All-Inclusive Spa, The Oaks at Ojai, Ca.

Ready to take time for yourselves ladies?

Then the Oaks at Ojai is your destination.

When you think about Southern California beaches come to mind, but there is so much more to see just a short drive from other destinations like Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. A highlight is Ojai and the destination, the all-inclusive resort the Oaks at Ojai.

Surrounded by picturesque mountains is an oasis of green housed in mission style architecture and the luxury of modern amenities. A retreat from the high speed and high pressure daily grind is hard to find. Even traveling carries the burden of planning and transporting yourself place to place for meals and activities.

The Oaks all inclusive resort is the answer to that. This is a place for women, though men are welcome. Leave the rest of the family at home and come with a friend or go alone. Either way you will have a great time relaxing poolside, enjoying exercise classes, and eating healthy, tasty, energizing meals and snacks. This isn’t a boot camp, though there are ample opportunities to get you up, out, and moving. Hikes, swimming, yoga, dance, and exercise classes engage all guests at the level of their choosing.

Take the morning walks as an example. They come in three “speeds”, Hikes, Walks, and Strolls. Hikes start at 6:30am and last 90+ minutes. I took the morning hike and adventured up into the hills of the San Pedro National Forest for a view of the valley well worth the early start time. If a later wake up call and slower pace is more your speed then definitely catch the Ojai walking tour that will point out the highlights of the town and fill you in on the historic points and current details that make this spot a great destination.
I took my first ever pool exercise class and loved the shade sail over the area. This allowed you to stay out of the sun or embrace it while working up an appetite and working out your muscles. I loved it for the variety of moves I learned that I now bring to my solo swims to get an extra burn and stretch. I also enjoyed sitting poolside and being close to nature under the flowering trees.

Outside the water there are activities that you can add on to your stay, or on week days some different adventures are offered like a kayaking trip. Private hikes are available or get together with some new friends and plan a small group outing. If you like to bike there is a great local trail that even takes you all the way down to the ocean. You can rent on your own or take the guided ride that comes with a lunch and car ride back up the road to save you from peddling miles uphill.

Last Minute Gifts for Mom

Here are a few ideas for those that are running late or had Mother’s Day sneak up on them. A little thought and a few options that might surprise that special lady in your life.

Quick Combinations

Only have time for a fast stop before you next see mom? Grocery stores or Costco have gift cards and goodies to put together a quick gift basket.

Movie Passes
 – Mom might enjoy a trip to the cinema so scope out what theater chain is nearby and grab some passes. Amp up this gift with a bag of popcorn and a couple of boxes of candy!

Go Green

– Any local home goods store will have plants, grab one with your gift card. You can also throw in an IOU for a shopping or planting date to use the card together! No one says the gift garden needs to be in the ground today! Or if a live plant is not an option a few bags of seeds will fit in any card envelope.

Something Homemade

– You may not be crafty yourself but you can give mom a gift that opens the door to all kinds of handmade goodies at

Set a Date

– Groupon maybe a good match for picking out a treat for mom. Plan an afternoon together and buy two, or send mom to the spa for some pampering and alone time. Buying for the woman in your life? Grab two too and have her bring a friend!

GelPro Anti-Fatigue Mat Review and Giveaway

Let’s face it, standing in the kitchen is not the most comfortable spot in the house, or at least not without some help. Anti-fatigue mats make doing dishes, cooking, and chores painless and GelPro mats make it stylish. Made in America and with hundreds of options GelPro comfort mats marry form and function to enhance the design of any room you add them to. Before discovering the company which is based out of Texas and does all of their manufacturing in America, I thought comfort mats were boring one color, gray or brown, floor covering. GelPro opened my eyes to all the possibilities with their custom designs and innovative options.

The gel filled mat is engineered with a non-slip bottom and the custom durable designed top. I loved the mat. It is heavy which kept it from moving around, and
the added cushion was a benefit with my bad knee and back. Even when I was cooking and cleaning up after a big party the GelPro mat did its job and kept me comfy. Normally after that much time on my feet the soles can be sore and my knee aching, but not while I was on the mat. If you like to go barefoot like I do this is a must.

