Monday, April 21, 2014

Grand Lucayan ~ Freeport, Grand Bahamas Island

There is nothing more beautiful than the beaches of the Bahamas.  Recently, we were able to spend the day on one of these beaches at the Grand Lucayan on the Grand Bahama Island.  

I was thrilled to be cruising to the Bahamas aboard the Carnival Magic this past March. But when I was doing my research into port activities on the second stop of the cruise, Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, I didn’t find many options to play at these gorgeous beaches.

With just a little bit of searching, I found the Grand Lucayan and for those traveling on a cruise ship, this beautiful resort offers a day pass to spend the day at their private beach.  A short, 20 minute taxi ride takes you right to the resort.

Just a few minutes here and you will want to come back for an extended vacation. I think that’s what they want – Just a little taste of this paradise is really not enough.  Here’s why:

The Beach
The Grand Lucayan’s private beach is an absolute oasis – something out of a movie.  The stark, white sands contrast with the blue waters that beckon you to come and relax in them.  This beach is amazingly quiet and peaceful....I can imagine a week's worth of lying on this beach in my future.

There are chairs available to sit by the water’s edge and just zone out or you can have a great time building sand castles and running in the water with the kids. If relaxing isn’t what you are looking for, guys walk up & down the beach to offer banana boat tours and parasailing.

We really loved how clean and pristine the sand and waters were.  As it was March, the water was chilly, but we forced ourselves in.  It’s not every day these Texas kids get to play in such clear, blue water.

The Pool
I loved having the option of relaxing by the pool too.  The Grand Lucayan  has a large pool that curves and winds around, giving plenty of places to grab a lounger and sit in the sun.  My favorite part was the swim up bar.  You can grab a cool drink and relax at the edge of the infinity pool, and look out into the Atlantic Ocean for hours. 

The Hammocks
Speaking of relaxing, look at these gorgeous hammocks under the palm trees you can lay in all day.  I can just feel the cool ocean breeze lulling me to sleep by looking at this picture.

And More
If the ocean or the pool is not enough, the Grand Lucayan has lots of great amenities to keep you busy. We found a shuffleboard, a life-sized chess game, hair braiding, volleyball, and more at the resort.

We grabbed lunch at Iries while we were there and I was able to finally try conch fritters – my daughter and I really liked them! They also have burgers and grilled cheese as well as pasta and pizza – a great variety.

If you want to get a little shopping in, right across the street is the Port Lucayan shopping area. They have clothing, jewelry, and more. There is also a great marketplace right at the ship too where we found s gorgeous sea shell and some fun bathing suit cover-ups.

It was nice to get off the ship and enjoy a calm day by the ocean during our cruise. A Day Pass is verity reasonable for all that you get ($15 adults 10 & up, $7 children).  The Grand Lucayan is a gorgeous resort and one we definitely want to check out in the future for an extended trip.  For more information on the resort and how to get a day pass, click here.

My family & I were invited to visit Grand Lucayan and were given complimentary access to the resort.  I was not compensated for this post.  All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nui Organics Grand Opening ~ April 22, 2014

Nui Organics is opening in Austin on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 from 3 pm to 8 pm.  They will have door prizes, giveaways, sample sales, refreshments and a bounce house for the kiddos!

Come see this new-to-Austin store and see adorable children's clothing such as this:

Don't their clothes look so soft & cuddly......

Learn more about this great company here:

This is a sponsored post by Nui Organics.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Schlotzsky's Sandwiches for a Year Giveaway! ~ April 19, 2014

Our family are HUGE fans of Schlotzsky's, so I was excited to tell y'all about this great giveaway coming up!

Schlotzsky’s will kick off the grand opening of new co-branded locations with TCBY April 19, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. with a fun-filled day of events. Adding to the excitement, the first 50 guests at each location to purchase a TCBY Frozen Yogurt will win Schlotzsky’s sandwiches for a year. Other activities on opening day include a bounce house and prize wheel, along with giveaways, a ribbon cutting at the Lamar stores, a visit from Bobby Bun and more.

