Archive for Author Rachel

Which Island?

People are currently planning their summer vacations, and a common question I get has to do with where to go if you want to go to an all-inclusive, but you’re on a budget.

First, I want to say that all-inclusive resorts are the way to go if you want to relax, lay around, and not do much of anything. They are the ultimate haven for people just needing to get away from life for awhile. That being said, they are not all created equal. You do get what you pay for, but there are moderately-priced resort brands worth checking out if your budget has a limit.

All-inclusive resorts are generally found in the Caribbean. Contrary to popular belief, there are no true all-inclusive resorts in the United States. You do have to leave the country to get to what you are imagining when you are thinking of all-inclusive resorts. Many islands offer these kinds of resorts, including the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Aruba, and Antigua. However, the main three that are the most cost-effective and easiest to get to are Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. (For the record, I do know that Mexico is not an island, but they do have some great all-inclusive resorts!)

So how do you know which one to visit? Here are some ideas to get you started…



Parts of Mexico do not have the best options for beaches. Some tend to have a lot of seaweed and rocks that impede the view, but there are some stretches of beach that are really beautiful, so be sure you know what to expect if you go.

Mexico is probably the most cost-effective and there are resorts both near and far from the airport, so you have a lot of options.

As far as sightseeing, Mexico has a lot of adventure parks (think Xcaret), snorkeling opportunities (Cozumel is supposed to be wonderful!), and lots of options to see amazing ruins like Chichen Itza and Tulum.




Jamaica has a special place in my heart, as it is where we spent our honeymoon. We visited for our 5th anniversary and then again over our 11th anniversary. The main area for resorts are Montego Bay (which is where most people would fly into), Negril, Ocho Rios, and the South Coast if you are staying at Sandals South Coast. Negril, Ocho Rios, and South Coast are approximately 90 minutes from the airport.

Those sound like long transfers, but they are worth it! Negril is known for it’s beautiful beaches and Sandals South Coast has a long beach that is not in the middle of town, so only guests from the resort are hanging out there.

I was recently in Montego Bay. We stayed at Secrets St. James, and while the beach there was small, they utilized the beach area they did have and there were some really beautiful spots to relax.

Excursions include Bob Marley sites, hikes and trips into the mountains, and Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios. There is also the bio-luminescent bay near Montego Bay


Dominican Republic

Punta Cana has some beautiful beaches. Many water excursions are offered, such as snorkeling and swimming with dolphins. The food isn’t as great as resorts in other Caribbean countries, but there are some very affordable options in the Dominican Republic. We spent 7 glorious nights there a year and a half ago, and we were perfectly happy to just lay on the beach, drink in hand.

Another perk of Punta Cana is that there are several options near the airport, so you don’t have to wait long to start your vacation!

If you are still planning your summer vacation and would like some help, make sure to contact me!


What Music Therapy Is NOT

Most people have very self-explanatory careers, but my career in music therapy is not one of them. We celebrated World Music Therapy Day last week, so I thought I would write a short post about what it is I do, as it is one of the things in my life that I am most passionate about.

I find that people fall into one of the following categories:

1. They have never heard of music therapy and never even knew it was a “real” career.

2. They have heard of it and think they know what it is, but really don’t, and trying to convince them otherwise is like taking candy from a baby.

3. They think I am still in school (because this couldn’t possibly be a career) or that I volunteer my time (because, again, this couldn’t possibly be a career).

4. They actually know what music therapy is and how it works and they are actually correct in their thinking. (This doesn’t happen very often in my experience!)

One of the most common questions I get is “What is music therapy?” It’s actually a loaded question, because music therapy is so broad and there are so many populations we work with and settings in which we work. Someday, maybe I will write another post explaining exactly what it is I do, but for now, I thought I would tell you what music therapy is NOT.

