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    To Date: TBD

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Monday Mornings

Why does it feel that Mondays always creep up way too fast? I plopped down in front of the computer to get a few things sorted out before heading to work and my inner grumblings were temporarily piqued by the article Yahoo posted about people working on Mondays. Apparently I’m not the only one who prefers Thursday or Fridays. :) The article basically said you should ask yourself 5 questions each day and if you consistently answer “No” to 3 or more of them, then you should consider looking for a new job. The questions were:

1. Am I excited to dive into the challenges that I have lined up for the week?

2. Am I looking forward to engaging with the people I am meeting or working with?

3. Am I going to my dream job?

4. Am I being compensated fairly for the value I bring to my job?

5. Do I feel energized, rested, and confident?

Despite the fact that most people work because they have to and not because they want to, I think what’s challenging is going from having a couple days over the weekend to do things for yourself. Granted, it’s not always fun stuff (cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc…) but at least it’s stuff for YOU and not for a business. Plus, there are so many more factors to consider which make the articles 5 questions a little silly. Maybe your dream job doesn’t pay enough for it to be a viable option. Maybe there’s external factors leading to you not feeling energized, rested, and confident. Maybe you don’t really know what you want to do and figure a job is better than no job.

Personally, I don’t like Mondays because they are the furthest day from Friday. It’s hard to look down the week ahead and feel like you aren’t just counting down the days. Perhaps I just need some early-in-the-week activity to look forward to?

I also don’t like Mondays when I’ve had a fun-filled or relaxing weekend and want more time for it to continue. We had several days of wind and rain which means the trees are losing their leaves quickly. So many of the trees are bare already and I wanted to get a walk in before they were all over. Ben and I found a little preserve near our house and took a leisurely walk yesterday. It was great and there were still some pretty colors left.

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It was a bit colder than we would have wanted due to the blowing wind, but we were sandwiching the 2 mile walk in between grocery shopping and the Packer game. I actually was pretty impressed with the trail. The steep sections were paved and they had mile markers every 1/10th – perfect if you were trying to run a mile and wanted visual markers to help increase your distance.

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The last remains of a wasp nest…

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And silly walkers who had the whole trail all to themselves

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The geese are collecting in huge groups getting ready to head south. I know what’s coming and I don’t blame them!

048It was such a pretty walk and we hopped back in the car with runny noses and smiles on our faces. The Packers won and it wasn’t a nail-biter, and Peyton Manning broke Favre’s record for most TDs. We cheered!

These next few weekends are going to be packed with activities. We have two Halloween parties, a lunch/movie date with my bridesmaid, my last trip of the year to Wausau, and a weekend cabin adventure with some good friends. Should be a lot of laughter and good memories!

Let’s get interactive this morning. So tell me, how do you feel about Mondays? Do you agree with Yahoo’s 5 questions or do you think there’s more to it?

Final Thoughts

I’ve been working on a wrap-up post for the past couple of days and somehow I always get distracted. I’m either sleeping in a bit too long in the morning or filling my evening watching heartbreaking baseball games (Do my Cardinals even really have a chance now?). But I can’t not share some of my favorite stories and traveling adventures.

First off, I am SO glad we stayed on the resort the entire time. We had considered an excursion or two but we were hit with stomach issues off and on from Mon-Fri and the last thing either of us would have wanted to deal with on an excursion would be racing off to find a bathroom. Not good.

We loaded up on sunscreen and both managed to get some pretty decent tans. Oddly, Ben looked sunburned but he didn’t peel or feel warm to the touch at all. Now that we’re back, all the “red” is a really nice brown. He’s the tannest he’s ever been in his life! lol

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I realized I have a gazillion pictures of Ben playing (ok drinking) in the water… And all of these were taken on different days!

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A rare and unusual picture of Ben doing what I liked best: sitting in the shade and vegging out (nice & humid morning):

155The blue rafts were a rare treasure to find. They would bring a huge cart of them out in the morning and pass them out. Since we were back on the lazy river, they always would run out before they got to us. We started hounding the towel guys first thing in the morning but were usually only awarded one raft per couple – AND they’d get taken while we went to get lunch every day!! Once we tried putting them under our chairs – gone. Another time we threw our wet towels on top of them on top of the chairs – gone again. So then we borrowed some storage space from a honeymooning couple that had a swim-up room and were able to stash a couple in their Jacuzzi tub. That meant when we hit the lazy river at 9am and the raft guy wasn’t due for another hour+, we could veg around and drift in bliss. That quiet hour in the morning was probably my favorite time of day.

