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Strength

Melanie In The MiddleI’ve been blogging for eight years. Can you believe that? Good Lord has a lot happened over those years. So many amazing things and some pretty catastrophic things too.

Looking back over the years I can’t help but smile at the highlights. As I look back over my blog entries I marvel at how my children have changed. My darling daughters who used to be round faced preschoolers have morphed into bra wearing tweens. Premature babes who have grown into healthy active and spirited young women.

And my sons. Oh the stories I could tell but cannot until many years down the road. They understand what blogging is all about and have not given me permission to share their individual stories here. And while I completely support them in that choice, I long to share  some of the crazy trials and tribulations we’ve weathered. Enough life lessons to fill a book!

The boys too have grown into strapping young men. And Lord have mercy can I see myself and their father in them. They are feisty and headstrong to say the least. They are also gentle of heart and quick to lend a helping hand. Wonderful qualities in young men. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their father and I raised men who will do great things.

And in every life some rain must fall. Oh how it’s rained over the years. Drought has not been an issue in my life that’s for damn sure. As a blogger I’ve shared these difficult times with you and for the most part I’ve been supported and loved on this blog.

But then there are the trolls…

Recently a reader commented on a post with the following:

“I now understand why your husband left you.”

Originally I just deleted that comment and put it in the trash where it belonged because I truly believe that people who spew comments such as this are people to be pitied. People who have such empty sorrowful lives that I ought to be praying for them. But still, I felt that it needed to be addressed. So here it goes…

Let me be crystal clear. My husband didn’t leave me. And that’s all I will say on that subject because I want to honor my children’s father in all things.

I am secure in who I am beyond anyone’s judgement. I did not go through a childhood of physical and mental abuse, lose a child and fight for my life after being crushed by a car to subject myself to anyone’s judgement.

That picture you see above? That is a picture of a woman full of hope. A woman loved by more than enough people. A woman who chooses to focus on the good in life and prides herself in building her friends and peers up, not tearing them down.

This blog is not an open target for judgement. It is a place where I choose to share my life. And if you’ve ever wondered why I moderate comments, this troll is a good example as to why I do that.

It saddens me that there are people in this world who are so empty, so sorrowful, so bitter that they take joy in hurting others. Because truly they are to be pitied.

But I will not allow them to rain on my blog because this is my space. And this blog speaks to strength, courage and hope. And no one, I do mean no one, will take that away from me. From us, really. Because we are in this together, you and I. And we will prevail.

If I Had A Magic Wand

Cookies Make Everything BetterThe past three days have been tumultuous over here. One of my littles is struggling with a personal matter. And it’s one of those struggles that can’t easily be fixed because I have no power over the situation. It’s weeks like this that I long for a magic wand.

If I had a magic wand life would be so much easier…

First I’d start by swirling it around every middle school that I can find in this country and make all the mean girls nice.

Then I would gently tap each of my kids with it and infuse them with a positive self esteem that would never waver. Making them impervious to judgement, hate and exclusion. Allowing them to walk confidently into any situation knowing that they can be free to make good choices without being scorned.

And then I’d erase any thoughts in my childrens’ minds that were born from the media. How they should look. What they should say to be accepted. And what they should own to be cool. I’d zap the crap out of all of that.

Next, I would aim that wand at my own heart and soften it towards people who are mean. Because deep down I know that hateful people actually really hate themselves.

People who are hateful to other people are to be pitied. Not only because those people are hurting and lashing out, but also because in the long run that hate will poison them and manifest in real physical ways. And that’s sad.

But I don’t have a magic wand. So instead I put out a plate of cookies, heat up mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows and greet my kids with a smile and hug after school because that’s the best I can do right now.

Parenting. No one warns you how hard it can be.

Mirbeau Inn and Spa and a Giveaway!

Mirbeau SpaThis past summer the town of Plymouth welcomed its first destination spa, the Mirbeau Inn and Spa. Located about 45 minutes south of Boston, the Mirbeau Inn and Spa is tucked into the Pinehills community which is popular for its Rees Jones golf course.

