It’s hard to admit this, but the first time in my entire life that I’ve ever visited a dermatologist was about six weeks ago. I know. It’s not something I’m super proud of, but I wanted to share that it’s never too late to start taking care of your skin.

It’s interesting, but my anxiety was what initially brought me to make an appointment with a dermatologist. I’d followed a local dermatologist, Modern Dermatology, on Instagram for a while and they put up an IG story about it being skin cancer awareness month and prompted us to come in and get our skin checked by one of their doctors. I took this simple Instagram story and let my mind wander with it. Unfortunately with anxiety, your mind can easily go to places that you never want it to go. I’d convinced myself that because of the many years I’d spent at tanning beds and not wearing sunscreen while going outside, that I’d must have some form of skin cancer. Rather than dwell on it and force myself into an anxiety attack, I made an appointment with Dr. Robinson at Modern Dermatology for a skin check. To some, that might not seem like a big deal, but for those of you who are familiar with anxiety and avoid doctors in fear of the worst (like myself,) this was a huge step for me. Thankfully it paid off and the skin check went great without need to worry.

I’m going to take this moment to do a little PSA to tell you to go get your skin checked.

While I was at the office I thought I’d take the opportunity to let Dr. Robinson know about the problems I’d been having with adult acne. After evaluating my skin, we realized it was a combination of hormones, the sweat from my workout routine, and my lack of skin self-care.

Ready to finally start taking care of my skin (and realizing I am indeed getting older and want to preserve what I can for now,) I told Dr. Robinson I was ready to invest in products that would help. She recommended products and a routine that would help get my skin back on track.

“We all want to blame our parents for our skincare woes, but the reality is roughly 80% of how our skin ages is in our control – determined by lifestyle choices we make everyday. This includes things like sun exposure and smoking, but also the skincare products you use (or don’t!). I always like to stress to my patients that its never too late to make improvements to your skincare routine and lifestyle – our skin is really resilient when we treat it well!”

I wanted to wait and share these products with you until I had the adequate amount of time to try out this new skincare routine to see how it affected my skin. Not only did it help tremendously with my acne, but I’ve also noticed my skin has a more even tone and a nice glow. I also want to point out that it’s not cheap to invest in good skincare products. I’ve always been one to go to the nearest drugstore and get whatever. And to be honest, I cried a bit inside after purchasing these products at first, but now that I see the difference in my skin, I can genuinely stay it’s worth every penny.

I’m going to share my skincare routine (in order from AM and PM) that Dr. Robinson created for me. I can honestly say it’s been a game changer.

AM Routine:

CLn Facial Cleanser

As soon as I wake up, I’ll use this to wash my face. I also use it as soon as I am finished working out. It’s best for sensitive and acne-prone skin. I really love how gentle it is. Just one pump is all you need, which is nice because the bottle lasts awhile. It’s super gentle on my skin and doesn’t dry it out.

Price: $35

Pure Bioderm Antioxidant Super Serum

I put this on my face every morning right after I wash and dry my face. It has a blend of antioxidants, including Vitamin C, Ferulic Acid, Phloretin, and Peptides which help provide protection from environmental toxins. I’ve definitely noticed as I get older, my skin is changing and isn’t quite as smooth as it used to be, so very thankful this serum helps with premature fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation from sun and age related dark spots. One pump of this and it’s enough for your entire face. It’s super lightweight and not greasy.

Price: $65

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

I’ve long been a fan of Supergoop products. I have a range of their products that I’ve used for a number of years. When they first came out with their Unseen Sunscreen I was excited to try it. It’s oil-free and goes on weightless. I love that it feels soft on my skin and it giving me the sun protection I need at the same time. It has SPF 40 protection against everything: UVA, UVB, blue light, infrared. It’s a perfect solution as a makeup primer as well.

Price: $32

PM Routine:

As mentioned in my morning routine, I always wash my face with the CLn Facial before moving on to a moisturizer. I have two different moisturizers I use. One is a retinoid base product and the other is more of a daily moisturizer.

Skinbetter Science Rejuvenate Intensive Alpharet Overnight Cream

A few months ago I almost gave botox a try because I was noticing more forehead wrinkles. At the time, I was completely unaware of how much upkeep you are required to do. It was then that I quickly changed my mind (I couldn’t commit to the upkeep) and decided I’d try alternatives until the Botox was completely necessary. I asked Dr. Robinson for something I could use that would help with anti-aging. She suggested a retinoid product. I use the AlphaRet overnight cream a couple times a week. The cream helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles while also providing moisture in my skin. Just one pump is enough for the full face and neck. This is probably my most expensive cream, but the bottle does last me a long time and it’s completely worth it if I can avoid paying for Botox for a few more years.

