Volunteering with Comfort Cases

You may have heard or read about Mike and I volunteering with Comfort Cases, so I wanted to give a little more information about this awesome organization that is local to Montgomery County, MD.

What is Comfort Cases:
A charity organization that provides a proper bag filled with comfort and essential items to the brave youth in foster care as they go on their journey to find their forever family.
On any given day, there are over 400,000 kids in the foster care system, many of which have very little possessions or if they do, they are often times given a trash bag to carry the items in. Comfort Cases believe that every child deserves a sense of dignity and a special bag with belongings to call their own.

How I came across Comfort Cases:
I learned about Comfort Cases when I came across a video from Upworthy on Facebook. Rob Scheer, the founder of Comfort Cases told the world his story regarding his time in foster care, and how it lead him to create a non-profit organization aimed to help end trash bags for foster kids. Before I knew it, I found myself on Comfort Cases’ website reading about the different ways I can help. Not only that, but I felt compelled to share his story with others in hopes that it would inspire them the way it did to me.

Why volunteering for Comfort Cases means a lot to us:
Fostering in general means a lot to both of us. Mike spent time in foster care before he was adopted at a young age. Although he was 4 years old, he remembers the feeling of not having anything to call his own. His time in foster care was short but the desire to help other children in foster care has been in him ever since. For me, I have always been conscious and aware of how lucky I am to have my family, especially my mom. I’ve always known that as an adult I would one day open my home and heart to children through adoption or foster. I am not equipped to do that yet, so its important for me to do my part by helping in other ways (donating, packing backpacks, spreading the word, etc.).

Volunteering with my niece and husband and what it taught me:
Last weekend Mike, my niece, and I spent a chunk of our day volunteering as part of the set-up crew for Comfort Cases’ Packing Party. Originally, I was not going to take my niece. I wasn’t sure if she was old enough to help, would understand the cause, or whether she would enjoy it or say “can we go home now” repeatedly. When she asked me where I was going, I told her about foster kids, what the packing party was for, and what sort of activities Mike and I would be doing at the volunteer event. To my surprise, not only did she fully understand what I told her about foster kids but she was excited to have the opportunity to help.
We sorted backpacks, books, and stuffed animals onto tables based on age. We also tied a ribbon around blankets and sorted them onto tables by color. When the packing party officially started, my niece insisted on packing a couple backpacks. Partly because she wanted to see “the fruit of her labor,” but also because she wanted to personally put together a backpack for another kid. While setting up, she said “this is hard work but it’s ok because it’s for the children,” which was amazing to hear as it proves how children are never too young to help. My niece was not the only kid there either, there were several kids around her age. Watching children help children is a great thing to witness.

1,000 backpacks were filled this day.

As we started to leave the event, my niece said “ I wish this could be my job when I am older. I would love to spend my day helping people.” Is it corny to say my eyes filled with tears and my heart with pride?

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We also got to meet Rob Scheer, the man that started all of this!

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If you want to know more about him and his story, please consider buying his new book called A Forever Family: Fostering Change One Child at a Time, available on Amazon. It’s a memoir about his childhood in the foster care system and the obstacles and discrimination he endured in adopting his children.
How to get involved:
1. Donate money – monetary of any size make a difference
2. Donate your time – Sign up to volunteer with processing donations, counting inventory, assembling bags, staging for delivery, etc. (This is my favorite)
3. Buy items from their Amazon Wishlist (you can have it shipped directly to the center)
4. Donate items that are needed to fill a backpack (travel size toiletries, pajamas, books, crayons, stuffed animals, etc.)
5. Organize a group donation drive
6. Sign up for their mailing list – you’ll get a monthly newsletter with updates on events and volunteer sign up slot opening
7. SPREAD THE WORD – Kindness is contagious

For more information visit: https://www.comfortcases.org

How My Best Friend Inspires Me

Inspiration comes from different places and can come to you at any time. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such strong, independent, kind-hearted women who inspire me and have had a hand in shaping me into who I am.