Mirbeau Inn and Spa boasts French-inspired accommodations, two fine dining establishments and a full service spa complete with resting room, heated whirlpool plunge pool and eucalyptus infused steam rooms.

As a resident of the South Shore for the past two decades, it used to be that I had to drive to the city in order to experience a full service spa. Now that one has opened in my own town, I was eager to check it out. So last month I booked a service in order to get the inside scoop!

Mirbeau Spa Serenity RoomMy day started with some quiet time in what Mirbeau calls a resting room. Spas often times refer to rooms such as this as serenity rooms. And I have to tell you, it doesn’t get much more serene than this. With a heated foot massage pool, ample beds for relaxing and a roaring fire in the oversized fireplace, I was feeling rather serene.

Mirbeau Spa

Mirbeau Spa RoomWith a full spa menu, it will be a challenge for you to decide which of the luxurious services you will indulge in. Massage, facials, nail treatments, scrubs and wraps are just some of the spa offerings. And if you can’t decide on just one, you can take advantage of one of their packages.

I chose the Mirbeau Ritual Body Treatment which included an all-natural sugar body scrub and full body massage.

After relaxing for a bit in the resting room, I was led to the spa room which was rather opulent with a roaring fire and soft playing music. Before the treatment started, I was asked to choose a scented oil from two vials that would be used during my massage. After making my choice, I climbed up onto the heated massage table and promptly forgot about any worry that was in my mind as my body was scrubbed, oiled and kneaded away.

It was utter bliss for eighty solid minutes.

Mirbeau Spa PoolAfter my treatment I took advantage of the complimentary spa offerings. The outdoor heated plunge whirlpool was a special treat on that cool fall day. I also went back to the resting room because that heated foot pool was by far one of the most relaxing things I’ve experienced. Did I mention that you can enjoy a glass of wine while you soak your feet?

And if it’s exercise you are looking for, there’s a fitness center on the property and daily yoga and exercise classes available. You quite literally could spend the whole day enjoying the facilities, there’s that much to experience.

Mirbeau Spa LunchI finished my day at Mirbeau Inn and Spa by having lunch at the Bistro and Wine Bar. Beautifully appointed with French style furnishings, the Bistro and Wine Bar is a sophisticated place to enjoy a bite to eat. Sandwiches, salads, entrees and a full drink menu are offered in their bright dining room complete with yet another roaring fireplace. I was delighted to find a charcuterie board on the menu which did not disappoint. That paired with a bowl of butternut squash bisque was a fine end to my sumptuous day at Mirbeau Inn and Spa.

If you are looking for a weekend spa getaway, Mirbeau Inn and Spa is a fine choice. Between the spa offerings, fine dining, luxurious accommodations and close proximity to an award winning golf course, this would be a natural choice for those seeking a decadent weekend away.

For more information on Mirbeau Inn and Spa, be sure to check out their website and Facebook page.

Giveaway!

How would you like to enter to win an overnight stay for one night at the Mirbeau Inn and Spa plus breakfast for two?* To enter, use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Please keep in mind that this giveaway is for a spa located in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Please enter only if you can get to this location. Good luck!
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This is not a sponsored post. However, I did receive a discounted spa service and a complimentary lunch to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.

*Gift certificate expires 10/30/15. Can only be used on Monday through Thursday subject to availability. Not valid during July, August or Holiday periods. Gift certificate does not include taxes or gratuities. Gift certificate may not be transferred, extended or redeemed as a gift card. 72 hour cancellation policies apply for all spa treatments.

Bulletproof Coffee, An Experiment

Cheeky KitchenSo I spent last weekend at the Mixed Conference in Virginia. I have a ton to share on that in the coming days, but for today I’d like to talk a little bit about my roomie Brooke who writes Cheeky Kitchen and the diet she introduced me to.

When I first started blogging, Brooke was one of my heroes. I read her blog religiously and hoped to be her when I grew up. She has some mad camera skills and is a writing ninja.

