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Preview: Real Vacations and Travel with VacationMamma

Real Vacations and Travel with VacationMamma

Looking for some sass, spunk, wit? Love to travel?Vacation Mamma is a mom of two, a travel junkie, and vacation rental owner. Share your vacation experience and travel advice, or drop in for a virtual trip or two.

Updated: 2016-05-19T23:17:14.958-07:00


Menopause The Musical


Seems like a hop skip ago that my posts were about traveling with little kids. Now I'm asking them to be our designated driver.

Two weeks ago I got to travel with my 82 year old mother in law (widow), 59 year old sister in law (widow), 55 year old sister (45 days shy of divorce finality), my younger daughter (17)), my saintly husband (54), and me (49). Can you picture it yet?

Said husband, who has been practicing diplomacy between women for over 23 years now, was brilliant enough to send us middle aged ladies out for a night of comedy and cocktails in Ft. Myers Florida. Oddly enough, he had seen "Menopause" by himself in Vegas a few months ago (poor boy) and thought of his sister.

At the Ft Myers Broadway Palm we were set up with seats that appeared to alternate every other, but we didn't realize this was dinner theater style seating as opposed to buffet then seating. So after some liquid courage in the form of Cosmos & Painkillers, we joined our new best friends for dinner & a show. I got the grand prize table with 7 women who came on a bus. They let me know right away what was tough, dry, tasteless, and edible. I was wondering if I was the only pre or peri menopausal woman in the audience. Let's just say, bedazzle sales are running hot on Florida's gulf coast.

As the show drew near, my family and I were able to draw close. We laughed until we almost peed our pants, fanned ourselves when no one else did, and had a great time tapping our feet to the familiar tunes.

As I spent another week in Florida with my sister, we often found ourselves referring to the inside jokes & tunes of Menopause: a sure sign that we had a grand time.

Summer Fun in Palm Desert CA


One of the things I spent last weekend doing was taking new photographs around our vacation condo out near Palm Springs CA. I'm not a professional photographer or videographer, but I think I captured the essence of our immediate area at Palm Valley Country Club outdoors.  The A/C in our vacation rental was cranking as the temperature rose over 100 F every day, and the pool shown here was empty save for us and some pool toys.

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Solitude and a Foggy Day in Maine


It's just 48 hours since I arrived atmy summer rental in Maine.I've been doing this for over a decade, but this time is different. I came alone. Yes one glorious week to be responsible to just myself.

I have visions of reading late into the night, eating a bit here and there that creates little mess, long leisurely walks beach combing, Antique hunting for the fixtures I should have bought, and completing my rock/fairy garden.

Down poors the rain, in rolls the fog...this is June in Maine. Poor weather and all this has been marvelous. I've managed to break bread with a dear friend, finish an entire summer read "Summer Rental," if you must know, and spent the day beach combing at Reid State Beach.

As for wildlife, it abounds: big fat Robin, agile squirrels, a couple of does, a mamma wild turkey & two babies, nesting Piping Plovers, a jellyfish, and the best of the day: a seal pup basking on the rocks & seaweed.

Sometimes having nothing to do gives you the opportunity to do everything you want. I capped off the evening making a summer cocktail appropriate for Maine: Blueberry Cosmopolitan: 1 part blueberry vodka, 3 part cosmo mix, ice. Shake, drain, adjust to tast, serve with 3 fresh blueberries,

Do you have a favorite solitary getaway? Or a signature cocktail?

Tea Travels


Green Tea Reminds me of a Korean Colleague
Strange how tea can take us to places, times, and memories. A few minutes ago I tweeted to a fellow traveller who was mentioning being calm without coffee that he might want to try Rooibos Tea, as I find it calming. The truth is, I find it calming because I associate the tea with a special bond shared with my older daughter. You see she introduced me to Rooibos tea while we were sharing a flat in Fish Hoek near Cape Town South Africa. She had discovered the tea (it's from a local redbush indigenous to the western Cape) while in the bush of Botswana. Sure I'd tried a variety mixed with other teas from Teavana back at the mall in Orange County, but it just wasn't the same as a simple cup of Rooibos which was said to be poor man's tea (vs the tea from Dutch colonizers and British tourists.) So as I got up to write this post, I miss my daughter, think of our guest house visit, the hosts from Colorado & Namibia, and guests from Ghana.

Then my thoughts wander to my most recent trip. To a place I equate with tea: London. Harrods. English Breakfast Tea. Earl Grey. High Tea. Classic tea party.  Funny thing is, tea has become such a luxury item business in the US that I was a bit disappointed in the teas in London. My hotel, the London Metropole, served "everyday" tea from Tetley in a bag. Kind of like a non vintage wine.  That said, we have a Starbucks inspired tea here at home that will always make me think of London, and my younger daughter who loves the London and it's namesake concoction: London Fog. We make it with a cup of Earl Grey, Soy milk foamed with an aerolatte tool, and a splash of vanilla syrup. Perfect for cool coastal California mornings when we are covered in marine layer. Honestly, London makes a better latte, and beer. Enjoying a london fog is equivalent to driving my daughter to school along a foggy coastal road.

