- Feb 03, 2014
When I first heard about Villa Ananda, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I mean, from their website I could tell that the grounds were gorgeous, and the thought of having a 4-handed massage after morning yoga next to the ocean was definitely enticing. And I’d heard that this was the secret go-to place for supermodels and designers to recover after Fashion Week. But I’d never been anywhere that the main focus was on restoring their guests back to a state of balanced and perfect health (or where their primary focus was health – period!) I’d also never been anywhere that sat me down and listened to my long list of relatively minor health complains and followed that with a completely customized week-long (or three-week long) list of daily spa treatments (including, if I wanted, enemas), fresh teas and food made with ingredients specially formulated to treat my body, and a prescription for relaxation and rest. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. In fact, I had one of the most fulfilling and helpful weeks of my life ahead of me.
Here’s how the week went down, for me. On Day One, we arrived via a non-stop flight from NYC. We were picked up at the airport, and eagerly hopped into the rugged Jeep that would take us to the resort. Taking in sights in along the way, we cruised through the windy and beautiful roads just north of Puerto Vallarta, finally arriving at the private gated community where Villa Ananda is located. Our first thoughts (besides ‘When can we explore the area?’ and ‘Wow, there are a lot of gorgeous vacation homes around here!’) were that it looked a lot more beautiful in person than photos could ever capture. Our second observation was that the energy of the place was immediately relaxing. And not just because we’d escaped the cold and crazy of New York City, but because for decades this health resort has been restoring even their most stressed and crazed guests back to a sense of calm and serenity.
The first thing we did was take our delicious Hibiscus tea and unpack in our Casita (which is basically a little villa on top of the spa, facing a private terrace, and looking right out over the ocean.) Here, everything smells, looks, and feels like a spa. That evening we were treated to our first meal. It was not only super healthy, but also specifically balanced in order to curb my late-night sugar cravings (and, amazingly, it did!)
That night, in a bed so comfortable it rivaled the most plush and luxurious 5-star resorts in the world, sleep came easy.
On Day Two, instead of the typically constant sound of angry drivers honking with the occasional siren sprinkled in, the ocean was the first thing I heard upon waking. It reminded me how lucky I was to be the only journalist in their long history ever invited to stay at, and write about, Villa Ananda. Until now, everything had been word-of-mouth. This made me feel especially good, because Mindy, the owner, saw something in me that told her I would understand what they were doing here – and why.
Check my Facebook page for notification of the next post, where I’ll be filling you in on the rest of my trip.
Love, Hilary xo
- Jan 22, 2014
I’ve come across so many great apps lately, that I simply had to share:
SpringPad – I use this to keep track of bookmarks (using their Chrome Extension), notes, shopping lists (shared with my hubby), work lists, contacts, and more.
MyShoebox – Free and easy unlimited photo backup, with cool ways to browse. I finally found a way to easily share all my photos (post hubby, that is), with my hubby.
Ink – Paper cards are still loved by many. And getting one of these would pretty much make your parents week. You know it. This is an easy way to send them something pretty, using pics from your phone.
Pocket - I use the Chrome Extension, and every time I see an article I want to read, I can click to save it for later. It allows you to add tags, and has a gorgeous interface on the web, Android, iPhone and tablet.
- Jan 13, 2014
This past weekend Mike and I volunteered to help The Animal Project. They trap stray cats/kittens and get them the medical attention they need, then they try to find them a home. They put cats and kittens up for adoption every Saturday from 2pm to 6pm at the PetCo on 92nd and Broadway. These kitties need love, so stop by and play with them!
This is a gorgeous kitty who’s about 5 months old, waiting for someone to come and love her:
If you have space in a room of your home, it would help save lives if you would take one or two cats in until they can find a home. Read more
- Jan 07, 2014
I was browsing the web looking for cat rescue charities to donate to for my dad’s birthday (we have a tradition of making donations instead of buying gifts), and I noticed that most charity or animal shelter websites were –sorry to say– pretty ugly. On top of it, they didn’t have a proper store set up, or social media share buttons.