Let me tell you about my friend Jenny. I’ll start at the beginning, our friendship is one that was simply meant to be. We first met in pre-school, although we don’t remember any of it, we have pictures and video recordings from our time in school and field trip as evidence. Our families moved and therefore we attended different schools through sixth grade. We didn’t keep in touch at all during that time. In the summer before 7th grade our families moved to the same area, our new homes were just a few minutes’ of a walk from each other. We were both new to the middle school and had a few classes together, so we became instant friends. We became best friends. We have been the best of friends since re-connecting in 7th grade.  I like to say that the universe made sure that our paths crossed again.

I recently got a chance to visit my best friend and I received a huge burst of inspiration from the time we spent together. So, let me tell you a little bit about Jenny and some of the ways that she inspires me.

  1. Army

A few years ago my best friend did something courageous and joined the United States Army. I was so proud of her for what she was going to do, and I continue to be proud of her for all that she has accomplished. I know it hasn’t been easy and I can’t imagine how difficult its been having to move around the country at any given time, go overseas on deployment, and spend so much time away from friends and family. I will forever be proud of what my best friend chose to do and I can’t wait to see where this path will take her. This alone shows how strong she is, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally as well. The Army brought her many things, including a loving husband and to her current destination in Florida.

*Side note: Florida is my home away from home, so you see how the universe keeps bringing us together?

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  1. Vegetarian

In high school, we both took AP Environmental Science and it changed our lives. We became vegetarians and we were determined to reduce our carbon footprint. I kept my vegetation lifestyle for a little over 4 years and then I met Mike (my husband). I blame him for my downfall. Well ok, I take responsibility for falling off the wagon but I’ll save that story for another post. Jenny has been a vegetarian for 8 years now and even goes through periods of trying a vegan diet. I’ve wanted to start up my vegetarian diet again but found it to be difficult compared to the first time. There are times when I still buy alternative options or do “Meatless Monday,” but I truly admire Jenny so much for being able to fully stay a vegetarian. Spending time with her on my recent trip to Orlando gave me the push of inspiration I needed to get back to the vegetarian lifestyle. So this is it, I am holding myself accountable by publically stating that I am a vegetarian once again.

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  1. Cruelty-Free and Minimalist Lifestyle

I recently asked Jenny about one of her side hustles, which was selling for a make-up company. She was doing pretty well, but she gave it up because the company decided to move to a country where animal testing is permitted on the company products. Upon that change in the company, Jenny walked away. Anyone, who walks away from a stream of money in order to not comprise his or her principals, deserves a round of applause in my book.

Remember when I mentioned we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint? Well, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is still very important in my life. Jenny, however, takes it a step further. In her home, you will not find disposable paper towels, you will only find washable dinner napkins or hand towels. You will not find plastic pre-filled water bottles, instead, you will have water from the Brita filter pitcher. The sauce jars are used as “mason jars” for drinks or as jars to hold trinkets. My household is pretty amazing at recycling, but my recent time with Jenny has reminded me to increase our awareness and focus more on reducing and reusing as well.

Jenny was one of the first people to talk to me about minimalist lifestyles. Now, I don’t think she is an extremist but it’s something that has inspired me a lot this past year. I don’t think I’ll ever truly be a minimalist, but trying to think like one when making a purchase is a step in the right direction to decreasing our carbon footprint and maintaining a de-cluttered house. If you want a little more inspiration, think about all the money you are going to save! I recently heard someone say that a minimalist lifestyle is not necessarily about not owning anything but rather ensuring that what you own truly brings happiness to you.

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We are opposites when it comes to our personalities but we hold the same core values. We compliment and complete each other in many ways. I could really go on and on, on the number of ways Jenny inspires me or how our friendship has helped me become a better person. In this season of thanks, I am thankful for her.

 

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was a long time in the making! Every year when fall would start to creep up we debated the idea of getting tickets. We attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party before so we wanted to check this event off of our list as well. We also love Halloween (cute version, not horror) so attending this event felt like the ultimate Halloween event to attend.

