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Travel: Playa Del Carmen #GirlsTrip

What do you get when you take 10 accomplished women who have all known each other for well over a decade, have been through the ups and downs of life together, who all want the others to live their best life, and place them in a tropical paradise?

UNFORGETTABLE MOMENTS AND THE GIRLS TRIP OF A LIFETIME! (with more girls trips to come)

This past week I experienced the enormous blessing of being able to travel internationally with my core group of friends… JUST BECAUSE.

This trip stands out to me from all my other travels in many ways. First, I don’t remember the last time I had that much fun for consecutive days in a row.

Second, we were all able to come together to celebrate success! I’d missed a recent girls trip to Vegas because I was pregnant and on bedrest. This trip made up for that x100. All but one of us (who is currently pregnant) were able to make the trip that was planned to simply be a much needed getaway for all of us!

Third, we experienced some very deep and meaningful conversations and walked away all knowing and appreciating each other EVEN more.

We stayed at the Ocean Maya Royale and enjoyed good food and entertainment while there! This resort was great for our girls trip because it is an all-inclusive resort which included multiple dining options (Italian, Asian, Mexican, etc), a breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet, on-demand open bar service from anywhere on the resort, an excellent calendar of events (live shows, pool parties, etc) and has beach access.

The place was quite charming with it’s perfect hues every morning and evening as the sun kissed the palm trees and with it’s random yet friendly wildlife that roamed freely! We utilized a travel agent for our flight and resort bookings and to stay organized with payments and planning.

We independently booked a private yacht which sailed briefly due to choppy water from Riviera Maya!

We partied hard on that boat once we got in calm waters! We also took a swim from the boat to a shallow area near where we anchored our boat. We had a full wait staff who served up food and drinks until our hearts were content and there was absolutely a ton of twerking to our #HotGirlSummer playlist!

Following our yacht party and after a day of rest, the resort concierge made sure we were taken care of when it came to the type of excursion we wanted to experience. We chose a half-day adventuresome option which involved us diving, zip-lining, snorkeling and swimming! Aventuras Mayas was the perfect tour company. Our tour guide Alan was personable and knowledgeable. He guided us through 3 different cenotes: a ‘lagoon’, a ‘tavern’ and an ‘open’ cenote. I enjoyed various elements of all 3! We were also fed an authentic Mexican lunch, buffet style while on the tour! Sooo much fun (and delicious)!!!

As a child, I had a bad snorkeling experience in Hawaii in which I almost drowned. I told myself it just wasn’t an activity that I was interested in after that. It was on my “blocked list” as my friend Jennifer would say. lol However, I am so glad I was open to this experience while on this trip. It was so relaxing floating in that water (my friends and I gliding through the water like a school of fish) and I can now say I love snorkeling! Wow!

Zip-lining and diving into the water was simply EPIC. Fun is an understatement!

The tavern cenote was nearly a spiritual encounter, just experiencing the earth in a way that I never had before. It felt like a sacred place. In fact, the local people of that area would historically use the tavern cenote as their actual place of worship and for healing of the mind, body and soul.

Most of my outfits (my favorites) including swimwear were purchased on Shein, but I also found Amazon and Fashion Nova helpful. I have linked some of my ‘lewks’ to my store for you.

I got all my life dancing, laughing and making new memories with my girlfriends and can’t wait until the next #GirlsTrip!

Click here for footage in my GIRLS TRIP highlight story on IG!

Besos – xxRiss

Travel: Tahiti – Our 5 Year “Honeymoon”

The first week of May is always one of my most highly anticipated times of the year. This time last year, I was just returning from Cabo San Lucas with my husband Kenneth and unbeknownst to us at the time, was soon to be expecting our rainbow baby!

This year, our annual “honeymoon” was in full effect as we ventured to one of my bucket list destinations, the French Polynesian island of Tahiti.

Preparation for our trip was very organized and well planned. I started packing a week in advance. I’d made packing lists for myself, my child, and even my dog. lol We were to drop “the kids” off at my parents house on the opposite side of town the day before take off and everything seemed to be going smooth. My outfits were POPPIN! I’d packed some sponsored product to enjoy and share with you while I was on my trip. I was so proud of my packing job. I’d managed to remain stress free and even get enough sleep before our red-eye flight traveling from Houston to Denver, Denver to San Francisco then finally, San Fran to Tahiti.