A few weeks before Mixed, Brooke announced online that she needed a roommate for the conference. And as soon as I saw that, I messaged her right away and promised that I wouldn’t drool on her, snore or steal her blankets. I also assured her that I was normal. With a bit of luck she believed me.

Once she agreed I might have danced around the living room. A chance to hang out with someone I’ve been looking up to for years?  Totally dancing around the room worthy!

As it turned out, we clicked like two Lego bricks. Such an odd thing, really. It felt like we had known each other for years. We sat in our hotel room chatting about our blogs, our lives and our hopes for the future. We also talked shop for a good long time and learned so much from each other.

Melanie FeehanBrooke is a total giver. A giver and an Energizer bunny. When Brooke heard that I wanted to get professional head shots done to update my about pages on my blogs, she told me to toss my coat on and get my fanny outside. It was late in the day and I wasn’t feeling particularly pretty, but she would have none of my protesting. She grabbed her camera and said let’s go!

And as you can tell from up above, Brooke is a rather excellent photographer. Anyone who can make me look good at the end of a long day is a magician.

Besides being an excellent photographer, Brooke is also seriously into nutrition. And while we talked into the wee hours of the morning, I shared with her that I needed to change my diet because I’ve been feeling rather lethargic lately. I also shared with her that I was concerned that excessive grains, sugars and other carbs including alcohol might be messing with my overall energy levels.

Now Brooke is big time into Paleo. Something I knew nothing about until we spent the weekend together. And after sharing my concerns about my constant lack of energy, Brooke suggested that I give Paleo a try. But specifically the Bulletproof Diet which is similar to Paleo but requires that you drink this strange coffee that’s made with butter. Sounds awful, right? I thought so too…

Bulletproof CoffeeThat said, Brooke is in amazing shape. But I’m not talking just about weight, I’m also talking about vitality. She just has so much energy. So if it’s been working for her, I thought I should give it a try.

Today was my first day following the Bulletproof plan which is essentially this wacky coffee and a super low carb diet. The thought behind it is that sugar, flour, refined/processed foods and alcohol are not good for the human body. So those foods are eliminated and replaced with highly nutritious foods like lean proteins and leafy greens. At first this sounded like Atkins to me, but it’s a bit different. And I’m not sure if it’s even going to work, but you better believe that I will keep you updated as I progress.

Bullet Proof CoffeeNow how about that coffee? Just the thought of it turned my stomach. I mean, butter in coffee? That doesn’t even sound right. The way it works is that you pour freshly brewed coffee into a blender, add two tablespoons of butter made from grass fed cows milk and an oil called MCT and blend it all together until it’s frothy.

Brooke also suggested that I add some Cocoawell, which is a cocoa supplement that is sweetened with Stevia, because she knows I am a cafe mocha girl. Sounds horrid, right?

But I have to be honest, it tastes really good. Once you get past the idea that there’s butter in your coffee, you can really enjoy the rich flavor that rivals anything from a coffee shop. I kid you not.

Trader Joe's Mojito SalmonBesides the butter coffee, I’m adding a lot more protein to my diet. Tonight I had this Trader Joe’s Mojito Salmon which was delicious. Normally I would cook the salmon myself, but it was a crazy day. And when I saw this at Trader Joe’s today I wanted to rip it open in the freezer aisle and eat it. That’s how hungry I was. Did I mention you can only eat between 2pm and 6pm on this diet? I happened to be shopping at 1:30 and wanted to inhale all of Trader Joe’s in one ravenous gulp.

So we’ll see how this goes. I’m not really doing this for weight loss. I’m just trying to feel better. And in the long run if this works, I plan on sticking to a low carb diet five days out of the week and giving myself the weekend to eat whatever I feel like. In moderation of course. And in a couple of months I’m due for a physical, so I will be curious to see how this affects my cholesterol levels. I shall report back!

How about you? Have you heard of Bulletproof coffee? Do you follow a Paleo diet? If so, care to share any of your favorite Paleo blogs? I’d love to find some good resources for recipes!

