Recapping Thanksgiving

For many years I’ve had a yearly tradition of going to Frankenmuth & Birch Run Michigan for US Thanksgiving and “Black Friday” shopping. I missed last year because I was just back from Mexico, and prepping to leave for Mexico again(!) and that was a more than worthy tradeoff, but I definitely missed it. This year I wasn’t missing it at all.

Somehow Frankenmuth seems to just do Christmas right. Maybe part of that stems from being the home of the “World’s Largest Christmas Store”, Bronner’s. Bronner’s actually even has it’s own wiki and some of the factoids about it are just mindboggling. One part of my yearly tradition involves going to Zehnder’s for their Thanksgiving buffet dinner. I’m not sure what they do to their sweet potatoes or their Hubbard squash, but those are 2 dishes I definitely can’t duplicate at home.

Here’s a shot of some of the decor in Zehnder’s:
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After dinner we went to the Premium Outlets in Birch Run for some all night shopping. I managed to score some incredible deals and get a lot of my Christmas shopping done! Yes, really! And it wasn’t even December yet! Canadian retailers have tried to drop prices to be competitive, but their deals don’t even come close to the ones I find on the US side, add in that the taxes in MI are significantly less than Ontario it all adds up to more money in my wallet. I don’t even give much thought to my hotel bill because I look at it as a cost of a mini-escape.

I must say though, I definitely do avoid Wal Mart, Best Buy and any of those stores that have people camping out, lining up for days, trampling each other to the death over ridiculous sales at least in the morning on Black Friday. I’ve been in a Wal Mart on the Saturday and it was shockingly quiet and easy to shop.  But I’m not one to risk life or limb for a sale, and this diva princess doesn’t camp. The closest I’ve come to unruly shoppers was some near anarchy at the Coach outlet one year when people cut the line repeatedly and security couldn’t be bothered to do anything to control the crowd. I still kept my distance because my health is worth far more than any Coach bag.

By the time it was time to come home on Saturday, my car was well loaded up with lots of goodies and gifts. The following pictures are of some things I somehow miraculously resisted bringing home. That didn’t stop me from snapping a picture or two…

Heck yes I need these Hello Kitty Vans.
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An egg cooker that will give you perfect soft, medium and hard “boiled” eggs.  It’s only $39.95!
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I really want to know..
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The purrrrrrfect kitty cat onesie jammies for this crazy cat lady…
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Polar fleece. Leopard print. HK. Pyjama pants. Shut the front door!
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These are the most badass Christmas cat boxer shorts I have ever seen. They’re also the only Christmas cat boxer shorts I’ve ever seen, but not the point.
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Black Friday, thank you for not disappointing for another year. Can’t wait to do this all again next year!

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The Last Escape

I’m barely home from what is reported to be the sixth and final Creative Escape and I still have a hard time believing it’s all over.  The end of an era, if you will.  I’ve attended the last 3 Creative Escapes hosted by the amazing Heidi Swapp and Bazzill Basics Paper company, and the last 3 were held at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler Arizona.  Every year that I’ve been fortunate to attend it’s been the last week of August, and always deliciously HOT!!!  It is a dry heat, as they say, but honestly you have no idea what it is like until you experience it.  The event has been termed the “ultimate scrapbook indulgence”, and in my experience so far it is definitely true.  I have attended 3 CKU’s prior and they don’t even begin to shine a candle to Creative Escape.  Heidi and Bazzill really do all the important things right.  What I also find I can’t appropriately describe is how inspired I feel when I’m there, and when I get home, and how emotional the event can be for me.  Sometimes in all those projects, learnings and fun, a glimmer of perspective and real life shines through.  It’s amazing how something like that really does put life, and what is truly important into focus when you least expect it.  This year was no exception and did not disappoint.  This post is mostly just going to be an event and travel recap. I will do a project recap once they are all finished, and for the first time ever they are all either complete or close to it (or as close as they’ll ever get).

