Friday, April 29, 2016

Favorite Pin Friday | Volume 48

I am the girl who hates turning down dessert. I have a constant sweet tooth. Whyyyy did this pop up on Pinterest!? It's like Pinterest knows I love chocolate chip cookies and s'mores!

Chocolate Chip Cookie S'Mores | Cooking Classy

I'm going to go drool now. Until next post...xoxo Becca

Friday, April 22, 2016

Favorite Pin Friday | Volume 47

Who is sooooo thankful it's Friday? This girl! It really is hard to come back to reality after being gone on vacation. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and resort review I posted. Halfway through the day yesterday I asked the hubs if we could go back lol

Today I wanted to show you wall art a friend of mine pinned on Pinterest recently. It caught my eye. I don't have kids, but some of my good friends have little boys so that is probably why I noticed it.

Superhero Wall Art by TheCuttingEdgeShop

And of course you can purchase items from this store through Etsy, one of my all time favorite places to shop for gifts.

Until next post...xoxo Becca

Monday, April 18, 2016

Resort Review: Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica




Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica opened in November 2015. While we were there the resort celebrate their Grand Opening. The owners and their guests had a VIP section, but the rest of the event was open to resort guests. Awesome entertainment, hors d'oeuvres, and fireworks! Below is a full review of our experience at the resort (and pictures!).

Room
Several different room types were offered. Rooms were spread out in small groups across the property. We reserved one with a panoramic view and I'm pretty sure we lucked out on having one of the best views (room 433). The room was a good size; king bed, two closets and several areas to store clothes, and a good size bathroom with a beautiful modern design. One design complaint though, the lack of counter space in the vanity area made it difficult to get ready. I was constantly having to juggle different products or switch them in and out from the lower shelf.

Maid service came twice a day; in the morning to clean and replenish the minibar (included!) and once in the evenings for turn down service. At night the staff leave a schedule for the next day and chocolates.




Food
The resort offered 5 restaurants. Each with a different menu for each meal. The consistency in quality of food varied. The burgers and steaks at Seaside Grill were delicious, Himitsu (Asian inspired food) was ok, but the hubs enjoyed the sushi, breakfast at Aqua (near the spa) was really good and we heard lunch/dinner was good there too. We tried Portofino (Italian) one night and it wasn't good, but then had a private dinner in the wine room with a four course meal prepared by Chef Dennis and that was delicious!!! Excellent service by our server Jonathan. In short, some food was good, some needs improvement.

We ordered room service almost every night after drinking at the Fire Lounge. Room service was usually quick and the food was good. You had the option to have it delivered inside your room or placed in the "Secret" box, a box accessible by staff on the outside of your room and then by you inside.





Pools
The main pool was located by the restaurants and another near the spa. Two totally different vibes! The main pool had a swim up bar and staff walking around to take drink orders. You never wanted for alcohol! The pool near the spa was low key and quiet.

It was difficult to get chairs at the main pool, especially those under umbrellas. Some guests would come down early and "reserve" chairs by leaving a towel and magazine or cup and wouldn't return for several hours. Even though the resort said there is no reserving of chairs and items would be removed after 30 minutes, there was no enforcement of this rule. Most days we had to ask for chairs (which staff had to carry up from the beach) and did without an umbrella until someone finally vacated theirs. As the resort grows I hope they add more chairs and umbrellas and enforce the no chair reserving rule.





Activities
Each day there were different activities planned by the entertainment team (pool volleyball, rum tasting, cooking lessons, kayaking, hiking, dance lessons, etc.). We enjoyed the activities we participated in, especially the cooking lesson where we made crepes! Nightly entertainment in the Fire Lounge was nice too. Fabian, the bartender, at the Fire Lounge bar is amazing! Shout out to two members of the entertainment team, Marilyn and Jason! These three staff members were the best and we were sad to say bye to them.

