Friday, December 28, 2012

Funky Friday ~ A December Reflection ~

Today is my oldest son's 12th birthday, and represents the end of the usual December scramble in our family. With three birthdays and Christmas all in one month, trying to fit it all in while making each person feel special and celebrated is no small task. I know I should love it, but truthfully I'm relieved it's coming to an end ~ which is kind of sad.

Last night my 10 and 8 year old were getting into their seemingly daily argument and I had to intervene. They share a room, a love of competition, and a need to get under each other's skin. I tried to explain to them that I know deep down they would do anything for each other, and they agreed if someone was coming after their brother they would...well, we really don't need to get into details, do we?
Here are the culprits, enjoying an ice cold root beer after a baseball game.

But I started to tell them that they really only have to put up with each other full-time for about eight more years, then they ~ GULP ~ eight more years??? So, wait, Matthew will only be around here for six more years? And Michael for eight? And George for ten? Then I will just have one at home? For only five more after that??? Wasn't I just holding them in my arms? Eight more years? Why didn't someone tell me this would be so short? So I only have six more Decembers with them all in the house?

The relief that had washed over me moments ago with December coming to an end has now turned into panic. I have come to love this organized chaos that we call home, and I can't imagine it without any one of them! I know, I know, the birthdays and celebrations will continue. They'll come home from college (and may even move back in for periods of time after that), but these years of us all being together are moving too fast. As my mom says, we are living the best time of our family life right now, when we can lock the doors at night and know that our kids are tucked safely in bed.

I'm just not ready yet. When someone mentions 1992 I feel like it was just five years ago, not 20. Eight years is nothing, and the busier we get, the faster it goes. 

Family photo from Christina's wedding a few years ago. They clean up nice, don't they?

So what does this have to do with travel? Nothing, and everything. I travel a lot, but the last time my family all got on a plane together was nine years ago, and I only had two kids. It's just so expensive for a family to travel, so we haven't. But we will. This year, I'm making it a priority. I'm saving for it. I'm working towards it. I will not let these few years slip by without our family enjoying each other in a destination that's new and different, to take us out of our routines and daily annoyances, to really leave it all behind and just get silly.

So I'm telling you to travel as a family. And I know times are tough. And I know it would be nice to get a newer car this year and that the roof needs repairing. I know travel is seen as a luxury and not a necessity. I know it falls to the bottom of the priority list because it has on mine, too. But I regret that. I could have made coffee at home every day and not gotten a $4.89 latte. We could have eaten out one less time each week and put that money away. Eventually that stuff does add up, and even if it means going somewhere once every two or three years, it's better than not at all.

I've been to a lot of places. I know all the fanciest resorts to take your kids where you'll all be entertained every minute of the day, and if you have the money for that then that is simply excellent. Go for it! They are truly amazing experiences. But if you don't, and you've been setting aside $50 each paycheck until you have enough saved, I also know of some more modest places that offer wonderful family experiences because I have been to them, checking them out for you, and someday soon, for me and my family too.

So, travel. Move it up the list. Set your goal and work towards it. Don't let these few years that you still have your kids' attention pass you by. Before you know it they will have careers, families, and responsibilities of their own, and it will be more and more difficult for you all to get together. Now is the time. Carpe diem. Do something you'll never forget, and will never regret. See the world together.

 Give the kids a pool and some slides and they are happy! Who wouldn't be?

Have a wonderful and blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

'Unlimited Luxury' ~ Now Resorts and Spas

With the winter travel season right around the corner, I'm becoming more amazed, (not to mention more frustrated) with how fast things are booking up for the 2013 winter/spring travel season.  March is getting really picked over and it pains me to see families either spending 2 days of their vacation in airports or on airplanes, as they're forced to take single and double connections, or even worse, forced to stay home.   I'm always on the lookout for great bonus deals for our clients and one of the resort chains that always comes to mind is Now Resorts and Spas.

