Jon Bailey
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Envisioning Retirement: We’re Already Planning!

Envisioning Retirement: We’re Already Planning!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of VSP Individual Vision Plans, and the opinions expressed here are our own.
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Four eyes. Specks. Poindexter. Frame face. Coke bottles. Goggle eyes. Brainiac. Since the age of eight, I have worn glasses or contact lenses (except for that span of time when I had Lasik and it was actually working.) Throughout childhood, I heard every one of those nicknames whether they were meant in love – or not. Luckily these days, glasses have become a fashion accessory, and people of all ages can now have multiple pairs of glasses. We vision-challenged people can change them to fit every mood and situation. Between Triton and me, we must have at least 10 pairs right now.

mature gay man

 

Glasses Are Expensive!

Thing is, those glasses and contact lenses can be expensive. Ah, the price of looking good! Whether we get our frames from a designer boutique or the dollar bin at the local thrift store, the corrective lenses that fit inside those stellar fashion statements are PRICEY. So are contact lenses, which I wear almost every day. Add a few bells and whistles like bifocals or astigmatism into the mix, and the regular lens costs skyrocket for both glasses and contacts. Thank goodness for our vision insurance, that helps pay for a portion of these costs.

man with gray hair

 

But What About Retirement?

These days we’ve started planning for retirement, and the clock is now ticking on an exit plan that will be here before we know it. When both our girls leave for college (four more years people, four more years) we’ll be looking our retirement plans square in the face. We’ve begun to research options and lay plans for what’s to come, and one of the biggest questions is about health insurance. Considering the nuts and bolts of it all, for vision insurance we’re really happy to have found VSP Individual Vision Plans.

On a fixed budget, every expense needs to be calculated and projected. Regardless of wealth, when you stop working, the new income stops rolling in and you’ve got to be prepared.

 

gay family with dogs

 

Retirement at a Younger Age

Retirement looks a lot different than it used to in my parents’ lives. For them, retirement meant stopping work at a late age and settling into a quiet and controlled life until “the end.” That’s not happening for our generations. People are retiring younger and younger, and there is an entire philosophy and movement dedicated to early retirement called FIRE. FIRE stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” Jeez, if I had started planning earlier I could have retired at age 35? Wow!

Now retirement most decidedly does NOT equal old age.

 

gay couple feeding koi

 

Vision Care Insurance in Retirement

Whether you’re 35, 55 or 75, those healthcare costs in retirement can hit you hard. The last thing Triton and I want to be worried about is health insurance, and particularly vision care insurance. When we found VSP Individual Vision Plans, we were thrilled to learn about the plan’s great options for people post-retirement.

We have VSP vision coverage already under our current healthcare plans through work, so it will be an easy transition for us to get a VSP Individual Vision Plan post-retirement. What we didn’t know is that VSP Individual Vision Plans was the first to market with vision insurance for retirement, more than 10 years ago. As the innovator in this space, VSP Individual Vision Plans has perfected ways to offer retirees multiple solutions to fit many lifestyles in retirement.

 

man with laptop

 

Our research tells us we can continue our insurance with VSP Individual Vision Plans for as little as $13 per month. VSP Individual Vision Plans include annual benefits that cover a whole host of things we might take for granted when still working:

  •   A comprehensive eye exam
  •   Prescription lenses with covered lens enhancements like progressives
  •   A generous allowance for frames and/or contacts
  •   A wide selection of brand name frames
  •   Access to the largest network of independent doctors so you have a good chance of keeping your same eye doctor once you retire

In fact, one-in-four people in the U.S. are VSP members. Suffice it to say, VSP knows what they are doing.

 

mature man with glasses

 

As we build our budget spreadsheets for our retirement plans, we are most definitely building VSP Individual Vision Plans into our projections. One less thing to worry about as we enter this next phase of our lives!

For more information, go to GetVSPDirect.com or call 877-988-4746.

 

multi generational family

 

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of VSP Individual Vision Plans, and the opinions expressed here are our own.

 


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Hotel Review: Live Aqua Urban Resort in Mexico City

Hotel Review: Live Aqua Urban Resort in Mexico City

I hadn’t been to Mexico City for about 25 years, and that initial trip was not my favorite. (Suffice to say I had eaten something that did not agree with me.) All I can remember from that trip is a pink sea of Pepto Bismol. So I was really excited to visit Mexico City again, knowing the city has changed and advanced so remarkably. We booked rooms at the luxurious Live Aqua Urban Resort in Mexico City for our recent trip, and I can’t wait to go back.

In fact, many friends have visited Mexico City recently and every single one comes back singing rave reviews about the food, people, culture, and architecture. And it’s all true. 26 million inhabitants, and somehow CDMX (Cuidad de Mexico) makes it all work.

