Summer Fun Family Checklist

The school year has finally ended and the kids are amped for summer! You may have trips planned, but a family bucket list can help fill those lonesome summer days. Feel free to use this bucket list year after year, or create your own. Either way, you will be creating those fun summer memories you and your family will remember for years to come!

summer

Experience Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island rich in history, culture, friendly people… and we can’t forget delicious cuisine! If you are unsure what to expect or contemplating whether you should visit the island (since the destruction from hurricane Maria) than read on! My answer is simply – YES! Here are my reasons why and what you can expect.

Support

Many parts of Puerto Rico were without electricity, water, food and other supplies when hurricane Maria made a direct hit on the island September 20, 2017. With slow federal response the island is doing its best to go back to normal. Our tourism helps the island tremendously. When speaking with many of the locals they want all of us to know that Puerto Rico is still a beautiful island open to tourists. Many of the popular tourists locations such as Old San Juan are in great shape and ready for your arrival.

No Passport needed!

For some this is not a big deal as you may already have one. However, when traveling with a large family buying passports in addition to vacation expense can cost you a hefty penny. Once everyone has their passports the world is your oyster. But, if are anxious to travel somewhere exotic and tropical in the meantime visit our beautiful islands that are part of the United States; Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hawaii.

 

Plane tickets & Car rental

Our tickets were a reasonably priced roundtrip for about $300 in January. Not bad at all to visit paradise. There are some tips you can follow to find the best days and times when to purchase tickets by reading my previous article Travel tips for the SMART consumer Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is one of largest airports in Puerto and most closest to the popular city Old San Juan. The airport was clean and well organized.

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Other important takeaways:

If you arrive after 10:30 pm the airport was pretty empty. You can expect most of the restaurants and bars within the airport to be closed as well. No worries though! There will be plenty of delicious places open when you leave the airport to start you on your adventure!

The car rental kiosk at the airport closes at midnight. There is also only one kiosk open for renting with all companies that time of night. Renting a car is the same process and same companies that you find here in the United States (Enterprise, Hertz, Budget).Your current auto insurance policy with full coverage should cover you while in Puerto Rico. The roads and highways looked no different than your typical drive in the United States. There were a few toll roads depending on what part of Puerto Rico you are visiting. In some areas you could definitely see the devastation from the hurricane, but overall the roads were safe to drive on.

Puerto Rico does offer ride sharing if you decide not to rent a car. Unsure about the parking,  we caught an Uber a few times when heading into Old San Juan. Our Uber drivers were friendly and very knowledgeable. It was interesting listening to how they and their families survived hurricane Maria and how they were doing today with the recovery. Each driver we had said they were thankful for people visiting the island. Every bit helps including our tourism! (By the way there were a few large paid parking garages in Old San Juan)

Where to stay?

Most hotels will cost you $220 a night and up depending on what you are looking for. We decided to book our stay with Book VIP and stayed at the nearby beautiful Wyndham Hotel. However, if I could go back in time I would have decided to stay in an Airbnb in Old San Juan. For the same price you can stay in the city near all the action of night life, restaurants and have a local experience in beautiful architecture.

dorado

If you would like to splurge and experience a true island resort type of stay I highly recommend The Ritz Carlton in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Located on a beautiful golf course and beach, this resort is very top notch and exclusive. You can also purchase real estate or stay in a beautiful villa.

Cuisine

monfongo

Coming from someone who does not eat pork or beef, my Puerto Rican food was still delicious! The islands most popular dish Mofongo (typically made with fried green plantains) is mashed together in a pilon which consists of a wooden mortar and pestle, with broth, garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings or bits of bacon. It can also be made vegetarian with carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. I also had a delicious chicken dish paired with homemade hot and fruity hot sauce. Just devine!

Hanging Out

We woke up early to Uber into Old San Juan. We were told on the weekends go into  town early enough before the cruise ships come in. Our first stop was finding a coffee shop to enjoy the islands espresso with a hint of Grand Manier. Eager to get out of a warm rainforest down pour, we stumbled upon Café Berlin. Café Berline was  perfect! Great espresso, beautiful décor, vegetarian dishes, and very friendly staff.

