Monday, June 29, 2015

Family Vacation: Camping in an RV

Our cabin - and the car that got us there
Growing up with 3 siblings, a stay-at-home mother and a father who didn’t make much money, camping was what we often did for vacation. We had a pop-up trailer that we used for a couple of cross country trips and my summer camp had cabins, but we took overnight hikes with tents.

But the RV experience was totally new to me.

The kitchen in our park model RV
My family got to try a ‘park model’ RV, a cabin that theoretically could move, since it was on wheels, at the Mystic KOA in Stonington, Connecticut. But it looked like a cabin, with a wooden porch, and porch swing, a patio with Adirondack chairs and a tricked out interior with a full kitchen, plumbing, air conditioning and flat screen TV.

Bunk beds!
OK, so the Wi-Fi was spotty. But this was nothing like the camping I did as a child, with a thin sleeping bag and a shovel for a bathroom.

Yet it still was a great way to celebrate the outdoors. Some may deride this as camping light, but I prefer to think of this as inclusive camping. Sure, you can stay in a tent if you want (and plenty of people do -  it is cheaper) but if you like having a hot shower, a comfortable bed and AC, you are welcome too.

Best perk of an RV - an actual toilet!
The park models sleep six, with a pull out couch, bunk beds, and bedroom - with a door - for the parents. I was supposed by how comfortable the queen sized bed was and how quiet it was in the woods. I am a city girl, used to sleeping with sirens, cars honking and people screaming. Here, all I heard was crickets. Ah, serenity.

The cabins are fully equipped with sheets, towels, dishes - even a Keurig coffee maker. No one makes your bed, and you only get fresh towels and linens once a week - but really, do you need fresh sheets daily? I am happy when a hotel lets me opt out of daily changes so I can conserve water, so I felt particularly virtuous about this greener way to vacation.

Breakfast - artisanal granola
We met a large family group that included some staying in cabins, some staying in tents, and some staying in RVs - but all having a great time.

For those who like to bring their pets on vacation, camping has another perk - dogs are welcome. The dog friendly campground had a special dog park where dogs could romp, and my dog loved walking from campsite to campsite, meeting other dogs and sniffing around the picnic tables where somebody just had to have dropped a morsel of meat.

Camping is so dog friendly that Karat got a welcome gift
We had a huge barbecue where everyone but my family chowed down on Omaha Steaks burgers, T-bones and ribs - but I have to say, the veggie burgers, also by Omaha Steaks, were delicious. Unlike many veggie burgers, these were able to stand up to the grill and they had a satisfying crunch (I thought it was quinoa, but it turned out to be sunflower seeds and brown rice). My husband also had a juicy salmon burger.

We ate and drank well throughout the weekend - Happy Camper Wine provided the appropriately named vino and Cabin Fever Whiskey a maple infused bourbon. We also had delicious granola from Henry Hudson Bakery

Nearby hiking trails - don't forget the tick medicine
The KOA campground, just outside Mystic, CT, is ideal for families. You can hop on 95 and tour Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport during the day. We opted to hike from a trailhead right near the Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Veggie burger and kale salad - not your average camping fare
But you don’t even have to leave the campground to have fun. There are organized activities daily during the season, and the young, enthusiastic staff, much like camp counselors, were both personable and helpful. One noticed us trying to start a fire with inadequate kindling and ran off to bring some. There are outdoor movies on a giant screen, campfires with s’mores and wagon rides.

There is also a large pool, mini golf and bike rentals. We are already planning out next family camping trip.

Note: this is a sponsored post. Opinions expressed and family fun are my own.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Rain, Rain - Bring It On!

Despite drought conditions in California, the forecast for my recent SheBuysCars trip for Hyundai to Huntington Beach was rain, rain, rain.
Luckily, I had a defense - the new Gustbuster. This durable double canopy folding umbrella comes with a lifetime warranty, so it’s a far cry from the $3 umbrellas (now often $5) that proliferate like moss during NYC flash storms.

