Magic in Mexico

On 5/5 we left for Cancun for 5 days for our 5 year anniversary…it just happened to work out that way while planning but it seemed like a good omen.  This post is a bit of a detour from my normal home/decor topics but I feel like it is worth sharing and I hope you agree.  Very shortly after we got back I posted some photos on Facebook and IG but I wanted to take a little more time to give credit to the wonderful place we stayed.

Delta offers a direct flight from Indianapolis to Cancun…that part was a no brainer.  After  some research we picked the Riu Palace Las Americas.  I cannot recommend this place enough…seriously.  This was our first experience an all-inclusive for both of us and it was worth EVERY DANG PENNY!

At check in we were promptly greeted with glasses of chilled champagne.  When the manager discovered we were celebrating our anniversary, she upgraded our room to their best available suite, free of charge…talk about great first impressions.  We tried to act cool about it, but as soon as we got to our room and were by ourselves we promptly LOST ALL CHILL.

We are not “free upgrade” people, we are “I’m sorry there has been a mistake” people.

Every single inch of the resort, inside and out, was IMMACULATE.  We were constantly in awe.  Most of these photos do not give this place justice…not even close

First…the lobby and our suite

The terrace and the view from our room felt like were like nothing I had ever seen in person

The entire resort was immaculate, honestly breathtaking

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Most of our time was spent lounging by the pools or the beach, we intentionally did not plan any excursions.  We had no concept of what time it was, we left our phones on airplane mode, it was the most relaxed I have ever been.  It was heaven.

The food was good (surprisingly the buffet was our favorite dining spot), the drinks were strong and plentiful, the service and the facilities were top-notch.

Since nothing is ever 100% “perfect” I will share the  only complaints we could come up with, if that’s even what you would call them…

1. The handle on the toilet in our bathroom was a little jiggly…but was promptly fixed

2. One day Mark ordered a screw driver with breakfast and they brought a mimosa

3. Apparently the pool bars do not open until 10:00 AM (which actually seems pretty reasonable)

A very sweet touch was a bottle of sparkling wine delivered to our room while we were at dinner with a note and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries for our anniversary

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Before we left, we had several people express concern about traveling to Cancun.  I feel like it should be common sense when traveling anywhere, especially abroad, you should exercise a certain level of caution and awareness, this was no different.  There wasn’t a single moment that we felt unsafe.

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We have missed this place since the moment we left and are already planning our next trip to another Riu resort.  Maybe for our 10 year…probably sooner 🙂

Initials

 

Goals Revisited

We are officially one full month into 2018 (which is CRAZY)  I’ve been thinking it is about time for me to briefly recap/revisit my 2017 GOALS with you…

1.Finish Cottage Remodel

We have made AMAZING progress on the cottage! It is now in living condition and ready for final inspection. We are looking forward it to enjoying it fully this summer.  However, I don’t know when the cottage will ever truly be “finished”, and we’re 100% ok with that. With the interior nearly done we can space out projects over the next few years…replace the roof, work on the basement, landscaping, etc.  

2.Explore Cooking

Before Mark switched shifts at work we came a long way in our culinary skills with the help of Plated.  I shared several posts under my food/travel category if you’re interested in our experience.  I have also been focusing on healthier recipes and also plan on going back and recreating some of our favorite meals from Plated.

3.Refresh Living Room

We planned on changing our entire living room around…but did a trial run rearranging all of the furniture and it just didn’t work.   Our current arrangement is the most practical for functionality and appearance.  So we went ahead with a refresh including new lamps, side tables, ottoman & accents.  It is surprising how much those small changes made a big difference.  I plan on posting about that very topic soon…

5.Simplify & Organize

This is definitely a continuous WORK IN PROGRESS.  I have made countless trips to Goodwill over the past year, and I keep a box at all times to put new items to donate in.  I  start the process by asking myself a couple of simple questions…do I NEED this? and/or do I LOVE this? If not, its probably time to let go.