After we left Café Berlin it was still raining so we stepped into one of the local mom and pop shops to purchase a durable umbrella for only $5! We step out onto the cobble stone lined streets to explore Old San Juan. Here were some of our favorite places:

 

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Haitian Gallery

367 Calle Fortaleza

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

A must see for beautiful, unique art for well over 30 years. Don’t forget to venture upstairs for more.

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The Cigar House of Puerto Rico

257 Calle Fortaleza

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Purchase cigars or chillax in the beautiful cigar room. Enjoy full concierge service which includes a backroom tour of the most exquisite cigars. Enjoy a cognac at the table while you blow one back.

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The Colorful Umbrellas

Fortaleza Street

Beautifully colored umbrellas decorate the sky of this popular street.

 

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Pigeon Park “The Parque de las Palomas” (Bird Watching area)

Calle de Tetuan, San Juan Puerto Rico 00901

Whoever thought you could find such peace sitting amongst birds?

 

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The Monastery Art Hotel & Suites

250 Calle de Cristo

San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

One of the most beautiful places to stay in the Old San Juan District. Close to nightlife,

monuments and museums.

lady pizza

Bari Handcrafted Pizza

Calle del Cristo #154

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Delicious oven baked pizza (try the artichoke heart!). Beautiful open garden setting, delicious espresso, music (Bob Marley was playing!), friendly staff.

 

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Los Yeyos la Casa del Mofongo

353 Calle San Francisco

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Great tiny bar that serves great food and best Mofongo on the Island. Be sure to write your name on the wall in marker before you go!

 

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Castillo San Felipe del Morro

501 Calle Norzagarary

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

A Historical landmark citadel from the 16th century named in honor of King Phillip II from Spain. Bring your walking shoes to explore this beautiful site.

San Juan has so many beautiful things to see and do. This is the type of place where you don’t necessarily have to plan. On a typical weeknight you could hear and see live music playing in the streets. Enjoy!

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If you would like help planning your next relaxing vacation try travel designer www.travelroute365.com

Want to plan it all yourself? We like Book VIP

 

 

 

 

The Himalayan Salt Cave experience in Mentor, Ohio

There is a holistic hidden jewel located in Mentor, Ohio. The Mentor Salt Cave is a relaxing and holistic experience for the young and old.  You can book appointments for sessions in the twelve thousand pound Himalayan salt cave, or detoxifying foot soak baths. Upon entering there is a beautifully arranged retail store containing everything Himalayan. From edible assortments, to inhaler’s, lamps and soaps to hosting your own private party.

SALT PRODUCTS

Himalayan salt is known for the natural healing powers of its 84 trace minerals needed to heal our bodies. Here are just a few of the type of ailments Himalayan salt has healed:

SALT INSIDE2

Upon entering the dimly 71 degree Himalayan cave you must place all electronics in a locker, remove your shoes and put on protective slippers. You are given a cozy blanket as you lie underneath stars in the zero gravity chair. Ear plugs are placed in your ear as you listen to soothing music and inhale the salt into your sinuses to work its magic within your body.

You can complete your visit with an iconic detoxifying foot salt bath soak which magnetizes and draws toxins out of your body through your feet. Your visit would not be complete without purchasing a healing soap or salt lamp to take home.

Note: If you can not make it out to the Mentor Salt Cave, You can also replace your table salt with pink Himalayan salt to help heal the same benefits listed above. I purchase mine from Trader Joe’s Grocery Store.

For more information or to book your appointment visit their site here.

You deserve an Instant Miracle

Imagine leaving your life behind for 3 days. No rushing off to work, no reading texts, no posting on social media, no children crying for your attention. These next 3 days are all about you. Yes, you! Hi, you! Did you forget about you? What you like, what your hopes and dreams are. Do you still dare to dream? Or was that only when you were a child “growing up.”

Most adults can say they have an extremely busy life. Whether you work full-time, are a stay-at-home parent, or in your retirement taking care of your parents. Maybe you just suffered a terrible lost in your life or a major set back. Daily life can be stressful to us all. Many choose to decompress by exercising their body, drinking, reading (just to name a few). But, have you ever considered exercising your mind?

