Bella Burano


If you want to step into a colorful dream of a postcard, may I introduce the cheery island of Burano!  Located in the Venetian lagoon in Italy, you can’t help but feel a smile spread across your face as you experience this little wonder of an island! From the beautiful flowers perched on windowsills to the picturesque canals lining brightly colored homes, it really is a photographer’s paradise! Stroll down narrow roads and wander into shops filled with souvenirs, tasty treats and what the island is known for, lace!




If you ever go to Italy, take a day to experience this special little island.

Burano is one of those places that will remain in your heart forever!


MEDIA KITS…do you have yours?

With various blog conventions coming up, I’ve been noticing a need for media kits in the blogging community.  As a Freelance Graphic Designer at Creative Jen Designs + Travel Blogger, I’m super excited to announce that starting next week, I’m adding a new service to my repertoire: Media Kits for Bloggers!

I’ve only recently created mine, and I had a blast doing it!

Some of you might think, “Um…what’s so exciting about a media kit?  It just shows boring blog statistical data.”


The great thing about media kits is that you can be as creative as you want to visually showcase your stats/pertinent information to sponsors & advertisers by letting your unique blogging personality shine through…and stand out from the rest!

So to kick off my new service, I’m having a…

media kit giveaway2
What better way to stand out from the rest than to have a Custom Media Kit designed specifically for YOU!


Leave a comment telling me a little bit about your blog.

That’s it?

YEP!  Sooooo easy  :)

All entries must be submitted by noon this Friday, July 25th.

One lucky winner will be chosen at random and announced later that day.

The winner will receive a PDF file perfect for emailing or printing out.

The winner must be willing to let me post your media kit on my Creative Jen Designs portfolio.

The winner will also need to supply me with content they want to showcase on their media kit.  Examples of this include:  Headshot, blog logo, blog bio, demographics, blog stats, popular posts, contact info, services offered, photos from your blog, colors you want to use, etc…  Having all of this info in a nicely designed package will make the sponsor’s job that much easier!

The media kit can be up to 3 pages.

Good luck to all of you!

Okay, let’s get this GIVEAWAY STARTED!!!



Last Friday, I happily said “Au revoir” to 40.

But this time, I was excited to grow another year older because…(and feel free to sing along it if you know the words)…

“26 miles across the sea, a Birthday Island was awaitin’ for me!”

You see, my hubby and I wanted to do something fun (but without the hefty price tag), so we decided to take advantage of Catalina Island’s “Birthday Island” promotion consisting of discounts and freebies for the birthday girl or boy to enjoy!  BRING ON 41!

Birthday Island

When you check in with Catalina Express in Long Beach, they will give you a stylish “Happy Birthday” ribbon to wear throughout the day to score your birthday freebies/discounts and to enjoy VIP treatment…

oh…and to hear “Happy Birthday” from complete strangers!

Birthday Island

The biggest perk for celebrating a birthday was getting a FREE round trip ride from Long Beach to Catalina on the Catalina Express!  That’s a savings of $74.50!  SCORE!  To earn this freebie, you must leave from Long Beach ON your birthday.  We chose an 8:30am departure to make the most of the day.

Catalina Express

View of Long Beach

Leaving Long Beach

After our arrival around 9:30am,  we strolled down Crescent Avenue until we reached the Metropole Market Place where we discovered our first stop – Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co.  As soon as I entered the store, the associates greeted me with “Happy Birthday!” and automatically handed me one FREE 12oz. cup to fill with their wide selections of gourmet coffee!

Catalina Coffee & Co.

Free Coffee!

Around 10:30, it was time to head over to Parasail Catalina to partake of my FREE parasailing flight!  We registered online a few days earlier, so once we arrived, we were ready to go!


This offer DOES require that you fly tandem, so either find someone on the boat who is solo but wants a partner, or bring a friend or date who doesn’t mind paying the $65.00 (600′ flight) or $75.00 (800′ flight).  Or if you’re feeling generous, split the cost so you can both enjoy the savings!  I let my “date” pay his way ;)



Parasailing800′ here we come!

ParasailingJen approved.

ParasailingHubby loved it too!

