About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.


Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

DENT 2015, Where Passion, Innovation & Authentic Disruption Meet

March 26, 2015 by  

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I rarely fly Southwest Airlines, not because I’m not a fan, but largely because they don’t fly direct to most of the locations I travel to regularly. There are a couple of exceptions every year of course, Austin, Las Vegas and LA being on that list and more recently, Boise.

I love Idaho, a state I never expected to travel to never mind fall in love with. Truth be told, when a friend asked me to join him on a stint through the west for a few weeks roughly 15 years ago, I chose 3 states for that exploration, ones I figured would be vast but plain and boring. I couldn’t have been more wrong about all three. To say that Idaho, Montana and Wyoming did not disappoint is an understatement.

The breathtaking Idaho Sawtooth Mountain range is a sight to be seen, one which I’d argue is a transformative experience if you have an opportunity to hike or picnic on her soil.

Years later, I ended up in Idaho to see friends and then not again until last year when industry pals dragged me to a new-on-the-scene technology event in beautiful Sun Valley called DENT.

The DENT Conference (aka Dent the Future), has grown from 75 attendees in 2013, its first year, to 200 this year. While the number may seem small, just remember what SXSW and CES were like in their early days and more importantly, how special they were because of their size way back when. F.ounders in Dublin in the first two years also oozed that “small community” charm. As soon as events take off and explode in size, they lose that treasured intimacy that originally made them so special.

While the event is growing, the goal is not to become another SXSW or anything close – its goal is to stay intimate while delivering stellar content around technology innovation and business. Beyond content, networking and cultural activities are baked into the DENT schedule that spans 3 days, so attendees can have the kind of authentic and bond-building experience so lacking at other events. Nature is also at its core, since there are options to ski or hike before and after the event. On the first day, which they refer to as “Activity Day,” we headed out on a photo walk into Sun Valley’s woods, something that was as memorable this year as it was last.

Co-founders Steve Broback and Jason Preston hold DENT in of all places Sun Valley because of their passion for the area. Steve and his wife visit frequently and even have a second home there, which is an easy flight from Seattle where they hang their hat most of the time.

The other nice thing about having an event in Sun Valley is that it is more remote than places like Atlanta, Phoenix and Las Vegas where so many conferences and trade events are held – it takes more effort to get there, requiring a commitment to be present with attendees who show up. In other words, it encourages you to play “full out” and participate in a way that’s easy to avoid at larger events in more frequented cities. And, the location is prestine and beautiful.

Sun Valley is also smaller and let’s be honest – gorgeous.  The views are nothing short of breathtaking, whether you’re skiing at Sun Valley Mountain or going for a hike on Bald Mountain. For those of you who have been to Sun Valley, you also know that the food and wine scene is fabulous, as is the city’s art and culture. (See the Sun Valley Lodge renovation piece, my spring skiing write-up and top Ketchum restaurants reviews from last year).

And so, that’s why I boarded a Southwest Air flight this past weekend from Oakland to Boise and then hopped the “wine bus” with 30 other geeks and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and Seattle, where great Cabernet was poured as we made our way through the mountains to awe-inspiring Sun Valley. Here, we geeked out, shared stories, formed new relationships and strengthened existing ones.

This year’s event boasted speakers like Craig Newmark, founder of Craig’s List, David Risher, Ron J. Williams, Sarah Milstein, Paul Shoemaker, Dan Kottke who shared early stories of his friendship with Steve Jobs as well as the books they read together, Pam Weiss, cartoonist David Horsey and others.

Buick was also on board to shuttle us around and made us feel like kings and queens as we darted around the valley from activity-to-activity. They also ran an Auto Cross event where you had three tries to improve your time racing through a course set up on the outskirts of the city. Fun was the order of the day while learning a bit about safe driving in the process. I also had no idea how great Buick’s acceleration was from park to “go.”

Above shot of hosts and founders Steve Broback and Jason Preston on the main DENT stage, courtesy of Chris Holmes

While technology and innovation may be the order of the day inside the Sun Valley Inn for two full days, rest assured there are plenty of other reasons why attending the event is more than just a little enticing. Aside from hiking, biking and skiing, there’s a massive yoga and a holistic retreat center in town (take a peak inside Zenergy to get a flavor).

The geeks who show up are not only exceptionally passionate about what they do, but have a genuine desire to see others move forward in their life and business in empowering ways. From that place and frame of mind, best practices are shared and the latest gear seems to show up.

Side events and meals are served on-site at the Sun Valley Inn, at nearby local restaurants in Ketchum and at entrepreneur’s homes in the area. Below, Chris Voss, Kris Krug, Robert Scoble and other photo geeks stand on local entrepreneur Scott Jordan’s roof, taking in the views and the energy from the DENT attendees below.

And, oh yeah, there’s a wolf walk led by Oliver Starr, a man who is more passionate about wolves than most women are about dark chocolate.

Speaking of dark chocolate, Laura Jordan cooked up a storm at her home for this year’s Denters, while we took in the views of the mountains around Ketchum.

From left to right, Skip Franklin, Renee Blodgett, Scott Jordan, Steve Broback

All above 5 shots at the ScotteVest party taken by photographer Mark Oliver (Ketchum).

Scott Jordan, who is CEO and founder of ScotteVest and Laura graciously hosted Denters on opening night and nothing was spared — from potato pierogi with sour cream, Thai corn fritters, bacon wrapped stuffed dates, french onion wontons, shrimp crostini, duck confit doughnut holes with sour cream preserves, to a full table of cookies, cakes and chocolate and caramel covered apples.

