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How to plan a memorable and magical sequel wedding

(BPT) – The pandemic changed many couples’ approach to wedding planning. While some decided to delay their nuptials, many others looked to intimate alternatives for sharing their vows. Whether you had a microwedding, minimony or the two of you simply eloped, you now might be looking to the future to plan a bigger gathering with friends and family.

“Sequel weddings are trending because they are the perfect way to celebrate your love today if you had a smaller marriage ceremony during past COVID restrictions,” says Jonalee DeNoble, associate director of meetings and events from Destination Kohler. “These weddings are a second celebration that allow you to create any type of event you want, which means it can be a lot of fun for couples to plan.”

No matter what you did the first time around, a sequel wedding can be a wonderful way to gather with loved ones and honor your love in a way that is meaningful to you. DeNoble offers some smart tips for planning a sequel wedding:

  1. Personalize to make it unique

Sequel weddings may reflect the tone of your first wedding or they may have an entirely different look and feel. Will you want a ceremony to exchange vows or simply focus on the party? You can adjust the level of formality and give yourself some creative freedom to plan a gathering that truly reflects you and your spouse.

  1. Choose a thoughtful location

Many people choose locations within natural surroundings not only for their beauty, but also for the ample space that helps guests concerned with social distancing feel more comfortable. Straits Chapel at Destination Kohler is a great example. This secluded non-denominational venue is nestled in the woods on the edge of bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. The design features a vaulted ceiling throughout, white steel exterior and interior, and six cascading bells above the entryway. Once inside, guests enjoy breathtaking views of the lake and natural landscape through a 22-foot center window framed by two 8-foot windows.

  1. Communicate with guests

In times of frequent change, people appreciate plentiful communication. In addition to sending out invitations, consider maintaining a wedding website to keep guests apprised of developments while also building excitement for the event. Some important standards for wedding websites include contact info, date and location. You will also want to include expectations for the event like dress code and mask requirements. Many people choose to add photos and information about their love story and the bridal party for a personal touch.

  1. Find comfortable accommodations

If people are traveling to your sequel wedding and need accommodations, consider options that support guests coming together yet provide distance for privacy and safety, such as the private cabins at Destination Kohler. The cabin experience is particularly appealing for wedding guests, featuring four one-of-a-kind lodging offerings which are thoughtfully located on the outskirts of the resort. Two of the newest cabins both feature two bedrooms and two baths for up to six guests: the Lake Cabin is a well-appointed cottage that offers inspiring view of Lake Michigan and the Pond Cabin is a comfortable private escape in a serene woodland location.

5 steps to choosing the perfect all-inclusive resort

(BPT) – After a year of being stuck at home, many could use a change of scenery and a much-needed escape from the monotony of day-to-day life during the pandemic. Imagine waking up each morning and everything you need is right at your fingertips – sun, fun, entertainment, relaxation, great food and drink and your favorite travel companions.

That’s daily life at an all-inclusive resort, and it explains why they’re the preferred vacation destination for so many people. Americans are excited about getting back to the sun and the sand; in a recent survey, nearly a quarter of would-be travelers want their first post-pandemic vacation to be at a tropical beach.

Whether it’s your first vacation after the pandemic or you’ve already started to travel again, an all-inclusive can make the trip a breeze. You don’t need to worry over pulling together the logistics of scheduling hotel accommodations, restaurants or entertainment. Within your package, you’ll be offered a full range of activities, adventures and dining options to please everyone in your party.

All-inclusive resorts can be excellent destination choices in today’s climate, since most of their activities are outdoors with strict cleaning and social distancing policies in place. And with cleaning programs implemented at many resorts, guests can enjoy a clean and safe experience and peace of mind throughout their all-inclusive stay.

Ready to move forward with the stress-free vacation that offers it all in one easy package? Consider these suggestions as you search and dream.

1) Decide on an adults-only or family-friendly resort. Are you seeking uninterrupted relaxation, or is your goal to make long-lasting family memories? There’s an all-inclusive resort for everyone; some focus on creating calm, relaxing settings, while others welcome children and have a range of activities to satisfy those with boundless energy. Hilton La Romana in Punta Cana has options for both, offering guests the choice of family and adult-only resorts.

2) Plan to vacation safely. Ensure that your destination offers opportunities for guests to follow social distancing guidelines, while still ensuring access to fabulous amenities. At Hilton Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico, guests seeking extra privacy may book a suite with their own swim-up access, featuring semi-private pools and private terraces equipped with lounging chaises and hammocks.

3) Consider an exotic tropical location. Beautiful natural surroundings can be balm for the soul and may even give you a new perspective on life. Look around for a destination that takes you out of your everyday surroundings and delights your senses. Often, there’s nothing more invigorating than sweeping ocean views, palm-lined white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

4) Seek out favorite activities (or don’t). Decide how you’d really like to spend time on your getaway. You may truly need to just lay low, relax, unwind and enjoy a cocktail or a massage at the spa. Alternatively, you may be seeking a chance to learn windsurfing, practice your scuba diving, dance the night away or tour local historic sites. All-inclusive resorts can help you plan your favorite activities based on your personal interests and preferred travel itinerary.

