Island Travel Interviews- Caribbean, Take 2

Photo Credit- Pixabay

Welcome Back! Have you booked your Caribbean trip yet? Waiting to see all of your options first? This week, we hear about Utila from Aaron of My Sweet Adventures and Jamaica from Khristina of Global Jamaican. So, without further ado…

First Up… UTILA

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Aaron Sweet, www.mysweetadventures.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Utila, Honduras – I fell in love with this Island when I went there in 2011 to complete my Divemaster course.  The friendly people, the amazing diving, the WHALE SHARKS, the proper Caribbean island feel – it was just incredible.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

As long as you can! The joke is there are three lies on Utila – 1) I’m leaving the island tomorrow 2) I’m not drinking tonight 3) I love you.  The island sucks you in and before you know it you have spent 3 months there, and THEN you leave for 6 months, and come back on the way home!

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

My favorite memory was swimming with Whale Sharks for the first time.  In Honduras you cannot dive with them, you can only snorkel – when the captain told me to jump off the back of the boat and the bubbles cleared to see a 10 m fish swimming towards me – I was hooked.  It will stay with me for the rest of my life.

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

You have to visit the Jade Seahorse Resort and in particular Treetanic Bar – voted a few years ago by Lonely Planet as one of the top 5 bars in the world – it is a truly magical place.  You also have to go diving – if you can get to the North Side of the island this is more rugged and has some incredible dives.  I highly recommend diving with Utila Dive Centre – the Course Director, Andy Phillips is a true professional.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

My favourite is RJ’s BBQ – it is opposite Utila Dive Centre and has huge servings of BBQ.  It is only open on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday so plan accordingly!

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

You will get free accommodation if you go diving, for a certain amount of nights.  Some dive centers have accommodation on-site. UDC doesn’t, but the Mango Inn is still a great place to chill out.  If you are flying in from overseas, consider flying direct to Roatan Island and taking a boat/ferry across from there – it is probably the easiest way. There are also flights to Utila available but they are expensive.  If you are flying into Tegulcigalpa or San Pedro Sula, be wary of these cities as they are dangerous – pay extra for the most expensive buses – I used Hedman Alas which have armed guards and security before getting on the bus.  On the island, the islanders all speak at least some English – I spent three months there and didn’t improve my spanish at all! The money is Lempiras – its around 23/24 to one USD. While Honduras is very cheap, Utila is a bit more expensive due to its popularity for backpackers and the need to get everything from the mainland.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

My full blog article is located here: www.mysweetadventures.com/utila

 

And Next Up… JAMAICA!

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Khristina – Global Jamaican – www.globaljamaican.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Jamaica – It’s where I was born and raised; No matter where I am or where I travel to, Jamaica will always hold my heart.

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

Weekend trips are good if you want to explore one part of the island at a time; but you’ll need a week or more if you’d like to explore more.

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

One of my favorite memories is the view from sitting on the verandah of the home I grew up in, located in Discovery Bay.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

There are so many! If I had to pick one, I’d say to spend a day at Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay.

Have you ever been in water so clear that you can see tiny fishes swimming at your feet? A visit to Montego Bay is not complete without a day at Doctor’s Cave. It is said that the water has healing powers and was made famous after Sir Herbert Barker, a British Osteopath, visited in the 1920s and later wrote an article about it. Located only 5 minutes from the airport, you can watch the planes descend to land, while soaking up the warm Caribbean sun.

The island also offers other activities for every interest. Everything from adventure tours like zip lining, horseback riding, and climbing waterfalls, to relaxing tours like rafting slowly down the Martha Brae River or enjoying a sunset cruise. There are way too many to mention.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

Again, way too many to mention. Jamaica is a food lover’s paradise. One of my favorite restaurants is also in Montego Bay. Chill Out Hut is located on a secluded beach with Tiki-style seating. They specialize in seafood, but the menu has a good variety for every taste. My favorite is the escovitch fish and bammy. Escovitch is a pickling sauce that is poured on fried fish, and bammy is a traditional Jamaican cassava flat bread.

The atmosphere is lively on weekends, with a band performing right on the sand, creating a real Caribbean vibe. The prices are reasonable and they also have a full bar with a wide variety of drink options.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

What Surprised You About this Island?

