Travel

Cruisin’ The Sequel

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This past fall, my husband and I embarked on our 3rd Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. Our ports included; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; and Nassau, Bahamas.  This was a 6 day cruise with only one day at sea which was awesome, because in my mind that meant we got more bang for our buck.

This cruise was a bit different for us, because we had every intention just to relax and try not to do too many activities. For the most part, that’s exactly what we did. At our first stop, Amber Cove, we really wanted to see the city. We’ve always wanted to visit the Dominican Republic. We decided to take a taxi tour. Some of our stops included Fort San Felipe, Macorix House of Rum, the “rich” area, the not so rich area, and the local market.20171219_124156.jpgFort San Felipe was beautiful. This was a great place to take photos.  There were wide open scenic views with the ocean and mountains all around us. The only downside to this attraction is the solicitors that bombard you as soon as you get out of the taxi. Also, there is a small fee to walk around the fort. To me it didn’t seem like it was worth the price, so we did not go inside of the fort. Other than that, I would definitely recommend visiting this attraction, if nothing but for all of the photo opportunities.

 

20171219_114412.jpgThe next place on our tour was the Macorix House of Rum. This was a very nice rum factory.  Not too big and not too small, just the right size for a tour. They show a quick video in the beginning of the history of the rum factory, which was actually pretty good and informative. Then came the good part, the rum tasting! My favorites were definitely the fruity flavors such as apple and pina colada. They also have rum popsicles that you can buy in each flavor. Very tasty, and very much needed in the Caribbean heat.

The rest of our time there was a tour around Amber Cove (Puerto Plata) through the wealthy areas and the impoverished areas.  It was truly eyeopening to see how much of a gap there was between the wealthy and those who were less fortunate. Seeing those who didn’t have very much made me grateful and reminded me to count my blessings daily.20171220_120836.jpgOur next port was Grand Turk on the beautiful island of Turks & Caicos. We didn’t have anything planned at all for this port. Our only plan was to eat some good local food and relax on the beach. There are many options for dining at this port. By recommendation, we decided to try Jack’s Shack and we are so glad we did. We ordered fried grouper fish, conch fritters, and a couple of margaritas. Everything was so delicious. The people there were so hospitable and the portions were huge. If you ever visit this port, I definitely recommend giving it a try. For the rest of the day, we enjoyed the beautiful blue ocean and lounged on the beach.20171221_123640.jpgNext was Half Moon Cay Bahamas. To be honest this was not one our favorite ports. It was a Carnival owned island and for the lack of a better word, seemed fake. The water was beautiful but shallow. Not suitable for water sports or snorkeling. The only dining option was the buffet provided by Carnival, which had a very limited selection of burgers, hot dogs and an assortment of salads and fruit. There was really nowhere to go and explore so we had another relaxing day at the beach.20171222_123321.jpgMy very favorite port on this cruise was Nassau, Bahamas. This place had the best food, the best beach, the best tour and the best people. We really wanted to see the city so we decided to do another taxi tour. We could not have chosen a better tour guide than Mr. “Showtime.” He was so full of life, energy, and personality.  He took us to some great spots in Nassau.20171222_114000.jpgOur tour in Nassau included the Queens Staircase, the Rum Cake Factory, Atlantis, and Cable Beach. The Queen’s Staircase was built by slaves to access Fort Fincastle and was named in honor of Queen Victoria and her help in the abolition of slavery in the Bahamas. Our next stop was the Rum Cake Factory. The line was out the door for this place and for good reason. They have an assortment of rum cake flavors that you cannot resist. If you’re not sure if you want to purchase, they have samples to taste. One taste and I was sold. We ended up leaving with two mini cakes, pina colada and coconut flavored. 20171222_120902.jpgAfter the rum cake factory, we stopped at Atlantis. There we took a quick walk around the property and took some photos. Of course, you don’t have access to the entire property unless you have a room or pay for certain attractions. The main attraction for us was the “big chair.” The chair is a great place to grab a quick photo if there isn’t a line. After Atlantis, our tour guide was gracious enough to drop us off at the nearby Cable Beach and pick us back up after a couple of hours. They truly saved the best for last with Nassau as our last port. 20171222_134534.jpgDuring the cruise, on most nights, we would go to dinner, grab a seat at the show for the night and then on to late night comedy show.  The shows were musicals, which we really enjoyed. If you do nothing else on the cruise, please go to the comedy show. We have always had a great experience and the comedians have always been really funny. It’s a great way to wrap up the night. 20171221_204351.jpgAlso, another tip, if you are vegan, vegetarian, or have any special diet, please be sure to let your waiter(s) know at dinner. Most of the time they are more than happy to recommend items specifically for you or even alter a dish to fit your dietary restrictions. Also, don’t be afraid to request milk alternatives at the buffet or in the dining room. For me, it was soy milk. They almost always had some on hand.