5) Check out menu options. By definition, all-inclusive resorts include meals, snacks and drinks in their daily rates. After months of menu planning and scouring the internet for new recipes to keep mealtime interesting, that’s a welcome indulgence that takes away the guesswork and responsibility of cooking. If you consider that to be the greatest perk (and many guests do), you’ll want to choose a resort that places a high priority on the quality and variety of your culinary experiences. The best ones usually offer lots of choices with multiple restaurants, bars and lounges, with delicious, innovative and (often) locally inspired dishes geared toward pleasing a wide spectrum of guests.

Your next venture to an all-inclusive resort may be the cure for your wanderlust and may become your new favorite travel memory. Learn more about choosing the ideal all-inclusive hotel for your wants and needs at Hiltonbyplaya.com.

Ask an Expert with Cindy Bliss

Do I need a skincare routine?

Yes you should start as early as a year out if possible with a skin care system. Products designed to work together. This will ensure you have healthy, radiant skin for your big day!


What products create a Skincare system?

A good skincare routine should includes a cleanser, toner, exfoliator, moisturizer and a foundation to protect the skin.
Skincare is like brushing your teeth, twice daily is best practice to cleanse, tone and moisturizer. Light exfoliating twice a week and protect daily with a foundation.


My dress is a low back, can I use the same skincare products on my back?YES absolutely! And on your upper arms if needed! 


Does tanning damage my skin?

Yes, tanning and or burning are actually damaging you skin. The sun’s UV rays pierce the skin and cause damage to your DNA. Use a safe self tanner or spray tan. 


I get facials monthly do I still need a skincare routine?

YES! Having a professional facial is great but maintain the skin with a skincare routine between facials will help keep your skin healthy and the results from the facial will last longer.

Ask an expert with Bridges Restaurant

What should a couple think about when selecting a venue for their rehearsal dinner?

 Select a venue close to the rehearsal location and to hotels of out-of-town guests. You may want to add a cocktail hour to allow all of your guests time to arrive. With the next day being so important, a less ‘spirited’ evening is usually in order. Most hosts opt for beer and wine selections to be offered to guests.


What should I think about when selecting my rehearsal dinner menu?

 Make sure that the menu you are selecting compliments the food being served at the wedding rather than repeating or overshadowing it. Consider preselecting all but the main course with “crowd pleaser” options. For example, Bridges Restaurant recommends serving our famous Spinach and Arugula Salad as a first course option. A relaxed environment with thoughtful planning is key to a stress-free evening.  

What if a couple wants a more non-traditional, casual rehearsal dinner?

Cocktail party themed events take the stress out of planning a formal seated dinner. A selection of heavy hors de oeuvres stationed around a beautiful waterfront venue is the perfect way to celebrate. A more casual event allows families to meet, mingle and relax before the big day.


What should a couple think about when sending invitations to the rehearsal dinner?

 Send your invitations out close to when the wedding invitations are sent so that your guests can plan their schedules around all activities. Make it clear that each invited guest must select their menu options. Don’t forget to invite the officiant and spouse or significant other. They may not choose to attend; however, it’s the polite thing to do.
Bridges is here to help… Plan your rehearsal dinner with the venue coordinator so that you can spend your time meeting, greeting and enjoying your guests. Casual self-seating is the standard for rehearsals and tables of 6 or 8 make for easier conversation. Communicate all important information to the venue coordinator to enjoy a stress-free evening. 

Ask and Expert with Silver Swan Bayside

What should a couple look for if their hearts are set on an outdoor wedding venue?


Many couples dream of the perfect outdoor wedding where the setting, weather and festivities all come together perfectly. Your outdoor wedding can be as perfect as you imagine when offered in a spectacular natural setting that also offers the amenities and facilities you want for a dream wedding… and options for the unexpected. 
Should the couple be worried about weather conditions for an outdoor wedding? September and October on Kent Island typically offer warm sunshine, cool breezes and a crisp fall scent in the air. Even a January wedding can have an outdoor feel when the main area overlooks the Chesapeake Bay with gorgeous views all around from the comfort of indoors. Surrounded by water and protected from extremes of temperature and climate, Kent Island provides one of the most desirable outdoor wedding venues on the Eastern Shore. The welcoming fireplace at Silver Sway Bayside will take the edge off any chilling breezes coming off the Bay.
What kind of help should the bridal couple look for from the venue of choice?Our professional team can handle all the details on-site. Everything about your outdoor or indoor wedding can be relaxed and seamless… from the food and beverages to the linens and décor; we can take care of every detail. Whether you choose one of our worry-free, seamless wedding packages or want to tailor a one-of-a-kind event in our spectacular setting, our staff is here to make everything go smoothly. 
By hiring a venue coordinator to help with preparation and with the day of the wedding, your family and wedding guests can spend free time before and after enjoying the many wonderful outdoor activities available in the Kent Island area. A sunset cruise around the Bay, a scenic kayak adventure, fishing, or simply hiking and biking our trails.  
Silver Swan Bayside is surrounded by a vibrant historic community. Bay breezes in summer, warm sunshine in spring, and brilliant autumn colors shine year around creating wonderful wedding memories. 