The DENT Conference is a combination of all things smart, innovative, forward thinking and relevant and its attendees are a combination of authentic, connected, sassy, leading edge and fun. I began to notice a wonderful shift from last year’s event to this year after the first day — what emerged was a formation of a dynamic community.

I for one, personally felt embraced by a savvy group of individuals who were there to give more than “get” and to learn more than network. Unlike so many tech conferences where you feel that networking and pitching are core to the vibe and their raison d’etre, DENT is focused on building a community that will last, one which wants to help others succeed along the way. This golden nugget quality combined with stellar content, speakers and a blend of right brain and left brain conversations on and off the stage, is what truly makes DENT so special.

A must event to put on your radar, DENT is held every March in Sun Valley Idaho and there are now direct flights from San Francisco or you can fly from Oakland to Boise and drive the 3-4 hours to the mountain range, which is nothing short of breathtaking.

Another great read on this event is from LA Times columnist and cartoonist David Horsey, also one of DENT’s speakers.

PHOTO CREDITS: Photo of Jason and Steve taken by Chris Holmes, photos from Scott Jordan party taken by Mark Oliver and all other photos by Renee Blodgett.

Transitions: Reflections From the Urban Bronx to Rural Virginia

March 24, 2015 by  

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Preparing oneself mentally for leaving America’s East Coast and its way of viewing the world is something I’ve done six times now, the first transition was to America’s south, followed by Arizona and southern California and then, a few overseas stints where I lived in a variety of luxury, shacks and working class suburbs. In between, I hung my hat in villages, on a kibbutz, along the coast and amidst urban decay and sprawl…..I did it all.

Above, rural Virginia in all its glory, on a cold and brisk winter day.

Then, after many years doing what I was told in the Boston corporate world, I stored a three bedroom house in some warehouse in New Jersey and drove west in a silver Honda Accord named Hamilton with a kayak rack on its top. That was a decade ago. He’s still with me btw and purring along.

Above, Boston’s Charles River at dusk in the days when I lived there, not long before I moved west.

When you’re born and bred in New England, East Coast roots are what you understand, what you know and connect to and the soil you want to touch when the tides are down, at least that’s how it is for most people. I cried as I drove north on Route 128, for what I thought would be the last time, in a very long time. The car was packed, oozing with stuff I later would never need but couldn’t part with at the time, and I looked like a young and modern version of a Beverly Hillbilly daughter, except with more miles under her belt.

I was bound for Canada since I was always one for choosing the path less taken and certainly zigzagging north and south over borders was one such way to do just that. I could have taken Route 66 of course but I figured I had decades to tackle that one. Perhaps when I was old and gray and could whiz across in a slick purple aerodynamic RV just because I could?

En route, I was open to landing somewhere else other than San Francisco if another place spoke to me with more clarity, Portland and Seattle being on the top of my list, mainly for its access to some of the most beautiful mountains and scenery on America’s west coast. My alternative route brought me into Canada, where I lost my radar detector during a police stop (who knew they were no no’s in the Maple Leaf country?), before I then ventured south again through Wisconsin and Minnesota, both of which I loved. It was summer, so fishing and camping were the order of the day, all of which I resonated with growing up in the Adirondack Mountains. (below a shot taken from this past fall of a trip through the Adirondacks – sunset at Caroga Lake).

I headed north again before making a central b-line through parts of Kansas, both Dakotas, Idaho and Montana. There I spent time in the land of the free where I discovered the solitude of America’s western lands — the nothingness of the plains where you could hear a pin drop and the air was quiet one minute and menacing the next.

Ahhh yes, a decade ago.

I was younger then. I had visions of wearing a cowboy hat and boots with faded torn jean shorts and a stylish checked shirt that fit tightly but appropriately across my chest. Silver cuffs hung from my right wrist and a funky leather watch with an antiquated plate hung from my left. My visions included sitting at the counter of some $1 a coffee midwest diner with a girlfriend who was similarly dressed so we didn’t look too out of place in a town we knew nothing about. Later, we’d tackle some dive bar where Harley Davidson addicts would play pool around us while we drank $3 tequila shots and listened to Rock from our time on some worn out juke box. All of this, in a place where no one knew our names. Pure bliss.

I was alone for part of this trip and with random friends on other parts – they’d fly into a designated city and I’d pick them up until I dropped them off at an airport in a different state and continue on my journey. I learned oddball things about the country all the way across this big vast land.

I drank wine in Idaho by night and hiked by day, chowed down on hamburgers in small towns, tried local brew beer, picked blueberries, and wrote poetry with Craters of the Moon as my backdrop. I sat on haystacks in Wisconsin and laid my head among tall grass while one hung between my teeth as I looked up to a clear blue sky. I had a solo picnic behind a church steeple in a deserted ghost town that has barely changed a wink since it was first built in 1880.

I dreamed of a movie script I’d write one day as I laid my eyes on the magical never-ending Badlands for the first time.

I pissed on South Dakota soil, listened to youthful rock bands play in pubs till 2, tried karaoke against my better judgment, sampled whiskey during a bowling match in a place I can’t remember the name of, and went bareback horseback riding in Washington State. I discovered Blodgett Oregon and sat in its library doing family research before landing in Portland where my first stop was the city’s finest chocolate shop. Clearly, I had my priorities in tow on that trip.

This trip would surely be different. Not only was it winter this time around, but my perspective on life had changed after spending so many years on the untamed risk-taking west coast.

That trip so many moons ago, felt more youthful somehow, but the fact that I was ten years younger was only part of the equation. The goal was to move states and to one about as far as I could go to from Massachusetts. As a crow flies, it was roughly 2,700 miles although I took so many detours, I probably added another 1,000 to the trip in the end. Portland or Seattle didn’t call loud enough and San Francisco was where I ultimately landed.

