Monday, November 20, 2017

Earn 1000 Marriott Points with One Tweet

This weekend, I went to Chicago and attended Frequent Traveler University, a symposium of experts in the miles and points game. Workshops on everything from redemption programs to manufactured spending gave attendees tips and tricks to make everyday spending work for their practical and aspirational travel goals. 

One thing I didn't know was just how easy it is to accumulate points, both airline and hotel points when you're part of a loyalty program. For example, Marriott is running a promotion right now with the NFL called Extra Points Sunday. 

All you have to do is connect your Marriott account to your Twitter account before you play and reply to a question that's posted each week. 

Tweet your response with the hashtag #RewardsPoints and you will earn 1,000 points each week of the promotion. Questions are posted on Sundays and you have until 8:00 p.m. Eastern to answer. 

With points averaging about $.09/point, you're not going earn a free night, but every point counts. Earning $9 for a few minutes work is not bad at all. 

Happy tweeting!

I'm new to the miles and points game...any tips or tricks that worked for you? Please share in the comments. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Only a Kiss? Hardly. Guillermo Calderón's Kiss in Boston

We love to go into Boston for various events and when we saw that Goldstar was offering tickets to Guillermo Calderón's play, Kiss, it seemed like a great opportunity to see the Chilean playwright's socio-political drama. 

Kiss, Calderón's first play in English, is about two couples who meet for dinner in Damascus, seeking respite from the war around them. The couples plan to watch their favorite Syrian soap opera, but things change rapidly. This play-within-a play touches on cultural and linguistic misinterpretations and the implications of those misinterpretations.  

If you're in the Boston area, Kiss is running through November 19th. Tickets are available at the box office and through Goldstar, a discount ticket service operating in major metropolitan cities around the United States. 


Friday, November 10, 2017

Flying through November...Literally

November is a great month for travel. It's considered off-season or shoulder season in many destinations and you can get great deals. The drawback? Throngs of travelers in the airport security line and on the road. 

November is flying for me...literally. This month, I am lucky to be traveling nearly every week and this is bliss to my nomadic soul. It's not for everyone, but for me, I'm almost giddy. 

Last weekend, I was in Miami, connecting with friends and co-workers, eating the most delicious Cuban food at Versailles, the most iconic Cuban restaurant on Calle Ocho... 

And later, savoring sunset (and a tasty frozen concoction) in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys. 

My TSA Pre-Check that comes with Global Entry, by the way, was worth its weight in gold in getting through the security line at MIA. While it doesn't help with international departures, it saves SO much time with domestic travel and when you're in international arrivals, the Global Entry program is a huge time saver as well. Just do it. Here's how

Next weekend, it's all about travel hacking as I join my friend and fellow WITS-er, Mona, in Chicago at Frequent Traveler University

The speaker line-up is impressive. From Tiffany Funk to Chris Guillebeau, there are speakers who will be offering their best in earning and redeeming miles and points to make every traveler's wish list a reality. It has been a few years since Mona and I caught up face-to-face, so this will be a real treat. 

And then, for Thanksgiving, we are crossing the Pond and spending the week in London. 

Despite traveling domestically for years and afflicted with wanderlust for a lifetime, London was my first experience with international solo travel. I haven't been there since 2009 and this will be our first time together, but we're ready. 

My husband wants a beer at Ye Olde Mitre Inn, I want to explore what's new at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and of course, we're hoping to score great seats at a show in the West End, like in 2009, when I got second row pit seat for Les Miserables. 

So, my friends, I will see you on the other side of November. What's new with you? How is your month going? 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Woofstocking with Gracie and All-Sato Rescue

This weekend, Gracie and I took a road trip to a nearby town for a celebration of all things dogs.

The Woofstock Dog Festival is a benefit for the Buddy Dog Humane Society and features pet-centric vendors, K-9 demos, food, music, raffles, and plenty of nose-to-butt-nose interaction for our four-legged friends. 

There was also a reunion area for families to gather with their pups and seek out siblings who were re-homed with other families. 

While we were at Woofstock, we had the opportunity to meet with Gracie's rescue organization, All-Sato Rescue. This is an organization that is dedicated to the rescuing and re-homing abandoned and otherwise homeless dogs in Puerto Rico. The word Sato is slang in Puerto Rico for mutt. In addition to their rescue work, they strive to address the root causes of overpopulation, neglect, and abuse through education and advocacy and through low-cost spaying and neutering clinics.

It was wonderful to meet and thank volunteers from the partner organizations of All-Sato Rescue

We even picked up some Sato tee-shirt swag while we were there.

And we sent messages of love and gratitude to the rescue heroes on the ground in Puerto Rico. 

