All posts by Desiwood

“My” iguana is back home, so I booked another visit to our 2nd home

Hubby and I moved full time to Florida this past June.  We have had a huge iguana, as well as some smaller ones, living in our backyard.  We live on a small lake and “our” iguana loves sunning himself in the backyard and in the crook of one of our trees.  He is a shy one.  I have heard stories from others living in Florida that they can be aggressive.  Ours is not.  He runs away if we approach.  It is hard to believe how fast he can run if we approach.

We were traveling in December and January.  While we were away, my Mom told me that she had seen in the news in New York that the Florida weather was so unusually cold that the iguanas were falling out of the trees from it and not surviving.  Since we were away, we did not know.  We returned to our Florida home and, much  to my surprise, there were no iguanas around.  Finally last week, “our” iguana came back.  No, I don’t know if it is the same one.  It is just as large as the one that has always “lived” here.  “He” is back to his usual sunbathing in our backyard and lounging in our tree overlooking the lake.

Now that he is back, I booked our next trip to our “2nd home”.  Our primary residence may have changed in the last year, but our favorite 2nd home did not.  We are returning to Majestic Mirage in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for my birthday in August.  We will also celebrate our wedding anniversary while there, which is in September.  I post one video today, to show you why we had to return to Majestic Mirage.  It is of our suite there in November.  I have wanted to post it for awhile, but was hesitant.  The suite is gorgeous.  I had already been there for a few days and was looking bloated in my bathing suit.  Hubby was having a hand tremor while shooting the video.  It’s not the best video, but it was as tremendous an ocean front suite as you could ask for!  We had to go back as soon as possible.  We are also hoping to go back again for New Years.

We were spoiled in some ways living in New Jersey.  We had air available from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  They were all major carriers and set their schedules far in advance.  Where we are living in Florida, the best priced air does not set very far in advance.    We are used to planning multiple trips a year or more in advance.   That is not possible here because of the air schedules.  We will get used to it.  Every market and every trip are different.  Know  your market and plan accordingly.

For this trip we are traveling Southwest again.  Their prices are hard to beat with two bags free plus carryon and personal item.  We again booked the resort and private transfers through Costco.  For the last many years their prices were better than anywhere else.

Between now and then, we will be on another adventure to northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Russia by both air, land and sea.  That trip is not a bargain, but will be great.  The anatomy of booking any vacation is always different and serves different needs.

I hope you enjoy the video.  I wish it was better to show off how gorgeous this suite and resort is/was/will be again.

Making the Chocolate Cigar and Frozen Mojito at Majestic Mirage

I recently posted a video of me eating the chocolate cigar and drinking the Frozen Mojito when I was at Majestic Mirage in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on Thanksgiving Day.  I promised I would post a video of how the two are made.  I am doing so today.  This video was taken earlier in the day, the same day I had mine after dinner.  This was a perfect ending to a great dinner.  No pumpkin pie for me.  I actually don’t like pumpkin pie.  I have no idea why not.  I love pumpkin soup, another dish I was exposed to in the Dominican Republic.

The videographer was my hubby.  He did a pretty good job and only wobbled a little bit, with a quick recovery.  It’s not easy holding a small camera for so long.  You will hear me commenting and laughing next to the camera, but the focus was on the food preparation.   The gentleman providing the explanations is the General Manager at Majestic Mirage, Jose-maria Gutierrez.  He was speaking to us in English, to another couple in French, and to the chefs in Spanish.  He is an amazing man with a passion and strong background in fine food and beverages.  He is hoping to have a weekly cooking workshop at Mirage later this year on its own internet video channel.  I hope so.

If you want to see me enjoying the final product, just view my previous blog post here entitled “Best Cigar Ever”.  If you have any questions about these two delightfully delicious items, post them to comments here.  No comment gets posted until I approve it.  I will gladly answer questions.  I’m a little slow because of the huge backlog of comments.  Right now I have over 42,000 of them, but I am working on reducing that.  Many take up my time that are spam or trash and I have to go through them.

Enjoy the video!  I enjoyed being there and consuming.  I have to admit, it was a very fun-filled day on this topic.  After the presentation, they served us all the items and then I had them again for dessert after dinner.  YUM!!!!

Because of the length of the video, I had to upload it to YouTube.  Here’s the link.



Best cigar ever, and you don’t smoke it!

Did I get your attention?  Are you wondering what I could possibly be talking about?  It’s edible!  It’s not a real cigar.

