Our Eventful Honeymoon in St. Lucia

Happy New Year Everyone!

I know I’m technically a couple days late, but better late than never, right? I was flying back from my honeymoon in St. Lucia on the first of the year.

I’m sorry I’ve been MIA these past couple weeks, but I really relished the opportunity to take a few (much needed) breaths of fresh air with my husband in paradise. Here’s a sunset shot by the seashore–say that three times fast!

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 It was absolutely gorgeous and we had some wonderful experiences that I will remember forever. We jet skied, snorkeled, and snuba-ed. We sailed on a bobbie cat, drank Miami Vices to our hearts’ content. We met lots of fun couples and stuffed our faces with delicious Caribbean fare. 

Unfortunately, however, there were two very unfortunate events that occurred  during our trip. 

First, St. Lucia was struck by a pretty bad tropical storm–on Christmas Eve no less–and the aftermath has been difficult for the islanders. Nearly 10 people lost their lives, there was extensive flooding, banana plantations were pummeled, entire roads were washed away, homes were destroyed, and parts of the island still don’t have running water.

According to locals, it was the worst Christmas and one of the worst storms on record…and a malfunctioning radar on the neighboring island of Martinique was partly to blame because there was no warning before the storm struck. We were safe and sound, but some of the staff we met at our resort lost homes, which was really heartbreaking. In the wake of the devastation, Jeff and I were absolutely amazed at the St. Lucians’ ability to rise above it all and still greet us with a smile and a cheerful “Merry Christmas”.

I hope the island is able to get the help it needs to repair the damage. Those living in the US who wish to offer assistance, can do so by contacting:

Permanent Mission of St. Lucia to the United Nations
800 Second Avenue, 9th Fl., New York, New York 10017
Tel.: (212) 697-9360 • Fax: (212) 697-4993 • E-Mail: stlucia@un.int

The second, albeit not so catastrophic, event that happened on our honeymoon was that United Airlines lost our baggage.

For.

10.

Days.

You read correctly. 10 days.

This was particularly strange because:

  1. We did not have a connecting flight, we flew a non-stop direct flight from Newark, NJ.
  2. Our departure was delayed by 2 hours–45 minutes of which we spent on the tarmac because they were loading our bags onto the plane. Does this sound as insane to you as it does to me? If they delayed us to load bags, you’d think they’d be on the plane.

Imagine our shock when we landed in St. Lucia with many other passengers, and learned that a large portion of the baggage never made it on the plane? We immediately filed a report with the United branch at the airport and were told our bags should arrive the next day.

My husband had absolutely no items to speak of with him and I had a very limited amount. We had no underwear, medication/birth control, shoes, sunscreen, razors, clothes, toiletries, etc and with each passing day the resort shopkeeper got to know us better and better as we bought practically every item in her store.

On Christmas Eve, 4 days later after we arrived in St. Lucia, there was still no word of our luggage. We spent hours on the phone that evening and over the next several days getting nowhere with United. Each representative we spoke with had a different story to tell us and no one could tell us where our luggage was. We were in disbelief–what was the use of the tags with the scannable bar codes we paid for when we checked our bags??

We followed their established procedure to file our claim, called their lost baggage department, established a reference number for our case, and did all the other things they asked us to do. Day after day we were told we would be contacted with follow-up information and they would enter a notification into their system, and day after day all they told us was they couldn’t get through to Newark and didn’t know where the bags were.

When we realized we were getting nowhere (and little sympathy from United), I reached out on Facebook and Twitter to try to get United to take some responsibility. As a marketing professional I hoped using social channels might enable me to gain some headway, but made little to no progress.

To our huge surprise this past Monday, without word, our luggage showed up in our room at the resort. We were so grateful they weren’t lost forever, though they didn’t do much good to use with only 1 more day left of our  honeymoon.

We plan to file a formal claim with United and to submit the receipts for all expenses incurred during our honeymoon, and I hope that United will compensate us for the situation as they should (including refunding our $90 baggage check fee).

When it has been 10 days and your luggage is still missing, that to me is not only ridiculous but unacceptable. A honeymoon is such a special trip, one that you dream of, save for, take time off for, purchase special items for–when you spend a large portion of your trip making lengthy international calls, trying to communicate with unhelpful representatives, having to purchase over-priced apparel, filling out claim forms, missing formal dinners and excursions because you don’t have the proper attire, etc, it takes its toll.

Have you or  has anyone you know ever had a similar experience? If so, how did you resolve the situation? I would be grateful for any advice or suggestions anyone may have.

But enough of that! One thing I DID have was my new camera Jeff and my mom gave me for my 30th birthday–here are a couple pics from St. Lucia. If you’ve never been, it’s really worth the trip.