Price: $120

Tatcha The Water Cream

I spent a lot of time doing research on moisturizers. I knew they are typically expensive, but I also didn’t want to waste my money on a product that was only hype. After doing research and speaking with Dr. Robinson about what should and should not be in my moisturizer, I narrowed it down to a few and went to our local Sephora to get samples. I immediately fell in love with The Water Cream. It really does feel like water going on your skin and is not oily or sticky at all. It glides on very easily and a little dollop goes a long way. It’s well worth both the hype and is moderately priced compared to others on the market.

Price: $68

Restorsea Pro Lipmagic

I have VERY dry lips. They are constantly peeling and cracking. While I drink a lot of water during the day, dry lips run in the family. I’ve tried many many lips products and had yet to find something that worked until I found Restorsea. Active ingredient Aquabeautine XL helps get your lips softer, smoother, and more defined. This has been a serious game changer for my lips.

Price: $35

SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

This has quickly become my very favorite product of all time and is worth every single penny. I’ve told so many people about this product. Yes, it’s that good. I don’t use this every night, but if I do have the occasional breakout due to hormones or stress, just put a dab of this on the zit and it will make it go away very quickly. When Dr. Robinson was telling me about it, I was a bit skeptical it could work as quickly as she said it would, but it really does. It is an acid blend combines 2% dioic acid with an optimal alpha- and beta-hydroxy acid formulation to reduce the formation of acne and clogged pores. It immediately dries that zit out and many times it will be barely visible in the morning. Not only does it help zap away the zit, but it also while improving the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. This stuff is like liquid gold.

Price: $95

In

A few months ago, MacKay realized he needed to go to Rome for work. While he usually travels around the globe often for work, this time was different. MacKay grew up in Rome, spending his high school years there. He moved back to the states for college after graduation and hadn’t been back since. So this was a very special trip for him.

We’ve been talking about a trip to Rome for years, but between having kids and the craziness of life that comes with it, we just haven’t had the chance. When we realized he was going and that MacKay’s parents could come up to watch the kids, we jumped at the opportunity to go. We hadn’t been on a vacation together since our honeymoon nearly 12 years ago, so this was long overdue for so many reasons.

One of my favorite things about Rome was the architecture. There was so much character and history to the buildings. We spent most of our first day just walking around and I couldn’t stop taking photos of all that was around me. These photos above were outside of our hotel room. One was looking out at the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) while the other looked at a nearby building with contrasting colors I loved.

Because I’d never been to Rome, our first few days were filled visiting all of the must-see locations. We saw the Foro Romano (Roman Forum), Colosseum, Piazza Navona, Sistine Chapel, Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), Pantheon, and Piazza del Popolo. We did a TON of walking, but with the gorgeous views, it made it well worth it.

Because MacKay grew up in Rome, we didn’t feel the need sign up for any group tours at all of the more tourist places (although we did do a guided tour of the Vatican). If you really want to spend more time than just walking around and seeing from the outside, I’d suggest spending the time and money booking a proper tour. We were trying to pack it all in in a few days (before MacKay had to work,) so it was a lot of walking, spending about an hour at each spot, and then onto the next spot.

We also had the chance to go back to MacKay’s high school while we were there. Some of his teachers were still there and it was so cool to see this place he’s spoken of so fondly for many years.

One of the very best parts of Rome was the food. I planned on eating very well on our trip and not feeling guilty about it at all. That meant plenty of gelato and pasta. Here are a few of my notable spots:

Gelato: Giolotti : I am proud to say I frequented this spot multiple times a day. I knew exactly how to get there from our hotel and how to order in Italian by the time I left. I got so good at ordering my gelato that the guys behind the counter thought I was fluent in Italian. P.S. My favorite combo? Frutti di Bosco (mixed berries) and pistachio. If I was feeling really daring, I added caffè (espresso) to the mix.

Pizza: Trattoria Pizzeria Arancio d’Oro: We didn’t eat as much pizza as I would’ve thought, but we did go here one night and the pizza was incredible. A quaint little neighborhood spot filled with locals.

Pasta: Matricianella: This was our very first meal in Rome. It was off a side street (we realized that those were the best spots) and had the very best pasta with truffles. I couldn’t stop thinking about this meal the entire trip.

La Vecchia Locanda : This was another delicious meal. If you go here for dinner, definitely make reservations as it is very small and quaint. We sat downstairs in the wine cellar and the ambience was amazing. They only served food in season and the staff made really great wine pairing recommendations as well. I had the pasta with truffles again this night (you can never go wrong with truffles) and it was incredible.

