Vacation with my Mini

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Whew! These past few weeks have been a whirlwind and I can't even believe I have the time to sit here and write this! But this crummy weather, my hot tea and couch were calling my name. If you follow my blog, you will know I ONLY pack in a carry on suitcase 1.) because I am a control freak and scared to loose it and 2.) I am impatient and don't like to wait to pick up luggage, but this last trip to Cabo with my family, I caved and checked a bag. Seriously the best decision ever. And I will NEVER again choose to fly out at 5:30am ever again....getting up at 3 am is not for anyone! I was traveling alone (first time internationally) with my 2.5 year old daughter and it is too hard to pack for her in 1 suitcase let alone a carry on! Diapers, life jacket, clothes and shoes. And there was NO way I could've made it through the airports with my child, suitcase and buggy all intact without checking a bag. So I sucked it up and checked it, but next time, if I stay at a house like we did this time, I will wait and buy diapers at the Mega Mart and save myself some packing space :) The best part was that my daughter was an absolute gem the entire trip! She had a few 2 year old moments but seriously the trip was so nice and it helped by having a cooperative child....every Mother understands this! 

We flew first class our entire trip thanks to my little blue card (not pill) from my fun job as a Stella & Dot stylist! Why not right?? I sell it for fun, I will use my income for fun! Now I am not sure I ever want to travel coach again :) But if you think you get stares when you fly coach with a child, you should see the looks and comments you get flying first class with one! The eye rolls and the sighs! Haha but I loved the cover up comments when she was a complete angel and actually quieter than the snoring man 2 rows back. One lady said, "oh thank God for iPads" No honey, thankfully I have been fortunate enough to travel with her since she was 4 months old and she is used to it and loves it. But yes, thank God for iPads too :)  Have a toddler and traveling soon? I would like to pat myself on the back for packing an amazing backpack for a child! 

1.) Window cling ons. I may have to give some credit to my daughter for wanting these at Target and the idea then coming to me. Best.Idea.Ever. No mess, cheap, and reuse able! 

   2.) Water Wow books! Fill a plastic paint brush up with water and paint pictures and then re-paint once they are dry!  Lots of different ones to choose from too! You can find them at Target, department stores like Younkers and of course the airport if you want to pay double!

   3.) And this shoelace and block thing from Target dollar spot! Is there anything you can not get in that money pit they call the dollar spot? UGH! Kept her attention for ever! Keep on taking my money Target.

My family picked us up from the Airport and drove us to our home away from home! Our first time using a home booking site since we usually plug in a place to go on Expedia like an all inclusive! It was actually really nice! Gated community, large pool, private (rocky) beach, and close location to downtown. It was in Cabo Bello and our home was called Casa De Esperanza or House of Hope. You can learn more about their mission at hopeforloscabos.com as all donations for the house and car (after costs are covered) go directly to various areas of need in Los Cabos. The house has 3 bedroom and each room has their own bathroom. Staying somewhere and doing good all at the same time is a win win for me!

     Since my husband and I have been to Cabo 2-3 times before, I was more relaxed knowing a little about the location. We tried to eat at all of the "it" spots for my family to see and experience and hit up all of the little trinket shops for crap we all didn't need, but what is the fun if you don't come home with maracas? Haha Oh and a drum, a bracelet and a "drug rug" or poncho as I call it! Never heard it called that before! But my little lady looks awfully cute in it!

Eat here: 

1.) Cabo Wabo

2. The Office

3.) Captain Tony's 

We did not party here: (Although there were a few babies in the bars)

1.) Cabo Wabo

2.) Squid Row

3.) Jungle Bar

Walking the marina is always fun! Lots of shops, restaurants, Starbucks & entertainment. I know I am not young anymore, but I will still never understand the need to walk the streets with only a swim suit on. Does that make me old? Either way, we saw a lot of booty and drunk people :)  Always very entertaining.

