Archive for the 'vacation' Category

Time to Hit Pause


Time to hit pause here at Shiny Brite — I hope (think!) it will be a short one, but I’ll have to see how things shake out here in the next little bit.

Mmm, hmmm.

We had an awesome month of December, so thanks for finding us and for reading! It makes me feel better to know you’re there.

Here’s a little something for you today: The Best Beaches for Families, via

More to come. Just don’t know when.

Keep an eye out!


— Melisa


3 Days in Austin: Fun Things to See and Do

mexican martinis

Cheers to old friends!

Last weekend I spent some long-overdue kid-free time in Austin with my BFF (thanks, Chrissy, for letting me jet off!) and, oh, but it was nice…. Can I get a repeat? In addition to long, uninterrupted chats with someone who’s known me for 20+ years, here’s the short version of what was on the agenda — I hope it inspires you to plan a little “me” time, too:

* Mexican martinis at Dos Salsas in Georgetown (mmm, see above. And here’s a recipe — I’d tweak the Sprite to a splash.)

* Patricia Clarkson on 7 Minutes in Heaven with Mike O’Brien. Do yourself a favor and watch this. It is highly enjoyable not only because Clarkson is super-appealing and slightly tipsy during the in-the-closet interview, but also because it introduced me to new lipstick shade Cherries in the Snow (which now resides in my handbag.)

* Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow — an excellent pick-me-up in the face of crappy fall weather.

cherries in the snow

Kiss me! I'm wearing lipstick.

* !It Jeans from Adelante — they hug, they’re snug, and they won’t set you back $200. (You’re welcome.) I snagged the My New Boy style, pictured below.


If fall has to come, at least I can be wearing these.

* New METALSGirl jewelry from Parts + Labour.

metalsgirl giant 4 color necklace

Giant 4 color necklace. Yes, please.

* Weird La Lucha Libre wrestling guys for the kids from Tesoros.

La Lucha Libre wrestling guys

Viva, Mexico!

* Chipotle and toasted almond guacamole at La Condesa. Heck, yeah.

La Condesa

Darn good guac. Drinks, tacos, and chile rellenos, too.

* Retro-cool at The HighBall.

Vintage bowling lanes, transported to Austin from New Orleans.

* Big-time cheesy fun at Austin Karaoke. Thanks to my friend Debra, I no longer have to wonder what my karaoke songs would be — let’s just say Sheryl Crow, Journey, and the fine ladies of Heart were all paid tribute to. Surprisingly cathartic. They had to pry the mike out of my hands.

Austin Karaoke

Hello, fun.

* Breakfast nirvana at Monument Cafe and Kerbey Lane.

Kerbey Lane Cafe

Serving breakfast 24-7.

* A book called Love Life — and lots of pretty fresh flowers, too — at La Fleur Vintage.

Love Life

Colette: "You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."

Thanks, Debra! xo


Currently Obsessed with…. Moving to Austin


Europe with Kids — France: One Thing I Loved Today

Palm Ray Plage

Palm Ray Plage in Carnon, France.

The “premiere ligne” at the Palm Ray on the beach in Carnon, France.

Leave it to the French to make beach-going more civilized.

Today we booked lounge chairs and a big umbrella on the “first line” — aka the front, closest to the water — at the beach in Carnon, on the Mediterranean. For a few Euros, we got our prime spots, plus lunch and a glass of wine delivered to our chairs — with access to bathrooms, a seaside library (!), and a waiter serving cocktails, San Pellegrino, and desserts — right next to the kids while they played in the sand and surf.

Heaven! (And all thanks to our fabulous hostess, Kim, who KNOWS about all of these wonderful things. Everyone should be so lucky as to have her at their side in the South of France.)

Glass of rosé and, in a while, a mojito? Don’t mind if I do, to both.

Does this exist in the U.S.? We gotta find out.

Palm Ray Plage

Life's a beach. Cheers!

Europe with Kids: It’s Not All Gelato (the Other Side of the Grand Tour)

Europe with kids


The blog, like Facebook, is the place where I show my best face. Happiest moments, optimism, wishful thinking. All reflecting only one side of the coin.

The truth is that as much fun as we are having, there are also moments of the ridiculous, despair, tantrums, cross words, the gamut. You know. Those moments of tension over directions, where to eat, schedules. The kid who has to go to the bathroom the second we leave someplace WITH a bathroom.  Not to mention two bee stings (Magnolia, me), a number of large spiders (and me with my phobia) and stinging bugs of every variety (Melisa’s worst fear).

Here’s a little taste of the dark side:

  • The kids’ favorite word of the trip is ARMPIT. Just saying it sends both into the giggles.

“I want ARMPIT gelato”

“How many ARMPITS does a deer have?”