 

seating area in Live Aqua lobby CDMX

There are plenty of nooks and crannies in which to sit around the lobby of the Live Aqua Urban Resort in Mexico City.

 

Mexico City is World Class

This world-class city reminds me of a cross between New York and Paris. There are huge areas of the city crisscrossed by wide avenues with parks and tall trees down the middle. Sidewalk cafes spill out from buildings of historic architecture, with sophisticated and extremely well-dressed men and women strolling, dining and discussing.

book column at Live Aqua Urbam Resort

This interior column in the lobby of the Live Aqua Urban Resort is artfully decorated with books as a design feature.

 

Interspersed with all this, tall and architecturally significant skyscrapers of gleaming glass and impossible angles dot the skylines of this surprisingly hilly city. Yes, like any large city there are areas of poverty. Driving through the roadways from the airport into town, we viewed neighborhoods of working people struggling to create better lives for themselves and their families. There is a broad difference in Mexico between the have and the have-nots, and many good residents of Mexico City and other areas are working hard to close this gap.

Live Aqua Urban Resort Location

In the Bosques de las Lomas neighborhood just near the famed restaurants, galleries and history of the Polanco area, Live Aqua Urban Resort welcomes discerning guests. Urban Resort is a good moniker for this hotel, because its location connected to a mall and business park is not a typical tourist experience. In fact, the hotel is more geared for international business people. No pool, no playground, no kids.

 

Live Aqua Urban Resort bar patio

Just off the main lobby of the Live Aqua Urban Resort, the patio bar is stylish and private.

 

Connected via glass-enclosed footbridge to a high end shopping mall with world- class restaurants, Live Aqua Mexico City delivers a 5-star luxury experience.

High Design

The lobby and public areas in Live Aqua are just stunning. Entering the lobby, I didn’t know where to look first since there were so many interesting things to see. Gigantic columns are wrapped into the design with whimsy, including one surrounded by seating and sheathed in a stack of real books. An interior reflecting pond and open seating areas are located to the right near the registration desk. To the left, the lobby bar spills out on to an outdoor deck with interesting wood accents. Enormous billowing drapes of cloth hang in curvy rows from the ceiling, a design feature that made me feel under-the-sea. And in the back, the hotel’s signature restaurant and open kitchen are tucked behind impressive florals.

Really, I could have sat in this lobby to drink in the design for hours.

 

lobby Live Aqua Urban Resort

The gorgeous lobby at the Live Aqua Urban Resort is a feast for the senses.

 

Spacious Rooms

Not to be outdone by the lobby, the guest rooms continue this theme of high design. More subdued than the public spaces, the rooms are decorated in warm woods and muted colors. Since the views from the large windows don’t offer anything exciting, the room takes over in the visual department. Every detail was perfect, every corner, every cabinet latch, every amenity – all perfection. At check-in, the staff even asked me what organic scent I would prefer in the room – mint, chamomile or citrus. I chose chamomile for relaxation.

Live Aqua room scents

Guests are asked if they would like to pick the scent of their room at Live Aqua. I chose “Relax”.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m really picky about hotel beds. The mattress has to be the right combination of hard and soft, and the linens have to feel like butter. Oh and the pillows? When they are too hard, it feels like I’m trying to rest my head on a sand bag. Too soft, and my neck gets zero support so I wake up with a crick. But Goldilocks would have been happy with this bedding, and so was I. It was juuuussst right.

Live Aqua Urban Resort guest room

Muted colors and warm woods are accented by soft white bedding at Live Aqua Urban Resort.

Bathrooms To Die For

A true design feature in itself, the bathroom in my room at Live Aqua Mexico City was as large as some bedrooms. The wall and corner facing the bedroom was floor to ceiling glass, covered with wooden slat shades you can raise or lower at your whim. I positioned the louvers open to let in natural light, and checked to see that no one from outside could see me naked. (They couldn’t).

Live Aqua Urban Resort guestroom bath

Even the bathrooms at Live Aqua CDMX are stunning examples of design.

 

Also floor to ceiling glass on two sides, the enormous walk-in shower had a rainshower head and luxury bathroom amenities. If you like baths, you will love this bathtub which would easily fit more than one person.

The Little Things

For me, the signs of a good hotel are the little things we sometimes take for granted. At Live Aqua Mexico City, the elevator lobbies on each floor have a refreshment center complete with turntable and spinning vinyl. On the table next to that, morning refreshments include an urn of fruit infused water, fresh coffee or tea, and apples. In the evenings, the coffee is replaced with a bottle of Mezcal and some shot glasses. (You know, in case you need a quick pick-me-up before hitting the lobby bar.)

 

Mezcal sampler at Live Aqua

A little sip of 400 Conejos Mezcal is available in the elevator lobby of each floor at the Live Aqua Mexico City.