Now Resorts and Spas offer guests something more than just a trip to Mexico.  They offer a vacation experience.  They want you to leave all of your stress, your worries and whatever else you're carrying on your shoulders behind, live in the NOW ~ and bask in the concept of their Unlimited-Luxury®.  Unlimited-Luxury® means wristbands are never required, mini bars are refreshed daily, 24 hour room and concierge service at no additional charge, restaurants require no reservations and bars serve unlimited premium brand beverages.  Not to mention great daytime activities, live, professional entertainment at night, supervised kids clubs, teen activities and the list goes on and on.  Best part of all?  They're in some of the most beautiful and easy to get to locations which puts them at the top of my list!  Here's a couple of my favs...

Now Jade Riviera Cancun ~ Just a few minutes from the quaint fishing town of Puerto Morelos, and about 12 miles from the Cancun international airport, this is a perfect location.  Great resort for the young at heart.  The Now Jade Riviera Cancun guest is more interested in experiences than material things.  They like places that are different and stand out at every level.  550 tastefully decorated suites, private white-sand beach, and excursions to the 2nd largest barrier reef.  There's nothing to disappoint!

Now Larimar Punta Cana ~ Vibrant and contempory, Now Larimar is perfect for singles, couples, families or groups!  You can sit back and relax on 700 yards of picturesque white sandy beach or enjoy endless entertainment and activities.  The decision is yours!

Now Amber Puerto Vallarta ~ Just 15 minutes from the Puerto Vallarta airport Now Amber is located by the famous "El Malecon" boardwalk and great shopping and nightlife.   Golden sand beaches, 8 dining options, 4 bars and luxurious decor this resort is pleasing to every sense!  With theme parties, Movies under the stars and 7 golf courses nearby, there's never a dull moment for any member of the family!

For those who want a bit more pampering Now Resorts and Spas offers Preferred Club rooms.  With lots of added amenities they may be the perfect fit for you!  Here's what you get:
  • Personalized check-in and check-out with concierge service 
  • Preferred status and amenities Exterior Jacuzzi 
  • Private Preferred Club Lounge 
  • Two private, Preferred Club pools each with Jacuzzi 
  • Upgraded bath amenities 
  • Bathrooms with double sinks 
  • Pillow menu 
  • Complimentary computer access in Preferred Club Lounge 
  • Upgraded mini-bar and room service menu 
  • Daily continental breakfast service in the lounge 
  • Pool concierge & bar service
  • Afternoon hot and cold hors d’oeuvres; exquisite desserts & fine liquors in the lounge 
  • Complimentary newspaper in room every day upon request 
  • Complimentary wireless internet access
Saving the best for last...we all like more bang for our buck, right?  Now Resorts is currently offering the following promotions.  Of course, there is always the small print that explains the terms and conditions for each promo.  Looking them over briefly, the restrictions are few and I know they'll bring so much more to your vacation experience if you qualify.  Truly something for everyone and any of our 'Escape Artists' would be happy to make sure you are meeting the rules of the restrictions to ensure you can take advantage of your favorite promo!  All you gotta do is ask!

Golf at Now Jade and Now Sapphire 
Guests at both of these resorts are offered complimentary greens fees at Grand Coral Riviera Maya. A course designed by PGA champion and golf course designer, Nick Price, the Grand Coral Riviera Maya boasts a magnificent 18-hole, 7,043 yard golf course where golf pros and amateurs alike can enjoy a round of golf just steps away from the breathtaking Caribbean Sea.  One round of golf per person, per day.

Golf at Now Amber
Guests staying at Now Amber Puerto Vallarta through June 30, 2013 can enjoy one round of complimentary greens fees at the two 18-hole championship courses at Vista Vallarta Club de Golf and the neighboring course at Marina Vallarta Golf Club! Vista Vallarta Club de Golf is located on the property's highest elevation, golfers will enjoy breathtaking views of Puerto Vallarta, the Marina and the Banderas Bay as well, the perfect setting for this world class course designed by the world's greatest player, Jack Nicklaus. Marina Vallarta Golf Club is built on the property's lower west end. Tom Weiskopf has done a masterful job of blending elevations and natural features into an incredibly playable experience.  One round of golf per person, per day.