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One funny vacation story was our hunt for rum. Some friends of ours went to this same resort 3 years ago and each day they found a small bottle of rum in their room. Naturally, we were expecting the same treatment only to discover NO RUM!! Oh the horror! Let me tell you something – I am the biggest lightweight when it comes to drinking and I was keeping a pretty steady drinking pace from 10am till 5pm every day – and never had a buzz. So while we certainly weren’t looking to get drunk on vacation, a little booze in our drinks would have been nice. We discovered our new Pittsburgh friends received a bottle on their arrival but hadn’t gotten any more. So that began my attempts to get rum in our room:

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Success!!

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Matt ended up bribing a guy to bring a bottle of rum to his room every night. Ben walked past a guy just as he dropped some bottles of water on the floor and helped him pick them up – only to be tracked down and asked if he wanted some rum. Well yes, of course we want rum!!. :-) Before we knew it, we were basking in rum like never before!

Tell me, is the onset of rum in our drinks at all related to Ben sleeping in his chair??

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The local and “legendary” booze of the Dominican isn’t rum though – it’s something called “Mama Juana”.

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Mama Juana is fermented in tree bark and when you buy it in the resort it’s loaded with pieces of bark that you have to filter out. Evidently it’s also an aphrodisiac? That became a constant joke amongst the resort workers – that a shot of Mama Juana tonight would lead to 7 babies in the morning… We brought no Mama Juana home but we did each try a shot while we were there. I think I’ll stick to my fruity drinks. :)

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You have to be careful where you buy your booze from. You can go to lots of stores and sample delicious Mama Juana and bring bottles home only to discover that the stuff they give you to sample isn’t the same as what you purchase – and since most people wait until they get home to drink it, there’s no recourse. That happened to our friends who sampled delicious varieties and brought them back only to discover they tasted like vinegar. It probably also didn’t help that he has terrible handwriting and when he filled out the customs form “Mama Juana” looked a little too much like “marijuana”. Oops. Kinda funny though. ;)

I did get to sample coconut water right out of the coconut. They had a guy on the beach with a machete who would cut the tops off the coconuts and give them to you to drink. It was the first day we’d gotten there and I was HOT. Drinking coconut water from a coconut that’s been basking in the hot Dominican sun isn’t tasty or refreshing… but at least I can say I had the experience.

The best drinks I had were at the lobby bar at the sister resort. The drink of the day was always proudly displayed and the individual components laid out for viewing – which I thought was pretty cool.

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They made the richest, creamiest pina coladas. I could have sat there all day long.

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The night before we were left for home, Ben was in a hurry to get dressed for dinner and emptied a bunch of his dirty clothes in a small pile on the floor by his suitcase. When we came back from dinner, this amusing sight greeted us:

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All neatly folded. We died laughing. We were also sent away with balloons and our only towel art of the trip:

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Final parting photos:

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Punta Cana – we miss you already!!

The Honeymoon Eats (Part 2)

It’s a dark and rainy Tuesday morning here in Wisconsin so what better thing to do than look at more warm and sunny food pictures from Punta Cana?!

Tuesday night we took an educated risk and decided to eat at the seafood restaurant Oceana on our resort. We spied steak on the menu and decided to give it a try!

Oceana – Seafood
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We were ushered into a table at the back of the restaurant and looked over the menu for non-fish items. How weird is it that none of us really ate fish and so all 4 were picking out the non fish items to try?

Appetizers

Ben was still not feeling well and had another night of picking through his entire meal. I felt so bad for him. :( Three of us selected the vegetable pasta with crispy cheese garnish for our appetizer. It was awesome. The veggies were fresh and tasty and it was a surprisingly good dish. We all gobbled ours up.

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Main Course:

All of us ordered the sirloin steak. Normally sirloin isn’t a quality cut of beef and is more chewy than other cuts, but the buffet was always next door if we were still hungry… we didn’t need to worry though. The steak was amazing!