I’m not so sure a lifetime warranty is the issue for me and umbrellas - my kids take them and leave them all over the city. I’ve tried obnoxiously vibrant patterns to reduce the chance of petty theft, but still they take my stuff, and then lose it.

But the Gustbuster  was hiding in my luggage now is a beaut: a two tone black and red sturdy with wind release vents that prevent it from turning inside out. It also has a double strap closure, but the company recommends you open up a wet umbrella and let it dry out before closing it.

It didn’t rain at all in California, but I was happy I was prepared. I came home and it’s already rained twice. My garden is happy and I was glad to try out  - and then hide - my new accessory.

Although, apparently not well enough. When I went to take a photo of my Gustbuster, it was not in the umbrella stand.

Note: Gustbuster provided an umbrella for review and I was not otherwise compensated; opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Feeling Lucky? Avoid The Slots And Exercise At MGM Grand Detroit's Excellent Gym

Treadmills at the MGM Grand Detroit's gym
Most travelers don’t choose a hotel solely based on the fitness center, but once they have found a great work out space, they often return. Such is the case the the MGM Grand in Detroit; the excellent exercise facility, deluxe spa and gorgeous pool make me yearn to return.

Stability and Bosu balls
Every treadmill or cardio machine was stocked with its own towel and water bottle, plus individual screen. Of course you could also get a chilled towel, another towel form the stacks of thick, plush towels, and a glass of citrus infused water. You could even grab a piece of fruit for a post-workout snack.

There are plenty of free weights, weight benches, stability balls and a Bosu ball. And there is plenty of space to use all the equipment.  There are also weight machines and mirrors so you can watch your form.

The empty glowing pool at the MGM Grand Detroit
If you remember a bathing suit, you can take advantage of the pool, which has comfy lounges and, at least when I checked it out early in the mornings, few visitors.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ricardo Suitcase: Better Luggage for Easier Travel

The Ricardo suitcase, with 2 sections
Although I am hearty in some ways - running half marathons, rocking boot camp, climbing mountains, I have delicate parts. When I travel, and pull my roller bag, I get blisters on my hand.

At least I used to, until I was sent a Ricardo suitcase. This amazing travel companion has 360 degree wheels, making it easy to push or pull - basically with a fingertip. I may never require another hand massage!

Of course, the suitcase has other advantages, too. It is neatly divided in tow, so you can put delicate dresses on one side, running shoes and smelly clothes on the way home on the other.  And the bag is expandable, so if you are like me and shop on vacation (or business trips) you can create room for the purchases.

The Ricardo suitcase is great when going down increasingly narrow airplane aisles - you can turn the bag sideways and roll it down, avoiding the feet of the people already sitting (we’d like to welcome first class, premium members, people flying with babies or young children, people whose last name starts with an ‘M’ - basically anybody but me). 

One place where you have to be careful, though, is on escalators. I rolled my new Ricardo bag onto a down escalator and it started rolling so fast it was practically airborne. It’s fine going up escalators, but for going down, I think I’ll stick to an elevator.

Surprisingly, the bags are quite inexpensive - and downright cheap if you act fast. TravelingMom has a deal of 65% off, even on sale prices, with free shipping for orders over $99. Just use the  coupon code TMOM65Off 

Note: I was given a free Ricardo suitcase to test out. Opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fitness At The Omni Riverfront New Orleans

Sad elliptical machine missing its screen
The eating and drinking in New Orleans spell a tough recovery period for even a casual athlete. I resolved not to abandon my good habits and exercise while I was in New Orleans, staying at the Omni Riverfront.

It was not easy. Distractions included the French Quarter Festival, where bars advertised 3 for 1 drinks (never heard of that before). There was live music at every turn in the French Quarter, along with fried food and drinks sold right on the street - no need to even go inside to get your booze or sat fat on.

The rest of the small fitness center at the Omni Riverfront
So I was a little disappointed by the minuscule fitness center at the luxury boutique hotel. There were only a couple of cardio machines, one broken, and none had its own screen. There were also just a few weight machines and free weights, and almost no room to stretch. There were also no mats, stability balls or other extras.