MNSSHP takes place at the Magic Kingdom from 7pm- closing time. However, Disney lets you enter the park at 4PM (yay). Tickets to MNSSHP is not priced at a regular day ticket, however its pretty close. So with that said, I would personally recommend going to this event if you have previously visited the Magic Kingdom on a “regular” day and received the “magic of Disney.” I recommend this because of (1) the price of the tickets are close to a regular day ticket, (2) the length of the event/time you will be in the park is less than a regular day ticket, (3) several rides are closed during MNSSHP, (4) the parades, shows, and fireworks are different than what you would see on a regular day trip.

TIP: Buy your tickets as early as possible because they can sell out.

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There’s a lot of special entertainment at MNSSHP including the BOO TO YOU parade, a great fireworks show, special Fall/Halloween decorations and lighting, unique (villain) character meet & greets, trick or treating through the park, and even just seeing other guests in Halloween costumes makes it a fun and unique experience!

 

 

As I mentioned before, the party officially starts at 7 p.m., which is when all of the party entertainment begins, but guests can enter with their Halloween Party tickets as early as 4 p.m. You will see plenty of other guests arriving at 4 p.m., and Cast Members in their Halloween outfit.

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Wear a costume! Almost everyone wears a costume to some degree and you’re honestly going to have a lot more fun if you do. You’re spending a good chunk of money to attend one of these parties; it only makes sense to get the full effect. It was fun to see what everyone (of all ages) wore and to see how creative some people and groups got.

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One thing I really enjoyed about MNSSHP was the characters! Usually during special tickets events characters that are not usually out, will make appearances. Also, the “regular” MK characters were dressed up in costumes for Halloween as well! For example, the 100 acres woods characters each had costumes on (Winnie the Pooh is a bumble bee, Tigger is a pirate, etc). Typically, characters have meet and greet stations but many of the unique characters that made an appearance for this event were floaters. Meaning they got to walk around the park freely (accompanied by a character attendant of course).

Mike and I dressed up as Pongo and Perdita from 101 Dalmatians. We got so many compliments and it was fun spotting out other fellow Dalmatians in the park. The highlight was when Cruella Da Vil spotted us across a crowd of people and pushed everyone out of the way yelling “PUPPIES, come to me my darlings!” and squeezed us tight when she got a hold of us. Everyone around us loved it as well.  IMG_1590

There are special Halloween snacks you can purchase during the event hours only. I got this Maleficent inspired ice cream!   Trick or treating around Magic kingdom is fun! Once MNSSHP officially starts you can get a trick or treating bag at any of the trick or treating stations. There are several spots to treat or treat, some lines look longer than others but they all move FAST! We made tried to hit up all of the stations and get as much candy as possible. The cast members are generous! They give big handfuls of candy. As I mentioned, several rides are closed during MNSSHP, that’s because those ride areas become trick or treating stations.

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The Boo to You parade was so good. Make sure to get yourself a front row seat early! Mike and I got dinner at Pecos, nachos and tacos to be exact. We took our trays out and sat down behind the parade ropes. We ate our dinner while we waited for the parade to start (40 mins). We figure we could either eat our dinner inside the restaurant and possibly not have a good view of the parade or take outside and eat it while sitting on the “front row curb.” There were two parts of the parade that made me jump, only because I was expecting the loud noise or the screams. The headless horseman was also a crowd favorite!

The Hocus Pocus show on the Magic Kingdom stage was nostalgic! I mean, the movie is such an iconic part of Fall/Halloween now. I was pretty surprised to see so many little kids know the words to many of the songs or to even really know the movie. Their parts are doing something right by passing down the movie to the next generation <3.

The MNSSHP fireworks were amazing! Definitely “darker”, villain-ish, and everything you would expect Halloween fireworks at Disney to be. They did not disappoint!

For both the Hocus Pocus show and the fireworks make sure to get to your viewing spot early. The area gets crowded and everyone wants a good viewing spot!