As I open the tea cabinet I spy yet another memory infused tea: Sweet Orange by Tazo. Oddly enough I tried this at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines where my husband and I were given free tickets and a day free of cell phones to watch Mickelson and Woods battle it out. I remember the fresh fruity smell of that tea late in the afternoon, and how I scoured the lawyer sponsored room for more of those tea bags to take home. Now whenever I drink this tea I think of the beautiful Torrey Pines, the tricky 15th hole, and how Tiger came from behind, but Mickelson had such class. Sweet Orange takes me to a place of privilege and a once in a life time "pinch me" moment that was just too good to be true, but it was!

Where does your tea take you?

Beach Rental Tips


Some great tips from my experiences as a vacationer, vacation rental owner, and vacation rental manager on getting the right beach rental over on our Oceanside CA and San Diego area blog.

Cape Town South Africa New Year's Mother Daughter Trip


I must be the luckiest mom to hit this planet.  I have two teenage daughters. Usually teenage daughters want little to do with their moms; but my older one is far too smart for that. Not only did she get us to agree to allow her to volunteer in Botswana once, but twice, she also "invited" me to join her in Cape Town South Africa for a week before her second trip (because she knew we wouldn't allow her to go alone). Hence started my first trip to the African continent for New Year's 2010 and my birthday (solidly middle aged).

First, I have always been enamored with stories of the explorers headed to India on the spice route and of Darwin coming the other direction. To me the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of the African continent is one of the most exotic locations in the world. When I was 16 I NEVER dreamed of going to Hawaii, never mind Cape Town. My dreams went no further than Southern California as a small town New Hampshire girl.  My daughters, however, view Disneyland as a routine activity, so their dreams go to Africa, India, Australia, and Europe of course.
As a first time visitor to the African continent, regardless of the tourist information that I read, I had a stereotypical view of "Africa" - read: safari's,  Zulu wars of the movies, and the infamous criminals praying on tourists.  WRONG!

Cape Town South Africa is a cosmopolitan city, in many ways no different than any other that I've visited, and of course in more ways unique. With prudence and reasonable but not fearful caution, Cape Town is a city, and the Cape Peninsula/Western Cape of South Africa, one to be enjoyed: by more mother/daughter travel teams.

I'm looking forward to more posts and sharing our favorite sites, tips, and photos. 

Tip for today:
Fish Hoek in False Bay is close enough, but a world away. Stay with Solveig and Peter at their guest house: Sunny Cove Manor and be sure to eat their hearty breakfast each day to save time and Rands by skipping a meal. We stayed for a week in the owner's "family flat" as the regular guest house rooms were full, and it cost about $900 USD. Moreover, our hostess helped us to make reservations, arranged for a local rental car when they were sold out all over the city, and our host set up a private visit to Masipumelele, a black township. Our hostess told us the best routes, and safe atms!

Vacation Mamma Where You been?


I need more vacation, more mamma, less work...If you want to see what I've been doing that keeps me from writing (not so much from travel), check out my company: BETTER Vacation Rentals. We've managed to grow even in this economy, launch a new web site, add properties, and still get BETTER at satisfying our guests and owners. Top it off with a family and company move 40 miles south...and a year flies by.

Where have I been exploring? Sequoia NP CA, Athens Greece, Temecula CA, Canyon de Chelly AZ, Painted Forest National Park AZ, Five Islands ME, Cape Cod MA, Washington DC, San Diego CA , and my new home town of Encinitas / Cardiff CA. Next up: Cape Town South Africa.

Promise more trip info to come...until then.

Cancel my Flight: I want to be in Georgetown ME on July 11, 2009


Doggone it! The Georgetown Maine annual auction at the Five Islands Station is on July 11 this year...and of course that's when I'm due to fly home from almost 3 weeks at our great waterfront cottage just a few minutes down North End Road. This auction was my first experience with a live auction and I look forward to it every year. Mainers have lots of interesting stuff in their barns and it ends up at this auction... My list of buys include:
-a gas grill with a rodent nest that ended up at the transfer station
- a rabbit hutch we drove home 3000 miles - our bunny loved it but we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies for sure
- a collection of Harry Potter books on tape that have given my daughter hours of enjoyment
- some antique linens that probably saw many ladies play bridge, and now grace my bunco tables
- a wicker settee that looked cute but flaked paint and lasted a few seasons
- a custom name paint job for our boat that my husband never had done (I wonder if it expires?)
- a Hopper print that graces our cottage wall whose frame is worth more than I paid, but is matted in a slightly odd way
- a limited edition lighthouse serving tray from Georgetown Pottery

I'm small time at this auction...I'll never forget the year that the Moorings B&B was furnishing their place - they spent thousands...or all of the original artwork...and the dinghies, canoes, and even a sailboat now and then.