061It was a delicious cut served with grilled pineapple (sooo good!) and bacon-wrapped potatoes.

Dessert:

I won on the dessert front again! I somehow always had the best luck picking out my dessert. Everyone went with the cheesecake and I selected the crème brulee. The cheesecake was chalky and had a weird consistency but my crème brulee was sweet, creamy, and absolutely perfect.

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They didn’t flambé my crème brulee the way they had with other people’s tables so I am only giving this restaurant an A-. Had I been flambé’d (is that a word?) then it would have been an A. At the seafood place – go figure!?

Tamarindo – Mexican

I’d been waiting for the Mexican restaurant. While Punta Cana isn’t Mexico, I figured this would be a cuisine more in line and authentic to Dominican cooking than some of the other themed restaurants. We almost didn’t even go. Our friend had her heart set on visiting the buffet because it was Dominican-theme night and she wanted to try the local food. When we started walking through the buffet to pick some items, our friends raced over to tell us they didn’t see anything out of the ordinary so we might as well just go somewhere else.

But – they were serving that amazing Jamaican flambé coffee again! So the trip wasn’t a waste. We sat down and all had a lovely cup of coffee and then were off to try the Mexican restaurant Tamarindo. I just love all the differences between the restaurants. It really lends itself to a unique experience every night. We had a short wait and the girls checked out the gift store while the boys walked across the quad to check the sports bar.

Front entrance to the restaurant:

128Oddly enough, we were led to a quiet corner table loaded with rose petals. The only table with rose petals. ???

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We decided it was in honor of the boys and laughed and ordered our Margaritas. The Pirates were playing the wild card baseball game and our friend Matt had his tablet out and was literally bouncing in his seat in anticipation to get back to the sports bar.

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I snapped a picture of the menu here. Is anyone’s Spanish better than mine?

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Appetizers:

Every table got a lovely plate of nachos as soon as they sat down. Oh yeah! For our appetizer course the girls ordered the tortilla soup and the guys picked chicken corn cakes. The girls won – the guys’ dish was a bit dry and our soup was really good.

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Main Course:

The girls won on the entrees too. We picked the chicken fajitas which were amazing. Really, really good. The guys went with the flautas which were rolled up in a corn tortilla… and had some little chicken bones inside. Ooops!

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Everyone ordered the chocolate mousse and I was the rebel with the three milk cake. Everyone else had one bite and stopped eating and got to watch me happily devour my amazing cake. Boy, I was definitely on a roll picking the right dessert!

087 086With full bellies the boys raced back to the sports bar and we girls walked around the sister resort. They had a bunch of vendors out peddling their merchandise. You definitely didn’t want to say hello or even smile because they would be on you in a second with handfuls of items they were trying to sell you. Like this painting the guy said we needed to have…

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You may be shocked… but we did not purchase the naked saxophone women picture. How would you even get that on the plane home, you know, if you actually wanted it.

Mercure – French

Thursday was a bittersweet evening because it was the last night before our friends were leaving. There were just three restaurants we hadn’t tried yet: one was closed for the evening, one was sushi – so that left the French restaurant for our final meal as a foursome.

We had a silly waiter there who asked if we’d like our picture taken… and then took one of himself.

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Appetizers

We all got a cute little salad served in a crispy cheese shell.
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We had a variety of main entrees. Our friend Nicole went with the vegetable wrap, Matt went with the pork, and Ben and I chose the petite filet of beef. Everyone liked their dish this time. Mine was served under a bed of amazing risotto. Wonderful!

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Dessert

When the dessert menu went by, Ben and Nicole picked the crème brulee because mine had been so tasty the other day. Matt tried a fruit cake with ice cream. I asked the server what the best dish was and he suggested the layered chocolate cake. Guess who won again. :-) Delicious!!

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Mercure got an A- score. Better food than we expected and had my appetizer been a bit better, it would have been an A for me.

After eating we walked around the resorts some more, sat through a bit of the evening entertainment, and then decided to hit up the American restaurant for a late-night dessert. They’d been there the night they arrived so it was a chance for Ben and me to get a look at another restaurant.