  You must do the touristy thing and go to the Arch. Rent a glass bottom boat, and take a little ride to Lover's Beach, Pelican Rock, the Arch, stinky seal rock (seriously smells so bad) and lastly Divorce Beach, but swimming is not recommended here. Surprised? Me either 😊 

      She was not too sure about the boat ride! Haha 

Biggest funny of the vacation. Yes it involves my daughter. So I was showering with her when a little wall lizard came out from the drain and ran out of the shower onto the baseboard. Of course my bug loving daughter thought she needed to catch it. I laughed and let her out to catch it thinking that they are so stinking fast, there will be NO way she will catch it. Low and behold, she walked over to it, reached down and picked the darn thing up no problem. UGH!! So out of the shower I go to get a cup (with no lid) to keep it in. Brilliant I know. Well she played and played with that lizard until he no longer had a tail, then it was time to let me die in peace. RIP lizard. Only my child.         

  

Of course I did a little "work" on my vacation! Yes, selfies are my job, and just wearing it out and about people see the goods and want to know where they can get it!  Showing off Stella & Dot's accessories and their versatility is part of the work, but also a selfie shows how simple it is to look "put together" for any occasion. I think if people really understood how easy & fun this job is, more would do it! They just hear "selling" something and say no way. But having a stylist on my team paying off student loans and saving for a trip to Disney is more motivation to help others earn extra money too! Oh and if you didn't already know, this vacation is a big ol' tax write off, just ask me how!! 

*Follow me on Instagram for outfit and jewelry details ashleyn2504

A huge thank you to my family for setting up this very fun vacation and for making memories that will last a lifetime! I already miss you all and look forward to the next time we get to see you!

 

Much love Cabo! Until next time :) ✌️    XO

Lady and Red 

 

Travel Costa Rica-Libera-Guanacaste

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I have a long list of places that I want to travel to and this was near the top. Visions of a tropical rainforest, turquoise blue waters, and a variety of animals you only find in a zoo. Who wouldn't want to see that? I am slowly but surely checking off destinations but since having a baby I have become the bigger baby about leaving her. I have said it before and I will say it again as I am not ashamed...I am a control freak and when things are out of my control my anxiety goes through the roof. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me "oh she will be fine" I would be rich....and still anxiety ridden. Listen, I know she will be taken very well care of and I knew she would have a blast with Nana, but that is not the point. Well I had to get over it because the plane was leaving no matter what. Thank God for iMessage and Facetime. This is my baby giving me kisses, how could you not miss that face?

Needless to say we both survived the 8 days away from each other and I have already made it clear to my hubby that the next vacation I am not leaving her for that long...at least not this year :)

After a 5 hour flight from Chicago we finally landed in Liberia, Costa Rica. The airport was built brand new only 2 years ago and it was really clean and nice. Make sure you have a taxi or shuttle scheduled because they charge you $80 for 2 people to get to your hotel when the hotel only charges $55 for 2 people in a private taxi or $25 per couple on a shuttle. Upon landing and while driving to our resort, the visions I had of this country was not what I was looking at. It was brown, dry, hot, and looked just like Mexico. I was a little bummed I am not going to lie. We decided to stay at the RIU Palace as it was an old standby that we knew what to expect having stayed at 3 other RIU resorts. And also...1.) Because I was so out of sorts leaving my child I didn't need any more stress of researching and picking a new place and it being a disaster like Barbados :) (See Travel Barbados blog post for a good laugh). 2.) We were going to stay at the Westin but when I went to book it the price went up $1,500 per person and I am a cheap. 3.) We are old and all we want to do is lay around, soak up some sun and maybe hit up a few touristy things. Done with the excuses. We love the RIU Palace in Puerto Vallarta but this RIU was probably our least favorite. Yes, I read the reviews and searched through Trip Advisor, but I am convinced that the people who write glowing reviews never get to travel and the poor reviews are people who think they are going to have the best food of their life and best accommodations at a at best 4 Star property. Forgo the expectations and just enjoy the ride, it is much better that way!

The decor is very modern and the colors do not seem to fit the location but the view looking out was all I needed. We spend majority of our time outside trying to un-thaw from winter, probably why the hotel was packed with New Yorker's and Canadians! Haha

We would enjoy a glass of wine here each evening overlooking this view. Not to shabby eh?

