Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness at La Cantera

One of the pools at Loma de Vida spa.

It was the most beautiful bathtub I’d ever seen. Carved out of wood and perched on a deck overlooking the golf course at La Cantera Resort & Spa, the giant curved beauty beckoned me to disrobe, climb in and sink down, wineglass in hand, to enjoy the view of the 550-acre hilltop resort near San Antonio.

But the rainy cold weather, the lack of an invitation and desire to strip down in front of a group kept me clothed and continuing on our tour of Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness. This enchanting 25,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor space just opened last fall and we were touring one of the two Sky Loft suites with magnificent views of the hill country of Texas.

The Gathering Place, with views of the hill country of Texas

The Spa also includes two couples’ suites, salt water pools and three garden cabanas. Add this to your fantasy reel: you can even rent your own private grotto with its own private pool. There’s a full gym to get your workout in, but it was hard to picture myself anywhere other than that tub or sinking down into one of the lounges around a fireplace in the Gathering Place. The views alone would lower my stress.

The exterior of Loma de Vida at La Cantera

“We want people to disconnect to reconnect,” said Maggie Dunphy, Executive Director of Spa and Wellness for Destination Hotels and La Cantera Resort. Count me in – I’ll disconnect from whatever I need to for a day in that place. Even if you aren’t staying at La Cantera, which I suggest you do as it is lovely, you can visit the spa on a day pass. In addition to booking a treatment, check out the spa menu and organic juices at Quenche Juicery.

Top Products for 2016

Some I never could figure out. Some were just kinda meh. Others, I loved. I received several products to review in 2016 for my various outlets, and some I use every day while others make me smile when I pull them out.

Here is my list of favorite products of 2016.

 

Now I put on a happy face every time I travel with this adorable Smiley Luggage from ATM Luggage. It comes in other patterns, but I couldn’t resist this pattern, especially as it serves as a logo of sorts for my son, a millennial happiness expert and author of the book “Millennials Guide to Making Happiness.” Check out the cove and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Oh, how I’d love the adult version of these 1965 VW Camper Van Play Tents, although it’s a bit too expensive just for me to play in. But our future grandchildren will love the pop-up tent from The Monster Factory. The tent is modeled after the 1965 Split Screen VW Camper Van and is stored away in a VW Wheel bag.

I spend a third of my life now with these amazing sheets. These new hyper-cotton Bedgear sheets were developed to have greater airflow and keep your body temperature regulated through the night. All I know is that they are supersoft and make slipping into bed at night even more of a thrill.

 

I love this line of Dune Jewelry that includes grains of sand from your favorite beach, selected from their huge sand bank. Select your sand then the piece of jewelry you’d like, including rings, earrings, bracelets, charms or even a watch.

I never thought I’d abandon my iPhone. But then I got a Moto Z Force smartphone, and it’s adios to Apple. At least for my phone. It has a shatterproof screen and a battery that charges super fast.
This camera takes amazing photos on its own, and then when I attach the Hasselblad True Zoom, one of several “Moto Mods ” attachments that snap on in a jiff, I can take the most amazing photos of my life. Other attachments include a JBL SoundBoost Speaker and Moto Insta-Share Projector. And my cute Kate Spade backup battery snaps right on and assures I’ll never run out of juice. I loved it so much, I wrote an entire blog on it.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

Top 5 Airport Lounges

I found a quiet spot and set up my computer in a cozy nook to get a bit of work done, enjoying a warm cup of herbal tea. I heard the chatter increase a bit, and saw a few people passing by with plates piled with fried chicken. I joined the short line to cruise down the buffet line steaming with hot dishes. On the way back, I passed a toque-wearing chef at a table lining up samples of tuna ahi and other delectables.

I was in the Centurian Lounge of LaGuardia Airport, where the plentiful and delicious food, quiet spaces and peaceful atmosphere were the antithesis of what waited me beyond when I entered the crowded, stress-filed terminals. It is generally with great reluctance that I grab my things and exit, no matter how exciting my final destination may be.

The Plaza Premium Lounge at London’s Heathrow airport was selected as top airport lounge in the world by Priority Pass members. Amenities include private resting suites, shower rooms; a Wellness Spa and a Champagne and tapas Bar.

Ah, the joy of the airport lounge. A much-needed respite from the hassles of flying, some so nice you never want to leave. When we travel on vacation from Atlanta, we allow extra time to enjoy the lounge at Hartsfield – flying is so much more enjoyable after a Bloody Mary or gin and tonic – don’t you agree?

Priority Pass, the world’s largest independent lounge membership program, recently released their list of top airport lounges. These were chosen by Priority Pass members from a selection of 1,000 lounges in more than 500 cities.

Make Yours a Moto

When I travel, I carry a speaker, projector, professional camera, battery pack and smartphone. Together, they are about the size of my wallet.