Colliane Emiliane: I stumbled across this place accidentally as I was exploring Rome by myself. I had lunch here alone (which is totally doable as most people speak English,) but recommend getting reservations for both lunch and dinner as they fill up quickly. I first went in and they asked me to come back in 45 minutes because they had to tables at the time. It was worth the wait. You can see them making the pasta in the window and all of the handmade desserts sitting out. I opted for the specials that weren’t on the regular menu ( it was asparagus with pasta) and it was incredible.

Coffee: Caffe Grecco While you can’t go wrong with espresso in Italy, this place is the oldest coffee shop in Rome. It’s nestled on via Condotti with many high-end fashion designers’ stores. We stopped and has an espresso at the bar and it was delicious.

Leather Goods: While not food related, I did want to point out a great leather shop if you’re looking for a great handbag or wallet while you’re in Rome. I was determined to come home with a great Italian leather bag, but not one I could pick up on Fifth Avenue. I found this shop, Del Giudice, who hand makes all of their leather goods. It’s a family run business and their bags are amazing! Really something you can only buy when you’re visiting Rome!

Traveling around Italy is pretty simple. We took the train for a day trip to Florence. It was pretty rainy that day, so we opted for shopping and walking around the Uffizi. It took up most of our day and was well worth the day trip.

The last day of our trip was spent in Frascati, just an hour drive from Rome. MacKay had his meeting here, so I took it upon myself to visit a local vineyard. I went to Cantine Santa Benedetta, which is the oldest vineyard in Frascati. Such a fun thing to do by myself as the owner of the vineyard gave me a tour and shared which wines to pair with what kinds of foods.

We returned back to Rome for our last night and it was magical to walk around and get one last glimpse before we went home. It was such an incredible trip for both of us.

Where to stay: Due to this trip being a little bit of personal and business (for MacKay) we had the opportunity to stay at four different hotels. Of those four, I would hands-down recommend you stay at Elizabeth Unique Hotel Rome. Not only was the hotel amazing and in a great location, the staff could not have been more accommodating. My luggage was lost by the airlines for the first four and a half days of our trip. The staff at the hotel was constantly calling the airline for updates. The rooms are also equipped with a mini bar that is you are welcome to eat at no charge during your stay and it includes a bottle of wine each night. They had the best views and the rooms were so cozy. We want to stay there again when we go back.

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just two weeks away. I’ve been online like crazy making sure I am knocking everything off of everyone’s gift list, which means I am getting packages at our house 0n a daily basis. Our packages come at the same time everyday, and it always happens to be when the kids are home from school. As much as I try to keep the gifts I get a secret, they immediately try to inspect the packages to see what has just showed up on their doorstep. I love their curiosity and determination to find out exactly what’s in the box, however I need these things to remain a secret until Christmas morning.

I was walking into our local Whole Foods recently and saw the set up for Amazon Locker, unsure of exactly what the program was, I was pleasantly surprised when Amazon reached out to help me find out more. Not only does Amazon Locker help me be more discreet about what I’m ordering for the kids, we’ve also had an increase in front door package thefts in our town, so it eliminates any of the worry.

The process of ordering and receiving everything at Amazon Locker is really simple. Upon checking out, you can choose to have your order delivered to an Amazon Locker location nearest you (it allows you to search by zip code.) Choose that location and you will get an email once your order has been delivered to your Amazon Locker location.

The lockers were right at the entrance of Whole Foods. The kiosk walks you through the entire process.

You can either enter the code you were given in your email or scan the barcode in that same email and, just like that, your locker will pop open to reveal your Amazon box inside.

I order A LOT from Amazon for my holiday shopping and visited this location many times this weekend to pick up my packages and every time was a seamless process.

The lockers range in size, so you can order items of all sizes to be delivered to your Amazon Locker location.

And because holiday shopping can get exhausting, Amazon is surprising its customers with a treat this week. From tomorrow, December 11 through next Monday, December 17, if you get your Amazon items delivered to any Amazon Locker at Whole Foods in Manhattan, Amazon will spread the holiday cheer with a free gift! Gifts range from Bose SoundLink speakers, Sony headphones, to Amazon devices including Kindle and Echo, and household items like Oral-B toothbrushes. And of course, Amazon and Whole Foods Market gift cards. How amazing is that? I guarantee you’ll get a gift that’s already on someone’s wish list. I already have my Manhattan order limed up and ready to go so MacKay can pick it up from a Whole Foods near his office.

I wish I’d known about this Amazon Locker sooner because I would have taken advantage of it. I’m already a regular customer of Whole Foods, so I can get my grocery shopping and package pick up at the same time. It helps keep the magic of the holiday season alive to keep gifts a surprise for everyone.