Woodloch Poconos Resort

all inclusive resort

An all-inclusive family resort, located in the Pocono Mountains, Woodloch offers the best in lodging, dining, and entertainment for all four seasons. Rent a cabin or a room and enjoy time with family and friends. With views of Lake Teedyuskung and mountain vistas a vacation here is a chance to relax and renew yourself.

Kids will never lack for indoor or outdoor adventures. In warmer months, hit the mountains and climb the hills. In winter, you can ski or snow tube. Too cold outside? Try the six sided rock climbing wall which is available any season. Swimming is always an option as well, as the resort has indoor and outdoor pools. For those that like a little speed and some motorized fun there, are the bumper cars, go karts, and even bumper boats! If you crave some quiet, you can glide silently through the water on a kayak trip and experience a new view of nature and the surrounding wildlife. You might even catch a peek at an American Bald Eagle flying the skies.

Welcome to IOWA!

Ever consider visiting Iowa? If not, maybe you should. There are some great family stops and a lot to do.  These are a few of our favorite stops on our recent visit.


Amana Colonies

Located 20 miles from Cider Rapids are the Amana Colonies, 7 villages that were originally German settlements in Iowa. Settled in 1855 the colonies remained self-sufficient until the 1930’s. The Amanians operated independently as a community by farming and handcrafting to maintain their own local economy. Today you can visit the villages and shop at their craft stores, eat local fair, or drink a glass of wine or beer. Antiques, furniture, home decor, clothing, and gifts you will find nowhere else create a unique shopping adventure.

iowa food

The Colonies tradition of great food is available for visitors to explore in the restaurants or specialty shops. The Amana Meat Shop and Smokehouse has over 160 years of experience offering ham, bacon, sausages, beef, and pork to visitors and online.  The Ox Yoke Inn is a fantastic place to stop for lunch, and has amazing German style food. The staff is gracious and the food is affordable and filling. The Broom and Basket Shop is exactly what you might expect, a store dedicated to selling locally handmade brooms and baskets. Another interesting stop is Iowa’s Largest Walnut Rocker, at over 650 lbs. and 11 ft. tall. Great for a family picture. These are just examples of some of the interesting sites you can wander through on a visit to the Amanas.

Macaroni from Monkey Monkey Music with Meredith CD Release

New music is always a great way to invigorate kids and get them up and moving. Monkey Monkey Music has a new collection of songs, Macaroni, available for sale now. Parents may already be familiar with Monkey Monkey Music and Meredith LeVande (the creator). Her songs and music videos have been featured on PBS Kids, Kids Thirteen, and over 100 public television stations across the US.

monkey music

Macaroni is the title track and like many of the other songs it touches on a hallmark of childhood and creativity, all of the uses we can find for macaroni! Whether we wear it, or use it to make music, Monkey Monkey Music points out how something as simple as pasta can be transformed by imagination and ingenuity.

Turkey Soup

This recipe is really easy, and it’s great to use left over meat with it. I always make this after  a family dinner or, Thanksgiving, Christmas even. You take those left overs and the carved up turkey ( bones and fat and all)  boil it for a few hours with vegetables till all the meat falls off. Toss some beans in there, you have left over soup with whatever meat you had on hand. It makes a great hearty soup, my kids like to eat it in mugs after a rainy day .




The remains of your turkey or chicken ( even Ham works) with bones, skins, fat, everything. No need to pick off the itty bites of extra meat, it’ll come off later. This is going to make the broth for the soup

2 cups of left over Turkey or Chicken or Ham

3 stalks celery chopped

1 large onions chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

2 large tomatoes chopped

1 cup mushrooms

1 cup both red and green peppers

1 1/2 cups chopped carrots.

1 bag of dried beans which have been soaked over night or 3 cans white northern beans ( rinse them)

Blackened Catfish Recipe

This is a simple quick meal for the family. If you season just one side of the fish you can save the left over seasoning, or if you have more than 4-5 fillets this will easily still work just season one side if you use more than the pounds that’s called for. I made this with pan seared asparagus, just place a tablespoon of butter in a skillet ( cast iron is best)  melt the butter on medium high heat keep  it that warm and toss the asparagus in. You want to keep the greens moving so it won’t burn, it will turn a real nice bright green and go tender when finished. Sprinkle with pepper then transfer to plate. It will only take 5-10 minutes not even sometimes depends on how thick the asparagus is.