All proceeds benefit the Geoergetown Maine VOLUNTEER fire department who have saved many at Reid State Park. You can always count on some great live lobster packages, or just visit one of our in the rough lobster joints after the auction. Maine governors and officials have been known to auctioneer as well!

Where: Just left off 127 on Five Islands Road.
When: July 11 9 am.

Get there early to preview the merchandise or get the best of the White Elephant and bake sale. Buy a few chances for the Georgetown Working League's one of a kind quilt. To donate items (not stoves, fridges, washers, a/c, used mattresses) call David Knauber at 207-371-2020. Deadline is just a few days before the auction - so clean out the barn now!

Another Vacationer Discovers Vacation Rentals Apartments in NYC!


Summer of 2006 I took my girls to Manhattan and rented an amazing flat in midtown Manhattan for far less than a hotel, and with far better flavor and our own back yard. I'm pleased to see the following article as others discover the joys of vacation rentals in urban settings. In fact I stayed at a rental in the Belltown District of Seattle for just 3 nights last month while looking at colleges with my high school junior, and an Central Athens Apartment 2 weeks ago while accompanying my husband on a business trip to Athens Greece. Vacation rentals are no longer just for beach stays, golf getaways, and ski vacations. Check out the full article at:

Catholic Online - Travel: "Manhattan walk-up let us feel like native New Yorkers
By Joan Chrissos

McClatchy Newspapers (
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) - I was at the point of canceling our New York City family vacation.

I had scoured travel Web sites, checked my American Express deals, talked to New York friends about bed & breakfasts _ yet couldn't find a place to stay in the Big Apple that was reasonably priced and could accommodate seven people, or two families traveling together.

Then a friend told me about Vacation Rental By Owner, or

Thus began my journey into renting a New York apartment for four nights. By scrolling through and Googling 'New York City vacation rentals,' I discovered a cottage industry of New Yorkers who rent out apartments to travelers _ often for less or comparable rates to a New York hotel room, plus all the comforts of home, including a kitchen and washer-and-dryer.

A caveat, however: Know your neighborhoods. One listing was for a 'Beautiful Upper West Side 4-5 Bedroom, 2 baths,' with hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and a photo of a lush tree-lined street. The catch: The apartment was on West 171st Street, about 71 blocks north of the neighborhood most people would call the Upper West Side.

As we wanted to be near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park and a few subway st"

Scott Harrison Story & Charity Water


Currently in Athens Greece, I came across this story while taking a break instead of my afternoon siesta. It moved me. Read it if you like.

Scott Harrison Story & Charity Water: "Scott Harrison Story & Charity Water

Just more than two years ago I left the streets of New York City for the shores of West Africa. I'd made my living for years in the big Apple promoting top nightclubs and fashion events, for the most part living selfishly, thoughtlessly. Unhappy, I desperately needed a change in my life."

Expired Passport and a Ticket to Greece in 8 Hours!*$@


For 48 hours I worked diligently to get ready for a trip to Athens Greece this week. As a mom and business owner it's not a simple task to go away anywhere, never mind a this far away. I emailed the itineraries, the medical releases, called the schools, notified my clients, and arranged for everything...everything but one minor detail!

At 11:24 am the day of my trip, I ducked into my home from the garage office to use the facilities, as I ran quickly, my husband called out "it's important come here." I ignored him like any good wife of many years, and strolled over a few minutes later. He shows me my passport that expired in May and says "do you have another? I've searched and can't find it." I didn't see the telltale hole punches in the passport that they give to expired ones, and my heart sunk. "No - I don't - Oh my God!" No panic, just amazing disappointment and functionality ensued. I knew what had to be done, and thanked my lucky stars that we were flying out of LAX. My husband knew what had to be done as well, and contacted the US Passport agency - fortunately LA is one of the 6 regional centers that can do passports quickly (but they didn't say in hours).

Did I mention I hadn't started to pack for my trip to Athens? Nor had I showered! Gone to the bank? Had new passport photos taken? Post office? Picked up my boots that needed a new zipper or returned my overdue library books or movie? Yes, we did all these things, and kissed our youngest daughter goodbye, and by 1:30 pm were on the road for a 2 pm passport appointment a mere 70 miles away...we have never been such fools! What were we thinking?

I walked in to the US Passport office at 2:45 pm on a Friday afternoon. They close at 3 pm. I have never encountered nicer people in a government office. They were helpful and compassionate. Apparently it usually takes 2-3 hours to get a passport in person. I had mine before 4 pm!!! By 5 pm I was comfortably settled in the Admiral's Club at LAX courtesy of my husband's status as platinum (international flights, the club is complimentary), and paid my upcoming bills online... By 8 pm after a little delay...we were eastward bound.

My advice for booking international travel:

1. Check your passport
2. Check your passport
3. Check your passport
4. When you realize your passport is expired, do not pass go, just go get it.
5. Remember to pack your medicine and glasses in your carry on luggage! Where the heck did I leave that bag of stuff? The kitchen table maybe?