The secret is Moto Mods, attachments for my Moto Z Force that snap right onto my smartphone, instantly transforming it. They are so easy to use and have changed the way I travel with electronics.

Here are the Moto Mods now available for Moto Z phones. And I’m loving every one of them.

I am taking the best pictures of my life with the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod

I am taking the best pictures of my life with the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod

Hasselblad True Zoom

Highly valued by professional photographers and amateurs with very deep pockets, (starting price around $12,000!) a Hasselblad camera is now within reach of even casual photographers, like me. This Hasselblad True Zoom has a 10x optical zoom and professional settings. I am taking the best photos of my life, and feeling like a pro. $299.99

The JBL Soundboost Speaker has a great sound.

The JBL Soundboost Speaker has a great sound.

JBL Soundboost Speaker

We used to travel with a separate speaker that took up valuable space in my husband’s suitcase. Now I just pop on the JBL Soundboost Speaker, and voila, great sound no matter whether we’re chilling to some jazz or getting our dance on to some James Brown. $79.99

The Insta-Share Projector lets you project movies right on the wall. Or the ceiling

The Insta-Share Projector lets you project movies right on the wall. Or the ceiling

Moto Insta-Share Projector

I’m hoping to use this clever projector to do a slideshow of photos from my daughter’s wedding at Christmas. The Moto Insta-Share Projector displays images up to 70” on any flat service. You can even use it to watch movies on the ceiling while in bed, a fun way to entertain the kids. $299.99

With my Kate Spade power pack, I never run out of power.

With my Kate Spade power pack, I never run out of power.

 

Incipio OffGrid Power Pack

With all that fun, my smartphone battery can drain pretty quickly. But I stay powered with my Incipio OffGrid Power Pack, which adds up to 22 hours of extra battery life. I have the striped Kate Spade version, perfect for me as I’m a stripaholic. The battery packs come in four other designs. Start at $59.99

You can change the look of your Motorola Z phone with swappable backs.

You can change the look of your Motorola Z phone with swappable backs.

Swappable Backs

I rather like the sleek look of my smartphone on its own, but when I want a change of style, I can easily add a Style Shell from partners like Kate Space New York and Tumi. Start at $19.99

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Black Friday = Big Savings at The Somerset

The reverse lap pool and infinity pool at The Somerset, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background.

The reverse lap pool and infinity pool at The Somerset, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background.

“I just want to go somewhere and chill,” my husband said as I probed him for what he wanted to do for his birthday. Which was also our first vacation of the year.

We ended up at The Somerset in Turks and Caicos, and couldn’t have made a better choice. Although we are both on our laptops as I write this, we have mostly managed to stay off of them. And on the beach. Or a boat. Or at the pool.

Our one-bedroom ocean view villa is huge, with a giant balcony, 1.5 bathrooms, full kitchen and free wifi. Staying at The Somerset includes a complimentary continental breakfast at the restaurant, The Pavilion, Monday night manager’s cocktail party, complimentary bicycles, snorkeling equipment and Caicos Kids Club.

Our balcony, where I've spent a lot of time this week mastering the art of The Chill.

Our balcony, where I’ve spent a lot of time this week mastering the art of The Chill.

There are always plenty of chairs with umbrellas available on the beach, with friendly staff members to set up towels and provide cold water. The Somerset is on Grace Bay Beach, recently voted the #1 beach in the world by TripAdvisor.

We’ve taken walks on the beach, ridden our bikes out to dinner, snorkeled and chilled out. A lot.

With a Black Friday special,  now through November 30, save 35 percent on three nights or more for travel through May 31. (It does exclude December 22-January 2 and the month of March.)

Make reservations by calling 844-819-7025 or booking online at TheSomerset.com using promo code BF2016.

 

5 Reasons to Be Grateful You’re American

My guest blogger today is Chris Butsch, who just wrote a book on happiness, “The Millennial’s Guide to Making Happiness,” now on Kickstarter. Order today and get your signed copy by Christmas.

For those of you struggling to find happiness in today’s election results, I wanted to offer the five things I thought about during Gratitude Meditation this morning. Perhaps they’ll help you remember how truly awesome it is to be among the 4% of the world living in America.

mgmh_3d_final_quotemarkedit1) We have clean drinking water. When I’m thirsty at home, I fill a glass from the fridge. Worst case; I’m on my bike and have to use the fountain at the park that randomly shoots like a fire hose into my face. Finding water never interrupts my daily routine. For over a billion people, it does.

2) We have the freedom to explore other countries. I’ve visited over a dozen countries without a second thought. My friends Deng and Tar, Millennials from Vietnam and China respectively, either can’t afford to leave due to their country’s weak currency, or their governments won’t let them. As Americans, we have the freedom to explore the rest of the planet.