After the hurricane at home in Florida in September, with house guests who had to relocate with us and then company from New Jersey in October into November, we finally got away to our home away from home in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  We’ve been going to Majestic Resorts there for about a decade.  A new one opened about a year ago.  All our moving and other family issues prevented us from getting there until one of our usual times, Thanksgiving.  The new one, Majestic Mirage, exceeded even our expectations.  It is all suites and all-inclusive.  It has a very high end Mediterranean feel.  The beach is beautiful and filled with palapas and Balinese Beds.  The resort itself is not big, but not too tiny.  There are so many open spaces.  There is butler service, but every staff member treats you wonderfully.  I could go on and on about it.  The best thing is that it is affordable!

Today, though, I am posting one short video of the end of my Thanksgiving meal.  It was in their “French” restaurant.  It looks like a cigar, but oh so much better.  The wrapper is chocolate.  The inside is cream filled with a slight taste of cigar smoke.  It is served in a glass ashtray.  What looks like cigar ashes in the “ash end” is sugar!  When I say this was delicious, I am understating it.

We were lucky enough to get a kitchen tour and see a demonstration of how these are made.  I will do a separate post of that.  It is a bit long.  I give you the short version here of me enjoying it.

It is served with a specially made mojito.  This is also shown on the upcoming video of how both are made.  What a great Thanksgiving dinner we had from beginning to end.  We are trying to decide whether to go back for Thanksgiving next year, as we usually do, or change it up and go for Christmas and New Years.  It’s a tough choice.

In case any of you fashionistas are wondering, the outfit I am wearing is a Halston.  It was new for this trip.  Hubby saw it on-line on sale and I had to have it.  It’s all his fault for finding it.  haha  I am a huge fan of on-line shopping, as long as you know what you are getting and how it will fit you.  This was certainly not a “cheap” item, but the price was great compared to in a fancy retail store.  It was ordered through the on-line site of a high end store:  Neiman Marcus.


Best coach international flight ever!

Once in awhile one gets very lucky with air travel.  It seems less and less a happening these days, but there are so many internet tools out there that with good research and some patience, you can find that deal a good amount of the time.  It gets more complicated with international air.  It gets even trickier with first class air.

The only true secret to decent first class international air is a good mileage/loyalty program.  For about a decade hubby and I have been flying from New Jersey to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  Almost every one of those flights was first class.  We flew out of both Newark, NJ and Philadelphia, Pa.  There were a very few flights when we flew coach, only because the price was sooooo cheap we could not resist.

We recently moved to southeastern Florida.  I booked our next trip to Punta Cana before we had even moved.  It was over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Hubby and I agreed that the international flight was so short, 1st class wasn’t really necessary.  I came across a BARGAIN on Southwest.  It happens.  That is not the best part of this story.

First:  when booking a well-known trip, I know that air and resorts often go on sale at different times.  The resort dates are not that important, within a given range.  The air can vary dramatically.  Package deals usually offer the worst flights and I almost always book them separately.  There are, unfortunately, some places where you are a captive of the airline and have no choice but to book a package.  Luckily for me, that has never been a problem.

What made this air trip so exceptional, you might ask.  It was on Southwest, so you do not get to choose your seats in advance.  On our return from Punta Cana, there were only 6 people on the entire jet!  It was like flying on a private jet.  I forced hubby to take video……of me and the interior of the jet.  Yes, it was a fluke.  The surprising thing was that the plane down to PC was 100% full.  No one was going home that day.  Good for us.


Thanksgiving at Majestic (Mirage) Beach

Anyone want to see what I was doing on Thanksgiving? I’ll show you. We just got home from our most recent visit to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. I will share some more of the videos and photos we took along the way.

We stayed this time at Majestic Mirage. It did not disappoint. On this particular day, the water was a little rougher than usual, but not as rough as is standard the further north you go along the coast. Within a day or two of this video, the waves were calmer, there was not the sand being churned up at the water line, and the seaweed disappeared.

We also visited next door at Majestic Elegance for a bit of time almost every day. We have been there many times and it came to feel like home. The more days we spent at Mirage, the more we could feel it becoming like home away from home.

We could only visit portions of Majestic Colonial because they were closed for renovations. Some of the areas were accessible and it was fun to watch them putting the final touches on the things for the re-opening that was yesterday.

