Saturday, December 27, 2008

Always Carry Your Phone to the Dining Room Table

I missed one phone call on Christmas Day. It happened during dinner, around 7:30 pm. Our dining room is set off far from the kitchen where both the land line and the portable phones were located and we all knew that even if we sprinted down the hallway, we wouldn't get to the phone in time to answer. I did not even try to get up and get it. That happened to be a big mistake.

You see, my sister and her family went on a cruise down in the Caribbean Islands over the Christmas Holiday break. Before she left, she told me that we would not be able to talk as there is no phone service on the boat. She said all communication would have to be through email messages. Except when your sister is very clever and convinces the Captain of the ship to allow her to use the company phone to call her family on Christmas Day!

As the phone rang that evening during dinner, I did not budge because all the people I love was sitting around the table. (I also knew if it was someone on Bill's side of the family needed to get through to us, they would call his cell number next). I figured it to be a random prank call or wrong number. But I was wrong...

What's so sad about this little story of mine, is that I am 51 years old and not one year has gone by in my entire life that I have not seen or spoken to my sister on Christmas Day. Never. It worked on the Captain and I should have had enough hope that it might happen and bring the GD phone to the table!

Of course, my heart and soul is always with my wonderful, little sister, no matter if we speak, email or just pray. Merry Christmas, Junebug and a Happy New Year. Talk to you soon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

June Picks Her Mustique Villa, Then You Vote

Today, we review my sister's choice for a villa rental on the island of Mustique. She used the same timeframe and budget constraints as I had used in the post I wrote yesterday. After reading about her choice, I will be putting up a poll and we are going to let, the reader decide which villa we should select! It's going to be hard, because they are both amazing homes:

June's Criteria:

I picked this fantastic villa primarily because of its views.

Also, the main room reminds me of the movie As Good as it gets with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton - one of most favorite movies.

And, I loved the pool and imagined many fun cocktails looking at the beautiful view.

June's Villa Selection:

Sheltered on a gentle rise overlooking L`Ansecoy Bay, Moana (Hawaiian for ocean) offers a panoramic view of turquoise seas and the nearby Grenadine Islands. The bright and airy living room is the villa`s focal point, just steps from sundeck, dining veranda, balcony, bedrooms and a garden path which leads to the new swimming pool and secluded beach. The villa is cooled by a soft sea breeze filtered by the surrounding trees and a tropical courtyard.

(There is a third bedroom available for rental for an additional $1000).

Well, there you have it. It's time for you to select which villa you like best by voting in the poll below. Then, we will be exploring the two resorts on the island. So many ways this vacation could go. One thing's for sure, vacationing with my sister is going to be very special.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mustique Island, One Choice for the Anniversary Vacation

We start the journey to find the 'Anniversary Vacation Trip' with my sister and her husband on the island of Mustique. Mustique is a 1 mile by 3 mile island located in the Grenadine Island group. In the 18th Century, the island was covered with sugar and cotton plantations. English is the primary language but they say you hear French, Italian, German, and Dutch often from the people who visit here. We have always wanted to vacation together on this very special, unique island.

From our readings, it sounds a little like a small club where friends come together to relax and party. The size lends itself to this atmosphere and the fact that one company, The Mustique Company, owns the entire island. This simplicity is appealing, if we can afford it.

Basically, you have 3 choices in where you stay on this island. There is one luxury resort called The Cotton House that has 20 rooms, one smaller resort, The Fire Fly, with 4 rooms, or you rent one of the 60 or so homes that are spread out over the 1400 acres of land. Some are near the beachfront and others are set up on the hillsides. There is a huge variety of size and price range to choose from. But for our purposes, we are selecting from the smallest and the least expensive to accommodate our group and budget.

We will first choose a Villa. Next we will choose which room we like at Cotton House and finally select our rooms at Fire Fly all using the same criteria listed below. Pay attention, as you will be voting for which choice we should select!