As you can imagine, rescue efforts in Puerto Rico are challenging with the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. According to the organization's web page
We finally heard from ASR President, Edilia Vazquez, that she and the many dogs and cats that she is caring for are all right. We are slowly hearing from the many other rescuers that work with us and so far, every one of them is safe as well. But, things on the ground are very bad. Most of the island is without power and communications. The infrastructure is badly damaged, the airport is closed, and there are so many trees down that getting anywhere is challenging. The weeks ahead are going to be very difficult and we are not sure when we will be able to resume normal operations. Many of you have very kindly asked what we need most. Much as we need basic supplies--dog food, kennels, medications--delivery is impossible. Gift cards to local chain stores, like PetSmart and Petco would be much appreciated, as would monetary donations to cover what will surely be extremely high vet bills as we attend to the many animals that were injured during this ordeal. Your outpouring of support has meant so much to us. We couldn't keep going without you--you are giving us the strength to continue.
Our family is so deeply grateful for Gracie and the rescue work that All-Sato Rescue continues to do in Puerto Rico. We are blessed to be able to donate to this selfless organization and the shelter where we adopted Gracie. 

If you are interested in helping All-Sato Rescue in their efforts to rescue and re-home dogs like Gracie, this link will help you do that. 

Or, if you are looking for other organizations for causes near and dear to you, there are many on the ground ready to help in all of the recently affected disaster areas of Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, and other places in the Caribbean. 

Woofstock'17 was a huge success. Gracie came home tired and happy. We both did, and for me, a heart a little fuller with love and gratitude for those who work to help those so vulnerable in our world. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

For the Pups: 5 Durable Toys for Heavy Chewer Dogs

From the time our Gracie girl was a puppy, we searched high and low for toys that she wouldn't destroy in minutes. 

The plastic rings were good, but she destroyed the fabric middle ring by pulling on the threads until she unraveled it entirely. 

We tried subscription services with a heavy chewer option like Bark Box and we tried Rescue Box, which, at the time, had no such designation. While the treats were fun, the toys just couldn't survive. Our chewer went to town, persevering to the point of total destruction and near consumption. We had to take every toy away. She tore the felt off tennis balls. Rope toys? Forget it; she frayed them all and pulled the threads out of the braids. 

She didn't play with the toy; she tried to eat it. 

It became clear why we couldn't have nice things. 

In the beginning, even the leash was a casualty to our Gracie's teeth.

There would be no sweet stuffies for our girl; hard rubber would become our dog's best friend. 

As you can imagine, we have tested and tried many toys for Gracie, but the ones that survived are what you'll find here in this guide. These are toys that you will find in our home and in our yard. They are toys that work for our family, and if you have a heavy chewer as well, they may be a good fit for you as well. 

KONG Jumbler Ball Toy: This is her favorite outside toy. It comes in different sizes, but we get Gracie the extra large variety. The handle on top makes it easy to throw, and once she learned how to grab it and carry it by its handle, it made fetch much more fun. Bonus: it floats.

Despite its unique look (my naughty friends giggle when they see it), KONG Safestix is another fun fetch toy. In addition to fetch and tug, she also will chew on it like a bone if she's tired of running for it. This is also a floater. 

The JW Crackle Dog Toy is fun because it makes noise. It's not a squeaker, but a crackler. It must have the same type of plastic that water bottles have because that's exactly what it sounds like when she crunches it between her teeth. Some soft toys have water bottles inside them that make the same crackling effect; she can't have those. This toy is Gracie proof. 

Kong Tug Toy: We discovered this toy at Gracie's BFF's home. She wasn't keen on sharing it with the other dog, but she's always eager to share a side with us. 


Chew Toys: In terms of chew toys, Gracie also always has a few like this one. The other chew toys with plastic edges and edible centers don't work for us because she tries to consume them all entirely. We don't give her natural bones based on the recommendation of our vet. 

Gracie and her bff, Sasha

We all want what's best for our pups. As with people, our dogs have unique needs and personalities, and as we grow as a pack, we make decisions based on what we think is best for meeting those unique needs and personality quirks. 

Gracie might not have the cutest toys at the dog park, but she's a happy girl with a playful soul who adds a lot of love and joy to our little family pack. 

Do you have a heavy chewer? Any toys that you would recommend?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Three Things September...Playing Along

Sometimes tag games can be fun. As a reader, I enjoy reading about the people behind my favorite blogs, so I thought it would be fun to share some of the same information with you. 
I won't tag anyone in particular for a response, but if you're up for it, share your responses or at least one in the comments. Thanks!

Three things that are always in my car
A charging cable, extra napkins, a reusable shopping bag. 

Three things I always have on hand in the pantry or fridge...
Nuts, Dove ice cream bites, canned beans

Three shows I will always watch if they're on TV…
ER, Chopped, The Big Bang Theory

Three travel experiences I want to have...
Driving the Pacific Coast Highway, walking one of the routes of the Camino de Santiago, the Great American Road Trip with my husband.