Excursions
Swiss Travel has an on-site agent who explains the different excursions offered and you can book directly with this representative. Both full day and half day trips are available. The hubs and I decided since we were at the resort for a limited amount of time we didn't want to spend a whole day away and went with the half day Palo Verde river tour were we saw monkeys, birds, and crocodiles. The tour guide, Jose, was amazing and so funny!

Spa
The spa on-site offered many services. I am not much of a massage person and I had my nails done before the trip, so the hubs opted for an 80 minute massage while I did yoga. Booking the appointment was easy. He said the facilities were clean, modern, and the staff friendly and professional. His only complaint was that he was shorted 15 minutes.

Misc.
Other points to note, to travel around the property you have to pick up a shuttle at designated locations. We never waited more than 5-10 minutes and if it did start to seem like a long wait we would ask a staff member to call for a shuttle and it would arrive quickly. Some guests complained a lot about long wait times, but we never experienced that.

Upon arrival we were bombarded by Unlimited Vacation Club staff asking us to sit through a "time share" type presentation. I didn't appreciate being greeted that way or wasting a morning listening to them talk about their membership options.

Overall
Overall we enjoyed our time at the resort. There is room for improvement in quality of food, communication among the employees (they had different responses to questions or didn't know the answer), and the addition of chairs/umbrellas near the main pool area. The resort opened in November and with time I know they will improve. The resort has the potential to be great! I hope upper management rewards their star staff members (like Marilyn, Jason, Fabian, and Jonathan) with promotions and recognition because they truly are providing the best customer service for guests. Many of the staff members we spoke to told us prior to working at Secrets they did not speak any English and now that they know a little they desire to learn more and practice with guests and even family members at home. English teachers were brought in to help staff learn the language and I hope management continues to provide development to their staff because you could tell it made them happy.

Thanks for reading! Until next post...xoxo Becca

10 Tips for Staying at an All-Inclusive Resort
Pura Vida! - Costa Rica Trip

Friday, April 15, 2016

Pura Vida! - Costa Rica Trip

Back from paradise aka Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica. Sad day :( We had so much fun by the pool, talking to the locals, and meeting new people. As mentioned in my tips for staying at an all-inclusive, we enjoyed having everything we needed on-site. If you followed along on Snapchat then you know most of the trip involved laying by the pool and drinking lol Sharing pictures below and a full review (with more pics) is coming on Monday.

Pura Vida! ("pure life") Until next post...xoxo Becca

Ready for vacation!

View from Main Lobby

View from our room

The hubs making crepes

Flambe

We met some really great people on this trip. This beautiful couple is from Long Island.

Fabian, the bartender at the Fire Lounge, made us rainbow shots


Howler Monkey



White Faced Monkey

Stop along our excursion

Grand Opening party at the Main Pool

Aerial dancers at the Grand Opening party



Private dinner at Portofino, pictured with Chef Dennis

Costa Rican flag shot, made by Fabian

More of the friends we made and our bartender Fabian

Last night together!

Friday, April 8, 2016

10 Tips for Staying at an All-Inclusive Resort

In 2010, the hubs and I stayed at Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun, an all-inclusive resort, for our honeymoon. Since we left I have been wanting to stay at an all-inclusive resort again. It's the easiest way to travel! It costs more, but everything is on-site and you don't have to fool with restaurant reviews and scheduling activities. Plus you can schedule off-site excursions or trips to the spa at an additional cost.

Today I am sharing 10 tips for staying at an all-inclusive resort. Hope it's helpful if you have been considering this form of travel. The hubs and I highly recommend it!