Our original flight to San Fran was canceled leaving our only option to San Fran a flight that had later been delayed 5 hours! Both flights effected by mechanical issues with Southwest Airlines planes (call out)! We frantically had to book a flight from Denver to San Fran on United to be sure we made it for our international flight. Only one flight was going to Tahiti that day! We had to be on it. Our bags did not make it on that flight. They’d be flown to San Fran on that super delayed Southwest flight and the rightful hand off to United was never able to happen. We tried to have Southwest ship our bags via UPS or FedEx but they messed that up as well. I could go into so much more detail, but long story short… we spent nearly a week in the French Polynesia with no bags.

Fending for ourselves without our belongs almost 5,000 miles from home was an adventure in and of itself. We’d gotten by with the clothes we’d worn to the airport and a couple of sarongs that I was fortunate enough to get my hands on that next day. Shoutout to Mari (from California)… my new friend and United Airline stewardess who learned of our situation and give me her brand new black sarong that I later used as a skirt, a waist belt AND a head wrap! Yass!! You can really multi-purpose those things to no end.

Our second day in Tahiti was actually a national holiday… so all the local stores were closed. We utilized the hotels essentials and extremely overpriced hotel gift shop in the mean time before finally on our second full day there, going to the local store to get everything else we needed. You better believe Southwest reimbursed us for EVERYTHING.

We definitely enjoyed ourselves regardless!!! Though I was so excited about my ‘LEWKS’, I was more excited to be in such a beautiful place with the love of my life, doing what I love the MOST! That is adventuring, seeing new places, experiencing new things and new cultures. In a way, not having our bags made the trip more memorable and was a valuable lesson in how little we truly need.

The hotel was nothing short of exquisite. We stayed at the Intercontinental Tahiti with our first couple of nights in a standard room and their deluxe bungalow for our actual anniversary and for the remainder of our vacation. The experience of living in a bungalow in the ocean was a dream come true. Sleeping there felt like I was in another time or dimension. So very magical!

Early on, the trip was off to an adventurous start. Navigating our way with nothing and ‘living off the land’ lol! The the adventure just kept coming… and in the most incredible ways.

I rode a jet ski for the first time. It was nuts! Felt like a roller-coaster in the Pacific Ocean and I was smitten with the dolphins that greeted us so warmly.

We swam with “friendly” sting rays and nearby sharks during our Lagoon Tour at Mo’orea.

We also bonded with locals and attended a local barbecue. Have you ever tasted grilled marlin? OMG so good!

We met other married couples from one married for 1 day to another married for 50 years! Most importantly, we spent some priceless quality time together.

We ate ate and drank like royalty, enjoyed a world class spa, couples massage and facials. The entertainment was off the chain! The views were simply BREATH-TAKING!

This was definitely a very memorable vacation and well worth it trip! I’m in love with the island of Tahiti which helped me to realize I don’t need a bunch of stuff to have the TIME OF MY LIFE!!!

We are so grateful to celebrate each other and 5 years of marriage and we are looking forward to celebrating for years to come!! God is sooo good! All the time!!! More detailed view (and fun videos) in my IG Tahiti Highlight stories: Watch Here!

5 Quick Tips You Should Know Should You Ever Travel to Tahiti

  1. It’s very remote. Especially if you stay on one of the smaller surrounding islands of the French Polynesia like Mo’orea (which is gorgeous and you can also do a day tour here arriving by ferry). There aren’t a ton of people here. You will be in a very remote and overwhelmingly beautiful natural landscape.
  2. Monetary goods are expensive in the French Polynesia… on and off your resort. With our bags being left behind, we quickly learned that prices for even the most basic necessities are 3-4 times what you’d pay in the states. On top of that, the conversion looks flat out crazy. lol For example, $30 USD for a plain cotton t-shirt translates to $3,202 Francs. The conversion rate is approximately .0094 USD to 1 Franc.
  3. These Polynesians speak a sort of Polynesian French. Many are bi/tri-lingual but it’s best to brush up on a few of the most commonly spoken phrases such as “hello!”/ “la ora na!”, “thank you!”/ “mauruuru!” and “where is the restroom?” which is simply “toilette?”
  4. As far as food, the local favorite is a fresh fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk with fresh veggies served over rice and is served everywhere! It is called poisson cru. I’d describe it as a Tahitian Ceviche. It’s wonderful. What we’d consider a traditional breakfast is popular there as well. A good plate of bacon, eggs and potatoes isn’t hard to come by. French classics such a chocolate croissant with espresso are also easy to come by.
  5. You really don’t need a lot. Make sure to have your basic necessities in a carry on bag, but other than that plan to wear very little (it’s perfectly warm here). Men and women live by the sarong. One sarong will yield 10 different looks.