Three things I won't eat...
String beans, organ meats, steak

Three things I always will spend money on...
Food experiences, travel in any form, stuff for our dog Gracie

Three things that are always in my purse...
My glasses, gum, a small notebook

Three things I love about my hometown...
Walking in the Public Garden and the Boston Common, cappuccinos and cannolis in the North End, the Boston theatre scene. 

What say you? What are your three things? Thanks for the post inspiration, Steph

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ahora 23: Life in Bullet Points

  • Blogging affords you the opportunity to say what's on your mind, but it also presents the quandary of whether what you're saying matters. One of my favorite bloggers is Steph, from Life According to Steph. She says what's on her mind, and it matters. I am continually humbled by her bravery in speaking out against injustice and inspired by seeing her and her beloved MFD walk the walk. While she may not consider what she does to be heroic, she's a hero to me...both of them are. She's inspired me to take action in my own way and it's never know who you're inspiring. 

  • I'm chomping at the bit to begin working again. I LOVE my job. It's been a long summer. Our meetings begin in another two weeks and then my semester begins the week of October 9th. I. Can't. Wait. 
  • I was supposed to be exploring northern New Mexico with friends this month, but a series of unfortunate events has plagued me since the beginning of August, culminating with a bout of bronchitis and costochondritis. Sadly, between spasmodic coughing fits and significantly higher altitude than where I live, everyone agreed that it was best to postpone my trip west. 
  • Despite the various ailments that followed me around all summer, our vacation in Spain and Portugal was fabulous! It was wonderful spending time with family and friends in Spain. Porto was a lot of fun, but packed with tourists, so many more than the last time we visited five years ago. We hosted a friend from the States and it was fun playing tour guide in our other home. 
  • Now that I'm more than halfway through my 40s, it seems like a good time to consider a 50 before 50 list. Lists can be motivating, and forcing me outside of my comfort zone is a win-win. 
  • I'm super excited that next month, we're going to a Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias concert. Most people react with some degree of surprise when I mention that, but it's true. This is pure fun. We have seats in the upper balcony, so I'll be channeling my inner Miami vibe dancing the night away. Then, a couple of weeks later, we're going to see Ray LaMontagne on his Passing Through tour. 
  • Everyone has their thing, but I cannot stop looking at airfare; there are some great deals out there. When you're location independent but your equally travel-loving partner is not, the struggle is real. 
  • Weird fact: I have an odd interest in the stories of the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels. I have watched movies about it, like Scarface and Blow. I have watched various documentaries about Pablo Escobar. I watch every season of Narcos and have finished the first season of El Chapo. And now, there are two new movies coming out, one with Tom Cruise called American Made and another with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz called Loving Pablo, both which I can't wait to see. 

    By the way, The Two Escobars about a soccer star who shared his surname with
    the infamous drug lord is a fascinating tale if you ever run across it on your streaming channels.  

    What's going on in your world these days? Who is inspiring you? What are you loving? What's on your X before X list? Let me know in the comments. I love hearing what you're up to. Cheers! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ahora 22: It's Fly Week!

The back to school displays are up and ready for shoppers looking for early savings and I still have summer on the brain because we're leaving for vacation this week. 

We don't have much to do, but perennial vacation tasks are left to the last minute by my procrastinating husband. No problem though...errand dates are fun. 

Here's what's happening ahora, now, in my corner of the world...

Listening to...

Camino Island by John Grisham. I joined Audible on Prime Day and this was the first book I picked. I have read other Grisham books and the plot of this one was intriguing. I'll start it this week. 

Do you have any recommendations for good audio books? The best one I ever listened to was The Boston Girl read by Linda Lavin. She was captivating; I could see every smile...every expression.  

Started reading...
Miracle Morning: by Hal Elrod "The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) I'm a morning person, so this seemed like a natural fit. 

I'm excited for the new Dan Brown book, Origin, to come out. I enjoy the Robert Langdon series and this one is set in Spain, so I'm sure that this one will be a fun quick read too. 

American Ninja Warrior. I am continually inspired by these athletes. I love hearing their stories and seeing how they find strength in this kind of physical challenge, like Jimmy Choi. 

A long summer means more down time, so I have had time for movies and I have seen a few good ones, like...