It was a fun event, I am glad we experienced it. I think over the entire trip and cost of the event was worth it. However, I think that once you’ve experienced the party once (it doesn’t change much year-to-year), you might determine that it’s simply too expensive to experience again. For a one-time event, it’s worth it if your budget allows.

Watch our MNSSHP video here.

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Orlando Trip for Mike’s Birthday

We decided to go to Orlando for Mike’s 27th birthday and we had so much fun. The first birthday we spent together was mine in 2014 and it was at the Magic Kingdom. We have always said that at one point we would celebrate Mike’s birthday at Disney. I mean its only fair, right?

Our trip was short and only over the weekend. Our flight was scheduled for Friday afternoon, so Mike took Friday off (yay). We spent our morning packing (we are such procrastinators), running some errands, and dropping off Diggy at his dog sitter before heading out to the airport. As soon as we arrived at the airport we got a notification that our flight was delayed. We ended up going through TSA pretty fast so we went to the Green Turtle bar and restaurant to get some drinks and appetizers while we waited.

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Our flight was smooth and the whole process of getting off the plane and into our car rental took about 30 minutes. Super fast right? Since this was only a weekend trip we chose to only travel with backpacks (I’ve learned to pack light). This allowed us to get off the plane really fast, especially since we sat so close to the front. I know MCO like the back of my hand so I know how to get out of the airport fairly quickly. Whenever we fly into Orlando (opposed to driving) we always rent a car so we can get around easier. The rental process with Enterprise at the MCO airport is amazing; it has never taken more than 10 minutes!

Every time we book our car rental Mike tries to convince me to get a “cool” car, so this time we upgraded (on the spot) to a Camero. The car rental company gave us a nice deal since they knew it was Mike’s birthday, waived some of the fees for us, and gave us a red version after mentioning red was Mike’s favorite color. Safe to say, Mike was thrilled!

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Our first stop? Publix of course! No Florida trip is complete (at least for us) without a trip to Publix. Oh, why oh why is there not a Publix in Maryland?! L We got a case of water, juice, and cinnamon bun bread for breakfast, and makeup remover. My favorite thing about Publix is a lot of the items are BOGO free.

We stayed at our friend’s place and they were truly great hosts! My bestie offered us homemade vegetarian lasagna and banana bread when we arrived. They have the cutest apartment and their two pups have a lot of character. We’re so grateful our friends took us in for the weekend.

Saturday, October 20th was Mike’s actual birthday and decided to eat lunch at the Sugar Factory. We had passed by it on prior trips and have always wanted to go. The Sugar Factory is one of those restaurants where all of their menu items are clearly made knowing that they will be Instagrammed. Their menu is extensive and a little expensive, but everything was good and you are also paying for the overall experience. This is a very popular spot for birthdays. It felt like every 5 minutes the music would get turned up and someone was getting their birthday ice cream from the waiters. We ordered a sampler for appetizers that included mac and cheese balls, mini burgers, and wings. For our entrees, I got a Caesar salad (huge), Mike and Jenny got a mac and cheeseburger (they accommodate vegetarian/vegan diets). The portions are huge and the meals are very fillings. If you have heard of the Sugar Factory before you know that their milkshakes are pretty crazy looking so we definitely wanted to order some! I ordered the Make a Wish milkshake and it was so delicious!

We were so exhausted after our lunch feast that we had the itis, so we opted to go back to my friends’ house to chill rather than our original idea to go kayaking. I was rather happy because I hate activities that involve large bodies of water. Actually, all water activities are not for me! We spent a chunk of the afternoon watching Youtube videos. Specifically, David Dobrik vlogs which Mike and I keep up with.

In the evening we went to PF changes for Mike’s birthday dinner, yum! Maybe it’s just me but I hateeeeee trying to be sneaky to get the waiter to bring out “the birthday dessert” that the restaurant makes. Luckily my bestie saved the day and snuck a note to our waiter telling him it was Mike’s birthday.

