Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Fashionista Insider Shopping Secret

It’s no secret that I absolutely love vintage Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, but it’s hard to find great items at good prices. The reason why I love these designers—original design and innovation that never goes out of style.

My secret shopping tip for effortless chic… Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. LH’s ever-so popular, highly attended couture and accessories auction in Chicago attracts fashionistas and dealers from around the world! Can’t make it to Chicago for the upcoming auction, don’t worry, you can browse items right in your living room and bid over the phone or online.

If you’re like me… you love collecting great handbags, jewelry and all things girly. After all, that’s the hallmark of any fashionista worth her weight in baubles, beads and bangles. By now, you might be asking yourself, “Just how good are the deals?” Well, you had to ask. I’ll share a secret… I’ve been on the hunt for a Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Jewelry Case for a lot less than the retail price of $2,000, but at LH the bidding starts at $400.

The auction house also invites buyers to special preview parties and events. When you can save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on pricy couture gowns, beautiful jewelry from private estates and fabulous accessories—why not?

Do you have a secret fashionista shopping tip?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Haute Travels Haute Tips

Chocolate Lovers Head to St. Lucia for FREE Chocolat-tinis!

Jade Mountain, St. Lucia announces its annual chocolate festival, December 4-6, 2009. It is a delicious, interactive and exotic introduction to the world's favorite aphrodisiac - chocolate. Cacao has a history in St Lucia that dates back to the 1700's. Be one of the first to taste our premier vintage of our Jade Mountain Estate Grown chocolate.

The event starts on December 4 with a "Chocolat-tini" party. Jade Mountain's well known Consulting Chef, Allen Susser will share his talents and passion for chocolate. Take pleasure in a complimentary chocolate martini. Taste local, seasonal chocolate inspired savory finger foods. And don’t forget the chocolate desserts!

The Westin Resort & Spa Los Cabos in Mexico offers guests two free nights for holiday booking.

Escape the cold, celebrate the holidays in beautiful Los Cabos and leave with a great travel gift from The Westin Resort and Spa. Book your stay between December 23, 2009 and January 2, 2010 and receive gift certificates for two free nights to be used any time within one year of check out. But you must book online at before November 30th!

The Sheraton Hacienda del Mar extends the popular Sensational Savings Package through November 30th.

Guests who take advantage of this package will receive the opportunity to extend their Los Cabos vacation with complimentary room nights, incredible food and beverage credits and exceptional spa savings. Those staying for three nights will get their fourth night free through the Sensational Savings Package and guests who would like to enjoy a whole week in the tropical Mexican paradise can experience their last two nights for free.

Sheraton Hacienda del Mar offers $119 Rooms!

In addition to the free night incentives, guests staying between four and six nights at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar will receive a food & beverage credit of $200 and for those staying seven nights or more, the resort will provide a $300 dining credit.

Plus...for a limited time only you can get room rate starting at $119 per night for deluxe accommodations, including in-room Jacuzzis tubs and beautiful views. Rates are based on availability and travel must be booked by November 30, 2009 and completed by April 27, 2010. This limited time offer can be booked online at

The Ritz-Carlton Wedding News...

The Ritz-Carlton will donate 5% of the food revenue from your planned wedding event to The Ritz-Carlton Community Footprints Fund & charity of your choice.

You can also have your dream wedding on the beach at The Ritz Carlton for FREE if your guests book 25 rooms at select properties.

The U.S. Virgin Islands… 25-Cent Hotel Rooms!

A celebration of the minting of the U.S. Virgin Islands quarter sparked the islands’ Department of Tourism to promote 25-cent room rates at participating hotels. Guests are limited to three nights, while supplies last. The deal also includes a $25 dining credit and a $25 per person activities credit. But you must book before November 2 and travel must take place before November 15. Reservations must be made through

New York Shopping with Lucky Magazine!

Plan a girl’s getaway to NYC to Shop... Lucky Magazine is hosting its sixth annual pre-holiday "Lucky Shops" event Nov. 6-7.

FREE Cosmetics at Sephora
Air Fare Price Cut!

Southwest kicks off a system-wide sale with airfares as low as $25 one-way for short-haul flights and coast to coast travel is going for as little as $100 one-way, or $200 roundtrip. The last time that Southwest offered $25 fares was 1996 for their 25th anniversary sale.

FREE Car Rental

Budget offers a FREE car rental on Sunday. Just rent a full-size four door car for a minimum of 3 days, including a Saturday night and Sunday is complimentary.

