fall bucket list

My favorite season is here and before it has the chance to slip by (let’s think back to summer) I figured it’s time to set out a bucket list of activities I’m hoping to accomplish before the snow starts to fall.

I’m slowly and surely making progress towards my 101 in 1001 days so I’m sprinkling in some of those to kill two birds with one stone here.

Without further ado, here’s the official even keeled fall bucket list.

  1. Pick Apples & make homemade Apple Crisp. Last fall my friend Toni shared this yummy recipe with me & it was to die for. Might have to be a repeat for 2015.
  2. Take a Tour of the Two Roads Brewery in Stratford, CT. This brewery is just a few miles away from us & has an awesome bar. Time to take a tour- and cross this off my 101 in 1001 list.
  3. See a Broadway Show. NEED to get into the city before it turns too cold, which I know will happen way too fast. Potentials are: An American In Paris, Jersey Boys, The Book of Mormon, or Lion King. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m dying to see just about every show right now.
  4. Eat Paleo for a Week. So many delicious recipes and so little time. Since crockpot season is now in full swing, I think this will be totally doable this autumn.
  5. Plan Dad’s 50th Birthday Party. My dad’s 50th is just a few weeks away & after all he’s done for all of us, I think 50 is cause for an extra special night.
  6. Hike another one of Connecticut’s Top 10 Hiking Trails. Preferably one that has spectacular views of the foliage- because we know fall in New England is all about the foliage.
  7. Make homemade soup from scratch. I’m thinking something Paleo. Kill two birds with one stone, people.
  8. Plan a weekend for our two families to meet. This one’s been in the works for quite some time now and it seems like we’re actually on the verge of a weekend! Expect tips on entertaining two families with vastly different age ranges when this comes to fruition.
  9. Carve pumpkins. Brian and I have been carving pumpkins together forever and get really into it each year. See picture below from one of our past carving days. Bonus points if we pick these on aforementioned family weekend!
  10. Host a football Sunday afternoon. Complete with friends, craft beer, and way too much food. 
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hamptons lane- reviewed

You may remember I found a discounted membership to Hamptons Lane a few months back (yes, I know- I’m the worst for posting this so late!). Since that time I’ve received two boxes from Hamptons Lane- Spanish Tapas and Summer Picnic.

The Spanish Tapas box was the first box I received. In the kit there was a Steel Paella Pan, a jar of Arbequina olives, sweet smoked paprika, imperial Spanish chorizo, and organic piquillo peppers. Three recipes were included- chorizo stuffed prosciutto wrapped dates, green olive tapenade, and paella mixta. I absolutely love paella and since I now have my own paella pan- we decided to try this recipe first. The pan fit an enormous amount of food in it! It seriously made paella for a large family- not a couple. Needless to say we had quite a few leftover meals that week.

Spanish Tapas

The second box I received was the Summer Picnic box. I am actually pretty excited about this box since the weather is finally warm and  I plan on spending as much time as possible outside this summer. Included in this box were Bee’s wrap, Honeypax raw honey to-go, Jan’s Farmhouse cranberry pistachio crisps, an olivewood & stainless steel knife, a genuine leather picnic knife sheath, and garlic dill mustard. Looks like the perfect start to a cheese board if I do say so myself! This curated kit came with 7 recipes- honey mint citrus salad, spicy honey hummus, egg salad tartine, turkey & brie sandwich, vegan veggie sandwich, tupelo honey mint lemonade, and kale & brussel sprout salad with mustard vinaigrette. I haven’t had the opportunity to make any of these yet but the tupelo honey mint lemonade sounds absolutely delicious! Summer Picnic

Overall I have enjoyed receiving new kitchen additions from Hamptons Lane. The kit’s well organized and all follow their theme. I have to say my favorite additions have been the knife and paella pan. At around $50 per kit though I think I will be putting this subscription on hold and trying some new ones this summer. I felt that I could have found each of the food items in the box on my own and not have left over items Brian and I don’t really like (I’m looking at you, Olives).

Have you tried Hamptons Lane? What item in my kit are you looking forward to trying?

no bake apricot bars

I have been a terrible blogger lately and for that I am sorry.

But to make it up to you I have a delicious, simple, and healthy treat you can make at home in no time!

Brian and I have been trying to reduce our sugar and processed food intake lately. So many boxed foods truly have too much sodium and sugar in them. Cooking for yourself allows you to be absolutely positive of the ingredients you’re putting into your body,but we all know it’s not always an easy feat to prep your meals and snacks.