How to make any occasion sparkle

(BPT) – What if everyone spent a little more time and energy celebrating everyday moments, tiny victories and micro-achievements? Rather than focusing on the negative, directing your attention toward what you are grateful for, and making a special occasion out of those things, is the secret to a happier life – according to many psychologists, writers and self-help experts.

So what can you do, right now, to add a little more sparkle to your life, to celebrate those little occasions that actually make the difference between a bad day and a great one?

  1. Tune up your tablescape

Whether you just made it through a grueling day of meetings at work, you managed to take the car in for an oil change or you got through the holidays unscathed, it’s worth celebrating!

So roll out a tablecloth and light a few candles for dinner tonight – even if it’s takeout or delivered. Turn off your phone and relish the moment!

  1. Dress to impress

Going out to dinner with your significant other for the first time in ages? Or maybe you’re staying in for a night with friends?

What’s stopping you from dressing up as if it was your first date or as if you’re headed to a cocktail party? Toss on that little black dress or a fun, festive outfit just because. Add some sparkly accessories or makeup and enjoy the reaction when you show up looking like a million bucks!

  1. Drink something sparkly

For those everyday moments that you want to celebrate, fill a glass with a delicious sparkling wine, like Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero, or use it to create a tasty cocktail. Riondo Prosecco has a light effervescence and fresh notes of apple and pear that make any ordinary occasion seem extra special.

Follow the lead of media personality, author, entrepreneur and restaurateur Giuliana Rancic by embracing the authentic flavor of Italy while you enjoy Giuliana Prosecco. Elevate your everyday dinner as you savor the fruity and elegant prosecco – or serve it to guests at your next awards show viewing party!

Or for a bigger occasion, make a statement with another great prosecco worthy of New Year’s Eve, a wedding or an anniversary. Nino Franco Rustico Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG will impress your guests or fellow revelers with its crisp, bright, refreshing and fruity taste.

  1. Celebrate someone you love

Stop at a party store and pick up banners, glitter, confetti or other decorations to celebrate someone you care about. Surprise them by decorating their doorway with a sign that says “Congratulations” or “Welcome Home” – even if they’ve just been at work all day.

Bring flowers, cupcakes or other special treats to celebrate being together and whatever mini-accomplishment your loved one may have achieved recently – or simply for being there for you when you needed them.

Show that person how much you love that they are a part of your life, and have a mini-party, just the two of you.

  1. Crank up the music

Instead of the drone of the TV or talk radio, play your favorite upbeat tunes on the way home from a long day at work. Crank up songs you love at home while you do your household chores to put some pep in your step.

Make a “victory playlist” to celebrate finishing a tedious appointment or completing a project. Then set your favorite song as your ringtone.

Let each day be an opportunity to enjoy everything life has to offer, and to celebrate being a part of it. By adding just a little extra sparkle, everyday moments can become special occasions.

Get hitched without a hitch!

Get hitched without a hitch!

(BPT) – Your wedding is one of the most memorable days of your life. To pull off the big day of your dreams, it is important to have a plan in place.

The average engagement in the United States lasts 16 months – this may seem like a lot of time, but with so many details to account for, it will fly by. Weddings have many moving parts, so couples need to prioritize and prepare for the unexpected in case their big day doesn’t go exactly as they’d hoped.

To ensure that your special day goes as smoothly as possible, keep these tips in mind:

Vet your vendors

Couples have to rely on many different vendors – from caterers and transportation companies to florists and venues. Depending on so many different people can leave room for error – just ask the couple whose DJ couldn’t make the reception because he was in jail.

To protect your investment, make sure trust is established between you and your vendors. Start by thoroughly researching potential vendors, including talking to past customers, to ensure they are reputable. Then follow up with them throughout the planning process to make sure you are still on the same page.

Don’t lose out on your deposits

According to the Brides American Wedding Study, the average cost of a wedding in 2018 was more than $44,000. Clearly, a wedding is a significant financial investment. To protect against potential losses, couples should use a credit card instead of a check or debit card whenever possible for deposits. In the event something happens, a credit card payment is easier to recoup than cash.

Say “I do” to expert help

Planning a wedding is no easy feat – it is quite literally a full-time job. Couples can make the process a lot easier by hiring a wedding planner to make sure everything is covered. These experts will use their experience and many talents – like communication and planning skills, negotiation and problem-solving – to help your wedding dreams become a reality.