Ahhh yes, a decade ago.

Over the past year and a half, I spent more time on the East Coast than not and my heritage and all of the memories that go with it, wrapped its way around me like a little girl’s arms do to an adult leg during the shyest of moments. It wasn’t a bad thing. It’s not as if it called me back for good, but in all the most beautiful ways, my time there reminded me of the things I love about the Atlantic side of this Yankee land and just how different its people are from those I’ve been working and playing with for so many years of late.

Truth be told, I love the East Coast. I love the way people talk, their philosophical canter, their humor and wit, their directness, the way they look into your eyes rather than past them when they talk to you and their authentic honesty when you need it most. Some of you will disagree with the last one since New Englanders are known for being more discreet and conservative than West Coasters. But, somehow I always managed to draw the truth out of my East Coast friends and when I needed raw honesty and perspective, I asked for it – hard and direct, the way we do in New York.

And so, on a very cold but clear day in mid-January of this year, I set off on another drive across country to help another “life” move. We had a small apartment to clear out and despite its size, it still involved packing dozens of boxes and stacking a car full of more, not to mention loading up a large Yakima cargo box that sat on the top of a five year old gray Chevy Pontiac we named Vinny that was set to make the long journey.

Oddly enough, I felt somewhat melancholy about the departure, not unlike I did a decade ago even though my place was still on the west coast. There was something nostaglic about it and familiar – I had gone through this before and while last time, it was leaving a home behind, this time, it was leaving months of a different life behind, a life filled with diners who proudly served homemade chicken noodle and matzo ball soup, bagel and pizza shops on every corner and crisp cool evenings where we’d take late afternoon walks past the Long Island Sound.

The sunsets at times were even glorious. The below shot was taken in the Bronx, crossing the bridge to City Island at sunset this past fall.

Yet, it’s a much harder life in New York, something I had forgotten since living in San Francisco for a myriad of reasons those who have left it behind, well know.

People tend to harder. There’s always an edge. Traffic is busier. Prices are higher. The pace is faster. Houses are smaller. Jobs are more hectic. The demand is more intense. Schools are more crowded. Climate is harsher. Getting things done takes longer. And so on. But…it was a way of life I knew so well because it was part of my DNA – after all, I first learned how to walk on New York soil.

Nostalgic as it was, we were eager to drive towards warmer pastures, calmer waters, gentler voices….and skies where serenity is the order of the day. To a place where priorities are not about doing but about being. With that frame of mind, we made our way out of the Bronx after one final stop that had to be made — Dunkin Donuts on Bruckner Boulevard. Sipping our piping hot coffees quietly, we made our way across the George Washington Bridge for the last time in our as unpretentious as they get Pontiac.

It was a bitter cold, but clear day. Snow, sleet or rain didn’t get in our way and we missed a New York City blizzard by less than a week. 104.3 played on the radio in the background and we stirred gently as we made our way across the New Jersey border – moving in the car was a bit of a challenge given how packed it was and it wasn’t until we hit Virginia that we were able to shuffle things around to make for more comfortable living quarters, for that is precisely what Vinny would become for the next month on the road.

We passed smokestacks in Newark, and made our way south to Pennsylvania taking in its like-winter skies along the way.

Covington Virginia too had smokestacks, a not-so-common sight in the industrial East Coast where manufacturing plants still thrive.

When we reached Maryland, we were greeted with yellow and soft peach skies set against bare winter trees.

West Virginia skies at dusk were similar, as were its trees and hills. Misty. Dreamy. Cold. Clear. Soft.

Through the car window en route.

The skies would get even more dramatic before night’s end.

Our first stop was the Omni Homestead in Hot Springs Virginia and yes, it was rural and yes, it was surrounded by thermal hot springs, a perfect healing remedy after a long tiring drive from an urban sprawl. Read my extensive write-up on the oh so traditional Omni Homestead property, the stunning wildlife and acreage surrounding it and the infamous Warm Springs Baths and Pools where Thomas Jefferson himself soaked to heal his aching body.

While still brisk in the evening, arriving in Virginia was a lovely reality check that the Bronx was no longer in our rear view mirror and the bitter cold New York winter was behind us. Alas, we hadn’t seen a Dunkin Donuts since morning.

Our drive from Virginia would mostly be rural. It was the first of many rural drives to come on our long journey through middle America.

The eastern part of the country with its wide open spaces and hills, would soon open up to glorious trees and peaks when we hit the edge of the renowned Shenandoah mountain range.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of greeting Virginia’s stunning Shenandoah mountains, it spans 73 miles long across Virginia and West Virginia. The steep, narrow, sandstone-capped ridge extends from northern Bath County in Virginia to southern Hardy County in West Virginia.

The stretch serves as a haven for both family vacations and romantic getaways alike. There’s plenty of hiking as you’d expect, but what you may not expect to find are vineyards, breweries and of course the nearby hot springs. The Blue Ridge Whiskey-Wine Loop is a self-guided tour of some of the loveliest vineyards in several counties in Virginia’s central Valley.  And, of course, the drive is breathtaking with plenty of views along Route 40 as well as numerous side roads you can take for a variation to the main road.

Reflections aside, we were well on our way to a month long journey that would forever transform our lives, as all trips of this nature tend to do. And, most importantly, we were ready. It was time and we couldn’t wait to embrace the wide open road ahead of us.

This is the first post of many that covers our cross country trip — while we crossed 15 states, our coverage can be found on the following state pages where we spent time: Virginia, Tennessee (Nashville, Memphis), Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico (Santa Fe) Arizona and California. The coverage will span from late March through June 2015. Also be sure to read our extensive write-up on Massachusetts from last summer which includes the North Coast, Boston and Cape Cod. Don’t ask us for our favorite state because they were all truly magical and each place has its own known — and unknown — gems.