Will price cuts make a difference in your travel plans?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stretch Your Travel Dollars

Travelistas know that even in an economic downturn or recession, you can still travel on the cheap. Generally, when traveling your biggest expenses are airfare and hotel accommodations. But with a little advance planning and loyalty programs, you can get free airline tickets, hotel stays and donate to charity. Companies know that customers enrolled in loyalty programs are more likely, in fact reportedly four times, more likely to return for repeat business. The programs are designed to encourage buying behavior, so why not take advantage? You can also trade points for merchandise and gift cards. After all, these value-added promotions are designed to say thank you and membership is free.

Here are my haute tips for traveling in style for less:

1. Pick one or two loyalty programs and commit to staying at one of those properties or flying with a particular airline every time you travel. When I travel to the big apple, I generally stay at the Hilton New York located in Midtown because it’s usually under $200 per night (w/breakfast for 2) and I get Hilton HHonors Points. Also, when selecting airlines, search for those offering more destinations to your favorite cities. The goal—collect miles faster for redemption!

2. Be smart and strategic when planning your hotel stays. I love Hyatt’s faster free night program. During the faster free night promotional period, with every two hotel stays, you earn one free night at any Hyatt property in the world. I earned two free nights just by switching hotels in Paris. I spent the first few days at the Hyatt Madeleine, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Paris, before spending the weekend at the fabulous Park Hyatt Vendome. I switched back to the Hyatt Madeleine and spent my last night at the Hyatt Charles de Gaulle near the airport. I used my two free nights and a few gold passport points for three free nights at the Park Hyatt Vendome, a few months later. I saved about $3,000.00 US! Can you say ooh la la?

If you want to stay at the Ritz Carlton, but can’t afford it. No problem! Marriott’s frequent stayer program allows members to redeem points for free nights at the Ritz! The only catch, you can’t earn points at Ritz-Carlton. I redeemed my points for a free night in Montego Bay, Jamaica for a girl’s getaway.

3. Be flexible and join other programs like car rentals to earn hotel points or airline miles. Avis and Budget rental car companies will also allow members to earn hotel rewards points through a program called goldpoints plus.

4. Use your reward for upgrades. Another way to save money is by purchasing an airline ticket or hotel room for less and using reward points or miles to upgrade to first class or a more spacious hotel room with more amenities.

5. Use your rewards for charity! The best way to help others is to give back. You can donate Marriott Rewards points to the Children’s Miracle Network. Your donations help the families of sick and injured children stay at Marriott Hotels located near hospitals where their children are being treated.

6. When planning to use points or miles for redemption, plan ahead. Many hotels only allow about 10% of their rooms to be reserved using reward points; therefore don’t wait until the last minute to book reservations.

While the economy is showing signs of a pending recovery, many companies are relaxing rules and allowing members to accrue rewards faster by doubling or tripling points. Private deals and special promotions are made available only to members of these programs... so sign up now! Visit to find out how to earn the most points on every trip. You can also get up to the minute loyalty program news at There’s never been a better time to show your loyalty than in a troubled economy so make the most of it!

Which loyalty programs do you like?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NJ Hotel Offers Free Rooms For Unemployed

The owners of The Blue Bay Inn in Atlantic Highland have decided to stimulate the economy by giving those who are unemployed a chance to ring in the New Year for free.

Dido and Sark Krikorian say it’s part of their “Hotel for the Holidays” promotion. Dido Krikorian told, "In tough times like these offering a little hope to your neighbor is the least we can do. Let's say it's our version of a stimulus package."

In all 23 rooms will be available to those who are receiving unemployment compensation and can prove it. The lucky guests will be chosen based on letters they write about why they should be selected for the giveaway. Winners will also receive tips on how to write a resume and interview for a new job.

What do you think about the giveaway?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Travel The World for Less

Thinking about a trip to abroad, but just can’t figure out how to swing it on a tight budget? Well if you’re a frugalista, recessionista or just don’t want to part with your money too soon kind of girl, there are things that you can do that will save you hundreds of dollars. Here are some tried and true travel tips that always work for me. And trust me it won’t hurt a bit!

Take Public Transportation… Get on the Bus
In most international cities like London or Paris it’s convenient and less expensive to travel by bus or train. It’s also the best way to get around in a “walking city”. I generally get an unlimited travel pass for the week for the metro bus/train in Paris. Once, while vacationing in Monte Carlo, in the South of France, I dashed over to Italy by train for less than $20 US.