Bluewater Grill – American Seafood & Steakhouse

It took a long, long time to get our desserts. I think they were puzzled that we didn’t want anything except the desserts. Oh well.

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This restaurant was on the family resort… interesting poster choice?142

Nicole had raved about the ice cream sundae so I went with that. The boys selected the carrot cake. Ben’s a fool if he honestly expected their carrot cake to rival mine. :p :)
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 Spice – Hibachi

Our last dinner was to the hibachi restaurant called Spice. We made reservations since we wanted to be at the actual hibachi table rather than order off the menu. We got seated with 3 other couples – from Ohio, Florida, and Holland (as in tulips and windmills and all that). :)

I think we would have enjoyed eating here so much more if our friends had been there too. Hibachi is much better when you can chat with the folks around you. Two of the couples had kind of paired off and were engaged in their own conversations and the couple from Florida by us were pretty engrossed in each other. So we just sat in the middle and enjoyed the experience. We ate the traditional soup, got a beautiful plate of food for dinner (the fried rice was AMAZING) and ate a single bite of the fried ice cream. The dessert was terrible – but pretty.

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Spice was a B+. The main entrée was excellent but the soup and dessert were not edible. Still, definitely worth going for the experience.

Well there you have it – all the food we ate on our honeymoon. :-) Anything pop out that you would have tried? We definitely lucked out being able to access both resorts restaurants since 5 of the ones we stopped by were on the other resort. Plus, it doesn’t get much better than a fancy dining experience every night for a week. ;)

The Honeymoon Eats (Part 1)

Here we are – it’s Monday. Did everyone have a fabulous weekend? We couldn’t have asked for better weather here. It was in the high 50s with sunshine and the Fall colors are still just glorious.

We’re definitely out of the wedding/honeymoon groove now and back to the day-to-day routine. We watched the first game of the NLCS (Go Cards!) and watched the nail-biter Packer game yesterday afternoon. The weekend rounded up with an invite to watch the season premiere of The Walking Dead with some friends.

I’ve been taking it easy this past week (and maybe this week too) winding down from all the chaos. Fall is my favorite time of the year and while I’m already bundling up, I’m taking time to enjoy the weather, the scenery, and my share of all things pumpkin and apple. But I still have a bunch of fun honeymoon pics left to share and I promised I’d get them up – so here we go!

La Riviera – buffet

Like most resorts, ours had the standard buffet restaurant that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The first night we arrived in Punta Cana, we were tired, HOT, and hungry. Since we didn’t want to mess around getting out fancy dining clothes (most of the dinner places had dress codes), we opted for the buffet the first night. I couldn’t believe how empty the place was! In retrospect, why would people eat at the same place for dinner that they’d eaten for breakfast and lunch?

Later in the week I regretted wasting one of our dinners on the buffet but I did get to sample that night’s specialty item: Jamaican coffee flambé. They make espresso and add brandy, rum, a layer of sweet cream, and a dash of cinnamon. Then they add a small capful of brandy to your saucer, light it on fire, and then you blow it out (and they clap). I could have drank 5 cups had I not been so hot and sweaty. Delicious!

After our first night, we used the buffet for breakfasts and lunches only. They had a really good breakfast buffet and I would have been content with that same food for lunch too!

053They had a fresh smoothie bar, an omelet station, tons of fresh fruit, and a large variety of other breakfast items. I wouldn’t say all the food was amazing, but the presentation definitely was first-rate!

076Can you believe someone had the time for this??

073074203It’s funny how you get into a routine even on vacation. We’d always sit in the same spot – where we were inside getting the benefit of the AC but also where we could look out and see the palm trees and the water. It’s a pretty relaxing way to spend the morning.

One day we traveled over to the sister resort and we took a look at their buffet. Very similar but the dining area was one large room instead of the more secluded nooks we had on our side. You could tell that was a much larger resort but it was weird hearing all the crying babies in the morning. It was much louder and seemed way more chaotic.

075039038Seaside Grill – Steak

On Sunday we decided it was time to tackle some of the fancy dinner places. Nothing required a reservation (which was wonderful) and since we were on the off-season, most places were pretty empty with no waits. There were 3 dinner options on our resort: a steak place, a sushi place, and a seafood place. Since neither Ben nor I eat fish/seafood, you can guess where we were headed our first night.

