travel-section

Category : Hotels

There is a moment during everyone’s trip to Santa Monica when you find the perfect spot on Ocean Avenue, glance at the surf and think, “I could live here forever.” Don’t fight it, it is bound to happen. Santa Monica is a magical place where the city meets the sand, and sunsets rival those you’ve seen in coffee table books. The people are beautiful and dancing neon lights from the Santa Monica Pier celebrate Route 66.

Shore Hotel Santa Monica

But you don’t necessarily have to move to Santa Monica. There is a boutique hotel nestled directly across the water where you can stay, and soak up everything you love about this lively beach town right from your private balcony. Welcome to the Shore Hotel.

Green and gorgeous

Nothing screams quaint or traditional at this property. It’s modern, crisp and seksi. And it’s also smart. Shore Hotel is a luxury sustainable property that is gold LEED certified. It’s hard to believe that luxury can be green — however, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint just by being a guest at Shore Hotel.

Shore Hotel Santa Monica

Then there is the seksi part. The rooms. Always request a room with a view, and you can thank me later. In a twist, I wish I could say the scenery was my favorite part of the King Ocean View Premier, but it is actually the bathroom. You have not lived until you’ve have felt the water pressure of this rain shower beat down on your soul. It surpasses anything I’ve ever experienced. It is a cleansing… a baptism… a rebirth. Oh, and by the way, it’s a peek-a-boo shower so you are basically Rosie the goldfish from Elmo’s World during this entire religious experience. Have no fear, with one tiny push of a button, the shade comes down and Voila! Insta-privacy.

Eat. Stay. Play.

Shore Hotel does not have a restaurant onsite, but is positioned in between great eateries. No car needed, in fact — bikes are optional too. Blue Plate Taco is maybe 100 feet from the entrance if you are up for hip Mexican cuisine. Not in the mood for margaritas? Try Seasons 52 or Del Frescos. With the fam? I happen to be a big fan of True Food Kitchen. There is something for everyone on the menu and it’s always flavorful. Recently, I was turned on to the edamame dumplings (thank you, Liz!) and I haven’t stopped thinking about them since!

 Shore Hotel Santa Monica

Butterfly and backstroke

And reverse… back to Shore Hotel. Now that you know why I enjoyed my stay, I will chime in with why Lil’ Miss Thang (age 6,) was a fan. Two words: The Pool. She was up in my grill the moment the tiniest bit of light peeked through the blackout curtains begging to dive in. I finally folded like an envelope and took her down to show her how cold the water was at 7:01 a.m. And for the first time ever, my mommy-ness failed me big time and I was WRONG! Whaaaaaaaa? Huh? It was beautiful. The temp was warm enough for a big sissy like me to jump in, but cold enough where I didn’t feel like my heart was going to stop. I didn’t even have to do the weird bop dance where your arms are at 90 degree angles. C’mon, you so know what I’m talking about.

So the next time you find yourself in Santa Monica, dreaming about moving, just do yourself a favor and visit the Shore Hotel. You can’t go wrong. It’s exactly what you imagine LA to be — only with sand.

The end.

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TheSaguaroHotel
This is a great travel story – settle in.

It was blazing hot in Pasadena and we needed to get in a pool ASAP.  We love going to Palm Springs, since it is a quick getaway from Los Angeles and always feels like a little mini vaca.  I remember seeing an article about this colorful hotel in Palm Springs over on Lil’ Sugar and I immediately decided that this colorful hotel was on my hotel list to check out.  When we were trying to get out of dodge quickly,  I literally googled ” Colorful Hotel Palm Springs” and sure enough, The Saguaro Hotel came up.  I said to my husband “That’s the one, book it!” So, without looking into any other criteria other than: “Palm Springs”, “Pool” and “Colorful Hotel”, an hour later we were in the car with the kids and on our way to Palm Springs.

All of the rooms at The Saguaro Hotel are different colors and the kids were very excited to find out which color our hotel room would be, we all were placing out bets.  Would it be purple, green, red, orange, pink or yellow? We couldn’t wait to see!

We arrived at the front desk and started to check it when the hotel receptionist handed us wrist bands and said “Here are your wristbands for the pool party”, my husband and I said in unison “Pool Party!?”  Apparently, there are pool parties complete with a DJ every Saturday during the day  at the Saguaro Hotel. As if on cue, I suddenly heard the music pumping faintly in the background and my husband and I giggled with a bit of nervousness. We made our way down the colorful hall and the music was getting louder and louder.

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We arrived at our orange room, the kids were so excited.  Even I was a little excited, you know me – I love a theme.

My husband went to scope out the “pool party” while I got the kids in their swimsuits.  He came back laughing and shaking his head “It’s a party!”  I got a pit in my stomach.  Oh god.  We were about to expose our kids to a mid-day rave…this should be fun.  When we finally made it down to the pool it was PACKED.  And I mean packed. There were no chairs to be found and wall to wall people in the pool. The music was loud but thankfully, not-out-of-control loud. I quickly scanned the crowd and saw late 20′s early 30 year olds, dancing and grooving to the music. Then I spotted one other family with two kids in the shallow corner of the pool.