Being that I grew up there, I don’t think anything could surprise me. But if I looked in from an outsider’s eyes, one thing would be the amount of different cultures and backgrounds that make up our people. I hear “you don’t look Jamaican” often times when meeting people that have never been to the island. That’s because a lot of people are unaware that Jamaica is made up of a wide variety of ethnicities. Our motto is “Out of Many One People,” meaning that we are a cultural melting pot of people living together as one.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g.,where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

After visiting Jamaica once, you’ll definitely want to return. I would start with a weekend getaway to an easy destination, like Montego Bay. There are many resorts in close proximity to the airport and a wide variety of things to do. Flights are plentiful from the USA and many have non-stop options. All-inclusive resorts are most popular, but there are many other options as well, including Airbnb.

Most hotels/resorts offer transportation from the airport and if not, there are taxis readily available.

The official language is English and the local currency is Jamaican Dollars, but US Currency is accepted.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

Two articles from my site that might help:

http://www.globaljamaican.com/2016/09/quick-affordable-weekend-getaway-jamaica.html

http://www.globaljamaican.com/2016/11/must-do-and-eat-in-montego-bay-mobay.html

*Please note that this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation.

 

Travel Gift Guide by Mackinaw Road

 

I do not like February. Despite it being my birthday month and housing Valentine’s Day, it is just not my month. Last year, I was determined to make it my month, went out for a run, and returned with a broken jaw. So, March wasn’t really my month either. I’m on to a new strategy for this February. Lay low. While I’m “laying low”, I’ve had some time to come up with a Valentine’s Day wish list for the traveler in your life/me.

Moment Lenses and Case– I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wanted to bring our nice camera along on a trip, only to not have room to pack it or not want to lug it around or been in fear that it would knock one of the kids out while they were hanging on me because they needed to be carried. Problem solved with these lenses and case that fit right on to your phone. Genius.

Ebags Packing Cubes– Love these, Need these. Don’t you love it when you think you’ve gotten a great deal on a flight only to find out that each of your bags is going to be an additional $25 each way upon check in? Enter the ebag packing cubes. Now, we can pack one big suitcase but still have some separation of clothes.

Little Passports– Want to include your little ones in Valentine’s Day and your travels? This subscription looks super fun and a great way to learn about the world. You can order based on age or product (e.g., Early Explorers, USA Edition, World Edition).

Okay this is an oldie but goodie- but less expensive- yay! Need some organization in your life? Check out this Travel Cord Roll. 

Hey you! Yeah, you. The one with the sparkle in your eyes. This one is for you. Make your trip even more fun with these Anywhere Travel Guide cards.

Looking for some wall art for the Traveler in your life? I love this print you can easily get from BonsoirStudio on Etsy.

True there isn’t any chocolate or lingerie on this list, but I’m willing to bet that the traveler in your life will still be thrilled. (Keep in mind- this is my wish list, so I haven’t tried nor am I endorsing the products, but they still look pretty awesome, right?!?)

*As always, this post many contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. 

** Don’t forget to keep an eye out for a Giveaway this month. I’ll be announcing it over on Instagram as well as on the blog.

Island Travel Interviews- Caribbean, Take I

Island Travel is one of my favorite kinds of travel. There are so many activities, beautiful sights, and pretty drinks… and the pure relaxation… I have my favorite, first choice, don’t-have-to-ask-me twice island, but I thought it would be fun to ask some other travel bloggers about some of the islands they have traveled to. Get ready to be amazed! (Every week I will feature 2-3 Travel Bloggers sharing their island experiences.)

 

On the Docket for this Week is Melissa from Maps and Merlot writing about Barbados (yay! I’ve always been curious about Barbados) and Lisa from ByLisaLinh talking about St. Kitts (again… yes! I get to reminisce about our honeymoon island). And an added feature- all of their pictures are spectacular!

LET’S START WITH BARBADOS

What is your name and blog name/URL?

Melissa Ivin from Maps and Merlot – www.mapsandmerlot.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

I’ll be discussing Barbados, which I chose because the island basically has everything you could ever wish for. Between white sandy beaches, spicy rum punch, friendly turtles, and cave explorations, I had an amazing time on the island.

Photo Credit- Maps and Merlot

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?   Honestly, you can do anything from a long weekend to a full week there; there are so many activities to choose from. Watersport options include jetskiing, stand-up paddle boarding, cruising on a catamaran, snorkeling, and diving. However, if you only have a few days, it’s still totally worth the visit.

What was your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Travels to This Island?

