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Busch Gardens, The Dali Museum, and The Chihuly Exhibit offered me media rates for my visits. All other expenses – and all opinions – are my own. Some links in this posts are affiliate links.

I’ve been going down to Florida for most of my life. As a kid – and into my 20’s – I went to visit my grandparents in Hallandale, near Ft Lauderdale on the east coast. Pre-Kids, my husband and I used to hit South Beach for the restaurants and fun club scene. I’ve been to Orlando with theme parks and without, and for the past 15 years – I’ve been going to visit my own parents on LongBoat Key near Sarasota on the West Coast of Florida.

I’ve written before about how different LongBoat Key is from the Florida I’d always known before – the east coast. But I’d never before taken the short drive from LongBoat to  Visit St. Petes/Clearwater to check it out.

I didn’t know what I was missing.

(more…)

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Me with the cast of Monsters University!I have never been a crazy Disney enthusiast.  I like Disney.  When I was 9, I went to Disney World for the first time and had a blast.  But then I didn’t go again until I my own kids were school aged, some thirty years later.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the classic movies.  I’ve seen Dumbo, and Cinderella, and even Beauty and the Beast a bazillion times.  I smile every time I see a little girl walking down Broadway in her princess costume. But I’m not one to wear Disney logos on my clothing, or purse, or jewelry. I’m not one to go to Disney without my kids.

I have friends (are you listening Ellen Gerstein?) who seem totally normal, smart, and respectable, and then step foot on Disney soil and become, well, a little bit crazy. Like they’ve drunk the Disney Kool Aid. Friends who (not to call out Ellen again, but…) know whether it’s best to turn right or left as you enter a ride for primary seating, who know precisely where to stand at a Disney parade, who have a closet full of Mouse Ears – each customized for various holidays and occasions – and who aren’t afraid to wear them.  And I’ve never really understood that part of  those friends.

Until now.  Because recently, I’ve taken a few sips of that Kool Aid myself. (more…)

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Disney's New Fantasyland. Ariel's Grotto

My last trip to Disney. Also without the kids!

Tomorrow morning, I leave for the Disney Social Media Moms conference.  A coveted ticket that I was honored, this year, to receive.

I could thank Disney for inviting me and my family to what promises to be a fantabulous weekend of conference, park, and perks.  I could thank them for the suitcase from American Tourister that I will never, ever NOT spy on the luggage carousel.  I could thank them for the sneak preview of Monsters Inc that I’ll be seeing on Saturday.  Or the room at the Contemporary Resort.  And I do thank them for all that.

But what I really want to thank them for, is letting me skip Mother’s Day.

I looked back over my Mother’s Day posts from years gone by.  There was Can I Have Mother’s Day Off?, and Mother’s Day: Thank God it’s Over.  And this year, over on the Mothers2Mothers Network, Hate Mothers Day? You’re Not Alone.

See a pattern here?

So that’s why I’m especially happy that this year, the Disney Social Media Moms conference (#DisneySMMoms to those in the know) is being held Mother’s Day weekend.  See, my kids decided not to join me at the conference.  (I know. Clearly they are insane) So I will be at the conference with my sister in law and niece.  (I am now solidified as The Favorite Aunt forever.) Which means that I get to skip Mother’s Day.

No faux sentiment.  No disappointment when it isn’t quite as special as I’d hoped.  No frustration when the kids whine because, well, they’re kids, no matter what day it is.  No Mother’s Day.

Plus, when I get home, it’ll still be – technically – Mother’s Day (well, Mother’s Night).  And since I’ll have been gone for four days, my kids will be excited to see me, and will greet me with hugs and genuine happiness to see me.

And that’s really all I ever wanted for Mother’s Day anyway.

 

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That, at least, was what I thought to myself, as I sat in a sun-drenched, pristine white, spa-tastically scented midtown loft-space that was doing a turn as Canyon Ranch for the Day.

I don’t think I’m good enough for Canyon Ranch.

Why else would I  – I who agonize about my weight, and my wrinkles, and my everything else – never have treated myself to so much as a weekday overnight stay at what is arguably the premiere spa in the country?

Why else would I – I who has gone on an African Safari, a jaunt through Barcelona, a relaxing sojourn on St. John, and a nostalgic week in Paris all in the past three years — never have been willing to pay the admittedly high price of admission to a place that may have helped me in my never-ending quest to lose those last ten pounds?

It occurred to me, while, in the middle of a work day, I was in downward dog, eyeing the neatly lined up water glasses, all perfectly filled to the exact same invisible line, that I had had no problem going on all of those other trips because they were for the family.  Or they were about enrichment, broadening horizons.