Girlfriend Getaways
Enjoy an Unlimited-Luxury® getaway with your girlfriends at any Now Resort & Spa. In addition to an Unlimited-Luxury® getaway, you and your girlfriends will be pampered as you should be! Package cost is $62.50 per person, per stay. Girlfriends who select this package will receive the following as a part of this package: manicure and pedicure sessions (up to three girls may receive these treatments at the same time), champagne and strawberries in room upon arrival, complimentary room service one morning offering Mimosas, fruit plate, and pastries, a complimentary group photo (each girl will receive one printed photo), daily yoga session (only available at Mexico properties), access to wet areas of the spa and 10% off additional spa treatments.  Doesn't that sound like something us gals could use?  Anyone in need of another girlfriend - I'm available and I'm fun!

There are groups for every reason and Now Resorts has some great group benefits for you!  Book five rooms, receive the sixth room free! Plus, your group will receive a private check-in, 1 complimentary VIP room upgrade for every 10 nights paid and $200 in resort coupons per room!

And don't forget about Romance Travel!  Destination Weddings Groups and Honeymoons are a speciality at Midwest Travel Service and Now Resorts and Spas do them perfectly!  We'll work with you to find out what your dreams are and make sure they become reality so you'll have memories that will last a lifetime!  That's what makes us happy!

Until next time...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Funky Friday ~ More Holiday DIY

Have I mentioned I LOVE this time of year??  For the most part I'm usually a day late and a dollar short, so the frantic crowds and last minute hustle and bustle of this week never bothers me at all.   My house is perfectly disorganized and cluttered with things I've seen on Pinterest or my favorite blogs.  I fall in love with them and decide I'm going to make them for myself or one of my cherished friends.  It's a constant frustration for my husband whose daily task is trying to organize my piles in different corners of the house by asking me what he should do with this or that - something or other.  My answer is always a 'Oh, leave that.  I'm going to get to that this week.'  And he does.  And I don't.

So.  Although the crafts are purchased, and the piles in the corners remain, I've decided to save them all for a rainy day and display them next year.  BUT - so all is not lost - I'm sharing a few of my favorites with you.  Maybe you are one of those I aspire to be and have all of your shopping done, cookies baked and presents wrapped and you're wondering what you should do with these last few days before Christmas.  Or maybe you're hosting a get together and are looking for a few simple ideas that will 'wow' your guests.  These should do the trick.

I love this Black and White Christmas Tree from The Inspired Room

The Nesting Place is one of my fav blogs to follow.  She has such cool ideas like this Anthropologie inspired wreath!

I also love these Snow Lantern / Terrariums by The Nester

Love this Wintery Pearl Wreath by Classy Clutter

Another of my favorite blogs is Centsational Girl.  She makes shopping in your own home appealing! Love how she decorates with vessels and vignettes and loving her Holiday Home Tour!

These DIY candle holders from Thifty Decor Chick?  Adorable, inexpensive and beautiful!

And sometimes, when life is crazy busy, it's easier to have someone else do the work for you.  I LOVE this idea for an advent calendar!   The options of what you could put in the little grain sacks are endless and how fun!  Check out Dreamy Whites.  Both their shop and their blog are full of inspiration.

Finally, I can't finish a Holiday post without throwing a little 'beauty' into it.  Another one of my favorite blogs is The Small Things Blog. It's definitely a daily read.  I've never met Kate but somehow, after following her via her blog and instagram, I feel like I know her!  Her hair tutorials are easy to follow and doably awesome!  This one is perfect for the Holidays!

My 'friend' Kate with a perfect Holiday Hair Tutorial!

Here's wishing you and yours the most wonderful and holy Holiday Season filled with incredible love and joy!  