What places are on your travel bucket list? Leave me a comment below. Thanks for reading! See you next time!

xo -Riss

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carissa

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Travel: New York in a Day

My first flight after having my daughter was a direct one to New York, New York and damn was it eventful!

My husband and I squeezed in a two night stay in New York the weekend of his birthday for a little business and a little pleasure. We arrived to our hotel Thursday, March 21st at 11:55pm on a cold and rainy night leaving us just one full day (Friday) in New York City. We had a jam packed and purpose filled day before heading to Florida early Saturday morning to visit family. Here is how we did New York in a day!

I have been to NYC two other times before, once for family vacation and the other time for blogger work with L’Oreal Paris USA. Both of those trips were amazing! But this was Kenneth and I’s first time in NYC together and if it one thing I knew about NYC it’s that it’s a busy and highly populated place. Transportation can be slow… and if your time is limited, you better move fast and plan your route! In just about 24hrs, we had amazing food and drinks, had a business meeting, celebrated Kenneth’s birthday, experienced a dope interactive art museum, went shopping on Times Square, listened to live music in Harlem, attended a comedy show and had romantic alone time. I don’t need to tell you that we literally did not sleep before heading to Florida. lol

Hotel – The Omni Berkshire

When we arrived to our hotel, we weren’t thrilled to find they had put us up in a room with two double beds. Probably because when I husband booked, he did not specify. Naturally, we went back down to the front desk to request a room with a King bed. Due to all standard rooms being booked, we caught a dub and were upgraded to a suite! The suite at the Omni was beautiful. I pampered myself with a bubble bath in my complimentary robe.

I also can’t mention this hotel without giving mention to the amazing concierge! They helped make our short stay in NYC flow perfectly by helping me pull off a birthday surprise for my husband and helping us plan the flow of our itinerary!

Morning Breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien.

This a referral from our hotel’s concierge because it is a cozy and cute French bakery offering deliciously fresh breakfast food and beverage options. We trotted in light drizzle and 40 degree weather and enjoy the best breakfast sandwich I’ve had in a long time and my first match latte! Yummy!

The Color Factory in SoHo

We had some time in between breakfast and our business meeting so in route to the meeting we swung by The Color Factory. Lot’s to soak in here. Lots to see, do, taste, hear, feel, etc. It’s a very thoughtful space that flows from room to room and is so carefully curated. I was blown away… pictures don’t do it justice plus I don’t want to give it all away in case you go! You should experience for yourself next time you’re in New York.

I’d been wanting to experience an interactive art museum like this so I inquired with the concierge who then put us on a list to have us covered at the door. Tickets are otherwise available for $38 each online at: https://www.colorfactory.co/

Business and Brunch – Sweet Chick

We met up with Kandia J., business consultant, boss babe and writer for Forbes, Business Insider and Black Enterprise. She’d previously did a write up on our law firm for Black Enterprise and we wanted to connect to meet face to face and show gratitude for her article which took our business to new heights plus talk shop. We had a blast and the food was delicious! Kenneth sad these were the best waffles he’s ever had. Sweet Chick has 4 locations around NYC as is partially owned by rapper and businessman, Nas.

We also did some research while in NYC on some technology we are developing, and while on Times Square went site seeing and did a little shopping.

The Birthday Boy

Hubby’s birthday was an absolute success! I’d tucked away a couple of gifts in my suite case that blew his mind and I partnered with Beatrice of the Omni concierge to surprise Kenneth midday after our meeting with balloons and gourmet cupcakes that I lit with candles so I could sing to him and have him make a wish. It was super special!

Friday night we took an Uber to Harlem where we had dinner at a Yatenga… a black owned casual French eatery with an eclectic vibe, a recommendation from a friend I went to high-school with who is now on Broadway. The best part about Yatenga was the African music, the savory mac n cheese, their roasted lamb and of course… their henny-colada! It’s apparently the drink to have when in New York! So good. After Yatenga we listened to live music at a nearby spot and ended the day at a comedy club on Times Square. Whew!!! What a day!!!