3) We have health care. While it may not be affordable for many, at least it’s there. Millions of people around the world don’t have access to basic pain relief, whereas I can Google my symptoms and get Airborne from a Rite-Aid just down the street in minutes.

4) We have safe roads. Sure, we may have flipped the bird to a jerk in a Silverado once, but those occasions are rare. In general, we commute from A to B OK everyday on roads, and in cars, designed to maximize our safety. That’s simply not the case in most countries, like in Libya, where road fatalities are 7.3 times as frequent as they are here.

5) We can be with our loved ones whenever we want. If you’ve never heard the excuse “I can’t afford to see my family for another year,” go to China, where 163 million migrant workers work 70+ hour weeks in the city just so their child can be raised by their grandparents in the countryside. If they’re lucky, they’ll see their family once a year. Meanwhile, even for the American working class, our infrastructure allows for easy nationwide travel, so loved ones are never out of reach.

Before wrapping up, try picturing your life without ANY of those five things, and slowly grant them back to yourselves, and always remember, America is a fertile breeding ground for happiness.

 

Best Face Forward: Skin Care Lines

Words used in this blog I didn’t know existed as a child: collagen, exfoliate, anti-aging, décolleté, micro-emulsion

Oh, if only I’d known about using daily sunscreen when I was younger. Growing up in the South, we spent months every year playing kickball, softball and lounging by the pool, not a lick of Coppertone in sight.

Fast forward and now skincare is a more primary concern, and I don’t step outside to my mailbox without a proper layer on sunscreen on my face. And a daily skincare routine has become a bit more complicated than lathering on the Noxzema. Close your eyes and you can still smell that distinctive odor, can’t you? I opened a jar in the car on a road trip once, and my dad immediately made me put it away and rolled down all the windows to rid the car of its penetrating fumes.

Here are three skincare lines I’ve tried recently to partially recapture that soft skin of my youth.

The starter kit from Auspect.

The starter kit from Auspect

Auspect: The Auspect skincare line comes from Australia, which has one of the harshest climates in the world. I tried the starter kit with four products called total clean, exfol+, vita C and hydrate plus. ($110)

The products include an easy-to-use daily care regimen card that told me which products to use and in what order for day and for night.

During a recent mini-facial, the aesthetician had told me I needed to include more vitamin C in my skincare, so I was thrilled to see these. I loved the cute packaging and how easy the products are to use. They have pumps, which makes it easy to dispense the products, and they don’t leak when I travel.

The dual serum from Babor. Which sounds like something out of a spy movie you use to knock someone out, then wake them back up.

The dual serum from Babor. Which sounds like something out of a spy movie you use to knock someone out, then wake them back up.

Babor: Another line I’d never heard of, as they don’t carry it at CVS, Babor was introduced to me by a hotel where I stayed. Two different times. I tried not to think too much about why two different places gave me anti-aging products – I’ll just go with it.

I tried the anti-aging eye cream ($125) and the anti-aging dual serum ($265). They both feel good upon application and my skin feels softer. Are they taking years off my appearance? Maybe so. Or it could be I look better because two of the four lights over my bathroom mirror are burned out.

The pink collection from Flawless Finish, which looks like it should be in a museum.

The pink collection from Flawless Finish, which looks like it should be in a museum.

Forever Flawless: These products are packaged so beautifully, you’ll want to give them a spot of prime real estate in your bathroom. I sampled three products from the Pink Diamond Collection, which includes collagen boosting cream, a reconstructive mask and infused collagen serum.

Diamonds, you may ask? I know they are supposed to be our best friend, according to Marilyn Monroe and Madonna, but don’t we prefer to flash them from a finger or peeking out from our ample cleavage? (I use the term our loosely)

Seems the Forever Flawless research team found that extra-fine natural diamond powder gently exfoliates the top layer of the skin. That allows the vitamins, moisturizers and other goodies to penetrate our skin better to do their job.

The products look pretty and made my skin feel really soft. And I feel elegant just opening the packages, something my Noxzema never did for me. Luxury has its price, however. My collagen products are $699 each. It seems rejuvenating our aging skin is not an inexpensive process.

I loved how every one of these products made my skin feel and look. And none of them smell like Noxzema.

 

Go on Vacation: Adopt a Dog

 

Caldwell makes a new friend at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Caldwell makes a new friend at the Inn by the Sea.

Call it the ultimate souvenir. Some guests at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, are going home with more than a seashell or a locally purchased trinket. They are taking home a new member of the family.

The inn partnered with a local dog rescue firm in May 2015 to help rescue dogs find permanent homes. A dog comes to stay at the inn and hangs out behind the front desk of this charming New England inn. Guests can take the dog out to frolic in the large grassy area in front of the hotel, or even down the boardwalk for a walk on the mile-long Crescent Beach.

It doesn’t take long for someone to fall in love and check out with more than just the bill for their stay. Since starting the program, more than 63 dogs have found permanent homes.