1. Music therapy is NOT entertainment.

2. Music therapy is NOT just for musicians.

3. Music therapy is NOT a music activity facilitated by a volunteer.

4. Music therapy is NOT an opportunity for clients/consumers/patients to perform.

5. Music therapy is NOT about performance or the finished product.

6. Music therapy is NOT the same as music education. The person receiving music therapy may learn about music but that is not the primary goal.

7. Music therapy is NOT facilitated by just anyone with a musical background.


Stay tuned to find out more about what music therapy actually is!


Save Yourself

I’ve mentioned it before, but this time of year is really hard for me. For whatever reason, this particular year has been even moreso. I don’t know exactly why that is. I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that we missed our wellness weekend we had planned for January, and I am convinced that in previous years, this is what has kept all the negativity at bay for me. But it is what it is.

About a month ago, I heard about a song that is so relevant to me this time of year, as I’m sure it will be to many of you. Save Myself by Ed Sheeran is worth listening to at least once. It is a reminder to me that sometimes I do need to step back and think about my needs instead of putting everyone else first all the time. Being a mother, this is difficult, and of course, we cannot always take a break from our duties as mothers, but it is so important that we find a way to make some time to take care of ourselves.

It seems so easy at the time to cope in ways that are unhealthy; so many people turn to drugs or alcohol to try to help themselves deal with things. Or sometimes we don’t deal with them at all. Instead, we shove our feelings into a bottle or under a rug, thinking if we hide them they will go away. Unfortunately, they don’t go away and eventually they will resurface and we will still have to deal with them.

I know it is so hard to do…this making time for ourselves. But we are worth it.

4 Misconceptions About Travel

1. I want to book an all-inclusive resort in the United States.

For whatever reason, there are no true all-inclusive resorts in the United States. At least, not the kind most people think of. If you want an all-inclusive, you need to look in the Caribbean, like Jamaica, Mexico, Punta Cana, etc.

2. I don’t need travel insurance.

Travel insurance is certainly not a requirement, but you will wish you had purchased a policy if you end up getting sick out of the country or if you have to cancel because of an illness or death in the family and you lose all the money you spent on a trip because you can’t go.

3. Cruises are cheaper than resorts.

At first glance, cruises appear much cheaper than other vacation spots, but keep in mind that most of the prices you see do not include the port fees and taxes or the gratuities. Also, drink packages cost extra and are not cheap. In addition, if you want to do anything at the ports, the shore excursions cost extra. This is all before considering getting to the port as well, which will most likely include at least one hotel stay, if not more, if you live further away and choose to drive instead of fly. It’s not impossible to do a cruise inexpensively, but things can add up quickly!

4. I can get a better deal online.

You may be able to get a better price online, but you get what you pay for, and not all of them are legitimate. It is possible to get a good, legitimate deal online, but it does require some extra time and research to make sure you are getting what you are expecting. I have heard lots of stories about people who booked online, only to find that the hotel door didn’t lock or the room wasn’t clean. If a deal is too good to be true, then it probably is.


First Impressions: Tarifa

We have been to Europe 5 times and have traveled through numerous countries. In this series, I want to share our first impressions of the cities we have visited.


Tarifa is a small town on the southern tip of Spain. Most people probably haven’t heard of it, but it is a great place to stay if you want to visit Gibraltar and/or Tangier. There isn’t a lot to do there, compared to other Spanish cities, but it has a kind of “edge-of-the-world” feel to it, especially when you’re able to see the coast of Africa in the distance and the point at which the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet.









There are a lot of cool restaurants there and they have some things worth seeing, like St. Matthew’s Church, as well as a beach, though it is really windy there. Actually, it is supposed to be the windsurfing capital of the world! The views in Tarifa are also pretty amazing!


Our first impressions?

Worldly. Windy. Crossroads.



Our Summer Adventure

Our summer adventure has been decided! Last weekend, I came across a great deal on flights and I just couldn’t pass it up.