I still can’t believe we did all this in one day! First was the first trip of several coming up this year so stay tuned if you enjoy following my travel blogs.

Thanks for reading! xo -Riss

carissa

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Travel: The TX Wine Country

Soooo…. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me how truly cute and charming the town of Fredericksburg, Texas is? Fredericksburg is worth the trip! It’s a nice 4 hour road trip, just about an hour and a half past Austin.

In years past, I’d heard of the “Texas Wine Country” as an increasingly popular weekend getaway but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I had the opportunity to road trip there with my mom and sister…and I absolutely fell in love.

Although I am a born and raised Texas girl, visiting Fredericksburg made me feel like I was truly experiencing Texas for the first time! It was a nostalgic small town feel with an enormous personality. The southern hospitality was ON TEN. Everywhere we went we received the warmest greeting and service was top-notch.

There are cute bed and breakfast options if that’s your thing or if you’re looking for a different kind of experience. All of the hotels (even if a chain) are intentionally designed to give you that ‘sweet home Texas’ type of vibe.

We attempted a bed and breakfast but came across a few things while there for a short time that contributed to our decision to stay at the Best Western Plus instead. So cute and free, hot breakfast! We slept like babies there, and especially enjoyed waking up on Saturday morning to watch the Royal Wedding from bed. My recommendation is to book your room as close to main street as possible because everything in downtown Fredericksburg will be walking distance.

In total, we toured 3 wineries and 1 bourbon distillery. If you like bourbon, you MUST stop by Garrison Bros Distillery. I was fascinated by the process of how they make this Texas bourbon and the owner himself gives the tour. So much pride and passion behind what goes into their bottles!

Texas wine is AHMAZING! I am a fan! Although I’ve toured the hills of Napa and am even an amateur connoisseur, I must say that I am super proud of the wine made right here in my home state! And here is a little fact for ya… Texas Wine Country is well-known to be one of the best hill countries for wine touring in the NATION, 2nd only to Napa Valley, California. My FAVORITE vineyard was Grape Creek which is basically Tuscany in Texas. It was also the first Texas winery built in the hillcountry in the early 80s.

Beautiful grounds, soft live music on Sundays, awesome wine tour, exquisite tastings and its very own fine restaurant. Grape Creek Vineyards has won over 150 medals in the last two years from San Francisco to New York!

The tours were fun, interactive and informative. We learned so much and met some wonderful people along the way! You can book a day tour with a group, which will take you to a few vineyards by bus/ van or you can drive up and down the hill-side and visit vineyards of your choice at your own pace. We did both on different days.

The food was BAR NONE. I’m talking 5 star menus with new and creative takes on southern classics. Fresh, local sourced seafood, yummy desserts made from the finest Texas peaches. There were so many peach orchards in Fredericksburg!

Cross-Roads is a fine steakhouse by day and a saloon and bar by night. You have to make your dinner reservations FAR in advance. We booked our dinners a month ahead. Totally worth it!

Brisket-Stuffed Jalapenos

Crab & Crawfish Cakes

Fresh Baked Peach Pie with Handmade Vanilla Icecream

P.s. The menu is all grass-fed, grade A beef and free-range chicken. I could TASTE the difference. Also, the Bluebell Icecream Factory is on the way to Fredericksburg if you’d like to make a pit stop there. The food is soooo legit!

Nightlife is crazy lit…I am not kidding. We went to Cross-Roads for dinner two nights in a row and we enjoyed incredible live music there as well. The 6 member bands featured mostly MoTown hits and Soul music with some Pop, Dance, Country, Line Dance, and even some unexpected Bruno Mars, Genuine (Pony) and Cash Money (taking over for the 99 and the 2000s) inbetween. I was pleasantly surprised. We danced each night away. lol

It was SUCH a memorable, relaxing and fun Mother-Daughter weekend! We will definitely visit again! Whether for another girls trip or even a romantic getaway. Have you been to Fredericksburg? Would you like to road trip there some day? Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading! xo

carissa

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Travel: 5 Reasons We Own Vacation Property in Cabo

This month my hubby and I celebrated 4 years of marriage! Woohoo! To commemorate the occasion, we took our annual anniversary trip and decided we wanted to celebrate in Cabo San Lucas.

