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When it comes to travel, we believe people are interested in more than just the latest gear and reviews of ludicrously expensive resorts. We know that not every female is in search of the world’s perfect facial. And that people without trust funds travel too.

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Vosges Haut Chocolat -Chicago, Il

Where can you find bacon chocolate chip pancake mix, curry chocolate truffles, an Absinthe fountain and total cuties to help you choose which one of these crazy delights you would like to try? Vosges boasts all of the above at one of their few fabulous chocolate boutiques, tucked away in the quiet, young Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago.

I had the opportunity to attend one of their fun, posh tasting events. An adorable and informative menu was presented at the door, describing the incredibly unique chocolate, wine and cheese pairings we were about to experience. Each gorgeous, knowledgable lady in the shop manned a pairing station, which they walked you through. There were many unique flavors, from ginger wasabi truffles with a rare sparkling reisling to an Indian curry and coconut truffle with a sweet crisp Gewürztraminer. The seemingly peculiar coupling of truffle ingredients is artfully done; they don’t approach these dynamic flavors from a gimmicky or passing craze prespective. The thoughtful treats are more than catchy concepts: they are harmonious flavors, well-crafted and send your tastebuds to the edge of greatness and back. Vosges’ Chocolates are truly a one of a kind experience.

Since we know you can’t hop on a plane and head to Vosges the next time a chocolate craving strikes, you’ll be happy to know that you can order online, or grab some at your local Whole Foods grocery store. Betty Crocker is for bake sales. Vosges products are for fabulous dinner parties, unforgettable gifts or just treating yourself to something special. Go ahead, try white chocolate with olive oil or Mexican guajillo chillies and licorice root…you’ll be glad you did.


Road Trippin' It! 

Coming from a family of seven, flying was never really an option when vacation time came around. California to see crazy Grandma Lilly, Kansas City for some good ol’ midwest family fun, or Florida for Disney razamatazz (where I BEGGED to eat at Cinderella’s castle only to freeze up completely star struck when she came to our table…closely followed by my parents’ scornful glance at the $200 bill).

Trip after trip, me and my four sisters would load up the Astro van with coloring books, Barbies and the big fight starter, Battleship. Now we’re a little older and swapping coloring books for novels, trading Barbies for knitting and tapping away at laptops in place of Battleship. The Astro van too, is long in the past, but now we pile into a roomy Honda Odessey instead (because that’s how we roll).

We all know it’s hard to get away from work, it’s too expensive, or who will feed the poor fish? Make the time, sell your dusty treadmill and find a fish sitter because while glamorous it ain’t road tripping is FUN! We all know the stats on how healthy vacation time is for us and how often we DON’T take advantage of it. I work hard to play hard, and too many of us work hard to…well, work harder.

Don’t get me wrong, I love finding a bargain, board a plane, be magically whisked where I need to go, but sometimes that just isn’t realistic. For instance, gas money roundtrip from Omaha to Florida, with all five of us sisters, cost less than ONE plane ticket, in COACH. Not to mention we had an absolute blast on the trip. Sometimes it IS all about the journey.

Road Tripping is a great way to spend time with your family, friends, or your lobster (significant other).

Trade out ipods, bring a video camera along, buy a book of questions. Any trip is what you make it! When’s the last time you had a heart to heart with your sister, or listened to your best friend belt out a custom junior high playlist full of their favorite songs? Have you asked your boyfriend if he believes in aliens, tried to guess his “number” or any of the other hundred questions that can pop into your head when you have 12 uninterrupted hours together.

A road trip isn’t just about getting where you’re going, it’s about spending time with your people, you know, the ones you take for granted sometimes? Take a week, a weekend, or just a day and start motorin’. A road trip is affordable, fun and takes you down the road less traveled (so to speak). Your schedule is your own, you can change plans or routes last minute and (safety first!) you can always pack one more body in a van :)

So…why do you road trip? What’s your favorite road trip memory? Stay tuned because we’re headed out on another one and we’ll be sure to post photos, videos and tweets from the road.


San Antonio Video and Winner!

Even more exciting is announcing our winner of the Eat Pray Love Trip to San Antonio!

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Sea Turtles - Up Close and Personal

Before my trip to Puerto Vallarta when I thought about turtles, the first thing that came to mind was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but after my trip for Blog Paradise courtesy of Marriott Resorts, I will never think about the turtles in a half shell the same way again.  