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Most parents would have packed up and hit the road, but we’re not most parents.  We can hang with the cool kids and make the best of it.  Okay. I have to admit, this was not what I had imagined at all and for about three minutes thought “this sucks”, but then I looked over at Hudson and he was dancing to the music.  Hands up, in the air, like you just don’t care kind of dancing!  So I thought, suck it up Mom and get in the damn pool.

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I told my husband to get me a glass of wine stat and took on the “If ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude.

We got into the pool near the other family with kids and created our own little kids corner and tried not to look too uncomfortable or out of place.  We quickly became friends with the other family and bonded over being the only people with kids there.  Our kids could not have cared less about what was going on around them, they splashed around the pool and were having a great time. I tried to keep them from splashing other people, especially the girls that clearly were not interested in getting their hair wet.

A few beach balls were in the pool and our kids started to hit them back and forth and I got nervous about people sans kids getting annoyed or upset, but to my surprise the opposite happened.  They joined in.  All of a sudden our kids were adding some much needed fun to the party, not taking away from it.  There was a nice group of guys and girls that were so friendly to our kids and would even go and swim out to the middle of the pool to get the balls for them.  I was shocked and relieved. We ended up relaxing and having so much fun!  No one cared that we had kids. In fact, they liked our kids.

Right outside the pool area you can play botchy ball and there was a group of guys playing and they included Hudson calling him “buddy” and let him throw a couple of balls. Again, I was shocked and amazed. These partying 30 year olds were so nice and friendly to us and our kids.  Yes, they had been drinking and totally buzzed but that probably made it better.  Here is the difference, they were in their 30′s, if they had been young 20 year olds it may have been a totally different story.

Travel Lessons Learned

1.  Lighten up and relax more when you travel Moms.  Most situations are not that bad.  I know we all have high travel expectations and sometimes we get disappointed from time to time but be thankful for where you are and what you are able to experience.  In other words, make the best of it.

2.  You can not get upset at a Hotel when you failed to do your research, investigate and ask questions. Especially when you book last minute. It could have been worse – what if it was topless pool? (I would have DIED).  If you are like us, and sometimes make last minute decisions that means you have to be a little flexible.

3.  Not everyone without kids hates kids.  In fact, most people prefer kids to the not-so-fun, serious and crabby adults.  As long as you’ve raised half way decent little individuals who don’t act totally out of control or crazy, you’ll be fine in most situations.

I learned so much in one day about letting go, jumping to conclusions, making the most of a situation and not letting something get in the way of our good time. Life is not perfect and traveling certainly never is, but it’s all about your attitude and making the best of it.

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Sunday in the pool was much more our speed. While most of the other hotel guest were probably hung over, we were up with our kids by 8 am so we got first pick at chairs and had the pool to ourselves for a little while :)

Would I stay here again?
Yes, I would absolutely stay here again.

The rooms are nice typical hotel rooms, the pool is area is nice and you are close to the downtown shopping and dining area. They also have bikes for you to rent for free and shuttles that take you to the downtown shopping area. I of course, love all the fun bright colors of this hotel and the kids did too.  You can bring in your own pool toys, floaties and rafts.  I would perhaps stay during the week, ask about pool parties and other events they might have happening before booking.

Click through the slideshow to see more of The Saguaro Hotel.


 

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Cracker Barrel Cheese collage 1

Cheese.  What’s not to LOVE about cheese!?

I recently went to the Cracker Barrel Cheese headquarters in Chicago to learn more about the wonderful world of cheese and take an incredible food tour of Chicago. I literally ate and drank my way through Chicago for three days and came back 5 lbs heavier, but it was worth every heavenly bite. This trip was about getting up close and personal with cheese, it’s rich history and exploring the Chicago food scene. Our group was made up of some pretty savvy food and style bloggers that will be working with Cracker Barrel Cheese over the next few months to create some mouth watering content you won’t want to miss!

Getting cheese savvy with Cracker Barrel Cheese

We were treated to award winning cheeses, exceptional dining, tasty wine pairings, decadent chocolates and were even given a lesson in food styling. The first day we were imerssed into the Cracker Barrel Cheese brand by sampling a variety of cheeses, learning how cheese is made and shown how cheese is properly tasted and graded by an official cheese judge. Cracker Barrel Cheese has been making award winning cheese for 60 years and their Sharp Cheddar just recently won best in class at the U.S. Champion Cheese Contest and they were also awarded second runner up in the entire competition. It’s really some fantastic cheese.  Trust me, I ate an obscene amount of it.

I’ve already been putting my new cheese savviness to good use. Check out my
stylish hostess post on 3 Spring cheese pairings and how to set a beautiful table. These were a huge it at our friends Easter brunch.
Public Hotel Chicago

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Staying at the Public Hotel, Chicago

We stayed at the Public Hotel which has recently been renovated and is a very modern, sleek and minimal hotel.  The rooms are simple in design but very comfortable. They have a great library and coffee bar to grab a small breakfast in the morning and a great place to get some work done. The Pump Room is the hotels restaurant and a hot spot in Chicago for dinner and cocktails. The library doubles as a place for cocktails and light bites at night.  I highly suggest the Moscow Mule for a cocktail and one of the flat bread pizzas.

