Turks & Caicos

Turks and Caicos (TCI) is a special place for us. It was our first big vacation as a family. Our baby morphed into a toddler in Turks and Caicos. We celebrated his first birthday a week before we arrived in TCI and he really started walking while we were on the beautiful island of Providenciales (It was also where he had his first dose of junk food – – ohhh all the firsts!).

We visited Turks and Caicos in September 2014. We stayed on the island of Providenciales (Provo) in Grace Bay at Seven Stars Resort. The resort and Grace Bay Beach are both ahhhmazing. The views and accommodations are first class – it really made our transition to “family vacationers” as easy as possible. Anybody who travels with small children knows that the idea of “vacation” alters quite drastically because you don’t get to throw all your adult responsibilities off to the side for a week – you’re simply parenting in a different location. And to add to that – you don’t have all the comforts of home (high chair, toys, changing table, etc) to help you out. But, with a little planning and proper accommodations – it’s 100% worth it and it can still be a “vacation” for the whole family.

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Seven Stars Resort in Grace Bay – Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

We checked into our resort after a long day of travel (we left before sunrise and arrived after sunset…that’s a long day of travel). Upon arrival, the kiddo was already asleep, and the hubs and I were both floored at the accommodations presented to us. They were the nicest we’d ever stayed in – but we’ve always opted for low key accommodations for just the two of us. And do you want to know what my favorite amenity in our little 1 bedroom condo was? The washer and dryer. The washer and dryer, ya’ll. This was the ultimate sign that I successfully transitioned to a Mom. Forget the stretch marks. Forget the 10 pound purse. A washer and dryer now made my eyes sparkle with hope and happiness. And the washer and dryer were pretty darn handy…with a few loads of laundry throughout the week – I’m happy to report that we traveled back home with 95% clean clothes. The mere fact that I’m proud of this statement is proof that the definition of “vacation” changes when you make it a family trip. Oh! But the family time – exploring and enjoying full days together – completely uninterrupted – make it a perfect vacation all of its own (laundry included).

Now back to our first night on the Island. It was so dark once we arrived we couldn’t see a thing outside our balcony. So we got settled in and called it a night. We were excited to wake up to a new day and see what was in store for us.

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This is the view we woke up to on our first morning in Grace Bay. It’s absolutely stunning. Our first call of duty was to get to a grocery store to stock our little kitchen with some basic necessities. Fortunately, one of the nicest local grocery stores is just a 5 minute walk from the Seven Stars Resort. I was worried about the stock they would have – as far as baby supplies, so I packed everything we could possibly need x2. Well this grocery store showed me a thing or two. They had everything from our kiddos favorite food pouches, his shampoo, his special formula, etc. They even had children’s shopping carts! However – the prices were a little steep. Think $9 for a box of Cheerios. Almost everything is certainly available to you here – but I would still pack a few dry snacks to avoid the extremely high prices of every.thing.

We spent some of our days lounging at the pool and lounging at the beach. Grace Bay Beach is THE perfect toddler beach because it’s basically a lake with zero waves.

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We spent a day at the Beaches Resort on Grace Bay – just to check out the all inclusive amenities and the impressive property.

We really considered staying at the all inclusive Beaches Resort, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. As nice as it sounds, we just aren’t all inclusive kind of people (I can certainly appreciate it though). We prefer to leave the resort – explore and eat at local joints wherever we’re visiting. And when you do the math for an all inclusive stay – we just don’t eat and drink enough to justify the cost, in our opinion. But there are certainly times and places where an all inclusive stay would be ideal. Turks and Caicos wasn’t the time or place for us.

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The Beaches Resort was definitely fun for a day and a very nice family-friendly resort. But after the day was over – we were very happy to return to our quiet and more authentic resort at Seven Stars.

While in TCI, we spent a day on board The Atabeyra for a private sail. It was our best day on the island. We had a great crew and and such a fun time personally exploring the Turks and Caicos Islands on board the beautiful Atabeyra.

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We went sailing, snorkeling, and island exploring. It was fun to chat with the local crew about the Island and they were just fun to spend the day with. It was also nice to be on the water and see the Island from a different perspective.

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Our kiddo and Atabeyra crew member, Junior.