Until next time...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

25 Things...with Theresa

Keeping the '25 Things You Don't Know About Me' alive - and now it's my turn!  My first thoughts when I sat down with fingers to keyboard was this was going to be a really hard assignment.  However, once I got started, it wasn't hard at all and in fact, it was quite fun!  I realized I like myself and at 48 years old I can say I am mostly happy with the person I am (not in a conceited way - just a Sally Field kind of 'I'm proud of the person I am' way! :) )

So here goes...

1.  I'm obsessed with commas, and use, WAY, too, many of them!

2.  I love to be silly. My kids say I'm weird!

MTS Blog
{A 'Selfie' from a recent trip - sending kisses home to my hubby and girls - That's me (Mimi) and the love of my life - Blake}

3.  I am a Grandma! (anyone who follows this blog knows this already, but I just wanted to say it out loud ~ again!)

4.  I am addicted to Nacho Cheese Doritos...seriously. If you don't believe me, come in the office and   check out all of my orange finger-printed papers!

5.  I can be pretty bossy ~ just ask my business partners!

6.  I'm blind as a bat and I don't wear contacts or glasses. Warning - move over when you see me coming!

7.  I prefer cats to dogs, but I have no cats and 2 dogs.

8.  I love ANYTHING to do with hair/skin care/make-up and have been known to spend upwards of 3 hours at Ulta! If the travel biz wasn't my passion, I would definitely be an esthetician or in the beauty field in some way. Until then, I practice on myself!

MTS Blog
{Before and after hair shot - any blondes out there looking for the most amazing colorist - I have the perfect one!}

9.  I HATE professional sports. I actually don't care for sports in general but I LOVE to watch my daughter Lexie, a fastpitch softball pitcher, do her thing.

10.  I don't like the Beatles or Elvis. I mean, I really don't like them.

11.  I prefer seafood to any kind of meat and don't consider a salad a meal.

12.  I'm definitely a pool person but like the beach for walking.

13.  I don't like gardening, but I love gardens. Every year I vow to make a change and I plant tons of flowers in May. By end of June, they're dead. Every year.

14.   I'm a reality TV addict. I'm too embarrassed to list all of the shows on my TIVO.

15.  In relation to #14, I tease my kids that if, God forbid, we ever had a house fire, I'd grab my TIVO box before the family photos!  J/K (I think).

16.  I have 3 amazing girls and I'm nuts about them!! See #8. What would I have done with boys?

17.  I subscribe to 9 monthly magazines and People is the only one I religiously read cover to cover.

18.  I can't touch my toes with my legs straight (actually I'm not sure my finger tips even go past my knees, but who's measuring?).

19.  I'm obsessed with reading blogs. I especially love blogs about home design and beauty. I don't follow any other travel blogs... I think ours is the best!

20.  I think I'm a pretty good dancer.

21.  I'm not such a good driver.

22.  I think Dr. Phil is the smartest man alive.

23.  I totally believe in 'The Secret.'

24.  In relation to #23: I believe that God is all-knowing and has a plan for all of us.... A plan to give us hope and a future.  I'm so thankful for Him and for all of the blessings He has given me.

25.  Someday I'm going to be one of the travel experts for the 'Today Show.' Think that's far fetched?  Wait and see!

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Funky Friday ~ Holiday Crafts For Kids!

I realize it's only Tuesday, but the post below was what I had setup to publish last Friday. After the devastating and horrific events in Newtown, I didn't feel right about posting an up-beat blog about something so trivial in the scheme of things. Before I get to my 'Funky Friday' post below, I wanted to link to a great resource I found if anyone else is wondering how (other than our prayers), we can help and support the families of Sandy Hook and Newtown, Connecticut: link.


My first time doing a Funky Friday blog post! It's kind of fun to have the opportunity to write about anything under the sun for a change. I wanted to show you all what I was up to last Friday with a friend and our two little ones... Making reindeer feet!

Blake's {not-so-little} footies!

No, we definitely did think this up ourselves! My friend came across the idea while browsing Pinterest. If you want to try it out for yourself, here's the original blog post.