 

In my room, filtered water was served in a colored glass bottle with cork. Nearby, a zen-inducing sand box with rake was available in case I needed stress relief. All the appropriate plugs and outlets are available to charge my devices, and the hotel WiFi is free.

If You Go

Rooms at Live Aqua Urban Resort start at $174 USD. The hotel is located on the other side of downtown Mexico City from the airport, so plan on about an hour with light traffic to get there. Traffic in this city can be pretty jammed, so give yourself proper time to get anywhere.

If I return to Mexico City on business, I will absolutely book at Live Aqua again. I learned they have hotels in other Mexico destinations, so I’m absolutely going to take a look at those too. Can’t say enough good things about this fantastic hotel.

 

Live Aqua CDMX breakfast buffet

Each morning, the breakfast buffet they set out at Live Aqua Urban Resort is overwhelming and delicious.


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Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

I make my mom’s favorite family recipes all the time, a legacy of her Italian upbringing and my half-breed desire to keep that connection alive. One of my kids’ favorites from Nana’s Cookbook is her Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe.

Fresh ingredients for chicken piccata

Fresh ingredients for my Lemony Chicken Piccata recipe were sourced mostly from our local farmers market.

 

Traditionally, chicken piccata is known for its capers and white wine sauce. Sometimes a little lemon juice is added for flavor, but our mom was a BIG lemon fan. Her version includes the juice of two large lemons, and boy is it delicious!

Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe is actually pretty easy to make even though there are several steps. Although mom made hers with chicken breasts, I prefer boneless and skinless chicken thighs for more flavor. I’ve gotten this recipe down to a quick and easy method, which I am happy to share with you here.

lemony chicken piccata flavor ingredients

Fresh squeezed lemon juice, capers and chopped Italian parsley are key ingredients in my Lemony Chicken Piccata recipe.

 

Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe

(serves a small herd)

  • 2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken thighs, flattened
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbs fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 large lemons, juiced
  • ½ cup capers
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups Italian bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 lbs pasta of your choice (depending on how many people you are feeding!)
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Prepare the chicken

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a frying pan, pour ½ cup olive oil and set on low heat.

Flatten the chicken thighs between two pieces of wax paper, using a kitchen mallet. (If you don’t have a mallet, you can use the flat bottom of a small pot.) Pound the chicken flat to about an inch or so thick.

breading chicken for piccata recipe

The three part breading process is critical to the chickens flavor and crispiness.

 

In three separate bowls, put the flour, scrambled eggs with salt and pepper, and bread crumbs. Dip each piece of chicken into the flour to coat, then the egg mixture, then finally coat with bread crumbs. Raise the heat on the frying pan to medium, and cook each piece of chicken until browned on each side. Add olive oil as needed to keep the pan bottom well coated for frying. When browned, place the chicken into a 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.

chicken thighs frying

Breaded chicken thighs are fried crispy in olive oil before adding the other ingredients.

Create the sauce

 

In the same frying pan, add another ½ cup olive oil. Cook the onion and garlic until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, lemon juice, parsley and capers. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to combine flavors.

making chicken piccata

Now that the sauce has been cooked, pour it over the cooked chicken and pop into the oven.

 

Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts, making sure to spread evenly. Sprinkle with basil and pop into the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes. When you remove the pan, the juices should be bubbling.

While the chicken is in the oven, cook the pasta, drain and put back into the pot. Coat with about ¼ cup of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking.

chicken piccata in baking dish

Straight from the oven, this Lemony Chicken Piccata is tangy and crunchy.

Plate It Up

 

First put a healthy scoop of pasta on the plate, then top with pieces of chicken and ladle juices over both. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired, and serve with a side vegetable like broccoli rabe or asparagus.

chicken piccata ready to serve

And voila! The finished and plated chicken piccata looks quite delicious.

 

I hope you enjoy Mama Bailey’s Lemony Chicken Piccata Recipe as much as our family does!

Family of cooks @2Dadswithbaggage

For such a little woman, Mom was a dynamo – particular in the kitchen. Miss you Mom!


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Why Manscaping is Really Just About Being Polite

Why Manscaping is Really Just About Being Polite

This post is sponsored by Manscaped, and we appreciate sampling their products. As always, the content and opinions shared here are absolutely our own. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

Manscaping is a term that entered the public lexicon not too long ago with a snicker. A funny euphemism for men trimming our body hair, manscaping is something men have actually been doing for decades. And like so many fashion statements that have become an accepted part of society, trimmed body hair has gone mainstream for good. Over here at 2DadsWithBaggage, we think manscaping is really just about being polite and well-kept.

Manscaped kit

Thanks to Manscaped, these kits containing a buzzer, razor and lotions can help me get the job done quickly and comfortably.

Why Manscape?