I’ve been using the “1 in 1 out” rule in my wardrobe…for every new piece I add I have to pull out one I haven’t worn in over a year to donate. Focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to new purchases is also making a big difference.  As a starting point, I tried several of the clothing delivery services including: StitchFix, Trendsend, Wantable and Trunk Club.  Anyone interested in hearing more about my experiences with those services? I’d be happy to share.

Overall I am very pleased with all of the progress in 2017 and will continue to work on the same goals in 2018. I look forward to sharing with you this year!

What about you…any big or exciting goals for 2018?

Initials

 

 

Spotlight Series

spotlight 1It’s time to share the love!  In addition to my regular topics, I will be posting a series that will showcase the interests, ideas and projects of my family and friends.  Do you remember this post from my Mom? There will be more to come from her and others. I’m fortunate to know so many creative and talented people.

Keep an eye out for these over the next few months!

 

 

TC Treasures

Earlier this week I mentioned that when we were in Michigan for our vacation, we took a break from working on the cottage to visit Traverse City. for a few days  It was somewhat of a do-over for us because the last time we went to Traverse City (first time for Mark) was a few years ago and it wasn’t great.  It had nothing to do with TC per se, but it was cold and rainy for the duration of our stay, we were about 2 weeks too early for the fall color, and our beloved pup Emma was in the early states of kidney failure.

Needless to say we were ready to try again and we were not disappointed in the least.  It was warm, but not humid, with clear blue skies and sunshine  (PERFECT).  Also, since the National Cherry Festival was the week before, and we visited during the week, it wasn’t overly crowded (ALSO PERFECT).  We walked through downtown, visited a few wineries, found some neat antique shops, and ate EVERYTHING.  We had no set schedule or timeline.  It was glorious.

Here are a few favorite pics from our mini vacay

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Canal/bay view from downtown shop


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Mission Point lighthouse


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Bay view @ Hawthorne Winery


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Chandeliers @ Jolly Pumpkin


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Marina view @ Apache Trout Grill


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View of us @ Apache Trout Grill

Now back to the shopping…we are always on the lookout for antiques or other items both for our house and/or the cottage.  And we lucked out with a few unique finds…

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Handmade juggling pins from Paris-for our house


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Antique golf cart-for our house


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Bucket -for the cottage-perfect for bathroom waste bin

What I love the most is that these items all have the memory of our trip to TC tied to them.  So many cool places, and plenty more to check out next time.

Our favorite stops:

Black Star Farms

Wilson Antique Stores (2 TC locations)

Jolly Pumpkin

Apache Trout Grill

Milk & Honey  (so good we had to stop here twice)

 

Can we go back now?

Have a great weekend!

 

 

Plated: Second Helping

Our cooking adventure with Plated continues…missed our last post?  You can check it out here Plated : Dinner for Two   Honestly, we have not had a meal yet that we truly hated, they all fall between some level of like and LOVE.  Mark and I ask each other regularly, “Would we pay for this meal in a restaurant?” If yes, then we know we have a winner.  We  bumped up from 2 meals a week to 3.  We still feel the same way about our previous pros/cons but are firmly planted on the pro side.  I am impressed with how much Mark and I are both learning in this process…but the most impressive part? We have not ruined A SINGLE MEAL! Sure there have been a few minor slip-ups (and some burned garlic) along the way but overall it has been a huge success for us. Still trying to figure out if we can attribute this to our abilities in the kitchen or just how foolproof this is.

Here are some of the meals we have made since our last post

Disclaimer: the following photos may provoke feelings of hunger

Chicken Taco Salad with Crispy Tortillas & Avocado Dressing

Buffalo Chicken Pizza with Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Cheesy Beef Empanadas with Salsa Roja

Turkey Spinach Burgers with Creamy Aoli and Carrot Fries

Beef Lo Mein with Snow Peas and Scallions

 

*This is not a promotion or endorsement for Plated, just our honest opinion.  BUT, if you are interested more information, their website is: www.plated.com.*

Simple Sweet & Salty Snack

Who doesn’t love a good alliteration? Or more importantly a good snack?

