Excellence Resort ~ Dominican Republic, Punta Cana

Excellence Resort ~ Dominican Republic, Punta Cana

If you are thinking about visiting the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana should be on your list. There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts including Excellence. We stayed at the Excellence resort a few months ago and are set to go back this spring. Below I have listed an overview of the property and all of the perks of the resort that we enjoyed.

Accommodations: Our room was a junior swim up suite that has it’s own beach bed just steps away from the pool.  There are quite a few suite options that include mountain view, garden view, ocean view and ocean front. All suites range in price so it is the perfect place to stay as you can find one that fits your budget.

Food: With nine all-inclusive international dining options, one buffet restaurant and beach snack grill, you will not have to worry about getting hungry or hangry in my case. The food was quite good and elegant. It is not quite as gourmet inclusive as the El Dorado Casitas but we still very much enjoyed it.

Drink: You may get drunk, but you will not go thirsty. Unlimited alcoholic beverages and soft drinks are just a beck and call away wiith 24-hour room service and pool and beach waiter service. Or you can visit one of the 12 bars on the property! My favorite is the Piña Colada served oceanside in a fresh pineapple.

Activities: I was pretty content to just hang out in the beach bed or pool most of the day but I did manage a few workouts in the fully equipped fitness center. If you are not like me and want to get up and go, there are plenty of daily activities, snorkel gear and scuba lessons available. If you wish to venture off the resort, there are plenty of excursions including four wheeling, shopping in the local village, spelunking down the Caribbean’s longest underground cave, golf and more.

Entertainment: If you haven’t worn yourself out during the day and are still sober, there is nightly entertainment featuring a different theme show every night you can enjoy.

Spa: If laying out in the beach bed all day is not relaxing enough, you can pamper yourself at the Miilé Spa.The grounds of the spa are tranquil and tropical with a flock of flamingos lounging in the nearby lagoon.

There are plenty of treatments to choose from including massage, body wraps, facials, manicures, pedicures, salon services and more. I enjoyed a body scrub with a massage and it was heavenly!

Service: The entire staff is friendly and ready to serve you what ever your heart desires and being that it is all-inclusive all taxes and gratuities included.

Booking Specials: The prices are always changing but there is usually some type of special going on so just check out the Excellence Resort Website for information on rooms, pricing, amenities or any other questions you have.

As a traveler I enjoy researching and reading about people experiences on places we may visit so I hope this helps if that is what you are looking for. I need to be clear that I am not endorsing the resort nor was I compensated to write about this.  This was a vacation we took and paid full price.

We very much enjoyed it and as I mentioned earlier already have a return trip booked. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions by commenting below or contacting me.



Airline Compliant Carry-On Travel Essentials

Airline Compliant Carry-On Travel Essentials

These travel essentials that are airline compliant can be put in your carry-on bag and will save the day should something go awry!

I have been traveling quite a bit over the past few years and am guilty of being an over-packer. After some trial and error have finally scaled down my bag but always include these travel essentials in my carry-on.

Whether I need to wipe down my tray table, my face, hands or take a spit bath when stranded in the airport.  I love these chemical free Waterpura wipes. I received these as a sample and have fallen in love with them.  I don’t see any sample packs available for sale on the website, so I will be investing in a travel wipe container as the next package I get will be way to large to carry-on


I am usually not a fan of the hotel soaps and shampoos and like to bring my own. I found these great containers at an IKEA store in Dallas.  I cannot find them online to give you a link.  They could be an in-store product only. The banded labels came from the Container Store.

IKEA Travel Containers

If your shoes start rubbing you the wrong way, the Fab Feet stick from target will help prevent blisters from forming. The tinted sunscreen from Chanel I found at Macy’s and that with a little tinted lip balm from Pacifica can help brighten up your complexion after a long day of travel. I also love the roll on perfume from Pacifica. It is lightly scented and easy to pack.

To freshen up my breath I love the Mouthwatchers travel toothbrush. MouthWatchers uses antimicrobial patented silver technology on its bristles which eliminate 99.9% of bacteria build up on the toothbrush bristles. The special designed bristles are thinner than that of other toothbrushes which clean in between teeth better and adds a flossing effect.

Mouthwatchers Toothbrush

I love having a pill box when traveling and fill it with prescriptions, pain relievers and any other medications or supplements I want to have on hand.