Travel with your BFF and Pool Your Resources
Plan a trip with your best friend and see great sites around the world by sharing the cost. I once traveled to Nice, France with my friend Greta… we planned every aspect of our budget. We even traveled-off season to bring the costs down on our hotel. We got a terrific deal at the Marriot with a view of the Mediterranean Sea for less than $200 US per night.

Skip Expensive Restaurants for Breakfast and Lunch and head to the Supermarket
You don’t have to eat every meal at a restaurant or café. You can always drop by the supermarket for breakfast and lunch items (assuming that breakfast is not included in your hotel stay). I spent part of my summer in Paris taking a photography class a few years ago. Some of my classmates (professional students) told me that I could buy sandwiches at Monoprix for less than $2 US instead of the corner bistro for a lot more. Who knew? I also grabbed snacks and water for my room that lasted the entire week. I used my extra cash for dinner at some great French restaurants.

Shop at Secondhand and Thrift Stores
My favorite places to shop are often flea markets and resale shops. I have shopped in France, Mexico, the Bahamas and Brazil for items that are locally produced. I figured I could shop for high-end designer items anywhere, but I can’t find Limoges Porcelain from France or gem stones mined in Brazil just anywhere. It’s a great pastime to stroll flea markets on Sunday when I’m in Paris or Brazil. Unlike department stores or boutiques… you can bargain with vendors who are motivated to sell on the spot. Just be sure to bring cash!

Trade Hotel Points for the Best Hotels in the World
I absolutely love the Park Hyatt properties… I’ve stayed at the Park Haytt in Toronto, Paris and Chicago on gold passport or faster free night points. The best part about staying for FREE… it’s free! Just think about the money that you can save. Plus, you get great service and spacious rooms. I love the French tea and Evian water in glass bottles that come complimentary in your room at the Park Hyatt in Paris. These properties are always in fabulous locations and the service is outstanding!

Friday, October 16, 2009

20 Reasons Why I Love Chicago!

There is no city in the world like Chicago… from the mag mile to the gorgeous skyline and lakefront living; the windy city is my kind of town! I lived in Chicago for 10 years and I can’t ever think of having a dull moment. Although, my friends would call me every winter and inquire about my sanity, since I left the warm, cozy southern city of Atlanta for the dreadful cold of the Midwest; I still smile when I think of my home away from home. Here are 20 things that I love about the Chi:

1. Great Friends in my mind Barack, Michelle, Hillary (Chicago-adjacent) & Oprah!
2. The Lakefront
3. Michigan Ave Shopping
4. Great Restaurants with a view
5. Alfresco Dinning
6. Great Walking City
7. The Art Galleries in River North (Nicole Gallery)
8. The Architecture River Cruise
9. Vintage Living in Hyde Park
10. Music in the Park
11. The Oprah Show
12. Unknown Fashion Designers
13. Chicago-Style Pizza
14. A Great Chicago Hot Dog
15. The Caramel and Cheese Popcorn Mix at Garrett's
16. Charming Boutiques in Lincoln Park and on Oak Street
17. The Bean in Chicago's Millennium Park
18. The Theatre Scene
19. The Christmas Windows at Marshall Field’s (A.K.A Macy’s)
20. The Art Institute

What city do you love?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Spy Lovers Pampering Retreat Remembered

Did you know that jet setters have long held a secret that the British Colonial Hilton in Nassau, Bahamas is where the “beautiful” people retreat for a chance to unwind? Although, it is widely known that the hotel has been the location of two James Bond spy movies, "Thunderball" and "Never Say Never Again," its real claim to fame was its spa.

Sitting beachside just a stone’s throw away from the towering, soft yellow hotel on Bay Street, in downtown Nassau, was the charming Azure Spa. This full service 3,200-square-foot day spa served has a holistic retreat for those seeking to de-stress and detox at an ocean’s edge. The dècor was typically Bahamian with rich and colorful paintings adorning the walls. Each of the seven treatment rooms were named for different islands that make up the Bahamas. And the spa director, Isabelle, had healing hands that even 007 couldn’t resist. I still remember my visit to this little spa.

