From Hell To Heaven

In sharp contrast to my previous post on the (potentially) hellish Chuck E. Cheese, I wanted to share my review of my idea of heaven on Earth – The Viceroy in Anguilla.  This review was previously posted on TripAdvisor, which is incidentally is an excellent source of unbiased information on places you might want to visit from real people who have been there.

It really looked like this!

Rarely do things look better in person than they do on pictures on the Internet. When I walked into my 2 bedroom Residence at The Viceroy Anguilla it absolutely exceeded my expectations. I love all the modern decor. We were in Manta/Moray 349 and had a fabulous view over one of the pools to the beach. We stayed with another couple and this was the ideal floorplan for us b/c both the Master Suite and second bedroom both have views of the beach and access to balcony. In fact really the only difference in the master and second room was that the Mater has a king and second room two doubles and the bathroom may be a touch smaller.

Okay, so my absolute favorite thing was the balcony. I could have stayed there my entire trip. On the far right hand side there is a couch, coffee table and two chairs. Then (a large double-bed sized swing, then and card table and then a hot tub. That is how big this balcony was. Not to mention the inside of the residence had a full kitchen barstools, dining table for six and a living area. Heaven.

Much has been said about the property. I found it to be breathtakingly beautiful and fabulously decorated.

The Sunset lounge was one of my favorite spots, Open air, bordering the ocean and the infinity pool. I am not a big seafood eater so was a huge fan of the In-and-Out burger on the menu. In fact the food at all of the restaurants was good, although we did not eat at Coba. And lots of nights they have a dj that plays fun dance music. Other times they will setup a big screen and show movies or sporting events.

The vibe here is more Miamish than islandy. With that being said, it is very quiet and relaxing; not a lot of loud music pumped all over the place. Though there ere plenty of restaurants on the property, we did visit Picante (Mexican restaurant, inexpensive SO good) Blanchards (expensive, only okay, overrated) and The StrawHat (just for drinks, but they were good and friendly service.) You feel very safe walking the beaches and traveling off property to other restaurants. Although, beware of cabdrivers. One charged four of us $50 for a 3 mile round trip taxi ride. Another couple we met had rented a jeep and said it was only $50 per day, so that might be worth it.

The property was very clean and well-kept and in fact, I never saw any bugs. (Well maybe one ant the whole time I was there, but I mean really…)

Okay just a few negatives. The service could have been better. The concierge service was lacking and hard to get in touch with. Although, once we were able to contact him/her all of our reservations were handled satisfactorily. We had asked for our room to be stocked with some items prior to arrival. They were not there, there was no record of it and they didn’t seem to care that they weren’t there. However, that was okay b/c we had one of the golf carts take us to the end or the property, turned left and then on the right there is a market where you can buy cokes, chips, etc. less expensively. However, Diet Coke appears to be in high demand and you might have a hard time getting it there.

The service at Aleta (where they have the breakfast buffet) was particularly bad. Once we were the last people left in the restaurant and could not get anyone to give us our ticket without getting up and asking twice. This is a shame because this is where the beautiful poolside cabanas are. We had a cabana that was included in our package but we could not get anyone to set it up, could not get towels without begging, could not get drink service. I wasn’t too ticked b/c I was just happy to be there, but I heard that the cabanas rent for $500 a day and you can bet if I had paid for it I would have been highly irritated. For some reason the service (bringing towels, complimentary bottled water, drink service) is just much, much better at the other two pools.

Overall, I loved the island of Anguilla and the Viceroy. I definitely hope that I have an opportunity to go back.

Also, we took the private charter (two couples split the $400 cost) that the hotel arranged from St. Maarten to the island and while that was nice b/c we got right out of the airport and onto the boat (equipped with cocktails) we opted to take a shared charter on the way back to the airport for $45 a person and it was fine.

If you decide to go to the Viceroy Anguilla have a great time! I can’t wait to go back!


Surviving Your Kid’s Birthday Party At Chuck E. Cheese

I love being a mom. I love taking my kids places ,  watching them in all their various activities, playing with them, studying with them ( I really love studying with them!!) and all the other that comes a long with it. But one aspect of raising children that I most decidedly do not love is planning kids birthday parties.  All those kids up in my house, the chaos, the expense, loitering parents that I have to make conversation with – well, I’d just rather take a pass.

Now some people love planning parties and entertaining – and that is great because, hey it gives my family and me somewhere fun to go! And I like going to your parties, I really do. I am jealous of how great the look, but I don’t like the pressure I feel to emulate your efforts. Often these days it seems with most kid’s parties more thought is given to presentation than to party. I just don’t have the inclination, nor the small motor skills, to coordinate my cutesy printed water bottle labels with my cake pops and come up with party-themed names for goldfish crackers and string cheese.  And, if we are being really honest here, who is that for the mom or the kids.   Other kids may be different, but my two boys could care less about that stuff. Growing up our parties weren’t like this, so I wonder what is about being a mom today that makes us feel like we have to go to the extremes under the guise of celebrating the birth of our child?