Overall, this was a fun and relaxing cruise. We can’t wait for the next one. Until next time Bon Voyage! 

 

 

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Faith, Travel

The Trouble with Comparing

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Unfortunately, we now live in a society that revolves around social media. Getting as many likes and follows as we can. Everyone is so concerned about who likes them and who wants to hear what they have to say. What we don’t realize is we are fostering an environment for depression, self-pity, and self-doubt for those who feel like they can’t keep up.

I will be honest and say that I have fallen into the comparison trap before. Scrolling through social media, looking at the highlights of other people’s lives wishing I had what they have. Wishing I could be anyone but who I was. We can think someone’s life is perfect just by what they choose to show. Do you think people would choose to post their struggles? Most of the time, people only like to brag on their victories. It’s human nature.

The Problem:

The problem is perception. We perceive that the people we are “friends” with have better jobs, better money, better spouses, better cars, and just overall better lives than us. The truth is we don’t know what it took for those people to attain the things they have or if what we see is even really true.

Someone could post about the new home they bought. What we see is how we have failed at life because we don’t have a home (being facetious..lol).  What we don’t see is how much that person sacrificed for years, struggled to fix their credit, put off vacations and stuff they wanted to buy, just so they could have their dream home.

Someone could post about their fiancé or spouse and you feel like a failure because you don’t have one. The truth is you don’t know what goes on in their house behind closed doors. Their relationship could be a mess. They could have just settled on that person just so they could avoid being lonely. Just to have someone to post pictures with.

The Answer:

The answer is STOP COMPARING!!! We are all on different journeys in life. We just need to learn to appreciate the journey we are on. God has a specific path for all of us. It might not be the path we imagined, but we have to trust and believe that He will lead us to our desired end when the time is right.

We can never get to our future unless we live in our present. Our present is preparing and equipping us for our future. We can never be our best self in the future until we learn to master the small things that are building our character right now. Why rush God’s timing? I’d rather God develop me and take His time molding me than to end up in a situation that I regret or cannot maintain because I rushed into it.

Stop letting people’s highlight reels make you feel a certain way about yourself. No one’s life is perfect and no one has it all together. The only way to make yourself okay is to focus on God and focus on yourself. Start to work on the desires and passions God has placed in your heart now! Don’t wait until things are perfect, because they never will be. Don’t worry about how many likes and follows you get. Just keep going until you reach your goals.

 

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Travel

Miles to Magnolia & A Stop at Lake Travis

FB_IMG_1502209372890 (1)We were looking for a weekend getaway. Anyone who knows me, knows I love the HGTV show Fixer Upper.  I was just itching to get to Waco, TX so I could visit the Magnolia Market at the Silos. Lucky for us, we live in Dallas so Waco is just a short drive.

The Magnolia Market is a cool little area with food trucks, a nice picnic area, a feed store, a bakery and of course a home goods store where you can purchase similar pieces featured on the show. It has a very welcoming small town vibe and I immediately felt at home when I was there.

When we arrived, we attempted to visit the “new” (at the time) bakery and get one of those famous cupcakes featured on the show. However, our short patience would not allow us to wait in that long line. The line was wrapped around the corner and down the block. I guess we picked a busy weekend.

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Since we didn’t get to go inside the bakery, we took a few photos outside and headed into the main market area. Being the penny pincher he is, my husband would not allow me to grab everything I saw off the shelves. Believe me, I really wanted to. I decided to be more frugal and purchased the most comfortable t-shirt I have ever had in my life. It’s a dark grey print screen tee with a the logo and a picture of the Silos on front. It’s so comfy. I should have purchased one in every color.

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After a peak in the market, we went outside to the picnic area. The smell of the kettle corn being cooked outside was so intoxicating. Unfortunately, when we  finally decided to get some, they were shutting down and out of the one we wanted. They had so many different choices in food trucks. We weren’t really that hungry, so I just got an iced latte from Common Grounds and it was really good.

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After getting my caffeine pick me up, we went over to the cute little feed store they have on site. If you are a gardener and love plants, this is the place for you. They have a small garden outside and lots of useful items for your gardening needs. For the rest of the day we decided to chill out side and take a few pics.