TCBY will open in the following Austin-area restaurants:

•             La Frontera – 2700-B Parker Drive, Round Rock, Texas
•             Parmer – 500 Canyon Ridge Drive, Austin, Texas
•             Sunset Valley – 5601 Brodie Lane, Sunset Valley, Texas
•             Maconda Park – 13201 FM 620 North, Austin, Texas
•             Lamar – 218 S. Lamar Blvd, Austin, Texas

ZACH Theatre Presents "Pinocchio" ~ April 18 - May 24, 2014 {A Giveaway}

ZACH Theatre has another excellent family production starting this week - Pinocchio:

Step into Geppetto’s workshop for a delightful retelling of an ageless classic! Objects in Geppetto’s carpentry workshop become puppets in this imaginative play about love and family told through puppetry and illusion!

Performances run Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with added performances on Friday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m., and Sundays on May 4, and May 11 and May 16 at 2:30 p.m., April 18 through May 24, 2014, on ZACH Theatre’s Whisenhut Stage at 1510 Toomey Road.  Click here for details & tickets. 

This is the final play for the 2013-2014 Family Series, so don't miss it.  We try to see every ZACH family series production and we are never disappointed!

And to kick this production off, ZACH Theatre is offering a Family 4 pack of tickets to my readers for Saturday, April 19 at 11 am.

Use the below Rafflecopter to enter to win. Winner will be chosen by random on Friday, April 18 and emailed.  Winner will have 24 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#13inNYC: New York City with a Teen

We just returned from a long weekend in New York with Grandma, my 13-year old Daughter and myself.  Here is what we did in New York City with a Teenager:

My kids have seen a lot of great places in their young lives, but for their 13th birthday, I have promised them, I would take them on a special trip to any place in the continental United States they would like to go.  My daughter was the first to receive this birthday gift and she choose New York City. My mom had taken me several times, so I thought it would be a fun trip to take Grandma along with us too.

An avid lover of theater and history, this came as no surprise.  I love NYC and have been several times for both business and pleasure. So I immediately started planning all the great things I wanted to take her to see and do.  I asked for advice from family and friends, and I searched online for things you must see & do with a 13 year old in NYC. 

I had a great big list – one that could easily take a week to do – but with a lot of stamina from Grandma, my daughter, and me, we seemed to accomplish a lot. 

I wanted to get ALL  3 of our perspectives of all that we accomplished, so we will rate everything on a scale of 1-5 (1 being SKIP IT and 5 being totally amazing, you MUST do it!). 

Here is what we did in 3 days for those planning to bring a teen into the city:

Thursday Evening

Dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner – a fun diner with home-style favorites where the wait staff take turns singing and entertaining you.  The wait can be long and the food is touristy but the experience makes up for that.
Teen Rating: 4 Mom Rating: 3 Grandma Rating: 5

Broadway Show: Mamma Mia – This was a fantastic first show for a teen to see – Broadway actually has quite a few family-friendly shows.  I found that buying tickets online in advance of going, and choosing to go on a weeknight, saved us a ton.  We used this website for discount Broadway tickets.
Teen Rating: 5 Mom Rating: 5 Grandma Rating: 5

Times Square Shopping: After the show, we browsed through the Hershey’s Store, M&M Store, Disney, Toys R Us and more – they seem to stay open all night – anyone need a giant Hershey’s Bar?
Teen Rating: 4 Mom Rating: 4 Grandma Rating: 2


NY SkyRide: Based in the Empire State Building, this motion-ride simulating a ride over New York is a cheesy (and expensive) way to see the city. Skip this and just go out and see the real thing!
Teen Rating: 2 Mom Rating: 1 Grandma Rating: 2

