{Gardening} Plans for 2015


It’s been a very long winter. We’re suffered through the coldest February on record. We’ve survived 119 inches of snow thus far (more than Buffalo and Rochester). Oh, plus it’s nearly Mid-April, and until this week, we still had snow in parts of our yard. Grrr! On a happier note, my crocuses are blooming and they’ve multiplied since last year.

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{Mini Trip Report} Long Weekend in Orlando

Orlando is my hometown. I moved there in the eighties before Universal, MGM, or Animal Kingdom was built. Oh those were the days in central Florida, when I-drive and Disney were smaller yet the main hubs. Things weren’t so crowded or complicated.  Below are some of my favorite destinations/memories during those days…. Anyone from Orlando will know what they are. Sadly, these attractions are long gone. Orlando today is much more overwhelming… there’s more people, lights, sensory overload, and expense.

Photo by Nomeus, 2007 - Flurbex.com

Flash forward to the present day and age. We opted for a long weekend trip to Orlando to see family over Easter and to take advantage of our companion pass on Southwest (which saved us $500 this trip). We stayed in two hotels, rented a car,  ate out for all meals, and squeezed in a day at Islands of Adventure. In short, it was an expensive weekend despite the Southwest advantage and getting a good $10 a day deal  with free gas on an Alamo full sized vehicle. Overall, it was a wonderful trip with plenty of sun and warm weather. That’s what counts as a New Yorker still surrounded by snow.


1. In regards to rides, the Express pass is worth it. Or if you don’t mind being split up, try the single rider line. We had neither and only rode two rides. Each was a 60-70 min wait.


2. Eat lunch at Three Broomsticks. It was efficient and only took 20 minutes to receive our food. We opted for a chicken ribs plate (with roasted corn on cob) and fish and chips. My son had a butter beer and chicken strips. The corn was a little undercooked, but everything else was tasty!


3.  You can buy your Harry Potter wand and items at the front store to avoid the crowds and mayhem in the small shops in the Harry Potter section. Our hotel actually sold many of the same items, and there wasn’t a 20 person line.


4. Have fun!

MY HOTEL SUGGESTION: Cabana Bay Beach Hotel

-Small rooms and no balcony
-No early check in or checkout givn to us
-Parking fee ($13 per day)
-Breakfast for a fee (8.95 in the diner or try the Starbucks. Hotel room only has a frig)
-Large and spread out (aka lots of walking)

+Newer hotel with a fun vibe (bathrooms stocked with VO5 and Zest!)
+Comfy bed
+Lazy river, slide, 2 pools  plus outdoor games like baggo and lawn golf
+Free transport to Universal (5 min ride)
+Affordable price even for a holiday spring weekend: $199 per night



We will stay here again especially if my son has any say in it. He said it was the best vacation ever. :-)


{Trip Report} LAVA LAVA LAVA

NOTE: This trip report details the Big Island portion of our 2 week Hawaiian adventure. To read about Maui, click HERE.

Day Eight:  Even though we had to say goodbye to Maui, a new adventure awaited us on the Big Island. We flew via Hawaiian Airlines (booked for $100 per person via Orbitz.com), and we found the quick flight pleasant and refreshing (mist shoots out from overhead- a welcome after sitting in the hot airport). The plane flew over Maui, so I ‘sorta’ got to see the road to Hana. The staggering terrain looked lush, unpopulated, and very, very green. I determined in that moment to come back and see more of that beautiful island.

We soon lost sight of Maui, flying over the azure waters before making our descent to Kona. The ride was so brief; maybe 20 minutes total flight time- barely enough time for the attendants to pass out juice cups.


Outdoor baggage claim

We landed on time and pulled right up to the outdoor airport. Literally! We hopped off the plane, walked through a flimsy fence to a covered waiting area. The airport was basically a cluster of pavilions! Xander kept saying “This isn’t an airport.” Our suitcases arrived promptly, and we picked up our Malibu rental from National soon thereafter. The agency had many more fees than Hotwire estimated- $75 more! I wasn’t happy about that.

My first reaction when I saw the Big Island from above was to say “wow!” Its has a unique, unusual, surreal landscape. Rugged black lava rock is everywhere. There’s so much of it that it’s shocking,  and … well, pretty cool.

I spy lava!

I spy lava… AND a peace sign.

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#TBT- Fort Myers Beach vacay, 2012

One of the vacations that I never blogged about was our 2012 trip to Ft. Myers Beach. I think the reason behind it was that as soon as we returned to NY, I began looking for employment. I was prepping my resume, getting my fingerprints, and applying for my license. This trip was  a celebration trip- I was finished with my Master’s of Science in Teaching degree. Granted I had to finish my final project while ON this trip, but once I clicked SEND, I still had half the trip to savor and party like a rockstar.