On my recent trip there, I met Caldwell, a young puppy who looked right at home snoozing on his bed behind check-in. I saw him later running around in the front yard, and heard one guest lamenting that if she had driven there, she would adopt him

My guess is he’s already found his new home, to be replaced by another young pup.

One Ocean Resort: Jacksonville Getaway

The One Ocean Resort in Jacksonville, Florida

The One Ocean Resort in Jacksonville, Florida

Seems my husband’s car is spending more time at the airport parking lot than at home as he travels for business. And I’ve added my share of miles to my frequent flyer accounts this year. But together? We haven’t had more than a four-day weekend all year. And with no beach trip we were really missing having our toes in the sand and a cool adult beverage in our hands.

We still didn’t pass get past the four-day mark, but we did have a wonderful late summer weekend getaway to Jacksonville. Our stay at One Ocean Resort was relaxing and rejuvenating. We felt no pressure to do much of anything, and met that goal nicely, spending a lot of quality time on our 7th floor balcony taking in the view of crashing waves and changing tides below.

The enchanting entryway to Azurea at One Ocean Resort

The enchanting entryway to Azurea at One Ocean Resort

We parked our car when we arrived, and didn’t get back in it until we left three days later. With lots of restaurants just a short walk away, we were covered for meals. The first night we dined at Sliders Seafood Grille, where we had excellent service and two delicious entrees, including its signature dish of butternut grouper, which earned a place on our most beloved dishes.

Saturday night we dined at One Ocean’s beautiful fine dining restaurant Azurea.  We dined on coconut and lime lobster bisque, a ribeye and sea bass. All yummy, although the chef informed us a lot of the menu will change in the next few weeks.

Feeling a need for a break from rich food, we had lunch the next day at North Beach Fish Camp. We got our ceviche fix, and two variations of tuna: seared yellow fin tuna with a sesame salad and an Asian chopped tuna salad. Healthy and delicious.

Deadlines, what deadlines? I can truly relax in a spa, Champagne glass in hand with a view of the ocean.

Deadlines, what deadlines? I can truly relax in a spa, Champagne glass in hand with a view of the ocean.

I spent a blissful couple of hours in The Spa at One Ocean, which has the best view from its relaxation room ever, the Atlantic Ocean from the second floor. It’s almost enough to just sip tea and sit here. Almost ….

My two-hour Citrus Sensation treatment included a massage, scalp treatment and full body exfoliation followed by a vichy shower to wash it all away. Now I know what strawberries feel like at the bottom of the colander when I’m rinsing them off.

At over a five-hour drive, a trip to Jacksonville does involve time in the car. But it was a perfect weekend getaway, and one we vow to repeat at least once every year.

3 Fun Fashion Finds for Travel

Here are a few items that will be finding their way into my suitcase or carry-on bag. In addition to meeting my first criteria for travel clothing of “doesn’t wrinkle-ever,” each of these items can also be worn in multiple ways.

The Razorback Tank dress from Orgotton

The Razorback Tank dress from Orgotton

  1. Orgotton Dress, $88

Last week we went straight from kayaking on the Chattahoochee River to dinner at our friends’ house. I needed something I could pull out of a bag and change into quickly.

This Razorback Tank dress from Orgotton was perfect. I threw it on and felt stylish and comfortable. The fabric is a super soft mix of bamboo, cotton and spandex. The fit is flattering and it’s not too short for me in the front. I would also wear this as a bathing suit cover-up or even to sleep in. Orgotton has a large collection of dresses and separates, all great for travel.

Oh, and if you plant the cute tag that comes on the dress in a sunny spot, you’ll be rewarded with wildflowers!

 

The Armagami shawl can be worn 15 different ways.

The Armagami shawl can be worn 15 different ways.

  1. The Armigami Shawl

Touted as the “Shawl That Does Not Fall,” the Armigami was created by two sisters who wanted a sarong they didn’t have to tie and a wrap that didn’t fall off their shoulders. With a few strategically placed buttons, the Armigami they created fits the bill.

The Armigami comes in 17 colors, from basics like black, white and denim, to ombre, lace, stripes and even rainbow sherbet. Prices start at $64.

 

 

Not, it's not a crop top, but a layering piece called The Halftee.

Not, it’s not a crop top, but a layering piece called The Halftee.

  1. The Halftee

Fall in Atlanta is all about layering, but I don’t like that bunched-up look around your middle you get sometimes from piling sweaters on top of shirts. That’s where the Halftee comes in. It looks like those popular-because-of-Britney-Spears crop tops, but they aren’t designed to wear on their own, but rather as a laying piece.

The Halftee comes in styles that include turtleneck, sleeveless, shortsleeve, longsleeve and lacey versions and in up to eight colors, depending on the style. Prices start at $8.50.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”