Cloudy view from the 86th floor
Empire State Building: Seeing the city from the 86th floor of this very nostalgic building is pretty amazing. It does take some time, as there are many different lines you have to wait in to go up (Security, tickets, audio tour, picture, elevator #1, etc.).  Is it worth seeing that view? – yes, especially on a clear spring day like we had.
Teen Rating: 4 Mom Rating: 4 Grandma Rating: 4

Subway Ride: Unless you want to take a taxi everywhere you go, you need to learn to ride the subway.  Yes, it is confusing, but there is a sense of power when you get it all down and get to where you want to go.  Plus, for 3 gals from Texas, it’s a fun way to travel. But warning – it is dirty.
Teen Rating: 3 Mom Rating: 4 Grandma Rating: 1

No Gum-Gum for Dum-Dum at the American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History: This is a glorious example of how museums should be – grand entrances, big exhibits, and tons of halls to get lost in.  Truth be told, my girl wanted to visit to see the “museum from the movie” (Night at the Museum). It was an incredible museum, but too much if you only have 3 days to see the city.
Teen Rating: 3 Mom Rating: 3 Grandma Rating: 4

Pedicab Ride through Central Park: We stumbled upon this actually and had to be sold – ok he offered us a discount – but we really enjoyed seeing a bit of the famed park this way.  Our driver was both entertaining and knowledgeable and showed us important spots in the park. We were able to see Strawberry Fields - which was the one thing my teen wanted to see (she's a Beatles fan y'all!).  You can also take a horse-drawn carriage or rent a bike.
Teen Rating: 4 Mom Rating: 4 Grandma Rating: 4

Did you know Monet's Water Lilies was so large?
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): One of the most breathtaking collections of modern art in the world, you can see van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Monet’s “Water Lilies” among other famous pieces. My daughter even started telling me stuff about the pieces that she had learned in art classes.  I would love to have hours to wander this entire museum. If there is one museum to see while you are here, this is it.
Teen Rating: 5  Mom Rating: 5 Grandma Rating: 5

White Roses are placed on birthdays.
9/11 Memorial: Standing at Ground Zero is a gorgeous tribute to those who perished in the 9/11 attacks.  It is amazing how quiet this area in the center of the city becomes, it brings such a sense of calm to you. It was important to me to bring my daughter here, as she was born the year this happened and I was in New York that fateful day. She sought out a docent and spent a good half-hour asking very insightful questions and we ended up learning so much more about the memorial.  In May 2014, they are opening the 9/11 Museum on site as well.
Teen Rating: 5 Mom Rating: 5 Grandma Rating: 5

Dinner in Little Italy: One of my favorite places to eat is on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.  I don’t have a favorite restaurant, we just peruse the menus and find one that sounds good.  We have never been disappointed and our meal this evening was spectacular.
Teen Rating: 5 Mom Rating: 5 Grandma Rating: 5


Lady Liberty poses with 2 gals from Texas
City Sightseeing Cruise: This 90 minute cruise around the tip of New York was a unique way to see & learn about the city.  Narrated nearly the entire cruise, we learned some pretty cool facts and we saw the Statue of Liberty up close – she is stunning to see in person and this is a fun way to see her.
Teen Rating: 5 Mom Rating: 5 Grandma Rating: 5

View of Central Park from Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock: We had so many friends that said we must see the view of the city from the Top of the Rock, so we decided to try a different perspective. It was basically the same as the Empire State Building in my opinion, except you have a closer view of Central Park and you don’t have to wait in as many lines to go up. If we could only choose one – I would pick the Empire State Building.
Teen Rating: 4 Mom Rating: 2 Grandma Rating: 3

Writing some inspiration for 2015
Times Square Visitor’s Center: This tiny museum is home to the ball that drops on New Years Eve and Broadway pieces.  Our favorite thing was being able to write hopes & wishes on pieces of confetti that will rain down on New Years Eve 2014.  The museum is free and takes less than 15 minutes.
Teen Rating: 3 Mom Rating: 4 Grandma Rating: 3