So I decided to email one to help them out. I told them about the free website builders that are out there, and how they can make a new website quickly and easily (no, really!), which would look much more slick than the site they have now.
Then I thought? Why not give this advice to everyone??
Here are some of the website self-build services I’ve found. Read more
- Dec 31, 2013
The first thing that struck me about what we know as “Cancun” is that there are about a hundred thousand foreign tourists here. It reminds me of the Vegas strip in that it’s comprised of one long 16 kilometer road with mega-hotel after mega-hotel lining the beach. And I mean M-E-G-A. Like, absolutely massive. 800 to 1000 rooms massive. If that’s hard to picture, one of these hotels would take up at least twenty city blocks in NYC. Based on the acres, I figured out that our resort would take up about sixty New York city blocks. No, really.
There’s the airport, then there’s one big highway, and nothing anywhere but huge hotels and luxury shopping malls. If you go in a big circle around the “Hotel Zone”, you’ll pass exactly ninety-eight hotels (yeah, 98), any of which make the MGM Grand or Bellagio in Vegas look small. And that’s not including all the other mega-hotels on the way to Tulum (the other way down that highway I mentioned). Read more
- Dec 30, 2013
We touched down in Mexico at 5:30pm on Saturday, reasonably (or so we thought) expecting to be at our hotel within the hour, since it’s only a short 15 minute drive away. Three and a half hours later we were still at the airport.
Let’s start with this: Cancun in high-season is a mad house. Crazy packed. Tons and tons of tourists everywhere you look. Like Vegas on the beach.
Getting off the plane was an hour-long challenge, and once we were finally off the plane, trying to get out of the airport felt like trying to get into Walmart… on Black Friday. Mobs of confused and hurried tourists trying to reach the mega-busses that aimed to take them to The Strip: ie. the narrow slip of land that houses about 80 Vegas-style mega-hotels. This is the first time in my life (aside from Disney World and Vegas) that I’ve gotten to experience this sort of hotel and scene.
- Dec 25, 2013
Let’s admit it – NYC it at it’s best during the holiday season. The city transforms into a fabulous winter wonderland and drowns in the beautiful holiday lights even before the first spell of snow. You can’t help but fall in love with the spectacular sights. The magnificent Christmas trees, fabulous events, department – store window displays and other holiday attractions that pop up in the city simply add to the already awesome vibe that NYC has. And of course, as always, the holidays brought with it a party season; a crazy few weeks of office parties, family get-togethers and cozy cocktails with friends.
By the time Christmas Day rolls around, most New Yorkers are already exhausted after all the shopping and parties. But if all that wasn’t enough to satisfy your holiday merrytime appetite, here’s my list of fun things that you can do: Read more
- Dec 24, 2013
So… Mike and I were in the shower this morning, talking about our charitable gift giving tradition, and I admitted that, even though I love it, part of me still feels like we should have some sort of gift for Christmas.
Soooo here’s what we came up with: each Christmas Eve, we’ll go on a little treasure hunt, wearing Santa hats, of course (this year we couldn’t find any last minute, so that part we’ll start next year). We’ll finish at about 4pm, in time for afternoon tea at a fancy hotel (this is the best deal ever – for $7 or $8 a pot, you can sit and hang out for hours, but make sure to arrive between 3pm and 4:30pm). We’ll set a spending limit (an amount that allows us to buy something nice, but not crazy) and only allow one item each. We’ll walk around Madison Ave and see what we can get for that amount.
A great bonus: this’ll take all the pressure out of having to find something the other person will like, since we’re picking our own gift.
- Dec 23, 2013
This Christmas my family continued a tradition we’ve been doing for a while: not spending money to give each other more crap we don’t need and will probably rarely use. Some years we’ve given each other gifts that we’ve handmade for each other. This year we are going to spend some money but it will directed into the hands of loving strangers.