I’d met Isabelle earlier and she invited me in to sample their services. Refreshing and deep cleansing facials, body scrubs, massages and wraps were served à la cart. A relaxing 50-minute Vichy shower with a body scrub, using natural ingredients from the island, was my indulgence of choice. After a week of duty-free shopping, art gallery and museum hops and lunch by the sea… it was time to experience the Azure Spa for myself.

Just a few minutes after I walked into the spa and traded my beach cover-up and swimsuit for a comfy robe, I remember entering the Exuma treatment room where marble tile walls and overhead shower jets greeted me. Isabelle went right to work slaughtering a berry scrub all over my body before polishing with a loofah sponge. She worked quickly on both sides, while gently removing dull dry skin and improving circulation. Next, warm water fell from overhead like tropical rain revealing my sparkling new skin. After a soothing moisturizer was applied, I was well on my way to a Zen moment.

But soon, I was on the table again for the most amazing Swedish massage that I had ever experienced. Generally, I stay away from this type of massage because it’s a little rough for me. But under Isabelle, it was nothing short of blissful. She asked, “What would make the message more comfortable for you?” And she adjusted her strokes accordingly, while strategically targeting muscles that were in need of a little TLC. An hour later, I felt brand new kind of like a Bond Girl ready for an afternoon martini... shaken, not stirred!

It was some weeks later when I learned that the spa closed. I couldn’t believe it. After all what’s a spy lover to do without her favorite hideaway? Although, I’ve been back to Nassau a number of times… still staying at the Hilton, I can’t help but reminisce about that day at the spa

Do you have a favorite spa?

Paris Insider Shopping Secret

There is absolutely nothing like the euphoria you get when you find that one of a kind pair of Jimmy Choo's just waiting for you. What about the vintage-inspired handbag that you stumble upon at a boutique that nobody knows about.

It's no secret that I absolutely love shopping in Paris for antiques, designer goods and vintage items. But with the dollar being so weak year after year, I decided to seek out a designer resale shop that I was told houses the likes of Chanel hangbags, Louis Vuitton totes and Hermès scarves. It's a slice of heaven hidden on a medival-like Parisian street in the wealthy 16th arrondissement called Dèpot-Vente De Passy. It's a wonderful overstock and resale shop offering great buys from top designers. Only shopping-insiders know about this little gem. You just never know what you'll find. I've discovered great gently used handbags like YSL and Louis Vuitton for a fraction of the orignal retail price. Whenever I'm in Paris... this is my first stop!

Do you have a favorite shopping spot in Paris? Would you shop for secondhand chic?


Healing Powers of the Jamaican Bush

I recently learned that it's time to go green for better health. My recent trip to the Fern Tree Spa in Rose Hall, Jamaica, tucked inside the exclusive enclave of the Half Moon Resort, offered a lesson in wellness using natural herbs picked right out of the garden. Plagued by a nasty cough and need for a little R&R, I thought that it was time for a Jamaican getaway.

Less than 24 hours later, I was unpacking inside a beautiful ocean front suite with a spa-like bath and gorgeous hardwood floors with white sheer fabric billowing throughout. I walked over to my bedroom window covered with white shutters to invite the ocean inside. I retreated to my living room realizing that I was well on my way to discovering the secret healing powers of the "bush."

My road to recovery began during lunch with Spa Elder Stella Gray. She noticed that I had a persistent cough that just wouldn't go away. So she created a spa menu with ingredients from land and sea just for me. Stella has been using herbs from her garden for more than 30 years to heal the sick. So it wasn't surprising when she went to her garden to pick fever grass, Cerasee, akee and sour sap leaves to heal me. Together with ginger, thyme, bamboo and allspice, she crushed the plants and herbs in a homemade pouch for my Jamaican bush bath. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical, but I wanted to try it. As instructed, I went back to my room and dropped the pouch in hot water to steep. I poured the potion in my bath and lit a candle. The blended herbs aid in internal and external cleansing to heal and revitalize the mind and soul. As the water began bubbling around me, I began to witness the healing powers of the bush. So I stepped into the tub with water jets and let nature take its course. It was truly an awakening. The lemon grass and ginger helped to eliminate toxins, while bamboo and Cerasee nourished and hydrated my skin.

The next morning, I woke up and found that I wasn't coughing. That nagging cough had simply disappeared. As I sipped ginger tea on my deck, I looked out to the ocean and watched the waves crash against rocks grouped around the water's edge. The peacefulness made for a heavenly escape. And all of my worries just floated back out to sea. Who could ask for more? Certainly not me.

Have you ever gone green for better health?