After enjoying our amazing flight over the bay, it was time to satisfy our hunger with a picnic lunch.

A few days before my birthday, a free $10 birthday voucher from World Market appeared in my email inbox.  It pays to be a part of their rewards program!  We took advantage of this gift and stocked up on picnic supplies for Catalina – from salami, gouda cheese, crackers & grape leaves, it was the perfect meal to enjoy while overlooking the ocean view by the Avalon Theater…and it was FREE!


Part of the fun of Catalina is to just walk around and explore the island!  We came equipped with our cameras and practiced our photography to our heart’s content!






Descanso BeachDescanso Beach



After enjoying the island, it was time to cool off with a FREE ice cream cone at Lloyd’s of Avalon!


After scanning the flavors, the choice was clear…

Lloyd's of AvalonDouble Fudge Brownie!  Oh sweetness!!!

It was heavenly and the ideal treat for this warm day.  On your way out, they will stamp your ribbon because yes, there are people who have taken advantage of the freebie, and some have even come in multiple times on their birthday pretending that they didn’t know it was a ONE time offer!  Tisk, tisk…

If you’d like to take in a museum, enjoy a FREE 30 minute walking tour of the historic Avalon Casino.  I didn’t get a chance to do this due to time constraints, but next time for sure!

My hubby showed interest in doing the Under Sea Garden Glass Bottom Boat Tour, so for $15.00 a person (no freebie here), we enjoyed watching the ocean’s wildlife play and swim under the boat.  It was an interesting and fun journey out to Lovers Cove.



IMG_3453The fish became quite animated when food was tossed their way.


Before we knew it, dinner was upon us consisting of yet another FREEBIE, this time at Buffalo Nickel Restaurant.


Near Pebbly Beach, this low key, out-of-the-way restaurant served a nice selection of Mexican and American food.  There was a birthday menu to choose from, and I decided on the tasty and satisfying Tostada Salad.



A shuttle van transports you to and from the restaurant since it’s too dangerous for pedestrians to walk there.  Not bad for a birthday meal!

We closed the evening with enjoying ocean breezes, taking in gorgeous views of Avalon Harbor and chasing the sunset as the Catalina Express took us home.

Catalina Express

If you’d like to do something completely different and fun (without the hefty price tag) for your birthday, then “Birthday Island” is the place for you!  Check out this complete list of all the freebies/discounts you too can enjoy as you welcome in another wonderful year!

And for those of you who’d like to learn about the history of Catalina Island, please check out my friend Rob Rhein’s new book “Catalina A to Z: A Glossary Guide to California’s Island Jewel.”

What’s been your favorite birthday getaway?


Catalina Dreamin'

Manini Beach

Karen and Ron Repan are residents of Kealakekua Bay on the “Big Island” of Hawaii and are the owners of the charming and rustic Bali Tree Cottage. Popular on Airbnb, Karen and Ron enjoy renting out their cottage and meeting people from all over the world. Last year, my husband and I traveled to Hawaii and experienced this secluded slice of paradise. Little did we know that two years earlier on March 11, 2011, the residents of Kealakekua Bay were affected by a destructive tsunami brought on by the devastating 8.9 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan.

In an interview with Karen, she recounts her experience with the tsunami and the effect it had on the community.

Karen, as someone who has lived all over the world, what drew you and Ron to Kealakekua Bay?

Hawaii has the most temperate climate we have found. No extreme hot or cold weather. 83 degrees max, 72 low!  After living in Seattle, we were ready to move somewhere where we did not have to wear lots of clothes and heat or cool our home.

Plus, we love the ocean, especially one that we can swim in year round.

When the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, was there immediate concern that Hawaii would be next?  If so, how did you and Ron prepare for the possibility of a tsunami?

We followed it on the news and heard it would hit around 5:00am. We didn’t really think we would be so impacted because the last evacuation we had for a potential tsunami was not necessary.

We were actually here when the first wave hit and could tell it was in our lower back yard! We got our elderly dogs in the truck and were able to get away south towards the City of Refuge. It was still really dark.

Had moved some cars to higher ground, but really did not do much else.  [We] will now heed any sirens and have great respect for what the ocean can do!