Yup, that’s right. Instead of buying each other socks and jewelry, we are going to buy animals a second chance at life by donating to no-kill animal shelters and rescue sanctuaries. They say that the best feelings and most happiness comes from feeling like you have a sense of purpose and are doing good in the world… well isn’t Christmas the perfect time for that? And what a great lesson for kids!
- Dec 20, 2013
As I write this, I’m crammed into a tiny economy seat on a sold-out American Airlines flight because yesterday’s flight got cancelled. As many frequent travelers know, and I’ve certainly been reminded over the years, there are huge differences between airlines, first class cabins, and airplanes. Below are my preferences and tips, based on my experiences so far:
Get Global Entry & TSA Pre: If you fly a lot, these will shave precious minutes off the time you have to spend in the airport. For $100 per 5 years (or, if you’ve got a Platinum AMEX, it’s $0), Global Entry allows you to skip customs on the US side (you use a quick touch-screen kiosk instead). Global Entry members are automatically eligible for TSA Pre at no additional fee, which lets you get through security much faster (no more taking your laptop out and your shoes off!)
Note: I got conditionally approved for Global Entry within a couple of weeks, but when I had to do my interview, the one Global Entry Manhattan location listed on the Global Entry website was booked up for three months. Butttt… I did some digging and found out that you can be interviewed at Newark or JFK within a couple of days. Call 718-553-1237 for JFK and 973-565-8000 ext 8135 for Newark, and have your Global Entry number handy.
Route Happy is my favorite way to book flights. The site aggregates other user’s reviews, flight length, seat size, plane age, amenities, Wi-Fi, etc, then rates available flights by a happiness score. Brilliant!
Check out Seat Guru: It’ll tell you what the plane you’re considering booking a flight on will be like, and what seats you should choose.
- Dec 18, 2013
I’ve already sent this gift to three family members who are not very tecchie. It’s kind of the perfect gift – easy to use, fun, under $100 and something they’ll likely use daily (I do!), so it’ll be a regular reminder of how much you care about them. If they already have a smart TV, like me, they’ll still find it useful. Here’s why:
As I found out the expensive way, Smart TVs are very limited in what apps you can use, and their visual interface is far less evolved. A better option is to get this tiny $88 Roku box which turns any TV into a “super” Smart TV and gives you every app you ever wanted, plus a ton of other fun perks.
- Dec 16, 2013
When we were stranded in Palm Beach, Florida because our flight was canceled this week, Kathryn and Bonnie (thank you!) at The Breakers saved us by giving us a fabulous room at a great media rate (because I wrote an article about The Breakers on a previous visit). It was a very nostalgic end to our Florida trip because The Breakers was Mike & my first trip together, so it’ll always have a special place in our heart. That, and because the whole experience is so impeccable each time, that we are constantly gushing over the incredible decor, perfect service, and gorgeous grounds and architecture.
I love everything Christmas: the music, the decor, the spirit. So I was super happy to see tons of it at The Breakers. Like the two massive Christmas trees in the lobby (which we did the obligatory photo in front of) and lots of accents all over the building.
When we got to our room, we found a nice little surprise: Read more
- Dec 13, 2013
The season of snowmen and mistletoe is finally here and as you can guess, I am super excited because this year it’s extra special. For one thing, Mike and I are going to Mexico for a week right after Christmas. Mike’s friend Parker gave us a week vacation as a wedding gift (like, WOW. Thank you!!!) I’ve spent Christmas in warm climates before and, to me, it loses something. Maybe because I grew up in Canada, and am used to snowy Christmas’, I really need the snow to feel like I’m truly experiencing the holiday. That’s why I’m glad we’re leaving on the 28th. (More to come about that, of course!)
Yesterday we went for a walk on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. I think if you lined up all the expensive shops in the Hamptons, it still wouldn’t come close to the number of high-end stores on this one street. It’s pretty decadent, and a super fun place to window shop. We didn’t buy anything (I prefer eBay, anyway!), but I did get to take some photos of a newly married couple in front of an enormous Christmas tree.