This summer, we will be visiting Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris, and London. We will arrive in Amsterdam early on a Thursday morning and will spend the next 3 nights there, leaving later in the day on the 4th night. We plan to take a train to Ghent (in Belgium) via Antwerp, where we will spend 3 nights. One day will be spent exploring Ghent, another day we will spend in Bruges, and on the 3rd day, we plan to spend the day in Brussels before moving on to Paris, via rail. We plan to spend 5 nights in Paris so that we can take a day trip, possibly to the Loire Valley. Then, we will leave early on a Monday morning and take the chunnel to London where we will spend 4 nights before flying home.

Trip planning is in full swing as we try to find a place to stay in all these cities. The kids are excited, and Anya is looking forward to seeing the Eiffel Tower.


International Travel Tips

A lot of people are booking trips for spring break or summer or maybe even both! If you are travelling outside the country this year, these are some things you should consider before leaving…

  • Make sure you have a valid passport with at least 6 months left on it. Many countries will not allow entry if your passport expires within 6 months of your visit.
  • Make copies or take a picture of your passport and all the credit cards you will be traveling with. If some or all of these documents are lost or stolen, you will be able to contact your credit card company, and you will still have your passport information. Take a copy with you and leave a copy here with a family member.
  • Call the credit card company and the bank before leaving so that they are aware you will be using your card out of the country. Some banks and credit card companies must unlock your cards before they can be used, and some may not allow you to use them at all. This is very important to avoid being locked out of your account. Also, be sure that you know your PIN numbers on your debit cards and know the maximum amount of money your bank allows you to take out per day.
  • Register your trip with the US State Department at This lets the State Department know where you will be and when. The State Department will also send you notifications if there is a travel warning in the area you are traveling. Also, check for any travel tips or warnings for the country you will be visiting.
  • Know where the US Embassy is located in the country you are traveling in in case something happens and you need to get there.
  • Bring a charger adapter, if necessary. Some countries require different chargers.
  • Be sure to purchase travel insurance, as your medical insurance likely does not cover you while out of the country. Bring copies of your travel insurance cards.
  • If you plan to drive while there, be sure to obtain an international driver’s license. This can be done at AAA.
  • Check with your cell phone carrier to see if you will have service in the country you are visiting and inquire about any international charges for use of your phone in that country.

Another thing I always encourage is to do a little research about where you will be travelling. Not everywhere you may visit is the same as your hometown. Lots of things could be different, such as food, pricing, language,and the overall culture of the people. It helps to learn a little of the language; most locals really appreciate the effort, even if you know very little. The best advice I can give is to expect things to be somewhat different and be open to something new.


Oh, January

How I hate this month. For years, I have felt horrible for almost the entire month of January. It took awhile before I realized the problem: there is just nothing going on in January. Nothing happening. Nothing to look forward to. Every other month of the year has something that I enjoy, but January? Nothing. After the hype of Christmas and all the chaotic holiday stuff, you’d think I’d enjoy a month of nothing, but I don’t. I always feel awful in January.

Four years ago, we started attending a wellness weekend in Brown County, Indiana. We stayed in a lodge, hiked in the woods, ate at restaurants we only got to eat at once a year, and took all kinds of wellness classes like yoga, Reiki, and a bunch of other stuff some people might label “new-agey.” But it gave me something to look forward to in the middle of the month and it left me feeling refreshed and ready to start the year. For three years, I have felt a lot better due to attending this event.

Well, we didn’t get to go this year because of snow and ice. I was so disappointed. And almost two weeks later, I’m remembering exactly why we go to this every year. I feel awful. In fact, I haven’t felt this awful in four years. Never mind all of the other things going on in my life that make things even more difficult. Like the fact that my cat has diabetes and I have to pay an exorbitant amount on insulin to keep him alive for longer. Or the fact that my Fitbit no longer syncs to my phone and the company refuses to stand by their product and either fix the problem or send me a new Alta. Or that somehow part of the ceiling in our dining area was leaking and my husband had to tear the dry wall out and is in the middle of replacing it, so a chunk of the ceiling is messed up right now. It just never ends.