But the Omni does offer a healthy traveler kit delivered to your room - mine had a yoga mat, a 5 pound kettle bell and a couple of 1 pound weights. There were also a few hard plastic balls in a package - no idea what they were for.

The hotel is down by the river, of course, and there's a pedestrian path that runs about a mile and a half, so you can go for a 3 mile loop with no worries about cars. We did see quite a few people running, and figured the path was short because no one in the city would be up for a longer run. It was also incredibly humid - in April, at 7am - so maybe running just 3 miles outside is a good thing.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Handbag Giveaway With Good Housekeeping And Toyota

Not my old Toyota: the 2015 Toyota Highlander
Just as I’ll always be fond of boys who wear Stan Smith tennis shoes, (as my first boyfriend did) I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for Toyota, my first car.

OK, my only car.

I learned to drive in a 1979 Toyota (yes, I am THAT old) and my mother passed it along to me when I was in college. I then dumped it on my sister since my boyfriend at the time (different boyfriend, same Stan Smith tennis shoes - go figure) had a better Toyota and we were moving back to NYC, where we only needed one car.

We owned several cars over the years, but they were never actually MY car. Now, I get to drive cars from all different brands. But I’ll always love a Toyota.

And I’ll always love to check out the hot new cars at the NY Auto Show, which starts next week at the Javits Center. We always went here when the girls were little - they loved to sit in the back of pickup trucks (city girls!) and they still do, even as young women and teens. 

My daughters, hanging out in the back of a pickup truck
When they were younger, another draw was Camp Jeep, a simulated off-road drive. Fun!

But this year is extra special. Good Housekeeping is giving away 35 designer handbags between April 3 and 12th! To enter to win, show attendees must take a photo of themselves in the drivers seat of a vehicle in a booth with the Women in the Drivers Seat plaque and tweet or Instagram it with the hashtags #GHDrives and #LetsGoPlaces.

You can get more info about the contest here.

The Toyota booth is front and center, so it should be easy to stop by and snap a selfie - and maybe win a pocketbook.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Running a Half Marathon - and Celebrating at the Spa

What a greeting: champagne & dark chocolate
When I first started training for a marathon, even a half marathon seemed a huge challenge. But now with 5 halts (halves?) under my belt, I think I'm ready.

My bathroom, for an hour
Unfortunately, I once again didn't get into the NYC Marathon. But I will persevere, doing my 9 New York Road Runners races, plus one volunteer spot, to guarantee entry in 2016. As long as no bike accident derails me again.

This year, my friend and I decided to celebrate the day after with massages at Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf Astoria.

The lobby of the Waldorf is a hive of activity, but once you reach the 19th floor, where the spa and fitness center are located, serenity sets in.

State of the art fitness equipment
When you check in, you are escorted to the locker room, with a robe and slippers, and you can use the fitness center before your appointment. I got stuck on the subway so I had no time to exercise - but then, I had just run a half marathon. I'd love to work out there some time - everything was brad new and pristine, and there wee cold towels and chilled water bottles available.

Room to stretch, or use the stability ball or Bosu ball
My friend and I had our rooms for the massage, each with a fully equipped shower - great products from--, razor, shaving cream and plenty of soft fluffy towels. We used the too cool steam room after our massages, so we showered in the fitness center showers, which also had rain shower heads and the same products.

The massage was fabulous - an hour of bliss, with a heated bed and a masseuse who worked out all the kinks of my 13.1 mile run. Having my feet and legs rubbed was amazing, and the head rub, back massage and full body relaxation was wonderful.

Romantic setting - though just for me & my friend
When I got to the room, a bottle of water and a piece of dark chocolate was waiting. My masseuse also brought in a glass of champagne; and at the end, she sets up a couple of glasses in the relaxation lounge for my friend and me.

It looked so romantic, I think my husband and I have to celebrate our anniversary this way!