Thursday, March 16, 2017

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED DEC. 4, 2014

I say this every time, but I really don't know where this year has gone! Is it possible to ever get to a place where "busy" isn't the first adjective you use to describe life? I really freaking hope so. I need to stop saying "Oh, good, busy..." in response to "How are you?" Maybe that will be a New Year's resolution. Add it to the list!

Any way, it's been a year of very happy travels. One trip I never got the chance to share on my blog, but wrote about for Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, is Mexico's Riviera Nayarit. I can't say enough how much I loved my time here. It's a beautiful region with some of the most delicious food I've ever had.

I stayed a couple of nights at the St. Regis Punta Mita, where the design and architecture were great, but also where I spent most of my time at the pool or at the Mita Mary food boat...fresh seafood caught from off the shores and then served up just minutes later. I also caught the staff setting up for a beach dinner reception just before sunset.

Even though I would have been perfectly happy with my beach --> pool --> Mita Mary food boat routine for those few days, I did make it a point to venture off into Nayarit's charming towns: the laid back, surf-town happiness of Sayulita (choco-banana!), charming Bucerias (tuna tartare on the beach at El Brujo), and artsy San Pancho (where I didn't get a pic, but lunch at Don Pedros is a must).

Enjoy the pics, friends.

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Riviera Nayarit - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Riviera Nayarit
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN AUGUST 2014

Over the past year, I've covered a number of fitness and workout trends. One class that I've wanted to take is aerial yoga, but I've always been a bit intimidated. After all, I'm not the most coordinated person in the world and I'm far from graceful. And fitness classes in New York City tend to be packed with people, which, to me, always equals prying (judging) eyes.

SO! When I was presented with the opportunity to try aerial yoga at Well & Being at Willow Stream, I jumped into that silk hammock with abandon. It was a small class - maybe six of us total, with space for about 10 - and the instructor was friendly, helpful and as hands-on as you needed her to be, so it was the perfect chance to learn the ins and outs of the workout.

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

We started off real simple, learning how to safely and efficiently work with the silk straps and getting a feel for them...namely, gaining an understanding that yes, they can hold your body weight and no, you won't fall on your butt if you sit in it properly. It was more of an introductory class, so we spent a good amount of time getting to and enjoying each pose - highly relaxing and also a lot of fun.

By the end of the class, we worked up to a couple of inversions, including one where you basically flip backward, toss your legs over your head, and extend the strap under the full length of your belly so that you're in some Superman-vampire combo pose...it's the closest I've felt to flying and I loved it. I recommend taking full advantage of this pose and swinging slightly like a kid on the playground.

Actually, that's kind of the best part about Willow Stream's class...you get to tap into your inner child for 60-odd minutes and experience poses and perspectives that you otherwise wouldn't be able to. I'm not really sure how many calories I burned or muscles I toned, but I left in a great mood, feeling totally relaxed and bendy. If I were to visit Scottsdale on a girlfriend getaway, I'd for sure sign the group up for aerial yoga at Willow Stream.

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

To back track a bit, Willow Stream is the spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, one of a number of luxury resorts in the city. (The Princess is known for its spa and its golf course, TPC Scottsdale, which is the home to the PGA TOUR's Waste Management Phoenix Open.) In a destination of 50+ day and resort spas, I have to say that Willow Stream is one of my personal favorites. (My other top picks include Spa at Camelback Inn, Joya Spa, Alvadora at Royal Palms, and of course Sanctuary Spa.)

Willow Stream has always topped the list of Scottsdale's most sought-after spas and I think that's for a number of reasons. One, it's huge and so beautifully designed. There's a lot of space to spread out and chill - in the relaxation lounges, in an outdoor courtyard, even a warm vitality pool/waterfall. But my favorite spot has to be the rooftop pool. Actually, I think Willow Stream and Joya may be tied for best spa pools.

Another reason people really love Willow Stream is the caliber of treatments. You've got your standard massages and facials, plus specialty experiences like the Havasupai Falls Rejuvenation, which uses desert salts, oils and jojoba body butter for a scrub, massage and body wrap.

With Willow Stream's new Well & Being offerings, the spa has also incorporated more wellness offerings. You can learn how to cook healthier, have a health assessment if you wish (not me, no thanks!) and of course take some interesting fitness classes...everything from TRX and CrossFit to SurfSet and Krank Fusion (I had to Google that last one).

If you're trying to pick from the long list of spas in Scottsdale (so many good options!), seriously consider Willow Stream. I think it's totally worth the time and money if you're looking for a place to hang (ha!) all day.

MORE INFO: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
PHOTOS BY: Me!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN JUNE 2014

When I still lived in Arizona, one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to book a stay at Hotel Valley Ho. It's the slower tourism season in Scottsdale and prices are always crazy good! My girlfriends and I would check in for the weekend, rent a poolside cabana for the day, and usually have dinner at the restaurant, ZuZu. It was all about lounging and spending time together, and I have Valley Ho to thank for some of my favorite memories.