We have been to Cabo before in the past and loved it so much that we decided to go again. We arrived to Cabo (just the two of us) on May 2nd, a day before our actual anniversary and made Cabo our home for the following week. The first night, we romantically spent alone, getting acclimated with our resort and our presidential suite. The suite was equipped with a full kitchen, living room, whirlpool jacuzzi in the bedroom, and an outdoor balcony with a hammock overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The next day our friends/ family joined. We spent the next week turning up, adventuring, relaxing and making new memories. Cabo was good to us!

Near the beginning of our trip was “the presentation”. During this presentation we all toured a beautiful resort called Pueblo Bonito in exchange for a free sunset dinner cruise, a free excursion of our choice and Kenneth and I even received a special anniversary gift in the form of a cash voucher which we later used on food and drinks.

Cabo Sunset Dinner Cruise

We had already become owners of a vacation property (time-share) located in Orlando, Florida prior to this stay in Cabo. We’d often trade our time-share to stay in other places throughout the world whenever we got the travel itch. Our time share has allowed us to live and travel like royalty while making our means of paying for all these trips affordable.

We prioritize vacation time and paid our time-share off little by little each month before finally paying it off IN FULL last month! We are extremely grateful for the means to travel as much as we do and owning a time-share has definitely helped. Though I appreciate the trading power of our Orlando property, I have always wanted to own at a beautiful destination such as Cabo and at the end of the presentation we were made an offer we couldn’t refuse. We have now added Cabo to our vacation bag and I could not be more thrilled!

Infinity pools are my fav

Here are our top 5 reasons why we decided to own a vacation property in Cabo:

1. More time with family and friends in a beautiful destination!

2. The food and the fun!

We parasailed, went kayaking AND got massages on the beach!

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3. It’s easy (and cheap) to catch a flight to Mexico! 4. Our vacation property is an asset that we can sale, gift, or pass on to our future children!


5. The Pacific Ocean is majestic… the waves are like no other!

Do you own a time-share? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Thanks for reading! xo

carissa

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Travel: Hurricane Harvey + Setting Sail (This is 30 pt. 1)

Hello love. If you follow my blog you know some of my story. You know that this year has been a crazy one for me. This notion holds true all the way up until weeks before my birthday (Sept. 14, 2017). So much has happened in just the past couple of weeks that I need to write a 3-part blog. Fitting… I guess seeing as how this is 30.

To ring in the big 3-0 I had the experience of enduring a natural disaster. Reminiscent of my 21st birthday (during Hurricane Ike) I found myself hunkering down in the midst of Hurricane Harvey.

On the Thursday of the storm we had a “hurricane party”. Daiquiris, music, games and lots of fun. My sister and her boyfriend came over to join me, my husband and my brother -in-law. The 5 of us had a great time! 

The next day… things got REAL. I think we all underestimated the effects of this storm and even took certain warnings to be “alternative facts” as the local news advised. Nothing prepared my city (Houston, Texas) for the massive flood event that took place as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Within a day or two, Hurricane Harvey barreled its way through the gulf coast leaving an unprecedented amount of rain fall to coastal cities and all the way inland to Houston and surrounding areas. By Saturday… the city of Houston was under water.

My brother-in-law was visiting from Georgia and in town for his 21st birthday, ironically. He and my husband were planning to fly out to Vegas to celebrate his 21st which was also the same weekend as the Mayweather fight. Instead he took him to Top Golf. Houston airports were under water and closed for days so obviously they didn’t make it to Vegas. For my brother in-law’s birthday, I cooked a hearty meal and my husband made pancakes for dessert. We so wished we could’ve done more for him but he was so grateful for the little things.

I don’t know which was more terrifying, the tornado warnings which required us to take shelter in our master closet downstairs or watching the flood water rise up my driveway with each passing day of rain. If the house were to flood we would need to be upstairs…but if a tornado were to touch down nearby we would need to be downstairs. The whole ordeal was emotionally draining!

My street

We elevated all the furniture on the first floor as best we could, packed bags, prayed ceaselessly then just hoped for the best while being prepared for the worst.

For 6 days we were trapped inside of the house which was surrounded by water on all sides. By day 5 our food supply was running low so my husband and bro-in-law trudged through the flood waters (in home made rain boots) to the nearest open store to get us some food items. They held it down!