Our Trip: One week in February (close to the actual anniversary day)

Our Budget: Up to $10,000 (which we will split in half)

Beth's Criteria: I do not care whether we are right along the beach or up in the hills, which is unusual for me. Here's why: the rental fee of your villa includes a Jeep or similar vehicle. I think it would be a hoot to drive around in a "mule" (called a golf cart in my neck of the woods).

I am okay with renting a home on this island as they also include a private staff of a gardener, cook, and maid (minimum of three) to take care of your needs during your stay. Yes! How Divine!

I know we need to be careful when selecting the villa to remember the 10% Government Tax and the 8% Administrative Fee that's added to our total bill. Villa rates are quoted in US Dollars and are on European Plan. But the cost includes a nice airport welcome by Mustique staff and transfers to your specific villa, laundry and ironing services, four (4) floodlight tennis courts that are complimentary, centrally located in the middle of the island, a fitness trail and a special invitation to the Managing Director's weekly Cocktail Party on Tuesday evenings in the Great Room of the Cotton House and finally, transfer returns to the airport upon our departure. That adds up to a nice package in my eyes as normally a house sounds like work and cooking and less time to relax and enjoy the good company.

Beth's Villa Selection:

Serenity Bay, 2 BR, 2 BA, Hillside Villa

This was an easy selection for me, actually. This villa won out as it satisfied the most important detail which happens to be my biggest pet peeve in renting vacation houses: it has two identical master suites! Usually, there is one enormous master bedroom with lounging area, fantastic views and huge bathroom and one sort of minor bedroom for the other couple that's placed in the back, with a smaller, crappy bed and no adjoining bathroom. Sometimes June and me have drawn straws for the better room, one time we switched mid-vacation but it's always a pain in the neck.

Reason # 2: Serenity Bay overlooks Britannia Bay yacht anchorage which I think would provide hours of something to look at besides beautiful blue water.

Reason # 3: The villa is within walking distance to the beach and village and of course, we can take the "mule" if our little hearts desire.

Reason # 4: The swimming pool overlooks the turquoise waters and the lounge chairs look like they will be in the sun for most of the day. Some of the villas' pool areas look like they are in a jungle and I started thinking they may be buggy.

In general terms: the villa looks nice but not fancy. I think we would feel relaxed here and be able to walk around barefoot and comfortable.

The cost: $9,500 (for weeks between mid-Nov. and March). The cost goes down to $5,500 if we waited until after May 1st.

Now I know you are dying to see my selection, so I have provided two fantastic websites. They have different pictures, so it's fun to compare:

I'll post June's selection as soon as she sends it to me. She's actually always more thorough in her research that me. In the meantime, sit back...close your eyes..and day dream about having a rum drink on my Villa patio!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

20th Anniversary and Nowhere To Go

People tend to take their most memorable vacation trips in tandem with special anniversary and birthday dates. I don't know whether this is the case in other countries, but we somehow prefer the dates that end in 0 (zero). So every ten years we plan bigger parties and special trips for ourselves. Only sometimes, life doesn't know about this every ten-year time frame and we are left with depleted bank accounts and stock portfolios on these years ending in zero.

Such is the case with my sister's 20th Anniversary, coming this February. If we were not in the financial situation we find ourselves in this year, we would definitely be taking a fabulous trip together to celebrate this momentous occasion. But half the fun is choosing the place, learning about the place to visit, and so, June and me have decided that we will plan the special trip anyway. (It's a great excuse to call daily!) Only this year, you will be helping us decide where we will be spending a glorious week vacation in February.

For the month of December, we will be highlighting many places to vacation. During this time, I hope you all will make comments and send pictures if you've been there before. At the end of the month, we will have our readers select where we should go on this imaginary trip by voting in a poll.

Here are a couple of things you need to know about us:

June is coming from an area of the country that's cold in the winter and so she always is looking for somewhere that's warm and sunny;

We love wine, frozen drinks and most alcoholic activities;

We love water and boating;

While my house is empty and I may be craving activity, June is very busy with two children's sports activities and school events so she craves silence and relaxation;

Bill likes to exercise on vacation, Scott like to read on vacation. June and me don't care what we're doing, just as long as we are doing it together.