Granola and protein bars were always one “healthy” thing we wanted to keep in our house but when looking at the label many of these bars are seriously crammed with sugar. Now sugar from fruits are no biggie, but the added sugar is really the kicker.

This weekend we decided to make our own homemade bars (recipe adapted from Cupcakes and Kale Chips). These were a hit in our house! I hope you enjoy!

No Bake Apricot Bars

Ingredients:

1 cup pitted dates

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Line a 8×8 square ban with wax paper. If you don’t have wax paper, foil will be fine too.

In your blender or food processor combine dates, apricots, chia seeds, and cinnamon. Blend until ingredients are in one clump.

Separate the mixture and add in pumpkin seeds. Mix until the seeds are in small chunks.

Add in mini chocolate chips (if desired) and give a quick pulse. If you want to leave out the extra sugar, that’s fine too!

Press the mixed ingredients into the pan and spread evenly. If you have a second square pan, you can use the bottom to press the bars down. We didn’t have a second pan so we just pressed down with our spatula as evenly as possible.

Refrigerate for about 45 minutes and then slice into bars.

* Slicing tip- Use a pizza cutter to slice your bars! Much easier than a knife.

Yum!

ocean maya royale: reviewed

Continuing my all-inclusive resort review series, next up is the second resort we visited during our time in the Yucatan Peninsula. We spent four nights at the Ocean Maya Royale earlier this month. Our stay at this resort started on a rocky note. The resort had mixed up our reservation and after some searching, the front desk attendant found us reserved a few days off. We were very pleased that they offered us a room upgrade to a Junior Suite after this mix up!

ocean maya room

The Rooms: As I mentioned above, we were upgraded to a Junior Suite after the hotel lost our reservation. Likes: outside jacuzzi tub, private outdoor patio area with bistro set and lounge chairs, large room with king bed, large bottles of water in mini-fridge. Dislikes: only 2 beers in the mini-fridge each day, room was far from beach area. Tips: This resort offers Privilege upgrades. We were in a Privilege suite but they did not upgrade our service. Privilege members have access to exclusive liquors, exclusive areas on the beach, and other perks.

ocean maya pool

The Pools: Ocean Maya had two pools that like Dreams Tulum were also right on the beach. One of the pools had an extensive shallow end that ranged from 1-3 feet deep just for relaxing and sitting in the pool. Likes: pool bar in the one pool, location of pools was convenient to beach. Dislikes: virtually no service of drinks you had to get up to the bar to get a drink, Entertainment team often held activities in the main pool with the swim-up bar so that made that pool more crowded, never any empty chairs at the pool, towel cards to check out towels with one towel per person. Tips: Do not lose your towel or the towel card! We were provided a towel card to use to borrow towels at the beach and pool and on the back it said if you lost a towel or card it was a $30 fee. Get to the pool by 9am to save yourself a seat with a towel.

ocean maya beach

The Beach: The beach at the Ocean Maya was the most disappointing part of the resort. There is a boardwalk along the beach which is very nice to walk on, but it blocks off about 70% of the beach access. Likes: Water and dive center right on beach, lots of chairs and lounges on beach. Dislikes: Very little water access, beach is blocked off by glass wall and boardwalk in large area, no drink service.

ocean maya el charro

The Food: Of the 3 all-inclusive resorts we have visited, Ocean Maya had the best food by far. The only restaurant that we did not try was Blue Moon since we both didn’t see an entree that interested us on that menu. Likes: plenty of options, excellent location right on beach for La Dolce Vita, great poolside location for El Charro. Dislikes: not 24 hour room service, one night a raccoon was in La Dolce Vita while we were eating. Tips: Try the sushi at Yookso! We were impressed. We really enjoyed El Charro best and ate there for lunch most days and for two dinners.

ocean maya

Overall: We both really enjoyed our time at this resort. Brian’s 25th birthday was on Cinco de Mayo and the resort delivered cake, balloons, and a birthday mug for Brian to the room. Since we are looking to relax on our vacations, we both like staying somewhere that does not allow kids and Ocean Maya was an adults only resort. We also were able to enjoy a relaxing, beach front massage in their beach massage hut. If you have never had the experience to hear the waves crash during a massage, we both recommend it! This resort is located very closely to a few others and you are required to wear a wristband. Privilege access members have a different color wristband to differentiate. Although we weren’t thrilled by the beach, there was still a beautiful view and we were able to walk along the beach and boardwalk.

