I SPY: Merry 2016

Dec 22, 2015

Off for the holidays?  We are off to Texas to visit family and then going skiing.  BRRR.  But looking forward to a much needed break, and the kids are excited to play in snow, since it seems we have skipped winter in NY so far.  No snow as of yet, and last year I think we already had snow in Thanksgiving.  But HEY! we had our share of snow and frigid temps last year that has left me traumatized!  So not complaining if we have a dry winter this year.

We're packed and ready to go.  I pulled an all nighter packing!  LITERALLY.  Packing for myself, two kids, a dog and for two totally different climates was rough.  HA.  But I did it!  Even though around 4am I was about to throw the towel in and give up.  Somehow you stress over it, but you always manage to get it done somehow, some way, right?  Well I feel very accomplished now, even though I desperately need to get on that plane and ZZZzzzzzzzz.


It's a wrap for 2015!  From mine to yours we wish you a HAPPY HOLIDAYS, safe travels, and hope you carve some time out to make some last memories for the year.  See you back here in the New Year…2016!  That felt so weird to write that!!  HA.  Whether we like it or not, it's happening.  Embrace it.  Be right back in the New Year…January 4, 2016 to be exact! MERRY 2016.

I SPY: A Pit Stop

Dec 21, 2015

Raise your hand if you've been in a ball pit recently?  Fishing your kid out of one doesn't count!  HA.  For sure once in your life you've played in a ball pit, right?  But what about playing in a BALLOON pit?



How awesome is this pit stop?  It was worth the half hour wait to get in, even though we only got to play for fifteen minutes inside the balloon exhibit.  But you got the chance to enjoy being a child again.  It is designed by Martin Creed, who has done similar balloon exhibits in the past all over the world.  Unfortunately this past weekend was the end of this red balloon frenzy.  Stay tuned to find out if he is coming near you soon.  It is definitely an exhibit you want to experience.  Super FUN.





Don't you think this would be a great idea for a kids party?  I think so!  Mine loved it.  What kid doesn't love balloons?  I've got to try this, even though I know it is not as simple as it looks!






How many balloons do you think are in the room?  The gallery wasn't able to give me a number.  Pity, because I'm dying to know.  Oh well I guess I'll have to find out for myself!  Wait and see.

I SPY: The Impossible

Dec 18, 2015

Have that family member or friend who's super hard to buy a gift for?  If they're a foodie, here is a unique gift for them from Universal Yums.



What is it?  It's a box of sweet and salty goodies you can gift one time, or gift a subscription for 3 months or 6 months.  They send a box of authentic snacks from a different country every month.  Here is a list of the different countries they have represented in the past.  Looks YUM to me!  Go get the impossible's off your shopping list this weekend, and begin enjoying the holidays.  We all deserve to rest easy for the last week before Christmas!

I SPY: Game Night

Dec 17, 2015

Does anybody play board games and cards anymore, or is everything now electronic and iPad friendly?  Call me old school, but we have quite a collection of board games.  Granted they were bought with my first child pre 'i' anything days!  Sounds like back in the dinosaur ages…but really it was only 10 years ago.  Not THAT long ago!

Well if you haven't heard it's been warm over here in the Northeast.  Really unusual winter weather.  Not complaining though!  However, we haven't played with our board games since the last snow day back in March.  Pretty long ago.  But since my lil' guys elementary school declares Family Night once a month with no homework, we decided to make it a game night this week.

We played the classic Trouble, Uno and Hedbanz.  Something all ages can enjoy.



When my big guy had to buzz off and go finish his homework, my lil' dude got Eddy to take his place! HA.



It was a fun night, full of laughter, a few tears, but in good company.  I wish I would remember to pull out these board games more often to play with the kids.  It is an interactive and educational fun way for everyone to bond.  It's unfortunate we tend to forgot about them because we're so into our electronic gadgets.  But one of my 2016 goals is to incorporate more screen free quality time together.  I can benefit from less screen time too, not just the kids.  How about you?

I SPY: The Ugly Continues

Dec 16, 2015

Are you into the ugly Christmas sweater hype?  I made my own last year for fun, but the folks in Texas didn't think it was UGLY enough!  Back to the drawing board again this year, with more tacky baubles to add on.  You'll have to wait and see the 2015 version!  HA.



But how about this…an ugly Christmas tie?  My son has his school concert tonight.  The dress code requires a tie.  I'm useless in that department!  So to save me the headaches of watching YouTube tutorials on how to knot a tie, I found him a strap on tie.  YIKES.  Super tacky I know.  But a cool one!  A lil' tongue and cheek.  The ugly continues!



