Surprise!! (Who doesn’t love surprises?) Romance!! (Something every woman can’t live without!) Weekend!! (Well everybody loves the weekend)… and Getaway!!! (Who doesn’t love the sound of just picking up and leaving to go on an adventure?) We had been apart from each other for over  two weeks (which felt like an eternity!). It sounded like the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time together and a great excuse to spend whatever few dollars we had left to go on another escapade! Little did I know he had a huge and meaningful surprise in store for me.

The night before we left I was so excited I could barely sleep. I felt like a little kid trying to go to bed on Christmas eve, when all you can think about is PRESENTS! All that was on my mind was SURPRISE! The next morning we woke up and headed to the airport.  I knew a big part of the mystery would be revealed there, because you can’t exactly go through the airport without knowing which plane you are getting on. When I printed my boarding pass and it said Salt Lake City I asked Zach.. “Is this right?  We are going to Utah?” With his nod I thought to myself “Ok! Well I have never been there this should be interesting!”

On the plane ride to SLC Zach could barely contain himself.  He started asking me “So do you want to know where we are going?” and I would reply “Umm, no it’s ok. I’ve waited this long. I can wait.” A few minutes would go by and he would start asking me again, “Are you sure you don’t want to know what we are doing?” After about the 5th time of him asking me I gave in and said “YES! Zach please tell me what we are doing! I am dying to know but really you are just dying to tell me! Hahaha!” He spilled the beans that we were going to the Sundance resort, which I was not familiar with, but once he gave me the low down about the place I was over the moon! We were heading to a beautiful secluded destination and we going to do what we love most- learn new things, enhance our lives, and make more unforgettable memories.

When we arrived at Sundance I was blown away. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. We were surrounded by blue skies and gorgeous mountains covered with multi-colored trees. Fall was in full bloom and it was beautiful! We decided to grab some food and go explore. Our first stop was the Art Shack, where they sell local art and teach workshops. We scheduled our pottery class for the next day and while we were there the manager asked us if we would like to purchase tickets for the ski lift, which takes hikers and moutain bikers up the mountain in the summer and fall. By this time it was already 3  and she told us that the lift stopped running at 5 (and it was a 45 minute loop). We bought the tickets and headed to grab a quick bite to eat. Zach seemed a little anxious… asking me if I could just eat the soup and salad on the lift?!  I said that I didn’t think that would work out too well… and suggested we just eat really quick and then go. Before I could take the lid off my soup to let it cool down Zach was already finished with his!  I thought to myself geez he must have been REALLY hungry. I ate as fast as I could and we got on the lift, which was magical. Going up you get a sense of how majestic the surrounding mountains are. As we approached the top Zach announced that we are getting off. I thought we were just going to stay on and do the loop because of the time, but Zach pratically pushed me off and said “We are getting off!”  Before I could even take in the panoramic view by the lift landing Zach grabbed my hand and pointed up and said “Let’s hike this trail!” I was thinking he was a little nuts because we didn’t have a clue where the trail went and I was worried about getting left up there on top of a mountain! None of this seemed to phase him and I trust him so I followed. We hiked up and fifteen minutes later we were all alone on top of the mountain surrounded by sheer beauty. We took a couple deep breaths and smiled at each other. Zach looked at me and got down on one knee and popped the question. “Will you marry me???”  He pulled out a beautiful blue diamond ring from his pocket and I screamed “Yes!!” It was one of the best moments of my life. I don’t know if I can capture the beauty that we were surrounded by or the feeling I was having up there with Zach in words; all I can say is that at that moment time stood still. It was just my best friend and I surrounded by the essence of nature and I was enveloped in the most intense love I have ever felt. It was pure and magical. The next thing I remember is jumping on him, and we kissed, hugged, laughed and cried for the next 10 minutes. We  took a few quick snap shots with our Iphones and then headed back down to the lift so we wouldn’t be left behind.  I had the biggest smile on my face that day, and I still do now as I write.

We spent the next two days at the Art Shack and exploring the mountains. The first day we took a pottery class (which Zach described in his last blog) and the second day we took a jewelry making class.  In the jewelry class we learned how to make rings. We made one for me and one for Zach’s sister Katie. Our instructor, Brittany, has been making jewelry and teaching for over a decade. She made the class fun and easy to follow. We first picked out our stones and then cut, filed, hammered, and soldered the sterling silver pieces together into cool rings. Our first attempt at jewelry making turned out a little better than our first attempt at pottery! We had time to complete the rings and get a good introduction to silversmithing in the two hour class, and the rings were included in the cost of the workshop.

This trip will forever be engrained in my memory… Zach told me as we came down on the lift the day he proposed that he wanted our engagement to be an experience that I would never forget. Not just a ring or a moment or even a day, but a complete experience…. and that it was! He planned the perfect escape and found a way to embody what we are all about and what brings us true happiness into one package.  I am blessed to have found my soulmate and one true love. I am grateful for him and his love everyday. I am looking forward to many more surprise romantic getaways that Zach has in store for us..(hint hint Z, keep it up! haha!) Here’s to a lifetime of learning and exploring with my best friend!

More Articles ...

  1. What's your side hustle?