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Since we were so close to Austin, we decided to go the extra mile and visit Lake Travis. It was the first time at Lake Travis for the both of us and it was so beautiful. Luckily, we were able to get an Airbnb at the Villas at Lake Travis, right on the lake. The villas are a little older. So if you are looking for something brand new and trendy this is not the place for you. But if you are looking a nice place to sleep and chill on the lake, this is it!

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do much of anything because it rained all weekend. To make the most of things and get out of the room, we decided to go to The Oasis on Lake Travis. It’s a cute little area with lots of novelty shops and an awesome Mexican restaurant. The food was amazing. It was a little chilly when we were there but we sat on the patio anyway. They had lots of lamp heaters around so we didn’t feel the chill at all. We also had a beautiful view of the lake.

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Overall, we had a pretty good weekend. We can’t wait to go back and actually get in the water. They also have a couple of vineyards close by that we want to check out as well. If you have been to Magnolia Market or Lake Travis, let me know where you stayed and some things we should do the next time we visit.

 

 

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Travel

Cruisin’

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A while ago, my husband and I went on our second Carnival cruise. We set sail to three ports, Belize, Mahogany Bay (Honduras), and Cozumel. It was a great experience. Here’s a little recap!

Carnival is definitely a party boat. We haven’t sailed another cruise line yet, but from what we hear, Carnival is the one to choose if you want to have a good time. They have lots of activities, a casino, shows, and of course lots of food.

Just a tip, if you can splurge, get a balcony room.  The cruise ship is close quarters. It’s really great to have a balcony that you can go out on and enjoy the sunsets and the sound of the ocean. We have been lucky enough to see some flying fish out there as well.

 

Our first stop was Belize. In Belize, we opted to do the Butts Up cave tubing and zip lining. It was the first time zip lining for both of us. It was such a freeing and fun experience. We were fortunate enough to zip line through the jungle across a beautiful river. The views were amazing. It is definitely something that I want to do again.

 

We were also able to do cave tubing with the same company. They take you on a tour through a cave on a freezing cold river. The water is really shallow. The guides were actually able to pull us along the river outside of tubes. It was really nice and definitely something you should do if you go to Belize. Another great thing about this company is that they provide you lunch. We had authentic Belize tamales and they were delicious. I would definitely recommend booking an excursion with Butts Up Cave Tubing if you go on a cruise to Belize.

Our next stop was in Roatan, Honduras aka Mahogany Bay. We didn’t really have anything planned ahead of time for Honduras, so we decided to do one of the more affordable excursions through Carnival. We opted to do the flying chair and snorkeling. When we got there we found out that this excursion was not led by anyone. You basically just use the chair lift to get back and forth to the beach and you can grab equipment to snorkel at your leisure. Since we had hours to spare, we decided to take a tour of the island first.

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They have lots of cab and tour services when you get to the port. I can’t remember the name of the service we used but it was pretty good, mostly because of the driver. He took us to most of the tourist markets and areas on the island. Our favorite place we went was the West End. They have lots of restaurants and shops in the area and the beach was beautiful. It looked like something out of a movie. We definitely plan to go back.

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West End

Old faithful Cozumel was our last stop. Whenever we go to Cozumel we always go to Mr. Sanchos. It is a beach club resort where you can pay around $50 for all you can eat and drink. It is definitely worth the fifty bucks. In addition to the beach, they also have two pools on the property as well as a variety of other activities you can do. They have everything from massages, to spa treatments, water sports, and horse back riding. If you are looking to relax , eat, drink, and enjoy the beach, Mr. Sanchos is the way to go in Cozumel.

 

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For the sea days we were able to participate in a lot of the activities on the boat. I recommend attending the art auctions for free champagne and raffle prizes.  The comedy shows are great as well.  I also utilized the hot tub a lot on sea days. The pools were crowded most days.

What made this cruise so special was our cruise director Rev. Dr. E! He was so much fun. He even has his own good morning song. It’s really funny and catchy and I found myself singing it for days even when I was off the ship. If you go on a cruise, I hope you are lucky enough to get him as a cruise director. He made this cruise an awesome experience.

 

We are definitely looking forward to our next cruise. It has really helped us decide where we would like to go for resort vacations. It gives you a good preview of  places where you would like to spend a little more time. If you have any questions or comments about cruisin’, please share below! If you are looking to book your first cruise try Carnival. https://www.carnival.com/

 

 

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Travel

Jammin In Jamaica!