Appetizer course:

I went with the chophouse salad which had HUGE blue cheese chunks, bacon, and fruit. Oddly enough, I picked off all the bacon. Punta Cana bacon is not the same as US bacon and the difference was not good. Ben picked a creamy bacon and leek soup. He also noticed the bacon difference.

026 025In our 2011 trip to Cozumel we challenged one another to pick menu items outside the box knowing we could always go to the buffet if we were still hungry afterwards. We had considered doing that here as well but it didn’t end up that way…

Main courses:

Ben went with the steak (when in Rome) and I picked the smothered chicken. One of the more amusing aspects we discovered was trying to decipher that you ordered vs. what we thought you’d actually get. “Smothered chicken” to me meant a juicy piece of chicken piled with the menu-specific onions, tomatoes, and cheese. What I ended up with were two thinly-pounded flat and dry chicken breasts with all the toppings deconstructed… and Velveeta cheese.
028 027Dessert:

You can’t go wrong with cheesecake so I selected that and Ben picked the brownie. Safe desserts! Well… Dominican cheesecake has neither the sweetness or texture of American cheesecake and Ben graciously swapped desserts with me.

029 030032We gave our meal there a B-. Nothing too tragic but nothing to really write home about.

Capers – Italian

Capers was located on the far side of the other resort. For guests looking to go there for dinner, you’d go to the front lobby and they’d shuttle you over in a large golf cart. Because of the rig-ma-role, we asked our new friends if they wanted to join us for dinner that night. It was a pretty ride over with all the grounds lit up.

It’s worth mentioning that this was now Monday and that morning I had my first meet-and-greet with what the 4 of us would affectionately term “The Dominican Cleanse”. I remembered a brief but similar issue in Cozumel which lasted one afternoon and then was thankfully over. I was feeling better by dinnertime but Ben was starting to not feel so great, so unfortunately he picked around at the food and kept careful eye on where the bathroom was.

Capers was beautiful. I loved the look and feel of it. Of course I say that realizing I didn’t take any pictures of the inside. *doh* They had amazing wait staff who made you feel like royalty and we had some great laughs with them. You got a quick trip up to an appetizer bar where we watched a chef toss pizza dough in the air (the pizza was amazing).

Main Courses:

Ben chose the pesto gnocchi and I went with basic ravioli. My ravioli was edible but not great but Ben’s gnocchi was absolutely terrible. I felt bad because he was already not feeling very good and he picked around the unappetizing plate of food. I kept sliding a few raviolis over to him so he could have something to eat.

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Dessert:

Ben and I both picked the tiramisu while our friends went with the cannoli. Our tiramisu was absolutely amazing. I wished I could have had another piece! The cannoli was just so-so.

047 048One of the things we learned while dining out was that the consistency of food wasn’t very good. One dessert would be incredible and the next would be so bland and tasteless that we often didn’t eat more than the first bite. I imagine it must be a challenge to make food that is acceptable to palates from countries all over the world!

Despite the unfavorable main entrees, I gave this place a B. The staff were my favorite and I just loved the feel of the restaurant. They played Italian opera music softly in the back and it just had this awesome feel to it that we weren’t even on a resort anymore.

Whew, this is taking longer to type all this out than I thought. I’ll break here so I won’t be late for work. More food to come!

Making Friends on Vacation

So I’m continuing on my honeymoon recaps. There’s so much to tell and I want to write down my favorite things so I never forget them years from now. Isn’t that one of the best things about blogging? I sure think so! Part 1, Part 2

By Monday morning we felt like resort pros. We had tackled dinner at one of the fancy dinner spots and we knew our way around the resort pretty well. We decided to sit through the 90min timeshare presentation just because I wanted to understand exactly what those were. You always hear people tell you not to go, but I figured since they were serving breakfast at the same time, we wouldn’t lose much beach time.

After going through that (and no, we didn’t purchase a timeshare), it was almost 10am and we figured getting a palapa on the beach probably wasn’t going to happen – so we settled for a quiet spot along the lazy river that wound its way around the inside perimeter of the resort.

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View from across our new spot – you can see the swim-up rooms.