The Seven Stars Resort offers a kids club for families staying at the resort. We felt a little selfish taking advantage of this amenity…but we did! One day. And it was so nice. We dropped the kiddo at The Shooting Stars Kids Camp at the resort for a whopping 3 hours one afternoon. We got to spend a little time paddle boarding TOGETHER (usually we’d have to take turns while the other parent hangs with the kid) and just sitting in silence on the beach without sand flying in our face. It was very refreshing for us to take a little time for ourselves. Of course, we ran back to the Kids Camp like we were on a rescue mission to pick up our little guy because it was THREE.HOURS. (and it felt like 3 days). But he got to play with new toys indoors (a good break from the sun) and take a nap. It was a win-win for everyone.

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Me and the hubs paddle boarding in Grace Bay

Just to wrap up our favorite family friendly activities in Turks & Caicos (because I’m a list and bullet point kind of girl):

  • Seven Stars Resort Pool & Beach: Seven Stars offers the best stretch of beach on Grace Bay and the only heated salt water pool on the Island. The amenities are first class and you could enjoy the day here without ever leaving (but don’t do that every day).
  • Day Pass to Beaches Resort: It’s definitely a fun day if you have kids. They have all the Sesame Street characters and a kiddie water park. They also have some nice shopping and it’s really interesting to just walk around the giant wonder that is Beaches. Day passes are available (includes access to all amenities and food & drink for the day).
  • The Atabeyra: The crew and the boat are amazing. It was our favorite day in TCI. If you’re on the Island – Check out Sun Charters for a private sailing trip, a public snorkeling trip or a happy hour sunset trip. Anything they offer will be first class and will not disappoint.
  • Grace Bay Family Pictures: It’s the most picturesque back drop in the Caribbean – you have to take advantage and have a family photo session done. Paradise Photography (Frank) did an amazing job getting some great shots of our little family and working with our baby turned toddler on the beach.

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Now you know we traveled to Provo in September. We almost always travel in the Fall because that’s when our harvest is over and we can finally get away from the farm. The perks of traveling during the off-season include great rates and the perfect sized crowd for relaxing anywhere on the island. The disadvantage of traveling during the off season is that some of the restaurants shut down for the slow season – and this is pretty much a trend all over the Caribbean. So we missed out on some of the great restaurants that we would have loved to try. But, there were still so many that were available to us and we loved every meal we had. A few of our favorite restaurants include:

  • Seven: This restaurant surprised us. It is located at the Seven Stars Resort and we just sort of assumed that it was your typical so-so hotel restaurant. When we finally decided to give it a shot on one of our last nights in Provo, we were so impressed with the food, service and it was a beautiful restaurant. It was one of the only meals we had indoors – which is a nice option on some humid evenings.
  • Somewhere Cafe & Lounge: This was our favorite little locals spot. It’s right on the beach. The sunsets are spectacular, the beer is cold, and the food is simple and good.
  • The Deck at Seven Stars: We really enjoyed this casual dining spot at our resort. The views are amazing, the food is pretty and delicious. And it’s a fun casual little spot in the evenings with live music.
  • CoCo Bistro: This little gem is a perfect combination of local, cozy, first class and amazing. It’s located in the heart of Grace Bay and nestled in a large palm tree grove. It offers unique outdoor dining and the food is fantastic.

We rented a car in Provo to get around the island and I would definitely suggest it. The island is very easy to navigate – however they do drive on the opposite side of the road from what we’re accustomed to in the United States. The island itself is not the most beautiful island I’ve ever been to. It’s very flat, rocky and bare. It’s not a lush, green and mountainous island. But, the water, beach and accommodations certainly make up for that. And the resorts are all beautifully kept and beautifully landscaped.

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Walking back to our resort from the grocery store

Turks and Caicos is an amazing vacation destination. If you plan to visit the Island of Provo you will not be disappointed and you will not want to leave.

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Happy Travels!

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Toast

My kid loves French Toast. It’s one of his favorite breakfast foods. Now that school (pre-k in our case) is back in full swing – this is one of my life saver recipes for a super fast breakfast before school or even to pack as a morning school snack.

I grew up eating French Toast – and it was one of my favorites for breakfast too. So when I started making it for my kiddo it was a no brainer. I was chatting with a good friend of mine one day about feeding our babies-turned-toddlers some real food (when these milk guzzlers start requiring real food, it’s a brain buster at first trying to think of toddler friendly foods). Somehow we got to comparing French toast recipes and she told me an accidental secret weapon for making some fabulous French Toast. Want to know what it is?? Keep reading. Like most not-so-fancy French Toast recipes you should be able to whip this up from start to finish in about oh….7 minutes. And that includes gathering the long list of ingredients.