See my next post for more on Greece, and hopefully getting medications while in Greece (waiting for Monday).

Art Galleries in Odd Places - Dana Point, CA


The life of a suburban mom includes a lot of "travel." Travel to practice, school, friends, library, and the grocery. Mine includes a lot less to practice and games these days, but there are music lessons in Dana Point, CA twice a week, which are just far enough and long enough that I don't want to drive back home to San Clemente after dropping off. The week before Christmas I had my younger daughter in tow and we decided to check out a local strip mall type plaza nearby Danmans Music School. Mind you, Dana Point is the kind of place many people dream of going on vacation, and we just take the ocean view from this strip mall for granted. After I bored my daughter with stories of how we used to toss the football around on this cul-de-sac during half time of football games (before TiVo), we checked out the fish store, and then moseyed over to "The Mint." The Mint is an art gallery in an obscure corner of a strip mall on an obscure slice of the Del Prado/Pacific Coast Highway area. That said, it's a cool little place.

We met the owner, Mark, and were drawn in by the art work of Paul Bryan Jr. (who we never heard of) and were pleasantly surprised to see more than the local standard of surf and beach art. There was a large black and white Bob Dylan image and a Jimi Hendrix image in a window, and we went right in. Now, I grew up humbly, and am completely intimidated by art galleries, and love museums. My 13 year old however, thinks nothing of trying on $1000 dressed in boutiques for fun. We enjoyed the pop art from Bryan, but especially these wonderfully accessible "hoola hoop" pieces. They were stacked against the wall, and the canvas was framed around a hoola hoop. Images of the Gerber Baby, Smilee Face, the world, a clock and more Andy Warholesque pop art were fun to explore. Like all galleries though, I think artists and owners are out of touch with us real people. Without prices, it's fun like a museum, but we were too embarrasses to ask. No idea if these were $10,000 pieces or $100 pieces. Never-the-less, it was a fun way to burn a half our and act like tourists in our own backyard - and free!

If you are in the Dana Point area: visit The Mint at 34085 Pacific Coast Hwy, #109, Dana Point, CA 92629

Knott's Scary Farm- Buena Park, CA


What do amusement parks do to pack in the people in the off season - that time between summer vacation and Christmas Break? Why dress up for Halloween of course! This marked my third or fourth visit to Knotts "Halloween Haunt" which is better known as Knotts Scary Farm by locals. This amusement park manages to get all of us parents of pre and young teens as well as teens and young adults to shell out $40-$50 to come in after dark and go through gross mazes, be scared by chain saw toting clowns, and go on rides that promise to scare you even without monsters. What more could you ask for?

I hate roller coasters and most rides since I get terrible motion sickness, but I love to be included in my teens' lives...this time my 13 year old and her friend let me join them, but rarely held my hand when goons and ghouls jumped out of the dark. Me, I loved the fog and the clowns...they loved the rides.

This is a definite right of passage for all parents of young teens in Southern CA. Be sure to catch this experience some time.

Traveler IQ Challenge- TripAdvisor


I'm a self employed mom. I don't play many games online or by myself, though I LOVE games. This is one that I could probably play all day. It's on Trip Advisor and it is a "where in the world is? kind of game. Have fun trying and playing:

Traveler IQ Challenge- TripAdvisor

Vacation Mamma Suffers No Vacation Stress


Wow - I've been neglecting this blog something awful. I wish it were because I've been off traveling. Instead, I've been building my new vacation rental property management business. I took and passed my CA RE Broker's license and have been building a boutique property management firm specializing in beach rentals. It's a huge labor, love, and learning curve. Needless to say there hasn't been a lot of time or money for travel the last 6-9 know it's bad when your teenager says - "gee we haven't been anywhere good since last summer." Well of course I disagree (she's 15 we don't agree on much these days). There's dad's birthday RV rental and staying at Casper Wilderness Park outside San Juan Capistrano. There's that trip to Las Vegas (the Venetian, MGM Grand, Ka and Dane Cook) in December. There's my birthday trip to LA (architectural tour, Westin Bonaventura, and Wicked at the gorgeous Pantages Theater) in January. "Those don't count" she recants. In fact she says "we should have skipped those and saved for something big." Of course I'm thinking "we did save for something big: new furniture and blinds for the family room." Of course it's hard to feel good about that when we are sitting in the same family room with the sun keeping the TV faded on the same worn love seat while we still wait for said furniture. Funny how spoiled my family has become when we don't count $1000 weekends as vacations any more!Well instead of getting depressed...I'll instead focus on my blessings near to home and those mini trips in addition to those above that I have been able to enjoy:- a day trip to the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve near Lancaster, CA (2.5 hours from south Orange County CA)- a day trip to Temecula for a Cancer for College Golf Tournament with Will Ferrell (I lost that photo when my iPhone broke)- an overnight trip wine tasting in Temecula, CA with my book club just an hour away (we are reading our 100th book this fall! - and trying to get on Oprah)- an overnight business trip to Las Vegas two weeks ago for a Vacation Rental Manager's seminar/conference with my good friend and business partner (where we checked out the condotel MGM Signature Towers (fantastic), the new club LAX, and surprisingly good appetizers and wine at the Golden Nugget during our conference)-countless trips to the beach at T-Street in San Clemente,CA to drop my teenager-at least two sunsets at Pine's Park in Dana Point, CA with my pre teen-innumerable trips to North Coast Village in Oceanside, CA to look at and set up new vacation rentals for my clients at the beach-many afternoons in my back yard pool hear in Southern CA when most others still have the heat running (at least I just have to heat my pool and spa)Whew - stress gone! I'm not feeling stressed at all now...hmm time to get planning our trip to Maine this summer and to check out colleges in NYC and Boston![...]

