Eaglewood Resort & Spa

This past weekend, Brooke and I had the wonderful opportunity to stay at the beautiful Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca, Illinois.  If you are a spa lover, golfer or foodie, this resort is right up your alley. Speaking of ‘alley’, they also have an actual cosmic bowling alley which was such a pleasant and fun surprise!

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Life Lessons Learned in Costa Rica-From our Horses and the Eponicity Program

When we arrived in Costa Rica,  we had no idea we were spending the week with creatures that are truly intuitive beings.  Intuition is a sixth sense and horses definitely possess this gift.  As animals of prey in nature, horses must know the intentions of those around them.  Have you ever wondered why zebras can drink from the same reservoir as lions only a few feet away and not display any fear? It is because they intuitively know the intentions of the lions at that time.  Rather than analyze the situation like humans do, the zebras actually feel through intuition. Such is the case with horses.

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Intuition is like a radio station that is consistently transmitting messages but we only hear them when we tune in. Failure to hear the messages is due solely to our inability to quiet our minds and listen.  Society has taught us to not listen to our intuition. We have become an imbalanced left brain culture.

Horses are sensitive to people’s energy and body language. They can pick up subtle signs that we as humans are not as in tune with. They sense incongruity in how a person is presenting themselves and the type of energy they give off. Horses are non-judgmental beings that can’t lie– giving honest feedback and encouraging us to be authentic at all times. They are great lie-detectors and will call you out if you are wearing any masks or hide behind your ego. You can’t fool a horse.

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Perfect Example:  When I first met my horse, Cosmo, I was smiling and trying to act confident, yet inside I was afraid and felt extremely intimidated by him. I also was feeling sorry for him and felt like I had to be his nurturer and care taker.  Cosmo in turn, would not even make eye contact with me.  In fact, he turned around, gave me the cold shoulder and basically put his ass in my face.  Debbie told me immediately that he can sense my outward body language is not aligned with my inner feelings and energy.  So I let go of the mask and  became completely authentic and grounded.  Cosmo then turned his head towards mine, looked me straight in the eyes and started breathing his breath so close to me, I was inhaling his exhales.  It was a defining moment in my life and profoundly changed something within. And so the lessons began.

 

What we learned in Costa Rica:

  1. Detach From Fear and Your Past

We each have a story that we have formed about every event, situation and experience in our lives. Most of our stories are based on our beliefs and our level of consciousness at that time. Often times we over-identify with our stories, allow them to define and control us. But as we cling to our stories, we hinder ourselves from finding and living our truth. We often suffer when our stories are not aligned with the greater good.  Detachment from old stories and false beliefs about life, ourselves and others, is vital for growth and personal transformation. We must learn that by changing our stories, we free ourselves and change our lives. With mindfulness and present moment awareness, we gain a new perspective. We realize that we have a choice in every single moment to write a new story- -a story of hope and new beginnings.

 

2. Suffering is a Necessary Part of Growth

Understanding that pain and suffering serve our spiritual growth may be a challenging concept to grasp for most of us, especially in those moments when we are in the midst of experiencing turmoil. Many of us unconsciously suppress and escape pain, both physically and emotionally. But unexpressed pain can cause more suffering if we are not aware of it. When the energy of pain is not released, emotional blockages are formed and we become trapped.   Just as physical pain tells us something is going on in our bodies that needs our attention, emotional pain tells us we need to go within ourselves and pay attention to our intuition. We have the choice to let pain and suffering debilitate us or we can choose to see it as a catalyst to delve deeper into ourselves and our beliefs. Often pain and suffering lead to the bigger questions about life, existence, and most importantly our purpose. With awareness, we realize that pain is opportunity to challenge the way we look at life. Pain is a messenger.  Pay close attention to it in order for the lessons hidden deep within yourself.

 

3. Our Intentions Create Our Realities

We each create our reality with our intentions, both consciously and unconsciously. These intentions include our thoughts, ideas and actions. With each intention we plant a seed within the field of our consciousness. The effects of our intentions determine the experiences of our lives. Once we understand the power of our intentions, we begin to choose thoughts that are more loving, supporting and harmonious; and thus we experience more peace, freedom and joy. Intention is energy and manifests itself through our consciousness; therefore we must be clear about our intentions in order to manifest what we desire in our hearts. Intentions give us purpose and direction in life and we learn to become masters of our own fate rather than victims.

Through the Eponicity Equine Program at Leaves and Lizards Resort, we learned to quiet our minds and listen to the lessons waiting for us. Thank  you Cosmo, Beauty, Espartaco and of course, Debbie and Steve.  You have changed our lives forever. Can’t wait to see you all again this spring!