Jamaica! Jamaica! I have yet to experience a more beautiful island than Jamaica. The weather is warm, the water is blue, the people are the best, and the food is good. We had the pleasure of going to Jamaica on a family trip and it was AWESOME!

The first night we got there we just hung out around the resort. We stayed at the Rui Negril. It was a beautiful place. As soon as we arrived they greeted us with a rum punch. Delicious! Unfortunately, it was dark when we arrived, so we couldn’t do much but enjoy the amazing steel drum band and dancing troupe that night. They were so talented.

For day 2, we decided to go parasailing! It was an adventure of a lifetime. If you have never been parasailing, DO IT! It was such an awesome and peaceful experience. Definitely an adrenaline rush. You could look up into the big beautiful sky or look down into the clear blue ocean. It’s something I would definitely do again. This was one of the highlights of our trip.

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On Day 3, we went on an excursion with the family. The excursion included 3 locations: YS Falls, the Black River Safari and a tour of the Appleton Rum Estate. The YS Falls were really beautiful but the water was very cold. They have various stages of the falls where you can get into the water to take pictures. They also have a place where you can take a swing dive into the falls. Unfortunately, I was not brave enough to do it, but my husband did.

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YS Falls

The Black River Safari was pretty cool as well. We got to ride down the river on a boat with a tour guide. Our guide was awesome and was very knowledgeable about the history of the river. Another cool thing about this river is that it is filled with crocodiles. They would occasionally come out of the water during the tour or you could catch them perched on a limb somewhere you could snap a picture.

One of the highlights of the excursion for me was the tour of the Appleton Rum Estate. They take you on a tour of the whole facility and teach you how the rum is made. As soon as you arrive you are greeted with rum punch and a piece of delicious sugar cane.  At the end of the tour, before you leave, you get to sample 10 different types of rum. All of them range from mild to smooth to very strong. Needless to say, I was worn out and a little tipsy after this tour. I slept the whole time on the hour bus ride back to the resort.

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Appleton Estate

The next day, we decided to do another excursion, but this one was a lot more laid back. We took a catamaran party boat into the middle of the ocean and went snorkeling. It was really nice, but the water was unfortunately very choppy. Not the best conditions for a beginning swimmer like myself. I didn’t get to spend much time in the water, but it was still a nice experience.

 

After snorkeling, they took us to Rick’s Cafe. Which is famous for cliff diving. They have a cool little bar and shop there as well. The food is pretty good. I was again not so brave and did not partake in the cliff diving, but my husband and cousins did. It was a pretty cool experience to witness and capture. Maybe next time I will work up the courage to do it, but probably not. 😉

When we left Rick’s Cafe, they took us over to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Of course we couldn’t go there and not get a margarita. The food looked awesome there as well. If you ever go, be sure to try their enormous portion of nachos. I guarantee you will not leave hungry.

After another great day of adventure, we went back to the hotel, showered, and had dinner. Another tip, if you want to take advantage of the specialty restaurants at the resort, you have to reserve in advance for you and your party. Even if you don’t get to try the specialty restaurants, the main buffet is just as good. They have a huge variety of food and of course some local Jamaican cuisine for you to try as well.

Overall, I had an amazing time in Jamaica. I definitely cannot wait to go back. Next, time I think we may try a different city, like Montego Bay or Ocho Rios. Which do you suggest? Be sure to comment and let me know. Until next time, happy travels! 

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Travel

I know what it means to miss New Orleans…

fb_img_1476214079124.jpgNew Orleans is one of my favorite cities to visit in the United States. I’ve been a few times and each time I go, I can’t wait to get back. This city is filled with so much culture, food, music, and good times. If you’re looking for a party, no matter what time of year, New Orleans is the place.

There are so many fun places to go, so many great places to see, and so many interesting people to meet. This is a combination of my past experiences in New Orleans and just a few places that I feel are a must, when you go visit.

The first place you should definitely go see is the St. Louis Cathedral. Now this is an active church, I believe they even still hold mass there. It’s a really beautiful place when you go inside. Filled with beautiful paintings, murals, and stained glass. It’s also one of the most well-known places in NOLA, so it’s a great place for a photo op.

fb_img_1476214070389.jpgRight in front of the St. Louis Cathedral is Jackson Square named for Andrew Jackson. That’s another thing I love about New Orleans. It is filled with so much great history and historical places. So if you’re a history buff, NOLA has plenty of interesting history for you to learn. Take one of the walking tours to learn more.