Dealing with destinations

Destination weddings are definitely on trend as couples seek Instagrammable, unique locations around the world for their special day. If you’re taking this route, factor additional money into the budget to cover unforeseen expenses. Consider hiring a local wedding planner who will be familiar with reliable venues and vendors in the area. Additionally, many destination weddings take place outdoors, and unpredictable weather could roll in at any time. It is important to have a back-up plan when it comes to venues, photographers or any vendor that could face a problem and be unable to provide their contracted services.

Invest in peace of mind

Because you can’t guarantee that everything will go right on your big day, wedding insurance solution providers like WedSafe can help protect your investment with wedding insurance. Investing in wedding insurance, on average, costs less than half of your three-tiered wedding cake. Wedding insurance generally comes in two forms:

  • Wedding Cancellation Insurance. This coverage offers protection if a couple needs to cancel or reschedule their wedding in the event of issues like severe weather, a sudden illness or venue closure. In 2018, 43 percent of WedSafe’s claims came from the need to cancel or postpone a wedding. For example, the company saw a surge in claims in the Carolinas when Hurricane Florence hit, forcing cancellations for weeks following the storm as venues and vendors dealt with the impact to their business.
  • Wedding Liability Insurance. This type of coverage, which is now required by many venues, helps protect an insured if they are held liable for property damage or bodily injury. It can also offer host liquor liability to protect against alcohol-related accidents. And these things happen more often than you’d think. Twenty-three percent of WedSafe claims in 2018 stemmed from venue/property damage while 14 percent related to injury or accident.

This information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized business, insurance or legal advice. All descriptions, summaries or highlights of coverage are for general informational purposes only and do not amend, alter or modify the actual terms or conditions of any insurance policy. Coverage is governed only by the terms and conditions of the relevant policy.

A Sweet Wedding Story

Jordan and Leslie got married on a beautiful Sunday in October 2016.  Early in the day, Leslie had a pain in his stomach that he chalked up to pre-ceremony nerves.  After the ceremony was over, the pain was only getting stronger and by the time the couple was done taking portraits during cocktail hour, the groom could hardly stand. While their guests enjoyed their reception dinner, Jordan helped Leslie into their car and drove him to the Emergency Room.  Thankfully, the doctors informed the newlyweds that Leslie had kidney stones –painful, but not life threatening. They did not make it back to their wedding reception, but their guests danced and had a great time in their honor.
A few weeks later, Leslie reached back out with the hopes of throwing a surprise reception for Jordan. He was so appreciative and grateful that his bride stood by his side, even when it meant missing the day they had looked forward to for so long, and he wanted to give her a chance to enjoy all the work she put in.  
Under the guise of returning to the venue to take sunset pictures in their wedding attire, he had her bouquet and their cake re-made and invited their closest friends and family back to celebrate with them. After they finished taking pictures on the lawn, he led Jordan back inside where all of their guests were waiting! She was so surprised! They got to share their first dance, cut their cake, and get the send-off they had been dreaming of.  
Silver Swan Bayside Venue & Caterer412 Congressional Drive, Stevensville443-249-0400www.silverswanbayside.com

3 tips to make this the cheesiest year ever

(BPT) – Looking for a stress-free and undeniably delicious snack for your family game night? Want to surprise a special person you haven’t seen in a while with a gift delivery? Or do you simply want to kick grandma’s recipes up a notch this year? The solution is simple: cheese. Not just any cheese; awesome cheese.

Cheese makes everything better. That’s why Josh Gentine, a third-generation member of the Sargento Foods legacy, founded The Big Cheese Co. Well, that, and he got his hands on some extra-sharp, 12- to 15-year aged Wisconsin cheddar. According to Gentine, cheese ages like fine wine, getting sharper and more complex with each passing year. He maintains his cheddar is “the sharpest you’ve ever tasted,” adding jokingly, “it’s so sharp it has a British accent, and it was so good that it was worth starting this new company.”

With that in mind, here are three tips for making this year your cheesiest ever.

Tip 1: Sharpest surprise

Cheese is the perfect gift. “Cheese is our common denominator,” says Gentine. “There are only two types of people in this world: people who already love cheese and people who need to try The Big Cheese.”

With The Big Cheese, blocks are sent directly to your doorstep, so you can send a little love without leaving the sofa. A 2.5-pound block to your foodie aunt, a 5-pounder to the family of four. A 40-pound behemoth sent directly to the door of your friend who’s always entertaining (or will be, once that’s safe again). It’s an unexpected gift that you can be confident will be enjoyed and not regifted or left to gather dust in a hallway closet.

Tip 2: Charcuterie champion

Charcuterie boards have become their own popular subgenre . Some would say a full-fledged movement, with people creating over-the-top, picture-perfect trays packed with premium deli and dairy. The art of the board is all about balance, in color and flavor. Put your folded, reddish cuts of cured meat opposite pale cheeses, next to green olives or grape garnish. Mix and match an assortment of hard and soft cheeses with tapenades and spreads. Temper the salty meats with sweeter fruits like pears or apples. Or keep it simple when you’re looking for something quick and tasty for family movie night. Simply pile up the plate the way they like it, so everyone has options.