$250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

250-amazon-gc-giveaway-2
Can you believe that Christmas is less than 2 months away?? This year has flown by for me, and I have not even begun to think about shopping yet! One thing I do know, however, is that I will be doing most of it on Amazon.com. I discovered how much I could save shopping on Amazon a few years ago and never looked back! You would not believe how much you can save! So, what better way to kick off the holiday season than with a $250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway?? If you have never shopped on Amazon, you are in for a very pleasant surprise in regards to how much money you can save!

The 411 on the $250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Who?

You, of course!

Note: giveaway is open to the Continental US, Hawaii, and Alaska. Ages 18+. Gift card will be sent in digital format via email.

What?

ONE – $250 Amazon Gift Card (in digital format)

When?

Giveaway will be open from November 06, 2014 – December 03, 2014. Winner will be chosen at random on or about December 08, 2014. If winner does not respond within 48 hours, an alternate winner will be chosen. Please read more about giveaway terms here.

How?

To have a chance to win the $250 Amazon Gift Card – all you are required to do is leave a comment below telling me what you will do with the gift card if you win!!! The rest is up to fate!

All other tasks are optional to increase your chances of winning.

This giveaway is sponsored by:

Moms of Faith
Barking Mad
Coupons and Freebies Mom
I Have a Future and a Hope
Swanky Recipes
The Housewife in Training Files

Disclaimer: Amazon is not affiliated with this giveaway or its sponsors. Prize is being provided by sponsors mentioned above.

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Meatloaf, A Review

Peek In My CartThere’s something in my cart you don’t see very often. Care to take a guess? C’mon, I’ve shared tons of grocery cart pictures with you. There’s something in there you won’t normally see me buy.

Ok, I won’t make you strain your eyes. It’s the ground beef. That’s something I really don’t purchase anymore. I’ve actually completely switched to ground turkey for every recipe that calls for ground beef. And there are two reasons for that…

Fat. Who needs it if you can avoid it? I’ve found that when I make tacos or meatballs, no one notices if I substitute ground turkey for the beef. So if I can save on fat grams, I will.

The other issue is cost. Ground turkey is so much more economical than lean ground beef. And when you are feeding a twenty year old and a seventeen year old not to mention two tweens, you’re talking a significant amount of food costs. Ground turkey is a real grocery budget stretcher.

So why am I buying ground beef this week? You can blame Ree Drummond for that. Last weekend the kids and I were watching the Food Network which is my usual Saturday morning routine. No one usually joins me because the kids are not fans of cooking shows. But on this particular day, three of my four kids happened to be sitting with me.

Ree’s show came on and she was making meatloaf. But not just any meatloaf, mind you. Oh no, this meatloaf was wrapped in bacon. This got my kids’ attention in a very big way.

This was significant for two reasons;

A. I’ve cut back on bacon for the same reasons I’ve cut back on ground beef. Fat and expense. And boy do the kids miss it.

B. I hate meatloaf and rarely make it. Yes I know that sounds un-American, but it’s true. And what do the kids love? You guessed it, meatloaf.

I have only two true food aversions…

Peas. They make me want to hurl. I think it’s a texture thing. They taste like sand to me. And liver, because it’s liver. Enough said.

Meatloaf isn’t exactly a food aversion, it’s just not something that I enjoy. It ranks just above fried liver and pea soup.

But the kids saw Ree’s bacon wrapped saturated fat beef version and they begged me to make it just like her recipe. No turkey. No artificial bacon. Cow and pig together in one glorious union.

And considering how long it’s been since the kids have had ground beef, I said sure thing.

Pioneer Woman MeatloafWhen you make any recipe posted online, it’s always good to read the comments. You can learn so very much from taking the time to read them. I’ve found that Ree’s recipes are reliably good, but even still, it’s helpful to hear other peoples’ experiences and how they would make the dish even better.

And after reading all of the comments, I made a few tweaks myself which renders a review of Ree’s dish utterly useless because I’ve altered her original recipe from the get-go. I’ll list my changes at the end, but be sure to read the original recipe yourself and the comments to form your own opinion.

Pioneer Woman MeatloafWhy I’ve never wrapped a meatloaf in bacon is beyond me. I might’ve been a fan if I had thought of that myself.