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I’ve got lots more to share with you in the coming days, including a honeymoon planning series, so be sure to check back in.

Enjoy the weekend 🙂

Rebecca Cretella

This is 30

Hi Folks,

I know I usually do my “Bright Delights” series every Friday, but I hope you’ll forgive my breaking format this week, as I’ve been in Wisconsin for work organizing our annual customer golf event and I haven’t had a free moment. On top of that I’ve been sick! What is with summer colds?? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Anyway, in lieu of the usual Friday post, I’m going to share a couple photos from when I turned the big 3-0. These pictures are from the actual day (Labor Day) and not from the fiesta-themed party we hosted for about 30 friends on Saturday. I might have been a bit too inebriated to operate a camera of any sort that day. The memories from that day will have to live on in my head only, I’m afraid. But suffice to say, it was a nice afternoon spent with some of my favorite people!

My actual birthday was very low-key…exactly what I wanted. Jeff couldn’t stand to wait for me to open my presents, so I opened them pretty much immediately after waking up. He worked hard to make a beautiful presentation, as you can see below (yes, he spoils me). Then he took me out for a birthday breakfast, and afterward we relaxed around the house watching movies together.

Later in the afternoon we got dressed up for dinner out with my Mom. She met us at the house, bringing with her a mouthwatering carrot cake (a longtime family recipe she procured from my uncle a couples days before). I opened a few gifts from her and then we went to dinner together at John Davenport’s–a restaurant at the top of the Omni Hotel in New Haven, which provides beautiful panoramic views of the city. A pretty perfect day all in all!

How did you spend Labor Day weekend?

R

carrot cake

birthday

Sleep Better

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Sleep has been a long-time struggle of mine. I have tried prescription sleep aids before and they haven’t worked well for me. However, there are lots of other great options besides medication. For those of you out there who also have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, trying some of the suggestions below for improving slumber.

20 recommendations to help you sleep better at night.

1. Exercise. Exercising regularly helps you to sleep better at night. Proven fact.
2. Eat certain foods to promote good sleep. Calcium-rich foods—people who are calcium deficient can find sleeping difficult, so try to incorporate more leafy green vegetables and yogurt into your diet. And most fish out there (especially salmon, halibut and tuna) boost vitamin B6 which is needed to make the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, so eat a rich diet of fish. Also good: B6 fortified cereals and tart cherry juice.
3. Try aromatherapy—scents like lavender are said to promote calmness and reduce stress. And we all know that stress can be a HUGE contributing factor to bad sleep quality.
4. If stress is a problem for you, consider a meditation-based fitness class like yoga. Or try just meditating on your own for 15 minutes a day at home.
5. Try out a CD that is made to encourage productive sleep. There are many well-reviewed options. Take a look at Amazon for some good ones.
6. Clear your head by writing down all your thoughts in a journal. The act of writing will help you to “work out” your emotions.
7. Similarly, keep a notepad by your bed and make a list of all the things you need to do if they’re running through your head while you’re trying to sleep. Again, if your sleep problems are linked to stress, getting what’s in your head onto paper can really help you to feel calmer before bed.
8. Do your best to shut out all outside light. The darker your room is, the more chance you have of falling asleep and staying asleep.
9. Be sure to shut off all nearby gadgets that emit blue light, like the TV and your laptop. The light emitted from these electronics is known to stimulate the brain and interfere with sleep.
10. Concentrate on your breathing. Pay attention to whether your breathing is shallow. Take long, slow belly breaths to put you into a calmer sleepy state.
11. Try listening to soothing music or using a sound machine.
12. Do not eat within 4 hours of bedtime. A full belly can also interrupt proper sleep.
13. Do not work out within 2 hours of bedtime, and stay away from hyper or stressful activities before bed.
14. Try a calming herbal tea like Chamomile or Valerian root tea, which is sold at health food stores as a natural sleep aid. I have had good results with the Valerian tea.
15. Try vitamins (though you should ALWAYS consult your doctor first). Magnesium and calcium help to boost sleep and are even more effective if they’re taken together. Melatonin is also promoted as a great sleep aid.
16. Get your blood work done. You may be deficient in Vitamin B12, D, iron or all of the above (if you’re like me), and the simple act of rebalancing your internal chemistry with the right vitamins could resolve your issues.
17. If you routinely take medication of any kind, talk to your doctor as it might be interfering with your sleep cycle. He or she may be able to suggest switching to something without that negative side effect.
18. Consider seeing a naturopath who may offer other helpful alternatives that your regular medical doctor didn’t.
19. Try a sleep app, like Sleep Cycle, which tracks your sleep and wakes you up during your lightest sleep phase so you feel refreshed.
20. If all else fails, visit a sleep clinic—you may need to stay over for a couple of nights so that they can analyze your sleep patterns, but they will be able to inform you if there is an underlying treatable condition.