Discovery Museum: In the same area is a cool museum with traveling exhibits – on this trip, they had Body Worlds and The Art of the Brick. My daughter choose to see Bodies and it was a fascinating exhibit that showed actual bodies in different moving positions.  I didn’t know what my daughter would think, but again, she schooled me – teaching me about the various systems of the body. However, it is a bit pricy and you can only choose one exhibit.
Teen Rating: 2 Mom Rating: 3 Grandma Rating: 3

We saw some surprise shaken' at the Shake Shake on The Ride
The Ride: A totally interactive and spontaneous tour bus ride of Manhattan- this is SO MUCH FUN! 90 minutes on a stadium-seated bus visiting iconic places of NYC.  There were surprise street performances, karaoke, quizzes and we actually learned even more about NYC. 
Teen Rating: 5 Mom Rating: 5 Grandma Rating: 5

Can I get it delivered? To Texas?
John’s Pizzeria: We again took good advice and found this ah-may-zing restaurant right off of Times Square, it is in the home of a former church.  The inside is beautiful but you go here for the delicious wood-fire baked pizza.  It was outstanding – bordering on best New York pizza I’ve ever had – no, let me take that back –it was THE BEST New York Pizza I have ever had. 
Teen Rating: 5 Mom Rating: 5 Grandma Rating: 4


A Teenage Candy Heaven
Dylan’s Candy Bar: Again, recommend numerous times and they were right – this 3-story candy store was so fun.  The décor is great, the variety is amazing, but the price tag is high.  My daughter had a great time filling a bucket full of candy and finding fun souvenirs for her friends.  This is a must-do if you have kids.
Teen Rating: 5 Mom Rating: 4 Grandma Rating: 1 

so yum!
Serendipity-3: This was not high on my list – isn’t a frozen hot chocolate just an expensive frappiccino? I couldn’t have been more wrong! The original Serendipity is just down the street from Dylan’s Candy Bar and is turning 60 this year.  The café has a fun menu but most are there for the decadent desserts.  And yes, the frozen hot chocolate is worth the $9.90 price tag – another cool experience!
Teen Rating: 4 Mom Rating: 4 Grandma Rating: 2

Bloomingdales: I had to take my girl into this New York legend.  I love this store and I love getting a little brown bag to take my purchases home in (silly, I know).  But what is always most impressive are the gorgeous windows. Unfortunately, they were covered this trip – maybe next time!
Teen Rating: 3 Mom Rating: 4 Grandma Rating: 2

It sounds like a lot, right? I won’t lie to you – it was exhausting.  But there is so much to see and do in NYC, that you have to go at a pace like this to cram in all you want to see – besides, these teens have stamina. 

You might also think that going to see all these places can be expensive – and you are right.  If you were to purchase the tickets individually, it would be.  We took advantage of a 3 day New York Pass and almost everything we did was covered – and more! I’ll tell you more about the New York Pass tomorrow.

There were a few things we didn’t get to that interested my teen as well, that I wanted to make mention of:

As close as we got to seeing Matt Lauer
Today Show/Good Morning America: We had the time to do this on Friday morning, but I couldn’t get my teen out of bed early enough.  We had passes to see GMA filmed, but we had to be at the doors no later than 6 am. And after a late night in Times Square on Thursday, that was a no.  Quite frankly, my teen doesn’t have a clue about these shows – she’s in school when they are on.

NBC Studio Tour: The tour is closed until May for renovations

TV Show Audience: Most of the shows taped in NYC require 18 and up, but Kelly and Michael did allow her age – I watched the online ticket request for weeks but somehow missed the window when they opened and they were sold out for the day we wanted.

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge: Over-achievers walk this bridge – our feet hurt too much. 

I was so very blessed to have introduced my daughter to some of my favorite NYC sites and to be able to share it with my mother.   It was an amazing trip filled with memories that will last a lifetime.  I highly recommend it – My daughter is already asking when can we go back?