We did walk over to the RIU Guanacaste property which is right next door and if you stay at the Palace you have the option to hang out there if you would like, no charge. The decor and vibe were much more Costa Rican if you ask me with lush landscaping and more earth toned palate.

For what we did the RIU accommodated my butt just fine. There was an empty chair pool side every day waiting for us, a seat at a their several restaurants and buffets, and more importantly friendly staff waiting to assist you with whatever you could possible need. And they win the award for best dirty monkey drink! Who doesn"t love chocolate and bananas??

The weather is warm and toasty, and was aΒ whopping 98 degrees Thursday of our trip. I would say that is hot especially when the humidity is 60-70 percent too. The locals say that their summer goes from September until May and after May it rains almost every day along the coast for 1-2 hours each day then stops and more like every day all day in the rainforest. We had all sunny days, even at the volcano. The best part was spending 8 whole days uninterrupted with my hubby. We have such a great time together and this trip was nothing short of that.

I think that walking the beach each morning is the best way to get out and explore the raw culture of a country, no matter where you may be. Each morning brought something new for us and it just kept getting better! First off my husband discovered that our beach had jelly fish :)

No he wasn't hurt and no I did not have to pee on him. Nasty. But we saw plenty and depending on the day we saw hundreds or none. After a lot of Google searches we discovered the bottom photo is a Blue Button jelly fish. We encountered monkeys in their natural habitat almost every day and while I am terrified of spiders...I didn't see a one!! Yippee. Lots of lizards, frogs, and birds but all very harmless.

( I am not the idiot who tries to touch or capture wild animals so I wouldn't know if they were harmless or not). There was a trail next to our property at the RIU that people were talking about stating we had to go to the Monkey Bar. So we took the trail one day and if I could white knuckle my own hands, I sure was doing just that! I was freaked out. The thought of being on this trail, alone with lots of foreign animal scurrying about was freaky. I did give my hubby a good laugh that is for sure. I am usually the brave and confident one but after reading some crazy article in The Mens Journal about a man who went missing in the Costa Rican jungle, I was freaked. We finally reached the monkey Bar and it was just that. A bar that had a tree just across the street with several monkeys just chilling minding their own business. I later learned you are not supposed to smile at them because they show their teeth as a sign of agression...note to self for the next time.

On one of our last walks it was a Saturday and the locals had all come to the beach to enjoy their family time and we saw thousands of tiny fish had washed up on shore. The little children were collecting them in their toys and taking them back to their parents...something my child would do, although she would have it in her mouth! Birds were swooping down picking up these fish left and right as it was probably the easiest meal of their day. All of a sudden these 3 men ran out into the water throwing a string wrapped around a scrap piece of wood with a lure attached to it. They all reeled back in these huge fish like it was nothing! Incredible to see. I guess that was going to be their dinner that night.

It is those types of experiences you can not buy.

In my "older" age I love trying new things and foods. At our breakfast buffet there was this fruit with snot like seeds inside of it and whatever made me want to try it is beyond me but I am sure glad I did.

It turns out that I LOVE passion fruit and ate it every single morning. Convincing my husband to eat it after he tried it was another story :) See for yourself. Snot? or not?

Before we left I really wanted to do the Arenal volcano tour, so once we had a few relaxing days under our belts we booked the tour through a travel guide at the hotel. Gray line tours did a great job and I highly recommend them. It was about a 3.5 hour ride in a van there and back but you can't describe the experience unless you see it for yourself. AndΒ what else do you have to do the next day besides sit poolside and relax? Get up and go! You won't regret it.

That is what I had pictured Costa Rica looking like. Absolutely stunning. Our driver quickly pulled the van off to the side of the road or just stopped in the middle of the road several times for us to capture photos of monkeys, pizotes (as seen below), volcanoes, and of course a couple of selfies!

