I recently traveled down to Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages and Spa to experience their brand new Martha Stewart Craft Studio and came away after a couple of nights stay not only impressed, but in a surprise twist for myself with a passion for crafting. Who knew?!
Friday evening I arrived with a small press group for the weekend and after checking in, off we went to the weekly Beaches welcome Luau on the far end of the resort’s beach. The luau features Caribbean dancers and performers on a large stage surrounded by dozens of food stations offering everything from fire-roasted ribs to fresh island fish to conch salad. Their highly interactive performance features non-stop on-stage dance and singing challenges for the kids and parents alike. With bartenders serving up rum punch and fresh lemonade, we found ourselves transported to a laid-back island rhythm, all under the stars and with the soft accompanying sound of the surf.
Beaches Resort just added an entire new section, the Italian Village, in which we stayed and it’s simply gorgeous. The rooms vary in size from studios to sprawling suites that can easily accommodate two or three families. I found myself delighted by the extensive attention to detail within the room, from all marble counters to handcrafted cherry cabinets, a huge flat screen TV, luxurious fabrics, designer touches from pillows to tables, and a large rain barrel shower head. My one-bedroom suite had with a large master bedroom with a king bed and day bed couch that could easily accommodate another sleeper, along with a bunk bed room for the kids ready-stocked with XBOX 360 and a checkers board. In addition to a huge bathroom, a small kitchenette section offered a fully stocked fridge, plus microwave. Moreover, their two bedroom suites offer plenty of room, able to accommodate as big as a family of twelve. Hello luxury! And regardless of which village in which you stay (there’s also the Caribbean, French and Seaside Villages all with their own themes , pools and restaurant motifs), you’ve got over sixteen restaurants to choose from for eating.
Here’s a photo album of the whole trip on my Facebook page to share with you:
The next morning, I awoke and enjoyed beachside a great island variation eggs Benedict from Schooner’s restaurant: the dish featured hollandaise sauce with paprika and parsley accompanied by the rich taste of Jamaican blue mountain coffee, and then followed by simply perfect fresh brewed expresso at Café Paris in Beaches French village.
The best part of an all-inclusive vacation at Beaches Resort is that you just show up, tuck your passport, wallet, and valuables in your room safe, and drift between activities, refreshments, surf, pool, cabanas, and restaurants to your heart’s content. Which proves huge for families, offer a simply fix for such vacation-frustrations as to wear to eat your next meal, having your kids order food they don’t like or won’t eat, or finding activities that each member of your family will enjoy. Add to that being surrounded by pools and a glorious white sand beach with warm, teal water, being able to get thirst-quenchers whenever you want (by walking about 30 feet to a gorgeous poolside bar) and letting older kids wander freely without having to worry about them being safe, and yourself got an ideal setting in which everyone in your gang can find something wonderful to keep entertained.
Activities for Kids
Here’s just a glimpse of some of the best cool activities I checked out offered by Beaches Turks and Caicos for kids:
And just so tweens and teens don’t feel left out:
Martha Stewart Crafts Studio
Next up: an overview on Martha Stewart crafts and an immersion to experience the myriad classes offered at the newly opened studio at the resort.
Added into the mix of activities for kids (and Moms!) this year is a brand new and amazingly fun Martha Stewart Crafts Studio. Classes for kids starting around age six (or younger if they love art and you’ll stay with them to assist). While at first I thought these classes would appeal particularly to girls, but many of the boys came alive when we got to glittering huge seashells. Glitter went flying!
I got to take a variety of all the different classes offered, and honestly they had to kick me out when the classes ended as I could have kept going for hours on end. For me, never having considered myself a crafter or even particularly artistic, I found such pleasure in the inventing of beautiful paper creations using the clever tools – from edging punches to foam dots that enable you to build raised, 3-D flowers or any other creation that comes to mind.
Here’s the basics on the classes offered:
Glitter Classes: In this class, you transform ordinary object into sparkly, eye-catching keepsakes. The teachers show you how to glitter in lines, with dots, or to create multi-color designs. The glitter colors themselves are striking- from deep teal to the perfect shade of gold to a vibrant mahogany. And no wonder it turns out as each glitter color has been hand designed to the perfect calibration by the art staff at Martha Stewart, including Martha herself until the color radiates in its unique perfection. The obsession of the team over the colors, how they blend together, and picking out the finest end products, means that before the glitter has even hit the glue, you’re working with artisan colors and texture.
Scrapbooking: in these classes you learn how to create 3D elements and punch effects with special craft tools, such as Martha Stewart’s unique Punch around the Page tool that can punch anywhere around the scrapbooking paper. You can add in personal photos either from home or taken by the photo team at the resort as the grand finale to the page.
Stencil: These classes teach how to make your own stencil using craft punches, iron the stencil onto fabric, and then use glitter to transfer the design onto a fabric item. You can even something of your own to decorate, but included with the class is your choice of a small tote, ID pouch, zipper purse, or bandanna. Available for purchase: a shirt, tank top, or large tote ready to be embellished.
Postcards: This class allows you to try your hand at glittering, punching out paper shapes, and designing your own personal postcard. The shapes include many beach themes, such as crabs, coral, and anchors, enabling a great postcard to send to family or a momento of the trip to add to your keepsakes or scrapbook.
The classes all cost less than $10, which covers the costs of the supplies. The local instructors who teach the classes bring just the right mix of patience and passion, always jumping in to help or offer up fixes. They have all been trained by Hannah’s team- and had her marveling over some of their innovations such as a hugely popular and easy pattern to create Elmo on a seashell.