My family and I were the guests of the The New York Pass and The Ride while we were in New York.  I was not financially compensated for this post.  All opinions are strictly my own based on my experience. 

Mom's Night Out at the Art Garage {A Giveaway}

I love finding places to indulge in my kids' passions.  Art is one that BOTH my older two embrace, so I was thrilled to find the Art Garage in Austin - a place for kids and adults to get crazy create!!

The Art Garage is a "walk-in studio" that has paint-your-own-pottery, clay projects, mosaics, and fused glass. I love that you can drop in at any time to make something fun! And what intrigued me the most is that they offered more than a ceramics studio can.  Look at these great mosaics you can make:

It looks like a great place for art parties and events.  Unique group projects are available: tie-dye, fused glass, canvas painting, jewelry making, mosaics, and paint-your-own-pottery. They also offer scheduled Storytime Art, Art Classes, Art Camps and Special Events.

But what I was interested in the MOST? ----> Mom's Night Out! Fourth Fridays of the month are Mom's Night, Ladies Night, Date Night!! Coming up on Friday, April 25 from 6 pm to 10 pm! Find out more info here.

It’s our time for adults to “create and be happy!”  Bring your friends and join us for a fun night of painting, fusing, working in clay–your choice.  BYO-whatever you like to drink and snack on.  We will provide some refreshments, too.

You can learn more about Art Garage Austin here:
And follow them on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with all the great things they have going on.

Art Garage Austin has offered my readers a Giveaway!! 

Enter to win one of these 2 awesome prizes:

Prize #1:  TWO $30 Paint-your-own-pottery gift certificates for 4/25 anytime between 6 pm and 10 pm

Prize #2: TWO Fourth Friday Glass Fusion Tile Workshops (value $30 each) for 4/25 from 6- 7:30 pm

Enter using the Rafflecopter below.  Giveaway starts April 15, 2014 and lasts through Monday, April 21, 2014 at midnight.  Winner will be chosen with a random drawing and emailed on Tuesday, April 22.  Winner will have 24 hours to claim the prize or I will choose another winner. Best wishes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 14, 2014

Secret Life of Walter Mitty: The Perfect Traveling Movie {And Giveaway!}

Have y'all seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty yet?  It's the story of an ordinary guy with an extraordinary imagination.  Walter imagines different scenarios of his life - kind of a "what could have been" - but when his job becomes threatened, he embarks on a fantastic journey, becoming something much more by simply chasing his dreams. 

Last week, when we went to New York, my daughter and I watched this movie on her iPad.  We used the Google Play option that we found on the Fox Digital HD site.  It was such a fantastical movie - showing him conquering his fears and living his dreams.  Something I think we all do when we travel - we get out of our comfort zones and see life from a different perspective.  I love movies that inspire us, like this one does. 

I found this quote online and it fits us travel-lovers so appropriately, don't you think?  There are so many places to see and do - so many places I want to show my children.  So when I feel the day-to-day pressures drowning me, I remind myself of my next trip, that we only live once and to take the plunge.  I wish I could say that the next plunge was as exotic as Walter did in the movie, but I think Disney World and an RV tour of Texas count just fine - they are my dreams!  

This was the first time we tried Google Play and I loved having the option to download it and watch it at my convenience.  The Digital HD format allows viewing on-the-go. The nice thing was, once I digitally downloaded it, I could share the movie across our multiple devices - she watched it on her iPad and me on my laptop. (this is the link I used)  I can see us loading our iPads up before heading out on a trip now - it's a great way to get caught up on movies!

In honor of the digital release of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is giving away to one lucky reader a #LetLifeIn Walter Mitty Travel Mug.  Use the below Rafflecopter to enter to win. Contest begins on Monday, April 14, 2014 and lasts through Monday, April 28, 2014 at midnight. 

Disclosure: I was provided a code to download and watch the movie and try out Google Play.  I was not paid for this post.  All opinions are my own.