We selected the tour with the volcano, the rainforest hike, and the hot springs. The hike was more like a walk and not a hike. We are the dumb tourists and wore flip-flops but if we would've bought different shoes for this "hike" we would've been pissed. We were fine. Just remember your bug spray. I had read this in previous posts that mosquitos were bad. I led the pack, after the guide of course so he could take the first snake or spider bite :) Kidding. sort of.

Next stop was the hot springs. They took us to this hotel called The Springs Resort and Spa where of course the Bachelor had filmed and Sharon Stone happened to be walking into the spa as I was walking by...eeek! This place was breathtaking.

This is the view from their lobby, where I would've just sat for hours. The views, the springs, the people, the food....ahhhhh I want to go back. I think this would be a perfect place for couples or just a group of girls for a trip!

It is our tradition that when we stay at a RIU we must see the Michael Jackson show because it was the first one we saw together and it is so funny. Hard to believe that they can look and dance so much like him. So this is the Michael Jackson of Costa Rica :) Pretty good I would say.

So peace out Costa Rica until we meet again, if ever. Happy travels to all and if you have any comments of suggestions feel free to let me know or ask!! If I put every single detail it would be a book and if I wrote every single praise or fail I would be one of THOSE people :) Cheers!

Travel Southern California

This may be the next place I buy a home...if I can convince the hubby! I conveniently signed him up for a conference in San Diego then proceeded to tag along, baby in tow. It was a win win for both of us. It really is sunny and 70 degrees every single day. Our trip started out way too early for the baby (3:45am) followed by absolutely no layover in Denver for our next connection, which led to a few more gray hairs and never agains. It really doesn't help much when the flight attendants are extremely rude on every single flight for that matter (same airline....Frontier) and nosy people turn around to show you their disgust for your baby who has been crying and crabby. Listen up. If you are one of the people who turn around to see the little punk who is crying behind you, don't turn your snotty self around unless you are going to help. Whew! I feel slightly better :) So my baby may have thrown a small fit about 5 minutes immediately after boarding the first flight. It was the first time it has happened to me and thank God it was the only time during our trip. She immediately fell asleep as soon as we took off but give the kid a break. No, I did not teach my 1-year-old how to run on minimal sleep, and sit quietly in her seat. I will work on it for the next time, because I am not going to quit flying because everyone made me feel like a bad mom. And no I will not apologize. The more she does it, the more she will get used to it. So if you are or were one of THOSE people....just think about me next time you want to turn around :) I used to live in Encinitas, California so for me this was kind of like going back "home". I did a short travel job for a great company and met some great people along the way. I like to think that San Diego is the touristy area and as you head North it becomes more of a beach community feel, more relaxed and chill. Just the way I like my vacations. But we only had a week to get everything I missed doing done and that was not enough time, so I guess we will have to go back...bummer! Haha

Start in San Diego. We stayed at the Manchester Grand Hyatt for the conference. Grand, elegant, and really convenient to the pier, Coronado Island, and Balboa Park. This was our view from our room...terrible I know!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7ca/63143329/files/2014/12/img_68441.jpg I am not too familiar with what there is to do downtown as I spend my time either shopping or up in North County. Our local mall is great but compared to Fashion Valley....it is nothing! We ate at this place in Fashion Valley called Stacked. So neat. You do all of your ordering on this iPad like device (even your waters) and pay on it too. We found it to be really efficient. Stepping outside of the box we ordered a Pastrami pizza. Amazing! Dill pickles, spicy brown mustard, mozz cheese, swiss cheese, garlic sauce, and of course pastrami!

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/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7ca/63143329/files/2014/12/img_68991.jpg Westfield UTC is an outdoor mall that is perfect for strolling along, grabbing some lunch and relaxing. Plus it has a great play area for the kids to burn off some energy. A trip to San Diego is not complete without a trip to the Zoo. One of the best if not the best I have been to. Even if you are not traveling with kids, you can grab a brew and guide your way through this amazing place. I would not recommend taking the free tour bus inside the zoo, rather just walk around and see it for yourself. We missed a lot of animals because the bus was too high or we were sitting on the "wrong" side.

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She likes snakes. Not my kid.