While I’ve been on vacation, I’ve been making a mental note of things that need to get done, shopping, party ideas to finalizing dinner recipes. I have been scouring the the net for holiday tips and tricks and have found some Read more
- Dec 11, 2013
I’m still in Florida visiting family. It’s been fun so far. We’re in a bungalow on the beach, which makes me wish I actually lived on the beach the rest of the time. Listening to the ocean –and watching it– is so super relaxing.
My super sweet aunt Linda Collie lives a quick drive from the bungalow we’re renting, and she feeds and lets people stay (for free) at a guest house in Florida and in North Carolina in exchange for gardening help, through a program called HelpX… she just got this review, which is really heartwarming: Read more
- Dec 09, 2013
Mike and I flew to Florida on Saturday for our yearly family trip. Every December at around this time, my parents, and now Mike and I, meet up in Palm Beach and rent a bungalow on the beach. I’m very fortunate to have a super close relationship with my parents (and my brother Simon, who lives in Toronto), so it’s always a treat to hang with them for a week. Luckily, Mike gets along with them as if he was their own son.
On Sunday, we headed down to Art Basel in Miami to check out a couple of art exhibitions we love: Pulse and Scope. Just the two of them take at least six hours to go through, and are enough to exhaust me. There are so many shows going on during Art Basel that it’s a bit overwhelming. Some are exciting and some are underwhelming, and unless you have recommendations, it’s hard to know which ones to go to. If you have any recommendations for next year, please let me know!
South Beach is a rowdy place. It’s become a very commercial destination that lacks the warmth and character of many other vacation spots in this country. There’s an all-day aggressive party atmosphere that I wasn’t anticipating. It struck me as the kind of place people go when they’ve given up on finding their match on Grinder or Tinder. The streets are filled with people sucking on bowl-size margaritas, getting sloppy drunk and unabashedly gawking at naked go-go dancers who are shaking their backside to thumping club beats, seeking attention from anyone who cares to look. Read more
- Dec 06, 2013
Happy Holidays! This is my favorite time of year and, in my opinion, it just got a lot better.
Did you know this?
New York City was the site of the country’s very first Christmas tree retail lot. In 1851, entrepreneur Mark Carr hauled two sleds loaded with pine trees from the Catskills and sold them in Manhattan.
Today, bundled evergreens line the streets of New York City from Thanksgiving through Christmas. The scent of evergreen mingles with the odors of taxi exhaust and urine (ahhh, New York during the holidays). Trees are sold from retail lots, from the backs of trucks, and from makeshift displays at local bodegas and stores.
- Dec 04, 2013
This past weekend my hubby and I were invited to stay at The Mayflower Inn & Spa for a few nights. I was super excited, of course, because I’d heard from several people that it’s one of the best hotels in the country. What I didn’t expect is that the spa would be world-class as well.
The moment we arrived and stepped into the overwhelmingly luxurious lobby, with several cozy sitting rooms to our right and left, we realized that this hotel is one of those where it has to be seen to be believed. No website, video or photos could ever do the property justice, because the luxury of the Mayflower is not only in the details, but in the ambiance.
We decided that it’d be fun to stay in two different rooms (both in the Allerton building, next to the spa), in an effort to trick our minds into thinking our stay was a bit longer (I’d live at the Mayflower if I could!) Here are some photos:
The hotel’s decor can be summed up in two words: Glamorous Luxury. Embroidered silks everywhere, Frette everything, heated bathroom floors… you get the picture. We basically wanted to lock ourselves in the room for our entire stay (and we almost did – ordering room service twice and watching more movies than I’d like to admit) Read more
- Dec 02, 2013
Over the years, I’ve come to the realization that, if you stand out in some way, having haters is inevitable. There are people out there who approach others with love and benefit of the doubt, and there are people out there who snap to judge, like to put people in boxes, and have very little empathy. That’s just how the world is. If you don’t fit in, there are people out there who will notice and decide they hate you without even giving you a chance — without even having met you.