On Sunday we went to Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party event at the Magic Kingdom. We were SO excited for this event! I love Halloween and themed parties. I have always loved seeing the Halloween costumes that guests go as. If you have seen pictures, Mike and I went as Dalmatians. Pongo and Perdita to be exact! My top highlight from this event was when Cruella de Vil spotted us across a small crowd and pushed everyone aside while yelling “ PUPPIES! Come to me my darlings!”

From the guest costumes we saw, special Halloween themed treats, Boo to You parade, the Hocus Pocus castle show, trick or treating through the park, special characters we don’t normally see and characters in their own Halloween costumes… I have to say the event was so worth it. I’ll write a blog post entirely dedicated to MNSSHP with all of my tips and reviews.

 

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On Sunday, we went out to eat at Disney Springs with our friends before heading off to the airport. I know Disney Springs has a lot of restaurants to choose from but somehow we always end up eating at Splitsville. I mean their menu is pretty large, inexpensive for the portions, and can accommodate to different diets and picky eaters. We always leave satisfied. We walked around Disney Springs for a bit to “walk off everything we ate.” If you’ve never been to Disney Springs, be sure to check it out. It has changed a lot from its “Downtown Disney” days. We got Halloween themed Starbucks drinks before saying our goodbyes. Well, we don’t say goodbye at Disney, we say See ya real soon!

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DIY Costume: Popeye and Olive Oyl

We put together this Popeye and Olive Oyl costume for a Halloween event at a local wine bar. We didn’t win the costume contest, however, we did receive A LOT of compliments.  The contest was an intense competition! A Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause won the contest, and I must say they looked perfect. We chatted with the couple and found out they were newlyweds. They showed us a few pictures of their wedding and since they were an older couple, they gave us some advice on living life. They sure were fun!

As you can see this costume was easy to make and you may already have a lot of the pieces!

 

Olive Oyl Costume:

For Olive Oyl, you may already have a long sleeve red shirt and black skirt in your closet. At the time, I did not, but I was able to find the long sleeve red shirt at Walmart for under $5 and I bought my skirt from Amazon for under $12 (the price has gone up since I’ve bought it). Both of these items are truly investments for your wardrobe as basics for future outfits.  For the shoes, you may also already have brown boots; I opted to wear black ones for my costume.

Olive Oyl has a white shirt collar, white cuffs, and a yellow trim on the skirt. I normally would use a regular felt sheet and hot glue the pieces onto the shirt and skirt. However, I did not want to ruin the shirt and skirt since I wanted to use them for other outfits. Instead of regular white and yellow felt sheets, I bought felt sheet with a sticky side. Regular felt sheets are about 40 cents; felt sheets with a sticky side on it already are about 70 cents (always keep an eye out for 50% off coupons).

Before cutting out the pattern for the collar and sleeve cuffs, make sure to draw out the pattern on the white sticky side with a pen or marker. Once you have the pattern cut out, it should be easy to put the pieces down on the shirt. Be sure to press down for a few seconds to ensure it is fully stuck onto the shirt.  I originally cut out yellow sticky felt sheet to make the yellow trim on the skirt but since my skirt was flowy it kept coming off. If you don’t mind, you can hot glue the yellow trim to the skirt.

Olive Oyl has a low short ponytail. I had very long hair at the time so I twisted it into a low bun and let the ends stick out.

Popeye Costume:

The Popeye costume was very easy to put together. Mike already had a black collar shirt, and how perfect was it that it just so happened to have a sailor logo on it. Pair the black shirt with jeans and you have the foundation for the outfit! We used remaining sections from the yellow sticky felt paper I had bought to cut out yellow buttons onto Mike’s shirt. Mike already had a red bandana but incase you don’t, check out

Wal-Mart, Michaels Craft Store, or Target for one. We bought the sailor hat (under $7) and pipe (under $9) from Amazon; both pieces can be used for a future costume, as well.

We grabbed a canned item from the pantry and taped on green construction paper and wrote Spinach on it since that is what Popeye eats and swears by!

This was a fun and inexpensive couples costume to put together. Let me know if you decide to go as Popeye the Sailor and Olive Oyl, I would love to see how your costumes look.