That is exactly what having an Instant Miracle Experience is all about. Exercising your mind is similar to the same way you exercise your body. Think of lifting weights. As you use your muscle in your arm you begin to strengthen or tighten the area that you are focusing on. Translate that into working the mind muscle – you could meditate focusing on positive outcomes that you want to achieve, or reading positive books to manifest your desires. In both scenarios, over time, the particular area you are focused on is exercised, either physically (body) or mentally (brain) and you will produce a positive result.

Where can one find such “zen”?

One warm day in San Diego, I accompanied my husband to attend the 3-day Instant Miracle Experience. I don’t want to say I was skeptical because I have an open mind and love trying new things, however, I thought I was going to another boring self-help seminar that are literally given everywhere. Upon entering the auditorium I was immediately met with hugs, smiles, how are you and love energy. It was as if I left the “real world” full of judgements and frustrations. For those full 3 days my focus became all about myself. Not what my children are doing, not the latest news story.

It is so important to think about yourself in a world where we are always taught to look outwards. We could be helping our employer, helping our spouse, helping our kids. We are exhausting our own mental capacities. What about you? Is tuning into you being selfish? Absolutely not.  It’s time you start reflecting on your past (we all have underlying issues that need to be healed) and where we are now and where we want to go. How are your past issues truly affecting how you are reacting to situations today?

You are deserving of self love and so much more. You deserve a breather from this hectic fast paced life.

Imagine if we all were able to step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It is possible if you want it to be. Be selfish and make it happen.

You deserve an Instant Miracle.

If you are interested in attending or learning more about an Instant Miracle Experience by Christian Mickelsen you can find out more information about this life changing event here: Instant Miracle Experience

Free Family Event: A Harp Quartet, Coloring and Cocktails

I live for finding free family events for my family. And when the event includes an opportunity for a musical exposure – the better!

LES DELICIES

The group Les Delices, directed by Debra Nagy performed at the Cleveland Bop Stop to an audience of children aged 5 to 12. Monthly, the Cleveland Bop Stop offers several musical events for children during the day. By night they are a full fledged jazz club where every cocktail purchased goes towards funding their musical education department.

ANGELS
Angelic harp coloring sheets

 

The setting for the event included several small round tables outlining the stage. On each table were unique coloring sheets that included a few pictures of the Harp’s past history: The Pharaoh, and angelic angles. While we colored Les Delices (a quartet of piccolo, violin, cello and harp) played several delightful songs including a silly story of the mouse and the frog led by vocalist Debra Nagy.

PERFORM
Les Delices performing at the Bop Stop

 

Should you find yourselves thirsty or hungry during these events, the Bop Stop offers a small appetizer menu such as ranch popcorn and flatbread pizza to name a few. Parents can sip on wine, beer, and other cocktail favorites.

To our surprise, we were pleased to find out Les Delices gives free family musical events and paid performances throughout the year! If you would like to go to one of Les Delices events, or visit The Bop Stop for a family/adult jazz event, check out the links below for more information:

View Les Delices live performance here:

Les Delices: http://www.lesdelices.org/outreach/

The Bop Stop Calendar: https://www.themusicsettlement.org/calendar

outside
Outside the Bop Stop

Cool Coffee Spots for Cleveland Coffee Lover’s

Calling all coffee lovers! I am talking about the coffee lovers who take their coffee straight black – no sugar, no cream. And, those who need a little bit of sweet to their coffee treat. Regardless of where you fall into this category, I got you covered.

We all know we can easily find a Starbucks or McDonald’s on the next corner, but sometimes (mostly all the time for me) we should support our local coffee shops. Believe me, most of these coffee entrepreneurs are getting their beans from some of the best bean growing countries around the World (i.e. Africa, South America). When you buy local and support local, they want you to come back. They aren’t mass producing on a large quantity. Meaning that they care taking extra care and control about where they are getting their beans from. In return,  we get great tasting, strong, aromatic scents coupled with a unique in store ambiance that only coffee relaxed Cleveland locals or visitors would truly appreciate.