What do you think his band teacher will think?  Hope he gets the humor!  If not, at least I'll be having a constant smirk on my face when I see my kid on stage later.  HA.



Found it at Claire's for $7.50.  Pretty jazzy, eh?  I thought I was on to a new trend, but I really ain't.  Actually I'm late to the game.  Little did I know that they sell DIY ugly Christmas tie kits.  Watch out all the men in my life... this is your gift next year!  Dead SERIOUS.

I SPY: A Punch List

Dec 15, 2015

Who do you want to punch in the face?  Anyone, anyone?  HA.  Donald Trump definitely is top of my list.  Then add all the people who support him.  Scary he actually has legit voters routing for him.  They must also be Kim Kardashian fans too.  What a joke!  UGH.  I can't.  Don't get me started before I throw a punch!  However, venting in a notebook would be safer to get a lot off my chest….and I found the perfect one.



How funny is this?  Keep track of your punch list now with this notebook from Whitney Museum.  I absolutely LOVE it.  Great stocking stuffer, conversation piece, and cracks me up every time I see it.  Checking off a few people on my list with this gift.  Hopefully I'm not on their punch list!  Or am I?  HA.

I SPY: A Game Changer

Dec 14, 2015

Need to get in touch with your feelings?  Sometimes a good cry is the best.  But we've been taught to control our feelings and hide it from the big bad world.  Haven't we?  But not at this place…The Museum Of Feelings.  They encourage you to let it go and take an emotional journey.  But in a fun way.  No crying involved!  PROMISE.



It's a pop up interactive installation…FREE, which adds to the hype!  You first walk in as a group of 20-25 people at a time, and are given a short introduction, while everybody's silhouettes create a cool rainbow across the wall.  Then you begin your tour of the five customized galleries, with 3D glasses:

1. OPTIMISTIC - Radiant Berry scented in a glowing pink crystal room.




2. JOYFUL - Pine Tree scented forest of LED lights.




3. INVIGORATED - Blue Odyssey scented with a lit interactive dance floor.  Jump!





4. EXHILARATED - Blooming Peony & Cherry scented kaleidoscope flower room.



5. CALM - Vanilla & Lavender scented fog room.




Through different colors and scents each room aims to trigger your emotions, through your five senses.  Your imagination and soul will lead you to feel many things, and your emotions will be turned into art, and have you leaving in euphoria.  Or at least that's how I felt.  Amazing what mirrors, lights and aromatherapy can create.  No drugs or alcohol involved, but I was definitely tripping in there!  Especially when meandering in the forest of lights.  Could play in there for hours!





So VERY cool.  It's sponsored by Glade and turns out to be such a clever way to advertise their products.  This is such a game changer in marketing, it's genius!  I wish I found out about it sooner so I could visit again.  Would LOVE to hit repeat!  But no more time.

It ends tomorrow, Tuesday, December 15, 2015.  So hurry if you want to experience this.  I know this is extremely short notice.  SORRY.  But I tried once last week to go before closing and the line was too long, so they stopped allowing people to join the line 3 hours before closing time.  That obviously irked me to get sent away.  How dare they!  HA.  But when this kitty is determined, she will wake her butt up early on a Sunday morning, and get in line an hour before opening, with breakfast and coffee in tow, and stand another hour after opening, till she gets in the club.  Crazy I know!  But those two hours were worth it.  Good things come with patience.

If your not a die hard like me, or can't get to it before the exhibit gets taken down, your alternative is to login to their website and have some fun taking a Mood Lens selfie.  We are all living in a selfie dominated world aren't we?  So hey, one more for the gram!  Try it out.  My aura was read as PEACEFUL…now that's the first!  HA.


I SPY: Treat For Toy

Dec 11, 2015

If self motivation isn't enough to get you to donate a toy would a free cupcake allure you?  Hmmm…a good one too!  HA.  Sprinkles is running a Treat For Toy holiday toy drive till December 15, 2015.  Donate a unwrapped toy to any Sprinkles bakery and receive a free cupcake for your generosity.  SWEET.



Great way to try one of their holiday special flavors.  We tried the Gingerbread and Chocolate Peppermint.  Something different.  But honestly their Red Velvet is still my #1 fave, even though that Gingerbread man is super cute, ain't it?



Add this to the list of donations on my post last week.  The clock is clicking, so get over there soon before this offer ends in five days.  Remember…all for a good cause, so HUSH about the calorie count!  Just only eat half like me!!!