Good luck and Happy Sleeping!

R

Bright Workout Gear to Motivate You

I cannot believe I let an entire week go by without posting…shame on me. You know how these summers go–every weekend is fully booked and half your weeknights end up the same. But it’s so nice to get outside, enjoy the weather, and spend time with family and friends. Plus, I’ve got wedding stuff added into the mix! Anyway, my apologies and I will try to be much better next week!

Speaking of the wedding, that’s what kind of inspired this week’s selection for “Bright Delights”. With less than 4 months to go, it occurred to me that I better step up my fitness routine. I don’t have any lofty goals–I’m just looking to tone up a bit for the big day. I don’t know about you, but I find that having cute workout clothes and accessories makes me a lot more excited and motivated to work out.

Anyway, this is what I’m loving this week in the way of bright workout gear!

R

I realllllly want this tank top from Etsy shop sunsetsigndesigns. Like really.
I realllllly want this tank top from Etsy shop sunsetsigndesigns. Like really.
C9 by Champion Women's Novelty Mesh Short
C9 by Champion Women’s Novelty Mesh Short
I've been coveting this sweat resistant armband on Amazon for quite some time now. It's got a place to hold your key, an excess ear plug cord holder and can hold your iPhone.
I’ve been coveting this sweat resistant armband on Amazon for quite some time now. It’s got a place to hold your key, an excess ear plug cord holder and can hold your iPhone.
Nike Brasilia 5 Medium Duffel Bag - available in a variety of colors
Nike Brasilia 5 Medium Duffel Bag – available in a variety of colors
AUTOSEAL® Kangaroo Water Bottle with Storage
AUTOSEAL® Kangaroo Water Bottle with Storage – this is amazing: it is 100% BPA free and can store your ID, gym card, money, key, etc.

And a couple freebies:

Beauty Products to Pack in Your Gym Bag

9 Gym Bag Essentials

Best Natural Products for Sensitive Skin – Part 2

For those of you out there who are looking to add more natural products to your skincare regimen, who require natural products because you can’t use parabens and other manmade preservatives, or both, this blog post is for you!

For years now I’ve had sensitive skin that has gotten progressively more sensitive with time. I can fondly recall my high school days where I could use any cheap drugstore product with quick and fabulous results. Somewhere between college and the working world, my skin did a 180 and became a stubborn thorn in my side. I couldn’t find anything that would calm it down, even after repeated visits to the dermatologist (their go-to recommendations Cetaphil and Cera Ve didn’t do a drop of good for me, they just exacerbated my already dismal skin situation). I ultimately determined that the best way to care for my sensitive skin would be to use as many natural products as possible. You can find my first post on recommended natural products for sensitive skin here if you haven’t already seen it.

I’ve always been interested in natural alternatives to skincare, cleaning supplies, etc so I had a pretty good idea of what brands out there were putting out high quality products. I’ve tried a lot of different brands over the years, but there are a few that I keep returning to over and over again because I know that I pretty much can’t go wrong with any of their products. For me, those brands include: Origins, JĀSÖN, The Body Shop, and Lumene.

All products reviewed below are  products that I am currently using. So without further ado, here are my 5 picks for natural skincare products for sensitive skin.

1. JĀSÖN Body Care Satin Shower Apricot Body Wash

This is the perfect body wash for summertime. The apricot scent is absolutely intoxicating and a little bit of this stuff goes a long way. What’s more, at 30 ounces this body wash will last you practically forever. It may be a bit more expensive than your average drugstore body wash, but you will get every penny’s worth. Plus, I’ve never found any other body wash or soap that has made my skin as silky smooth as this does…it really is that good. And it’s free of parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, and phthalates.

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2. Tea Tree Skincare Travel Kit – The Body Shop

When I travel, this is the kit I take with me to care for my skin on the go. I am not the biggest fan of the tea tree scent in general, but I like this set from The Body Shop so much, I don’t mind it. The set includes a clearing facial wash, toner, lotion, and tea tree oil in a cute green mesh cosmetic bag. Tea tree oil, lemon tea tree, and tamanu oil help to control excess oil and shine, and prevent breakouts. Oftentimes I cannot use skincare products that are specially formulated to control acne because they are too harsh.  But I can use this kit on my sensitive skin without any adverse reactions, and it makes my skin smooth and rosy.