So first of all, the lovely state of Arizona. Wow, what a special place. I keep trying to get to Sedona and the Grand Canyon, but I never seem to schedule enough time to make it happen.  This year was no exception.  Next time, honestly next time.  The scenery in the Phoenix area is completely beautiful.  Buildings and homes tend to be lower rise and in hues of brown because of the heat.  Premium parking isn’t necessarily closest to the door, but in the shade, and some places do have shade constructed in the parking lots.  I used to think I’d love to live in that area and that the heat would help my seasonal affective disorder, which I’m sure it would, but I learned on this trip that I need to live in a bigger city.  That said, and this is totally shameful to admit, I do blend in Scottsdale, and could easily live within that lifestyle.  Just to show how everything in Arizona is different, I snapped this pic of the McDonald’s closest to the Wild Horse Pass.  

Incidentally, for a cactus to grow arms like this one has, it needs to be at least 50 years old. That is one mighty old cactus!

The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass.  I have such mixed feelings about this resort.  It is a beautiful and serene property.  It’s very secluded and isolated, which just adds to the nice vibe.  Service, however, is so hit and miss, and there are so many irritating annoyances.  The first year they kindly placed me in a room overlooking the very scenic parking lot, and extremely far away from the conference centre where Creative Escape was being held.  The second year, after several battles, I was still an inconvenient country mile from the event, but at least had a nice view.  This time, while view was of the river the water shuttle uses, it was super convenient to the event.

The kicker for me though is as a rewards member I’m supposed to be given a complimentary room class upgrade, which I’ve never received, but have watched others in line ahead of me get no questions asked.  I think it’s ridiculous most higher end hotels make you pay for internet, when the lower ends give it for free.  But, what makes it worse here is that it is for pay, and wired, and the wire never reaches overly far to where it would be comfortable to be, just a firm chair and desk though the bed and comfy chair are in view. So close, and yet so far.  I also find the resort highly buggy and get several insect bites if I try to sit in the lobby or lounge and use the free wifi, and 2 out of 3 years I’ve managed to get some pretty nasty spider bites there too… as if I’m not terrified of spiders enough…  That said, here’s one of the amazing views I love at the Wild Horse Pass – sunset from the lobby, looking down onto the lounge and out to the pool, golf course and beyond. Stunning.

On to the fun stuff!

I stopped at Nothing Bundt Cakes on my first day in and picked up one of my fav flavor bundt cakes; white chocolate raspberry!  Yes, they sell nothing but bunt cakes, and I’ve tried most of them, and they are completely amazing!!  And the staff at this location on Ray Rd. are super super nice.  Don’t even question it, just know, you NEED to go.

I reunited with friends Gretchen, whom I first met at CKU Nashville in August 2007, and Dee, a friend of Gretchen who attended CKU Provo in August 2008. We of course had to dine at Arriba because it’s tradition, and the food is amazing, and so are the drinks, and it’s unbelievably inexpensive.

Wednesday began with shopping at the amazing LSS run and owned by the fine Bazzill folk, Scrapbooks, Etc.  The store is massive, but here is a glimpse at one small part. And of course, they have the latest and greatest, as well as a huge fabric section. Clearly having some klout pays…

And if that wasn’t enough, it was followed by shopping at the Bazzill warehouse where I got my yearly fill on Bazzill goodies.

Speaking of Bazzill goodies, one of the things I love most about shopping at Scrapbooks Etc. is their lollipop wall! 🙂 So so yummy! 🙂

Wednesday evening led to dinner at the amazing Rawhide Steakhouse.  18 of us ladies from the Yahoo group traveled over for dinner together and had a fabulous evening.  We definitely could have had more join us, but Rawhide capped our table at 18.

Last year I actually tried rattlesnake there, and it really did taste like a salty popcorn chicken.  This year there was apparently a shortage on rattlesnake! Who knew?!  I settled for ribs, overcooked steak, shrimp and a delicious prickly pear margarita.

In case I didn’t have enough fun while out and about, I made sure my room was set up for fun times at all times as well!

Friday I got to watch a dust storm threaten to roll in from the distance, but it never really seemed to amount to anything.

Friday evening led to some fun times with friends, and some casino losses at the nearby casino.

After 2 days of classes and the bazaar on Thursday, Creative Escape was coming to a close. I loved listening to Heidi Swapp speak as the closing keynote speaker.  I loved getting to spend some last few moments with friends from years gone by, and getting to know others even better this year. I shopped for Jody at CKU Nashville 2007 as her secret sister and we’ve met up every single summer since. She’s an awesome lady and a lot of fun to be with, and I have tremendous admiration for her strength.