Here's the sample picture... I think ours turned out pretty well, don't you??

It's true what parents always say... Time goes so fast and kids seem to grow and change in the blink of an eye! I love that I'll always be able to look back at those sweet little feet from Blake's 1st Christmas :) 

Below are some other fun holiday crafts I plan to try in future years. If you click on the picture, it'll take you to a link with instructions if you need them. I like all of these ideas because they're easy, inexpensive and they'll be great keepsakes!

Based on how much I enjoyed making the reindeer feet, Blake will probably be 15 and I'll be begging him to do Christmas crafts with me... Ha! Sadly, I'm not totally kidding.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Breezin' with Carnival Cruise Lines

A few weeks ago, a new ship 'breezed' its way into Miami, Florida and from what I've heard, she's making quite a splash! Carnival Cruise Lines' newest ship, the Carnival Breeze, arrived in Miami on November 21 and as her arrival coincided with the Thanksgiving Holiday, she even brought her own turkey along! The Carnival Breeze is the cruise line's 24th ship currently in service and she's also the 101st ship that has sailed under the Carnival brand since the 1970s. That's a lot of fun ~ wouldn't you say?

Carnival Breeze is the sister ship to the Carnival Dream and the Carnival Magic and shares some of their most popular amenities. The WaterWorks aqua park with its Twister corkscrew water slide, SportSquare outdoor recreation complex, with a mini golf course that lights up at night, a fitness area and a ropes course that lets you 'test your courage high above the sea', and my personal favorite, the Lanai, a scenic half-mile, outdoor, wraparound promenade deck with whirlpools that jutt out over the ships sides! Gone is the familiar glitz and glam and neon decor of what comes to mind when you think of a Carnival ship. The theme of the Carnival Breeze is much more laid back. Picture tropical island setting ~ palm trees, driftwood signs, beach umbrellas ~ Caribbean island style. Ahhhhh.

Gorgeous Atrium with stars that twinkle at night
Inside stateroom / Cloud 9 Spa balcony / Ocean Suite

One thing that hasn't changed is all there is to experience aboard a Carnival ship. The list for the kids is always endless and the Breeze is no different. Whether they elect to participate in the scheduled activities of Camp Carnival (ages 2-11), Circle C (ages 12-14) and Club O2 (ages 15-17), or find something to do on their own, the options are endless. While the kids are happily occupied, there's plenty for us grown-ups to do too! Experience a treatment in the Cloud 9 Spa, taste Carnivals own ThirstyFrog Red brew in the Red Frog pub, or take in some silence and relaxation in the adults-only Serenity area. Believe me, I could go on and on but don't just take my word for it! Take this virtual tour and then check out the other great videos on the Carnival Breeze on Carnival Cruise Line's Youtube page.
Great fun for the Kids: Waterworks AquaPark / Gameroom
Cherry on Top / Camp Carnival
Circle C / Club O2
Adult fun: Piano Bar / Liquid Nightclub / Winners Casino / Lanai seating area
Sapphire Dining Room / Blue Iguana Tequila Bar / Guy's Burger Joint / Fat Jimmy's BBQ 
The Library Bar / Limelight Lounge / Ovation Theatre
 Carnival Breeze is offering year-round 6 and 8 day Caribbean sailings from Miami, visiting some of the region’s most popular ports of call. Six-day sailings feature Grand Turk, Ocho Rios, and Nassau. Three different eight-day itineraries include an exotic southern Caribbean itinerary visiting Grand Turk, La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao, and Aruba; an eastern Caribbean itinerary visiting St. Thomas/St. John, Antigua, Tortola and Nassau; and an exotic eastern Caribbean itinerary with vistas to Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten or Tortola.

If after all that, you're still not sure if a cruise on the Carnival Breeze is right for you, give me a call and I'll get started on my list of additional reasons you've got to experience this amazing ship! Honestly, the list is endless!
All photos copyright Carnival Cruise Lines
Until next time...