MyNauticalMile - Boat and Fishing Charters: Top 10 Fishing Vacation Destinations


Though not a fisherman really, I do love to travel, and have been known to troll for a fish or two.

Of this gentleman's blog list about the top ten fishing spots, I have actually visited his number one spot (Quepos near Manual Antonio national park in Costa Rica - a great vacation), number 6 (Alaska - where I cruised the inside passage with my mom on our only real vacation together and caught my very own 25 lb king salmon), and British Columbia (where I've only explored Victoria by land). Good taste this man has...

MyNauticalMile - Boat and Fishing Charters: Top 10 Fishing Vacation Destinations: "Top 10 Fishing Vacation Destinations"

Eight questions to ask before booking a vacation rental -


Eight questions to ask before booking a vacation rental - "Eight questions to ask before booking a vacation rental
by Sarah Pascarella, Staff - March 14, 2008

As my friends and family will attest, I'm a big fan of vacation rentals: It's my first-choice accommodations type whenever I take a trip. But before I book, I always research the property thoroughly. This gives me peace of mind because I know the place I'm renting is clean and comfortable, and also ensures I won't get any surprise charges after checking out."

Christmas Wish List for the Traveling Mom


I got the idea for this post from another blog: WAHM Spotlite who published a Christmas wish list for work at home mom's (which I am).Here's A Christmas Wish List for the Traveling Mom on Your Gift List this YearWarning: these items are practical, but what she really wants!1. An L.L. Bean or other brand hang up sundrie bag. I bring a ton of stuff as a woman - shampoo, conditioner, razor, lotion - you know the essentials and then some. It would be nice to pack them in something other than ziplock bags (I check my toiletries now thanks to the TSA). Practical - easy for family from away to purchase and have shipped directly.2. A pretty passport/travel folio. I got a very male looking travel folio with the last piece of nice luggage I bought from Travel Pro. Although it's very functional, I'd like one with a bit more style, or even color. I use this folio now every time I travel, after a trip to Europe a year ago. With the new security regulations I find it handy even if I'm not bringing my passport. I put my tickets, itinerary, photo ID, some cash, and a credit card in there so I never have to fish around in my purse as I go through security. I found that this folio can replace my wallet when I'm on vacation since I don't need all those extra items I usually have in there. The perfect gift from a sister or close friend.3. Stocking Stuffers: Travel size (less than 3.5 oz) of my favorite lotion or at least one that's similar. With all the handwashing and lugging around on a trip, my hands are eternally dry. Perfect item to ask the kids to buy you. Inexpesive, but special. Ditto with lips - so a fresh ChapStick (not a stinky one please) would be a welcome stocking stuffer too. A memory stick in case I need to bring files not on my laptop. For guys to purchase who don't like to shop at Origins, Bath and Body Works, and the Body Shop. Luggage ID. My mother in law crocheted these brightly colored "snakes" that we can tie on our suitcases. Makes them easy and quick to identify at baggage claim. Perfect gift from the handy crafter.4. A new MacBook Pro. You didn't think everything would be easy and inexpensive did you? I have a Dell. I hate it. He has a MacBook Pro. I love it.5. A soft eye mask for sleeping and a small but comfortable neck/travel pillow. Though not practical for most short trips, worth the extra carry on baggage for international and cross country flights and train rides. Throw in a pair of ear plugs (not those ugly orange ones for in the workshop) and make a gift basket out of this! Skip the blow up pillow - they are very uncomfortable.6. A pair of noise cancelling headphones. I'm coveting the Bose on the ear product, but there are lots out there. She'll wear them on the plane even without music and be in a much better mood when she arrives a her travel destination.7. A gift certificate to iTunes or her favorite music download spot. Nothing like her own new music to make the trip shorter. If she isn't a music person, how about a bookstore gift certificate to Amazon or her favorite book seller.8. For the "roadtrip" warrior who travels by auto or RV with her family, buy an eyemask that can be put in the fridge for stress relief. Not only will mom enjoy, but when the kids get antsy, they'll have fun passing this number around!9. Round Trip Tickets to a New or Favorite Destination, a night or two in a hotel in a nearby city, an already planned trip...For the travel junkie, what do they want most? More travel! Go for it and surprise the one you love with a trip - before the New Year![...]