My favorite memory would definitely be snorkeling with the turtles. After jumping off the boat, I came face to face with the friendliest turtle (I named her Myrtle the Turtle). It’s amazing to see these animals in their natural habitats. They’re incredibly graceful creatures.

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

I would say you should definitely visit Harrison’s Cave. Take a bus or taxi up to the peak of the island and explore this extensive network of caves. Make sure to opt for the guided tour—they’ll take you down through this underground world and tell you all about the history and geological formation behind it.

Photo Credit- Maps and Merlot

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

I loved Brown Sugar. Featuring typical Bajan cuisine, it’s definitely a local favorite. They have some mouthwatering seafood options there.

What Surprised You About this Island? 

I was surprised by how big the island was. When I’ve been island hopping previously, it’s been relatively easy to cover the island in just a couple days, and there are many you can drive around the entire island in the span of a few hours. However, after four days in Barbados, I feel like there was still so much left to explore. I’d love to go back sometime!

Photo Credit- Maps and Merlot

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

As far as where to stay, I’d recommend the Brownes Beach area. There are some gorgeous beaches, and the water is relatively calm and perfect for swimming around there. Definitely splurge for a beachfront hotel! From the USA, it’s extremely easy to get to Barbados. I know JetBlue often offers specials (my roundtrip flight was only $160), so getting there is a breeze.The good news about Barbados is that everyone speaks English. For Americans, the exchange rate is incredibly simple; one American dollar is two Bajan dollars. For other currencies, it might be a little trickier, but the locals were extremely helpful with the conversions. As far as getting around, I’d recommend zadars, which are white vans that race through the streets picking up passengers along the way. Drivers definitely abide to “the more, the merrier” motto, so make sure to get cozy with your neighbor. It’s a super cheap and speedy way to get around, so buckle up!

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

http://mapsandmerlot.com/2017/01/24/what-to-do-in-barbados/

 

NEXT UP…ST. KITTS!!!

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL

Lisa Linh – By Lisa Linh (www.bylisalinh.com)

What is the Island You’ll Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

St. Kitts for their catamaran snorkeling tour and gorgeous water.

Photo Credit- By Lisa Linh

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

2 days

What was Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

This stop was on a cruise and we spent 1 day there, on a catamaran snorkeling tour. It was such a peaceful and relaxing afternoon out on the boat!

Do you have a “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Catamaran snorkeling tour!

Photo Credit- by Lisa Linh

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

We didn’t get a chance to dine on the island, as we had a dinner reservation on the cruise ship. However, the coffee and pastries shop on the island weren’t bad.

What Surprised You About this Island?

How small it was. It was very colorful and lively, but tourist activities are huge and the majority of the people go to just do the tours rather than spend time in the town.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

I would highly suggest doing the Celebrity Cruises trip, which allows you to visit St Kitts for the day, along with other nearby islands. It was probably the best way to see it in my opinion, as I don’t think I would’ve stayed for more than 2 days.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

https://www.bylisalinh.com/blog/2016/3/23/islandhopping-cc?rq=island

 

Thank you Melissa and Lisa! I’ll be dreaming island dreams and see you all back here next Thursday for more featured islands!

Not planning a trip at the moment? Save these interviews for later with the pin below.

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

NOLA in 2 days

 

A while ago, my husband and I traveled to New Orleans. Frankly, I went along because it had been a long winter and I thought a little sunshine and warm weather would do my soul some good. It ended up being a high of somewhere around 50 degrees, and I was glad to have my sweater boots and this easily packable coat (turns out I didn’t end up packing it away as I had imagined) along. Nonetheless, it turns out that NOLA was just what I needed. Here are my top 5 activities in NOLA- if you’ve been, I’m sure none of them are too surprising but highly recommended nonetheless.

Hotel Monteleone- This was my first and only time in NOLA, so we haven’t stayed at any other hotels, but I would recommend this one for several reasons. One of the last family-owned and operated hotels in New Orleans, Hotel Monteleone has been run since 1886 by five generations of Monteleone’s. It is located on Royal Street in the French Quarter, making it an easy walk to fun restaurants, Bourbon Street, Cafe DuMonde, Jackson Square, the Mississippi River, the French Market, and Faulkner House Books among other places. Speaking of literary greats, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Anne Rice, Stephen Ambrose, and John Grisham have been guests of Hotel Monteleone… just to name a few. In 1999, Hotel Monteleone was given the distinction of being an official literary landmark. Also impressive is the Carosel Bar in the hotel lobby. This 25-seat bar rotates around as you sip your cocktail. The bartenders must have really good facial recognition skills- how confusing!