Pro Pointer: Serve your extra-sharp, aged cheddar (and other cheeses) at room temperature. When cheese is too cold, its taste is muted. By allowing cheese to come to room temperature, you’re allowing its flavors to come out and join the party.

Tip 3: Sharpen a family favorite

Family recipes that stay the same year after year can become tired or stale, so add a little zing with a cheesy kick. The secret is the sharp cheddar. Adding shreds of the zesty treat brings more complexity to dishes. It’s the perfect way to amp up mac and cheese, bring extra creaminess to grits or polenta, elevate a grilled cheese sandwich or breathe second life into leftovers like turkey melts.

Try this recipe for a great new take on a family classic:

The Big Cheese Mac & Cheese

From Jessica Slomberg @NYCFoodComa

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups half-and-half
16 ounces cream cheese, cubed
2 cups extra-sharp aged cheddar from The Big Cheese, coarsely grated
1 pound radiatori pasta (or any fun pasta shape!)

Directions:

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Once water is boiling, add plenty of salt and 1 pound radiatori pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente (5-10 minutes depending on type of pasta).
While pasta is boiling, add 1/2 cup half and half to a separate large pot or saucepan and reduce about 15 minutes over low heat.
Once cream is reduced, whisk in 16 ounces cream cheese cubes until smooth, then add 2 cups of The Big Cheese. Continue whisking until smooth.
When pasta is cooked, strain and transfer to pot containing creamy cheese mixture. Mix until pasta is evenly coated and serve.

For more information, visit TheBigCheese.com.

5 reasons to hire a professional photographer for family portraits

5 reasons to hire a professional photographer for family portraits

(BPT) – During a year that has been like no other, one thing is clear – family is more important than ever. Between the family members you’ve spent every moment with to those you dearly miss, the bonds between you are stronger than ever. What better way to celebrate your loved ones than to have a professional portrait taken?

While everyone with a phone these days also has a camera, the truth is that the photos you may find social media-worthy are rarely good enough to hang on your wall or give to the grandparents. And taking a quality photograph of an entire family that you really want to frame and cherish for years to come? That’s nearly impossible to accomplish – unless you’re a professional photographer.

Here are some reasons why hiring a professional photographer is the best choice for your next family portrait.

  1. Professional photographers are highly trained

Professional photographers really understand how to use the tools of their trade, including how to compose a photograph, using the subtle art of lighting and optimal background settings to their best advantage. And Certified Professional Photographers must pass a rigorous exam and a Technical Image Evaluation by Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Not only do these tests demonstrate their strong technical abilities, but they also show that they have met a high standard of proficiency in photography. A PPA Certified Professional Photographer is especially skilled at capturing high-quality images under any condition.

  1. The pros understand how to bring the best out of your family

Experienced professional photographers are gifted at capturing the unique personalities and relationships of your family. Professionals are able to talk to family members, helping them feel relaxed and comfortable, whether they are very young children or reluctant teens. They know how to arrange the family group and create poses that are both natural and photogenic. They understand what will look great in a photograph and what will accurately capture the moment in time.

  1. A professional portrait creates a timeless family heirloom

Just as you are unlikely to ask your cousin to snap your wedding pics with his smartphone, relying only on a family member’s skill with their phone’s camera for a photo you want to keep forever is not a safe bet. Instead of relying on a smartphone and digital files alone, you can ask a professional photographer for a variety of print options – to create meaningful and treasured holiday gifts, suitable for family members near and far. A beautifully framed, stunning family portrait on the wall makes a wonderful statement. A masterful family photograph is a work of art that creates a striking focal point for any room. It captures a moment in time you will appreciate even more as your children – and grandchildren – grow and change over time. These images are keepsakes whose stories you’ll tell time and time again, and will treasure forever.

  1. A photo session with a professional is a great experience

Using a professional photographer is a memorable experience from beginning to end. Perhaps unlike your previous experiences trying to wrangle the family for an impromptu photo session run by you or your spouse, your family’s session with a pro will be stress-free, because a professional photographer can help guide you throughout the process. From preparing for the session to wardrobe choices, backgrounds and other tips, you and your family won’t have to worry. You can just relax and enjoy the process. You’ll not only have the great photos to show for it, but also beautiful memories of a truly remarkable and unique experience with your family.

  1. Professional photographers are business owners

When you hire a professional photographer, you know that you’re getting someone who is willing to go the extra mile to deliver the best possible images. As business owners who thrive on customer service and satisfaction, professional photographers continuously aim to produce products that exceed customer expectations. When you hire a member of the Professional Photographers of America, you are ensuring that you’re hiring a photographer with substantial technical abilities. The investment in an experienced professional photographer is an investment in a high-quality family keepsake.

Interested in finding a professional photographer in your area? Visit FindAPhotographer.com.

From amore to l’amour: This Valentine’s Day, discover your language of love

(BPT) – No topic gets the heart pumping like love. And despite plenty of advice from experts, not everyone shows affection in the same way. This Valentine’s Day, why not try to communicate with your paramour like you never have before? Instead of saying “I love you,” say “je t’aime” or “ich liebe dich” instead – show your special someone that you love them in another language!