The Big Sick

Looking forward to...
  • Vacation! 
  • Spending time with my favorite new driver! I can't believe it, but my sixteen-year-old niece is a newly licensed driver...and she flew into town this week with one of her BFFs. I am thrilled for the opportunity to spend time with her and enjoy some fun girl time. 
  • A friend of ours is visiting us for two weeks in Spain this year. It will be fun to show her around our local favorites and maybe find a few new favorites as well.  
  • I will be traveling to northern New Mexico in September before my semester begins. Friends of mine recently bought a second home there, and since our husbands will be back to work by then, we decided to take some time and explore the area around their new home. I have never been to that part of the United States and I'm eager to explore Taos and the Four Corners region. 
  • The new school year! I can't wait to meet my new kids!

The hardest part...
Leaving our girl. She's in great hands with her "godparents" and her dog-BFF, but we'll miss her. 

What's happening ahora in your world? Any book or movie recommendations?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Travel Partner

Happy Birthday to my favorite partner in travel, in love, and in life. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday 5: Market Musts When Air BnBing

When you want to live like a local, there's no better way to engage in a new community than by staying in a neighborhood through a house-sit or a home rental, like Air BnB. 

Whenever we visit a new city, one of the places we always visit is the market. I walk through, soaking in local fare, imagining what I would cook if I had a kitchen in my new temporary home. It's fun to plan imaginary menus and consider the dinner parties I would have with my fresh, locally sourced ingredients. 

When you're lucky enough to stay in a place with a kitchen, or even with a few kitchen comforts, it's fun to explore the local market and forage for what's fresh and perhaps, unique, to that city. 

Here are five items that we are sure to purchase when we're Air BnBing in a new city. 

In addition to the traditional food items we may buy, we always look for... 

1. Local beer and/or wine

2. Local or regional cheese

3. Fresh baked bread typical to that area

4. Local fish, fruit, and/or vegetable that we may not have ever tried or don't have at home

5. A local treat, like a pastry, chocolate, or candy that is unique to that area

How about you? Do you like to explore local markets or do you enjoy eating out for most meals? What items do you look for when you visit a local market while traveling?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wanderlust Wednesday: Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida

Last weekend, I was in Miami for our end-of-the-school-year teacher party rave, and had the opportunity to explore the Wynwood Walls and I'm so glad I did. I love street art and this did not disappoint. 

The Wynwood Art District is considered one of the country's hippest neighborhoods because of its large open-air street art installation, the Wynwood Walls. In addition to the Walls, the once-manufacturing and warehouse district of Miami contains over 80,000 square feet of rotating art space, art galleries, boutiques, antique shops, bars and restaurants.

The Wynwood Walls were the brainchild of Miami-developer, Tony Goldman, who wanted to boost the area's pedestrian potential. Goldman worked to renovate and rehabilitate unused and neglected warehouses and factories and transform them into art complexes for the area's creatives. 

Since they opened, the Wynwood Walls have hosted over 50 artists representing 16 countries, evolving into a "Museum of the Streets." Wynwood Walls have been operated by the Wynwood Arts District Association since 2009. 

Every month, a city-sponsored Second Saturday Art Walk draws art lovers and tourists alike, and visitors to the iconic Art Basel Miami make their way to the Wynwood Art District to support emerging muralists and graffiti artists.

If you go, don't forget to look up and down and all around; there are messages everywhere. 

The Walls are located on 2520 NW 2nd Avenue, between Joey's Italian Cafe on 25th Street and the Latin-influenced tapas-style Wynwood Kitchen and Bar on 26th Street. This is a fun spot for a bite to eat and a drink before or after wandering among the Walls. 

Street parking in the Wynwood Art District is tight; download the Miami parking app for easier parking. You can set your stay and add time, if necessary. Bikes are available as well for meandering throughout the district. 

If you're in Miami, Wynwood Walls is a must-see and a perfect afternoon excursion away from the beach. Enjoy!

Wynwood Walls
2520 NW 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33127

Friday, May 19, 2017

Happy 5th Anniversary to Us!

Today is our anniversary...five years married, ten years together. We are blessed; it feels like yesterday. Time really does fly when you're having fun. 

And we are. 

Cheers to another year of love and adventure, of good health and lightness of heart. 

Cheers to our shared dreams and our shared path. 

Cheers to another year of wandering the world together and a lifetime of wonderful memories along the way. 

Happy Anniversary to us!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lovely Things: A Fifth Anniversary Gift Guide

May is our anniversary month, and this year marks our fifth year married and our tenth year together. We have gone traditional with anniversary gifts for the last four years, and I predict that whenever possible, we will continue that theme. It's a fun quest. 

I wish I could say that I am using affiliate links, but monetization is on my list of things to figure out, so these items are simply a result of my own search on Etsy and Lowe's.

Here are some ideas...

1. A wooden bathtub caddy

2. A wooden sign for the home. 

3. Wooden kitchen utensils

4.  Scrabble-tile wall art

5. A cedar chest for storing treasured favorites. 

And one for good measure...a wooden porch swing built for two

Which one would you pick? Share your favorite or something else.