The bottom line is that I know there are also a lot of good things going on, but right now they are clouded over by all the stressful stuff happening. I know I’ll get through it, but I’m glad we only have a few more days of January left!

Something to Look Forward To

With all the crazy snow we’re having around here, I am so ready for some nicer weather! I’ve been trying to catch up/get ahead with my travel planning so I’ve been researching tons of places in the Caribbean, which makes me wish we were planning a spring break trip, too. I’ve also been working on a lot of European trips, so I ended up spending one late night with a cup of coffee and a map of Europe pulled up on my screen…which can be dangerous in our house!

So of course, I’ve come up with a possible itinerary that looks like this:

Amsterdam (4 nights)

Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges (3 nights staying in Brussels or Ghent)

Paris (4 nights)

London (4 nights)

We have not been to Amsterdam or Brussels and it has been over 10 years since we have visited London and Paris, but the kids have never been. Felix is oblivious and has been requesting to go back to Greece to check on all the cats we saw last year, but Anya seems pretty excited about going somewhere else in Europe, especially Paris.

This is still pretty iffy and it may not work out but we have been looking at possible accommodations in each of those cities and just brainstorming ideas for things we’d like to do. I’ve also been playing around with different dates and flight combinations trying to figure out the least expensive way to get there and back.

Here’s hoping it all works out…After the crazy 2 and a half weeks I’ve had, I need something fun to look forward to!

Family Board Games: Our Top 10

We love to play games at our house, and I am planning to do even more game nights with the kids this year, so I wanted to share our favorites, in no particular order.

1. Survive

This is a board game that involves placing game pieces on certain parts of an island that is slowly chipped away, and you have to get all of your people off the island and to safety. This is one that Felix can play, though he normally chooses to be on a team with someone.

2. Forbidden Island

This is another board game, but you play as a team with the other players to try to beat the game. It involves the island slowly sinking as the players all race to collect certain items that allow them to fly off the island to safety.

3. King of Tokyo

This is yet another board game where you have to collect so many stars before losing all your hearts (life points). It reminds me a little of a video game, but it’s typically fairly short and Felix can play on a team with someone.

4. Sushi Go

This one is a card game. We have the party pack where there are numerous ways to play the game. It’s different in that you pass around the hand you’re dealt and build a new hand of cards instead of discarding from the hand that is dealt to you. You choose cards based on how many points you can collect from each card or combination of cards. It usually goes pretty quickly and you can play with anywhere from 2 to 8 players. The variety of cards you can use allows for lots of different combinations, so the game is never the same. Felix doesn’t really get the idea of this, so he sits it out, but Anya does really well.

5. Farkle

I’ve been told this dice game is similar to Yahtzee, but I honestly have never played Yahtzee. All four of us can play this game and we all enjoy it!

6. Quixx

This is another dice game that we can all play, but it’s a little different from Farkle. There are colored dice and choices to make about whether or not to add a roll to your points total. It’s easy to learn and can be a fairly short game.

7. Santorini

This board game is one that Felix could theoretically play on a team with someone. It is more complicated than it seems at first. You can play with 2 to 4 players. The basic game has specific rules but each game is different if you play with the God cards, which allow each player to have different abilities. For this reason, the game is always different.

8. Phase 10

This is a card game from my college years. We just recently taught Anya how to play it and she picked it up pretty quickly. It would maybe be a good game for Felix, because he needs to work on his numbers.

9. Monopoly Deal

I like the regular Monopoly game but it makes for a super long game so this is a great alternative. It’s Monopoly in the form of a card game and it’s designed to last approximately 15 minutes. It was pretty inexpensive and since it’s just a deck of cards, it’s super mobile.

10. Uno Attack

This is just a spin on the classic Uno game. Felix loves playing this game with us. It has all the same rules as the original Uno game, but the Attack part of it means that you can make people hit a button and get more cards he or she will need to discard.

My kids also like to play all the other silly games like Toilet Trouble and Pie in the Face, but I personally hate playing those games, so we have spent a lot of time trying to find games that are fun for everyone.


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