Pioneer Woman MeatloafThe bacon not only adds a ton of flavor, but it also keeps the loaf in a neat shape. Most meatloafs look like giant eggs.

Pioneer Woman MeatloafAnother thing that has always deterred me from making meatloaf is the layer of ketchup spread on top. I know most people love that, but it just never did anything for me. I changed nothing about Ree’s sweet and spicy ketchup mixture and was super pleased with the results. A little sweet and just a bit zingy. Not so hot that it burned my little ones’ tongues off but enough heat to please my older sons.

Pioneer Woman MeatloafThe end result was a meatloaf that everyone loved, even mom. The meat stayed moist thanks to the bacon blanket and it was full of flavor. This just might’ve made a meatloaf lover out of me. So if you are looking for a new meatloaf recipe, you might want to give Ree’s a whirl. Here are the changes I made after reading all of the comments on her original recipe:

The recipe calls for 2 lbs of ground beef but my package was 3 lbs. Commenters complained it was too wet, so I used the 3 lbs and didn’t add extra wet ingredients to compensate for the extra poundage which yielded a perfect loaf. Not too wet or too dry.

Lots of people complained that there wasn’t enough flavor in the meat itself. Therefore I added 2 tsps garlic powder, 1 tsp dried chili flakes, 1 extra tsp of ground black pepper and a full 1/2 cup of chopped parsley even though she suggested 1/4 to 1/2 cup. It was plenty flavorful.

Another issue people had was that the bacon wasn’t crisp after cooking. I agreed. I found mine to be a bit soggy as well. So at the end of cooking, I jacked the heat up to 400º and baked it for ten extra minutes which resulted in crispy bacon and a bubbly glaze.

So there you have it. I found a meatloaf I actually enjoy.

How about you? Are you a meatloaf lover? Do you have a favorite recipe?

Paradigm Shift

Melanie in GlassesIt started months ago. Actually, more like a couple of years ago but I was in fierce denial. And I noticed it with my phone first. In the morning I would wake up and grab my phone to check my email but everything had a haze about it. I’d rub my eyes and squint to make the blurriness go away which sort of worked for awhile.

But then things got progressively worse. I found myself taking much longer with my blogging because I was making stupid mistakes. I couldn’t see the words on my laptop screen and the blurriness was getting in the way of my work.

And then I was in a foreign country recently and had to rely on a customs official to help me fill out parts of the paperwork I couldn’t see. That was the last straw. It was time to admit that I needed glasses.

And of course I got them which is evident from the picture above.

As my eye doctor was performing the exam, she blamed my declining vision on getting older. This January I will be forty-five. How I got to forty-five so quickly is a mystery to me. It seems like just yesterday that I was sporting parachute pants, LA Gear sneakers and hair with electric blue streaks. I’m an 80’s girl. That’s my excuse.

When I hit forty I sort of had an aging panic attack. I looked for new wrinkles on a daily basis. Bought new bras to push the girls back up to their full and upright position. Invested in creams to slather all over my body. All in a sort of pathetic attempt to stop the inevitable aging process.

So I fully expected to have a breakdown when I put the new glasses on. But you know what? I think they’re kind of hot. I actually like what I see in the mirror lately which my longtime readers know is sort of a miracle.

I think I’m finally getting comfortable in my skin. I’m caring less about what others think and more about how I feel. And I feel really good.

Forty-five is just a few months away, but I’m not dreading it the way I dreaded all of the other forty something birthdays I’ve had so far. And this is a real relief because I was worried that I would get more panicky with each year that passes.

Not only is my vision clearer, but my mind too. I think this growing up thing doesn’t stop when you hit a certain age. Every year, no scratch that, every day brings a new opportunity for growth and change.

And that’s sort of exciting, don’t you think?

Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa Review

Beaches Turks and CaicosBeaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages and Spa is an all inclusive vacation destination geared towards families with children of all ages. The property consists of four villages, Caribbean, French, Key West and Italian. And all are designed around those themes.

