“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius.”  – Mark Twain

A good friend of mine just got back from an amazing week in Mauritius, and after seeing all of her photos and hearing about her trip, I can’t get it out of my head! I am having major wanderlust, and dreaming of spending a luxurious week in Mauritius with the whole family.

This is what I would do during that amazing week in Mauritius with kids…

The most luxurious, family-friendly vacation in Maritius

Luxurious and Family-Friendly Hotels in Mauritius

There are a plethora of luxury hotels in Mauritius that also happen to be extremely family friendly. I’m having a hard time deciding between Lux* Belle MarShanti Maurice, the Maradiva Villas, and the Four Seasons Mauritius. They are all gorgeous, luxury resorts right on the beach, with kids clubs and other amenities to pamper the little guests as much as their parents.

After much deliberation, we decide on the beautiful Shanti Maurice, which is located on one of the best beaches on the island. We will splurge for a luxurious villa, complete with a private garden, infinity pool and outdoor rain shower. I am picturing myself right now laying out on the comfy loungers looking at the ocean as the kids play in the pool all day. How incredible would it be to have a private pool, and not have to worry about the kids getting too rowdy or splashing anyone else who happens to be nearby?!

The most luxurious, family-friendly vacation in Maritius

Eventually my girls will want to head down to the kids club, where there is an extensive activities program for kids including kids yoga, dance lessons, cooking classes, arts & crafts workshops, treasure hunts, face painting and more.

When it comes time to eat, we will choose between one of Shanti Maurice’s multiple restaurants, all of which use fresh, organic ingredients from their very own vegetable and herb garden. Hopefully we will be able to get a tour of the garden from one of the chefs before we eat, so that the girls can see where their food is coming from.

The most luxurious, family-friendly vacation in Maritius

So Many Things to Do in Mauritius with Kids

It would be easy to spend our entire vacation at the resort, but there are so many things to see and do on Mauritius, so we will make ourselves venture out once in a while.

Beaches  |  Lets be honest, this is the main reason why I want to go to Mauritius. The Beaches is Mauritius are truly picture perfect, with soft white sand and crystal clear water. So we will spend plenty of time at the beach.

The most luxurious, family-friendly vacation in Maritius

Dolphin Watching  |  The girls love going on on whale watching boats in Maui every winter, so I know they would love watching the dolphins around the coastline of Mauritius. Maybe we can even swim or snorkel with them if we are lucky.

Wildlife  |  From riding a 100-year-old giant tortoise at La Vanille Nature Park to feeding giraffes and walking with lions at Casela Nature Park, we will have plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with Mauritius’s wildlife.

Water Sports  |  Mauritius is the perfect place to experience everything from windsurfing and paddle boarding to scuba and snorkeling. I have been looking forward to the time that both of my girls could swim comfortably, so that we could all go out snorkeling. I think this will be a perfect first time for us, checking out the magnificent coral reefs that surround the island. And we will definitely have to go out sailing on a catamaran!

The most luxurious, family-friendly vacation in Maritius

Botanical Gardens  |  From what I’ve heard, you can’t go to Mauritius and not go to the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden. So we will head there to check out the palm trees, tropical plants and especially the giant water lilies, which I know my girls will love.

Hiking  |  Less than 20 minutes away from the Shanti Maurice is the Black River Gorges National Park, where we will take a nice easy hike and possibly have a picnic.

The most luxurious, family-friendly vacation in Maritius

The Top of my Bucket List

I think Mauritius will be the perfect destination for a luxurious, family friendly vacation, and I can’t wait to visit someday soon. I think it is now at the top of my bucket list. What about you? Have I (or these gorgeous photos) convinced you to add Mauritius to your bucket list yet?

This post is sponsored by iExplore and Tourism Mauritius.

April snowstorm in Bavaria

{photo via Instagram}

Happy Friday everyone! I hope it is sunny and warm wherever you are, and you have had a wonderful last few weeks. We spent the majority of April traveling, where it was definitely not spring-like. It was fun to get another chance to experience snow in the Alps. But we are happy to be back home in beautiful Vienna where the sun is shining. We are heading to one of my favorite places up in the Vienna Woods tomorrow to spend a nice afternoon in the sun with great friends. Trying to soak up every last second we have remaining in this amazing place!