I SPY: Mexico

Dec 10, 2015

CANCUN + PLAYA DEL CARMEN + TULUM: NOV 2015

When you think of Cancun what comes to mind?  I think...Booze, Sex, Drugs, Spring Break party central.  That is how they like to market that town, don't they?  Well, at this day and age that's not my cup of tea.  I know I'm sounding like an old lady, well I am, and thankfully outgrown that college crazy-ness.  Been there, done that…phew, lets move on!  But for a while I've been wanting to visit Chichen Itza one of the new seven wonders of the world, however kept putting it on the back burner because I didn't have desire to be in Cancun.  Well I discovered Cancun is the main city you fly into, but there are plenty of neighboring towns in close proximity you can stay at to be out of the chaos.  That is just what us Three Amigos did for Thanksgiving break!



1st stop:  PLAYA DEL CARMEN
It is about an hour drive away from Cancun.  Less white trash.  But still very touristy, and American-ized.  Once I spotted the huge Forever 21 chain store on the corner, that blew it for me and it felt like I never left the USA!  But thats on the main strip, their 'Fifth Avenue'.  However, once you get off those few blocks surrounding the main strip, you will begin to feel like you are in Mexico.  That was a good thing, otherwise I wouldn't of been too happy during our 2 days stay! Not like we really spent much time in Playa Del Carmen though, since we went on day excursions both days we were there and only would come back to eat dinner and sleep.  But still I don't want to be eating at Chiles, I want REAL Mexican food and thats what we got as you will see later.  You know me and food, my life revolves around it!



SEE + DO:

CHICHEN ITZA:
Finally we got to see the Mayan ruins and pyramids that I've been seeing in a gazillion photos and books, and dreaming about.  It's so different when your actually in front of it, have a photo of yourself standing with it, and can now claim bragging rights!  WIN.  It was about an hour and a half drive from Playa Del Carmen.  We uber-d it Mexican style!  Our hotel arranged a private taxi to take us on a day trip for USD 150.  For three people, it worked out cheaper then getting on a tour bus, and we went at our own pace which was nice.  This was the first thing on our hit list for our trip, because obviously, duh, we really came to Mexico just to see this!  It was awesome, lived up to my expectations, and in better shape then the pyramids we saw in Egypt.  Unfortunately since it became a Unesco seven wonders of the world site they've stopped allowing visitors to climb the pyramids.  But you can still get very close to it.  Needless to say I'm so happy we made it and can check this off our bucket list now.  WOOHOO.



The Hall of a Thousand Pillars is another beauty to ponder over.  I tried counting, but gave up!  The precision of that perspective is on point.  They didn't have rulers back then.  Amazing to think how they lined all the pillars up so straight.



We walked the site grounds admiring the Mayan ruins for about an hour, before we got sucked into buying a few souvenirs.  I love how the Mexican vendors kept saying 'Come look...Almost FREEeee!'  HA.  My kids are so gullible!



Stop by their cafe on your way out for a drink and a bite.  The food was good!  Tacos, Carnitas, Tamales…all my Mexican fixings on one plate.  YUM.



CENOTE IK KIL:
Close by to Chichen Itza is one of the most beautiful Cenote's.  Visit it on the same day, and bring a towel and your swim suit.  I have never seen anything like it.  Cenotes are natural sinkholes found in caves, that are created when the cave ceiling collapses.  I was told there are thousands all over Mexico, however Cenote Ik Kil is one of the special ones.  If this is your first time seeing one believe me you will go camera happy.  It's really spiritual, and I felt like a mermaid.  Just needed my red wig to be Ariel!  However let me warn you that the water is full of minerals, and there is a slight current.  It is not easy to swim in because the water feels very heavy and is extremely deep.  I'm a pretty strong swimmer, however I strongly advise you rent a life jacket and forfeit trying to look cute like me.  Otherwise be prepared to get a mega workout treading water!



HUELLAS DE PAN:
If your in the Cancun vicinity please make some time for my amigos at this community kitchen.  I wrote a separate post about our volunteer experience at Huellas De Pan that was so fulfilling.  They are located in Cancun, but out in the hood, half an hour away from the main hotel strip in Cancun.  So nothing touristy and I guarantee you will have a very authentic taste of real Mexican life there.  Besides doing a good deed.