Note: We also used hashtag #WBTWxAmerica on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook throughout our journey if you want to see our photo streams.  And, while I hate promotional pushes, truth be told, our trip was made possible and FUN by many sponsors and hosts, including the Tourism Boards of Virginia, Nashville, Memphis, Mississippi and Clarksdale, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Arkansas, Santa Fe and Taos.

We also had product sponsors: Yakima (Vinny wore their sturdy and hassle-free cargo and bike racks proudly), Rockport and Arcopedico Shoes (their shoes were the most comfortable and reliable shoes I’ve ever worn on a trip and I truly mean that), UVSkinz clothing which we wore for sun protection, Kipling, Samsonite and Heys luggage (yup, we used all of it), Tiffen for their filters (well-used and necessary on those bright sunny days), Patchworks screen protectors for our phones, Jam bluetooth speakers so we could get music wirelessly and BuildaSign who created WBTWxCountry signs we plastered on our car doors starting in Tennessee.

We thank them for their graciousness and support along the way. Check out our partners and hosts page for a list who supported us for this trip and others. We were not paid by any sponsor or host to write anything and we chose our sponsors, so believed in their products before we set off. All opinions expressed are our own.

Photos: Renee Blodgett

Electronic Dance Music at Miami Music Week, Now in its 5th Year

March 18, 2015 by  

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Over the course of five years, Miami Music Week has become a globally recognized electronic dance music event. Each year thousands of electronic dance music artists, DJs, performers and fans from across the globe flock to Miami to experience MMW. These EDM enthusiasts flood MMW-affliated venues, hotels, restaurants, businesses and tourist hot spots, creating a dance music theme throughout Miami.

The dates this year are March 24th to March 29th in Miami Florida. They also have an interesting news update on Un_Mute, which has established itself as one of the leading cultivators of underground music in Miami.  Artists like Marco Carola, Lee Burridge, Josh Wink, Nina Kraviz, Marc Houle, Paco Osuna, Adam Beyer, Guy Gerber, Martin Buttrich, Misstress Barbara, Guti, John Tejada, Raresh, Barac, Praslea, Vera, Maayan Nidam, Rhadoo, Priku, Kanzyani, MARTINEZ, Mathew Jonson, Ben Klock, DVS1 and MANY more have performed at their events.

More on their site at miamimusicweek.com.

Wisdom, Compassion & Connection, Core Themes at TEDxBerkeley 2015

February 27, 2015 by  

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The sixth annual TEDxBerkeley, which will fill Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley CA tomorrow, February 28, will focus on Wisdom, Compassion and Connection. On stage in front of over 2,000 attendees, 57 speakers and performers will share riveting insights on these important and pivotal themes.

Tedxberkeley dance troupe

From Indian & Japanese Performers to Renowned Leaders, Professors & Apple’s Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, don’t miss the Live Stream at www.tedxberkeley.org. 

This year’s inspiring line-up aims to transform the way we think about ideas that can re-shape the world’s priorities in education, science, the environment, healthcare and beyond, all of which is center to the core of TED.

Apple co-founder and philanthropist Steve Wozniak will close this year’s sold out event. Those interested in hearing the 2015 speakers and performers can tune into the live stream at http://www.tedxberkeley.org starting at 10:00 am PST. The social media hashtag for the event is #TEDxBerkeley.

The complete line-up this year includes the following performers, thought leaders and visionaries, listed under the “theme” they will present.

Wisdom:

UC Men’s Octet: UC Berkeley A Capella Group

Prasad Kaipa: CEO of Kaipa Group, Business and Leadership Coach

Adora Svitak: Activist for Feminism & Youth Causes

Marc Gopin: Director, Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution

Carolyn Gable: CEO and Founder, Expect a Miracle!

Eric Holt-Gimenez: Executive Director, Food First

Dan Garcia: UC Berkeley Computer Science Professor

Valerie Joi: Musical Minister

Compassion:

Cal Raijin Taiko: UC Berkeley Japanese Performance Drum Group

Suzanne Ackerman-Berman: Transformation Director, Pick-N-Pay, South Africa

Dr. Victoria Kisyombe: Innovator in Women Empowerment

Alison Meyer: Leadership Coach, UC Berkeley Assistant Professor

Mike Robbins: Life Coach & Author

Meera Shenoy: Founder, Youth4Jobs

Dan Viederman: CEO of Verite

Connection:

New Orleans Manifesto: New Orleans Jazz Band

Cal Bhangra: UC Berkeley Punjabi Dance Group

Richmond Sarpong: UC Berkeley Chemistry Professor

Emily Levine: Producer and Comedian

Dr. Eric Rasmussen: CEO of Infinitum Humanitarian Systems

Viviana Guzman: Flutist who has performed in over 100 countries

Steve Wozniak: Apple Computer Co-Founder and Philanthropist

I am thrilled to be a co-curator again this year, together with co-curator R. Jennifer Barr and curator Erin Roberts. Also a huge hats off to platinum sponsor Fetzer Institute for helping us make the event more global than ever. Other sponsors include Food Should Taste Good, Positive Energy, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, 18 Rabbits, Victor Hugo Winery, OneSquigglyLine, Noah’s Bagels, Ben & Jerry’s, Livestream, Hootsuite and MailChimp.