Well, that's about it. This should be fun.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Many Things Can an Empty Nest Mom Worry About During A College Parent's Weekend?

For this empty nest Mom, the number is three, maybe four.

This past weekend I went to see my baby (who's a Freshman at Dickinson College) for the first time since she left for college this August. I was so excited to see her and meet her friends and see firsthand that she is okay and happy. As the weekend unfolded, I realized I was not going to get a lot of sleep as I caught the 'worry bug'.

All Moms, no matter what age children you have, have experienced the 'worry bug', so there's no need explaining that here. But, this was a bad case and almost cost me some valuable quality time with my daughter.

Bill and me arrived on Friday around lunchtime. She was surrounded by several friends that all happen to be boys and another Mom. Laura is wearing jeans, a black little top and a periwinkle cardigan sweater. Her hair is a bit disheveled and I can see the roots coming in, she looks like she may have lost some weight and she has a cold. She doesn't have a stitch of jewelry on. Since she usually takes great pride in her appearance, I start to think maybe somethings' wrong. I make a snide comment about the outfit which I'm sure wasn't the nicest thing to do.

Her friends are delightful. Very playful and smart and I can tell she's "one of the boys". She is still sort of dating her high school boyfriend who's attending a school in Seattle and that worries me. He's a good kid and all, but I think they should just be friends and want to date other people. I wake up in the middle of the night and think about telling her how I feel and worry that if she may become unhappy at school if her love interest is thousands of miles away. Around 4:00 am, I decide maybe I should approach the subject with her when I see her but want to do so in a caring manner, not all snippy like I was the day before.

Saturday morning we head to a cute little coffee place in town. It's as if she "heard" my worries and started to address each and everyone of them. First, she tells us all about her classes and goes into detail about rocks and environmental science and how she feels about the ethical dilemma of hunting and forests. She is animated and sounds happy to me. She lets me know that she is still getting used to the amount of work and doing everyday chores like laundry and admits that dressing and taking care of her hair are sometimes difficult to manage, but that it's getting better.

Then, we head to the tailgate party and Football Game. It is a sparkling blue day and every boy on the lacrosse team stops by to meet us and say hello to Laura. We meet some of her girlfriends from her dorm as well. One of the boys' parents invite us to join their group for dinner. As we are leaving the game, Laura says she has a "crush" on one of the boys we will be going to dinner with. He's a junior, a lacrosse player and very handsome. It seemed like to this worry-wort Mom that maybe he has a crush on her, too. I can already tell what the topic is going to be causing tonight's lack of sleep!

Dinner turns out to be a blast. The two families couldn't be more interesting and fun and the kids are good kids. After dinner, the handsome, JUNIOR, LACROSSE PLAYER asks if Laura wants to go to a party at 'the compound'. (This is where some of the upper class lacrosse players live and it's about one block off campus). We drop her off and my stomach sinks.

3:00 am, "I hope she is okay and will be getting a ride home or is walking with a bunch of kids home"; "A JUNIOR?!***"; "A LACROSSE player?" I decide she has a great foundation and has always carried herself in a decent matter so I should stop worrying and try to fall back asleep and ask her about the party in the morning.

Sunday morning we had breakfast at Fay's in Carlisle. There is a line out the door but the food smells great so we wait. We have a good time. Once again, and right on cue, she tells me the party was fun; she walked back around 2 am with 5 other girls that live in her dorm; the party was fun but that she's quite tired. She tells us that she has tons of work to do this week and she still feels rotten. We go to the drug store and load up nose spray and other vitamins and medicines to help get rid of this awful cold.