JUMA

Juma Gallery

20100 Chagrin Blvd, Shaker Heights, OH 44122

(216) 295-1717

Aside from great coffee and tea, enjoy warm bagels, pastries, mimosas, and a few featured sandwiches such as turkey and swiss. Relax to an array of light music inside or outside (when Cleveland weather allows) on the decorative patio. In the mood for shopping unique shoes and clothing? In the adjoining room find unique men and women’s clothing. And yes, that mimosa can join you while you shop.

BEVIAMO

Beviamo Cafe – Tremont, Ohio

2275 Professor Ave

Cleveland, OH 44113

This coffee shop gives you a comfy, cozy feel as soon as you enter the doors. Lounge on plush couches or chairs with pillows. Let the kids (or the kid within you) play video games on the flat screen. Enjoy organic smoothies and small plates that are vegetarian inspired.

JAVA

Gimmie Java Coffee

3427 Lee Rd, Cleveland, OH 44120

216-921-1114

Open Until 630

This adorningly decorated coffee shop located at the corner of Lee and Van Aken offers delicious pastries and sandwiches to pair with your cup of Joe. Chat with the friendly owner while he graciously makes your drink. Watch your morning news or read the paper near the fire place.

ROOT

The Root – Lakewood, Ohio

15118 Detroit Ave, Lakewood, OH 44107

(216) 226-4401

Open until 9 PM

Native Clevender’s from the 1990’s will reminisce of Coventry Arabica days when they step into this coffee spot. Wooden tables and unique arts and plants surround this cozy shop. Enjoy a small unique menu of food (both vegetarian and gluten free) while you sip and enjoy coffee, tea or kombucha. Locals play string bass and other music on select Friday nights.

AVALAUN

Café Avalaun

4640 Richmond Rd, Cleveland, OH 44128

(216) 245-6666

Open until 3 PM

Do you love a good french press or pour over? What about an entirely delicious gluten-free menu? The kids can enjoy playing on the chalkboard while you wait

DEWEYS

Dewey’s Coffee

13201 Shaker Sq, Cleveland, OH 44120

(216) 991-1101

Open until 8 PM

An old-time favorite amongst the locals, on one side of the entrance sip coffee inside or outside while watching the hustle and bustle of Shaker Square city life. Enter through the other door to enjoy delicious ice cream and popcorn. This location also offers small ready-made pastries and dishes. Come on a Friday night to enjoy a BYOB of wine.

Outside of Ohio? Give these cool coffee places a try when you are passing through…

AMEILS

Amelie’s French Bakery

157 E Main St, Rock Hill, SC 29730

Phone: (803) 403-9409

Open until 11pm

This cutely decorated café in downtown Rock Hill, South Carolina not only offers coffee, but also serves delicious croissant sandwiches and delectable macaroons.

TWIN

Twin City Hive Coffee & Lounge

301 Brookstown Ave #300 Winston-Salem, NC 27101

(336)745-7051

Open until 9pm

Quaint, cute and contemporary coffee shop with knowledgeable coffee loving friendly staff. Great pour overs that can be enjoyed inside or within outside decorated corridor. Unique small gifts available for purchase.

Not in the mood to go out to a shop? I recommend supporting local by grinding up some beans from The Fig Leaf Coffee Company. I purchased these great tasting beans from Mexico at a local farmers market at Legacy Village in Beachwood Ohio.

FIG LEAF

 

NYC with Kids

Kids. From the moment they come into our lives they bring new situations and adventures.

I can honestly say that I have delightfully experienced many things and met many new people in my life thanks to my girls.

This past weekend’s trip to New York City was no different.

My oldest daughter, who is 15, was invited to play string bass at the world famous Lincoln Center in NYC with her schools Chamber Orchestra.

What an honor and what an opportunity for all of us to finally take a bite out of the Big Apple…..with KIDS!

As a mom, the thought of traveling to NYC with little ones (4 and 7) makes me a little uneasy. We have only traveled through Manhattan by car a few times a year to drop off my step-children who live in Queens. I was overwhelmed just watching the hustle and bustle from the car.