Add in the Michigan and UK connection and the good times just amplified. Sarah from the UK reminded me so much of my good friend Suz back home it was almost like having her there with me.. except I wished she was actually there with me.

2 quotes I loved from Heidi’s keynote, that had me in tears I’ll have you know (the speech, not the quotes).

Some of the aftermath of projects and shoppings…

Sunday I partook of some much needed relaxing at the amazing Aji Spa. It’s probably my 3rd favourite spa behind Le Blanc Spa and Aventura Spa.  I treated myself to a treatment called “Bahn” because you can have a massage or facial at any old spa and I like to try things that are unique to that spa.

bAhN (Blue Coyote Wrap) Symbolic of Coyote’s coat turning the beautiful color of Bluebird, our proprietary Azulene mud is applied to the body. Unlike prideful Coyote, as the blue is removed, your skin will feel more radiant, soft and beautiful. The entire experience is completed with a hydrating cedar and sage oil full body massage. Your therapist will give you a copy of the Bluebird and the Coyote Legend for you to take home and share with your friends and family.

Now that I’ve had it, it was nice, but I can’t say the mud was outstandingly amazing for my skin, but love the steam capsule, and it did help my nasty spider bite.  If I should make it back to Aji, I will likely just stick with the less expensive massage, but I’m glad I tried the Bahn all the same.  After that I had an amazing lunch and cocktail and spent the rest of the day enjoying the spa pool and the rest of the facilities. It was hard to leave because it’s really up in the air if/when I will be able to return.

As the sun sets on the final Creative Escape I am filled with nothing but gratitude I was able to go for so many years. Gratitude for finally making it to the beautiful Arizona. Gratitude for meeting so many fantastic amazing women. Gratitude for learning from so many great talents in the industry. Inspired to go home and create more. Thank you to all for so many amazing memories. Until we meet again, I treasure all the moments that are absolutely Worth Remembering.

Rainy Days and Mondays

Here I am, reporting live from my ocean view bed at Le Blanc Spa resort in Cancun Mexico. For some reason vacations have me early to bed and early to rise. At home I’m more than content to stay up to the wee hours and sleep til at least 10. Here seems to be the opposite. I’d like to think it’s because I enjoy being out and in the sun that much.

Today marks day 2 of rain. Yesterday I went shopping to escape the rain. I had high hopes of buying a Louis bag but the prices here are so inflated it’s crazy. Ditto to a white strapped watch with crystals around the face. I tried to buy new Havaiana flip flops and they were out of my size. Needless to say it was a fruitless trip but a good way to pass the time.

I’m happy to report my wet feet have not slipped on the marble floors, and I have not given any additional money to Palace Resorts. In fact, I’ve never left a member update meeting so angry in my life. I may just be a medic and not overly business savvy but there are a few things I know and have learned about negotiations along the way….

1) It’s generally helpful if the vendor knows your contract as well as you do so they aren’t trying to resell you the same things over again.
2) It’s also helpful that if I tell you I have something in my contract, when it’s clear I know it better than you, don’t tell me no I don’t.
3) Pressure sales tactics don’t work on someone who has already bought in to your company.
4) If you promise to make something right, make sure you follow through with your promise whether I invest more or not.
5) Mr. Salesman… EVERYTHING is negotiable if you want the sale bad enough and you enter into the negotiations with a clear intent to make a deal; realizing both parties will need to compromise to complete the transaction.
6) Removing currently enjoyed benefits and replacing them with worthless ones will not get a deal done, unless you’re dealing with a sucker.
7) Knowing your client and understanding their why will get you very very far. At this point the art of the sale is not about you, but about tapping in to your clients needs and satisfying said need. Chances are, if I need a coffee maker but you’d rather sell me an oven, a deal will never be reached.

The storms here have been crazy. I’ve never seen the ocean so rough. We had a huge water leak through the night in our room. I hesitated to tell our butler in fear we’d be moved to a crappier room but there really is a huge puddle in the living area. Someone drowned in the rough waters on Saturday night at the resort next door. To be fair, red flags were flying everywhere along the beach, so it was an unfortunate result of his misadventures. Cue the media uproar.

I’m going to spend my afternoon in the spa and hope for sunny days ahead!