For a quick fluff of the hair, a travel brush and pony tail holders are a must. Tissues, mints, hand sanitizer, glasses, contacts, saline are a few of my other essentials. I always have a nail file and a little travel size of nail polish remover pads.

To put it all together,  the non liquids go in a zipper pouch from re-pac bags and for liquids we all know by now they must be in a TSA approved container.  Mine is a zipper package that some pillow shams came in.

Instead of spending money on those packaging cubes, save those clear zipper pouches that a lot of sheets or bedding comes packaged in. They make great packing cubes for items that will go inside your checked luggage. I love using them to organize my workout gear, swimsuits, accessories and anything else I want to keep from getting mixed into my other clothes.

Now that you have all of your carry-on items packed.  What is the best bag to use to put them in? I love a bag that has multiple storage areas like my Tumi bag.  It fits my laptop, carry-on essentials, sunglasses, snacks, chargers, headphones and pretty much whatever else I need while still being slim and compact.

I would love to hear some of your ideas on packing for travel and what essentials you take in your carry-on.

Safe Travels!


Chicago Dining Guide for Local Fare

Chicago Dining Guide for Local Fare

This Chicago dining guide for local fare just highlights some of my favorite spots. If you are serious foodie like me and are spending the day in Chicago, I recommend adding these to your list to check out while visiting. Most of these places fill up quickly so it is best to get your reservation in at least a few days ahead of time if not weeks before dining.

Click on the restaurants link for directions, hours and menu information

Breakfast/Brunch: Farmhouse

The Farmhouse Chicago, Stuffed French Toast

The Farmhouse Chicago, Stuffed French Toast

This locally owned cafe is located a few minutes from downtown but feels like an old rustic small town cafe you might find in the middle of Iowa. The decor will take you back to your Grandma’s childhood kitchen with antique furnishings and appliances placed throughout the space. Dishes are prepared using local and seasonal ingredients from area producers as well as the restaurants owners farm.

Must try: Stuffed French Toast with extra syrup

Lunch: Fronterra Grill

Frontera Grill Sopecitos Rancheros

Fronterra Grill owned by Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless, is always on my list when visiting the windy city. The elevated Mexican fare is like non other. Rick is passionate about using produce and meats from local farms. The flavor combinations he uses in his dishes set Fronterra Grill apart from any other Mexican restaurants I have tried.

Must try: Sopecitos Rancheros

Snack: Garret’s Popcorn Shop

A visit to Chicago is not complete without a visit to the iconic Garrett’s Popcorn Shop. Once in the door the caramel corn aroma will have your mouth watering. I prefer the Almond Caramel Crisp, but the Garrett Mix that combines sweet Caramel Crisp with savory Cheese Corn is the most popular.

Must try: Garret’s Mix

Dinner: The Girl and The Goat

The Girl and The Goat

Get your reservation in early for The Girl and The Goat owned by celebrity chef Stephanie Izzard.  The dishes are served family style, which make them ideal for sharing. Most come in the “small plate” format so it is ideal to go with a group to try a variety of things. The restaurant serves only dinner and opens at 4:30 pm. This makes a great spot if you are need of dining late as it does not close until 11 pm Sunday – Thursday and 12 am Friday and Saturday.

Must try: Chickpea Fritter

The Girl and The Goat, Chickpea Fritter

The Girl and The Goat, Chickpea Fritter


The Clean Living® Experience with Tosca Reno

The Clean Living® Experience with Tosca Reno

The Clean Living® Experience with Tosca Reno could just change your life.  It did mine, so that is why I am writing this today.

I first encountered Tosca Reno in 2007, when a magazine I subscribed to had her graced on the cover at age 40 in tip top shape. Once tipping the scale at 204 pounds she decided enough was enough and dropped the weight by using her eat clean® diet plan and eventually even competed in a figure competition.

The fact that she was older and had been overweight and now looked amazing, peaked my interest, so off to the store I went to get her Eat Clean® Diet book. It was easy to follow and it worked! I lost the weight I wanted to lose and I have been a fan ever since! I have most of her books, follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter, which is how I found out about this retreat.

A few weeks ago I got an email from her newsletter that she was hosting a wellness retreat at the beautiful Villa Estrella in Costa Rica through a company called Retreats Unlimited. Enough said for me as I know she knows her stuff and booked the retreat. I could not wait to meet her.