Bourbon Street- Gotcha! We aren’t that fun!! But we did actually walk down Bourbon Street on our way to St. Peter Street to check out Pat O’Brien’s late one afternoon.  Pat O’Brien’s became a legit bar after the prohibition ended in 1933. The bartender convinced me I should try the famous Hurricane- it was delicious. And required a nap to follow.

Cafe DuMonde- You really can’t visit New Orleans without a trip to Cafe DuMonde. Established in 1862, the Original Cafe DuMonde is open 24-7. However, if you plan to go for a beignet and cafe au lait for breakfast (as we did) plan to spend some time in line. I’ll be honest, when we came to the front of the line, it was a little stressful because some people were being seated and some were seating themselves. Nonetheless, we ended up at a cute little two-person table and had the most delicious, warm beignets I had ever tasted. (My husband had been the day before and strongly recommended that we each order our own plate of beignets- no sharing and no counting calories when you are in beignet heaven!)

Jackson Square- We spent quite a bit of time in Jackson Square. I was in awe of the vast amount of talent in such a small space. The musicians were amazing and the artist colony produced some of the finest street art I had seen. Looking over all of this is the spectacular St. Louis Cathedral and to the side are the oldest apartments in the United States. Oh, and there is also a river named Mississippi nearby. 

Faulkner House Books- This quaint book shop is located just off of Jackson Square. It houses both fine literature and rare editions. It embodies what every book store truly should be and is worth a quick stop in.

French Market- It is also worth the short stroll down to the French Market. Once a Native American Trading Post (think 1700s), the French Market contains great restaurants and fun shopping- I think you could get almost anything in this 6-block eating and spending extravaganza.

Tulane- Yes! We did actually leave the French Quarter. Really for 2 reasons… First, we needed an excuse to ride the New Orleans Street Cars. Second, because we love checking out college campuses, even though our children are no where near college age. (It’s always good to get a head start though, isn’t it?) And, of course, this is where we picked up all of our gifts to bring home.

There you have it- two days in New Orleans. I would go back in a heart beat- what a lively and historical city!

(Sorry we didn’t have any restaurant recs. We ate at Red Fish the first night and loved it, only to find out that … you guessed it… it is a southern chain. We will keep trying!)

Oh, and in case you want to save this for future trips to NOLA, below is a good pic for pinning. And, if you are looking for more pins, don’t forget to check out my profile over on Pinterest.

**Please note that this post contains affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

My Ultimate Travel Bucket List

Hello again from cloudy Michigan! Last week, I asked you what was on your Travel Bucket List. This week, I share the Top 10 Places on My Ultimate Travel Bucket List. Since this is a family-friendly travel blog, I’ve included some fun facts to share with your kids, grandkids, neighbor kids… grown-up friends who act like kids… really anyone.

Photos courtesy of Pixabay
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Australia: Australia has always intrigued me. How great would it be to be there right now, enjoying sunny skies and catching a little tennis? Seeing the 12 Apostles would definitely be on my list, too. I do have to admit that binge reading all of Liane Moriarty’s books (affiliate link) this past summer has increased my fascination as well.  And, can you believe that we know two families from our small town who are traveling to Australia in the next year?  That seems like an unlikely coincidence and also an indication that we should probably book some tickets too.

Did you know… that it is believed that humans have lived in Australia for an estimated 45000 years? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Turks and Caicos: I am a huge fan of Caribbean travel. We have been to several islands, including Paradise Island (Bahamas), Grand Caymen, St. Kitts, and Aruba. Every time that I see a photo of Turks and Caicos, I am drawn to it. I can’t quite explain it (maybe it is the white sand, turquoise water, or sunny skies.. maybe?), but it seems like Turks and Caicos and our family would be very compatible.

Did you know…that there are dozens of underwater cave systems in Turks and Caicos? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Colorado: Can you believe I have lived in the United States my entire life and have never been to Colorado? I don’t think I know another person in my city or state who hasn’t been to Colorado. I feel like it must be fairly special because people leave our snowy state to go to another snowy state (what?!?) instead of heading for an all-inclusive in Jamaica.