 

Stay at a Four Seasons This Valentines Day With a #FSGiftCard

February 7, 2015 by  

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I’ve stayed at about ten Four Seasons properties over the years — see the write up on one of my most memorable stays at the Four Seasons on the Big Island of Hawaii. Despite the fact that each resort is unique and has a broad range of styles, fans know what to expect regardless of where they are in the world.

Recently, I had an opportunity to stay at the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe, which is less than a half hour drive north of Santa Fe New Mexico.  Because the resort is outside the city center, it has a rural desert feel to it as you approach its entrance and unlike every other Four Seasons resort  I’ve experienced, it’s uncannily quiet when you arrive.

The rooms and suites are spread out across adobe-style two story buildings all of which have a natural exterior, allowing them to blend well into the desert-colored environment that surrounds the property. If you want a view, I’d recommend requesting a room on the second floor facing the mountains – the other benefit of course is that second floor rooms are much quieter, although noise is not really a problem here given its more rural location.

The 65 casita guest rooms are decorated with chic, contemporary Southwest flair and start out at a generous 630 square feet, each one with an indoor fireplace and private patio or terrace with stunning views. We had a patio casita although they also offer suites, including one called a “sunset suite.”

Those not familiar with desert climates, know that it can feel warm during the day when the sun is at its strongest and after it sets, temperatures can go down into the teens, making it important to layer. This holds true when staying at this resort as well – even though the buildings themselves are all a short walk from the main reception, which houses the bar and restaurant, you’ll want to be prepared for the brisk walk back to your room, especially late at night. Wine alone will not warm you through, so pack accordingly. Note that this is mostly an issue during the cooler months of the year.

Our room, which was a patio casita, had an adobe fireplace and a simple phone call will get it started for you – ours lasted for a few hours and was mesmerizing and relaxing especially after a longish drive the previous day.

The co-ed hot tub stays open until around 10 pm so you can use it before and after dinner depending on your schedule. There’s also female and male only hot tubs on the property, which are accessible through the main spa building, which is a stone’s throw from the reception area and easily walkable.

Here you can also book a private lounge, which gives you access to a secluded area that has a hot tub, a luxury double lounge chair and a sauna, a great romantic option, whether it’s for an anniversary, no particular reason at all or the upcoming Valentine’s Day Weekend.

Four Seasons is offering a $250 gift card (#FSGiftCard on Social Media) for the upcoming romantic holiday, although it can be used after February 14 if that weekend getaway doesn’t work for you.  The gift cards can be used towards overnight stays, dining experiences, luxury spa treatments and more. For a chance to win, comment below with what you would do and/or where you would go with a Four Seasons gift card and you can also reach out via our Facebook page or Twitter.

We had a similar such experience in Santa Fe, starting with a couple’s massage which was a delight! I personally think all couples should do this periodically as it’s a great way to relax and share a l’il pampering and luxury together.

After your couple’s massage which is in a room with two massage tables and a burning fireplace, you can access the private circular lounge area, which is right outside the massage room and houses a hot tub, chairs, and of course, access to the wooden sauna. It’s a great option for those who truly want privacy and solitude time.

In addition to the adobe fireplaces in your rooms, there are outside patios with lounge chairs, which is a great spot to take in the nearby mountain views. There’s also an elegant but funky wood table, which is carved unevenly all the way around, giving the furniture a rustic yet modern look.

The bathroom offers massive sized showers, a separate deep soaking tub, a double sink and vanity area and radiant heated floors which are always on. The bathroom is separated by the bedroom via an entryway with tiled floors, and includes a refrigerator, a coffee pot, and a selection of liquor to choose from should you want a pre-dinner drink or a late nightcap.

What’s nice about the property is its seclusion, which for couples wanting to get away from “it all,” is a compelling feature.

The hotel restaurant Terra has a modern styled dining room with a lovely open gas fireplace that sits below a large glossy painting of a horse’s head. Both fireplace and horse are engulfed by an open-facing wine cellar, the combo of which is truly unique.

Truth be told, we were there doing a restaurant review although not paid to do one nor told how to write it. Because of this, we naturally took more time with our waiter and the sous chef Ruben Tanuz, who came out a few times throughout our meal to see how we were enjoying it and to answer any questions. Of course, I always have questions.

New Mexican-born Tanuz is not only a great chef, but has a warm and kind heart and personality and also has a unique personal story! We learned about herbs, spices and tweaks to recipes as well renowned dishes he has used over the years to keep flavors a little more interesting.

I was personally thrilled to see both Silverado and Opus on the wine menu and despite the fact that we went with a chicken and lighter pork dish, we dove into a California Cabernet rather than a Pinot which may have gone better with both. It was one of those nights…

The food was exquisite. Even if you’re not a salad lover, I’d recommend starting with one of their mainstays even if you order another appetizer. The roasted pear salad frisee with arugula, endive, cranberries, pomegranates with a bleu cheese hazelnut vinaigrette and their beet and goat cheese salad with figs, candied pecans served with a balsamic reduction is out of this world.

For entrees, we tried the black truffle chicken with sweet potato croquettes, wilted greens and a chicken jus as well as the grilled venison loin, served with poached pears, blackberries, crispy kale and a chocolate sauce.

And, of course, you wouldn’t sign up for a Four Seasons unless you weren’t into a little decadence after all. How about this double chocolate creation for dessert? It was divine.

If you’re after a little peace and quiet, then the Four Seasons  Rancho Encantado property is a great “getaway” choice and as avid travelers know, there are easy flights in and out of both Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

What’s nice is that the property is under those wide open skies New Mexico is known for and if you’re a nature lover and there on a Saturday, you can take a hike with outdoor expert Hans Loehr who’s available to introduce you to Santa Fe’s nearby stunning scenery.