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3. United State toner – Origins

Its name says it all. This toner for combination skin is intended to balance out your skin into one “united state”. It exfoliates, de-clogs pores, smoothes skins, de-shines oily t-zones, and moisturizes all at once. It’s got soy protein to prevent parching, as well as bergamot, spearmint, and lavender. I love this toner because it calms and cleanses my skin without over drying, like so many other toners out there, and smells phenomenol.

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4. Camomile Gentle Eye Makeup Remover – The Body Shop

This eye makeup remover from The Body Shop is one I’ve returned to over and over again over the years. I try others here and there just to see if there’s anything better out there…there isn’t. This is my go-to product for removing mascara, eye liner, and eye shadow in one fell swoop. It is gentle, non-greasy, and actually removes all of my eye makeup, where so many other products I’ve tried have left more behind than they’ve actually removed. It comes in a generous 8.4 fluid ounces, and does not cause any stinging or eye irritation whatsoever.  It leaves my lashes feeling smooth and pampered, where other products have actually pulled my lashes right out. I highly recommend this regardless of whether or not you have sensitive skin.

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5. Excellent Future Deep Repairing Eye Cream – Lumene

I happen to love the Lumene line from Finland. Though I had seen the line numerous times at CVS, I really didn’t know much about it. It wasn’t until I began working for a Finnish paperboard company, that I discovered just how amazing Lumene products really are. I received some of their products as a giveaway one year when I attended an event hosted by the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce. I immediately became a Lumene convert. Their products are pricey but they are truly worth it. I love this eye cream from  Lumene, which uses arctic cloudberry, an ingredient Scandinavian people have depended on for centuries to promote health and natural beauty. It contains more than 85% natural ingredients, as well as apple stem cells, which helps skin to repair itself. It’s also paraben-, colorant-, and fragrance-free.

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What natural products are you using for your sensitive skin? I would love to hear about them, as I’m always looking for quality products to add to my skincare regimen. I’d also love to hear your recommendations on natural makeup products as well!

R

If you liked this post, you should also check out out Part 1 and Establishing a Nightly Pampering Ritual

Make a HAPPY BOX

Some days are just plain lousy, aren’t they? For those days when life gives you a lot of lemons and you’re angry or upset, feeling disappointed or hopeless, remind yourself of all the good things in your life with a Happy Box. I decided to make this for myself because I can at times be a bit of a glass-half-empty kind of gal, and it can be hard to see the positives beyond the negatives. I think that getting into a habit of negative thinking is a terrible thing, and I don’t want to let myself get pulled under by a sea of discontent.

I have a wonderful life with lots of great people in it, and I thought I would remind myself of that fact on the occasional rough day with my Happy Box. The first step to making my Happy Box was, of course, to find the right box. I had seen this box at Target on my last few trips and was totally smitten with it. It’s bright and just seems….happy! I decided this would be the perfect container to hold all my happy-making items inside.

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So what should go inside your Happy Box? Whatever you want. But if you need a bit of inspiration, here are a few suggestions:

Cards
Photographs
Ticket stubs for a movie or concert that brings back good memories
Small, meaningful mementos
An inspiring magazine article
Love notes or poems
Accomplishments
Invitations to parties or events

 

For some inspiration, here’s a little peek at what’s inside mine:

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A special candid photo of my mom and me at my engagement party late last year….a motivational card that says “I release all criticism”…
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….A ticket to Bridesmaids, which is still probably one of my favorite, feel-good, female power movies….a goofy birthday card from my fiancé about ninjas, which reminds me of he can always make me laugh myself right out of a bad mood….a rose quartz lucky charm….an invitation from my niece’s first birthday, which NEVER fails to put a smile on my face…..

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….a picture of the day my fiancé  and I got engaged…some cute “Mr” and “Mrs” pins from my good friend Amy….

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….An unexpected card from my mom one day…
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….THE cork from the bottle of champagne Jeff used to propose to me….

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….and a slew of other things that up my happy factor.

Now–if there’s a time I’m feeling down–I can reach into my closet and pull out my Happy Box to quickly remember all the great things in life…and everything for which I should be grateful.

And don’t forget — this box is an ever-evolving trough of inspiration, love, and…happiness! Keep adding to it as you experience wonderful things in your life.

What would you put in your Happy Box? Have you made something similar?

R

This Too Shall Pass

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There are some days more than others when it’s important to remember this (very true) mantra. This beautiful artistic rendition of a common saying can be found on Etsy in the AnchorSociety shop. I love the clouds and sky in the lettering. They are calm and soothing.

I will look at this image when I need to remind myself that rough times always have an end.

Wishing you all a day of sunshine.

R