If you’re not too savvy with languages, but you still want to do something amazing this Feb. 14, there are still plenty of ways to express your feelings. Here are fun, creative tips on showing your passion this holiday.

  1. Celebrate your loved one’s travel dream

Maybe your sweetheart has been saving up to visit Machu Picchu in Peru. Perhaps they can’t wait to float down the Danube River in Europe or climb Mount Fuji in Japan. While you may not be able to make these dream trips a reality right now, you can take time to learn more about the places your loved one wants to visit – and how you’d get there if you had the chance.

Plan out an imaginary trip with the object of your affection, all the way down to what sites you’d visit after arriving at your destination. Take things a step further by gifting your loved one with an immersive language program. This will help them prepare for future international adventures!

Rosetta Stone is a convenient language-learning software that allows you to see, hear, speak, read and write while learning new words and phrases, right on your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. Rosetta Stone uses a Dynamic Immersion approach that ensures you’ll be immersed in your new language from the start, with reading, writing, listening and speaking exercises that work with your brain’s natural language processing ability to help you learn any of their 25 languages fast.

With Rosetta Stone, you and your loved one will intuitively learn through a series of photos, spoken words and written words. Just download the Rosetta Stone app and begin learning a new language!

  1. Explore a new activity or skill together

To express your love beyond words, why not give your special someone the gift of a shared experience? Way more engaging and longer lasting than a pricey dinner or a bouquet of roses, choosing something you and your loved one can do together will not just deepen your bond, but open the door to more fun and meaningful interactions in years to come.

Take up a new instrument, enroll in an art class or tackle a foreign language as part of your Valentine’s Day celebration. The great news is there are plenty of online classes, programs and tutorials for just about any hobby, game or life skill you’d like to explore with your partner.

  1. Explore your loved one’s background

It doesn’t really matter if you share a cultural background with your loved one – you can always make Valentine’s Day meaningful by exploring your partner’s heritage. Here are just a few ways to show your special someone that you’re extremely interested in what makes them unique:

  • Get them an ancestry kit so they can learn more about their own ethnic background.
  • Help them discover their family background by enlisting their older relatives into creating a family tree.
  • Find out how to make a dish (or where to order one) from your sweetheart’s culture and surprise them with a special meal.
  • Use a language learning app like Rosetta Stone to memorize ways to express your love to your partner in the language of their parents, grandparents or even great-great-grandparents.

This Valentine’s Day, choose a unique, easily downloadable gift with Rosetta Stone and reveal your new language skill as a surprise, or make your gift the experience of exploring a new vernacular. Whatever you choose, there’s nothing more romantic than saying “I love you” in a language that speaks to the heart.

Bring a little luxury to your life by bringing wine country to you

(BPT) – While you’re staying at home and doing your best to be safe during a pandemic, there’s one thing you shouldn’t have to compromise on – high-quality wine. And if you’re a seasoned wine drinker, you know that Napa Valley is the place to be.

“Napa Valley’s reputation is globally recognized, but its output is remarkably small,” says Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker at Chimney Rock Winery. “We produce only 4% of California’s total wine production, but that 4% represents the very best California has to offer.”

So, if you can’t have a travel adventure this year, Napa Valley can come to you. Here’s how to bring a little luxury to your life and experience wine country without ever leaving your home.

  1. Set the mood with music

Turn up the music and get ready to relax. Choose your go-to wine tasting playlist or search for one that’s already been created wherever you listen to music. It’s all about what gets you in the wine-tasting mood.

  1. Try a virtual tasting

Escape to wine country with a virtual visit to Napa Valley wineries. For example, Wine.com is hosting “A Toast to Napa Valley” – a free virtual wine tasting event featuring some of Napa’s most acclaimed wine producers. You can even purchase wine to taste during the session that will be shipped directly to your home or can be sent to a loved one as a holiday gift. To sign up and get your wine for the tasting, go to wine.com. The session will be on the Wine.com website for several months. This is a way to share a common experience with friends and family tuning in at the same time, all from the safety of your own home.

  1. Treat yourself to a cinematic getaway

Wine and film share a profound link: the ability of a single sip or scene to whisk your senses away to a wholly different time and place. After all: Wine, popcorn and a good movie makes for a great time, any night of the week. For inspiration, check out Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 10 Greatest Wine Movies of All Time by visiting www.winemag.com.

  1. Treat yourself to a spa night

Rest and recover with a little spa time. Light a candle, put on a different kind of face mask, pour yourself a glass of cabernet and hop into a steaming tub of bubbly water to soothe sore muscles and promote a restful night of sleep – and dream of a day where you can enjoy wine country in person. It’s the perfect cap to your Napa-themed day.