I love Ft. Myers Beach (FMB). I have been vacationing here since elementary school. During my childhood, FMB was were we went to celebrate the end of the school year and my birthday during Memorial Day weekend. Thus, it seemed fitting for me to celebrate the conclusion of my degree here.

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{Trip Report} Montreal is not Paris

Scenario: It seems sacrilegious to post this report since I haven’t yet publicly documented the Big Island or Sanibel, but I was strongly motivated for some odd reason to write about this most recent adventure. Montreal has been in our sights since we lived in New Hampshire. I had always heard it was a city reminiscent of Paris, so it intrigued me. Last year, I decided we HAD to check it out. Ultimately, Christmas break seemed the most logical considering our remaining vacation time. In the end, we booked a two night stay.

Friday– We loaded the car and set out from NY for Montreal by 9 a.m. With no winter weather to delay us, the four hour drive was quite smooth. Nick wasn’t feeling 100% (too much Christmas egg nog), so I drove the entire way. The wait at the border was less than 10 minutes, and we had a pleasant agent interview us. The 1000 Islands looked quite pretty as we crossed the handful of tall bridges from the USA to Ontario. It is on my list of places to check out one summer. The Canadian portion of the drive was simple thanks to my GPS which still worked in airplane mode since I had downloaded the map prior to crossing the border.
As we approached the city, the traffic picked up and Nick kept remarking, “It looks like WWIII.” I agree, there were industrial areas, graffiti, trash, and an abundance of train tracks. The gray day did not improve the scenery. We did experience a couple hiccups though once we got to Montreal. I had selected 3 restaurants to try, but once we got to Montreal, they were all closed!

Closed :-(

What a disappointment! In fact, everything seemed to be closed due to the holiday season. We were starved by this point since it was nearly 2pm so we had to settle on a less than desirable place. As expected, the food was subpar and I left most of my poutine untouched. Once we had some sustenance (Nick ate everything on his plate) we were in better spirits to explore this new city.

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{Trip Report} Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Our epic 15 day journey to the alluring, rainbow-infused state of Hawaii is something we shall not forget. It was magical and filled with adventure. It’s a place where “trouble melts like lemon drops.” Here is my brief (?) trip report from our August, 2014 vacation to Maui and the Big Island. IMG_8707x

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Through my Lens: The Essence of Fall Camping

The photographs below are from our recent (and last for the year) camping trip to Old Forge, NY. This quaint little town is a base camp for many Adirondack activities such as paddling, hiking, and scenic train rides. We love it because it’s only a 2 hour drive from our house. The crisp, damp air is always wonderfully refreshing. See you in the spring ADK!

Hurricane Iselle is a comin’

I grew up in Florida. I know a thing about hurricanes. The season lasts for half a year!

Rain and stormy weather is typical during the sticky hot summer months in Florida,  just as is tropical storms and hurricanes. Luckily, I lived in the central part of the state so we had some protection.

Floridians know to have water, batteries, and non perishable food on hand should the power go out. Often times, though, the outages are short lived and the damage is minimal. Typically our pool would be close to overflowing and our screen porch would be put to the test thanks to the high gusts of wind. One time school let us out early. I recall sitting in the half lit school hallway waiting for my mom to pick me up. We went to blockbuster on the way home to stock up on movies. However, it was sunny the rest of the day, and we went to school th next day like nothing had ever happened. Because it didn’t. No hurricane. After I got married, we built a house near Jacksonville Beach; the house came WITH metal storm shutters. Luckily, we never had to use them. Tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes have only ever been minor inconveniences due to wind and rain. I have never experienced anything severe.  Continue reading

Kids + Vacations = ?


I’ve found that the first question that I have received after people find out we are going to Hawaii is “Are you taking Xander?” My typical response involves me raising my eyebrow, making a confused face, and replying “Ummm…. why wouldn’t we?” Yes, I believe parents should get away occasionally because there are certain things you can’t do when you have a kid in tow, but for me Kid + Vacation = Fun. I can’t imagine NOT taking my son; I want to show him the world.

I realize that isn’t always the case and many probably disagree with me.

There’s probably a long list of reasons why they don’t agree. Some kids aren’t accustomed to travel or have trouble sleeping in beds other than their own or don’t do well with altered schedules and new situations. Or perhaps taking a family that includes 2, 3 or more kids means more work than relaxation.  Or maybe parents think a kid vacation means only doing boring kid stuff.

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Hawaii on a Budget?!!!



