The Perfect Staycation

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I have checked into hotels over 30 times this year. I do a lot of overnight trips and am constantly in different cities. I have my routine- I always deadbolt the door, check the bed, the bathroom and hang my suit for the next day. As long as I know what city I am in when I wake up, I’m doing good. But this check-in was different. VERY different.

It was  Friday, the last day of school before Thanksgiving break.  My 9-year-old was in the back seat. I had already spent the night in another city that week but I could not arrive fast enough to this hotel to check-in. She said why are we at a Renaissance hotel? Then the valet opened the door and asked for my last name and if we were checking in. I said yes and a loud cheer came from the back as she LOVES staying in hotels.  We grabbed our bags, walked into the lobby and our experience began.

I have to give the biggest THANK YOU to Ainsley who welcomed us at the registration desk.  My daughter was so excited to check in for this surprise night and he made us feel like we were their most valued guests.  I admit, as an Elite member, I had called after making the reservation to let them know I was doing a special surprise mom-daughter staycation and to ask if they could leave something special for her in the room when we arrived (chocolate chip cookies?).  But what Ainsley did instead was to make sure that both of us would have the most wonderful experience at his property.  He told us about the pool on the third floor, and the concierge lounge we could access, and how she could get room service or walk across the street to Sprinkles for cupcakes!  After she told him how stressful fourth grade can be, he told her the room he was giving us was a NO STRESS room.  And he wanted her to just relax and enjoy her time with mom.

We headed up to the 15th floor, the top floor of the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West.  I had booked a king room and hoped they would upgrade us to the king room with the huge Asian baths I read about so she could have a fun spa night.  Nothing prepared me for what Ainsley had arranged for us.

You know the rooms with double entrance doors that you see as you walk down the hall to your room wondering how much they cost per night or how many nights as a frequent traveler you need to stay in order to get upgraded to that room when you do a family vacation?  That was our room.  And I was so surprised and appreciative that I videotaped my daughter entering the suite and exploring the entire “apartment”.

I continued to hear the words WOW and THIS IS AWESOME.  And that created a permanent smile on my face for the rest of the night.  Three sitting areas, a full dining room, a huge bathroom AND when she saw the pool table in our room – well, this hotel became her favorite place in the Dallas area.

 

We had the whole evening to enjoy.  And Legacy West had tons of shops and restaurants.  First we “unpacked” for the night and played a few games of pool in our suite.  We went to the rooftop pool and made boomerang videos.  We explored the lobby of the hotel.  Then we changed our clothes and headed out for our “date”.  We saw the fountains at Legacy West, decided on Italian for dinner at North Italia(her other favorite food besides sushi), explored the new books at Barnes & Noble, stopped by Sephora to try on fun lipstick colors and finally ended up at Sprinkles to end our night out.  We took fun pictures with the holiday lights in the background and headed back to the hotel bar to order a lemonade for her and an adult drink for me before heading up to our room.  But the evening wasn’t over.  Certain rooms have these huge tubs and Japanese bath salts for an in-room spa experience so of course we had to try it.  But the surprises from the hotel continued.  After the bath, we enjoyed cookies, milk and other treats that Rudy arranged to send up to us at bedtime.  Rudy – thank you.  Those oatmeal cookies were AWESOME and we sat on the couch (one of the three sitting areas), watched HGTV and talked about our day.  It was the perfect way to end the night before heading off to the bedroom for bed.

The next morning we made a quick run to the concierge lounge for coffee and chocolate milk and decided to order a big breakfast from room service.  I had the Asian breakfast and she had a classic American breakfast.  The service was friendly (and quick) and we got to eat at the huge dining room table in our pajamas!  A few more games of pool before we got dressed and headed out for a quick walk around the hotel and Legacy West to find a heart stone for our collection.

We finally headed back to the hotel with a stone in her hand to pack our bag and find Ainsley to say a big thank you.  A few high five’s later, we were in the car headed home, only a 15-minute drive.

A huge thank you to the Renaissance for the wonderful experience.  Time with my daughter is precious and this experience surpassed my expectations.