  1. Get cooking

If you were really exploring Napa Valley, you’d be feasting on fresh, local fare for every meal. For your Napa day at home, consider this sublime recipe for grilled New York Steak with Porcini Mushroom Butter from wine country chef Colin Crowley. Whatever you choose to cook or order in from your favorite restaurant, don’t forget to select wines that pair well with your food choices.

Grilled New York Steak with Porcini Butter (Serves 6)

1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 shallot, minced

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms

3/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 small onion, finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 NY Strip steaks, 7 ounces each

Put the wine, thyme sprigs and shallots in a small saucepan and reduce until approximately 1 tablespoon of wine is left. Strain and let cool. Rinse and soak the mushrooms 1 hour in the warm water. Drain the mushrooms; strain the liquid through a fine strainer or cheesecloth, reserving 1/4 cup. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a small sauté pan or skillet over low heat. Add the onion and cook until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until chopped. Add the onion, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, wine reduction, minced thyme and remaining 3/4 cup butter; process until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat the grill or broiler. Lightly sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper and grill or broil 3 minutes each side for medium-rare. Place a dollop of butter on each steak and serve.

6 creative ways hotels are adapting to the pandemic

6 creative ways hotels are adapting to the pandemic

(BPT) – The hotel industry has always been on the forefront of finding innovative ways to accommodate and take care of guests. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has led to canceled or rescheduled plans, many hotels are focused on developing long-term strategies to give their guests the safest and best possible experience. If you’re looking to travel right now, consider booking with a hotel implementing one or all of these six strategies.

  1. Employing digital assistants

Imagine being able to interact closely with a hotel worker who delivers towels and snacks straight to your room, controls elevators and accommodates your needs while keeping safety at the forefront. Hotel attendants like this might sound like a thing of the past, but at The Mercantile Hotel in New Orleans, it’s a reality. The hotel takes contactless service to the next level with their robot Suga, a three-foot tall, automated butler designed to accommodate guest needs in record-breaking time. Suga goes above and beyond to ensure all guests and employees can practice social distancing while still enjoying the comforts and amenities of hands-on hotel services.

Digital concierges also make hotel stays more convenient. The Mercantile Hotel is also home to Angie, an interactive digital concierge stationed in each guest room. Available 24 hours a day, this interactive virtual assistant has voice control and touch-screen capabilities. You can customize your stay, check in, play music, make hands-free calls, access hotel amenities, charge mobile devices and more with Angie.

  1. Offering micro-wedding services

With wedding postponements a common practice due to group gathering limitations, many hotels like The Hilton at Pensacola Beach have begun offering “micro-wedding” or “minimony” packages. These are exactly what they sound like: smaller, more intimate ceremonies that give couples the ability to celebrate their special day amidst the backdrop of the pandemic. Many micro-wedding and upgraded elopement providers still offer most of what you’d expect at a full-fledged ceremony – bouquets and flower packages, staff like an officiant and a photographer, and more – at a fraction of the price.

Some couples who picked their special date a year or more in advance have opted for a small ceremony in honor of their chosen wedding day, leaving the option for a larger, future celebration open for when we can all happily gather together again.

  1. Renovating for the future

Some hotels took advantage of a slower travel season to make headway on exciting new renovations designed with the pandemic era in mind. For example, Beachside Hotel & Suites in Cocoa Beach, Florida, returned to its ’60s glory in May 2020 after a $5.9 million renovation. The hotel offers a relaxed, retro vibe and showcases unique features including individually ventilated rooms and pet-friendly amenities. Beachside also ramped up its outdoor services to accommodate current guest preferences, including a luxury lazy river pool, an outdoor mural for social media photo-ops and rocket-launch viewing locations.

  1. Giving back to the community

Doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics and other healthcare heroes have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, serving selflessly on the frontlines. In the spirit of hospitality, Innisfree Hotels opened up their rooms to essential workers who need to isolate from their families for safety, allowing them to fully rest and recharge. Additionally, the hotels were staffed with team members who received supplemental training on critical health and safety measures to ensure the safety of all guests.

  1. Pivoting to take-out

Amidst the backdrop of this year’s public health crisis, H20 at the Hilton Pensacola Beach not only switched to curbside pickup, but they also fully redesigned their pantry into a butcher shop. The hotel’s butcher shop offered high-quality proteins to locals and visitors alike for low prices. Menu items included New York steak, filet mignon, rib-eye, veal chops, salmon, snapper, sushi and more. Guests who shared photos of their homecooked meals with H20 via Instagram were entered for a chance to win a free dinner for two at the award-winning restaurant once normal operations resumed.

  1. Creating an essentials drive-thru

Early on in the pandemic, SpringHill Suites in Panama City Beach, Florida, created an “essentials” drive-thru as a safe way to get much-needed quarantine supplies, like food, personal care items and cleaning supplies, into the community. Here, customers could drive up to the hotel’s parking garage to purchase affordable essentials for their families.

While the pandemic continues to affect the travel industry, many hotels’ resilient and creative strategies are helping them provide safe options for guests passing through.