This retreat came at the perfect timing in my life as I have put back on a few of those extra pounds I lost so many years ago. In addition to the weight, my personal life was on the rocks as a move away from family and friends as well as becoming an empty nester all at the same time has thrown me into a tizzy. I know her plan works and thought this is just the ticket I needed to get recharged and back on track.

Once at the resort and meeting Tosca, it was clear I needed this even more than I thought. Not only did she address health and wellness issues, she gets to the core of the emotion. By sharing her own struggles, she became one of the group and made a safe zone where if desired, others could share their struggles. I’m pretty sure I was a blubbering idiot but it felt good to release the emotion.

Come to find out, we all have struggles and hurt, even Tosca. Your hurt looks different from my hurt, but it is still pain. It was comforting to see I am not the only one out there that feels like they are drowning in this thing called life.

Tosca worked ahead of time with the chef and every meal was clean eating® approved and delicious. Just after a couple of days of eating like this, the body starts detoxing as there has been no sugar intake, just clean healthy delicious foods. Some detoxing symptoms the group experienced were headaches and acne which is the bodies way of expelling the toxins we carry around.

With all of the amazing food, I really did not feel like I was losing any weight but decided to go ahead and weigh when I got home. I was down 3 pounds! Not bad for a four day retreat, I’ll take it!

Along with informational sessions on healthy eating, supplements, metabolism, and even a little sex, you will spend time with Tosca in the kitchen.

She will teach you her secret recipe for wetter water, plus easy tips and tricks to clean eating® so you will be able to cook and eat like this at home!

I am now back home and am back on track. My kitchen is stocked and I am not missing the sugar or anything else I have taken out.

Eating six meals a day, I had forgotten how much food you can really eat on this diet. Honestly, it is not a diet but more of a lifestyle way of eating as it is easy to follow and you get to eat real food.

For those interested in the fitness side you will not be left out. Tosca personally leads workouts in the pool, on the beach and fitness facility throughout the day. Nothing is mandatory at the retreat and at any time you may opt out of a session or workout with no judgement.

If all of the above is not enough, you also get a personal coaching session with Tosca if you wish.

There are a limited number of guests allowed on this retreat so the setting is intimate, personalized and Tosca is literally walking beside you!

Our group was very flexible and bonded well. I have made new friends that I will treasure for a lifetime. As a super fan of Tosca I thought it might be intimidating to meet her. It turned out to be the exact opposite. Tosca is humble, gracious, knowledgable, inspirational, strong and truly beautiful inside and out.

She was a blast and joined the group in all areas even accompaning us into the town to do some souvenir shopping and got a fish pedicure at the fish spa. So fun!

She took the time to bond with each one of us and embraced our individual needs.

She was gracious enough to sign all of the books that I brought and laughed when I was labeled the stalker of the group. I am honored to be called her friend now and not just a fan.

If you are in need of getting recharged physically, emotionally, mentally nutritionally or just looking for a fun getaway, I encourage you to seek out this retreat, it is truly a life changer.

The Retreats Unlimited staff go above and beyond to make sure you have the most amazing experience. They have more wellness events scheduled through out the year with various health and wellness ambassadors. Tosca’s are in March, April, May and October.  Get more information at the Retreats Unlimited website. For more information on Tosca Reno or to order her books visit toscareno.com.


Relax and Unwind at The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach Florida

Relax and Unwind at The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach Florida may just be the perfect spot to relax and unwind. Whether you are traveling, as a couple, with family or friends or even solo, The Breakers Resort will not disappoint.

History buffs will enjoy the hearing the story of The Breakers dating back to 1896 and seeing the architecture that was modeled after the magnificent Villa Medici in Rome. 75 artisans were brought in from Italy and together they completed the intricate paintings, detailed across the ceilings of the 200-foot-long main lobby and first-floor public rooms, which remain on display today.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers Resort, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers Resort, Palm Beach, Florida

The room accommodations are perfectly polished and well maintained for the age of the property.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The bathrooms are sleek and modern with the Breakers own amenities and nightly turn down service will leaves you with a sweet treat to end the evening.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

Families will enjoy the many activities available such as bike rentals for a family ride, game room, bungalow rental and convenience of the zero entry pool. There is also a kids club available with all day activities so parents can have a little beach time alone!