A few of my favorite things this month…

theSkimm

I can’t believe that I haven’t written about theSkimm in one of my favorite things posts yet. I have been obsessed with it for years, and I talk about it all the time to anyone who will listen. So I am finally sharing it with all of you, too. TheSkimm is a daily email, with just about everything you need to know about current events. I find watching or reading the news quite depressing, and often it is not appropriate with young children around, but I still want to be informed and educated on what is going on in the world. TheSkimm gives it all to me in a witty, succinct little email that takes less than 5 minutes to read. It has truly changed my life, and allows me to have much better conversations about world events, politics, and even pop culture. It is especially important to me now that I don’t live in the US, so I can keep up with what is going on. Sign up here.

Madewell Transport Tote

I have had the Madewell Transport Tote for almost 4 years, and it still looks as good as new. It is my go-to, good-for-everything, everyday workhorse bag. It has been used as a purse, computer bag, camera bag, diaper bag, library book bag, beach bag, farmers market bag and shopping tote. And it works well in every single situation. I usually love bags with lots of organization, but the beauty of this bag is that it is so simple. I just throw everything in and call it a day! It is big enough to fit everything I need for myself and both kids for an entire day, and then some.

Oil Pulling

Have you all heard of oil pulling? It is an Ayurvedic practice where you swish oil around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes first thing in the morning to clean and detoxify your teeth, gums and mouth. After your spit the oil out, you rinse your mouth with water, and brush as normal. In addition to cleaning and detoxifying, it helps whiten teeth, eliminate bad breath, strengthen gums and jaw, and more. I first heard about oil pulling a few years ago, but it sounded like too much trouble, so I didn’t try it. Then a few months ago, as I was doing a major overhaul of my morning routine, I decided to give it a go. And I ended up loving it. It did take a while to get used to, but I actually look forward to it now. I use organic coconut oil with a few drops of peppermint essential oil mixed in. If you don’t want to mix yourself, this is a great option, and comes in a cute jar, too!

Ikea Koppla Charger

OK, yes, this is just a plain little charger. Nothing fancy at all. But it is simplifies things immensely, cuts down on clutter, and only costs a few dollars. What is not to love about that? You can plug 3 different USB cords into it, meaning you can charge your phone, watch, and iPad at once. It is especially great for traveling, sine it is impossible to find enough outlets in any hotel or AirBnB.

Kapla Blocks

My girls are completely obsessed with Kapla Blocks. My 7 year old has played with them quite a bit at school, so put them on her wishlist. They each got a set of the colored blocks for Christmas, and we quickly realized that we needed more for what they wanted to build. So we recently added a set of 200 plain blocks to our collection. There is so much to love about Kapla blocks. They are beautiful, natural, well made, simple, open-ended, and don’t look terrible when they are left all over the living room. But my favorite thing about these is that they are good for any age. I love building with them almost as much as the kids do!

A few more of my favorite things from around the web…

What are some of your favorite things lately?

Votive Church in January - Vienna, Austria

Have any of you done a social-media detox?

I decided to completely unplug from all social media and blogs for the entire month of January, and it was such a nice, refreshing way to start the year that I might make this an annual thing. I literally have not opened up Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in over a month.  And I haven’t missed it one bit.

Instead, I spent the month spending time with family and friends, playing in the snow, and getting organized for 2017.

I’m also switching things up a little bit on the monthly Favorite Things posts. In addition to my favorite links from around the web, I’m sharing a few things that really made my month. I hope you like the new format!

A few of my favorite things this month…

Minimalism: a Documentary About the Important Things

I have been following The Minimalists for years. I have read all of their books, most of their essays, and I listen to their podcast every week. And I recommend their stuff to just about everyone I talk to. So of course I was excited to watch their documentary, Minimalism: a Documentary About the Important Things. (I swear I’m not a groupie, I just love minimalism!) The documentary was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I especially liked that we were able to watch it as a family. I have been trying to talk to my 7 year old about minimalism and this documentary allowed us to expand our conversations about things like advertising to children and thoughtless consumption. Apart from a few swear words (which I wish they would have cut) it was great.

Grandparent Prints from 76th & Newbury

Every year, we struggle to think of meaningful gifts for our parents. They all have everything they could ever want or need. And we prefer to give gifts that won’t turn into clutter. So we try to give something that has sentimental value, and has to do with the kids. We gave this Grandchildren Art Print to my mother-in-law for her birthday this year, and she absolutely loves it. She had so much fun picking out the silhouettes to match the personalities of each of their 10 grandchildren. And she was even able to pick colors to match her decor. I am not sure who is enjoying the beautiful wall canvas more, my mother-in law or all of the grandkids who love finding themselves in the picture every time they come visit.