Ways to celebrate the power of love

(BPT) – Love is what makes the world go round. And for that matter, it’s how everyone got here. And it’s how everyone gets up every morning. Love has been a big part of how people have made it through this year – together, even when they are apart. So here is a love letter to you: There are no limits to what love can do. There’s no distance it won’t go, and there’s no way it can keep you apart.

This Valentine’s Day, take the opportunity to kiss more, fill their hearts more and remind everyone to share the love. This is an important time to put more love out there, however you express it, because there are #NoLimitsonLove and what it can do.

Here are just a few of the many ways that you can show the ones you love how much you care about and appreciate them.

A written message – Whether you send them an e-card or mail a handwritten note, writing out your feelings can sometimes be an easier way to express that you care. You can take the time to craft a message that goes straight to their heart – and that will be cherished by the person you’re sending it to. Don’t know what to say? How about telling the story of how you met from your point of view, or sharing a cherished memory with them?

Positive actions – Showing your love through a helpful action can speak volumes. Don’t wait to be asked. Run an errand for someone, help them do something around the house or take care of them in other concrete ways to let them know they’re on your mind.

Gifts from the heart – Send or give someone a special gift, just to let them know you much they mean to you. You can choose classic gifts like flowers or chocolates, or find something that speaks directly to your relationship or their unique personality.

Share your love with the world – Have an inspiring story about your own beloved family member, teacher, spouse or friend? Why not post your own love story so everyone knows how much that person means to you?

Join the celebration of love on 1800flowers.com/nolimitsonlove and share your story with the hashtag #nolimitsonlove. Then read about inspiring stories of love from people around the country to lift your spirits. No matter what kind of love you share, there truly are no limits to what this powerful emotion can do.

Destination weddings: How to plan your dream celebration in uncertain times

(BPT) – Something old, something new, masks for guests and hand sanitizer, too – weddings during COVID-19 look different than those in the past. However, love is leading the way as couples are making thoughtful adjustments to their ceremonies to reflect their personalities and commitment to each other while prioritizing health and safety.

“Expect the unexpected is a phrase wedding planners have shared with couples for decades, and the global pandemic is certainly having an impact on matrimony traditions,” says Jonalee DeNoble, associate director of meetings and events at Destination Kohler. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way weddings are typically planned and performed, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a dream wedding in a memorable location.”

Jonalee offers expert insights for planning a wedding during the pandemic and the top wedding trends that smart brides and grooms are embracing:

Smaller groups provide intimacy enjoyed by all

Having hundreds of people gather for a wedding or reception simply isn’t possible right now. Don’t sweat the change and instead embrace the intimacy that only smaller celebrations can provide. This might be a few dozen of your closest friends and family or something as simple as the bride and groom and their parents. There is a beauty in smaller ceremonies that truly reflects the unconditional love a couple has for each other. When planning, remember group gathering restrictions vary by state and can change at any time, so be sure to plan accordingly and be conservative in your numbers.

Road trips rule for local destination weddings

Jetting to a tropical country or international destination for a wedding is not currently a great option, however, you can still enjoy a dream destination wedding in a picturesque setting when you explore options within driving distance. For example, Kohler, Wisconsin, is the premier wedding destination for people in the Midwest, with the new Straits Chapel at Destination Kohler that’s an intimate location surrounded by the beauty and serenity of nature. The picturesque setting of Straits Chapel, complemented by its modern design and proximity to Whistling Straits golf course, will captivate guests looking to celebrate as well as seeking a place for tranquility.

Nature-based settings are stunning and spacious

Opting for celebrations in nature over urban settings helps guests feel more comfortable knowing there is ample space for safety and social distancing. For example, Straits Chapel is nestled in the woods on the edge of bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan, which provides stunning views with plenty of access to the outdoors. When planning a wedding, consider if you want an indoor or outdoor ceremony, and how the natural benefits of parks, gardens and other nature-based destinations can enhance your wedding aesthetically while also providing a safer setting for everyone who attends your special day.

Streaming ceremonies and celebrations online

So many people are working and attending school online, it’s no surprise that the wedding ceremony has gone digital, too. Knowing celebrations will likely be smaller, this is a wonderful way to make people feel included even if they can’t attend in person. Research platforms and streaming options, as many have pros and cons, and choose the best one for your needs. Then on the big day you can broadcast the ceremony and celebration to loved ones who want to watch as you say “I do” and share your first moments as a married couple.

Request contactless accommodations

For guests who are attending the ceremony in person and need a place to stay overnight, research the safest and most convenient options so they can choose which they are most comfortable with. Many hotels have upgraded cleaning routines and offer contactless accommodations for a safer experience. Guests at Destination Kohler might consider the new Lake and Pond cabins with upscale features in a beautiful location that is very secluded from other guests. Reach out and get the details on different options to make it easy for guests to feel comfortable with their stay.

“COVID-19 has forced us to go back to the drawing board and create unique and luxury experiences while keeping everyone safe,” says DeNoble. “With great thought and our proactive measures, you can have a dream wedding with memories to last a lifetime.”

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