They were not about taking care of me.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m some kind of self-depriver.  Far from it.  I pay for ridiculously over-priced spin classes; I shop at chic boutiques, I pay a not so small fortune to maintain my hair.

But a trip to Canyon Ranch?  That seems too self-indulgent.   I can say that the spin classes are local, and necessary because they are quick workout that lets me get right back to work.  I can say that I need the clothing and fancy hair cut to look my best to compete in business as a middle-aged woman in a young-person’s high-tech world.

But a trip to Canyon Ranch?  That would be just for me.

Oh, the horror.

It is, of course, partly expense.  A pair of shoes or a haircut is one thing.  A multi-thousand dollar weekend is quite another.  (And, truth be told, it is cost prohibitive)But even without the price tag – I know myself, and I know I wouldn’t do it.

The other day,  at the Canyon Ranch event, I had a mini hand treatment with the all-natural, preservative free, totally luxurious Red Flower products they feature at the Spa at Canyon Ranch.  Just those five minutes made me feel relaxed and refreshed.

I had the Canyon Ranch foot health team evaluate my stride and offer exercises to help my aching feet.

I ate a delicious sea food salad that was healthy and delicious, and not even the teeniest bit guilt inducing.  If I liked chocolate, I would have tried the healthy chocolate cake desert, too.

I even went up to the roof and made fire with two sticks and some twine-y stuff. (Well, I made smoke, a coal, and more smoke.  Evidently, where’s there’s smoke, there isn’t necessarily fire.)

Exercise, Indulgence, health, relaxation, survival skills.  Come to think of it, they’re all survival skills.

So why don’t I think I should have that?  Of course I’m not really talking about Canyon Ranch.  I’m talking about taking the time for me.  Whether that means actually making the time for Yoga, which I know makes me feel great, but for which I can never seem to spare the 90 minutes, or turning off the computer a few nights a week and knitting instead (which makes me feel skilled and creative), or forgoing an expensive hair cut or pair of shoes to spend a day or two at a fabulous spa, doing something that is – plain and simple – just for me.

Maybe it’s time  – whether we go or not – we all started taking the time for ourselves.  All of us women, worrying about work and kids, and partners, and parents, and last of all, ourselves.

Maybe it’s time we all went to that Metaphorical Canyon Ranch.  Took care of ourselves, valued ourselves, and indulged.

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Disney World's New FantasylandLast month, I was lucky enough to get to go to Walt Disney World as a guest of the park, to get a sneak preview of the New Fantasyland — the largest expansion of the park in 40 years.  I’ve already shown you what Enchanted Tales with Belle was like.  Now, here’s a look at more of the fabulous new part of the fabulous Magic Kingdom,  Starting with the Be Our Guest Restaurant. (more…)

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2012-10-23 16.41.36The New Fantasyland, part of  the largest expansion in Disney’s 40 year history, and the most popular land in the most popular park in the most popular theme park in the world is – in a word – spectacular. It doesn’t open until December 6th, but I got a sneak preview of Disney’s latest piece of magic.

Enter the New Fantasyland through the old castle walls – a hint at the history inside. The Beast’s Castle – visible from a distance, but accessible inside – looms high on a hill.

“We are always working on different levels” explained Imagineer Diego Parras,“We create experiences for parents, children and grandparents – for everyone -  to enjoy together.”

But The New Fantasyland has added another dimension to that multi-level thinking: 2012-10-23 16.35.53 the physical one.  (more…)

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I am a city person.  For 30 years, New York City has been my home, and in the years preceding that, I spent every moment possible in the city.  So I’m kind of surprised that there are plenty of things about being in Montana (where we spent a great (partially sponsored by the Big Sky Resort) vacation earlier last month) that I miss. Here they are:

1. My Hair:  There’s no humidity in Montana.  I was shiksa-like in my follicular smoothness.

2. The Air: There isn’t a lot of it – base camp is at 7500 feet – but what there is is clean and clear and pine scented.  Not pine-sol scented.  But actual pines.  Somehow, the summer stench -

humidity + homeless people + NY City = ugh just can’t compare.

3. No MakeUp – I could go out of the house in NYC without any make up, but that would be unfair to those around me.  And you never know when some Time Out reporter might appear to snap your picture.  Or when you might see your favorite celeb.  Or an ex. In Montana, No-Make Up wasn’t just fine, it was the norm. And since the population is something like 17, there’s little chance of bumping into…anyone.

4. Space: As I mentioned in this post, my hotel room at Big Sky Resort was about the size of my apartment.  And it had a king sized bed.  At home, we only have room for a queen. Sigh.

5. Unplugging.  We went to Big Sky without electronic games.  Yes, I had a computer.  And yes, there was one ipad.  But the TV never went on.  There was no Xbox, no Minecraft, no endless texting with friends. Nice.