For my stay I was placed in the Italian village. With Renaissance style architecture, a piazza, shopping boutiques and an elegant pool with swim up bar and whirlpool, I certainly felt like I was situated smack dab in the middle of Old World charm and luxury.

Let’s check out the rooms in Italy…

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteMy room was a suite that would comfortably fit a family of five. The furnishings were exquisite dark woods with European accents. Just check out that turned wood four poster bed. The accommodations were comfortable to say the very least. If I could’ve packed that bed as my souvenir, I would have. The mattress was dreamy.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteThe kids’ sleeping area was separate from the master bedroom. It was furnished with bunk beds, plenty of storage for clothing and a play area complete with Xbox. This room was also tastefully decorated which is a recurrent theme throughout the resort, you will come to find.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteThe room had a small balcony and spectacular views of the pool and the ocean just beyond. A lovely place to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Beaches Turks and Caicos Room BarOr perhaps you’d rather enjoy that view with something a little more adult. Not a problem. Just mosey on over to your personal bar which is completely stocked with soft drinks, wine and liquor. And being that this is an all inclusive, it’s all yours for the taking.

While I stayed at the Italian village, I did happen to visit all of the other villages. Each one was unique and had different restaurants and swimming areas. There were also a variety of different shops, so it’s good to walk around and check them all out.

I found the quietest village to be Key West. This village is the newest and the most adult out of all the villages. On the other hand, I found the Caribbean village to be the most kid centric. Or at least, that’s where I happened to see most of the kids.

Out of all of the villages, I did enjoy the Italian village the most. The swim up pool bar was a hub of activity that I really enjoyed. It was a great place to meet other people and the bartenders poured some seriously delicious drinks. Those folks at the bar have some skills.

Beaches Turks and CaicosAnd if you have wee folk, this is your kind of vacation. There are just so many activities for the kids. Beaches offers a kids camp where they can enjoy all kinds of fun stuff to do like scavenger hunts, magic shows, sandcastle building, water sports and of course special visits with the Sesame Street characters.

Heck, I even got a giggle from meeting my favorite childhood characters. There are stage shows, parades and meet and greet opportunities where you and your kids can meet the entire Sesame Street gang. So much fun!

There are even activities for teens and tweens such as a special nightclub called Liquid where kids can hang out, dance and make new friends. There’s also bonfires, a game room, Xbox Play Lounge and even a surf simulator. Like I said, something for every age group.

And if you want some time to go off and do your own thing like have a special dinner out with your honey, Beaches offers nighttime care as well.

Beaches Turks and Caicos KayakingOne of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was the water sports. Beaches offers all kinds of water activities as part of your package. Included are kayaking, aqua trikes, paddle boards, Hobie Cat sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing and even scuba diving.

Yup, you read that right. If you are a certified diver, scuba diving is part of your package. Have you ever paid for a scuba excursion? Let me tell you, it’s bucks. Lots of them. The same is true for snorkeling. If you were to pay for a separate excursion to snorkel, it is a pricey addition to your vacation.

This trip I took a kayak out for a whirl and I also did some snorkeling. The folks from Beaches run a boat back and forth from the resort out to a reef where you can snorkel your heart out. You’ll see all kinds of interesting sea creatures like starfish, sand dollars and even conch. One of my friends saw a reef shark. I am glad that I did not.

Beaches Turks and CaicosSo how about the food? Great question! Beaches has 19 different dining options and I tried my best to visit them all. From casual dining at Bobby D’s, a fifties style diner, to the fancier Schooner’s which served all kinds of fresh caught seafood, I tried to sample a bit of everything so I could give it a thorough review. And this is what I found…

Breakfast was by far the best at Mario’s at the Italian village. With a huge breakfast buffet offering both traditional American style choices and island fare, there truly was something for everyone. Overall I found that Mario’s buffet offered the most variety.