I start to worry that she won't be able to kick this cold and there's no one there to really take care of her. She went to the college infirmary prior to our trip and they proceeded to tell her that her voice box was frozen. Now that's worrisome! It is harder to get everything done when you're feeling lousy and I worry that this will make her stressed out and unhappy. It's really a vicious cycle. When we have such brief moments with our children who have left the nest we feel we need to tell them important things and give them guidance and just enjoy their company. Sometimes that's hard to do all packed within a parents' weekend. Dickinson College did a really lovely job providing interesting events like the Trout Gallery Opening and Reception, the tailgate party and a fun run yet still allowing enough downtime to just hang out with our babies.
This letting go and yet holding on is really a very exhausting experience but I do believe we just need to trust our judgment and try to relax and enjoy these very special moments with our children. They instinctively know how to take care of us, which I find amazing and fascinating at the same time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Advise Needed From My Secret Blogger Friends

Okay, here's the deal and if Husband Bill reads this (.09% probability of this happening), I am screwed. In about 10 days or so, Bill and me head to Dickinson College's Parents Weekend. We will be flying directly into Baltimore a day before it begins due to the distant we are flying, which is a good thing because we get to spend the evening with my sister, her husband and my niece and nephew. The next morning, we drive to Carlisle and see my daughter for the weekend(YEAH). Here comes the tricky part: we are scheduled to leave midday Sunday. Bill needs to get back to work, in fact, he's making an incredible effort to attend at all. He is such a great stepfather to my daughter! And I'm not just saying this in case he actually reads this post! The fact is, it is imperative that he gets back right away.

I was supposed to schedule his flight using the free Southwest ticket we had, just in case he was not able to go at the last moment. I don't know what happened, but I accidentally (it really was an accident...cross my heart and hope to die) used the freebie for my ticket. Now, I am thinking that someone "upstairs" is trying to help me get the chance to spend a few more days visiting my sister. She's my BFF and I miss her terribly. And, I love her husband and children, too. Being 1000's of miles away is not my favorite part of my life.

My sister is thinking she might say something at the dinner like, "boy I sure could use Beth during this remodeling project going on at my house", (useful sister routine) or "it seems such a shame two sisters not being able to spend more time together" (guilt on the husbands) or finally going for the gusto, "the kids really miss their favorite Aunt" (guilt to the Uncle).

If I come home as scheduled it is easier on Bill as I take care of the house and especially, Wrigley. And he can be a handful.

That old saying comes to mind, "be careful what you ask for, you just might get it" for some reason. I am pulled in both directions. So, friends, lay on the advise. What would you do? This empty nest Mom cannot figure this one out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Parent's Weekend at Miami of Ohio

Ah, home sweet home. I think we got the last available room in all of Oxford, Ohio for Miami University's parents' weekend. This 150-year old farmhouse has one room they open for guests. This is our patio and entrance.
These are the chickens and hens who were roaming freely on the grounds and around our rental car. Very country don't you think? But the owners made homemade waffles, with warm homemade syrup and fresh fruit and eggs from the chickens. Breakfast was absolutely delicious.
The yellow house on the right is where my son and his roommates live. It's a really charming house with a very scary basement where the washer and dryer are housed. Right next door is the Obama headquarters. A diligent volunteer is entering on a beautiful Saturday morning. Jonathan and his buddies had a huge sign attached to their porch when we arrived on Friday night that said, "Ohio is for John McCain". As you can see by Saturday morning, it was stolen. Hmmm.
But, I don't think this lady volunteer took it (she's too short).
Saturday morning begins with the financial/budget talk. JB couldn't be more thrilled to hear our thoughts on how he should save his money and handle his loan. This is one of those cool college coffee bars that makes the best Snickers Iced Coffee drink ever.

Back at the house Nancy is busy frosting yummy cookies in the shape of an "M". Taylor watched and I think he was the official "taste tester", too.

The tailgate parties and the football game is always one of the highlights for most college's parents' weekends. We had a warm, sunny day so my turtleneck top needed to be replaced with a new Miami University t-shirt. The college bookstores make a killing on the parents!