Years ago, a slimy online tabloid wrote some stuff about me that wasn’t based on reality. In fact, the three writers were all based in San Francisco and had never met me, nor had they talked to any of my friends. They still found me fair game to write about, and since they didn’t know me from Adam, and didn’t have any actual context, they made stuff up, including supposed encounters, which I know for a fact I never had. For example, they said that I was at a cocktail party and kept talking about my career, starting from the beginning each time someone new came into the group I was fictitiously talking to.
Now, if they’d ever met me or talked to any of my friends, they’d know that Read more
- Nov 29, 2013
Last year we had a wonderful Thanksgiving in Brooklyn with our friends Max and Jill, so this year is the first time I’ve really experienced a true American Thanksgiving with family and in-laws. We spent it at Mike’s mom’s boyfriend’s place in Southampton. His house is very cute, with brown wood shingles; sort of like Nantucket-style.
- Nov 27, 2013
Ouch! I had the worst migraine ever yesterday. This is something I’ve been dealing with since I was a little girl. I remember I had a really bad one when I was seven years old; I was in the back of my parents car, and I was puking in the backseat as we drove down the highway. Not fun! My poor mom was seriously freaked out, so we pulled over to the nearest pharmacy, where she bought out half the store in search for anything that would help make the pain go away. Unfortunately, none of it really helped. Once you get a migraine, there isn’t much you can do. It’s kinda like when you get a cold. You can only help by catching it in the first hour or two. After that, it’s down the rabbit hole… Read more
- Nov 25, 2013
I woke up this morning wishing I was still at the Windham Hill Inn. We spent the past weekend at this charming Vermont B&B, and felt as if we were a thousand miles from home.
Luckily, a reader suggested I start doing videos, and I took his advice, so I can re-live the Windham Hill Inn experience a little bit. Let me know what you think of my first video, and if you have suggestions for me:
Windham Hill Inn is nestled in the valley of the green mountains. Our room felt as if we were in the biggest and most luxurious tree house imaginable. The bed was made of wood, the wallpaper reminded me of a Ralph Lauren-style smoking den, and it was super spacious, with two lounging areas and a bathtub in the main room.
With lots of big windows, we woke up to breathtaking views, a crackling fire, and overwhelming excitement about the cuisine that awaited us.
This boutique hotel is known for Read more
- Nov 22, 2013
Mike and I have both been working super hard lately, so when a great boutique hotel in the mountains invited us to stay, we jumped at the opportunity. It’s about a 4 hour drive from NYC, so we jumped in the car yesterday at around noon, put Sirius on the Christmas music station (yes, I’m one of those people), and headed out. Within in an hour we realized that we’re actually super hungry, and stopped in Greenwich Connecticut. I’d never been before, but I’d hear it’s a lot like the Hamptons. I only really checked out the main street, but yeah, it’s like the Hamptons on steroids. Every shop you could imagine, from Saks, to Tiffany & Co., to Rag & Bone… this town is set up for shopping.
- Nov 21, 2013
So, my hubby is in bed right now. He’s not feeling well, but he’s been munching Echinacea, Vit C, Zinc and Oscillococcinum (why on earth did they name it that??), so hopefully he’ll feel better soon. Later today we’ll be driving to Vermont for a romantic weekend away at a fab Relais & Chateaux property (more to come on that tomorrow). I guess I should be packing, but instead I’m using this time to scout for Christmas gifts online.
He reads this blog (obvi) so I can’t tell you exactly what I got him (yet). But last night Read more
- Nov 20, 2013
Adopting my cats was, next to marrying Mike, the single action that has brought me the most happiness through my life. However, if you live in NYC and have pets, then you know that vet bills can be craaaazzzzyyyy expensive. Like, nutty expensive. Think $1000 to have teeth cleaned, $5,000 to $10,000 to have bladder stones removed, and hundreds for a general “wellness” yearly checkup. Yikes!
Well, I did my exhaustive research and found out how to avoid this. But first, some important stuff you should know…