In honor of this sweetest of days, I am sharing this quick recipe.  Many of you have probably had something similar to this before.  I have heard it referred to as “reindeer food” or even called “white trash” snack mix, but I’m open to new suggestions.  I recently made this to take to our friends’ house for Super Bowl and extra for Mark & I to share at work and munch on at home.  I used Valentine M&Ms but it can be tailored to any occasion…Christmas, July 4th, Halloween…

Honestly, it is crazy how simple (and good) this is.

img_8463Measurements don’t have to be exact, but for 1 batch you will need approximately:

  • 1 1/2 cups Rice Chex
  • 2 cups pretzel sticks
  • 1 package M&M’s (10-12oz bag)
  • 1 package vanilla CandiQuik/Almond Bark
  • 1 cup Cocktail Peanuts

There are plenty of variations or ways to customize if you so choose: Add Cheerios, use pretzel twists instead of sticks, etc.

  • Combine all ingredients, except CandiQuick in a large bowl.
  •  Melt the CandiQuick in the microwave according to package directions
  • Pour over other ingredients in large bowl & stir to coat
  • Spread mixture out on parchment paper to cool & dry
  • Break into pieces & store in air-tight containers

It is THAT SIMPLE.

 

Sending you lots of love,

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

 

 

 

Plated : Dinner for Two 

Why didn’t we do this sooner?! That is the question Mark and I have been asking.  I mentioned in my last post HERE that we wanted to try a meal delivery service. We looked into a few but decided to start with Plated, mostly because of the $30 off the first week promo.  Now a few weeks later, we have been thoroughly enjoying cooking together and ALL (seriously) of the meals so far have been delicious.  Before, I did the majority of the cooking but Mark has always been the king of omelet making in our house.  With Plated we are both learning more about cooking and trying something new together…which may or may not involve smoking up the whole house while attempting to fry pork belly for the first time.

On Mondays, our Plated box is delivered to our front door in a temperature controlled box made of reusable/recyclable packaging.  Inside are the instructions & ingredients needed for 2 full meals for 2 people.

A summary of our thoughts so far…

PROS

  • Convenience…they couldn’t possibly make it any easier
  • Options/customizable
  • Recipes/foods we have never tried before
  • Fun, bonding time for the two of us
  • Everything is pre-portioned, no guesswork
  • Fresh, quality ingredients
  • No commitment, can skip weeks
  • Don’t have to think about “what’s for dinner?”
  • Fewer trips to the grocery store
  • Less waste
  • DELICIOUS (I already mentioned that above but its worth repeating)

CONS

  • Cost

Honestly, this is the ONLY downside.  However, we aren’t throwing away ingredients that we purchased and spoiled because they didn’t get used before they expired (I’m not even talking about just a day or two past the expiration date, I’m talking health hazard…this was our reality) We have even had leftovers a couple of times for lunch the next day.  It may not be for everyone, but we have decided to budget accordingly so we can continue.

What we have made so far…

Pork Belly BLTs ~ with tarragon aioli

Sesame Chicken Long Life Noodles ~ wish spinach & mushrooms

Saucy Meatball Sliders ~with classic Caesar salad


  Skillet Roast Chicken ~ with caramelized fennel and potatoes

 

It is refreshing to look forward to making dinner and to think of it as an activity instead of a chore.  If this fits in your lifestyle & budget, I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Have you ever tried one of these services before? Which one? What were your thoughts?