Vacation at Home You'll Discover Why You Live There! Gifts from the School District?


I love when the school vacation calendar is published each year. I find all the days the kids have off and treat them like little gifts - days to go away, travel, explore! Sometimes I plan a year in advance what we'll do with those gifts, and some years I wait until the last minute. Rarely do I let these presents sit unwrapped and unused. There are of course exceptions... and this Thanksgiving week was one of them.We get an entire week off at Thanksgiving. The first time the school district tried this calendar, I whisked my family away on frequent flier miles to Maui and Oahu (for two weeks - much to the school's chagrin). We've gone to New England to visit family, and the Plimouth Plantation. We've gone skiing in Colorado many years. We've gone hiking in Zion National Park. Occassionally we've stayed home. Never, before, though have we spent the entire week at home!Day One and Two: My husband couldn't let an unbooked weekend go unused at our Palm Desert vacation condo so he spent the first weekend of our 9 day break golfing and making repairs at Palm Valley Country Club. The kids and I spent the first weekend "hanging out with friends" (that means the mall to the younger one) and having a Survivor China marathon and eating our meals on the couch. We had about 5 episodes on TiVo. I turned off my laptop, let the phones go to voicemail, and just enjoyed being with my girls. Why Survivor? Because we can watch all the silly antics, see a bit of an exotic location, fast forward through the gross things, and talk all the way through without missing anything important. We hung out together reading and relaxing. My husband had to work until Thanksgiving, so we also began to plot our "vacation at home" strategy; one that he wouldn't feel too left out on.Day Three: we drove up to Los Angeles to the Museum of Tolerance. This museum is not a happy place, so it should not be the last thing you do on a southern California vacation. The museum is already under renovation, though it seems so new. The spiral staircase in the middle is reminiscent of the great Guggenheim Museum in NYC. There is no photography allowed in the museum in keeping with the solemn environs. We spent quite a bit of time in the exhibits regarding the current time and examining our own attitudes. The Millenium Machine was especially educational. Then we moved through the structured Holocaust Exhibit and ended in the gas chambers with tears. Caution, not for young children - be sure your group is emotionally able to handle this. Interestingly enough, my family was moved, but not shocked by any of this. They've been well educated in the issues of tolerance I think.We ran out of time to finish our plans which were to go to the LA Fashion District for cheap shopping. I've been before to celebrate a 14th birthday and it is a teenage girl's heaven. LA is so much more than Hollywood! We instead took a random drive to our dinner destination, taking in some sites including lots of CA bungalows and the edges of USC's campus. On the way home, we passed the new Disney Concert Hall and the court house and decided our next time to LA will be a guided architectural tour. We parked at Pershing Square where they already had trees lit for Christmas, and were operating a winter ice skating rink - yes ice skating in downtown LA! We took in dinner at The Water Grill where we were celebrating a birthday and met up with more family. This restaurant is noted for its fresh fish, and was recently awarded a Michelin star. The service was excellent (they did the oddest thing and swi[...]

Temecula CA Day Tripping and Wine Tasting


Temecula CA is a day tripper or weekender's paradise from the Los Angeles - Orange County - San Diego - Palm Springs Megalopolis. I discovered this little town more than 15 years ago, when it was still considered in it's wine infancy. In those days, a leisurely drive, wine tasting, a picnic and a drive home was something easy for a couple of yuppies to do. Fast forward, and to fall 2006, and somehow a decade and a half had passed since my last visit to this great valley surrounded by rolling hills and a thriving wine industry. I'm told that the wineries here host more guests than the famed Sonoma and Napa regions, because of the proximity to the locations named earlier. Truth is, the wine here is good too.I came back to this little haven last week for an afternoon of wine tasting, a lunch, and a charity dinner at the Temecula Creek Inn to benefit Cancer for College (and my chance to make my kids jealous and meet Will Ferrell). When I was under 40, I would have never had the "guts" to go wine tasting by myself, nor the self discipline to pace out the tastes and stay sober. After an easy one hour drive from Orange County, I dropped my other half at the College for Kids Golf Tournament, and headed over to Thornton Winery (32575 Rancho California Rd., Temecula, CA 951-699-0099). I had decided to try smaller wineries that I had not yet visited, and that I didn't think were on my book club's itinerary for our now annual trip. Thornton was one of the first wineries I saw, but what caught my eye was the sign for "champagne" - one of my favorite wines!I had a light lunch in the Cafe Champagne (the lunch entrees looked good but large and expensive for what I wanted) of a soup and bread. The service was excellent as was the Champagne. There is a lovely center courtyard with a fountain and plenty of room to take in the neighboring hills. The tasting room is far more civilized than many, and instead of standing at the bar, you sit at a table indoors or out, and choose a "flight" of wines to taste. I of course chose the champagne flight. A flight is typically a set of wines (4-6) that are served at one time and move from driest to sweetest. While waiting, I enjoyed the reading material which included a bit about the 19th annual champagne jazz series on Saturdays in September and October. One of my favorite jazz artists: Candy Dulfer was scheduled to play there Oct. 7. I'll have to check out this series for next year. Only an hour away, it would make for a great "date" with a spouse, friend, or even alone.My favorite Thornton champagnes were: the 1996 Brut Reserve (served with my lunch), the Non-vintage Brut, and the 1996 Brut Reserve Natural. Your results may vary. I also learned that being alone has it's advantages as I met two nice women from Escondido, north of San Diego. The best part: the chance to go home with 4 bottles for the price of 3!Next stop was Stuart Cellars (33515 Rancho California Road, Temecula CA 951-699-0099) which was just down the road and looked like just what I wanted: a small winery. This winery is a wonderful, small little gem. I liked every wine I tasted, the wine tender (Kenny) was gracious, informed, and efficient with all of the guests, and the guests were very friendly. Here I met two women from Rhode Island that were working in CA for 2 weeks, a gentleman involved in RV Fractional ownership, and a couple who lives literally a 1/4 mile from me. Small world indeed. I came home with a great Chardonnay, and an unexpected pink wine (I don't do pink anymore - HAH!). The port here is excellent To this[...]

