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Monday, December 30, 2013

Trieste Cafe Review

I don't know about you, but when I forget my lunch or am too lazy to make it the night before I want something cheap, appetizing, and fast. Most of us are only allowed 1 hour if even for our lunch so fast is definitely key.

If you are craving Greek/Mediterranean cuisine for a quick lunch, I would strongly suggest Trieste Café in Downtown Minneapolis. They aren't really easy to find as there is no signage outside of the building but just keep an eye out for the black board they have outside on the sidewalk informing you of their specials.
Prices had increased

The trip took me like 10 minutes. It was like Jimmy Johns. I thought they had great customer services also in spite of it being crazy busy around 12 pm. I ordered the gyro with rice for $7.50. The option sized was perfected. I inhaled it easily, and I know my coworker can usually make two meals out of her food.

Gyro with rice

On top of fast being a key factor of where I eat for lunch, I also am very into quality. What do I know about quality? Besides being a foodies, I grew up working in a restaurant. You know what short cuts people make and can judge poor quality a lot easier as I've been behind the scenes. My mother is a perfection in her kitchen and only uses the best ingredients at Asian Café in Eau Claire, WI so I can tell when people don't.

I mainly judge quality on freshness of their vegetables. You can tell most restaurants specifically chain restaurants do not wash their vegetables. That is disgusting and a main reason why I don't order salads. I could tell that my green leaf lettuce was washed. There was a few browned leaves in there though. Also most Greek yogurt cucumber sauce doesn't sit well with my stomach, since I'm lactose intolerant (growing up from WI it's hard to resist). However I felt fine after inhaling my food at Triste Café.

It's definitely a place worth visiting at least once. I'm not sure if I would actually dine in there though, it a bit of a strange layout and felt a bit tight and cramped. Also it was crowded and there was a lot of conversations going on so it made it hard to hear much of anything.

Have you been to Triste Café before? What did you think? Are there any other Greek restaurants you would suggest for lunch?

Monday, December 23, 2013

How to effectively use the tools necessary for a CSR initiative

What are the tools you need to start a CSR initiative?

You first need to develop a policy to ensure everyone understands what the CSR initiative is exactly, and how they can contribute in each department. There are a few things you need to think about when you are developing your policy.

They are as follows:

1.       Business opportunities and how this works with stakeholders’ wants/needs

2.       How your company is currently addressing CSR and what it can do to improve

3.       Set realistic, obtainable, and measurable CSR goals with a deadline

4.       Develop the policy to make sure that your goals are reached

Once you have established your goals and initiative, the next item to develop would be the evaluation. How can you make sure you have reached your CSR goals?

Here are a few evaluation items to get you started:

1.       Activity: What did your company do to reach the goal?

2.       Output: Who was affected by the activity directly and indirectly? Were they the people/group you were trying to help? How many people were helped? Are your goals being reached?

3.       Relevance: Are all the actions taken relevant to achieving your CSR objectives? Is everyone involved who needs to be involved? Are you using all of your resources effectively?

4.       Sustainability: Are your goals and actions still pertinent and long-term? What else can you do to make sure the effects are permanent?

What are some tools your company uses for your CSR initiative? What have you found to be the most useful or not useful?


Monday, December 16, 2013

Some of the Critical Elements of a CSR Initiative

Does your company have enough of a competitive edge? How about using corporate social responsibility as an edge? 67% of consumer will most likely buy products from a company that gives back to the community over their competitors that don’t.  Toms is definitely a good example of a company that can back that statistic up with their success.

1.       Sticking to what they know and using that to help the community. For example, Toms is a shoe company, and they are donating shoes to individuals who don’t have shoes.

2.       Being able to justify the why of it all with solid research. Why should everyone else care about the corporation’s cause, and what exactly is the business doing to solve this issue?

3.       Focusing on one social issue/cause at a time. Everyone knows that if you want to make a big impact and get something done, you need to just focus on it solely instead of trying to juggle multiple things at once.