Staying at Valley Ho (or, just "the Ho" to adoring locals) this time around was a little different. For starters, I missed my girlfriends. Secondly, they didn't put us up in any old room. They set our group up in a tower suite! I've toured these Mad Men-esque rooms before, but never imagined I'd be sleeping in one some day. Seriously, so much space and the patios have sweet views of the city and mountains.

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

I guess I've been in New York too long, because the first thing I did was throw my shizz in every direction - I wanted to make sure I was maximizing all the space.

Valley Ho probably has the most interesting history as far as Scottsdale hotels go. It originally opened in 1956 and was really popular with the Hollywood crowd. Zsa Zsa Gabor stayed here and so did Bing Crosby. Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood had their wedding reception at the Ho in 1957. It's a very glamorous, very intriguing back story.

Edward L. Varney, who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the mid-century Valley Ho and that fun, retro vibe is still very much alive today. I should say, one thing you absolutely must do - whether you're staying at the Ho or are just really into architecture or history - is book a tour of the hotel with Ace Bailey. She's hands-down one of the most knowledgeable experts on Scottsdale's design and history, and her tales about the fabled Valley Ho are incredible!

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

I wish I had a good image of a regular room to share, but you can get the gist here. I've now stayed in most every type of room at Valley Ho, and I promise, I've never been disappointed. A totally unique and special stay. I can't get enough of this place!

Happy hour in the ZuZu lounge is a definite must (I can just picture myself and Don Draper throwing back a few here), but dinner at ZuZu restaurant is even better. Delicious, somewhat "comfort" American food that's made with fresh, often local goods. Chef Charles "Chuck" Wiley is a local favorite, too. My friend Julie from Table for Two gives a great, drool-worthy recap of ZuZu on her blog.

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

I've recommended Valley Ho to friends time and again, and will continue doing so. It's perfect for couples or a girlfriend getaway. Cool, but not pretentious. And with a "theme" that you don't see everywhere. Love it! Speaking of girlfriend getaways and that pool, by the way, it's a great place to hang out - there's even live music on some weekends.

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Hotel Valley Ho

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Hotel Valley Ho

Monday, February 27, 2017

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN JANUARY 2015
 
Our day exploring St. John had a lot of those "I don't ever want to forget this" moments. First, it's absolutely beautiful. Sixty percent of the island is a natural preserve, so it's mostly emerald-green, overgrown foliage that cascades from the mountaintop down into white sandy beaches and crystal-blue waters.

Second, it's super easy to reach from St. Thomas...just a quick (and scenic!) 20-minute ferry ride. Because our trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands was a relatively quick one, we decided to only overnight on St. Thomas and St. Croix. If I could do it all over again, I'd probably opt out of staying on St. Thomas and just split my time between St. John and St. Croix. Nothing wrong with St. Thomas - it's just a little more built-up than the others and St. John is, well, everything they say it is.

If you plan on trekking around St. John, I recommend hiring a taxi service. We (me, the husband, my brother and my sister-in-law) worked with a man named Kenneth Louis and he was great. (He's a preferred vendor of the USVI tourism board.) We did a kayaking, hiking and snorkeling tour with VI Ecotours, which was awesome because it gave us access to the otherwise very exclusive Caneel Bay. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen! The water was perfect. The kayak over to the beach from the meeting spot is really pretty and the hike - albeit too long in my opinion (really, you should be in the water as much as humanly possible in a place like St. John!) - was an interesting view into island life.

(Plus, we saw deer at the Caneel Bay Resort!)

It was one of those perfect-weather days and I didn't want to get out of the water. My brother loves anything to do with snorkeling and seeing as how we don't see each other much these days (he's still in AZ), I was mostly just happy to have the time with him. The little things, you know?

The sun was just starting to set as the four of us kayaked back to the meeting spot from Caneel Bay. I'll never forget that fiery sunset or the clear Caribbean water...or the fact that I got to see it with three of my favorite people paddling alongside me.

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me and Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: VI Ecotours

Friday, February 24, 2017

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JAN. 18, 2015
 
All three of the U.S. Virgin Islands have a very different vibe. St. Thomas has the nightlife, the cruise ships and the big-name resorts. St. John has the outdoorsy activities, the hiking and the snorkeling. St. Croix is where you'll find remnants of the Danish influence - historic towns, pastel buildings and lots and lots of expats.

We stayed at three different hotels during our USVI visit (two on St. Thomas) and our stay on St. Croix, at Renaissance St. Croix Carambola, was my favorite. It's a trek to get there - up a mountain, along winding roads, but so worth the trip. Renaissance Carambola is secluded and quiet. The beach amenities aren't as luxurious as what you'll find at Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, naturally, but it's a pretty and clean beach with plenty of space and chairs.