Little Goat Chicago

Dining with The Girl and The Goat

Dining at Little Goat was honestly one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. Top chef winner, Stephanie Izard prepared a six course meal that was out of this world. We were taken to a private dining room upstairs that was literally apart of her private kitchen. Little Goat is Stephanie’s second restaurant which is across the street from the original Girl and The Goat, which you’ll need to make a reservation for months in advance. You may want to call now.

While we dined we were hosted by an extremely knowledgable wine sommlier who presented us with a different wine that was carefully paired with each course. She shared entertaining stories about the fine art of wine and food. Listening to her while we tasted each bite and sipped each wine made the dining experience even more incredible.

Our very first course was this sweet onion soup, and it was insane. I could have taken a bath in it. Each course was tastier than the next. I loved the seared tuna paired with the rose wine, it melted in my mouth. The scallops were divine and the escargot ravioli was truly unique. We ended with a ridiculous chocolate cake that had a cheese sauce, which Stephanie likes to call a “cheez-it crunch”.

The entire meal was amazing and probably one of my favorite dinners ever. Everything from the intimate atmosphere, family-style dining table, food and wine presentation, right down to the  people I shared this meal with, it was truly one-of-a-kind.

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There’s so much more!  Stay tuned for Part II and III coming next.

 

Disclosure:  I am working as a brand ambassador for Cracker Barrel Cheese.  This is a series of sponsored content.  All my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own. I share this with you because I love this cheese and tried every single one of them!  I also love traveling and sharing al the best places to eat, blog and shop!

 

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The Westin Los Cabos, Mexico

Last year I went to Mexico with Starwood Properties to review The Westin and The Sheraton.  Both are fantastic properties but very different from one another.  I definitely had a favorite.  I was there to look at these properties from a Moms perspective.  When reviewing hotels for families there is a lot to take into consideration, it’s a tall order to make the kids and the parents happy.

There is no doubt that the architecture of the The Westin, Los Cabos is stunning.  You arrive a few floors up and can see straight to the ocean and the building looks as if it was partially built into the red rocks.  When the sun is setting the buildings have a warm glow of reds, oranges and purples.  The design of this hotel is also unique because every room has an ocean view.

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The view of the ocean from my room was spectacular, not even branch from a palm tree blocked my view.  I could also see straight down to the pools and white sandy beaches, I could not wait to put my feet in the sand.  The heavenly bed was, well heavenly and I loved listening to the sound of the waves crashing all night long.  I also liked that the bathroom had an opening with shutters so that even while in the bathroom or bathub I could still see the beautiful blue ocean.

Family Note:

The glass railing and wooden horizontal beam made me nervous and I have to say that if I brought my kids to stay here I would insist on a lower level room.  My five year old monkey would have no problem climbing on the wooden railing thinking it was a place to sit.

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The Pools

The infinity pools over looking the ocean were gorgeous.  I felt the pool area was rather small and they did not have much room for both relaxing adults and kids to be splashing around.  As a Mom I am always very conscious of other people trying to relax and enjoy the pool, I never want my kids to ruin someone’s perfect day in paradise.  Through out the property there are many little pools and ponds, which I wasn’t sure if some of them were mini kids pools or if they were there strictly for decoration.  I would imagine my kids would be thinking the same thing and jump right in!  The property is a little tough to navigate, it needs a few more signs and arrows pointing you in the right direction.

The Spa

The Spa has 7 treatment rooms, swiss and vichy showers, along with sauna, steam room, tennis courts, and a fitness center.  I was a little disappointed in the spa area, it felt a little like a doctor’s office instead of a relaxing atmosphere.  The spa needs a lounge or special relaxation area to help make it feel more tranquil and get you in the spa mood.

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The Food

They have a variety of restaurants and bars on the property. Arrecifies is a beautiful restaurant overlooking the Sea of Cortez and has an upscale flair.  It is also connected to On the Rocks Bar, which has 25 different flavored Martini’s.  They also have themed buffet style restaurant for casual dining at La Cascada.  Where some nights they project old movies onto the wall for you to watch while having dinner.

The Kids Club

The kids club is for ages 4 -12 yrs old.  It is a nice, clean and safe area for kids to do crafts, watch TV and play games.  They had smaller slides and climbing toys for toddlers but this equipment was too young for kids ages 4 and up.  The kids club here is really meant to only drop off the kids for a couple of hours.  I think it may have needed a little more to keep older kids entertained or I fear they would be bored after about two hours.  They do have a miniature golf course which of course any kid would love!

I would recommend this property to young couples, honeymooners and for a girlfriends getaway.  This is a lovely hotel, the service was great and my room was spectacular but I am not sure this would be my first choice for a family vacation.

This was first published for ChildMode and I have made some editorial changes.

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Disclosure:  This was an all expense paid press trip.  All my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own.

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