171057It was an incredibly ideal location, believe it or not. Only one other couple had set out towels and it was quick and easy to hop into the water whenever you felt warm. We were far enough away from the swim-up bar and crush of rowdy volleyball people there but could still hear the light din of the party music. It was just very peaceful and relaxing.

People on the resort were friendly but not really chatty. I’d smile at those situated around us but not really engage in any conversation. That all changed though when another couple came and sat down right next to us. They were from Pittsburgh and we soon discovered we were fast friends.

(we could hear YMCA playing…)

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It’s pretty rare you find people that have both the same energy level as you and the same vacation expectations. For example, none of us had planned excursions and were content to float around the lazy river. We also tended to enjoy the same things – like sports – and had similar interests in the nighttime entertainment, getting out of the heat, and not staying up for crazy hours in the evening.

We ended up doing all of our lunches and dinners together as well as hanging out together in the evenings. Our resort was attached to another resort and while they weren’t allowed on our side, we were able to take advantage of their side. That meant the disco club, computer center, casino, theatre, sports bar, and a variety of dinner restaurants. We missed the Sunday Packer game not expecting it to be on television but after roaming around both resorts, we discovered the perfect place for catching the Pirates wild card baseball game as well as the Thursday night Packer game – both in English!

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Get this, the sports bar had a built-in bowling alley! It was $10/game so we decided not to play, plus why do something you can do at home?

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Each night after dinner we’d head back to our rooms to change out of our dinner clothes and put on cooler stuff in order to more comfortably sit and watch the nighttime entertainment. They had excellent wait staff and there was always a lot of bling on our drink glasses. Fresh fruit was standard but at night you’d get the umbrellas as well as the fun straw paper fruit.
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I have a ton of pictures of all the restaurants they had at the resort and the food we ate. I think I’ll put that all into one post so you can see the goods together. We had quite a few wonderful meals during our stay.

Buenos Dias amigos!

Blue Skies and Palm Trees

Hopefully you are ready for more honeymoon recaps – because I have lots more to tell!

In 2011, Ben and I went to Cozumel for a week and one of the things we remember most about that trip was how tired the sun and heat made us. We were wondering if that would be the case this time around too – but we did great. In Cozumel we were sound asleep by 8:30pm every night and up at 6am. In Punta Cana, we’d get up around 7am and be in bed between 11pm and 12am.

Our mornings would consist of grabbing our towels and throwing them over chairs and then sauntering over to the buffet for breakfast. The buffet would open at 7am and we’d show up closer to 8am – but it always seemed quiet and peaceful then. Maybe most of the vacationers were still asleep?

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Breakfast was always coffee, fresh orange juice, and water. That’s a lot of beverage in the morning! They had a lot of “American” food and we often gravitated towards that. The hash browns, for example, we both ate daily.

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Meanwhile – did you see all the silverware? Each time you ate you had two forks, two knives, and a spoon. For the fancier dinner restaurants you had an additional soup spoon as well!

Sunday, our first full day at the resort, we decided to park down by the beach for the day. They have these thatched umbrellas called palapas that looked really amazing but also blocked a lot of the view in front of you.

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There’s nothing like sitting under one to really feel like you’re far away from home. It’s pretty cool.

The ever-present humidity:

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10 minutes later…

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20 min later…

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This was around 9am and there were still a bunch of open chairs. Since it’s technically the off season, they said the resort was only 70% full. That means lots of empty chairs, less noise, and no lines for dinner.

Ben is more of a fish than I am, so I parked on my chair with a thick application of sun screen and Ben would alternate between staring at the water and swimming in it. It was a perfect day.

Towards the afternoon when the sun wasn’t so direct, we moved over to the section of beachfront without the palapas. Instead, there’s rows of tall palm trees that offer shade. What’s also fabulous is that down by the water there’s a fantastic breeze which really helps keep you cooler.

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I found myself loving to just sit back in my chair and stare at the palm trees under the blue sky. Seriously, it was so peaceful and relaxing. The drink lady would come by every so often to get us new drinks and we would just sit, sip, and soak up the day.

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024It was the perfect balm to my stressed mind. With school and wedding planning dominating all my time and energy these past few years, I can’t tell you how great it was to sit, do nothing, and just enjoy. <3

More vacation recaps and funny stories coming this week. Plus, I spy another giveaway in the near future!