The next place I feel you should absolutely check out is Mardi Gras World. Here you will learn all of the fun facts about the infamous Mardi Gras celebration. You also get a chance to see the intricate floats they’ve used in the actual parades. My favorite part is the slice of King Cake they give you during the tour.

There is no way you can go to New Orleans without going to Bourbon Street. Bourbon is where the party is. I’ve heard that it’s mostly for tourist. Either way, you should check it out. There are tons of bars and clubs lining the street, take your pick. Catch a couple of beads from people on the balconies above. Don’t forget to grab a Hand Grenade from Tropical Isle, but pace yourself because these suckers will sneak up on you. fb_img_1476214064186.jpg

I’ve heard that Frenchmen Street is less “touristy,” if that’s a word. This is where the locals hang out. Frenchmen is filled with cool Jazz bars and restaurants. They even have a little market tucked away where you can buy anything from candles to wooden bow ties. If you’re looking for some good Jazz, go to Frenchmen Street. Last time we visited, we were lucky to see trumpeter Kermit Ruffins play at the Blue Nile. Needless to say it was a good time. If you don’t know who he is, definitely look him up an try to catch one of his shows in New Orleans.

20150320_184407You have to go to the historic Cafe Du Monde. There are no words to describe how delicious their beignets and cafe au lait are. We have to go at least once a day while we’re there.  You have to! It’s required.

Lastly, if you’re anywhere in Louisiana, go check out the plantation tours. These are really eyeopening and must see tours. No matter what your ethnic background I encourage everyone to go. We got to visit the Whitney Plantation and it was definitely a great experience. For us, it was emotional and afterwards we were filled with gratitude that we got a chance to view history up close and personal. Below are just a few pics.

So overall NOLA is a great city. It just feels like home to me. You definitely need to go if you have never been. Go #followyourNOLA and check out this website for more ideas on places to see while you’re there. http://www.neworleansonline.com/

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Travel

Hot in Hot Springs!

For our annual girls trip me and a couple of my friends ventured to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  I had no clue that it was the hometown of President Bill Clinton.  A fun fact I learned while out there.

Hot Springs to me is a small town with a lot of personality.  For some reason I just felt right at home there. There were a few confederate flags flying around, but for the most part everyone was really nice and friendly. I mean, it is still in the south and I’m from Texas so I’m kinda used to it.

The first thing we did when we got there was go to a bathhouse.  Hot Springs is known for their historical bathhouses.  We went to Quapaw Bath & Spa, built in 1922, of course it’s been renovated since then. It looks just like a modern-day spa on the inside but with special thermal waters that Hot Springs is famous for. wpid-20150807_120439.jpgWe got a package that included a mineral bath, a facial, full body massage and a foot scrub. It was all really nice and relaxing.  Just what we all needed. I can’t wait to go back.

After the spa we did a little exploring down the historic Bathhouse Row.  There are of course bathhouses, shops, tourists attractions and wineries up and down the street. I believe the entrance to the Hot Springs National Park is on this street too, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to go.

After walking around and shopping we went to check in to our accommodations for the weekend. A yurt! A yurt is like a cool teepee.  We booked a yurt at this place called Catherine’s Landing.  They also have an RV park as well as cottages you can rent.  We decided to do something different and try the yurt.  I really enjoyed it! It had a fridge, ac and hardwood floors. It was a little small but we made it work. I wouldn’t mind in staying in one again. wpid-fb_img_1440553406133.jpg

The cool thing about Catherine’s Landing is they have zip lining, canoeing, and scooters. So the next day we had plan to try some of these. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do any of these things and it’s not because we didn’t try.  We were too late with making reservations to zip line, the canoe was plastic and the seats were broken, and none of our scooters would start.  So our day of adventure was an epic FAIL! Which we thought was pretty funny.

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Since that was a bust, we decided to go back into town on Bathhouse Row and do some shopping. We went to a few wineries, a cool coffee shop called Kollective, and my favorite Fat Bottomed Girl’s Cupcake Shoppe!  There cupcakes are really good and they were on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars!”wpid-20150808_151102.jpg

We also took a cool ride on a duck tour.  No, not to see ducks, that’s what the vehicle we were on was called.  It was kinda like a bus made of metal, but it turns into a boat.  We went on a humorous tour of downtown Hot Springs and Lake Hamilton. Apparently these vehicles were used by the military during World War II. We definitely had a good time on the tour and bought a few duck beaks as souvenirs. wpid-20150808_124139.jpg

Overall, we had a really good time in Hot Springs.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a nice, fun, and relaxing getaway.

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