For those who have experienced the more traditional Four Seasons resorts and may expect bellmen with hats and coats or seasoned staff who have been in the hospitality industry for decades to cater to your every wish, even before you anticipate them, note that this more classic approach isn’t something you’ll find at the Santa Fe location, as it has a bit more of that western laid back look, feel and flavor to it.

Those interested in taking advantage of the Santa Fe Four Seasons gift card (#FSGiftCard), can visit this page for more information.

Details on the Santa Fe Four Seasons:

Four Seasons Rancho Encantado

198 State Road 592

Santa Fe, NM 87506

 

Disclosure: we were hosted by the property but not paid to write the article or coached on what to say in the write-up, except for providing the details on how readers can redeem the #FSGiftCard promotion.

 

Corinthia Hotels Offers Dramatic Savings on European Properties Thru March 31

January 29, 2015 by  

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If traveling more in 2015 is one of your new year’s resolutions, then plan ahead and book your days off in advance as the January sales are not just for clothing this year.  Corinthia Hotels have announced their annual sale with 50% off on all their European properties excluding London whereby you pay for 2 nights and stay for 3, a deal that is hard to pass if you want to treat yourself to some serious luxury without the hefty price tag this year.  Hurry though as the offer is valid until March 31, 2015.

The Corinthia Hotel London is situated in one of the most affluent parts of the city and is the jewel in Corinthia’s crown.  Hailed by many a businessman and celebrity alike as one of the most luxurious hotels they’ve ever been to, the hotel offers state-of-the art 21st century luxury in an old Victorian building, a stones throw away from Trafalgar Square and Westminster abbey and enjoying some stunning views of the London Eye and the river Thames.

If relaxing in your room is your type of holiday then look no further.  The rooms come with under-floor heating, separate tropical rain shower and a deep bathtub with built in LED TV (and a waterproof remote-control of course) in addition to the luxury bathing products from Corinthia’s own ESPA brand.

If you’re on the other hand looking for a different kind of charm, why don’t you check out the other European locations that Corinthia has on offer?  The 50% off is on at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest, Prague, Lisbon (below), St. Petersburg and also the hotels on the tiny but all year round sunny island of Malta.

The Corinthia Hotel Budapest is by far one of the grandest hotels in the city and the building itself is quite the impressive landmark, with an imposing Neo-classical façade and a rising glass atrium.  Budapest is a great city to visit all year round and the surprises it offers are endless.  The vibrant culture and art scene coupled with the great food and Hungarian wine make this city a must-visit one on your list, and you’re in luck because the hotel is bang on in the center of it all.

If on the other hand you feel that you need to catch some much-needed sunshine, then take the tip and book a visit to Malta in the summer.  This tiny island in the middle of the Med offers quite a surprise.  With historical sites that date back to Neolithic times and more baroque buildings and churches per capita than any other Christian nation, the island is a treat.

The Corinthia St. George’s in Malta boasts amongst other things it’s very own private beach on top of all your usual luxurious indulges, so your tan will definitely not pass unnoticed when you’ve gone back home from your holiday.

So make your mind up quick and head to the Corinthia.com to book your luxurious stay for less now.  You deserve it!!

Note: the above post was made possible by our partner sponsor Corinthia Hotels.

Montana’s 320 Guest Ranch to Host 5th Annual “Ski Joring”

January 20, 2015 by  

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Montana’s 320 Guest Ranch just announced that they’ll host the Fifth Annual Ski Joring this January 31and February 1.   Families and individuals are invited to come to the ranch to watch a horse and rider team pull a skier on an action-packed course filled with curves and jumps, racing against the clock to compete for cash prizes.  Ski Joring begins on Saturday, January 31at 1 pm with the finals held on Sunday, February 1at 11 am.  Awards will follow the event.

The public is invited to observe Ski Joring at the 320 Guest Ranch free of charge.  Saturday night after the races, a la carte dinner will be served in the 320 Ranch Steak House.  Red Lodge Brewing and Headframe Distillery will be on hand for tastings.

The “Cold Hard Cash” will play in concert as part of the event and for those wishing to stay over, they’re offering special rates at the lodge.

The 360 Guest Ranch is an historic 320-acre-property situated along two miles of the famed Gallatin River.  Begun in 1898, the 320 Guest Ranch offers 87 sleeping rooms within 59 luxurious and modern cabin accommodations, log homes and mountain chalets. Many accommodations feature wood-burning fireplaces — with firewood provided.

The property also has the 320 Ranch Steak House for dining and an authentic 320 Saloon for after-hours, a great Aprés Ski for after your skiing activities on the slopes of Big Sky or Moonlight Basin.

The ranch provides facilities and concierge support services for events, social and leisure activities.  Close to world-class downhill and cross country skiing at Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin, 320 Guest Ranch offers a full range of seasonal recreational activities, such as horseback riding, trail hiking, rafting, sightseeing, mountain climbing, fly fishing (some of the world’s best), hayrides, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and many more.

The property is located 12 miles from Big Sky, 5 miles from the boundary of Yellowstone National Park and 52 miles from Bozeman, Montana, and the Gallatin Field Airport.

CES 2015 Wrap: From UHD & Connected Objects to Digital Health & All Things 3D

January 12, 2015 by  

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There was no shortage of companies jumping on the “we must be connected to everything, or else..” trend that was central to most announcements coming out of this year’s  Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week, an event that I’ve been going to for a couple of decades.

It was even the heart of Samsung’s keynote address this year.  At the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), the main building for CES’s heftiest exhibitors, it was Samsung (not Apple) who stole the show with its ever so impressive 360 screens that circled around its booth, showing flashy and compelling videos of cars racing and more. It was all about their 4K TVs, which are bendable, flat and curved although Samsung had plenty to offer in the mobile, audio and home automation space as well.