That’s a wrap for my Mexican all-inclusive reviews! Keep a look out for my review of Breathless in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!

dreams tulum resort & spa: reviewed

Brian and I recently returned from a destination wedding turned vacation in the beautiful Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. The wedding was picture perfect- held in the early evening right on the sandy beach  with the reception continuing under the stars. And a true testament to how lovely the happy couple are, just under 90 guests made the journey from all over the US to partake in the wedding week(end) festivities!

We’re fairly new to the all-inclusive resort scene- but after staying at three different properties we definitely have something to compare each against. After spending 3 nights at Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa– here is my official review on our likes, dislikes, and tips!

dreams tulum 1

The Rooms- We stayed in a Deluxe Garden View room which was the most affordable room option we were given as a part of the wedding room block. We were further back off the beach and faced into a courtyard. Likes: hammock on the balcony, large walk in shower, large bathroom with jacuzzi tub, king bed, Corona in the mini-fridge. Dislikes: no matter how low we turned the AC we could not get the room to cool down, we could not find the bottle opener, finding the room was very confusing as each building really looks alike and they were not labeled too well back in the courtyards. Tips: Unless it is really important to you to see the ocean from your room, or be able to swim out of your room, save your money for something else. You really are not in your room too often so the room is somewhere you can save.

The Pools: The two main pools at Dreams Tulum were both large in size. One pool had a swim-up bar and was the location of most of the daytime entertainment. Likes: both pools were right on the beach which provided a great view, water aerobics was actually really fun to do with all of the girls the day after the wedding.  Tips: If you really want to have a seat at the pool, you should probably head down in the morning and set up your towels. People claim their spots early!

dreams tulum 2

The Beach: The beach at Dreams Tulum was the best all-inclusive resort beach Brian and I have come across so far. Likes: wide and large sandy beach area, plenty of chairs & tables, lots of areas of shade, beach volleyball, quick service of drinks. Dislikes: lots of seaweed (which may have been because of the time of year). Tips: It’s also a good idea to get to the beach earlier in the day and set up your spot. Although, there are more spaces on the beach than the pool area so this is less important.

The Food: Since we were only there for 3 nights and one of them we ate at the wedding, we were unable to try every restaurant on the property. We did however get to eat at Bordeaux, Portofino, Seaside Grill, World Cafe, & Coco Cafe. Likes: Seaside Grill had one of the best locations of an all-inclusive restaurant we’ve been at, lots of options, 24 hour room service.  Dislikes: All of the portions were extremely small, one day at lunch at Seaside Grill our waiter went off shift and we waited an hour for lunch. Tips: In our experience thus far, the food at all-inclusive resorts is mediocre. If you are expecting a NYC 5-star quality meal, you will likely be disappointed. But that being said, I definitely recommend trying as many options as you can at your resort… if you really don’t like it you can always have a second dinner at another restaurant (remember it’s all included!).

Overall: Our experience at the Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa was an overall positive experience. Everywhere we went we were met with friendly and accommodating service. The bar staff was quick and the drinks were tasty. We were very impressed by the beach and enjoyed fresh coconut drinks one of the days. You are not required to wear a wristband at this resort which I find to be a plus (no ugly tan line on your wrist). Keep in mind this is a family resort so there are kids on this property. A few guests in the wedding group had children with them and there seemed to be plenty of options for kids including an Explorer’s Club and private babysitting in room (at an extra charge). We would recommend this resort to friends, but will probably try somewhere else before we’d return ourselves.

Stay tuned for my review of the second resort we visited on our trip! As well as a review from the resort we stayed in at Punta Cana last year.

catching up

Hi, Friends!

It feels good to be back… writing that is! It does not feel as good to be back from our Mexican vacation.

I feel so behind on my writing and know I owe you all a few posts! The past couple weeks have been a complete whirlwind for me. After three years at one company, I took a position at a new company and have really hit the ground running there! It is fast paced and so far has been great!

Two weeks ago Brian’s sister had her first baby, a little boy, so we spent a weekend out in Pittsburgh celebrating the birth of that awesome little guy!

And last but not least, for the past week we have been celebrating, soaking up some rays, and enjoying margaritas down in beautiful Tulum & Riviera Maya, Mexico (crossed a new country off of my 101 in 1001 days list!) My friend Brittney married the love of her life, JJ, at Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa on May 1st and it was perfect. We also celebrated Cinco de Mayo, or in this house, Cinco de Bri-o! Brian turned 25 on 5/5/15 in Mexico… how could it get much better than that!

So stay tuned for my reviews of Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa & Ocean Maya by H10! Also, don’t forget I owe you all a review on my purchase at Hamptons Lane! I’m back!