Lunch was little more challenging in that most of the restaurants served a buffet while I usually prefer a plated meal. My favorite lunch spot was Arizona’s where I found really good jerk chicken that was grilled right outside the restaurant by the beach. It was authentic and tasty. Inside Arizona’s was a salad bar with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and other sides to round out the meal. So if you are looking for some authentic island food, I’d try that.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SchoonersIf you are a foodie, then dinner at Beaches will be your sweet spot. I had several stellar meals which included one at Schooner’s, a waterfront restaurant serving seafood. I started my meal with seared scallops which were cooked perfectly and placed on top of a rich béchamel. My second course was king crab legs which were also perfectly cooked and simply served with melted butter. But the jerk mahi mahi was the star of the show. Spicy and flaky. If you get the chance to dine at Schooner’s make sure to order that.

Other fine choices are Soy for sushi, Kimonos for Japanese (you need a reservation here), Barefoot By The Sea and I had a killer rack of lamb at Mario’s. Don’t forget to try a dessert at Mario’s. I had an orange mascarpone torte that I will never forget. Truly.

Melanie and JoanAnd while I completely enjoyed all of the food, activities and accommodations at Beaches, I have to tell you that the employees are the ones that made my stay special.

Every single employee had a smile on their face each and every day. Any need that I had, they were there to meet it. I’ve stayed at some lovely places in my lifetime, but I have to tell you that the service at Beaches Turks and Caicos is some of the best service I’ve ever had.

And if you take the time to talk to the folks that work hard to make your stay lovely, you’ll learn so much more about the people that are the backbone of the resort.

See the gal above? Not me. The other one. Her name is Joan and she is the restaurant manager at Schooner’s. If you ever get out that way, be sure to strike up a conversation with her. She has some gorgeous stories to share. Like this one, for example…

34 years ago Joan was working at the Beaches Resort in Jamaica which is where she’s from. On her way to work one day, she came across a six year old girl walking the streets with a snotty nose, no shoes and no parents to claim her. So Joan took the child in and raised her as her own. And today that child of hers works at Beaches. I might’ve cried while she told this story. I might’ve forced a hug on her as well.

And that’s just one example of the kind of employees that work at Beaches. Their service really does make all of the difference and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Big Bird and Beaches Turks and CaicosWhile my kiddos didn’t come with me on the trip, I do plan on bringing them to Beaches Turks and Caicos sometime in the future. I know they’d really enjoy it. And if you do any research on a stay at Beaches, you might get a case of sticker shock at first glance. But one of thing to keep in mind is that absolutely everything is included. Your food, water sports, childcare, airport transfers, gratuities, etc. A cruise doesn’t even offer all of that. And if you travel during off-season, you can get some amazing deals!

For more information on Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages and Spa, check out their website. And if you make it out that way, be sure to find Joan and tell her I said hi!

This is not a sponsored post. I paid my own way down to Turks & Caicos but the resort did give us a discount on our stay.

Glowy Zoey Minnie Mouse Edition



Sometimes it’s the little things in life that warm my soul. Silly little things that bring a big smile to my face. Have you heard of Glowy Zoey? Well, twenty-two million people have, so it’s high time for you to see the cuteness if you haven’t already.

It’s brilliantly simple. A dad puts his toddler daughter in a LED light suit that he made for her for Halloween and lets her run rampant in a darkened house in her illuminated suit. The original video is up above and was published last year (2013). Everything about that video makes me smile and wish that I could get pregnant again so that I could have my own Glowy Zoey. So stinkin’ cute.


Riding on the coattails of their success, the dad just put out another Halloween Glowy Zoey video that’s arguably as cute as the first. So if you need a dose of cute today, here you go. If this doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will!

Social Media on the Sand at Beaches Resorts Turks & Caicos

Beaches Social Media On The SandAs I mentioned yesterday and as you may have noticed based on my Instagram feed, I spent the past weekend at the Beaches Resort in the spectacular Turks & Caicos Islands for the Social Media on the Sand Conference which was hosted by Beaches Resorts and BSM Media.

Turks & Caicos has been a bucket list destination of mine forever. And BSM Media is known for attracting the very best bloggers for their events and their sponsored content initiatives. So when I was invited to come visit Beaches and attend this conference, I was more than a little bit excited!