Costa Rica-La Pura Vida

Waking up in the midst of a lush rainforest back dropped with the ever-changing view of the Arenal Volcano is how we spent this past week, as Brooke, my son Adam, and I visited Costa Rica for our very first time.  We stayed at a resort called Leaves and Lizards which is located near La Fortuna.  Often when we travel, it takes us a few days to feel comfortable and fully get into vacation mode, but the moment we stepped foot on the property here, it felt like home.

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The 26-acre farm resort is a quiet, tranquil respite situated on a hilltop.  Waking up to the sounds of birds, insects, and many unfamiliar animals immediately immersed us in the beauty of Costa Rica. Upon waking, we worked on the farm, gathering eggs and milking cows to prepare for our delicious and wholesome breakfast.  Yoga, swimming, nature walks, relaxing and soaking in the beauty around this resort are all a part of the daily routine here.

 

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There is so much to do in this region of Costa Rica from rainforest tours, rafting, zip lining, hiking, swimming in hot springs, you name it.  We chose to partake in a program called Eponicity, a therapuetic equine program that has forever impacted and changed our lives. People from all over the world come here to work with Debbie, owner and expert in Eponaquest Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL).  The program we attended was three full days and the profound bond created with our horses is indescribable.  Learning about these beautiful creatures and the journey of self-discovery is something we did not anticipate at all with regards to this trip.

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Steve, Debbie, Beauty and Brooke

Whether with family or a solo trip, if you desire a deep connection with nature and the opportunity to experience the healing power of  horses and how they help the human soul, you must take this journey. If we humans could be a sensitive as these
intuitive animals, the world would truly be a peaceful place. This is an
experience we can’t begin to explain with words.

 

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Thank you Cosmo for the life-changing lessons

 

Costa Rica is known as the land of Pura Vida which means “simple life” or “pure life.” It is the way of life there–from an abundance of adventures, to the beauty and kindness of its people, to the blessings of Nature and the magical feeling of this sacred place.  We aren’t even unpacked yet, and are already planning our return trip.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the natural beauty we were surrounded by on this trip:

 

 

And definitely a highlight for us was of course the amazing animals:

And a quick shout out to Alejandro for the most delicious and authentic Costa Rican cuisine and yummy pina coladas!

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Debbie and Steve, we can’t thank you enough for welcoming us with open arms.  We miss you and will definitely see you again soon.

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Up Next:

Life Lessons Learned in Costa Rica

 

 

 

The Magic Of Mackinac Island and Mission Point Resort

Living in the suburbs of Chicago for a couple of decades now, common conversation with friends and colleagues often focuses around  family road trips to various Midwest destinations– Mackinac Island being the first and foremost…with an abundance of oohs, ahhhs and starry-eyed stories of this dreamy far-off Michigan land. When I dared mention that I had yet to experience Mackinac Island, looks of disbelief, disgust and dismay abounded. How was this possible?  To be honest, Mackinac has been on my bucket list for many, many years now, but life just didn’t allow me to find my way to this charming storybook location …until this glorious June week.

Now that I have seen the Mackinac light, I am furious at myself for robbing  my family (and myself) of one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States, if not the entire world. But we cannot live in the past; I am profoundly elated that we made this trip, for it has positively impacted our lives forever.

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Door County, Wisconsin in the Spring

After visiting Door County, Wisconsin last Fall, we felt it only fair to experience this picturesque area of the American Midwest during the season of renewal.  We were a bit skeptical about our return, since our fall visit was utterly surreal, but Door County certainly does not disappoint whether you prefer a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves or a rainbow of tulips dappling each picturesque town.

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Embassy Suites Chicago–Two Thumbs Down

Brooke and I have never written a poor hotel review, as we have honestly loved all the places we’ve stayed and have never had any significant negative experiences.  That is until now.

Last weekend, Brooke and I headed into Chicago for our Spring Staycation weekend.  We knew we wanted to bike along the lakefront and visit Navy Pier so we decided to stay at the Embassy Suites on Columbus.  Turns out the location is the only positive aspect of this hotel, and we really tried to remain as positive as possible.  However, here are five reasons we will never stay here again:

  1.  Safety–  The hotel is designed with clear glass walls about three feet high.  If you are on a high floor, as we were, there is a serious risk of falling over.  At first we thought the glass was floor to ceiling and actually leaned forward to take pictures of the street down below.  Brooke realized we were not protected and we immediately jumped back in shock. The couple next to us did not realize this either and were terrified.  The entire perimeter of the atrium is a safety hazard.  I would never recommend bringing young children here–it was scary enough for us.

2.       Outdated Rooms-Upon entering our room, our smiles became as grey as the  decor.  The carpet had to be from 1972. Everything was drab and lifeless. We took no photos because there was nothing appealing to take pictures of.