p.s. This post arrives just as we are taking off to Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica! Off to some relaxation. You won't find me on social media, have to travel along via Snapchat (@r8d6g).
Pictures from our honeymoon
10 Tips for Staying at an All-Inclusive Resort
  1. Airport transportation. Book transportation to and from the airport through the resort if possible and before you arrive. You will likely be traveling to a place you're unfamiliar with and possibly with a different language. Be safe and use a reputable company.
  2. Check dress codes. Before traveling, be sure to check the dress codes for the restaurants on-site and for any excursions you may be interested in booking. While you will likely be in a swimsuit for most of the trip, dinners require a more appropriate attire. (Example: Casual Elegance. Sneakers, tennis shoes or dress sandals (no flip-flops). Dress shirts with sleeves. Long pants required for men. No sleeveless shirts for men.
  3. Lock up valuables. Many resorts provide a safe in the room, if not, talk with the front desk staff. When you arrive at your room lock up your valuables, including your passport and other travel documents. The last thing you want to deal with is lost items on your vacation. 
  4. Unplug. You are on vacation. Use this opportunity to unplug from the rest of the world. Shut off your email, social media, and Netflix. You are there to relax and to spend time with whoever you're traveling with. Heck, read a book! When was the last time you did that?
  5. Try free classes and enjoy the entertainment. Take advantage of the free classes/activities. You have already paid for them so why not try yoga for the first time or paddle boarding. Secrets resorts provided nightly entertainment. It's a great chance to get out of your room and enjoy the company of others after dinner.
  6. Try new food. Each of the restaurants on-site will serve a different cuisine. Why not explore new dishes or desserts. If you don't like what you initially order there is always room service later!
  7. Take an excursion. Although being at an all-inclusive resort has it's perks, unless you sign up for an off-site excursion you won't get to experience the culture of the area you are visiting or see the sites. Look over (and even book) the excursion options ahead of time so you know how to dress and what to bring. 
  8. Wake up early. I know this sounds odd for a vacation, but while everyone else is sleeping in you get to enjoy the sunrise, the quiet and tranquility of the resort, and even claim the best lounge chair or cabana! Always time for a nap later ;)
  9. Medicine. In addition to packing any prescription medicine you may need, remember to take over the counter medicine. Yes, there will be some over the counter medicines sold on-site, but you will likely pay a lot for them. Come prepared! Itchy bug bites? Susceptible to stomach aches? Headaches? Sunburns?
  10. Tip. Plan to take small bills with you. You don't know how much a few extra dollars means to the bellhop, waitstaff, bartenders, and custodians. Keep in mind, some resorts include tips in the up front cost, but not all. So ask.
Some pictures of the resort we're headed to! Source



Until next post...xoxo Becca

Monday, April 4, 2016

Weekend Recap - Friendships and Couch Searching

Do you have those friends you adore? Who make you a better person? I have a few very very close friends that when I spend time with them I feel so refreshed. It's nice to know there are people that get me, accept me for who I am, and don't judge me. Saturday I spent the day with one of my best friends. She was my college roommate and we have remained extremely close. I seriously think we could spend days talking without getting tired of each other. We kept it simple, mani/pedi and lunch!




On Sunday, the hubs and I went to Baba Yega to visit friends who recently moved back from California. They are friends from college and we hadn't seen each other in several years so it was nice to hear what they were up to and how their two little boys were doing.


After brunch we went looking for a new couch. The one we have was purchased in 2009. It looks ok, but 7 years can drastically change the look of a couch! I think we have settled on this one. It's larger than I had expected, but we measured last night and I think it may fit. Right now we have a dark chocolate brown couch so I wanted something lighter...guess I got what I asked for lol




Relaxing weekend with friends and laying around on couches haha Hope your Monday is off to a good start. Until next post...xoxo Becca

Friday, April 1, 2016

Favorite Pin Friday | Volume 46

Sunday marks the 1 year anniversary of Favorite Pin Friday. I know, I know...you're thinking "Becca, how can that be when this is only volume 46?" Well because some weeks I was a slacker and didn't post or skipped it to share something else.

My latest obsession are herb gardens and succulents. I want both in window box form. With a small patio there isn't room for planters, so why not hang it! Here are some inspirations to get me started.

Herb Garden

Source

Source

Source
Succulent
Source

Source

Source
Happy gardening! Until next post...xoxo Becca