I have a lot to share about my stay at Beaches. But for this post, I’m just going to touch on the conference itself and some of the things that were special in my mind. Things that made it a lot different than some of the other conferences I’ve attended in the past.

Because there were so many amazing things to share, I couldn’t possibly squeeze them all into one post. So we’ll start with the business side of things and the next post we’ll move onto the playful side. And trust me, there was a lot of play!

Turks & CaicosEven though I hate to fly, I thoroughly enjoyed the view from the sky as we flew to Turks & Caicos. What an amazing way to start a trip. How gorgeous is that ocean? Paradise for certain!

Beaches MomsThe conference itself was attended by a lot of my friends which really made the experience shinier than it already was. There were sessions on video production, travel writing, social strategy and marketing and I could go on and on. The organizers took special care in making sure that the content was relevant and engaging. And they succeeded on all fronts. I have mad respect for the team that put this together. It was clearly planned with much thought and care.

Social Media On The SandThe founders of the resort spent time educating us on how much they care for their workers and the communities they come from. I was happy to learn how the Sandals Foundation has planted 9,874 trees in local communities, provides computers to local schools, provides dental and eye care to community members and has even created two marine sanctuaries. And that’s just a tiny sampling of all that they do to make the Caribbean a better place for the people that live there. I love when a local business gives back to their community.

Sandals FoundationEven us bloggers had a chance to help out. Before the trip each of us were sent backpacks to fill with school supplies that we brought with us and donated to kids in Turks & Caicos. How cool is that? There were over one hundred of us there, so that one donation really made a big difference for those kids.  Good on the Sandals Foundation for caring for their people.

Ted Baker SunglassesOf course this conference wouldn’t have been possible without the help of sponsors. Up above you see me sporting Ted Baker sunglasses that were provided by Iristocracy.  But there were many more that were generous to make this event possible.

Social Media on the Sand SponsorsA big thank you to Coppertone for keeping me from scorching while snorkeling and also a major thanks to HP for allowing us to print our photos. Just two examples of ways that sponsors took care of us while at the conference. Smart social for sure!

FlipOut Flip FlopsOh, and I can’t forget one of my favorite sponsors. Look at my super cute FlipOut Sandals. Have you seen these before? The charms can be switched out for different designs. So one pair of flip flops can look like a different pair each time you wear them. So fun! See? Neat sponsors for sure!

Daisy and George Vow RenewalOk, so the conference was awesome. The sponsors were amazing. And the venue spectacular. But my favorite part was the people. I’ll talk more about how the employees go out of their way to make your stay so very special, but I want to share a couple of conference attendees who made my stay particularly memorable.

Above you see Daisy and George. Daisy and I hit it off the moment we met at the airport. She’s very easy to love as she’s a quick to smile kind of girl. Very warm and so willing to share her knowledge about blogging which she is entirely passionate about. She traveled to the conference with her husband George who’s equally kind and smiley. We all hit it off so well that they invited me to witness their vow renewal and attend their reception dinner that was held during the conference.

I cried. A lot. It was beautiful. I still get weepy looking at this picture. They are one of my best souvenirs from this trip.

Kelly StilwellMy other special souvenir is this gal. Kelly was my roommate whom I had never met before this trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better roomie. We spent late nights talking about blogging and sharing tips on what works and what doesn’t. We also spent time drinking wine together which was rather wonderful as well. I’ve only been home for a day and we’ve already talked on the phone and exchanged tons of emails. I expect we’ll be longtime friends.

Beaches Turks & CaicosI told you I had a lot to say. And I haven’t even started sharing about the resort yet. I might’ve had a good time, ya think?

A special thank you goes out to Maria Bailey who is the founder of BSM Media. Without Maria and her team, this wouldn’t have been possible. And of course a huge thank you to Beaches Resorts for making us feel so welcome and cared for. The memories will last a lifetime.

Come back tomorrow to hear about the resort and all it has to offer. You are going to want to add Beaches Turks & Caicos to your own bucket list!

This is not a sponsored post. I paid my own way down to Turks & Caicos but the resort did give us a discount on our stay.