Jody Robbins | Travels with Baggage - A a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust

Halloween Art Print

Happy Halloween, everyone! Are you trick or treating this evening? I think I’ve successfully shrugged off that responsibility this year. It’s my plan to not eat ANY Halloween candy this year. It was also my plan not to have wine this week and, well… I’m looking forward to a weekend without deadlines and getting plenty of rest. Here are some cute Halloween-themed links I hope you enjoy.

Halloween art print 2

You can buy super cheap Halloween (and other holiday) prints (like the ones above) from KimCottageArt on Etsy. 

Do you know? Why we carve pumpkins on Halloween

These Halloween games and activities are great even if you aren’t hosting a kiddie party. 

Made me laugh. Sexy Halloween costumes for moms

An awesome way to use up that Halloween candy. Leftover Halloween chocolate fudge.

And why not sneak in a little education? Halloween traditions around the world. 

So simple I think even I could make these! Simple Halloween banner and accent spiders.

Sophisticated Halloween decor inside and out

Pumpkin ice bucket, anyone? Stylish fall entertaining

I would inhale this. Jack-o-lantern layered Mexican dip

Spooky china

children dancing

One of the worst parts about being a parent is having to listen to crap music. I like exposing my daughter to all different kinds of music, but Putumayo Kids gets a little old after the 50th rotation. I’m no music expert, but my hippy Martha Stewart friend kind of is. I highjacked her kid’s playlist last week and downloaded a bunch of fun, upbeat songs. We like grooving to them and your kid might, too. Enjoy!

The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song by The Flaming Lips

Pirates of Saskatchewan by Captain Tractor

I’m Gonna Be by The Proclaimers

Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves

Abc by Jackson 5

Jump Down,Spin Around by Harry Belafonte

Pata Pata by Miriam Makeba

Tijuana Taxi by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

That’s Amore by Dean Martin

It’s Your Thing by The Isley Brothers

Walk Like An Egyptian by The Bangles

At the Hop by Danny & The Juniors

Surfin’ U.S.A. by The Beach Boys

Twist and Shout by The Beatles

We are Family by Sister Sledge

Funkytown by Lipps, Inc.

Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) by Us3

Pop Goes the World by Men Without Hats

I’ll Take You There by The Staple Singers

Tell Mama by Etta James

In the Mood by Glenn Miller

Jump, Jive and Wail by The Brian Setzer Orchestra (or anyone)

Del Ray by Sola Rosa

What are your favourite non-kid songs for children?

Casona del la ronda guest room

Considered the gateway to the Galapagos, most folks travelling to Ecuador will spend a few days in Quito, the capital city. It’s a lovely colonial town, but finding suitable accommodation can be difficult if you’ve never been. I travel a ton and Las Casona De La Ronda was one hotel that really stood out for me. Here’s a look at what a stay here is like.

Las Casona De La Ronda Hotel

My first morning in Quito I thought I was being serenaded by an Andean band. It was close to noon, (so I should’ve been already awake) when this lovely music wafted through the old town and into my room. Waking up to distant sound of traditional music, is but one of the many delights at Las Casona De La Ronda.

Room with a city view

Situated smack-dab in the middle of La Ronda, the city’s historic district, you couldn’t ask for a better location. The old town has undergone a major transformation in the past decade and this heritage boutique hotel is mere steps away from lively restaurants and bars, artisanal shops and chocolatiers.


A stay here is quite comfortable and safe. Rooms rim a central courtyard at this Moorish style property. Walls are painted a warm terra-cotta hue and pillars decked out with fat candles add a sensual touch. There are plants everywhere, ivy snakes up the railings and wherever you look, you’ll spot either artifacts, murals or exposed brick. Though it’s in the boutique hotel category,the feel here is more quaint and charming than sleek and modern.

wall mural

Just off reception, there’s a lovely patio area with a living wall and oversized couches to sink into with a hearty glass of wine. For a secluded spot, check out the loft on the upper floor. From the massive floor to ceiling windows you’ll get a great view of the Panecillo Mary statue. Score yourself provisions at one of the many markets and set yourself up at the dining table for an indoor picnic.


Guest Rooms

Guest room

Rooms are clean and cozy. Queen beds splashed with traditional handcrafted pillows and throws sit under impressive wooden headboards. All the furniture is hand carved and the white plaster walls are decorated with painted murals. There’s no tub, but a glass enclosed rain shower fit the bill nicely.


At first I stayed in Room 5, that has a Juliette balcony overlooking one of the main streets of La Ronda. To my right I had views of the terraced verdant volcanos rimming the city. Looking left I saw the iconic Virgin Mary statute, her arms the wings of an angel. It was one of the larger rooms, but La Ronda gets pretty lively Thursday through Sunday, so I eventually switched rooms. My new room facing the inner courtyard was considerably more quiet.

Quito old town


Breakfasts are included and they aren’t to be missed. Offering a bit of everything, there’s real scrambled eggs (not that stuff that comes out of a carton), bacon, granola, pastries and a good selection of fruit and freshly squeezed juices. Coca tea is always available in the lobby and reportedly helps to alleviate the side effects of being at such a high altitude. If nothing else, it really kick starts your day!