Overhead, was the national guard and on the ground were huge government trucks sent to rescue people who had water rise to dangerous levels in their homes. It was a scene I have never witnessed first hand and will NEVER forget as long as I live. Miraculously… my home experienced no flooding and we did not even lose power, not once… #blessed.

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Fast forward. After about 6 days of being unable to leave our house, the waters receded enough for us to pack up and leave. My husband, brother-in-law, dog and I journeyed to the north-side of Houston to my parents house. We encountered a couple of close calls on the highway due to high standing water and the drive which would normally take 45 minutes took almost 2 hours.

Being at my parents house that night was overwhelmingly relieving. We enjoyed an amazing home cooked meal then drove out to Dallas the next morning. It was the nearest and safest city we could fly out of. We had to get my bro-in-law back home to GA and were also looking forward to our much needed vacation in the Caribbean which had been booked months before to celebrate my 30th birthday.

We took every pre-caution and called the cruise liner (Carnival). They informed that our trip was still on schedule even despite the tropical storm that is now brewing in the Atlantic.  Tropical storm Irma was still several thousands of miles away at that time and they insured it would not interfere with the travel itinerary. Excitedly, we set sail from the Port of Miami to the Caribbean on Sept. 2….

(Click to continue reading to part 2)

Travel: The Bahamas + Turks & Caicos (This is 30 pt. 2)

The cruise was set for Sept. 2nd – Sept 7th. Just a quick little get away to the islands. What excited me most was that I would be seeing some places on this cruise for the first time; such as Halfmoon Cay Island (which is privately owned by Carnival) and Grand Turk Island in Turks and Caicos.

I felt so fortunate to be able to travel and have a ‘baecation’ especially with all that was going on back home. Hell, I was happy just making it out of the neighborhood! The cruise was EPIC!

We had soooo much fun on that boat!

From the casino, to the eateries, the clubs, the comedy shows, our live karaoke performances, learning about fine art and participating in our first fine art auction…

It’s a celebration!

We were big kids and had a chance to totally unwind!

 

The stops at the different islands, Nassau, Halfmoon Cay and Grand Turk… all had a different appeal to them.

Surprisingly, the waters were super calm and it was smooth sailing during the entire trip!

At our last stop, we could feel the locals in Turks and Caicos getting geared up for Irma which had become a Cat 5 Hurricane and expected to make land fall in the next few days. On the boat, everyone spent that last day at sea heading back to the states, still turnt but also watching the weather very closely.

Finally, we dock back in Miami. We disembark from the boat early Thursday morning and head straight to the airport to see if we can catch an earlier flight back to Dallas. Since no other flights were available, we sat at the airport ALL day anxiously awaiting this flight to fly us back home to safety. Harvey had moved on from Houston and now we are in Florida where Hurricane Irma is expected to sweep through and yield catastrophic damage.

From 10am to 9:30pm we waited. By this time our flight was an hour late due to waiting on the flight crew to arrive from their previous flight. We felt the nervousness creep up our throats as we heard other flights being cancelled while waiting and just prayed ours wouldn’t be.

The airports were like a zoo… literally. Tons of people with their dogs, cats, parakeets, etc! Everyone was flying out and evacuating Florida. Side note: Have you ever been on a plane with a ton of pets? I can’t recall a time that I have. Are there special aircraft for these types of flights? Leave a comment below if you have.

Finally, they board our flight (over an hour late) and he crew make it onto the plane… looking beat down. As I’m waiting on this plane to take off I doze off on my hubby’s shoulder. Several minutes later I am awakened by gasps, sighs, moans, outcries and curse words as a response to the heart wrenching news on the speaker that says, “Unfortunately, folks we have to cancel this flight. We can’t fly out.” (Insert expletives!!! %&@!$%)

The crazy part is, the weather directly overhead hadn’t even really gotten bad yet but apparently the pilot was about to go over his consecutive flight time limit. (Some law that makes it illegal for pilots to fly the plane past a consecutive number of hours.) Spirit Airlines (smh) offered no alternative for all of us that were on that plane to make it home and meanwhile a Cat 5 hurricane is coming straight for us. It seems that due to this technicality of not being able to fly, they should’ve known/ planned ahead and told us sooner so that instead of waiting at the airport all day for this flight that wasn’t even happening, we could’ve tried to book another one! We were sooo close to making it in the clear! Noooo……

Sidenote: Retelling this story exhausts me but writing is therapeutic for me and it is always good to get my thoughts written out. Thanks for reading… keep on reading.