Too much hair can just get in the way of important things. Not to be indelicate, but from an aesthetic perspective it’s just polite for you to manage it out of the way. When hair is poking through your shirt or straggling out from under your arm when you’re wearing a tank top, that’s not so attractive. Ever notice someone that interests you is scooting away as you scoot closer, all bear-like in your shorts and tank? It could be that your body hair touched them a long time before you had actually planned. Ewww.

True story: Triton has freakishly long hairs growing on his wrists. Strange place for hair long enough to braid, you might remark. On the regular, he trims it down to a normal length that doesn’t send people screaming into the streets.

manscaping arms

Freakishly long wrist hairs may be a sign of extreme intelligence, but still must be removed.

For reasons like this and so many others, experts like Manscaped have entered the market. They provide men with supplies especially geared for this service area (along with a healthy sense of humor.)

Manscaping Facts

Beyond being the polite thing to do for others, manscaping can be of great benefit to you. According to experts in the area of perspective, when hair trimming is involved, objects can appear larger than they are. Simply put – when there are less bushes around the tree, the tree looks taller, no?

Also, back hair. There is no woman I know that likes back hair, and perhaps only a few gay men who might. In an overabundance of caution, it’s probably just best to lose it regardless.

True story: Jon is half Italian, so there is hair in a lot of places except on his head. (Why, why, why is that always the case with the hairy/bald imbalance?) He has a manscaping regime that keeps things in check, with weekly touch-ups and monthly deep dives.

manscaping legs

Sometimes less hair makes your muscle definition stand out more. Just sayin’ I need all the help I can get! Thanks Manscaped!

In other more sensitive areas, excess hair can actually get mixed up in your business when not properly maintained. Last thing we want is a hindrance to any activities. And besides, women have been primping, plucking and preparing themselves for eons. It’s the least we men could do to keep ourselves presentable too.

One very important thing: the equipment you use to shave your face and trim your beard should definitely not be the same equipment you use farther south. There are different bacteria the live in different parts of the body, and mixing them up can cause – shall we say – “irritation”. ‘Nuff said.

Manscaped Has Good Answers

In addition to having copywriters who are truly hilarious, Manscaped makes superior products specifically to help us guys manage ourselves. With products for trimming hair with names like The Lawnmower and The Plow, Manscaped products give us plenty of options for longer, shorter or completely gone.

We like how Manscaped has also thought of after-care. Their Crop Preserver is like a deodorant for “down there” that keeps everything nice and fresh with an anti-chafing liquid talcum gel.  To tone and refresh, the Crop Reviver features aloe and witch hazel extracts for anti-inflammatory, anti-burn protection, and optimum pH levels for dryness and hydration control.

Refined by Manscaped

I love this scent called Refined from Manscaped, and maybe a little goes a long way…

Neither of us is a big fan of cologne, and don’t usually like to wear any. However, the scent of Refined smells like wood to me and for some reason I really like it. Will I wear it regularly? Not sure about that, but it does smell pretty darn good.

And you know what is really not polite? Wearing a ton of stinky cologne that leaves a cloud of stank after you have already left the room. If you do choose to spritz on a little of Manscaped’s Refined, do be aware that a little goes a long way.

Now get to cropping, boys. It’s practically a mandate. (No pun intended).

Enter the Manscaped Giveaway

Manscaped Giveaway


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Tips for Navigating the Aruba Airport

Tips for Navigating the Aruba Airport

*Our visit to Aruba was hosted by the Aruba Tourism Bureau, and we are grateful for the experience. As always, the content and thoughts expressed here are our own.

Our family just returned from the gorgeous Caribbean island of Aruba, and we loved it there. Since we had never been here before, we didn’t know how easy or difficult navigating the Aruba Airport would be. I googled “tips for navigating the Aruba airport” and since nothing helpful came up, I’m writing this now so others can find their way easily.

Everything about Aruba is friendly and laid back. The beaches are postcard pretty, the people are so nice and welcoming, and the ocean is the bluest, aquamarinest, turquoisest I have ever seen. When you get off the plane upon arrival at Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport, you feel immediately lulled into a relaxed state and slower pace. We call it “Island Time” because everything slows down, including your need to care.

Queen Beatrix International Airport departures entrance

The departures area of the Queen Beatrix International Airport in Aruba is quite colorful. (photo from Aruba Tourism Bureau)

In order to help maximize your enjoyment of this beautiful destination, let’s get you prepared for navigating the Aruba Airport when you arrive (easy!), and when you leave (not as easy, but still not bad if you leave enough time).

Tips for Navigating the Aruba Airport

It’s a small airport with one runway and eight gates, so the walks aren’t long and it’s very clean and spacious. There are a few things you’ll want to know as you deplane and prepare for customs, and when you are departing and fumbling with your passport and papers.