We tailgated for hours with P.V.O. (who I've been calling Tivo since I met him last year) and our friends. The car was loaded up with Costco food and we ate and drank for hours.

Now, Miami no longer has star football players like Ben Roethlisberger and they really only had one quarter of good football. The band, however, was excellent. Still, it's not a good idea to listen to your son and friend laugh out loud as a flag girl drops her flag and then proceeds to be two beats behind the other girls.

Did you know you cannot leave the car doors open and have the music playing for hours or else the battery dies?

Poor Taylor's in the dog house. Luckily, Joe Trucker Man comes to the rescue and Bill assists him and gets the car started!

Nancy offers our hero her famous "M" cookies and he leaves the party happy.

After a fantastic Italian dinner at Paesano's, we head home for some serious beer pong on the patio. (I thought it was just a bad ping pong table and had offered to go buy a decent net and paddles, which brought all the kids to their knees laughing). Here are the winners but I hear, "rematch at graduation", don't you? J.B.'s good friend, Sarah, and the most adorable Freshman girls joined us in the late night fun. They made me think about my Freshman daughter.

A perfect parent's weekend with our kids and I'm ready to head home to the empty nest for a little rest.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Discovering the 'College Parent's Weekend Vacation'

Fall season is upon us and for the empty nest parent with college kids, that means Parents Weekend and Football Games! Most schools place their Family/Parent's Weekend Visitations during the Fall calendar, which is especially important for those with Freshman students. The kids have been away long enough to settle in and meet some friends and the parents are anxious to see firsthand how their child is doing away from their home nest.

I have found that the schools provide many excellent activities so everyone keeps busy and happy. There are tailgate parties, football games, seminars on cutting-edge topics, fun runs, dinner fundraisers and evening entertainment. Getting into restaurants is always difficult and the line for the Starbucks/coffee stores runs down the street! We have enjoyed attending the weekend activities at both Miami University and Arizona State University. One thing is probably universal at all schools, when Sunday rolls around, it's time to leave! The kids are ready to study (right?) and get back to their new routine and you are left with a sinking sad feeling. Well, I propose that we do not fall into this depression and start taking the attached 'parents weekend vacation'.

Since most of us no longer have much of a vacation budget, due to paying for school (or in my case, paying for the photographic supplies for class), it is a smart idea to add a day or two after the weekend, and stay someplace near the school. You've already paid for the gas or airline tickets, so in essence, it's just the extra hotel and food costs for this special vacation. You will get to know the area of the country that your child is also experiencing. But more important, you can leave your child with a big smiley face knowing that you get to spend a little down time with your significant other. I think it makes the transition a lot smoother.

Now...where to go. I have two parents weekends, so I will explore the southern Ohio region and the southeastern area of Pennsylvania and maybe places in Maryland. Of course, I will try to convince my sister and her husband to join us after the Dickinson College weekend, so I'll start my plans for this one first!

Since I saw the movie 'Wedding Crashers', I have wanted to stay at the Inn where much of the show was filmed. It's called the Inn at Perry Cabin and is located in St. Michael's on the eastern shore of Maryland. I figure it's a 2 1/2 hour drive from the campus, just enough time to dry up my tears. The weather should be crisp and fall like, which sounds divine, coming from Arizona. This is my kind of cabin! They have a nice spa package that sounds interesting and other than walking around the grounds, eating and drinking, I have no other requirements for a relaxing mini-vacation.
Now for the Ohio trip we are flying in and out of Indianapolis, so I am trying to decide between two events that will be taking place that Sunday evening in this area. The first is a dinner at the Overlook Restaurant and live concert with Dave Miller at the Salt Creek Golf Resort. They have a condo-hotel so we could stay and enjoy the fall foliage the following day. My second thought is to attend the 2nd Annual Wine and Tapas Tasting Party at Agio Restaurant. This is actually a fundraiser sponsored by the Indiana Sheep Association. I think it might be hoot to go and everyone looking at Bill and me and trying to figure out who we are, who knows us! And wine and tapas with Bill sounds pretty relaxing, too.