We have stayed at or day toured other resorts in PC, but Majestic seems the right fit for us. The total package of pricing, beaches, pools, service, beauty, food, spaces, etc., keep us going back to Majestic Resorts. I keep researching, but have not found anything that would make me trade our choice.

Enjoy the video!

Wine whine

I love drinking red wine, and it is supposed to be healthy for you.  I am very often asked what brand or type of red wine to drink.  No one can tell you that.  You have to experiment by yourself.  The house, the grape, the year can always vary.  Your tastes will also change over time.

I like dry red wines.  I do not like fruity ones.  Your tastes may be different.  I drink wines from all countries…..always trying out something new, whether high end or low end.  The most expensive bottle of wine I ever drank was $400 per bottle and we had two.  It was an accident…..a big accident.  Maybe someday I’ll tell the story.  It was the best wine I ever drank, but I do not need to pay such prices.

There are many wines for less than $10 that are good.  There are many wine shops that put on sale wines from all over the world.  Try them.  Expect to pay at least double in a restaurant for the same wine.

Today I provide a wine whine.  Hubby and I LOVED the wine the night we opened it.  We did not finish it.  The following night, tonight, we went to finish it and were entirely disappointed.  It did not “save” overnight, despite being corked.  Some wines save well and other do not.  I post a photo of the wine at issue.



Spring and Change

I have to laugh at some recent comments to this site that claim that my blogs are not long enough. Those that follow me here, on Trip Advisor, and on Face Book never say that. haha Those that have been following me for years tell me that any sentence with a comma, semi-colon, or colon turn off readers in today’s instant world.

Every year in the climates that have it, Spring brings change. Usually we travel in the Spring. This year we limited our travel to Florida. Most years we go to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic also. In prior years we have travelled to Europe and Asia. We have always loved Spring travel. This year family obligations have prevented us from doing the usual amount of travel. We have in the past traveled for three weeks at a time. Shorter travel time this year.

One of the benefits of not be off and about is to enjoy the yards we have created. Some have been “on purpose” and some have been “accidental”.

My main thought is that, as big or small as your home or your property is, make it “your castle”. Use the inspiration of travel and what you see to make it special.

I post some photos today to show you what I am talking about.

The first is of a Japanese Maple we bought years ago, along with a bench we found on sale at Home Depot. We bought both “cheap” and have nurtured them over the years to be a special place for us to enjoy.

Japanese May 2016

The second photo is of some wild growing honeysuckle and some hosta. We are in the process of moving the honeysuckle to another place, as you will see.

honeysuckle and hosta May 2016

Another photo is showing some “blue” flowers, which ae the most rare, that have come up without our knowledge from other plantings. along with some of the new rows of honeysuckle that we have transported.

What is it May 2016

I almost forgot our most recent garden muse. I heartily suggest that you add some to your garden, whether big or small.

green garden lady

Preserve those memories

tans will fade, memories foreverI find myself constantly suggesting and reminding others to make the effort to preserve your memories. There is no excuse today not to do so. The days of having to buy expensive cameras or video cameras and need the knowledge to know how to get the “right” shot are long gone. Snap and record away……and SAVE those images!

For your old images, the scanners and other reproductive media means, are easy to use. Scanning old photos costs NOTHING if you have a simple color scanner available at low cost. I recommend a laser color multi-unit that scans, faxes, and prints. There are so many out there. I am currently using an OKI unit, but also have an HP unit. They last forever and the drivers are constantly updated. There are so many free photo programs out there, that you don’t need to spend a time to keep your current memories or update your old ones.

The one thing I have not yet found to be inexpensive, yet not expensive, is old fashioned video 8 from decades ago. Some family members have passed on some old ones to me and I am still researching the economical way of doing that. Some deals seem great until you look at the fine print. Some family members have had them reproduced to CD or DVD only to find they are copyright protected and can’t be shared with others.

Anything newer has no such problems as you can do it on your own computer with ease…..for free! I do suggest that you have a real desktop computer to do advanced stuff. You can take the photos with phones, pads, or laptops, but to do editing and saving, you should have a desktop. Too many people are avoiding them these days…..just my personal opinion. The storage on desktops these days are amazing for cheap. I also use more modern external hard drives for photo and video history. You can also save to “the Cloud”. There are so many choices and no reason not to record and save your memories.

I leave you with a photo today that looks vintage and was not taken by me to remind you of the thoughts expressed above. There will come a day when you want to remember a certain special something… the digital age there is no reason not be able to see it too!