Like constructing the perfect dinner table or wedding floral setting, the Martha Stewart team gets both wildly creative and microscopically detail oriented when it comes to producing their own crafting tools. Laruen Murphy joined us from the craft merchandizing team, and Hannah shared how they dream up, source and test new crafting tools. From a new magnetic punch that can go deep into the middle of a piece of paper to realizing that clear, see-through rulers work best for crafting projects, the team does not stop until they come up with a great tool that their whole team loves and that they can produce at relatively inexpensive price points. For instance one of the crafting punches got inspired by an old crafting punch that Martha found on a trip to Japan. The team then tackled the question: “How do we make this tool under $20 and come in three different sizes?” They took this same creative precision to developing glue pens where the glue goes on blue, in different thicknesses, and then dries invisible. And Martha herself got imvolved in coming up with just the right shade of gold glitter, along with bottles that combine a little shake with a little pour of the glitter.
I expected the corporate Martha Stewart team to be all uptight crafting perfection in motion- creating classic timeless treasures with a well-trained flip of the wrist. What I found instead were these incredible down-to-earth women, giving of their time, patient in instructing us, and marveling over everyone’s personalized innovations on basic techniques. Hannah Milman, Martha Stewart’s founding craft editor is a person who you cannot help but adore within a half hour of her company given her generosity of spirit. She has worked with Martha Stewart for some 20 years, right from the brand’s inception, and Jodi Levine, former editor of kids magazine, a contributor to the Mom Blog on Martha Stewart, and on the crafting editorial group, has been with the team for some 16 years. They’re both classically trained artists, having both graduated from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. Hannah declared, “Yes! There’s hope for art school grads!” as she described how much she loves what she gets to do for a living and what a privilege she considers it to work alongside such a talented, inspired team.
I marveled at how Hannah and Jodi were both incredibly warm, lovely, understated, and deeply talented, with an innate insatiable curiosity when it comes to new crafting creations. And it lead me to a real appreciation of the private Martha Stewart, who has chosen to surround herself with both amazing people who stick around for decades on end, and has chosen such truly lovely people to infuse her brand essences of Martha Stewart Living with vibrancy and insatiable quests to create new twists in their areas of expertise.
Hannah grew up clamming and searching Cape Cod for sea glass, has always been inspired by nature for her crafting from acorns to pinecones to seashells. She finds herself now years later doing magazine stories and TV segments with Martha on shelling and sea glass. Hannah often goes to Sanibel island, where you can find on the barrier island piles of shells four feet high. And many of the magazine piece have featured crafting she’s learned from the island elders- with Octogenarians teaching her everything from intricate shell-flowers to pressing seaweed. In this year’s December issue- look at the seashell laden tree, all from Hannah’s personal collection and inspired by her Cape Cod upbringing!
Hannah shared an overview on the creation and recent expansion of Martha Stewart into the crafts space. January marks the 20th year of the Martha Stewart Living brand. Their crafting blog alone on the Martha Stewart website receives over 1 million page views per month. Martha Stewart recently came out with a new book completed dedicated to crafting, called Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-to-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration. It’s incredible to see just how far crafting has come, from affixing a rubber stamp to using silicone and other highly intricate tools to make delicate projects.
Best news of all- the Martha Stewart crafts supplies can be found in your area Michael’s store- and I have a discount coupon link to share with you: http://www.michaels.com/Putting-on-the-glitz/Putting-on-the-glitz,default,pg.html?cm_ven=2010MarthaFBPost&cm_ite=Glitter%20Coupon%20Page
Here’s some other random cool tips I learned from the Martha Stewart team:
And a couple of insider Martha Stewart stories:
In between all the classes, I found time to have a 90-minute massage at Beaches’ pristine, beautifully laid out Red Land Spa that proved so fantastic, with the perfect touch and deep relaxation, I wondered if it was possible that they would have to simply let me spend the night on the massage table as I found myself unable to move. I also had a dynamic, challenging tennis lesson on the courts from their wondrous tennis pro- who’s both hugely friendly and welcoming while having a sharp eye for technique that had me realizing how remove a slice that had crept into my backhand to rocket balls more effectively.
I found a quiet haven of a cedar deck overlooking the crashing waves and with an adult-only Jacuzzi to nestle in a cushioned chair and curl up with my novel.
In terms of the resort itself, I found incredibly relaxing the constant great background of Caribbean and reggae music over speakers imbedded in the landscape- crystal clear and always just at the right volume (which means to me, not too loud!) So much so, I would have gladly purchased the song mix for my ipod at home – I find myself wondering if I could create a Pandora radio version of the Beaches mix?
Soaking up the last day of sun, ocean breezes, and the endless murmur of waves – I carefully wrapped up my crafting treasures, and said an incredibly reluctant goodbye to Beaches and the wondrous Martha Stewart gang.
The best part- I’ve started crafting in my spare time in the evenings or for an hour over the weekends, loving to challenge myself with new 3-D paper creations and stocking up on new Martha Stewart holiday and snowflake themes punches to create personalized gift cards for my family. I’m in love with Martha Stewart crafting offering simple ways to make the ordinary extraordinary- which seems to strike a theme that runs deep into the heart of their brand.
Disclaimer: Beaches Resorts covered my travel expenses in conjunction with going to their Turks and Caicos resorts to check out the new Martha Stewart Crafting Studio. The views expressed in this blog are entirely my own, and aim to share with you my candid take on my experience.