Samsung JS9500 series is a new concept in UHD (4K technology), which they tout as eco-friendly. It uses nano-crystal technology and an intelligent SUHD re-mastering picture quality engine, which gives vast improvements in contrast, brightness, color reproduction, and detail.

People seemed to be raving about FLIR at my evening networking events, a new infrared camera that connects to smartphones at around a $250 price point. As crazy as this sounds, the camera can spot pets and animals in the dark, as well as detect cold air drafts and leaking pipes in walls. FLIR ONE translates thermal energy into dynamic color images for personal safety, home repairs, outdoor adventures, and even artistic expression.

The “all things connected world” seemed to proliferate the Sands Convention Center, located just off the strip a stone’s throw from the Wynn Hotel, where I demoing and singing Kolibree‘s praises, the world’s first connected electric toothbrush with truly interactive feedback, gamification and 3D motion sensors. The toothbrush tells you how you’ve brushed, where you’ve brushed and where you haven’t.

We had a dentist on-site who is also an advisor to the company explaining why this is important and how knowing where you’re not brushing well empowers you to brush better next time around. In the old world, you’d only get that feedback from your dentist once a year, a far cry from the world we live in today where nearly everything can be connected thanks to Bluetooth technology.

A bit like Fitbit for your teeth, who also had a massive presence on the show floor not far from we hung our hats for the week, Kolibree differs from other connected brushes on the market, thanks to its proprietary technology, in that it provides an interactive map telling you exactly where you’ve missed, as well as where you’ve over-brushed and under-brushed.

All that data can be kept private or shared with your dentist, which is the first time that the dental industry will have access to this kind of data, all of which can be incredibly useful for both dentists and users. Kolibree has teamed up with Dentegra who also had a presence at CES this year — the combined forces will offer incentives and discounts on dental care, as well as 25% off the Kolibree toothbrush through the new Dentegra Smile Club to be launched early this quarter.

While healthcare is an obvious win for the connected market (think measurement of your sugar levels in real time if you’re diabetic, feedback on your sleeping patterns so you can rectify through diet, exercise and other things, heart monitoring and reminders to take drugs), there were a host of other connected devices trying to prove that they were truly useful too. The truth is – some were and some were….well, not so much.

New connected devices on the market seem to come in all types and sizes — from blingy necklaces that vibrate when your husband sends you a text and baby diapers that let you know when your kid has pooped to washing machines, interactive cameras and Raticator, a rodent detectors that notify you when it has caught a rodent — yes really (see the rat trap, a rat trap that uses a wifi chip to alert you when it electrocutes the rat).  Although I didn’t see it, I heard about a toaster that notifies you when the toast is up. Really? Could I not see or hear it pop up from inside my kitchen?

Connected devices can truly be useful but quite honestly, only when the connection is used to solve a problem we have or make our lives easier in ways that matter.  I understand the value of connected watches within reason, but when I asked one vendor what the default was on the completely flat shiny silver faced watch, he told me it was how many steps I took and I’d only get the time after a second tap. Huh? That’s like telling me that my smartphone’s default is digital games and a list of recommendations on restaurants before being able to make a call. I want a watch to first and foremost give me the time and my phone to first and foremost allow me to make calls.

When the watch becomes stylish and adorns me with a l’il luxury I might not have had otherwise, it gets a little more interesting however, at least for a woman. So far, all of these connected gadgets seem to be designed by men for men — big, bulky, black, silver and red seems to be the order of the day.

The gold and sparkling diamonds of Burg‘s blingy smart watch drew me over to their booth. It works via a SIM card on an Android 4.4 operating system, and is activated. The price point for this stainless steel and Swarovski crystal device is between $500-600. They also offer a range of fun colored sportier watches that track your activities.

Swarovski also had their own presence on the show floor and while I’m not much of a bling girl, I loved the designs of their soon to be released smart watches, most of which come with accompanying narrow glittery bracelets.

Glitter, diamonds and also black, white and midnight blue. They were my favorites of the connected watches and jewelry and I can’t wait to test them out when they hit the market.

Misfit is also working with Swarovski on a new line called Shine. The Shine Collection includes the Swarovski Shine Activity Tracking Crystal and accompanying accessories.

Additionally, I loved the latest watches from Guess at the show, touting rich colors and elegant design. You can get scrolling alerts across a Led screen or be alerted via a vibration and it uses voice commands to communicate with your cell phone. The watch is water resistant, and comes in midnight blue (for men only — a shame since it’s my favorite one of all the options), brown and rose for men, white and black for women and white with a bit of bling.  The watches use Martian technology, which I wrote about in mid-2014. The line, which supports both iPhone and Android, is slated for a September or October launch of this year and will retail for around $350.

One of my favorite companies making tracking watches is Withings — they had me at “hello” last year when they showed off their Activite watch in a beautiful and elegant soft brown leather. We can’t wait to test it out in the next few months. This year, they were showcasing Activite Pop, a line of watches that is focused on the more adventurous. Pop comes in lots of fun colors and like their other watches, you have easy access to both the time and notification of your activity so you know where you stand throughout the day and can decide what your next move should be.

Also showing off fun jewelry was FashionTEQ. Their Zazzi bracelet offers an elegant and more discreet way for women to receive messages and reminders when you have your cell phone in your pocket or purse. Why would I even consider the geekier options designed by men for men when I could wear something that looked like this? I’d love to test it out in my daily life in the not too distant future.