(Click to continue to part 3)…

Travel: Outrunning Hurricane Irma (This is 30 pt. 3)

So with the flight being canceled, I go into semi panic mode. I can no longer hold back emotion – tears run down my face. Everyone is looking crazy. Meanwhile my husband is trying to see if he can find any airline ticket flying ANYWHERE in the U.S. just to get us out of there!

Once I collect myself, I head to the airline’s ticket counter and begin desperately inquiring about what flight we might still be able to catch. NOTHING. No two seats were available and flying out from Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa or Miami to anywhere in the nation. My husband tried to get me out of Florida without securing a flight for himself and that just wasn’t gonna happen. I was not about to leave my husband! We were gonna ride this thing out together in the airport or nearby shelter if we had to!

We somehow managed to find a rental car and decided to drive out of the state from Ft. Lauderdale! We found ourselves on an evacuation route with the other Floridians and stranded vacationers.

Along the way, struggling to find gas stations that hadn’t ran out of gas, seeing a few car accidents, stalled cars.. surviving on chips and red bull, our bond was forged EVEN deeper. (Just when I think it can’t get NO MO REALER! lol) The drive took us about 17 hours to get out of Florida and to New Orleans. Many people headed north to Georgia (which Irma then went there too) so we were happy with our decision to just head west… closer to home. My husband didn’t sleep for 32 hours straight. Our last night of rest was the last day at sea on the cruise days before. Mind you, we partied that night. lol We were EXHAUSTED!!

By the time we got to New Orleans I’m sure we looked like zombies. We were most certainly refugees. Some kind of way, we mustered up the strength to go have dinner with good friends on Canal St. near Bourbon Street. When we got back, we passed out. Next morning, we had the hotel breakfast and went back to sleep. Finally, it was time to head to the airport and catch our flight to Dallas. Once we landed in Dallas, we took an Uber to our car which stayed in the hotel parking lot this whole time THEN… finally, drove to Houston.

Getting back home has never felt so good. The city was looking better but a lot of places were still trying to recover from the flood. I had never seen the sky so clear or felt such cool temperatures in September. We streamed church Sunday morning then slept the rest of the day. This past Monday was my first time seeing the damage Hurricane Harvey caused in my neighborhood.

Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath in a part my neighborhood

I still can’t believe that we went through all that! This is one hell of a way to bring in a birthday. Through it all, I feel EXTREMELY blessed and grateful that God has protected us and our home. Things could have been so much worse. Some of my neighbors have lost everything. I’m grateful for those people and organizations that have provided aid for my fellow Houstonians. God has seen me through so much ya’ll. I am praying for all those who have been affected during this hurricane season (including the beautiful islands we had the chance to visit just days before Hurricane Irma).

Anyway, so that is my crazy story. Lordt. lol I am praying that my 30s are really good to me. I feel like the best is yet to come. Cheers to the next 30!!! Thanks for reading. Peace, Love and Light. – The birthday girl. xo

carissa

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Travel: Viva Las Vegas! Bellagio Review

Last weekend I had the great joy and privilege to take a mini-vacation with my two favorite girls in the world, my mom and sis. We spent the weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada and did not waste a single second of our time there. It wasn’t our first time here together but it was our first time staying at The Bellagio.

We all are working women and needed to unwind with a little relaxation and A WHOLE LOT OF FUN. What better place to do that than The Bellagio in Fabulous Las Vegas? The weekend Girls Trip came at the perfect time as we all met up right after work to catch our Friday night flight then basked in everything The Bellagio had to offer for the entire weekend.There were so many great things about this hotel that it would be near impossible to list them all so I will simply list my top 9 things that I love about this hotel (in no particular order). Why 9 things?… because The Bellagio and Vegas in general had us on Cloud 9. Read on.