Little Extras

You get free wifi, but it’s spotty in some guest rooms. If you sit near your door you’ll get a decent connection, but I ended up checking email while chilling on their comfy couches just off the reception area.


This was cute, when I asked one staff member what makes Casona De La Ronda a boutique hotel, I was told it’s because they sold boutique store items. “Like what?” I pressed. “Oh, the things you see on the walls,” they replied. The space is brimming of art, knick knacks and souvenirs in case you need a quick gift for someone back home, like this little purple dude you’ll spot everywhere in Quito. (Note: The hooded purple robe is a legit Catholic Easter tradition that dates back centuries)

Purple hooded guy

There’s 24-hour reception, which is great because many flights from the US don’t arrive till midnight and tours often leave at the crack of dawn. While you probably can drink the water, it’s safest not to. Filtered water is available in water coolers on each floor. All the other amenities like an in-room safe, hairdryers and laundry service are available. Oh, each guest room has a TV with English channels, which is quite useful when jet lag strikes. There is no pool, but many of the larger chain hotels don’t offer a pool, either. If you really want one, be sure to check with hotel staff (and make sure it’s not undergoing a lengthy renovation).

The Vibe

Casona Del La Ronda isn’t family run, but it’s so warm and welcoming it sure felt like it. Staff go out of their way to serve and if you want to just chat or get the goods on what to see in the area, they are all too happy to help. They reset my safe (maybe more than once), always walked me the few blocks to my car service and spent a good amount of time on the phone sorting out my epic spa day adventure (deets on that here).

Thank you Las Casona De La Ronda and Quito Tourism for hosting my stay. As always, my opinions are my own.

Have you ever been to Quito? Would you like to go?

Woman trail running

(Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography)

Is there anything better to look forward to than a girl’s weekend? I think not. Especially when you’ve been duly owed one for quite some time. I can’t wait to catch up with this group of gals, I’ve been friends with since elementary school. Our lives have taken us in different directions: we don’t all listen to the same music anymore, shop at the same store or spend hours on the phone like we used to. Fortunately, we’re always able to pick up right where we left off, and that’s what makes old friends golden. Here’s a look at what I’m most looking forward to this weekend. Hope you have a good one and stay gold, Ponyboy.

A Hike

We’re having our girl’s weekend in the mountains, so we have to, you know, do something outdoorsy. Does traipsing across Three Sisters looking at show homes count? Depending on how Friday night goes, we might be ambitious enough to tackle something to burn off those calories ingested. Grassi Lakes is an easy one and I like Sulphur Mountain because it goes up, up, up and then boom, you’re done.

fall colors in the mountains

(Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka Photography)

A Soak

There has to be some spa element during the course of a gal’s weekend. It’s like, a rule. Once we took a cue from Teen magazine and made homemade masks, applying honey and mashed up fruit to our faces. We didn’t look ridiculous at all. I’m keen to soak away the stress of our first-world problems at Banff Upper Hot Springs.

natural hot springs

A Flick

When we weren’t teasing our bangs into spectacular shapes, we spent much of the ‘80s watching John Hughes movies together. I bet we curl up on the couch at some point to watch 16 Candles or When Harry Met Sally. Does anyone remember Long Duck Dong? Or Bung Chow?


Some Cake

My mom made this popcorn cake one Christmas when we were in high school and it became an instant hit. My daughter even requested it instead of birthday cake one year. What’s so awesome about it (besides all the candy), is that you don’t cut it. You tear off pieces with your hands. You can even form the pieces into little balls and pelt your friends from across the room when they make disparaging comments about Duran Duran.

gluten free cake

A Good Read

Will I have the time (or inclination) to read anything besides trashy celebrity magazines this weekend? I doubt it. Still, on Sunday night I hope to steal a few minutes to tuck into this book. For whatever reason, the last few books I’ve read have been set around the Napoleonic Wars, and I’m desperate to join this century. Here’s hoping I don’t inhale a pound of butter during the course of it.

French novel

What are your plans for the weekend?

tie dye roses equador

“I’m sorry, mom.” “Sorry ‘bout that.” “So sorry sweetheart, I’ll make it up to you next time.”

Sorry is such an interesting word. As a parent I’m astounded at how often I hear it. We so routinely demand it from misbehaving kids and truant spouses, I wonder if sorry has lost its meaning? In India, I’m told, sorry means: I forgive myself.

Now, I don’t know if this is true. Even if sorry doesn’t mean that in, I’m guessing Hindu, it raises an interesting point. What are we expecting when someone says I’m sorry?

Perhaps we’re expecting way too much. I think we expect the person apologizing to see the error of their ways, to empathize with the other person and realize how they’ve done them wrong. I don’t think they do. At least not right away.

Saying sorry is a quick, convenient way to minimize your damage. But it misses the mark. Saying sorry doesn’t mean what happened won’t happen again. At best it means: I acknowledge something went down I’m responsible for. Far too often, it means: social custom dictates I say this, so you can get off my back and we can move on.

So the next time you mess up or owe someone an apology, why not put yourself in their shoes before relying on those magic words to fix everything? Try to think about what they’d like to hear, and perhaps more importantly, see. Naturally, I write this post as a reminder to myself. As a loud mouth, I frequently offend people. But hey, I always seem to forgive myself.

Do you think saying I’m sorry has lost its meaning?

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