Next stop up the interstate is La Jolla. Well there are maybe a few other towns but skip them and come here. One of the best hikes I have ever done is Torrey Pines. It is beautiful, easy to get to and has a great beach to hang out on when you are done and want to rest. Of course there is always shopping to be done and if you want to see the stinky sea lions, head over to the Cove. This one trip could consume your entire day if you wanted it to. Kayaking, swimming, beach, and plenty of green space for whatever else you want to do. Lots of souvenir shops, coffee and cocktail places for everyone.

Sea Lions at the Cove

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Next stop for me is Del Mar. If you are visiting during racing season it is a must that you go to the Del Mar racetrack. Even if you don't gamble...just do it this once. $5 will do the trick and it really is a lot of fun! It is like a mini Kentucky Derby :) My favorite spot to stay is the L'Auberge. It may be a little pricey but it is totally worth it. Centrally located in this quaint fun town. Check out the Brigantine restaurant for some of my favorite fish tacos.

Last stop for me puts the cherry on top. Encinitas. This time was a little different because we were traveling with a 1-year-old. Boy how things change when you get....ahem....older. If you read my blog you know that I love lists :) So of course I made one before we left of all the things I wanted to accomplish before we came home. Top of my list was Swamis.

View of Swami's from the opposite side of the street

It is a breakfast, brunch, and lunch place right on main street in Encinitas ( the 101). They have this little bowl of heaven called the Acai bowl. Granola, fresh fruit, with this cold acai puree that hits the spot. I have tried and tried to re-create this but constantly fail.

Acai bowl

Plus if you are a coffee drinker, try their locally roasted brew Vanilla Nut. I love it so much I brought 2 bags home with me. There are a few little local shops up and down the street that are fun, but when I get here I want to relax. So I head across the street to the Swamis lookout/surf spot, grab a bench and watch all of the "sitting ducks" as I like to call them. I swear either no one works in this town or they all work for themselves.

Next on my list was the Sweet and Savory salad from St. Tropez restaurant just down the street from Swamis. I am telling you, this is a very quaint town with lots to discover. St Tropez serves up great food and has a patio to accompany it. One of my favorite things about California is that people are so dog friendly here, they will set bowls of water out, allow dogs on patios, and you even see them shopping along side their owners!

Sweet and Savory salad

St. Tropez patio

If you haven't already noticed I like to eat :) Again, it is hard to hit all of the places when you have a small child but here is a list of local spots you must try!

1.) Besta-wan. Get it? It is a pizza place with a menu of items for everyone. Google it.

2.) Trattoria I Trulli. Small place that you may miss if you aren't looking, but this Italian place is not small on flavor!

3.) Zenbu/Rimel's Rotisserie. They are connected and Zenbu is the sushi side and Rimel's is a rotisserie. It sounds like an old folks eating joint but it is super hip and relaxed vibe, with great food. Just get the wok seared bowl with filet mignon, you won't be disappointed.

4.) 3rd Corner. Cozy and inviting. Great place to get a glass of wine and a cheese plate. Go during happy hour for crazy deals and then hit up any of the above later for dinner.

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I could go on and on about this place and all of the great places to see and eat but really you should be planning your trip right now after you are done reading this. Just a few short minutes up from Encinitas is Carlsbad that is home to Lego Land. So from San Diego to Carlsbad you have: Zoo, Sea World, Safari Park, Balboa Park, La Jolla Cove, Hike Torrey Pines, Race Track, Beach, Golf, Shopping, and Lego Land. I am probably missing a TON of things so if you go and find another hidden gem, let me know so when I make my many trips back I can try out the places you loved! Until next time, or as a true Californian would say...Cheers!