Nourishing Facial Serum

We have had a very very cold January here in Austria. (The coldest January in 30 years!) And all of this cold, dry air has been terrible for my skin. The only thing that seems to help keep my skin hydrated is a generous application of my home made all-natural Nourishing Facial Serum, morning and night. And sometimes mid day as well.

Evernote

I spent a lot of time this month getting organized. And my favorite tool for organizing everything from recipes to travel itineraries to my never ending to-do list is Evernote. The more I use it, the more impressed I am with the capabilities of Evernote. And how it helps me simplify my life. If you are serious about getting organized, and you aren’t already using Evernote, stop what you are doing and go download it to every device that you have.

A Man Called Ove

I was on the waiting list for A Man Called Ove at my library for months, and it was so worth the wait. Written by a Swedish blogger who has a few things in common with Ove, this feel-good story of “the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.” I loved this book so much that right when I finished, I got on the waitlist for all three of his other novels, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and LongerMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here. (Judging by how many people are on the waitlists for each, I’m not the only one who had this idea!) This is best book I have read in a very long time. But be warned, I was crying ugly tears at the end.

A few more of my favorite things from around the web…

What are some of your favorite things lately?

A complete review of Reiters Finest Familyhotel - Voted the Best Family Wellness Hotel in Austria

Right before Christmas, we took a quick trip down to South Burgenland to check out Reiters Finest Familyhotel. Reiters was voted the best family wellness hotel in Austria, and we thought a nice relaxing weekend would be the perfect way to escape a little bit of the busy holiday season.

A complete review of Reiters Finest Familyhotel - Voted the Best Family Wellness Hotel in Austria

A complete review of Reiters Finest Familyhotel - Voted the Best Family Wellness Hotel in Austria

From the moment we walked in, I knew that was the best decision we could have made! Everything about our stay was fabulous. From the gorgeous light streaming through the windows of the brand new suite when we arrived, to horseback riding through the beautiful reserve. We loved it all.

And the card waiting for us in our suite said Collect Moments, Not Things. What could be more perfect?

(more…)

The Holiday Season in Vienna - from St. Martin's Day through Epiphany, the holidays in Vienna are magical!

The Holiday Season in Vienna

The holidays in Vienna are pure magic.

For nearly 2 months, the city comes alive with lights, music, Christmas Markets and more.

This is a quick guide to the holiday season in Vienna. (All from my expat point of view, of course!)

Everything you want to know about the magical holiday season in Vienna

St. Martin’s Day

The holiday season in Austria begins on November 11th, which is St. Martin’s Day. This day is celebrated in a few different ways.

Most kindergartens will hold lantern processions in honor of St. Martin’s Day. These celebrations usually consist of a reenactment of the most popular legend surrounding St. Martin, where he rides in on horseback, then shares his cloak with a homeless beggar during a snowstorm. The children carry their hand made lanterns and sing as they walk through the gardens or along the streets. (We love going to my youngest daughter’s Lanternfest at her kindergarten every year!)

Most Austrian restaurants and beisls will also have Martinigansl on the menu during this time. The traditional Martinigansl meal consists of delicious roasted goose, potatoes and red cabbage. (My personal favorite place to eat Martinigansl is at Hill Restaurant in the 19th district.)

St. Martin’s Day also marks the end of the wine growers’ year, and is the day that the new wine is blessed. In the wine growing villages of Austria, Martiniloben festivals are held in the beginning of November with music and wine tasting. (Read more about my visit to the Martiniloben festival in Purbach am Neusiedlersee)

And St. Martin’s Day is when most Viennese Christmas Markets open for the season. The city is adorned with lights and festive decorations, and the Christmas celebrations start.

The Holiday Season in Vienna - from St. Martin's Day through Epiphany, the holidays in Vienna are magical!

Christmas Markets

The first ever Christmas Market was held in Vienna in 1294. And still today, the Christmas Markets are the most popular things to see and do in Vienna during the holiday season. The Christmas markets usually consist of a group of wooden huts selling traditional food, mulled wine, and hand crafted goods, and are loved by both locals and tourists alike. Some of them are very family friendly, with rides and even special workshops for kids.

Read more about The Best Christmas Markets in Vienna, as well as tips for visiting the Viennese Christmas Markets.