All seven species of sea turtles are on the endangered list and six of the seven species live and nest along the Bay of Banderas.  As the lines between the modern world and nature continue to blur, it becomes increasingly necessary to ensure wildfire continues to flourish or else it will be lost forever.  It’s not just construction and the growth of the human population that is affecting the safety of the sea turtles, it’s misinformation.  I’m told that it’s commonly believed that turtle eggs are an aphrodisiac and sold on the black market. The Mexican government has stepped in and made it illegal to disturb turtle nests or traffic eggs, but given some other trafficking problems in Mexico, violations are rarely prosecuted.

The CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta employs Oscar Aranda, a marine biologist and founder of La Sociedad Ecológica del Occidente which promotes wildlife conservation. Oscar patrols the beaches along the bay from June until December to help protect the turtle nests.  I tagged along with Oscar and some other volunteers on a rainy night in August as they combed the beach. 

I am not certain I can accurately describe the awe I felt as I watched the pregnant turtle dig her nest only several hundred feet from a gorgeous beach front house. As lightning flashed across the sky and the rain drizzled, I couldn’t help but be struck by how nature continues despite the encroachment of modern society. Watching the enthusiasm that Oscar and his team had for turtle preservation was absolutely inspiring.  

Me and Oscar as we dig up the turtle eggs. You can see how close we are to a cement property wall.

Turtles only lay their eggs at night and most frequently during the 1st and 2nd quarters of the moon as it is darker and easier to disguise.  Oscar explained to me, not only it is darker so the eggs will be safer from predators but it also means the babies will hatch during a full moon and that additional light helps the baby turtles find their way to the sea.

After the mother finished laying her eggs and headed back out to sea - Oscar began digging up the nest to remove the eggs.  We later reburied the eggs back in the hotel nursery.  In 2009 the Sea Turtle Program at the CasaMagna protected 539 nests and each nest contained around 100 eggs each!

The nest I helped dig up will hatch on October 7 or 8!

It takes about 45 days for each nest to hatch.  Once the baby turtles are hatched, the staff will release on the beach in the evening.  Hotel guests and the general public are invited to watch and participate as the babies are released into the sea. Guests and the general public  are also allowed to follow along with Oscar and the other biologists as they comb the beaches in the evening. 


Baby turtle are born ready to swim and have enough energy to swim for about five days before they must eat. If they make it five days, they will find themselves in open water which is full of zooplankton and nekton. It’s hard to estimate how many sea turtle survive after birth but right now it’s estimated that only 5% of baby turtles will make it to adulthood.

You can do it!

I never expected to have this experience with wildlife while I staying at a resort - even typing “wildlife” and “resort” in the same sentence seems paradoxical, but it’s not.  My stay at CasaMagna was wonderful but my time with turtles changed my perception about how humans affect the nature and how nature affects us.  I was not surprised upon my return to the States to find out that Oscar was on CNN’s Heroes - he is definitely a hero for rescuing turtles but also for educating people about conservation.



Thank you to Marriott Resorts, Diamond PR, and especially CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta for hosting this fantastic trip! 


Tequila minus the shot glass

The Mexican state of Jalisco is the home to a town called Tequila.  The town of Tequila is home to, well, that drink many people knock back with a dash of salt and a slice of lime. But for the past several years there has been a conscious effort by the people of Jalisco and the Mexican Government to preserve the history and tradition of tequila and that history does not include frat parties and shooters. Much like champagne can only be made in France, true 100% blue agave tequila can only be made in Jalisco and select neighboring areas.

At the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta, they produce their own tequila called CasaMagna which is certified by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (the Tequila Regulatory Council).  On site, the Marrriott employs sommelier Audrey Formisano who in her French accent talks with great passion about her love for tequila.  The CasaMagna was kind enough to arrange a tasting with Audrey for me during my stay for Blog Paradise.   

Even though this was my third tequila tasting this year, I was afraid that by the end of the tasting I’d be drunk and running around naked.  I’m not officially saying this has happened before, but it is a tequila-sterotype and one I’m happy to report didn’t occur.  This tasting took place in a quiet room off the La Estancia restaurant and Audrey carefully explained the nuances in each type of tequila. Audrey served three of CasaMagna’s five types of tequila - blanco, reposado, and añejo in official tequila glasses.  Audrey pointed out the difference is color, bouquet, and “legs”. I personally enjoyed the reposado but the blanco was very nice was paired with sangrita.

The purpose of this tasting, wasn’t to convince people to only drink tequila straight - rather to understand it and how it tastes …just like you would a spice or ingredients for cooking.  Once you understand the tastes of the difficult tequila’s so you can appreciate it and make better choices in your drinking habits.  As much as I enjoyed sipping the reposado the night before - I ended up poolside drinking a nice lime margarita made with CasaMagna blanco tequila. 

Hotel guests and the general public are welcome to sample the CasaMagna tequila - just call the hotel (888.236.2427) for more information. 

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