  1. The Location – The Bellagio is conveniently located on the Las Vegas strip and in the midst of EVERYTHING! It is right across from the Paris hotel, Planet Hollywood and right in between Cesar’s Palace and The Cosmopolitan. So much is in walking distance that you will rarely need to hail a cab/uber. 
  2. The Planetarium – It is just the naturally beautiful and fragrantly amazing observatory filled with live and exotic florals accompanied by majestic figures. This part of the hotel changes season to season and can vary from everything to the coast line of Southern Italy to peaceful Japanese Gardens and even under water in the deepest parts of the ocean. 
  3. The Spa – I can’t say enough about the spa. We received lux massages with rich coconut \ body butter elixirs from the finest in the industry. Following our massages we dipped in the spa’s individual hot tubs for relaxation and meditation.
  4. The Pool – Boss. Enough said. 
  5. The Casino – Of course every Vegas hotel has a casino. But the Bellagio has been known to attract the wealthiest gamblers so it was fun to play a few slots, have a drink and watch others risk it all on the poker and black jack tables. 
  6. The Clubs – “Club Hyde” and “The Bank”. At one point in the club I looked up and felt like it was snowing. Confetti in amounts never before seen. Lit DJs. All of this in one hotel!
  7. The Shows – The O show is the long running show gem that plays at the Bellagio It’s a must see. Circus De Soleil is not playing any games with this one. We had our fair share of shows while in Vegas. Another must see is Zoomanity. 
  8. The Food– The Brunch buffet at The Bellagio is practically mandatory.  There are also several other cafés and eateries in the hotel. One of which include a chocolate, vanilla and caramel “water falls”.
  9. The Views – Right outside of our hotel were the beautiful Fountains at the Bellagio where the water danced as if it had a soul. Just beyond the fountains and across the strip, the view of America’s very own Eiffel Tower.

    LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 24: The Bellagio Hotel & Casino water show comes to life after dark on December 24, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas, the popular Southwest desert tourist getaway, appears to be making a slow economic recovery following a tough global recession. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

    Thank you Bellagio for showing us an AMAZING time! Viva Las Vegas!!

Thanks for reading! xo

carissa

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Reflections: My 3rd Wedding Anniversary

I married my best friend on this day 3 years ago. It was a BEAUTIFUL sunny Saturday in Houston Texas…Since then, we purchased our first home, have been traveling the world and have been building up our businesses/ the empire. The past three years have been filled with so much laughter and adventure!!!

This love has been so freeing… and I have always felt so empowered by the love God has for me, easily displayed in my husband.Together we have accomplished so much. We aren’t perfect… but there is something so perfect about the love and mercy God shows us daily.

At the start of 2017… something unexpected happened…

We found out we were pregnant.We were excited about our little blessing… and had just found out it was girl!

Then something even more unexpected happened… At 14.5 weeks gestation, we suffered the loss of our first child. For weeks, I mourned. Although I am now at peace with everything, the thought of losing the child I once carried still makes me emotional and probably always will. But let me tell you about how good God is….

He is all powerful and knowing. I trust His timing for my/ our life! I KNOW that ALL things work out for the good of those that believe in Him. Even since the loss, He has been so faithful in showing us that He has not forsaken us. The proof of this would make this blog way too long.

I am since, stronger… wiser… certainly a better woman. My husband and I have grown EVEN CLOSER. And guess what… I am a MOTHER!! My angel baby is with the most high in the most beautiful place. I AM SO GRATEFUL for this PEACE and JOY which surpasses all understanding and I am more than optimistic about the future of our little family than ever.

If you or someone you love has experienced this type of loss, you are not alone.

1 in 4 pregnancies end with the loss of a child.

Most people who have experienced this type of loss will never speak about it – you will never know.

But if I can speak on this, for just a moment… and help someone feel less alone or more comforted, then I am aligned with my purpose, passion and calling. Since I was in college, I knew my mission was to motivate, cultivate and inspire. I cannot only share the glitz, glamour and butterflies with you. I must also share the REAL SH*T. Life can get hard sometimes. The unimaginable can happen to anyone when they least expect it. The human experience involves suffering sometimes. But there would be no sunny days without a cloudy day.

Whatever situation or hardship you may be facing or will face later in life, keep going. Keep the faith. I know we are. Our rainbow baby is coming. Until then we will continue to strive for excellence in all that we do, continue to love EXTRA HARD on each other, and keep smiling!!!

To my hubby… my man crush for LIFE, my ROCK, my BFF, the Clyde to my Bonnie, my biggest motivator… together we can do anything. LOVE YOU!!!

To those reading… I love you too.

Now I’ve gotta run off to celebrate 3 years!!! 🙂 See ya later! xoxo -Riss

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