Do you have plans for a post college parent's weekend vacation? If so, comment and share those ideas for other adventurous parents!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Sister wears Lilly Pulitzer on Vacation

There are very few clothing lines that say "VACATION" like Lilly Pulitzer. Their clothes scream "I'd love a strawberry daquiri". My sister wears their clothes year round, but the best are her resort choices like this great pink and orange sundress that was purchased last year.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Making the Most of the Mini-Vacation

There are times when you just cannot afford to take time off or pay for a week's vacation and we are in one of those times right now. But that does not necessarily mean you cannot take a few days off here and there for a mini vacation.

In my opinion, a mini vacation is far better than the "staycation" everyone is talking about this summer. Putting yourself in a completely different environment or climate allows you truly escape and rejuvenate.

In July, we drove over to Del Mar, California for a weekend. We stayed at L'Auberge Del Mar, which is nestled in the heart of town and one block from the glorious beach. It was misty and cool and 100% refreshing. We walked everywhere which was a nice change as well.

The goal for every summer is to do the full vacation with my sister and her family. We were not able to swing it this year, but we are going to see them after all when we take Laura for her Freshman orientation for college. Her college is two hours away from my sister's house (I swear we did not pick the school for that reason), but it sure is convenient (thank you, Laura!). My sister's husband is such a good sport about putting up with me when I come for these little mini-vacations. After Bill and me help Laura get settled in her dorm room, I get to spend 4.5 days with my sister and family. That's 108 hours (but who's counting)?

This mini-trip will probably be very emotional, exciting and rejuvenating all at the same time and I plan to make the most of every waking moment.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Summer Vacation over already?

This is one of my favorite pictures of my sister on vacation. It was taken a few years ago, in St. Lucia. You can see one of the Pitons in the background. We had taken a day trip into town and was returning to our remote hotel by boat. It was stormy and a little rainy and the ride was bumpy but fun.

Remember the good ol’ days when ‘the summer vacation period’ was defined as Memorial Day until Labor Day? Well, at least in my area of the country, summer vacation now consists of the months of June and July. Oh wait, take June away if you have children in sports or play an instrument and June is filled with tournaments, team obligations and competitions. August is also taken away due to the startups of these similar activities as well as the crazy, required school registrations a week or two before school begins. Just as the old rule of only wearing white shoes from Memorial Day to Labor Day has almost been abandoned, so has the true definition of summer.

This leaves glorious July for families to reunite, bond and try to relax together. You are screwed if you have important career responsibilities in this month. And you have to make vacation plans earlier and probably pay a premium for a rental in this prized month. Maybe you can extend the vacation period in the last week in June or the first week in August, if you’re clever. Personally, I think summer vacation is undervalued in this country and I think it stinks that we have such a shortened family-time together! We need a better balance between the summer and winter and all the experiences each provide. Poets have been writing about this balance for years. My favorite one is ‘Summer’ by Amy Lowell (see below, if you’re interested). For the past 16 years that I have children in school, I have ranted and complained to anyone within close vicinity to me about the lost glory days of summer. Now that all my children will be attending college or working what will I rant and complain about? (Don’t worry, I’ll think of something!) I trust this discussion and complaint will be addressed by some of the clever younger, Mommy bloggers out there in the future. Rant on, ladies!

Summer by Amy Lowell
Some men there are who find in nature all
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
And they hold dear communion with the hills;
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
To them a city is a prison house
Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
But where in winter they must live until
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
To me it is not so. I love the earth
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
And moonlight playing in a boat's wide wake;
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
I love the very human heart of man.
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature's changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
For life alone is creator of life,
And closest contact with the human world
Is like a lantern shining in the night
To light me to a knowledge of myself.
I love the vivid life of winter months
In constant intercourse with human minds,
When every new experience is gain
And on all sides we feel the great world's heart;
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!