Travel Belize

I can't help but to dream I am on a flight to someplace warm with these crazy Iowa temperatures lately. One of my favorite vacations is...Belize! It's okay if you just Googled where Belize is :) If you are looking for someplace warm with sand, beach, and sun? Ding ding ding, Belize it is! Aside from a snorklers and scuba divers paradise, their laid back lifestyle and friendly people make this place a real gem. No hasseling or begging from the locals, English is their primary language, and they take the dollar! It all started for me too with a google search for "great place to vacation." I love to try new places, while my husband would go back to the same place everytime, so when I suggested Belize, he wasn't sold. After all, it was a trip to celebrate his birthday. I did my research, scowered my go-to travel sites and ended up finding a ridiculous deal with an even better flight. For those who hate wasting a day traveling, this may be your next vacation! A normal connection is typically from Des Moines to Houston onto Belize. Now please don't stay in Belize City, not so good. Once you land in Belize City, you catch a puddle jumper (don't freak out) to Ambergris Caye which takes about 15 minutes and flights run all day. If you are a chicken, you can take the water taxi which takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours....it was the worse thing ever and at the end of this post I will do my best to explain why. Book your mini flight through Maya Air or Tropic Air, which is what we used. Make sure to get a roundtrip ticket.

20140211-121142.jpg After you land, pick up your bags at the very confusing and huge baggage claim. Haha kidding. Another reason I love this place.

20140211-121440.jpg You can take a land taxi to the water taxi station which is totally unnecessary because it is less than 2 blocks away from baggage claim. I consider myself the carry-on queen, so it's easy for us to walk the 2 blocks. Yes, this princess seriously packs everything, everytime into a carry-on. Once you are at the water taxi place, it is best to buy a week long pass for the water taxi, which allows you roundtrip rides all week. It's worth it.

20140211-122343.jpg After a 5 minute water taxi ride, you are at your home away from home. Everytime we go, we stay at the same hotel, Coco Beach Resort. We will probably never stay anywhere else. Although it has no all inclusive options, there are plenty of other options available. You can have them stock your room with food you have choosen from a list, to be in your room when you arrive. Room service and poolside service are another option as well. Last year they added a brand new restaurant onto the property which is stunning, and they also have another more relaxed restaurant next door on their sister property. Drinks are pricey at the swim up bar but here is a tip: buy your booze at the duty free shop in the airport. Problem solved. Two different pools to choose from, one has a slide and the other is for wading or cooling off. The rooms are stocked with everything you need to make meals and free coffee as a perk! They know the way to my heart :) This will not be your typical over crowded beach resort. <

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20140211-123854.jpg Things to do: These are my suggestions! 1.) Day trip to Belize City for cave tubing and climbing the Mayan Ruins. This is a long day but a lot of fun. Ask for George!

20140211-130051.jpg 2.) The Chicken Drop at Wahoo's Lounge. Yep. Just like bingo but you win if the chicken poops on your number.

20140211-130312.jpg 3.) Snorkel (because I don't scuba) Hol Chan Marine Reserve. A half day was plenty for me. 4.) Eat at Wild Mango's. Get their fish tacos and a local brew. br />
20140211-130644.jpg 5.) Try a Johnny Cake at Ruby's cafe. If you go on the day trip, one of these are included. It's your breakfast. Ham and cheese is best :) br />
20140211-130536.jpg 6.) Rent a golf cart and drive into town instead of taking the boat. Hilarious. Walk the streets and explore. There are 3 streets, Front, Middle, and Back street. You can't get lost. 7.) Enjoy The Palapa. Aka the bar. Write your name in marker on the deck ( you may find mine), float in an inner tube in the ocean water, and watch your drinks be lowered to you in a bucket. Heaven.

20140211-130823.jpg 8.) Try the local cocktail, Rum Punch. Watch out, they pack a mean punch! 9.) Feed the Tarpon at Sunset Grill. WARNING: throw the fish in, do not hold it! That dumb Tarpon ate my whole hand and left me bleeding for lunch. Not cool but we still get a good laugh when we talk about it. 10.) Finish off your vacation with a romantic dinner in the property's restaurant. Delicious food and wine.

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Needless to say, at the end of our trip my husband said hands down, it was his favorite vacation. Score! Pack your hat, sunnies, and some flip flops. This is what you will live in 90% of the time while in Belize. Safe travels! P.s. This picture is the best explanation of why you should choose the flight over the boat ride. It was this scene for almost 2 hours. Never again!

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