I can’t even fathom what that must have been like for you!  When my husband and I came to visit last year, it was hard to believe that your idyllic community was ravaged by a tsunami…but it became all too real when you gave us a tour of the area and pointed out an empty lot where a house used to be.  What did you discover upon your return home?

We were all shell shocked!  Very depressed for several months.  Did not want to go into the ocean for 6 months!

We had some very good friends up the hill that came with two of his visiting cousins that helped us clean up all the debris. Their moral support and hard work made all the difference!  None of our near neighbors realized what disaster we had in our backyard and concentrated on cleaning up Manini beach.

Thank goodness for John Farquhar and his two Canadian cousins!

TsunamiThe Repan’s backyard after the tsunami.
Photo credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiThe Repan’s backyard after the tsunami.
Photo credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiThe twisted and empty remains of a home’s foundation.
Photo credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiAlong the near shore is a home that was swept into the bay
(only their grey roof is visible).  Photo credit: John Farquhar

I’m glad your good friend John and his cousins were there for you during this difficult time!  Was the “Bali Tree Cottage” affected too?

Yes!  It got knocked off its’ foundation and moved 4 feet until it hit the ficus tree. A folded mattress was supporting one edge and the tree rooted supported the other edges.

TsunamiInside the Bali Tree Cottage.  Photo Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiThe Bali Tree Cottage was knocked off its foundation.
Photo Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiThe Bali Tree Cottage.  Photo Credit: John Farquhar

Oh wow!  You would never know it seeing how it looks today!  Were you renting it out at the time, or was this before you listed it on Airbnb?

It was before we added electricity and water to it. Had just finished building it!

Bali Tree CottageCurrent photo of The Bali Tree Cottage (2013)

From what I remember, your property is inland by about 1/2 block, and at that distance, the water brought so much destruction to your backyard!  How was the area closer to the shore effected, and how did you eventually get comfortable going back into the ocean?

We were absolutely appalled what the force of those waves did to Manini Beach. Several beautiful trees washed out to sea. We normally have an annual community beach clean up the Sat before the Tsunami but it was raining so we cancelled.  All the picnic tables we would have re-painted were washed out to sea!  It took quite awhile to see the positive things – more sand, new space to put a community garden….

So many fish were lost and huge heads of coral were turned upside down. But the ocean is healing, and the coral is coming back. Just felt different about the ocean knowing how destructive it could be.

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

The Manini Beach I saw was a slice of paradise complete with sand, coral and lava rocks. Is it my understanding that the tsunami pretty much relandscaped the beach into what it is today?

Yes. There was just coral and lava – no sand.  And the entrance to the water got carved out so we gained about 10 feet of chanel.  In the corner where the community garden is was just a jumble of night blooming cirus.

We lost a beautiful autograph tree and a big shade tree near the entrance gate.

IMG_0422Current Photo of Manini Beach (2013)

Manini BeachCurrent Photo of Manini Beach (2013)

By some miracle, no one lost their lives, but from photos I’ve seen, lots of personal property was damaged and destroyed. What kind of outreach did the community as a whole experience from others?

We saw in the papers that all agencies that offered help would be in one location on a certain day. Most people thought FEMA would step in and help but there was not enough damage for them to offer any help.

We went to check out what resources were available and signed up for a 2% loan from Small Business Administration.  Did not see many people there taking advantage of all the great programs available from various agencies including Red Cross.

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiPhoto Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

Tsunami Photo Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiPhoto Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

Have the people of Kealakekua Bay grown closer as a community since the tsunami?

Our little community has had many trials – An arson that burnt down a new house, a 6.5 earthquake, and then another house fire (not arson).  It brings all of us closer as we band together to help others.  It is amazing how people not from this area came to support us!

Today, Karen and Ron enjoy renting out their wonderful Bali Tree Cottage to vacationers near and far, traveling to exotic destinations and taking in gorgeous sunsets on the renewed Manini Beach.

Manini BeachParadise renewed.





Tsunami Warning

Coming this July is an exclusive interview with someone who experienced first hand the threat of living in a tsunami evacuation area.  Stay tuned…


This bit of travel inspiration is brought to you by the brave Helen Keller and the breathtaking Grecian island of Hydra!


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