I Pick George Clooney's Location - How About You?


What's the last weekend of summer for if not for dreaming? Take a few minutes and feast your eyes upon the locations where the stars spend their vacations and time away from home. From Santa Barbara to Italy - which location would you pick? Me I'd like Oprah's Santa Barbara place, and George Clooney's Lake Como estate. Take a look at the article from Forbes for more luxury second home locations.

Celebrity Second Homes |

Deja Vu in Colorado


One of the best things about being over 40 is that you start to get invited to weddings again. When I was in my 20s it seemed there was at least one wedding every summer or fall to look forward to: a new dress, maybe even a brides maid gown, dancing, free food, cocktails, and a new location or venue to explore. After the flurry of activity in those years though, the weddings die down, and I think I went about a decade with no weddings in the summer. But alas, now I have nieces and nephews, and neighbors' children, and I find myself having to choose between weddings to attend once again! This year's wedding: my nephew's. This year's destination: Estes Park, CO. Bonus: my 3 siblings and their families!I've been to Colorado many times before. Mostly for skiing in Summit County, and a few summer or spring visits here and there. If I didn't have salt water in my veins, I'd live there. I'll never forget my first trip to the Rocky Mountains in 1986. Before that, I'd never even been west of the Mississippi River! I couldn't have imagined such grandeur and beauty. Over 20 years later, this place still takes my breath away, and holds surprises at every turn.After leaving LA in the wee hours of the morning and arriving at that God forsaken airport they call Denver International and being whisked away by my sister, who has a little trouble with directions, I find myself taken in once again as we head north and west - even over the out of tune singing being performed by my kids, sister, and myself (my husband refrained...). Mind you this scenario: my sister, me, my husband is reminiscent of that trip 21 years ago, as it was with this sister that I met my husband here in Colorado...A few hours later, and "voila", we are in the mountains winding through Estes Park, past the Stanley Hotel (the wedding reception venue)and arrive at a villa rented by my brother that backs on to a gorgeous river that I never learned that name of. Here we do the normal for families: hug, eat, and talk too loudly. I start to feel 12 again, as that's the last time all 4 of us kids lived at home together!Shortly we find ourselves checked in to The Stanley Hotel (more on that later), and hurtling toward a rehearsal dinner at The Wild Basin Lodge in Allenspark, CO. The drive is breath taking, but the speeding trap is frustrating. Ah...but this is the stuff of family legend: "remember Geoff's wedding and we were late for the rehearsal dinner because Karen got a speeding ticket, and when we finally got there, (brother) Fred had been stopped too!" Since my husband was videographer for this event - we even have it documented for posterity. Can you picture a minivan with 3 kids and 3 adults just try not to laugh at my sister's misfortune?! and get her in more trouble with the police... The Wild Basin Lodge was not only the destination for a delicious and nicely casual rehearsal dinner, but also for the most beautiful wedding location I think I've ever seen. The wedding the next day was in a field with the clear sky of high altitude and the mountains as a backdrop. The only thing more beautiful, was of course the bride!.The Stanley Hotel, famed as one of the historic hotels in the US, and infamous as the rumored inspiration and writing location of "The Shining" by Stephen King (which he denies) served up a private building for the reception, excellent food, pricey (but good) cocktails, and attentive service for the wedding. My only gripe: air conditioning needed for receptions! Our rooms at the Stanley we[...]



Ah - summer - my favorite time of year because the kids are out of school and we can travel a little. Where have we been this summer?