Foodies will appreciate the amazing dining and delicious dishes from over eight dining options including the historic Flagler Steakhouse to the modern Seafood Bar with its incredible views of the ocean along with the fish tank countertop bar you must see to believe.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The outside dining options include incredible views of the pristine beach along with dishes to match.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

If you love fitness, golf or tennis there is no better view than the one from The Breakers well equipped gym facility and personal training center. The golf course facilities are fit for pro’s with a magnificent 18 hole course as well as a training academy for the novice. There are 10 tennis courts available for play from 7 am to 9 pm and private lessons, clinics and junior programs for those wanting to learn the game.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

If you are looking to relax and unwind, the spa and many lounge chairs by the pool and beach will do the trick. The spa offers a variety of treatments including massages, skincare, hair and nail services and more.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida                  

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The beach and pool offer a variety of bungalow rentals and lounge chairs and an infinity style 21 and older adult pool.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

I have traveled to quite a few resorts and The Breakers is by far one of my favorites and on my list to go back too. For more information You check out The Breakers website.

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida


The Peace Lodge – Costa Rica

The Peace Lodge – Costa Rica


The Peace Lodge in the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park, which opened in 2005 is a unique resort nestled among the wildlife and beauty of the Costa Rica Rainforest.

I stumbled upon The Peace Lodge when looking for a place to stay that was close to my daughter while she was studying abroad earlier this year just outside the capital city of San Jose. The Peace Lodge is a little over an hour away from the capital city and was a perfect getaway for us.


At check in, Peace Lodge guests are given a carved wood bracelet. This is your proof of residency which gets you free entry to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park (non guests who visit for the day pay a $35 entrance fee).


With being a guest on property of the park it is an easy walk down to check out all of the amazing exhibits.


The magnificent butterfly garden houses a variety of gorgeous tropical colored butterflies that fly freely around you as you walk through it.


The bird sanctuary is full of parrots and other birds native to Costa Rica including this friendly toucan who is happy to greet the guest as they enter.


On down the path you come across a hummingbird feeding area that will give you an up close encounter with these brightly colored creatures.


If you are a cat lover, you will appreciate watching the jungle cats. Being the owner of two domestic cats, I am always amazed at the similarity and mannerisms they have and to remind myself  that they are truly dangerous even though they just look like a giant kitten.

IMG_4017 IMG_4011

One exhibit that will take you back in time is a replica of an old  Costa Rican farm house complete with oxen, a hands on lesson for milking a cow and a sampling of tasty sugar cane tea. Other exhibits include, frogs, snakes and monkeys.


In addition to all of the animal exhibits the park offers walking trails through the lush rainforest, where you will encounter beautiful tropical flowers, plants with gigantic leaves as well as magnificent streams and waterfalls.


If you enjoy fishing, The Peace Lodge has a trout lake where you can catch your lunch or dinner. There is a fishing guide that will help you fish if needed and then take and clean your fish for you, then give it to the chef so he can cook it up for you. The trout we caught was from lake to plate in about 30 minutes! Now that is some fresh fish!


The room accommodations at The Peace Lodge are the most elaborate I have ever seen and are personalized with the guests name during their stay.


The bathroom is full of tropical plants and houses a waterfall. The rocks and foliage that surround the tub and shower make you feel as if you are bathing in the midst of the rainforest.


The bedroom is complete with a beautiful canopy bed with very plush bedding, stone fireplace, coffee and mini bar area as well as a deck overlooking the rainforest with a table, jacuzzi and hammock.



You can check out this video of our room.

If you wish to spoil yourself just a little bit more, you can book an in room spa treatment.


Being the foodie that I am, I have included a link to the restaurants and cocktail lounges that are found at The Peace Lodge here.

My 2 favorites were sipping a latte at La Terraza which overlooks the majestic rainforest and the fruity yogurt parfait for breakfast at Tortillias.

There is really no need to venture off the property unless you want to visit the Poas Volcano which is just a few minutes down the road.

I used Pacific Trade Winds Travel for all our transportation and lodging needs and everything was perfect. I would highly recommend their services if you are looking to vacation at The Peace Lodge or anywhere else in Costa Rica. The knowledgeable and friendly staff were quick to answer any questions and even available to book additional transportation we needed once we were there.