Whether or not to Go to a New Resort

I’ve previously written about going to a Grand Dame hotel shortly before they are going to do major renovations as a way to experience something well known at a discounted price. Once those renovations are completed, prices usually soar. Although you can get some good prices during renovations, that is often an unpleasant experience. It can also bring a bargain, but you really have to research what those renovations will be and how much it will affect your stay.

What about staying at a newly opened resort? Some say to stay away until all of the bugs are worked out. The prices can be wonderful! In Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, there are several new hotels opening this year. Many people who are familiar with travel there are flocking to book for the openings or shortly thereafter. One of the reasons is that the new resorts already have existing resorts, so people know what to expect and know that there is backup around if everything doesn’t go quite as planned.

Most reputable new resorts will go out of their way to make your stay special. If there are a few kinks not yet worked out, they will usually be pretty generous with extra perks for the guests to make up for that that is not yet perfect. Let’s face it, nothing is ever perfect, so it’s a win-win situation in many cases.

With great confidence, we are going to take the plunge this December and book for the opening of a new resort. I show here an artists rendering of the new Majestic Mirage which is located next to the existing Majestic Elegance, which is located next to the existing Majestic Colonial.Majestic Mirage rendering

This will be the first all suite resort, all inclusive, resort in Punta Cana. All except for 2 buildings will be Adults Only Club Level. There are so many restaurants and pools, it is amazing. It will not be a large resort, so it will be very intimate, yet still full of fun. I’m excited! They have already started selling suites starting on January 15, 2017, but the resort will be open by mid December 2016. Soon those opening dates will be available.

We have previously stayed at both Majestic Colonial and Majestic Elegance many times, so we have no fears of trying the new even more upscale Majestic Mirage. I don’t usually post advertisement videos, but to give you an idea of the already existing Majestic Resorts in Punta Cana, I provide a video from GoGo Travels. We have used them before for international travel. They don’t sell directly to the public. You have to contact a travel agent to book through them. We’ve always had great luck with them.

Happy and safe travels to all!

#DesiWorlds #desiwood

Sandy still affecting NJ and Ode to a family dockhouse

My grandparents had a home on the Manasquan River overlooking the Pt. Pleasant inlet at the Jersey Shore. It is not the “south” Jersey Shore. Those not familiar with NJ will probably laugh thinking that the state is too small to be “divided” into different areas, but if you’ve ever lived or visited there, you will find much diversification. I’ll leave the geography lesson for another time.

It was the center of family for my childhood. There was a main house and two separate cottages. There were two docks for boats. There was a private beach and a huge grassy area overlooking marvelous views. Then there was the dockhouse. It wasn’t big, but it seemed to symbolize all of the great family memories. These get togethers weren’t just in the summer. They were all year round. The ducks would have babies in the Spring and would walk right up to you. The entire family of all generations would play football on Thanksgiving and Christmas. There were also those fishing trips that had our Dads getting us up at 4:00 a.m. I have to admit, I thought that was a little bit of overkill.

Things have changed over time, but those memories will last forever. My first photo here is from my Grandma’s 90th birthday party. That was over 7 years ago. She’s still with us and as feisty as ever. Since that time the family has only gotten bigger with siblings and cousins having more kids and recently a first: the child of a cousin had a baby. That means Grandma is now Great Great Grandma!


This particular photo was taken after Grandma subdivided the property, keeping the smaller part and the two cottages, instead of the main house. Part of the reason was that that half of the property had the dockhouse. Very shortly before Hurricane Sandy, Grandma finally sold the second half of the property. I enclose a photo from around that time so that you can see what a little gem gave so many memories to so many.


Thank goodness Grandma sold. The property is still nowhere near what it was before the storm. I had many relatives affected. One cousin got to move her family back into her house 2 years after Sandy. There are people that are still not back in their homes or may never be. I just recently went to see the current state of the property. The private beach is gone with a retaining wall and new dock built as reinforcement. The land has all be re-graded and brought higher, but the grass is just beginning to come back. There is no loner a dockhouse on the dock. I show you a photo.


You might ask what happened to the dockhouse. I don’t know what the new owner intends, but it is now way up near the street and the cottages. I show you a photo of that sad sight also.


Lesson of the day…..preserve your memories by photos and videos. You never know when you won’t see a place, thing, or person again.

#DesiWorlds #desiwood