Estes Park, CO & Rocky Mountain National Park for a wedding and family gathering
Boston, MA - staid in the North End and behaved like tourists
Georgetown, Maine - worked on our cottage, visited with friends and family, boated on the Sheepscot River
Tewksbury, MA - visited family
San Clemente, CA - vacationing at home - including the beach, pool, and San Diego

Summer wish list: local vacationing: Wild Rivers Waterpark, the beach, Oceanside condo, Lake Arrowhead (vacation rental exchange), LA fashion district for back to school shopping, the pool, Old Town San Diego, the Dead Sea Scrolls in San Diego, Tijuana, maybe a cruise to Mexico?

I'm still getting it together from nearly 3 weeks on the road, but hope to post on these locations before long. Need to get my photos ready!

Here's wishing your summer vacation is the best!

Spend a week's vacation with Jordin Sparks or Paris Hilton - you choose!


First, I'll say I'm sorry, but I couldn't resist. First news on the radio this morning was that Paris Hilton is out of jail after only 3 days in the slammer. Then when I opened my browser this afternoon, there it was: The Jordin Sparks / MeMe Roth "scandal" over obesity. Two stars, one looking anorexic and in jail with no talent, and one with lots of talent, a pleasant smile, and on no: 5'10" and a size 12 "the picture of unhealth" according to an obesity expert!Jordin Sparks: I Like My Curves - American Idol (Series), Jordin Sparks : "Jordin Sparks didn't just win American Idol last week – she won a lifelong battle to accept herself.

'I think it really helped boost her self-esteem and made her realize she's beautiful as she is,' her grandmother, Pam Weidmann, tells PEOPLE for its new issue. Jordin's mom, Jodi, says of her daughter's May 23 victory: 'It was huge to see her confidence level grow. ... She's standing taller now.' "

I have the pleasure of driving around girls ages 11-15 every day and guess what? Most of them are healthy and beautiful and they range in sizes from 0 to 18. Guess what else: they all think they are fat! Diets, exercise, even personal trainers are part of their daily conversations. Since when can anyone consider a young woman who is 5'10" tall and a size 12 unhealthy? MeMe Roth needs to get a grip and focus on preventing obesity and not picking on someone she's never even met! What kind of person talks about a 17 year old in public like that? I don't care that Jordin just won Idol; it's just so unneccessary.

Any way what I want to know is this: who would you rather spend a week long vacation with? Jordin Sparks or Paris Hilton? Your paying, not them!

My vote goes to Jordin - the one who will enjoy the local cuisine, smile broadly when something makes her happy, and who cleans up quite nicely thank you. Paris no thanks - we don't want to end up in some Mexican or LA jail!

Spring Break 2007 - Cooper Island, BVI


Riddle: What took 21 hours, $2000, and a bottle of sunscreen and was worth it all?Answer: Spring break for Vacation Mamma and 2 girls at Quart-A-Nancy Point at Cooper Island in the British Virgin Islands from Los Angeles/Orange CountyNote: Your cost will be significantly higher as our food and lodging were supplied courtesy of my big brother! Estimate $2500 for a week of lodging and double your normal grocery bill.I wasn't planning on going anywhere for spring break this year. My taxes aren't done, the property tax bills were a bear, and we took a big trip to Europe in December. Plus my husband really couldn't get away right now. I figured we'd heat the pool and enjoy our own southern California backyard - that was until my nephew called 2 weeks ago with this great $560 round trip air fare to St. Thomas! Being "vacation mamma" I resisted for about 5 minutes and succumbed to the promise of warm water snorkeling in the Caribbean.I'd been to Tortola before for a week stay at "Bananas on the Beach" in West End (284-495-4318) more than a decade ago and a day trip to Virgin Gorda with snorkeling at the famed Baths, but never to any of the smaller islands in the BVIs. That's where my brother comes in. He bought a place on Cooper Island a few years ago, but I'd never had the chance to visit (truth is he's been working so hard on his place, and I'm tired of working hard on my vacation rentals when I "vacation" so I was waiting until I might be able to actually vacation.)Although St. Thomas is not the best place to fly into to reach Cooper Island (Tortola is)- we managed the extra ferry to Tortola and then the Cooper Island Beach Club shuttle/charter boat and never looked back (well only for sunsets. Our spring break consisted of 3 days full of snorkeling and sitting on the spectacular deck watching the day and night go by. Everything we needed was there, especially the hammock that my oldest daughter enjoyed sleeping in. Our wake up call was not an alarm clock, but the bleating of a goat owned by an islander. The birds visited the courtyard and made us feel as if we were in a sanctuary. The snorkeling right from the dock blessed us with squid, rays including an eagle ray, blue tang, parrot fish, flounder, puffer fish, grouper, and our own resident barracuda. Every evening we delighted in a sighting of a turtle just off shore, and watched the sun go down and the multitude of starts appear.Spring break was short, but oh so very sweet this year. There is nothing like a little warm water and sun for the soul.[...]