Ingredients:

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  • 2 Slices of White Bread (or honey wheat or wheat or french bread)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 3/4 Cup Coffee Creamer – CoffeeMate Natural Bliss Cinnamon Cream

That’s right. Coffee Creamer. That is the secret weapon in this French Toast batter. By the way, I love this creamer for my afternoon coffee, so I’ve always got a couple bottles of this stuff in my fridge.

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You could even try different flavors of creamer. I prefer Cinnamon Cream. But the seasonal creamers (I’m thinking pumpkin) could be a lot of fun.

Directions:

It’s real easy y’all. Get your skillet warm and spray a little non-stick cooking spray. And make the batter…

Crack the egg in a bowl. Pour in the creamer. Sprinkle the cinnamon. And mix it. Voila.

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Dip your bread slices in the batter.

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Throw ’em in the pan and let it sizzle away to hot French Toast. While you wait for the French Toast to cook through on both sides – pour yourself a cup of coffee. Have a sip. You deserve it.

And just like that – with a sip of coffee. This French Toast will be done. Warm up a little syrup (one of my pet peeves is cold syrup – it’s just wrong) and drizzle it all over the toast. It doesn’t need much.

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Plate it up. Serve it up. Cut it up. Bag it up (for a school snack). I don’t care how you do it as long as you eat it up. And you will. It’s rich and yummy – and it’s easy. 4 ingredients!! Can’t beat it. Try it. Your kiddos will love it. And so will you.

Enjoy – Laura!

 

 

Belize

We packed our bags and headed to Belize in December 2015 to ring in the New Year. We flew into Belize City and boarded a puddle jumper (small passenger plane) to get to the island of Ambergris Caye (also known as San Pedro) (or “La Isla Bonita” – according to Madonna). We stayed a few miles North of San Pedro at Coco Beach Resort and had a great time exploring the island of Ambergris Caye and fell in love with the mainland of Belize. Interesting Fact: English is the official language in Belize. Spanish is very common among the locals. But it’s the only country in Central America that uses English as their official language.

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Our two year old ringing in the New Year of 2016

Belize is one of those great places where it’s not quite yet booming (think Cancun or Cabo) but it’s got the tourism to bring in some really nice accommodations, service, and amazing food. Like all of our adventures – we try to stay busy every day to explore where we’re at. It’s important to us to get a feel for the country and the culture that we visit. The last thing we want to do is lock ourselves in a resort and pass up all the adventurous opportunities (and good food) waiting for us “off the beaten path”. One of our favorite things in Belize was the golf cart rental. I know it’s kinda cheesy…but it was so fun to cart around the whole island for dinner, breakfast or to the grocery store.

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Golf cart customers at the “Truck Stop”. 

Now we love Belize – the people, the food, the country are all fabulous. The beach on the other hand…it definitely doesn’t win “best beach” in my book. When I think of “a beach” I think of laying out on the beach – kids playing in the sand – running in the water – building sand castles. We didn’t get that beach experience in Belize. The beach is nice – but it’s not THAT kind of beach. Part of their eco-system includes a ton of seaweed (Sargassum Seaweed) that comes all the way up to the beach. I’m not a biologist, oceanographer, meteorologist or anything of the sort – so I really don’t know the scientific explanation or situation of the Sargassum Seaweed in Belize. It may be a seasonal thing…I’m not sure. But I do know that I was not interested in putting my freshly pedicured toes in that beach water. We walked on the beach plenty but we pretty much kept to the pool (thankfully our resort had THE best pool on the island). Belize is supposed to have some AMAZING snorkeling, diving and fishing. So despite the beach and seaweed issues – Belize is definitely a fantastic spot all around.

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The pool and beach at Coco Beach Resort

Some of our favorite family-friendly activities in Belize include:

  • Exploring San Pedro – San Pedro is the cutest little beach town. So many little shops and cruising around on your golf cart makes it easy to pop in any shop you like.
  • Boating in Belize – One of the best ways to see the island is hopping on a boat. It’s great to see the island from a different angle and the water is beautiful when you get out there.
  • Back to the Mainland – There are so many excursions offered on the mainland (and it’s just a hop and a skip away) that include exploring the mountains, rivers and Mayan ruins of Belize.
  • Mayan Ruins – We specifically went back to the mainland one day to visit the Mayan Ruin, Xunantunich. It was a loooooong day (especially with a two year old) but he did amazing (we were just pooped from trying to keep up with him) but it was SO worth it. It was hands down our favorite day in Belize.