Now it is my turn…

Why a staycation? Because it is my time to have all of my mom’s attention. When we got to the hotel,  I was just like,  I love it, it is so modern.  Then we checked in with someone named Ainsley, and he told me it was going to be a stress-free night. We went to our room TRIPLE, NO QUADRUPLE WOW it was awesome. We unpacked and played pool. We went to the deck and went to the pool and did some boomerangs and then we went inside. After being in the room we went to go get dinner and candy. We went back and watched TV. Then we went and took a bath. Then we went to bed. The next morning we went to the lounge and got milk. Then we ordered food. We watched TV and then we had to check out, we said thanks to Ainsley and checked out. So that was the end of our staycation. That was the first but definitely not the last.

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The Hearts in our Home

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img_1364When I travel for work, I bring home a postcard of that city for my daughter.  Years back I decided with the help of a colleague to do postcards instead of stuffed animals or t-shirts (easy to pack, educational, will not grow out of them).  A few years back we were at a friends house in Colorado and my daughter saw a beautiful bowl of rocks on their kitchen counter.  Why do you collect rocks she asked our friend Amy?  Her answer –  these were not just rocks, but these were heart-shaped rocks that she collected from places she had visited and she would love to have my daughter take one home with her.

My daughter loved the idea and now we have our own small bowl of heart rocks that we have collected over the past few years.  It’s a nice addition to the decor in the house and we have fun looking for heart rocks on all of our trips!

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Recipe: Slow Cooker Lasagna

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I was wrong.  And I admit it.  For years I ignored all the recipes I found for slow cooking a lasagna.  You had to boil the noodles for it to be good, right?  You had to have straight layers so each bite had the perfectly cooked noodle and the right mix of cheese and sauce, right?  There was no way the slow cooker would make a good lasagna.  But I was wrong.

Who cares about the perfect looking layers?  This is not a Top Chef contest.  I need dinner on the table after a long day at work and possibly some leftovers for those nights when kid activities run late.  This was so easy that my daughter could have made this dinner.

img_0142Slow Cooker Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • Lasagna Noodles, uncooked
  • Your favorite sauce homemade or jarred (about 1.5 – 2 jars)
  • Cooked Veggies or cooked ground meat(beef, sausage, turkey) or both to layer or mix with sauce
  • Ricotta cheese, part skim mixed with garlic powder, oregano, basil and other dried spices of your choice
  • Shredded mozzarella (1-2 bags)

How to Make it:

  • Cover the bottom of the slow cooker with sauce.
  • Create your first layer with lasagna noodles and break apart pieces to cover the open spots.
  • Cover the uncooked noodles with the ricotta mixture, veggies(optional) and then a layer of mozzarella
  • Cover the entire cheese layer with sauce.
  • Repeat noodles, cheese, veggies and sauce.
  • Add one last layer of noodles, then cover entirely with sauce and then a layer of shredded mozzarella.
  • Cook for 2.5-3 hours on HIGH or 4-5 hours on LOW, then let it sit for 30-60 minutes to set on warm setting.
  • Serve with a salad and garlic bread.

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The Easiest Hour is Lunch!

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The moms say it takes a village and they are right.  School was about to start and a group of us were talking about the challenge facing us all – school lunch.  I wanted my daughter to make her lunch the night before but all I heard was “Mom, what should I make, Mom, we don’t have any xxx(fill in the blank here), Mom, I’ll do it in the morning before school(we all know that won’t happen!).  So my friend Anne started a facebook group where all the moms could post their suggestions – healthy ideas, snack ideas, breakfast, lunch, easy dinners.  And then I read a post that smacked me in the face.  Make a menu.  Like they do at the public schools.  That was TOO EASY.

OK, so who hates it when you have to pack your lunch every night?  And you don’t know what to pack.  Well, me and my mom made a menu of all the things I like and we posted it on the fridge.  It tells me what to pack like a chicken caesar salad with chips and fruit and it’s so easy that you should go to your mom and ask her to make you one too.

 

We are now in week 4.  This super easy plan is a complete GAME CHANGER.  Create a word document, add pictures, dates to cross off and DONE.  If I am traveling for work, life becomes even easier for my husband since there are no questions.

Nicole, you have changed the way we function so THANK YOU!  The bonus – Nicole shared a photo of her pantry in our Facebook group.  Super organized with clear stackable containers.  So, of course, I had to do a quick Amazon search and buy them too.  Now everyone can grab a KIND bar, a bag of dried apricots or Pirate’s Booty and get lunch ready super fast!

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