I would stare out the window thankful that my kids were safely strapped into their car seats – peering their eyes above the brim of the window. And my husband taking on the honking and numerous fender benders that we nearly missed inch by inch as we made our way through the city.

However, we survived New York City! Not only did my daughter’s school place in the competition, but we all grew from the experience.

Here are some cool pics and tricks to help you out if you are considering heading out to the city that truly never sleeps.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Newark, New Jersey to save money before heading into the big city for the weekend. You can save big and it’s only a 20 minute drive away. Great cocktails, ambiance, and kids eat free!

The food trucks making their way through traffic in true New York fashion.

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We choose The Watson Hotel on 57th St. so we wouldn’t have to walk too far with the little ones. It was about an 8 minute walk to our event at Lincoln Center. It had some of the least expensive parking at $37 a day, and the rooms were clean and decent. The prices for rooms were fairly inexpensive as compared to other hotels in the city.

newyork2

The premise of our trip! My daughter playing string bass (far left standing) at Lincoln Center. Her schools Chamber Orchestra placed second runner up (third in the nation) and received the honorable Forte Award for most distinguished group. Good news parents: there is an upscale snack bar in the lobby that serves sandwiches, chips, fruits, and cocktails. Perfect breather that your kids will definitely need in between performances.

newyrk6

We made reservations at The Colesium Bar and Grill. We choose this restaurant based on location (an 8 minute walk from Lincoln Center), a diverse menu that both adults and children could find something they would like, and they were okay with kids eating there. The prices were a little high for bar priced food, but the food was very good.

Next, we headed underground in a glass elevator which was located in the middle of a sidewalk. The elevator took us to an underground mall and food eatery called TurnStyle. The kids went to the well know Dillon’s Candy Store full of a candy emporium!

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We were anxious to hit up Times Square, but getting there was a 20 minute walk. Not good for the little one’s unless you have a stroller. It was also freezing so Uber and Lyft was a MUST! The cost was inexpensive $8 to $12 for a 7 seater vehicle to fit my entire family. We waited less than 10 minutes going and coming back.

Stepping out into Times Square was like stepping into a fish bowl. Wall to wall people. Hang on to your kids and enjoy the lights, sights and people watching.

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The Statue of Liberty and other characters were dressed to take photos with eager tourists, but BE AWARE! They want your money. $20 to be exact for snapping a photo with you.

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Hold on tight to your children! My daughter and I got caught in the middle of another NY traffic jam!

 

Inside the NYC subway near Times Square.

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I had no idea that it was similar to an airport. There were places to eat, small shops and loads of people hanging out. There was live music to watch and people dancing. You buy your tickets ($2 to $4 range) and wait to hear what gate you need to to be at to jump on the train.

If you enjoy a nice beer/cider you are in luck! They have beer/cider on tap in the subway. A small to large costs $6 to $8. You get a cup to go and are free to walk around with it.

I felt more comfortable than I thought I would be waiting at the Subway Station with kids in tow.

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Call it cliche but we wanted to experience all the “New York” like things. On a short walk from our hotel we found Morningstar Restaurant for breakfast. They served lunch and dinner . A cute typical neighborhood New York diner. The food was great, the staff was super nice, fast and accomadating.

A Yummy New York bagel sandwich with turkey bacon, scrambled egg and cheese. This won my kids heart. I enjoyed a coffee with many selections of Brandy to go inside! Morningstar Restaurant.

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Key points to consider when traveling with kids:

1) Google the address and area of your stomping grounds. I always investigate the area with Google Earth when planning where we will stay and where we will go. It helps to familiarize yourself with the area. Many things look better on a website than they do in person.

2) Map the distance between certain attractions you plan to visit. Everything can seem appealing to visit, but may be further away from where you thought. Mapping out the distance between each location will save you so much frustration!

3) Visit the websites of each city, attraction and hotel. Websites are a wealth of information. You can find reviews from recent visitors and events that are going on during your visit. That gives you a step up on visiting as a well informed tourist.

Enjoy your Family Time!

 

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