 

And We’re Back!

Well hey, hey there! I’ve missed you guys. What’s new? What have I missed? I feel pretty much unplugged and detached from the going-ons of the world and it’s been absolutely amazing. But now, I’m home, rested up, and ready to get crack-a-lack’in with whatever comes next. These next few days are serious blog catch-up because I am way behind reading everyone’s posts.

What a week. I’ve got all kinds of pictures and stories to share with you. Oddly enough, we did a pretty poor job picture-snapping while on vacation. You’d think being a blogger I would have been better at that, but I used the time doing what I wanted to do, vegging out, and detaching myself from the stresses of the past few months.

We had a 5:50am flight on Saturday and our vacation started by the airline informing everyone that they’d oversold 2 tickets and the plane wouldn’t be able to leave until 2 people gave up their seats. It took a while and a $1300 incentive for someone to step up but we finally took off 45 minutes later than planned.

The flights down were pretty much uneventful. When we landed in Punta Cana and walked down the stairs off the plane, we were immediately hit by the hottest, most humid weather I have ever encountered. Ben’s glasses fogged up and I could feel the hairs on the back of my head start to dampen and curl. Holy buckets. As we stood in the customs line of the open-air airport, I remember having a minor panic attack. I don’t do well in extreme heat and was wondering if I was going to be able to make it a full week. My pants were stuck to the back of my legs, sweat was trickling down my back, and I stared up at the large ceiling fans praying they’d offer a bit more relief.

Customs was blissfully quick and we found our Apple Vacations guy who promptly took our bags and rushed us to the correct bus. The bus was air-conditioned and took a bit of the edge off, but the open bus doors and overall heat couldn’t really keep up. We drove to our resort and I was so tired and hot we didn’t take a single picture. Can you believe it? We just stared out the window and took in the new climate and landscape. Interesting fact: Punta Cana has an Ikea store. We don’t have one in Green Bay. Not fair!

When we arrived at our resort, we left our luggage at the entrance and got checked in. They provided a glass of champagne (not what you want when you’re melting on the floor) and a COLD towel. That towel was glorious. It had some kind of tropical scent to it and was wet and cold – just what weary travelers need.

We were taken to our room and once we tipped and the door was closed, we stared around the room and took it all in. The room was really nice and amazingly cool. There is a dampness which is inevitable but the A/C was chugging away and it felt wonderful.

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There was a large bathroom and walk-in shower. The bathroom lighting was dismal, but we’d read that on Trip Advisor and knew to expect poor lighting.223

We took a few minutes to review the map of the resort and try and get a feel for the lay of the land. It was 3:30pm and dinner wasn’t scheduled to open until 6pm. Since we hadn’t eaten anything except a few snacks we brought along with us, the first order of business was to find the “Barefoot Grill” – a beachfront set-up with grilled chicken, burgers, and French fries. We made our way down and received our first Dominican meal (which looked a lot like what we’d have at home, ha ha).008

They had a little section of tables set up so we could sit and eat. A waiter kept refilling our water and we felt much better re-hydrated with some food in our bellies. We had a nice view of the beach and I opened my camera to take a picture:

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That ever-present haze plagued quite a few of my pictures. It was the lens fogging up! It would sometimes take over 10 minutes for it to clear up enough to get a good shot.

Near the grill was the beach bar, so after our late lunch we wandered over to get our first vacation beverages.

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A margarita for Ben and a pina colada for me! We grinned at each other, clanked our glasses together, and officially started the vacation!

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Ben declared that his margarita was fantastic. :-) It’s the simple things, right?

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We putzed around the resort and then went to the buffet for dinner – because it was close and we didn’t have to get dressed up. They were serving Jamaican coffee flambé and despite being miserably hot, I ordered a cup. It was absolutely delicious. There was a bit of brandy and rum mixed in and a layer of sweet cream topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon. They’d bring the cup to your table and pour a splash of rum on the saucer, light it, lift the flaming glass, and have you blow it out. Awesome :)

The nighttime entertainment would start around 8pm and we sat through a good portion before getting tired and crashing. It was a good first day!

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