Did you know… that Colorado is the only state to have turned down the Olympics? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Greece: My parents have such a wild and crazy story about traveling to Greece that it has always had a place in my memory (probably because we all live the opposite of wild and crazy lives). My dad often spoke of Greece fondly and, when I lived in Chicago, it was our tradition to head to Greek Town for dinner. For whatever reason, I just have always wanted to go because my dad seemed to love it so much.

Did you know… that Greece is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Portugal: While I have memories of my dad talking about Greece, Portugal is on my mom’s bucket list. Herein, I also feel enthralled with this country and would love to go someday, hopefully, on a family vacation.

Did you know…that Lisbon (Portugal’s capital city) is the oldest city in Western Europe? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Sweden: Although I am not Swedish, I have been asked several times, especially when I lived in Chicago, if I am Sweedish. Believe me, when I had my children, I often wished I lived in Sweden and could be given the maternity leave that seemed to make sense. It just seems like a place of peace and logical thinking. Oh, and the landscape doesn’t look too shabby either.

Did you know… that Sweden’s official name is the Kingdom of Sweden? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Switzerland: I don’t know much about this country other than Roger Federer represents it quite well. Again, though, judging from pictures of the mountains and the opportunity for outside activity, I think I would be very comfortable.

Did you know… that Switzerland has been a neutral country in war times for over 190 years?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Italy: While in college, I spent 3 weeks in Vienna for summer school. Afterward, several of us traveled south. We spent time in France and Spain… and only one day in Italy. I’d love to return to be able to explore more of the larger cities and history of the country. And, the Amalfi Coast, of course.

Did you know… that Campione d’Italia is in the borders of Switzerland but is part of Italy? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Texas: I really didn’t think twice about Texas until Fixer Upper. Now, it’s on my list. Waco, Texas, to be specific. (Yes, you read that correctly. A destination made my list based on an HGTV show.) I just think it is amazing how two people can really breathe a new life into not only homes but also a town and its inhabitants.

Did you know… that Waco, Texas, is the place where Dr. Pepper came to be? (Source)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Vancouver, Canada: Again, you can thank HGTV for this one. I enjoy watching Love It or List It Too not only for the fun little competition my husband and I have going (yes, he is a really good sport about my HGTV addiction) but also because of the beautiful scenery. It looks like a city I’d like to check out.

Did you know… that overall Vancouver is English-speaking but 52% of its city residents’ first language is one other than English? (Source)

*Please note that the pictures above are not my own. They were taken from Pixabay– thank you! Hopefully, someday soon, I will have my own photos to share.

**Please also note that this post contains affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation.

***While I’m asterisk-ing… I’d love for you to come visit me over on Instagram and Pinterest. See you there!

****And get ready for a giveaway next month, too!!!

Oh, and in case you are wondering what we are up to while we are grounded, here are some photos (these are mine) of our day at the beach last weekend. It was sunny and 60 degrees in January! 

Photo credit- Mackinaw Road
Photo credit- Mackinaw Road
Photo credit- Mackinaw Road

Top 5 Posts of 2016

Since I love a good countdown and have been seeing quite a few Top 5 Posts of 2016, I thought it might be entertaining (and, admittedly, a bit self-indulgent) to look back, too, especially because I’m grounded until March. (Have a mentioned that? Ha!) Granted, the statistics are from a whole 3 months, but still… Here we go…

5. Gift Guide for the Traveler in Your Life, Part II: This was a fun post. One, because I love lists and, two, because I love gifts.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

4. A Long Weekend in Northern Michigan: Northern Michigan’s beauty never ceases to amaze me. Can you believe that water is in Michigan and not the Caribbean? We had such a wonderful trip; it will definitely be on our list for next year, too.

Northern Michigan

3. Global Christmas and Holiday Traditions in 2 Hours or Less: My son and I had so much fun checking out the holiday displays from our roots at our local gardens. Can you guess which country this tree represents?

Holiday Global Traditions

2. Gift Guide for the Traveler in Your Life: Here I provided several gift suggestions for the traveler in your life. I purchased the Leather Charger Roll-Up for my husband for Christmas, and not only does he carry it with him when he travels, but he also tells me all about it often.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

1. Banff: Something for Everyone: I was so happy to see this as my top post of 2016. It was such a surprising and amazing destination. I really would recommend Banff and Lake Louise to anyone and everyone.

Mackinaw Road- Banff

I’m so excited to see what 2017 has in store for us! We already have four trips planned, two with our larger families, one with the four of us, and one with just the two of us. Do you have any destinations on your bucket list that you are hoping to check off this year?