  • Most car drives, like the one we made yesterday to Pisa, are characterized by the sillys. For instance: Magnolia coming up with surnames for Betty instead of Boop. You get the idea. Or singing a tuneful melody at the top of her lungs about Spiderman. Jasper punctuates both with random exploding noises. Melisa ignores everything, reading her guidebook, until she can’t. I chew gum like there’s no tomorrow, thinking  “find a happy place, find a happy place.” God bless the iPad. Without it there would be no silence.
  • Once we get to our destination, the complaints begin.

“Mom, when can we have lunch?”

“Mommy, can’t we get some gelato?”

“Momma, I can’t walk any further!”

“Mom, can we get a toy? Why nooooottttt?”

“I don’t want to see the leaning tower of Pisa, I want the pool!”

“Mommy, mommy, mommy…(pause) MOOOOOOOMMMY!”

Then: “Not you, OTHER mommy!”

Yesterday, Melisa and I laughed half-way home from Pisa. We were laughing over ARMPIT. It is kind of a funny word.


Chrissy, true to form, has been posting on how fabulous everything is. And, don’t get me wrong — it IS fabulous and we feel very lucky to be here, enjoying exceptional time away from the normal day-to-day of our lives in New York City. But, as you know, we’re a family traveling with young kids. If you’re reading these posts and hating us just a little bit, perk up here — it hasn’t all been great. Here’s what I mean….

Yes, we’ve been seeing beautiful cities and towns and villages in France and Italy, but at a snail’s pace — Magnolia slows EVERYTHING way down. Chrissy and Jasper walk ahead, as if they’re on their own — I have to stop every two seconds with Magnolia, while she gets a rock out of her shoe, scratches an itch, examines a bug bite, picks up something potentially interesting from the sidewalk, stops to smell a flower (yes, she actually does this), or pauses to reflect while asking a pressing question (can we have a picnic on the floor of our house tonight for dinner?). How SLOW can you go? I’m finding out.

Jasper has been giving us the major attitude. He chews with his mouth open, picks his nose (!), touches his sister’s bottom and then laughs uncontrollably, and asks every two seconds for gelato, a piece of Pez candy, chewing gum, or more movies on the iPad. When we ask him to dial it down a notch, he responds with: “Why don’t you quit telling me what to dOOOOOOO?!’ Dude, yeah, no. Get a grip. When you’re like 40, maybe.

And, embarrassingly, our kids are the loudest and the wildest wherever we go. Seriously. Name your nationality or number of kids in a family and we will take their asses down with EASE. We’re the mother-effing international STEAMROLLER of loud and wild.

And you know all those loooong posts from Chrissy you’ve been reading and enjoying? Well, she’s been commandeering the laptop and the kids have had the stronghold on the iPad while I COOK DINNER.

But, you know what? We are having the best time! I’m here with the people I love most in the world, and we are laughing a lot.


And it’s beautiful everywhere we go. Yes, yes. Beautiful.


What (This) Girl Wants: Il Dolce Far Niente

In Italian: the sweetness of doing nothing. In the words of Lucinda Williams: “Cool, quiet, and time to think.”*

For me, it’s lying like a cat in the sun at the pool, alternately watching the olive trees blow silver in the breeze, the kids creating a tent from towels and cushions, and reading.

For Magnolia, it’s sneaking off to the tree swing on the lawn beneath our house, or stalking the butterflys in the lavender.

Whatever works! And more of it.

*The great Lucinda also mentioned “pens that won’t run out of ink” and “passionate kisses” as must-haves. Those too, please.

Europe with Kids — Italy: One Thing I Loved Today


Seeing Bramasole, the house outside of Cortona, in Tuscany, that belongs to writer Frances Mayes

Like bazillions of others, I enjoyed Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes, so, so many years ago — a confection, a fantasy, light and sweet. Except it wasn’t entirely a fantasy — Mayes really did come to Italy at a time of rediscovery and reinvention, and she bought a house that transformed her life. What’s not to like about that?

Today we drove to Cortona, about an hour and a half away from where we’re staying, near Castellina in Chianti, to see the town and house. The town is lovely, with an appealing, lively vibe; the house and gardens grand and impressive. (After much hard work, of course — go, Frances!)

But what I loved was seeing, in person, a solid, physical manifestation of change, good fortune, happiness — set in a foreign land.

Bramasole was inspiring.

It reminded me that anything can happen.

And I love that.


The shrine on an exterior wall at Bramasole. Say a prayer (or whatever). See what happens.