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Waiting for our flight back to the mainland for some Mayan Ruin exploring.

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The hand cranked ferry to get across the Mopan River to get to Xunantunich

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Xunantunich (which means “Stone Woman”) was a site to see. I didn’t expect to be so awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the site. If you hike all the way to the top you can see Guatemala (the Belize/Guatemala border is only few miles away from Xunantunich). And yes, we did hike all the way to the top of the temple. Honestly, I don’t know what we were thinking hiking all the way to the top – with our child. Now before I explain the horror in my mind, let me begin by saying that there were other small children going up as well. And it really didn’t seem like such a bad idea going UP. But as soon as we got up there and took our peek at the view of Guatemala for all of a hot second – all the parents with a small child up there grabbed their kid and slowly backed down the teeny tiny and slippery stone steps with steady legs and fear in their eyes. It’s hard to realize how high you really are until you stop climbing and look down. There are no railings and no medics on sight. My legs turned to jello as soon as we made it to the ground from the tension of making it out alive (I may be embellishing a bit. But as soon as we made it to safe ground – my mind ran through all the worst possible scenarios and I just wanted to slap myself for not being more responsible). It was a scary situation for a few minutes. But all was well and every kid around there was 100% fine. And – the experience was one of a kind. Maybe one day I’ll go again and climb back to the top and actually get a few minutes to enjoy the view. It’s breathtaking (I think – from the little bit that I remember anyway).

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Keeping it real y’all. Diaper change on-the-go in Belize. 

On our way back to Belize City we stopped for lunch and had some authentic Belizean food at a little outdoor restaurant (actually every restaurant in Belize is outdoor). We met some local kids and that made our kid happy. It was a win-win.

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Puddle jumper back to San Pedro after hiking all day. Do we look tired?

Now the food in Belize was some of the best food I’ve ever had on vacation. We had great food every day and definitely had a few favorites:

  • Elvi’s Kitchen – this is hands down our favorite spot in San Pedro. The atmosphere. The food. The service. It’s so authentic and yummy.You have to go by Elvi’s at least ONCE if you’re in San Pedro.
  • Estel’s By The Sea – Great little breakfast spot on the beach right in the heart of San Pedro.
  • The Truck Stop – Sounds delicious huh? No but really. This little touch of genius just located North of San Pedro is actually a twist on a food truck park. It’s old containers turned into restaurants (very Austin – and guess what? The genius who put this together is very much from Austin! No joke). One container is a bar, one is an ice cream shop, and the other two food – local Belizean food and Asian food. The ambiance of the place is just fun – they’ve got a fire pit, picnic tables and games to play. It’s a hot spot.
  • Stella’s Smile – This is a great little outdoor spot also North of San Pedro. They host guest chefs every night from some of the best restaurants in town. So every night they feature something different and unique and it’s always fantastic. The wine list is great. And the weekend brunch with crepes and bottomless mimosas are a must.

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And this my friend…this is child-dining success. Outside, picnic tables, live music, sand, toys AND good food (and a bar) – it’s every parent’s dream. 

Belize is special place. We had an amazing time exploring the country and meeting all the happy people of Belize.

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Walking down the streets of San Pedro 

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Happy Travels,

Laura

 

 

 

 

Roatan, Honduras

We traveled to Roatan in October of 2015. We were excited and a little nervous because it was our first trip to Central America with our two year old. But more than anything we were just excited to get out and explore the beautiful country of Honduras. We flew directly into the island of Roatan. We stayed at Las Sirenas by The Mayan Princess on West Bay Beach.