Delta Airlines at Aruba airport

Arriving into Aruba Airport was a breeze for us! (photo from Aruba Tourism Bureau)

Arrival at Aruba Airport

Granted, we arrived after 9 pm when most flights had long ago deplaned all their passengers. As it turns out, arriving that late does have some advantages. As we walked directly off the plane and into baggage claim, we saw there were just three baggage carousels. Since I am a veteran over-packer, we had checked bags to accommodate my need for wardrobe options. But if you can carry-on, even better.

inside Aruba Airport

The new buildings and terminals at Aruba Airport are really quite stunning, full of colorful art and design. (photo from Aruba Tourism Bureau)

Tips on Arrival at Aruba Airport:

  1. The bathrooms are super clean if you have to go. You will have some time to kill before your bags arrive (remember, Island Time), so might as well!
  2. You will need that customs form they gave you on the plane, so keep it handy with your passport.
  3. After claiming your bags, you will go through local customs. This took us just a few short minutes. Our passports were stamped, the customs form was torn in half, and the remaining half was handed back to us with our passports.
  4. It’s important to remember this remaining half of your customs form. You will need it when you leave, and you absolutely won’t want to go through the long and laborious process of getting a new one if you lost it.
  5. Taxis will be waiting outside to the left, with a fairly long queue during daytime hours. At the front, an attendant will ask your destination and then give you a slip to hand the taxi driver. This slip will tell you the exact fare you will pay upon arrival. Fares vary according to destination. We stayed at the wonderful Tamarijn All-Inclusive Resort in the Low-Rise Hotels area, and the fare was $29 US. The High-Rise Hotels area is farther away, so expect a higher fare if headed there.
  6. If renting a car, all the rental agencies are just across the street via a short crosswalk from baggage claim. The rental cars are right there waiting, and our whole process was quick and easy.
  7. If you are driving, the navigation is a little tricky. GoogleMaps did not work for us here, but Waze worked great. There are all sorts of little quirks and odd turns on the roadways that will keep you alert!
Aruba Airport architecture

Colorful architecture and friendly buildings greet travelers at the Queen Beatrix International Airport in Aruba. (photo from Aruba Tourism Bureau)

Departure from Aruba Airport

Our hotel suggested we arrive at the airport three hours before our flight – which we have NEVER done anywhere in the world. Maybe our family likes to live on the edge, but it has never been a problem. In Aruba, we understand now why they recommend this. Knowing it was a small airport, we planned to arrive two hours beforehand. We all have Platinum Priority boarding on American Airlines, as well as Global Entry passes to breeze through US customs. Boy are we sure glad we did, because the entire process took us 1.5 hours before reaching the gate area.

American Airlines at Aruba Airport

We flew American Airlines to Aruba, and thank goodness we had Priority status! (photo from Aruba Tourism Bureau)

Tips on Departure from Aruba Airport:

  1. When they say to arrive three hours before your flight, they mean it. The lines were very long.
  2. Luckily we had Priority boarding access on American Airlines, which diverted us to a far shorter line to check in at the counter with our bags. It still took about 20 minutes to reach the counter, with two agents working the Priority line of maybe 10 people deep. Three agents were working the regular line, which had at least 75 people waiting.
  3. Keep your passport handy, because you will need to show it A LOT. We counted eight separate stations where we were asked for our passports. Check-in at the counter was #1.
  4. Once checked in, you proceed to Aruba customs to depart. Outside this area, a man seated at a desk asked to see our passports and boarding papers (#2).
  5. Inside this same area, a woman tending the very short line asked to see our passports again (#3). She directed us to automatic kiosks.
  6. At these kiosks, we stood on the little feet symbols on the floor, scanned our passports (#4) and posed for our photos to be taken by the machine. The gates opened, and we were approved by Aruba customs to leave the country.
  7. From there, you will go through security with all your carry-ons, etc. No TSA Pre-Check line, so shoes come off and laptops out.
  8. Then you are ushered into a large room with two baggage carousels, where you will reclaim your luggage that you just checked at the original counter.
  9. With your luggage, you will then go through US Customs. There is a huge benefit to doing it here, rather than the long lines we typically experience on US soil. We were especially happy, because our connecting flight was only 55 minutes from the time our first flight landed. There would have been no time to go through customs, security, and make our gate in time.
  10. If you have Global Entry, now is the time it will pay off. There is a separate line inside the door to the right, and no one was waiting here. We flashed our Global Entry cards and passports for the guard to check (#5) and proceeded to the kiosks. This whole process took just minutes.
  11. The line to present our papers to the US Customs agent was very short – versus the line with no Global Entry, which was very long. We presented our passports and papers for approval (#6) and passed through the gates.
  12. Important: This is where you will need to present those little slips of paper from your original Aruban customs form.
  13. Leaving this building, we rechecked our bags by placing them on the correct conveyor belt. There are two belts, so don’t confuse which airline you are flying or your bags will end up gawd knows where.
  14. Then we stood in another line to show our passports to the door attendants again (#7). This line was waiting to go through security again – shoes off, laptops out.
  15. Once through this second security checkpoint, we were finally within the gate area. This area is very clean and has nice shops, duty–free, and a few restaurants. Not sure why someone would want to eat sushi in an airport, but hey. Lots of other food choices.
  16. We proceeded directly to the gate, with barely enough time to visit the restroom before boarding. As we boarded, of course we were asked to show our passports one last time (#8).