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation.

 

12 Travel Swimsuits

Well, it’s been about 0 zero degrees here for almost a week. Since even outdoor activities are out, I’ve decided to start dreaming spring break dreams.

I have yet to meet anyone who loves swimsuit shopping, but, with the promise of warmer days ahead, it is something for which the warm, sunny end outweighs the road to get there.

Obviously, there are a million and one ways to sort swimsuits, but since this is a travel-ish (I promise there will be more consistent travel destination posts beginning in March) blog, I thought it might be fun to match swimsuits with various water activities travelers may embark on in their journeys. It seemed slightly overwhelming and definitely out of my league to sort through swimsuits, so I enlisted the help of some lovely ladies whose blogs and style are amongst my faves.

Disclaimer- while I would have loved to test all of the listed swimsuits with their paired activity I’m not sure my husband (or our finances) would have been supportive.

Let’s start with kayaking. I can handle kayaking. Now, after getting tipped while canoeing with my husband, I am a fan of having my very own kayak. And what is better than this classic, rash guard shirt for a day out on the river?

Photo Credit- J.Crew

Now, I’ll admit, I have no idea how to drive a boat, let alone sail a boat. But, I love being on a boat. And, I would absolutely feel like I belonged on a boat in the Italian Riviera in this suit.

Photo Credit- Boden

While I realize that running after small children around a pool or beach is not an “official” sport, any mom will agree that it most definitely should be. While I do not have this particular swimsuit, I have tried several Boden bikinis and, in my experience, they stay where they should.

Photo Credit- Boden

While we are talking family, one of my favorite water activities as a child was snorkeling with my family. There is just something about being in the quiet of the water, listening to your own breathing and really taking everything in visually. This swimsuit seems perfect for an hour or so under the sea.

Photo Credit- Title Nine

Beach volleyball anyone? I don’t play but I do think that I might be willing to give it a try in exchange for this swimsuit.

Photo Credit- Title Nine

People often ask me if I’m a “runner.” Do I run marathons? No. Iron Mans? Absolutely not. Half-marathons? Nope. But, if you use the term loosely, I guess I maybe am. I love to run 3-4 miles. I also love the beach. Do I run on the beach? Not often. But, the beach is so flat and just goes for miles on Hilton Head Island, so for the week that I’m there, I am a beach runner. This top looks like it would be a great addition to my wardrobe and seems to also include the option to jump in the ocean immediately afterward.

Photo Credit- Athleta

I LOVE paddle boarding. Okay, I’ve only gone twice, and the first time I couldn’t figure out how to effectively turn the paddle board (and was tempted to stop at someone’s boat for a little liquid encouragement), but I really do love it. However, I should definitely defer to Kate from Living Lark. She grew up by the big lake and currently lives by the same said big lake. Oh, and she makes her own delicious aforementioned liquid encouragement. Kate chose this suit as the straps stay in place with all of the arm movements and the bottoms stay in place in the waves. Check and check.

Photo Credit- J.Crew

Another water activity I love is swimming, but I am far from a swimmer. I have no technique or endurance and usually end up just dog paddling for a bit. Fortunately for me (and you), Eva from Cafe Design is an actual swimmer and swims for exercise in the summers. An added bonus? The same classic and timeless style she portrays on her blog clearly translates to her taste in swimsuits as well.

Photo Credit- Tommy Bahama

Wakeboarding. It takes one brave soul to go for it, and Kelly from The Lilypad Cottage is just the one to take it on.  She grew up on a lake, presently lives on a lake, and I can only imagine that she takes on wake boarding with the energy and enthusiasm that she does home design and house projects. Kelly picked this top. And it’s reversible! You know how I love versatility. Another plus? She also gave a great recommendation for these bottoms that she has found stay put no matter what (are you sensing a theme here?).

Photo Credit- Nordstrom

Let’s talk surfing next. Now, this is also a water activity that is sort of frightening for me to watch. But, I really, really would like to try it someday. After watching the surfers everyday while on a trip to Dana Point in California, I have vowed that this is something I will try. This isn’t just California Dreaming. Well, maybe a little. Though, for the time being, I defer to Alessandra from An Expat Diary, for surf suit advice. Originally from Brazil, she has lived in 4 different continents and 6 different cities in the last 10 years, so I completely trust her for advice on surf suits as well as travel suits. She suggested the below suit from her latest Instagram feed; it is from Triangl. Guess where she is? Sal Island, Cape Verde.