4.       Don’t be afraid to get help from experts. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. If there’s an organization/non-profit that is already working towards a cause you want to help, partner up with them and let them teach your company what you can do to make the biggest impact.

Those are some key factors to focus on when starting your CSR initiative. Are there any other elements that you think should be focused on as well?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Genesis of Corporate Responsibility

We hear about corporate responsibility fairly frequently in our daily lives, but where did it begin? When did corporations start to feel the need to give back to society?

The term corporate responsibility, or more so social responsibility, was first coined by Howard R. Bowen, an American economist, who wrote “Social Responsibility of the Businessman.”  This book focuses on how companies should behave towards society in regards to morality and ethics. Some could also argue that it started even early than that in 1930s and 1940s, with Chester Barnard’s (1938) The Functions of the Executive, J. M. Clark’s (1939) Social Control of Business, and Theodore Kreps’(1940) Measurement of the Social Performance of Business. However, Bowen was the first to have a clear definition of social responsibility. Bowen definition was “It refers to the obligations of businessmen to pursue those policies, to make those decisions, or to follow those lines of action which are desirable in terms of the objectives and values of our society”.

Although, there was a variety of literature that was published on social responsibility after Bowen, the first company to actually publish a social report was Ben and Jerry’s in 1989 followed by Shell in 1998. Shell was forced to take social responsibility seriously as they were facing accusations of being compliant with the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other activists in Nigeria. Shell was also being attacked by Greenpeace for their decision to sink the Brent Spar oil platform. Because of all these issues that were arising against Shell, investors and the public lost confidence in Shell.

Shell spent over 20 million dollars on their publicity to rebrand and outline their values “Honesty, integrity and respect for people.” They also incorporated on their website “Tell Shell,” allowing individuals and shareholders to share their concerns with Shell. It gave them a sense of having a more active voice in Shell’s decision making. Tom Delfgaauw, former Vice President for Sustainable Development at Shell, said in regards to the issues the company faced in the mid-90s “The best thing that ever happened to us, first because we’ve come out of it much, much stronger as a company, and second, because it accelerated a great many needed corporate developments.” Because of the incident with Shell, it was an eye opener for other corporations to self-reflect and prepare themselves for any possible backlash they might receive on any of their decisions. They also needed to refocus on how their corporation was affecting the communities and lives of people around them.

This also began the rise of other organizations who wanted to help corporations instill corporate responsibility into their vision and mission. These companies include: PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Burson Marsteller. Other companies that would serve on a more consulting side of corporate responsibility are: SustainAbility, Business for Social Responsibility, and CSR Europe. Also, as business began to travel overseas and internationally, organizations such as Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the United Nations Center of Transnational Corporations began to emerge around the 1970s.

How does your company fit in with social responsibility? Has the corporate and social responsibility actually begun at your workplace? Who is in charge of making sure that you are giving back to your community and making the right choices?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Don’t settle for a typical trip to the Grand Canyon!

The Grand Canyon is definitely a must see when you are in Arizona, since it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world. However, you shouldn’t just do the typical trip like everyone else and just stand around wondering how long you are supposed to look at it, like the scene from “Guilt Trip” with Sean Rogan and Barbara Streisands, while taking your obligatory photos which you can later post onto Facebook.

Do something different and bold to actually experience the Grand Canyon like it was supposed to be experienced. Take a breathtaking trip in a helicopter with Maverick Tours. They offer a variety of options, which will please just about everyone. You have the option of either landing or air tours.


For example, if you take the Wind Dancer Air and Landing Tour, you can actually descend 3500 feet and land in the Grand Canyon in the Hualapai Indian Territory where you can hear about their legends and culture. On top of that you’ll be provided with light snacks as well as champagne. This is definitely an experience you’ll want to have a loved one around for.