At any rate, my youngest turned four this month, and of course we had to celebrate. His actual birthday is on a Sunday this year and our Sundays are currently packed with Church, Flag Football, Soccer and Fall Baseball – really doesn’t leave much time for a celebration. One night when we were out to dinner with my mom, she suggested, “Why don’t you just take him and his two best friends to Chuck E. Cheese?”  I looked at her with horror. Had she forgotten who she was speaking to?  I swore off Chuck E. Cheese  five years ago when my oldest child was three after attending a Friday night birthday party where I truly didn’t think all of the members of our party would make it out alive.  Me, her child, who has needed some form of anxiety medication since I was a teenager – take a group of children to Chuck E. Cheese? Certainly I lacked the fortitude to enter the depths of hell on earth and survive. But as she continued to talk and laid out a plan, slowly begin to come around, changed my mind and we survived. You can too – here’s how!

Pick a weekday – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.  Plan for your party to start by 4 p.m. This may be difficult for working parents, but consider taking a half-day vacation day. It is worth it, I promise.  Keep the guest list small. We just invited G’s two best friends and we drove them there. (Not that I would have minded talking to these two kid’s parents, but my thought was why make them suffer if they don’t have to.) That’s it – three simple steps to maintaining your sanity.

When we arrived at Chuck E. Cheese, we were the only people there. The kids seriously had the place to themselves. No waiting in lines for games, no not being able to see them.  We played games for 45 minutes and then were escorted to our front and center table by our personal party host. While we ate pizza (FYI, Chuck E. Cheese pizza is surprisingly good) we watched something on the movie screen and then Chuck E. Cheese himself came out and did a private show for the kids, singing Happy Birthday to G, posing for pictures and other things. After that it was time for cake and the birthday boy got a turn in the much hyped ticket booth. After that back to more games and then up to the prize counter to trade in our tickets for the latest pieces of junk that will clog up my house.  When we were leaving around 6:00 a few other peeps had started to trickle in, but in total there were probably about 20 other people when we left. Easiest, stress free birthday party ever and it only cost $65. And the kids had a blast! I was in shock, but of course, Nana was right again!

I gave up all control of this birthday and let the rising four year old pick everything. Thus we ended up with a soccer ball pinata, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles plates and napkins, and a Golf-themed cake.

What are your tips for a stress-free kid’s birthday? I’ll need more ideas for next year.

In The Beginnning…

Whelp! Here I am . Over the past few weeks I have considered the idea of (re)starting a blog. For some reason I have a compelling need to share my opinions on things with the world. I never met a survey that I didn’t like. Testing out a new drug, sign me up. Book reviews, yes! Trip Advisor, absolutely. Good or bad service at the Taco Bell drive thru, I’ll let you know – and on and on and on. Social Media is a godsend for someone like me. At least I can feel like I am putting my opinion out there, whether or not it makes a difference to anyone!

Perhaps the need to now express myself in an environment that allows longer than 140 characters is due to my recent transition to  freelance marketer/ at home mom after 16 years. It has been a relatively easy transition as I have still doing some part-time work from home, but now things are slowing down a little, as my replacement at my old position started a couple of weeks ago and has assumed most of my former duties.  At any rate here I am.

I told B that I have been so busy each day, I haven’t gotten to any of my really big at home projects as something always inevitably comes up.  He said that I wouldn’t be doing a lot of the things I am doing now if I was still working and he is so right.  One such thing is something that I can’t quite believe I ordered on my own volition and that I am actually excited about. It is a filing system. What, you say? I am excited about a filing system? Yep, and here’s why.

At 38 my mom still comes and has to clean and straighten my house when ever she visits (which is often and we love it). I have always been a pack-rat. I have a box of every note anyone has written me since 3rd grade in my attic.  I married an only child who anthropomorphizes practically everything he has ever owned and we produced a child who may be headed to being featured in his own Hoarders episode.  We are not by nature neat and orderly minimalists. And one of our big problems is paper, paper, everywhere!

Enter FreedomFiler a self-described “self-purging filing system that once you start using you will never again have to take time out of your life for cleaning out or reorganizing files!” I like it people, because that is stuff that my people and I are not good at!

I am just beginning the process, have purchased my hanging files, file folders and binder clips and my labels recently arrived. We are converting our “formal living room” (sidebar: please tell me who uses those – what a waste of space in the house -” oh, hello guest, please come and sit in my formal living room and we can chat over some hot tea and crumpets.”) into a home office and I hope to have the new filing system ready for the transition.

I will keep you apprised on my steps toward organization. It is not impossible as stranger things have happened – due to Pinterest I have started cooking now. Now if I start breaking out the fine china regularly, it might be cause for concern!

Don’t worry, future topics won’t all be on filing systems.  Just things I like, things I think about throughout the day, and things that fire me up.