More things I’m loving about Italy:

Breakfast four ways

Campari by the pool

Our waiter in San Bartolomeo al Mare

To Bikini or Not to Bikini: That is the (Surprising) Question

Last week, as one of our daily field trips, we drove an hour South to the town of Rapolano Terme, home to a mineral water spring of supposed healing properties. That Melisa and I would seek out a spa is not such a surprise. The surprise is that we took the kids.

We wouldn’t have thought to do it, if it hadn’t been recommended as a great place to go with children. I know, seems unlikely. And in hindsight, I’m realizing the mom in question has three girls (I’m sorry but that HAS to be easier), AND they are older than our kids. Still, no one (including our hostess Mimma) seemed to think there would be anything wrong with taking our brood.

I’m not sure what I was expecting—maybe something like a water park, with slides?—but it wasn’t what we found. The Spa San Giovanni looks like a real spa: quiet, peaceful, painted cool colors, spa music (you know what I mean) playing in the background.

Your mineral water experience, which apparently can heal all sorts of skin ailments, rheumatism, and respiratory issues, starts in a kind of domed sweat room, with one large circular pool surrounded by chairs, and mineral waters spouting out of the mouths of gods. It’s pretty warm, that one.

Looks nice, doesn't it?

A small water walkway and cave leads outside to the other pools, which get cooler as your graduate down the terraces. The kids loved the cave and spent some time there, pretending they were bears. I have to say I wasn’t too excited to get into hot water on a 97 degree day, but once in (Jasper said I needed the full “tour”), it was relaxing.

The outdoor pools vary in size and are surrounded by pretty chaises and umbrellas, on the patio and out on the lawn, all of which is surrounded by the rolling Tuscan hillside (vineyards, olive groves, little umber towns perched on hills, you know the drill). It’s pretty good.

The last pool was my favorite. It’s the largest, and the coolest (i.e. lukewarm). The bottom of the pool is covered in some sort of thick white mud that is naturally created by the springs. This is the other thing the kids loved about the spa: making mud pies and smearing mud on themselves as they saw the other adults at the pool do. How often does that happen? Grown-ups smearing mud all over themselves? Woo-hoo!

Your whole m.o. here is to float. Or smear yourself with mud in one of the little beaches on the edge of the big pool where you can lay half in and half out of the water. All in all pretty relaxing (even with Jasper and Magnolia saying every two minutes, “mommy! More goo!”).

There’s a cafe overlooking the pools where you can get a sensible lunch (and we did) or an espresso. The locker rooms have nice showers for rinsing off the mud.

Final ratings: a 10 from both kids (mud pies, bear cave), a 7 from me (not sure it was worth 13 euros a piece) and a 6 from Melisa, who was expecting effervescent bubbles in clear pools, and not mud.


One of my favorite things about our vacation is swimming every day. It’s a rare treat.

Between here and France, Melisa and I have both noticed that every woman, REGARDLESS OF AGE/SIZE is wearing a bikini. And sometimes topless. At the beach, or at the spa, they are out there.

When you are spending as much time in the sun as I have been, it’s hard not to think of the benefits of the bikini. It’s cooler for one. Your tan lines that disappear a little easier under clothes. Dries faster.

I haven’t considered really putting a bikini on since I was 26 or 27, but I’ve considered it on this trip.

The kids in their European suits. Me in my American one-piece.

The day after the mud baths, we took the kids into Siena. My favorite trip so far! So cosmopolitan after all our sweet little towns.

Il Campo, in front of the Torre (and with a little friend)

The kids loved it, too: they ran through shell-shaped il Campo like the horses at Palio, begged to climb the Torre del Mangia (400 steps!), and thrilled to the huge doors, old wells, flags of the Contrade, and castle-like homes.

The sales are on here in Italy, and I couldn’t help but notice all the bikinis on sale, for little girls and big. Magnolia was all over it, too. We wandered into a tiny shop and she immediately started pulling out the sparkliest, spangliest, gaudiest, tart-iest tiny bikinis she could find. Luckily, the worst of the lot were not in her size. Here is the compromise:

"Perfecto" says Magnolia

I looked too—at a couple of stores—but I could never quite get around the skimpy factor. Maybe I’m too American. Maybe I’m just too modest. I left, bikini-free.

Magnolia wore her bikini top (over her clothes), the rest of our time in Siena.

Siena's world renowned Duomo. Oh yes, and also Nola.

She got home, and would not put on her floaties when we went to the pool, for fear of ruining her look. (BTW, where did she learn that pose? We are in so much trouble). Still, by the end of the afternoon, she was swimming across the pool by herself. The floaties are gathering dust.

One afternoon in a bikini, and she’s swimming.

What would happen to me if I took the bikini plunge? Would I try a strapless dress? Write the first chapter of a novel? Cook lobster? Fry soft-shell crabs? Walk out of a boring meeting?

There’s still time. Stay tuned. 

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