We Scare because we Care

We made these costumes for a Halloween 5K race and they were so fun to make. These costumes were super EASY to create and inexpensive. Each outfit cost less than $20!

We got our shirts from Michaels Craft Store. My tip is to use a 50% or 40% (more common) coupon when the shirts are on regular price. They have good sale’s on shirts often and if you are lucky, you’ll come across a 20% off on sale items coupon. If you are a teacher, you can add your teacher discount on top of the coupons! Our shirts turned out to cost under $3 each.

We used felt sheets from Michaels Craft Store to make Mike Wazowski’s eye and mouth, as well as the Sully spots. Each felt sheet cost 40 cents! For Mike we used 2 felt sheets of white, 2 black, and 1 blue. For Sully, we used 3 sheets of purple.

We used different size bowls as stencils for the Mike Wazowski’s eyes. After cutting out the circles we hot glued the layers together. We then traced the mouthpieces with a pen prior to cutting out the black part and white teeth for Mike Wazowski’s mouth. We hot glued those two mouth layers together. We then hot glued each set onto the green shirt.

For Sully, we cut out different sized spots and hot glued each one onto the shirt. Make sure to put cardboard or some sort of barrier inside the shirt so that the hot glue doesn’t go through to the other side.

Our hard hats were the most expensive item from our costume. Each one cost $13 from Amazon. We got blue hard hats since thats the color of the hats used in the movie, however you can find yellow hard hats for about $5 on Amazon if you prefer. We printed out the logo from Monster’s Inc. and taped it onto the hard hat. We opted to use tape for the hard hat incase we wanted to use the hard hat in the future for a different costume or purpose.

We received so many compliments on how cute these costumes were! Let me know if you try making these, I would love to see how they turn out.

Mexico Vacation 2018

Mexico was one of the destinations that Mike and I always thought of going to and this past August we finally did. Our top reasons for choosing Mexico was because of the atmosphere, the food, beaches, and the ability to visit one of the great wonders of the world. We also wanted to focus on saving more money this year, so Mexico allowed us to go on an all inclusive, low expense trip, that was still of high quality. We looked at all of the different areas of Mexico and we decided on Cancun.

Incase anyone wants to book this trip, we booked through Costco Travels (our first time) and it was about $1,400 total for an all-inclusive trip for two people. This all-inclusive trip for two people included a 5 day all inclusive resort stay, air fare, hotel/airport transfer, $50 resort credit, and all unlimited food and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  Watch our travel vlog, including a walk through of the resort here!

When we are going to travel outside of the U.S., we usually book the earliest flights possible so we can arrive to our destination a.s.a.p. and enjoy our time there, as long as possible. For this trip, our flight was at 5AM, which meant we had to leave the house super early. But the hardest part wasn’t waking up early, it was traveling with crutches because I had just sprained my ankle a couple of days prior to the trip.

Even though I had crutches with me, it was one of the best traveling experiences we have had. Airport staff were very accommodating; they provided me with a wheel chair and pushed me throughout the airport, giving me short cuts through TSA/security, and took me directly to my gates. I think Mike’s favorite part was our seats were upgraded on every flight. One some, we got to travel first class and on others, we got moved up several rows to the front and had empty seats next to us.

When we arrived in Mexico, we found the area outside where our transportation (through Costco) was and then we were off to our resort. The total car ride was about 20-30 minutes.

When we arrived to our resort, Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas, everyone was super nice and the check-in was fast. We got our room upgraded and the hotel was very accommodating for me being on crutches.  They moved our room to a first level, which had a walk out balcony directly by the pool.

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When we arrived at our room, we raided the fridge since all drinks are included. We also ordered a bunch of items off the room service menu because we had arrived right when breakfast was ending and lunch restaurants hadn’t opened yet. You can order as much room service food as you want, but there is a $5 charge to place an order and you only pay the $5 charge at check out.