Although this might seem like a long, exaggerated list of departure rituals, it went smoothly and easily. And people in Aruba are so nice! No grumpy guards or surly customs agents. Since we were so relaxed from our beautiful vacation on the island, we were remarkably calm throughout the process.

Our advice? Allow for the three hours to avoid that inevitable stress and impatience we can sometimes feel when waiting in lines at airports. Better safe than sorry in this case!

 

 

 

 

 


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New Skillet Breakfast Meals from Omaha Steaks are Legit

New Skillet Breakfast Meals from Omaha Steaks are Legit

This post is sponsored by Omaha Steaks, and the views and opinions expressed here are our own.

When we heard Omaha Steaks was introducing a new line of breakfast meals, we weren’t quite sure of the connection. What did a place famous for its top quality steaks know about breakfast, we asked ourselves. But then we had the chance to taste a couple of them, and realized these new skillet breakfast meals from Omaha Steaks are legit. So yes, they know what they are doing!

Omaha Steaks breakfast skillet

The Omaha Steaks Ranchero Steak & Beans Butcher’s Breakfast is delicious and easy to prepare.

With hearty flavors like Ranchero Steak and Beans, Meat Lovers’ and Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash, these new Omaha Steaks Butchers Breakfasts make it easy to eat well in the morning. Those same great ingredients and prime cuts of meat that have made Omaha Steaks so popular are all here for morning munching. Super easy to cook, delicious and nutritious, these Butchers Breakfasts can be prepared and hit the table in under 15 minutes flat.

Omaha Steaks Meat Lover's Breakfast Skillet

Straight from the freezer into the pan, the Omaha Steaks Meat Lover’s Breakfast Skillet is so delicious.

Quick and Easy

Our family can really use the help most mornings, since the girls are always pushing things to the last minute. Jon is the morning dad, and so breakfast duties fall on him. Everyone rushes around to get out the door for school and work. Dogs walked, hair brushed, outfits changed at least three times – sometimes there hardly seems time for breakfast at all.

With the new Omaha Steaks Butchers Breakfasts, just take the meal directly from the freezer, pour contents into a skillet, cover and cook. In a bowl, you heat the sauce packet while the skillet is cooking. Then you add the sauce to the skillet, and it simmers for a couple of minutes to blend all the goodness. We topped ours with poached eggs, and voilá! A delicious meal ready to enjoy before running to make the carpool.

Omaha Steaks Ranchero Steak & Beans Butcher's Breakfast

The breakfast skillet meals from Omaha Steaks are legit.

Delicious Ingredients

Well of course there is good meat. It’s Omaha Steaks after all! The Ranchero Steak and Beans Butcher’s Breakfast is loaded with seasoned Omaha Steak and savory uncured bacon. The meats are mixed with fire-roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, green chiles, green & poblano peppers, and onion for a morning kick. Sauté all this in their sauce of lime juice, chili peppers, and sweet paprika, and you are ready to roll. My family gobbled their breakfasts right up, and the kids arrived at school fueled and ready to learn.

Ranchero Steak & Beans breakfast skillet Omaha Steaks

Add a couple of poached eggs to to the Omaha Steaks Butcher’s Breakfast, and you’ve got a hearty meal.

That beats a bowl of cereal any day. Now how to teach the girls to cook breakfast for me . Hmm, stay tuned on that one.

 


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Activities in Aruba With Kids

Activities in Aruba With Kids

*Our adventures in Aruba were sponsored in part by Aruba Tourism and DePalm Adventures Aruba, and as usual the opinions expressed here are our own.

The Caribbean Island of Aruba is downright gorgeous, with crystal blue waters and white sand beaches that stretch on forever. On our recent vacation in Aruba, we were so mesmerized by the beauty of Divi Beach. We almost didn’t leave the Tamarijn Aruba All-Inclusive Resort where we were staying! But venture out we did, and we are so glad for the experience of seeing more of the island and then returning to our beachfront rooms for a dip in the ocean. There are many things to do and activities in Aruba with kids, and we’ve featured a couple here to give you some ideas.

coastline of Aruba's north side

Although the blue ocean waters are the same, Aruba’s north side of the island is much rockier and hardly inhabited.

Activities in Aruba With Kids

Believe me, it was tempting to stay put in our comfy lounge chairs all day on the beach under the shade of palm-thatched palapas. The only thing missing from that whole situation was someone to bring me umbrella drinks and the occasional nosh. Imagine that – we had to actually get up and walk down the beach a few yards to the resort restaurants. Poor us.