3. Arachnophobia–If you have a fear of spiders, do not stay here.  I woke up around 5:00 am to try to catch the sunrise from the partial lake view (had an upgrade to a lake view and can’t imagine what the non upgrade would have been).  Still in bed, I leaned over to put my glasses on and looked out the window. There dangling from a massive web was a giant black spider. At first I thought it has to be outside of the window. Wrong!  It was right there on the inside, and it wasn’t your typical daddy long legged fellow. This was a spider with one of those giant bulbous bodies. There was no way I was going to go near this, so watching the sunrise was out of the question. I sat up in bed thinking, this can’t really get any worse–until I saw the second spider.

4.  Breakfast–We were excited about the breakfast because we knew there were two options: a made to order station and a buffet.  There’s nothing like custom made omelettes so I had my heart set on the made to order station–until we arrived and realized 50 other people had the same idea. So buffet it was.  On a positive note, there was a lot of food–pastries, pancakes, hash browns, bacon and scrambled eggs.  However, the eggs were colder than the frigid air conditioning blowing down upon us.  The temperature had to have been intentional to get people to scarf down their food, get out and lessen the enormous line.

5. The Pool– Brooke was looking forward to a relaxing late night swim at the pool so we headed down around 9pm thinking we’d have the pool basically to ourselves.  Upon entering our eyes spied at least 50 screaming kids splashing and flailing violently! It was like Marco Polo on steroids! Where the heck were all of the parents? Did they just drop their children off at the pool and head out for a night on the town?  With the horrible herd of unsupervised children, we did a quick 180 and headed back to our room.

Despite the disappointment of The Embassy Suites, we still had an amazing time in Chicago.  Spring is the ideal time to visit the city. The energy of people finally emerging from winter hibernation, the abundance of tulips blooming and the warmth of the May sunshine on your face makes a weekend in the city a wonderful experience.  Just make sure to conduct thorough research because where you stay really does make or break the experience.

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Mother-Daughter Milwaukee Weekend

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8…Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!  (Millennials, ask your parents.) I showed Brooke an episode of Laverne and Shirley before we headed out on our mother-daughter Milwaukee weekend.  And yes, I made her reenact the opening right out on the street in public.  Considering I was taking her to a Miranda Sings concert, it was more than a fair exchange.

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Milwaukee is such an easy weekend getaway from our Chicago suburb of Naperville…just under a two hour drive.  Packing for a weekend is so simple: one wheelie suitcase (of course from Baggallini) with two outfits for each of us, bathing suits for the pool and spa, pjs, and loads of textbooks so Brooke could get her homework done in between  the concert and sightseeing–let’s not discuss whether that happened or not.

Brooke’s backpack was filled to the brim with makeup for the Miranda Sings concert at the Riverside Theatre. I’ve never seen more red lipstick in my life!  I had no expectation for the concert and it was actually so funny. Colleen Ballinger is super talented, although not appropriate for children under 15 in my opinion.

 

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A lot of prep for a 60 minute concert!

 

Where we stayed:  

If you visit Milwaukee, I can’t imagine you’d want to stay anywhere other than The Pfister Hotel.  If you don’t know it’s history, it’s fascinating.

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Known as  the “Jewel of Milwaukee,” the first thing you’ll be swept away by is the ornate Romanesque Revival architecture. Built in 1893, it truly felt like we time traveled.  The opulence of staircases, chandeliers, muraled ceilings and marble accents will make you instantly feel like royalty. The Pfister Hotel has the largest collection of Victorian art in America.  The pool, spa, suites and lounge areas all get 5/5 ratings in our book. The only disappointment was the restaurant, Mason Street Grill.  It was honestly the worst Halibut I’ve ever had and Brooke’s flatbread pizza had the soggiest crust.  We were greatly disappointed but the beauty of the hotel and the city definitely made up for it.

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What we did for two days in Milwaukee:

Knowing basically nothing about Milwaukee, we were excited to explore the city.Here’s what we learned just by meeting people, asking questions and a bit of research:

Milwaukee is a German settlement and the influential Captain Fredrick Pabst’s name is everywhere. He was a German-American brewer who purchased the Pabst Theatre in 1890. Milwaukee is divided by the Milwaukee River. The east sits along the Milwaukee Bay which spills into Lake Michigan.  The buildings here are full of character.  City Hall could probably be mistaken for Big Ben and the Federal Building looks like a European castle.  The west side of Milwaukee seems more suburban and is home to Marquette University–now on Brooke’s college radar. Along the lake is the Museum of Art.  It looks like a ship or perhaps a whale.  Either way, it’s a work of art in itself!

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Although we were surprised not to find any breweries, there’s definitely not a lack of churches in Milwaukee.  There almost seems to be a church on every block and the architecture is magnificent.  Again…European teleportation.

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Overall, we’ve decided that we’d “walk” all over Milkwaukee anytime!  What an architecture gem!

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Have you ever visited Milwaukee?  We will definitely return…maybe for a college visit!