Speaking of jewelry, the connected vendors weren’t the only ones fed up with the fact that techy products don’t cater to women enough. Meet GemPhones. I fell in love with these elegant ear buds disguised as a functional but beautiful necklace you can wear around your neck. A dressier option is one that resembles pearls whereas the funkier hipper brown and black motif is a nice everyday option for the younger hipster and frankly, for a woman in her forties. I’m game and can’t wait to test these out.

Another mobile accessory I discovered solves a real problem — LOST ear buds. I don’t know about you but I’m constantly misplacing them, leaving them in the wrong bag or getting them tangled when I need them most. Sound Pockets has come up with a way around that by creating a plastic pocket that attaches itself to the bottom of your cell phone case and they’re available in lots of fun colors. A perfect solution for the college student and for the forgetful and busy among us who need a handy way to keep track of them.

Also for the active enthusiast, meet the ever so cool Rocketskates. They had a massive booth in the center of the Sands, where you could watch demos of people using the skates or even try them out yourself, which I did of course.

Blissfully happy at the end of my try….they’re a bit like a cross between a segway and rollerskates.

Below is a little video of my experience with them so you can get an idea of how they work.

3D printing was another hot trend at this year’s show. In the Sands alone, it seemed like the aisles of vendors touting their latest 3D printing solutions was never going to end. At one point, I found it a little dizzying and frankly, confusing. While in no way yet mainstream, 3D printing, despite its hefty price point, is now a feasible possibility in today’s world. Take a look at some of the objects these vendors were showing off in their booths — from fashion and leather cell phone cases to sailboats, toys, dolls, objects and even food. 

I had an incredible experience inside the massive 3D Systems booth (note that the funky leather smartphone cases above were made from one of their machines). Sense is a portable 3D scanner that can capture objects (including people) at 10 by 10 feet and its claim in addition to high quality scanning is that its price is much more reasonable than its competitive counterparts. Below is a shot of me holding the captured image of “me” after they scanned me on the show floor.

The Sense is the only 3D scanner to deliver precise instant physical photography, so everyone can capture his or her scanable moments. Sense has flexible scan size and can capture everything from a picture-perfect cupcake to a full-body selfie, processing data in seconds for an instantly 3D printable file. Sense comes with an intuitive user interface with easy and automated zoom, track, focus, crop, enhance and share tools.  Below is a video of my experience.

The 2015 CES Innovation Awards had its own section at the show, where they highlighted companies making cool and leading edge products.

Most of the products were displayed behind glass cabinets so you see but not touch and the range of solutions were vast.

In the Connected Home area, I discovered Edyn Garden who has a  solar-powered Edyn smart garden system that takes the guess work out of gardening with their Wi-Fi enabled Edyn Garden Sensor. The sensor monitors environmental conditions to make smart recommendations about what to plant and when to fertilize. This unique sensor works alongside the Edyn Water Valve and Edyn app to provide automatic watering options that deliver water when, and only when, plants need it, helping to conserve water and other precious resources.

The Fitness Section, where Activity Meets Tech, was bustling and this year, it seems as if there are now countless FitBit-like solutions that take fitness tracking and feedback to an entirely new level.

Lighting has been making a lot of new advances lately for both larger enterprises and new solutions consumers can use in their home — from improving efficiency to controlling your room’s colors and mood. Meet ilumi whose vibrant booth ambiance drew me over to learn more.

You simply download the free ilumi App from the App Store or Google Play, screw in your ilumi lightbulb and turn them on. You can control and customize each individual ilumi or groups of them – you can also program an ilumi light or set of lights to sync with certain music to affect a room’s mood, make them change colors or diffuse them in some rooms and not others.

It is all done through a simple-to-use mobile dashboard, allowing you to take control of your home or office’s lighting in just a few swipes or clicks. I think the idea is great, loved the team and can’t wait to put them to the test – we hope to review them in the coming months ahead.

The Digital Health section was exploding with solutions that ranged from sugar tracking as mentioned above and activity trackers to tools to rest the mind. Muse has an interesting approach to settling your over active mind and had an experiential chair set up so you could put it to the test. And, so I did….

I sat inside a comfy chair while the brain sensing headband was place around my head with the goal at putting my mind at ease. As eerie as this sound, the headband essentially reads your brainwaves read while giving you simple activities and games to reduce stress, strengthen your brain and help you relax via its EEG sensors, all of which are constantly detecting and measuring your brain activity. Below is a video someone from their team shot as I went through the process on-site.

I found CES this year to be more interesting than last although I wished I had time to really explore the LVCC in depth. I was living and breathing the Kolibree toothbrush and Dentegra’s Smile Club for the week so amidst the buzz of home automation, fitness, 3D, cameras, audio devices and TV sets, it was rewarding to see Kolibree shine at CES for its second year in a row.

Last year, we only had a prototype to show and this year, Kolibree could demo two new mobile apps and talk about the compelling collaboration with Dentegra to help make dental care more affordable. Kolibree could also tout that its most advanced connected toothbrush will by shipping by the end of January. From gadget press and mom bloggers to Associated Press TV, NBC News, and even Sears Television, the team demoed to the world.

Kudos to Kolibree’s team in Paris for getting the toothbrush ready for this very important show and for market and to the Dentegra team for coming up with an innovative way for uninsured consumers to receive affordable dental care through its Smile Club. Alas, with another CES behind us, it’s now time to transform how Americans view dental care.

Photo credits: Top photo by Duke Chung from venitism.blogspot.com, Raticator from epestsupply.com, Flir One photo from their website, Samsung photo from Samsung website. Dentegra Smile Club mobile screen shot from the Dentegra Smile Club.com website and second ilumi photo of the mobile app from justelementary.com. Videos and all other photos courtesy of Renee Blodgett.

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