The Holiday Season in Vienna - from St. Martin's Day through Epiphany, the holidays in Vienna are magical! The Holiday Season in Vienna - from St. Martin's Day through Epiphany, the holidays in Vienna are magical!

Advent Wreaths

Advent begins on the Sunday that falls four weeks before Christmas. This is when Austrian families set up their Adventskranz, or Advent wreath. Traditionally, Advent wreaths are made of evergreen twigs, decorated with ribbons, and holding 4 candles. They can be bought just about anywhere in Austria, or you can easily make your own. On each of the four Sundays of Advent, a new candle is lit, until all four are burning brightly in the days leading up to Christmas. (This is our favorite Austrian tradition that we have adopted, and will bring with us when we leave Austria!)

The Holiday Season in Vienna - from St. Martin's Day through Epiphany, the holidays in Vienna are magical!

Everything you want to know about the magical holiday season in Vienna

Nikolaus & Krampus

December 6th is St. Nikolaus Day (Nikolaustag), when Nikolaus and his counterpart Krampus come to reward the children who have been good, and punish those who have not.

Nikolaus is based on Sankt Nikolaus, the children’s saint, and is dressed as a bishop, wearing red and white. On the night of December 5th, Austrian children set their boots out for Nikolaus to leave chocolates, coins, apples, small oranges and nuts. On December 6th, Nikolaus will often visit schools and kindergartens and sometimes even private parties.

Krampus is a terrifying, demonic looking, horned, beast-like creature, who will come and take the children who have misbehaved from their home and beat them with twigs. Some Austrian towns hold Krampus Runs (Krampuslauf) where people dressed as Krampus run through the streets with whips, twig switches, rusty chains and bells to scare kids and adults alike. Some of them also carry barrels of fire. These festivities have been outlawed in some places because they can get quite out of hand. But it is not uncommon to see Krampus walking the streets of Vienna on December 5th. (See a real Krampuslauf in action in this video)

Everything you need to know about the Christmas Markets in Vienna

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve (or Heilingenabend) is the time for Austrian Christmas celebrations, not Christmas Day.

For many families, the Christmas tree doesn’t go up until December 24th. (This is one tradition we just can’t do. We still like to put our tree up in early December!)

For Austrian families with young children, the grandparents or other relatives take the children out on the afternoon of December 24th while the parents decorate the tree. This is also when the Christkind (the Christ child, represented by an angel child with long white gown, golden hair and wings) arrives, with gifts for the children. When the children arrive back home, they find the tree decorated and the gifts from the Christkind beneath the tree. Families then open gifts, eat Christmas Eve dinner, and later in the evening attend Mass.

Christmas Trees on the Graben, Vienna

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve (or Sylvester) is filled with plenty of events all around the Ringstrasse, with the New Year’s Eve Trail being the biggest. And the fireworks show is the best I have ever seen. Whether you watch them from one of the site on the New Year’s Eve Trail downtown, or from up above the city, they are remarkable. (From where we live in the 19th, the display of fireworks from all around Vienna is breathtaking!)

On New Year’s Day, the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) plays the world’s most famous and most watched concert, the Neujahrskonzert. Due to the popularity of the concert, tickets can only be bought through a lottery which is held in February. If you aren’t lucky enough to get tickets, you can watch The New Year’s Concert on TV, as it is broadcast in over 90 countries. In Vienna, it is played live on a large screen in front of the Rathaus. And you can also buy the music from each year’s New Year’s Concert and listen to it all year long!

Everything you want to know about the magical holiday season in Vienna

Three King’s Day

The Holiday Season in Vienna ends on Three King’s Day, or the Epiphany.

On January 6th, children dressed up like the Three Kings and holding up a large star walk around the city singing carols and knocking on doors to collect money for charity. If you give a donation, they write in chalk above the door 20+C+M+B+17 (or whatever year it is). The C, M, B stand for Casper, Melchior and Balthazar (the Three Kings), and also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless this home.” The + signs represent the cross and 20 and 17 represent the year.

Frohes Fest! Everything you want to know about the magical holiday season in Vienna

Frohes Fest Aus Wien!

I love learning about how the holidays are celebrated in other countries around the world, and have enjoyed being a part of the amazing Viennese holiday season for the last 3 years. Although we won’t be in Vienna next year, Vienna will always be in our hearts.

Happy Holidays from Vienna!

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