We’re so glad we explored more of the island, and enjoyed our adventures out and about. Based on our recent experiences, here are a few activities in Aruba with kids that will make your family happy.

Aruba snorkeling tour

Our catamaran tour of Aruba took place aboard the Palm Pleasure, which dropped us to snorkel in several cool spots.

Snorkeling Tour on a Catamaran

Aruba is famous for being one of the world’s top underwater playgrounds, with scuba divers and snorkelers traveling from far and wide. The island’s reputation holds true, because these clear ocean waters are teeming with brightly colored tropical sea life.

underwater scene in Aruba

The ocean waters of Aruba are crystal clear and the tropical fish plentiful. (photo from Aruba Tourism Bureau)

Looking forward to sailing and snorkeling on Aruba, we hooked up with DePalm Tours Aruba. They picked us up from our rooms at the Tamarijn Resort on a big comfy air-conditioned bus. From there we were transported to the dock where the catamaran was moored. Sunscreened up and ready for a day in the tropical sun, we jumped on board the Palm Pleasure 70-foot catamaran with about 30 others and were on our way.

Now our family has been on a few boat tours, some better than others. This was one of the best we’ve experienced. The boat was in great shape, the crew was friendly and the equipment brand new. We hit several dive spots up the coast past the high-rise hotels, and were treated to amazing underwater views. Right away, we found ourselves surrounded by brightly colored fish of all shapes and sizes. There were pink ones, deep blue ones that looked like Dory, striped yellow and black ones, and many more. I even saw a giant clam!

snorkeling underwater in Aruba

Our family had a blast underwater, snorkeling the clear blue waters of Aruba.

Plenty of Dive Spots

One dive spot was super cool because it featured a sunken shipwreck. Looking down from above, we could see the corroded deck and hull as it listed to the side about 30 feet down. With such clear water, it was easy to make out the details of what once was. Spooky in a way, but super cool – the kids loved it.

After jumping off the boat and swimming with the fishes, we worked up a good appetite. Lucky for us, the crew of the Palm Pleasure served up a delicious lunch of salads, fish, chicken, coconut cake and drinks. The bar featured all kinds of tropical cocktails, as well as punch, sodas and waters.

Tickets for this fun adventure start at $94 for adults/$66 for kids. The entire experience lasted about 6 hours from door to door.

Off Road Adventures

After sitting on the beach for a few more days, we were ready for another adventure. This time, we wanted to take a land tour to the other side of the island where few people live. In fact, it was fairly deserted. Once again guided by DePalm Tours, we were picked up at the hotel – this time in an off-road jeep complete with  bench seats. We were off and running for our Natural Pool Safari.

DePalm Tours Aruba off-road jeep

Our off-road adventure in Aruba was undertaken from this brightly colored jeep.

Heading towards the north side of the island, we bumped and lurched and laughed our way along rocky dirt roads. Up and down hills and into ravines we drove, as our driver/guide told us about the terrain and history of the island. Only about 69 square miles in total, Aruba is an interesting mix of coastlines. On the hotel side, the beaches are long and wide. Over on the other side, the coastline is craggy rocks, crashing waves and tiny sand areas hardly worth calling beaches at all. From our vantage points along the coast, we did find some inviting coves with beautiful small beaches.

natural swimming hole in Aruba

This natural swimming hole in Aruba was filled with tropical fish.

Natural Pools

We started by visiting a natural pool along the rocky coast. Visitors could easily scramble over the rocks and into the refreshing pond, snorkeling to see tropical fish. Our tour also hit some hot spots including the famous Natural Bridge. (Please note, the rock formation fell years ago so now the visitor’s center is there without an attraction. Still, they do make a great cheese empanada and have super clean restrooms!) We also stopped at the historic Bushribana Gold Smelter ruins, where long ago men melted and forged gold nuggets found on the island. Farther up the coast, we stopped to view the historic Alto Vista Chapel and the California Lighthouse. Both have beautiful views of that famous Caribbean coastline.

view from California Lighthouse in Aruba

The California Lighthouse in Aruba is a favorite with visitors from all over the world.

Tickets for the Natural Pool Safari start at $102 for adults and $79 for kids 8-12. Younger kids are not permitted.

Aruba Butterfly Farm

Another day we were feeling more peaceful, and learned there was a butterfly farm nearby. Actually, it was only about ten minutes up the road from our hotel. Since they were little, our girls have always been fascinated with butterflies so we had to go. Quaint and sweet, the Aruba Butterfly Farm was surprisingly well stocked. Walking through the entrance and gift shop, we were escorted into the netted gardens.

Aruba Butterfly Farm entrance

From the front, the Aruba Butterfly Farm is full of flowers, birds and – yes – butterflies.