I bought this book when I was planning my honeymoon, and I’m pretty sure I bought it because of the “From $80 A Day” subtitle. I soon discovered that Hawaii was not totally affordable, and I wasn’t going to half-ass my honeymoon. I mean, most of the “value” accommodations are poorly reviewed and described as “need a deep/thorough cleaning.” So we went on a Southern Caribbean cruise instead- for half the money. We’ve dreamed of going to Hawaii since then, though. I even booked us a Maui hotel when Xander was a toddler. But then, the airfare suddenly skyrocketed and never went below $1200 per person, so we cancelled and went on a Western cruise for a quarter of the cost.

Is it really possible to visit Hawaii on $80 a day? HECK NO! Well……perhaps we factor in inflation since 2002. Is it really possible to visit Hawaii on $99 a day? Okay I just made that number up. My point is there’s NO WAY unless you seriously rough it. Finding a place to stay and eat for under 100 bucks a day is barely doable, really. Figure in a car, gas, and doing something other than sleeping, eating, and sitting by the pool or beach, well, we’ve way surpassed $99 per person now. That being said, I do think it is possible to see Hawaii on a budget. Even in 2014. But who wants to travel all to Hawaii and skimp on things?

Maybe the 3rd time is the charm? We are going to Hawaii!! First things first, though- finding a reasonable, affordable places to stay.   It’s not an easy task if you want but I think we finally did. Okay, I’ll admit there was a slight splurge…. We are easy going people when it comes to hotels or rentals. Yes, we enjoy the occasional splurge (ahem), but we have been known to camp, try Days Inn motels, or utilize Hotwire. When we book condos or houses, we always look for air conditioning and a prime location. Nick likes it to be cold at night, and I enjoy picturesque water views and close proximity to well-reviewed eateries, markets, and activities. Xander just wants a pool.

So, we looked all over Maui at multiple hotels. I really wanted that killer view but without the 500+ price tag. I finally found that million dollar view/well-reviewed/under $400 room at Napili Kai Beach Resort, but it didn’t have any air conditioning! DANGIT! Even with the trade-winds, I’m pretty sure Nick would have killed me.  I knew at that point it was time to head over to HomeAway.

Rentals are ideal for us on longer vacations because we can cook our own meals, bask in the larger space, and enjoy amenities that often don’t come with standard hotel rooms. The downside, obviously, is the lack of housekeeping, the hassle of dealing with a booking, and the slight risk that the place won’t be as advertised. To avoid that risk, I only rent from well-reviewed, well-photographed rentals. When searching for rentals, I prefer to use Homeaway.com instead of VRBO.com simply because I like the website layout better (though they are pretty interchangeable). It’s always best to research the area prior to searching, as you can be more specific with your search. For example, I knew I wanted to stay in the Kihei area of Maui. If I had not narrowed down my search, I would have been faced with 5,447 rental choices and 25 towns. I also like to filter my results by price and preferences like “air conditioning” and “waterfront.” Homeaway.com owners can pay to have their results show up first, so sometimes you can find a gem by scrolling through all the results.

I have had a wide variety of owner experiences. Some are better than others. I ended up finding one property that boasted $100 per night rates and an amazing view, but the owner was extremely vague in her 1 line email responses back to me. For example, she told me there was no need for a contract because she had the ‘aloha spirit.’ Then I noticed she had an AOL email address. I immediately had an ‘ahh-ha’ moment as a familiar, yet annoying electronic voice from the 1990’s sang ‘You’ve Got Mail’ in my head. RED FLAGS! I restarted my search and ultimately found the perfect spots.

During our extended stay in Hawaii next month, we will be staying at 3 different properties. Each are well-reviewed and well photographed. Two basically sit on top of the water, and of course, they have pristine pools and central air. The third is located in a dense fern forest near the National Volcano Park which will be ideal for driving at night to go see the lava glow. Two are very reasonably priced, and one is more than I would normally pay (not pictured below). My in-laws will be joining us for part of the trip, and after emailing the owner of the Kihei condo, I was referred to another stellar unit that was next door! All the units have multiple beds or bedrooms, full kitchen, outdoor balcony or deck, coolers, beach chairs/toys, free WIFI, and ample space for stretching out. AND they are all very affordable. We figure we can save additional money by buying groceries and eating some meals in. Though I am sure we’ll off set that by eating dinner at Mama’s Fish House. LOL!

Based on the $99 per person a day budget goal set by Frommers, our family of three only has less than $130 per day to spend on food, car, gas, and activities. Yikes. And let’s not even talk about airfare. Sorry, Frommer’s…. that AIN’T gonna happen.

Condo sneak peek. PROOF you can stay in a nice spot on Maui and Hawaii for under $500 per night:

Kihei, Maui ($183 per night including taxes/fees)



Volcano Village treehouse, Big Island ($169 per night including taxes/fees):