The drinks are fairly priced, the food is really good (the dinner menu was actually downright impressive, I thought!) and the resort is beautifully designed with dark wood finishing, billowing white curtains and spacious rooms. It's a very lush, tropical setting. The staff was friendly, helpful and chatty. I loved it!

If you have some time to kill on St. Croix, definitely visit the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Tours aren't particularly earth-shattering, but the distillery is a local point of pride and it's a cool 45-minute-or-so geek-out session. For $8, you get the tour plus four tastings and two full drinks in the bar afterward! In one visit, we snagged up cheap souvenirs (duty free booze!), tasted really good rum, got introduced to the wonder that is Velvet Cinn and learned where bananas really come from. (Random, I know.)

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me and Stjepan Alaupovic

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Wish for Our Daughter on Her 1st Birthday


I started writing this blog post about 6 months ago.

As a parent, you spend a lot of time thinking about your kids; not just when you're away from them, but when you're with them, too. I'll be feeding Te her bottle and suddenly think, I wonder what she'll be when she grows up. In the middle of a diaper change, she'll make a funny face and chuck her toy across the room and I'll say to myself, Hmm...so you're going to be one of those, are you?

In anticipation of her 1st birthday today, I spent the last half-year writing down those random thoughts, hoping to capture some of the fleeting wishes and memories that come during seemingly unremarkable moments. So, here they are...my wishes for our daughter on her first birthday:

That she hold on to her innocence for as long as humanly possible. Like most kids, I was always in a HUGE rush to grow up and I'm sure Te will be, too. But these days kids, especially girls, I think, are growing up all too quickly. I wish for Te the opportunity to be a happy, worry-free kid and for some degree of blissful ignorance at every stage of childhood. (Too much to ask for this in her teen years, too?)

That she recognize how lucky she is. This epiphany probably won't come for many, many years but someday I hope she'll see how blessed she is to have been born into her life. Te has loving, healthy and capable parents. She has a big family full of people who care for her. She has food on the table, a warm and clean home, and an endless supply of diapers and puffs. This is purely a mix of luck and by the grace of God that she was born into a stable life. Not every baby is so lucky.

That she pay more attention in school than I did. Stjepan is one of those people who remembers his high school history lessons. He recalls actual paragraphs from his textbooks and can recite facts without doing a Google search on his phone. I am not that person. That is because (and here comes a major admission of guilt...sorry mom, dad and teachers!) I mostly crammed for quizzes and memorized study sheets just to pass tests rather than taking the time to process and digest information. I hope that our daughter gets her dad's love of actual, applied learning.

That she be quick to forgive. I don't want my daughter to be a pushover. Quite the opposite. But I do want her to be quick to forgive her loved ones. I don't want her to forget, but I want her to have the confidence, maturity and heart to recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and that the people you care about deserve second and third chances. I also want her to be quick to forgive herself, because she will make many mistakes in life.

That she have her dad's sense-of-humor and my aptitude for empathy. Stjepan comes from a long line of jokesters. His grandpa was quick-witted and his dad has the playful spirit of a kid. His 80-year-old+ grandmother happily wears hippie costumes to Halloween parties and loves playing with filters on Snapchat. Stjepan's one-liners make me laugh on the regular. I wish so much for Te to carry on this family trait. From me, I hope she'll get the ability to put herself in others' shoes, because not everything that happens in life is about you. There is a much, much bigger world out there.

Happy birthday, sweet girl!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Add This To The List Of Weird Postpartum Things No One Tells You About...


Te will be one year old tomorrow. I repeat, my child - who, it seems, was only born yesterday - will be 365 days old...TOMORROW.

There's so much about this that seems unfathomable. Number One: Stjepan and I are adults who are responsible for another human being. Number Two: We made it an entire year without any severe mental breakdowns. (I've had at least a few minor ones.)

Some of my close friends and family know that I struggled with a bit of post-baby blues, as many new moms do. It's been an emotional, mental and physical roller coaster for sure, but I feel like I'm learning to handle the ups and downs, for the most part. Or, at the very least, I've come to accept that there's a lot of stuff I don't know and/or will never be prepared for, so will just have to navigate as I go.

I've recently discovered one more thing to add to this list: The strange feelings of minor PTSD that started to creep up a couple of weeks ago. The weather here in Phoenix lately has been a lot like how it was in the days and weeks after Te was born, and it's triggering some minor anxiety...tiny remnants of the feelings of uncertainty and exhaustion that I had at the beginning.

It completely caught me by surprise, but what I quickly learned is that it's common. The first thing I did when this happened, of course, was text my friends with babies. As is almost always the case, most of them knew exactly what I was talking about and had experienced similar feelings. It seemed to have happened to many of them around the one-year mark.

There's just so much that moms don't talk about, either because we don't want to seem negative or because we worry that we're some special case and/or "weird." Or, we may just not realize that what we're experiencing is an actual baby-related "thing."

So...I decided to over share, again, just in case some mom somewhere is experiencing the same thing. You're not alone and you're not weird. :)