Inside there must have been hundreds of butterflies. Just like the many colorful fish we saw while snorkeling, the butterflies swirled around us in a riot of colors. We literally saw every color of the rainbow represented in these delicate creatures. My favorite were the giant blue ones, but really they were all breathtaking up close. Some even landed on us, checking us out to see if we were giant flowers.

butterfly in Aruba

Inside the Aruba Butterfly Farm, we saw butterflies and moths of all shapes, sizes and colors.

At various places throughout the meandering paths, little huts are set up to house the chrysalises and cocoons formed by caterpillars. They looked like little jewel boxes, holding colorful dangling earrings or something. Every 30 minutes or so, a guide leads groups on a tour through the gardens. She told us about the butterflies and moths flying around us, what they ate, how they lived and reproduced. We saw more kinds of caterpillars than we have ever seen in one place.

butterfly chrysalises in Aruba

This cabinet held many different kinds of butterfly chrysalises and moth cocoons.

We sat and watched the butterflies’ peaceful flights for a very long time. Photos were hard to get because those suckers can really move, but we managed a few good ones.

Tickets are $15 per person, and your ticket can be used again for the remainder of your stay on the island of Aruba.

sailing in Aruba

Sailing on a catamaran in the warm Aruba waters made us so happy!


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Acts of Kindness You Can Do With Your Kids

Acts of Kindness You Can Do With Your Kids

Sometimes Triton and I get all caught up helping our kids with school work, getting them to and from their music and sports lessons, etc. But really? The single most important thing we can teach our kids is to be kind. Bullying (both online and in person) is rampant among kids as well as adults. If more people lived by kindness first, the world would be a better place. (Ahem, that means you too, 45.) Part of fostering genuine kindness in our kids is by coming up with acts of kindness you can practice with your kids on the regular.

Kindness has a ripple effect. When someone receives an act of kindness, particularly a random one that requires no reciprocation, they are more likely to pass that kindness on. You know, pay it forward!

My mama and pop taught me well, and we’re showing our kids how to show kindness to others.

Acts of Kindness You Can Do With Your Kids

Hold the door

When I am running errands by myself or with my family, it always gives me a smile when I see a kid stop to hold the door for someone – even me! It’s such a simple act, but it shows such courtesy and respect to others. Remind your kids to open the door for others, especially those with young children, carrying things, or the elderly or disabled. However, holding the door just to be kind regardless of the baggage being carried by the recipient of the kind act is also appreciated! After a while, it just becomes habit – a good habit.

Kindness rocks

This is such a fun activity regardless of age. In fact, teenagers are often the biggest fans of kindness rocks because it allows them to be creative and spread a positive message at the same time. Start with a bunch of plain rocks and paints or markers to decorate. Be artistic – write positive messages on the rocks and hide them throughout your city. Many communities have social media pages or groups that designate a hashtag or saying to write on the rock. Finders then post the rocks on social media, hide the found rocks, or create more to keep the positivity moving. Messages such as “you matter”, “you rock”, and “be kind” are often found on these stones of kindness.

peace, love and kindness rocks

Decorating rocks with messages of kindness, we can then put them in public places around town for others to find.

Share talents at a nursing home

Find a local nursing home and have your child share their own gifts with members of the community. If your son or daughter is a musician, they may choose to play a special recital or concert on their instrument. Singers could perform solos or ensembles with other talented vocalists. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t have a musical bone in their body. Simply reading a story to a resident is sharing the gift of time, companionship, and education. We’ve even just had the kids read one of their children’s books aloud. Believe me, those residents just love the time spent and don’t expect for you to read them the next great historical novel.

kid reading book

Even reading a kids’ book to a nursing home resident will make their day so much brighter.

When I was a kid, we did this through our church. I hated the thought of having to spend time with old people in a scary nursing home, but as soon as I got there and saw how happy they were to see us I changed by mind. It may be intimating at first, but your kid will quickly warm up once they are there.

Send thank you letters

Think about someone who has made a difference in your life. This may not be an obvious person, like a parent or your spouse. It may be a teacher, a mentor, or a colleague. Write a letter to that person or take a moment to call them and read your words of gratitude. Model this with your children and have them do the same. This not only will add joy to the recipient’s day, but it feels good to show kindness and gratitude without having a particular reason. We have taught our kids to handwrite thank you notes for gifts received at holidays and birthdays. But this is something even more special. Believe me, you’ll want to do this with your kids again and again.

thank you note and pen

Writing thank you notes is one of the most gracious and polite things my parents taught me.

These are simple tasks to promote kindness in your home. These acts of kindness you can do with your kids can spread positivity way beyond your own family. Hopefully, you can these as a starting point to make a difference in your community and the world around you.

Most importantly, you will be teaching your kids to make a difference with their positive actions. Good lessons all the way around!