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The Mayan Princess on West Bay Beach

The trip getting there wasn’t as easy as we had planned (oh you know those airlines and their delays). But we got there! Keep in mind that we are at the Southern tip of Texas – so our starting point to get to Central America is already pretty darn close. After a six hour delay we finally touched down in Roatan. And after a 30 minute drive we made it to The Mayan Princess. After a very long travel day we just wanted to get settled in. But the accommodations they had set up for us just wasn’t up to par – or at least what we had expected. It was my fault – I made the wrong booking. But the staff was very helpful and accommodating and the resort is beautiful. They kindly moved us to a different condo that worked perfectly for us! And the child you may ask?  He was such a trooper. He totally kept it together (way better than I was) and was so well behaved. Luckily they had live music at the hotel palapa bar and that kept the kid entertained while we figured our accommodations-on-arrival fiasco. This travel day is probably the worst travel day in history for us (and just for the record y’all, I tend to compare airline travel days to natural disasters. You plan for the worst and hope for the best). But this travel day was really just so absurd that it was comical – like as in we didn’t have to wait 6 months down the road to laugh at the situation – we were laughing as it happened. Murphy’s Law was totally on our side this one day.

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That is my child. Jamming out to the two-man band on the beach. 

Waking up the next morning in our 1 bedroom condo right on the beach was subliminal. The view. The beach. The water. It was a new day and our trip had begun.

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West Bay Beach – perfect beach for toddlers and kids

October is a slow month on the island of Roatan. So it was quiet and peaceful on the beach and all over the island. We discovered that the roads are very curvy and very narrow – and the drivers are a little crazy. So we decided against renting our own vehicle (and we always rent our own vehicle) and went along with using a driver during our stay (I know…”a driver”…it sounds fancy eh?). Using a driver on the island is like getting a cab – but you find a driver you really like and adopt him for the week. We found our guy and he made sure we got around anywhere we wanted to go at all hours of the day. They also have water taxis. Same principal applies – find your guy and he’ll boat you around the island.

We love to do excursions and activities on vacation. It’s the best way to explore. And when it comes to tours – small and personal is our style. Traveling with a toddler – not all activities are on the table, but you can still do a lot. And we try to do at least one thing a day before we retire to the beach to bum out the afternoon.

Some of our favorite activities in Roatan include:

  • Gumbalimba Park: We got a private tour. We hiked and explored the park. We got to visit Coxen’s Cave and visit with the monkeys. Gumbalimba Park also offers a great history of the island. It’s definitely a must-do if you’re in Roatan for a few days. Plan to get there early or late though to beat the cruise ship crowd.
  • Dolphin Encounter at Anthony’s Key Resort: Such a fun experience for all of us. It’s very educational and 100% hands on.
  • Catamaran Tour on The Radical: We ventured out to the East End of the island to board The Radical (catamaran) for a private day cruise. They took us out snorkeling and swimming. The staff was too sweet – they even had crayons and books for our little guy to play with. It was fun to visit with the local crew, tour the island from a different angle and really just to be out on the water. The did a BBQ lunch right on the boat for us and it was phenomenal.
  • Island Exploring: Some days on our trip we spent hopping on a water taxi or driving to other parts of the island to explore and shop. The island is not “nice” as in fancy. It’s not manicured and perfect. It’s naturally beautiful and undeveloped in all of it’s third world glory.

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Walking down the street in Roatan

A few of our favorite restaurants in Roatan include:

  • Roatan Oasis: It’s amazing. It’s a small local restaurant hidden and situated in a tree house. The food is fabulous and the company is even better. It’s very much a locals place and it was our favorite spot in town. (Kudos to these guys because they even had kids books ready to go for our kiddo – score for any parents at dinner!)
  • JavaVine Cafe & Wine Bar: Our favorite lunch spot. It’s located right outside the gates of The Mayan Princess and we went there almost every day for food or coffee.
  • Vintage Pearl: This restaurant is like a little diamond in the rough on West Bay Beach. The food is great. The ambiance is wonderful. The wine list is probably the one of the best on the island. And it’s located right next to Las Sirenas at Mayan Princess.
  • Gio’s: They have goooood crab legs. And our waiter was nice enough to stand there and help crack each of my crab legs (the hubs was a tad bit jealous since he had to crack all his own). This place definitely has “tourist attraction” written on it but like most tourist attraction restaurants that tend to disappoint in flavor – Gio’s did not!

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At the end of our trip, we were sad to leave Roatan. It really is one of our favorite places and we think about going back often. Considering the short trip (for us Texans anyway) and the incredibly reasonable prices for food and accommodations – Roatan is hard to beat. Now bear in mind – Roatan is NOT for everyone. Don’t go there and expect the Ritz Carlton. But you CAN go to Roatan and expect to meet the nicest people and explore one of the prettiest beaches (West Bay Beach) and a very undisturbed island.

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Happy Travels,

Laura