Photo Credit- An Expat Diary

While we are talking thrill-seeker activities (at least as far as I’m concerned), let’s touch on jet skiing. Abby from Abby Manchesky Interiors took me out this summer. Abby is a little like her design- classic with a fun little splash of sass built in. Well, let me tell you, this was also the case on the jet ski. I knew I was safe and wouldn’t fly off the back, but I kind of didn’t expect the wave jumping. There may have even been a little “dabbing.” Have you heard of it? I was impressed. And of course she chose a suit with a ruffle to wave jump in because, really, isn’t everything better with a ruffle?

Photo Credit- J.Crew

Honestly, though, there is something about being by the water that makes me just want to take a stroll or sit and read a good Liane Moriarty book… How perfect is this swimsuit?

Photo Credit- J.Crew

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

24 Hours in West Michigan

Someone recently posed the question… What would you do in your city if it was your last 24 hours there? Good question. First, I would cry… because I really do love where I live. Second, I would be all over West Michigan because it would be too difficult to stay in one city, and, with the ease of travel here, why not? Third, how has this not been a dinner conversation topic before? Move over crazy toddler stories, there’s a new topic in town.

I would begin my day with a nice jog around Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids. Waking up to perfectly aligned swans and a gorgeous sunrise? Yes please.

Reeds Lake

Fortunately, the purpose of that run would be more for scenery than good health because I would then head straight to D’arts Donuts in Eastown for a beignet and to-go of Madcap coffee.

D’arts Donuts

After a 40 minute drive to Holland, I would head out to the Big Red Lighthouse and pier to watch boats going out for the day.

Big Red

Because it is difficult to leave the lake on a beautiful day,  Saugatuck State Park would be next on the list for a hike through the woods and a beach walk.

Saugatuck State Park

I’d finish with lunch at New Holland Pub on 8th and a stroll through downtown Holland.

New Holland Brewery

Back in Grand Rapids, I would stop by the GRAM (Grand Rapids Art Museum) because it is the one place I keep meaning to get to and haven’t.

GRAM. Photo credit- Griggs and Woodward

Dinner would most definitely be at Donkey Taqueria…

Donkey Taqueria

Followed by an outdoor concert at Fredrick Meijer Gardens.

Fredrick Meijer Gardens

And back to the lakeshore for a sunset.

Lake Michigan Sunset

So, apparently, I would really just want to eat a lot and be by some of the lakes that make Michigan such a great state in my last 24 hours in West Michigan. Oh, and the remainder of the evening and into the night would be spent with family and friends talking, planning, and reflecting on this porch…

Now, I’d love to hear from you… What are your must-sees and must-dos in your home city?

*Please excuse the multitude of seasons in the photographs… but now you have an idea of the ever-changing weather of Michigan! 

**This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

Holiday Drinks from Around the World

 

‘Tis the Season for amazing drinks. The cocktail blog Lark has generously agreed to share drink recipes specific to the regions I have visited over the holiday seasons. Keep reading to find out what they are and be sure to save the recipes- they are delicious.  All the drinks @livinglark are made in gallon batches — perfect for holiday crowds!

White Village in Spain

The first place I asked for a recipe from was Spain. Many, many moons ago when my husband and I were about 24 years old and in graduate school, his family asked me to go with them to Spain over the holidays to pick up his middle sister who had been studying there for the semester. I hemmed and hawed and called my parents a million times because, I mean, SPAIN, but also I didn’t want to miss our traditional holidays together either. A few days later my parents called me and told me they and my brother had just purchased tickets to Spain and were coming too!!! As we look back on it, my husband and I are always amazed that our families traveled together halfway across the world before we were married or even engaged, but at the time, it seemed to make perfect sense.

Lark’s Late Red Autumn Sangria              Photo Credit: Lark by Kate Bolt

Check out Lark’s Late Red Autumn Sangria (because what is more SPAIN to us than Sangria?) here 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we got married and apparently had no problem spending Christmas in an airport away from both of our families. Just kidding. We, of course, missed them, but with new work schedules, Christmas just seemed allow the extended time to travel. For our honeymoon (so, we really should get a free pass on that one), we traveled to St. Kitts. Later, but still pre-kiddos, we traveled to Aruba.

There are so many great Caribbean drinks to choose from, but Lark chose this one from a holiday she had in Puerto Rico, and it is fabulous!