MAMITAS BEACH CLUB:
On our last day we had a few hours to kill before dinner and the kids wanted to check out the beach.  So we went to the closest one.  Not the best one.  It was ok, a narrow strip of sand.  Nothing compare to wide Brazil beaches which are still stuck in my head from the Summer.  Brat, I know!  HA.  But, good enough if you want to put your feet in the sand, layout on a beach bed in the sun, catch some waves, have a cocktail, a few nibbles, and watch the sunset.  You can't see it in this photo, but it was a happening place, and I can see it getting crazy and wild after 7pm…*wink* in case your looking to party!



EAT:

- AQUACHILES
Known for their fish and shrimp tacos.  Set in an open air restaurant by the street.  Super casual, authentic and delicious.  Right up my alley since I'm a huge fish taco fan.  I could eat there everyday!




- TAQUERIAS EL FAGON
This place is famous for their meat tacos.  Another street side open air stall.  Super low key.  But you get your bang for your buck.  My 'Taco Loco' was stuffed with beef, pork, bacon and cheese, so many things it looked more like an over stuffed burrito to me!  I was happy to walk home after dinner to try and settle that baby in my belly!!!




SLEEP:

A swanky boutique hôtel, with a boho vibe.  Rooms were modern, clean lines and spacious.  The pool was really just a wading pool.  Very shallow.  But the roof top bar and Morrocan inspired sun beds were hip and added to the ambience.  The sushi restaurant was only eaten at for breakfast so we can't comment on how good the sushi was!  The breakfast was thumbs up though.  Hotel staff services were also very helpful and knowledgeable.  Location was great.  Mini mart across the street, and only a few blocks from beach, and a block from the main strip of shops and restaurants, that were all in walkable distance.

HOTEL BE PLAYA
Av 10 s/n Esq. Calle 26
Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen
QR. Mexico
T: + 52 984 803 2243
website







2nd Stop: TULUM

We drove about 1 hour from Playa del Carmen to upgrade to Tulum.  Now THIS was the less Americana scene I was looking for.  I won't lie, it was still a bunch of tourist!  But a much more rural beach town with pristine beaches, coconut trees swaying, and many chic boutique hotels to kick back and relax at.  A lil' slice of picture perfect paradise to end our vacation for 3 days.



SEE + DO:

There are ruins and cenotes in the area, but we opted out of that since we already visited the most famous ones, and had our educational fix.  It's a great place to rent a bike, and stroll through the streets freely.  Or plenty of water sports and snorkeling were offered too.  But we were there to chill, so didn't do much here except stay within our compounds grounds and visit neighboring boutique hotels.



COQUI COQUI:
This is a beautiful eco - friendly rustic style residence that was designed to reflect the local architecture. A beachfront limestone property that is known for their perfumerie.  Great place to pick up gifts of unique room scents, candles and perfume to take home as a memory.  Highly recommend you visit or stay at if you are a sucker for interior.





LA ZEBRA HOTEL:
Another low key, trendy, boutique style hotel, with interesting decor to hang out at.




EAT:

- THE REAL COCONUT
This is the restaurant where we stayed, with a lovely ambience on the beach.  A dairy, gluten, grain free, organic kitchen.  Mainly a vegetarian menu, but there were a few meat and fish dishes. The food was super clean yet yummy it was ridiculous!  Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all amazing, and I miss their smoothies soooo much.  Oh they were addictive!




- CASA BANANAS
Who doesn't like an open air restaurant slash bar scene with a foosball table to keep the kids entertained!  The chimichurri steak and red snapper were worthy.  But beware the portions are huge, and get there early unless you don't mind waiting forever for a table!




- COQUI COQUI
Their restaurant is another organic kitchen winner.  You can't loose with a great view paired with great food.  Their ceviche was top, and this is the Queen of Ceviche talking here!



SLEEP:

We stayed at Sanara, a year old boutique resort, with contemporary lines, and interior decor to drool over.  They're conveniently located on the main strip, so walkable to everything we visited.  They offered free yoga classes, and a worthy spa, you should take of advantage of.  Also they had the best dream catchers, that are for sale.  Dream catchers were my obsession for the duration of my stay!  Of course I couldn't leave without purchasing one *wink*.  The one with the leather fringe is soon to be MINE.  It's on custom order now.  So very excited...Merry X'mas to me!

SANARA TULUM HOTEL
KM 8.2 Carreterra Tulum Boca Paila
Tulum, QR 77780
Mexico
T: +1 310 933 6408
website



It was a quick and fun 5 night trip, and we covered enough area that I don't really feel the need to re-visit.  However, Tulum on a solo trip without the kiddos in tow could be repeated again, to take full advantage of the healthy living and wellness programs.  Maybe a winter escape to detox and get my Ohm on?  I would be totally up for that!
i * SPY CANDY. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.