 

 

*This is not a promotion or endorsement for Plated, just our honest opinion.  BUT, if you are interested more information, their website www.plated.com.*

Goals

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How in the heck is it almost 2017?…we’ve all been saying it, or at least thinking it.  The end of one year and beginning of another always seems to bring forth a certain amount of reflection, good and bad.  For 2017, instead of “making resolutions” I decided to think of it as focusing on goals…mostly because I like this definition (thanks Google!)  Below are a few of my goals fro the upcoming year geared towards home, design & food.

goal
ɡōl/ noun noun: goal; plural noun: goals

the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

synonyms: objective, aim, end, target, design, intention, intent, plan, purpose

1.Finish cottage remodel

This may be a little optimistic, but given the progress made last summer I see no reason it shouldn’t be in working  order for us to be able to stay  there this summer, even if every last detail may not be complete.  First priorities will be the bathroom and  finishing up all of the mechanicals.  Considering that my parents house is right across the road, we can sleep there without a kitchen, but I would prefer having a working bathroom.  In the meantime, we have a beautiful deck with a view to sit on and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or a cold beer in the evening with each other, family, & friends…a reminder of what all of it is for.

2.Explore Cooking

I already enjoy cooking, but I find myself getting stuck in ruts.  I want to stay out of the ruts.   Also, now that Mark’s schedule allows, we are trying to cook together more often.  We decided to try the fresh meal delivery service Plated (thanks to a great promo offer)…I’ll make sure to post our first experience.  Depending on how that goes, we may give Blue Apron a test run as well. In addition to this I want to try out new recipes, and maybe venture more into foods I’ve never cooked before. 

3.Refresh Living Room

No major changes here, just some updates needed.  Looking into new curtains, side tables, etc.  Several of the pieces have been with us since I moved into my apartment when I moved to Indiana over 7 years agoMark has been working on convincing me to rearrange our living room once we finally get the larger TV he has been wanting, and I am slowly coming around.    

5.Simplify & Organize

I consider myself to be an organized person, but there is always room for improvement.  I have been reflecting this past year on how organization is much easier with less stuff (here comes the simplify part)   I’ve looked into the KonMari method, not sure if I need anything that extreme, but I do see plenty of Goodwill trips in my future.   I want to limit clutter, focus on quality over quantity and invest in pieces that will be attractive, functional, and long lasting.  Not only does this pertain to our home décor, but I want to carry this focus into my wardrobe as well…and life in general. 

Do you have any goals for 2017? I’d love to hear about them

Last, but not least, I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to everyone who has read, shared, commented and supported this little blog of mine this past year.  I appreciate it and wish you great joy and many blessings in 2017!

 

 

 

Trimmings Transformed

Decorating for Christmas makes me downright giddy.  Anyone else feel me on this? It takes every ounce of willpower for me to wait until after Thanksgiving, which is a personal rule of mine.  Full disclosure: I started decorating at approximately 7:00 PM on Thanksgiving night.  Close enough right?

Black Friday our only purchase was our Christmas tree (more on that later) but while we were there I asked for some extra tree trimmings and the guys happily obliged.  In fact, they said we could have a whole truckload, but we politely declined and just took a few branches.

We have an antique milk jug that sits in front of our house.  Usually I fill it will seasonal potted flowers and it ends up in the garage over the winter, this year I decided to make use of it with those extra trimmings.  The best part about this little project…FREE.  Aside from the tree trimmings given to us, I had everything else on hand.

 

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Finished Product

Any special Christmas projects you’ve been working on? I’d love to hear about them.

Christmas tree post will be coming soon!

Simple Sunday Subs

I wanted to make something today that would require very little effort on my part since I am not back to feeling 100%.   So I decided on one of our standby favorites…meatball subs.  

The ingredients are simple and they are super easy to make, just what I needed for today.

  • Frozen meatballs
  • Spaghetti/pizza sauce
  • Provolone cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Banana pepper rings
  • Hoagie Rolls
  • Olive oil (I used garlic infused)

Optional: Extra seasoning, I like to add a little sriracha

  • Add sauce & seasoning to frozen meatballs in crock pot
  • Cook on low for about 4 hours

  • Slice hoagie rolls & open on baking sheet
  • Lightly brush on olive oil
  • Add provolone cheese & sprinkle with Parmesan

  • Bake @ 350 for 5-7 minutes until cheese is melted
  • Add meatballs
  • Garnish with banana pepper rings & extra Parmesan 
  • Enjoy! (Preferably while watching football)