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Our days started with setting our towels out by the pool as we walked to the buffet restaurant for breakfast. I advise doing this early in the morning because by 8am a lot of the pool seats were already taken! I think for the most part, every breakfast buffet at resorts are the same. So don’t worry, there are a bunch of options including an omelet station, pancakes, breakfast meats, yogurt, cereal, breakfast breads, spreads, and sweets. There is a huge variety of breakfast drinks and juice from orange juice, coffee, tea, juices, and smoothies. If you really wanted to start drinking at breakfast, you can.

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We always hit the pool during the morning part of the day. Partly because its almost impossible to get a pool chair in the afternoon unless you watch people like a hawk for when they leave. The pool had built in lounge chairs inside the pools, it was very relaxing and gave so much serenity. We worked up an appetite after spending our morning at the pool, so, our go to spot for lunch was Viva Mexico for some tacos, quesadillas, hotdogs, burgers, chips and queso, oh and horchata! YUM. After lunch, we would switch things up and head over to spend our afternoon at the beach. But not before stopping at the bar located at the entrance of the beach. The bar had a jacuzzi, sit in pools on one side, and swings on the other.

The beach was awesome. Finding a beach lounge chair was never a problem. Most of the seats were under shade, which was great, especially in the afternoon under the hot sun! Bartenders would also walk by the beach to take your drink orders, so you never had to leave. There were lifeguards at the beach and you had to stay within a certain perimeter  in the water for safety. There was some seaweed by the shore but no big deal, it wasn’t too much and overall the sand/beach area was super clean. The beach waves were actually a bit rough, so I didn’t go into the beach because I still had my sprained ankle but Mike went in had a lot of fun. The water was clear, which is not always the case for all beaches.

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There are a lot of restaurant on the property and when I book a stay at a resort I always attempt to try all the restaurants. My one tip, make your dinner reservations for your whole stay as soon as you check in on the first day. If a restaurant you like is already booked up, show up before or after the dinner rush to try to get in. Our favorite restaurant was Da Vinci. We went there twice for dinner without reservations. We loved the food, it was Italian and possibly some of the best food we’ve ever had.

We also tried Pina Colada on our last night there. I made Mike order everything in Spanish and our waiter was so patient and had fun with it. There was an open spread for salads, bread, and appetizers. We decided to use our room credit at this restaurant to get a higher tier wine bottle. This restaurant was on the beach front and we slowly noticed a crowd forming at the beach. Mike went over to see what was happening and he got to witness baby turtles make their way from the beach and into water. He said it was an amazing experience to witness. No pictures were allowed because the turtle security (yes, for their protection) was very adamant that no light/flash was to be used.  It had to happen at night so predators would not get to them.

On one of the days, we went on an excursion to Chichen Itza. We booked this excursion through Costco representatives who have an office inside the resort. The excursion was about $60 a person, and it was an all day excursion. It started with the busses picking us up at 8am, right after we had breakfast, and stopped at other resorts to pick up other travelers. I believe it was about a 2-hour ride to the general area of Chichen Itza. We stopped by a local shop that had a ton of artisan items. This is where we ended up buying most of our gifts and souvenirs. We were also given a little mid-day sandwich to hold us over. The tour guides gave us a lot of information while we were on the bus ride and they were very enthusiastic. We finally made it to Chichen Itza where our tour guides gave us more information on the history and gave us recommendations on where to get the best pictures. We were then given time to explore on our own. It was a very impressive site, but also a very hot day! We were then taken to a nearby restaurant where we had a lunch buffet and a traditional dance performance. We were then taken to a cenote, which is essentially a huge sinkhole that resulted from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. People were given life jackets and there were stairs to go lower inside of the cenote to enter the water. You could either walk into the water or jump off after going down the steps half way down. Almost everyone was snoozing on the ride back to the resorts. We got back in time to enjoy more of the beach and have dinner.

Sprained ankle and all, this trip was amazing and I truly enjoyed the culture, people, and food. I was not sure what to expect because there are so many mixed reviews for traveling to Mexico and the quality of resorts but I can’t wait to go back! We definitely want to explore other areas of Mexico in the future. Viva Mexico!

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