Top Things I don’t miss about being in Montana:

Yep. Those are actually my feet. Yikes.

1. Shoes.  I wore Keens.  I wore sneakers. Once, when I was feeling crazy, I wore “athletic flats.” I missed heels, and wedges, and once winter hit, I imagine I would have hated having boots as my only option…always.  I need shoes.  An array of shoes.

2. White Bread- Montana is white.  I mean really, really white. I was ethnic in Montana.  That’s sad.

3.  The Air.  All that fresh air was great and all, I mean, it did make the things I miss list, but a real city girl needs a little grime, soot and pollution to thrive.  I don’t know how much longer I could have taken it.

4. Shopping.  Or, well, the lack thereof. There wasn’t a whole lot of quality shopping in Big Sky. Unless of course you call a t-shirt with a Moose on it – no, a selection of t-shirts with moose on them – quality.  Which I don’t.

5. Conversation. I like to hear about that gnarly run on the Gallatin River as much as the next girl.  I’m enthralled by tales of bear avoidance on the hiking trails.  But when that’s the only conversation — how far you ran, how high you climbed, how idiotically death-defying you were, well, I start to turn into the Ivy educated snob I am and crave a discussion with a bit more depth than the bottom of that beer glass you’re holding as you regale me with tales of mountain biking in a blizzard uphill in both directions.

There are pros and cons to everything, right? But this should tell you something:  My family is planning a Ski Trip to Big Sky Resort next year. On our own dime.

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DSC_0428You know something is wrong when your hotel room is larger than your apartment.  And has better appliances.

Since we were guests of Big Sky Resort in Montana (full disclosure: they paid most of the hotel and most of our basecamp activities) we were given the kind of room that I will likely never stay in again.  Not a room, exactly, but an 1800 square foot apartment with 2.5 baths, a fireplace, granite countertops, high end GE appliances,  three flat screen tv’s, and a commanding view of the mountains and the plaza just below. hotel room 2

hotel room 3

It was all I could do not to send for the dog and install myself there forever. (Though, I might point out, dogs are welcome at Big Sky Resort.) (more…)

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High fiving rafter style.

I am not one of those people to whom the word “outdoorsy” is often applied.  Ok.  I’m not one of those people to whom the word outdoorsy is ever applied.  To me, the great outdoors means a large patch of grass in the shadow of a whole lot of skyscrapers.

I am not one of those people to whom the word casual applies.  I only wear sneakers to go to the gym.  I do not own a pair of sweatpants. Try to get me to wear a t-shirt that says something – anything – on it, and you will live to regret it.  I am NOT with Stupid; my name is not Abercrombie and anything, and my parents paid good money for orthodontia so I wouldn’t have a Gap.

So this week, in Big Sky, Montana, I’ve been waiting for the alarms to sound every time I do something outdoorsy.  I imagine it being like what happens when someone is contaminated at a nuclear facility:  as I enter the whitewater rafting outfitters, an alarm shrieks, and a big flashing sign appears “Not Outdoorsy!  Not Outdoorsy!”

But that didn’t happen.  Instead I surprised myself by just how outdoorsy I could be.

Day One in Big Sky Montana: Whitewater Rafting

whitewater rafting in Montana

I’m actually smiling. I know. Shocking.

Geyser Whitewater Rafting took us out on a two hour ride, which was preceded by a warning lecture that ended with “This isn’t Disney World.  There is no track under there.  There is real danger of accidents, or even death.”  My daughter, ever the optimist chimed in “There’s always the possibility of death.”  Only 12, and already a nihilist.

(To read more about the terrors of Whitewater Rafting on the Gallatin river from my fellow not-outdoorsy blogger and friend, check out her post on Motherhood in NYC.  Truly one of the funniest things I have ever read.  Go ahead, click on over.  I’ll wait.)

Our guide , Barrett, was, as are seemingly all employees of every establishment here in Big Sky, preternaturally friendly, enthusiastic, and helpful.  And the trip was fun.  Splashes, rocks, a fair amount of getting stuck.  We were told when to paddle forward, when to paddle back.  When to just do nothing.  It was Whitewater rafting, I guess.

Compared to my terror stricken friend,  I was a daredevil.  I was actually a bit disappointed that the rapids weren’t, well, rapid-er.  Although looking at the pictures, I guess it was kind of wild. As a matter of fact, it looks absolutely terrifying!  What the hell was I thinking?

If they give you a helmet you know it can’t be good.

If the safety talk includes the word “death” you must be in trouble.

Who was I kidding?  And yet I lived to tell the tale.

And not a single flashing sign exposing me for the city girl I am.

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My trip to Raleigh, and this Segway Tour, were sponsored by VisitRaleigh.com

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