Lark’s Rum Punch                                        Photo Credit: Lark by Kate Bolt

Rum Punch

Serves 20 (in a 10 oz. rocks glass filled halfway with ice)

This is made with honey and ginger — a true tangent from the original Rum Punches but quite lovely!  This one is reminiscent of our time in Puerto Rico watching major surf (too large for beginners like us!)

4 c water

2 c honey

8 inches fresh ginger (a lot!)

3 c lime juice (I prefer Nellie & Joe’s famous Key West)

2 c orange juice, pulp free

5 c white rum

2 limes, sliced

1 small jar Maraschino cherries, optional

Prep ingredients in a clean gallon jug.

Make a honey simple syrup: Whiz up one cup water, two cups honey, and the chopped ginger in a Vitamix or blender until ginger is minced (don’t put the setting on high because it will overflow).  In a small saucepan, add blender mix to 3 cups water and bring to a boil.  Simmer and stir a bit over low heat for 5 minutes until it just begins to rumble to a good boil.  Strain the syrup with a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing ginger with the back of a spoon to obtain all the flavor possible.  Transfer ginger mix into a gallon jug using a funnel.

Stir in 3 cups lime juice, 2 cups orange juice, & 5 cups rum.  Refrigerate until serving. Toss lime wedges into serving pitcher, fill with the PUNCH and keep ice on the side for guests to add to individual rocks glasses.

Optional: drain cherries and add to pitcher just before serving.  This won’t add much flavor but make the drink just like the tiki bars all over the Caribbean.

And then we had children and apparently had no problem leaving them at Christmastime either. Ha! I had major panic about leaving them. So much so that we booked a later flight so that we could be with them on Christmas Eve and in the morning for stockings. After all the tissue paper was cleaned up, my husband and I headed for India. Now, I feel like we had a pretty good excuse for this trip too since we were going to my youngest sister-in-law’s wedding reception and visiting my husband’s grandmother. One of our favorite times in India was “Chai Time.” Here’s the thing, though, every time you walked

Photo credit- Lark by Kate Bolt, Michelle Tippman

through the door, it was Chai Time. Luckily, the Chai was delicious and so is the recipe (far from what we drank in India but with the same Chai flavors!) of Late Autumn Chai Sangria made with white wine.

 

To check out more Holiday Drinks like the French 75 en masse (today’s post on Lark) or Holly Brunch Cocktail, head over to Lark and get some ideas for New Year’s Day brunch — and discuss at brunch where you dream to travel next!

 

*Please note that some links may be affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

An Afternoon in Grand Rapids

Today I was fortunate enough to have a “work afternoon” with Kelly from the Lily Pad Cottage. Have you visited her blog? If not, you should go right now. Not only is her design and taste impeccable, but she is also seriously such a nice person. She is gracious and generous (much like that famous designer on HGTV from Texas) and has been helping me/fielding all of my annoying questions since the idea popped into my head that I wanted start a blog. Oh, and did I mention she is super fun? I had such a great time shopping and eating (and talking) our way around Grand Rapids today.  If you are in town for a few hours or just passing through or looking for a little break from all of the holiday gatherings, here are some stops to put on your list.

We met at Reinspired Treasures in Alger Heights. Again, if you haven’t been, it’s worth checking out. From vintage to new home items to repurposed, well, treasures, they seem to have a little bit of everything. I have to do at least 10 laps before I feel like I have seen everything there is to see. This is the store that feeds my wooden sign addiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After shopping for a bit, we headed across the street to The Old Goat. I had been hearing about this restaurant for awhile and was excited to check it out. The food was delicious and was brought out on a cute wooden cutting board. There are soups, sandwiches, salads, and even entrees if you are particularly hungry from your shopping. And I sort of feel like I could have stared at the ceiling for a few more minutes if I hadn’t been too busy chatting.

We then headed to Eastown for a quick coffee and to pick up some donuts for the kids’ after school snacks. We met at That Early Bird, another great setting, very calming colors and not too quiet, not too loud. I love the pretty designs in the coffee, but, believe me, even if this coffee was super ugly, it still is one of the best cups I’ve had.

D’Arts Donut Shop was the last stop of the afternoon to pick up a couple 1/2 dozens to take to our respective homes. Again, the setting is unique and trendy, and the donuts will not disappoint. I went with the Christmas sprinkles, Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows, and Peppermint Mocha. And have no pictures to show for them. Because they went that fast.