Are you and your friends a little more adventurous than that? You should check out Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters. You can choose your tour type from: helicopter, airplane, bus, or rafting. With the Glen Canyon rafting tour you’ll get a different experience and perspective from the rest of tourists. You will also have the opportunity to visit Antelope Canyon, where you will be amazed by the beautiful natural soft pastel colored rock formations. Your tour will be continued with a nice and relaxing float trip down the Colorado River. This is great opportunity to learn about the history and geological aspects of the formations which you won’t want to miss.


Have you taken any of these tours? Let us know what you liked about them in the comments section below.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Is Mister Rogers Evil?

And I stumbled across this ridiculous Youtube video...from FOX of course. Just saying.

Mister Rogers tells children they are unique and special, ergo they don't feel the need to try hard? Or they struggle with the concept that they aren't as special as they thought?

PUH-LEASE! Pretty sure, it's an American thing. Everyone is a winner. FOX said they compared US children to children in Asian countries on performance or something like that, and the children in Asian performed better or had the desire to try better in regards to grades.

I had a good laugh. Can't be proven unless these children have super controlled lives and situations and are only allowed to watch Mister Rogers compared to kids who are living the exact same lives and watching things OTHER than Mister Rogers.

It's an interesting theory though. I do believe that people who feel self-entitled and special won't feel the need to try as hard compared to others who feel the need to prove themselves. However, people who do feel more content with their lives will probably be happier. Either way, this has nothing to do with Mister Rogers.

What do you think? I'll try not to judge, but I probably will. However, your opinion is your own and I'll try my "bestest" to respect it. Promise.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Getting to Know the Mr. Rogers We Grew Up With

Sad to say that most of my news and information I get is from my Facebook feed. However, I do think that a good portion of my friends are not posting trash and do post fairly reliable information most of the time. At least that's what I tell myself.

One of my friend's recently posted "Thought You Couldn’t Hold Mr. Rogers In Any Higher Of An Esteem? Check Out These 6 Wonderful Facts".

I thought it was an interesting read since like many of us adults, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers, and it made me want to learn more about Mr. Rogers after watching this video clip below, "Mr. Rogers defending PBS to the US Senate."

I, of course, was totally won over by this poem at the end of the clip, "What do you do with the mad that you feel?"
"What do you do with the mad that you feel?
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong, and nothing you do seems very right?
What do you do?
Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up some friends for a game of tag or see how fast you go?
It's a great to be able to stop.
When you plan the thing that's wrong, and be able to do something else instead and think this song.
I can stop when I want to, can stop when I wish. Can stop stop stop. Anytime.
And what a good feeling to feel like this.
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there's something deep inside that helps us become something we can.
For a girl can someday be a lady and a boy can be someday a man."
Mister Rogers, Fred Rogers, was a man who saw a problem, and he actually did something to fix it. He did not start off in the television industry as a money driven individual. He actually was educated to me a minister and had background in music. However, he was not satisfied with what television was providing for children and decided to do something about it. He said "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there's some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen."
When Rogers, first got into the television industry, he was hired by NBC for his music background. He worked there for three years and then quit, because 'commercial television's reliance on advertisement and merchandise undermine it's ability to educate or enrich young audiences.'
He then worked for public television stations and the University of Pittsburgh's program in Child Development and Child Care.
Some nerdy facts you might not know about Rogers is that he wrote over 200 songs for the "Mister Rogers" song and one we are all familiar with is the "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" song. Also, all of the sweaters that Mister Rogers wore on the show were made by his mother. One of those sweaters is now in the Smithsonian Institutions.
Sadly, the show began to slow down in it's forth decade of airing, which isn't too bad. Later December 2002, Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer and passed away on February 27, 2003.
What an interesting and admirable man! Is there a modern day Mister Rogers for kids these days?

Friday, November 15, 2013

DT Minneapolis Food Truck Review

After a long winter that just wouldn't go away as well as an extra rainy and stormy summer, it's best to find some great things like Food Trucks to help us get through the weeks and crazy weather. It's also a great opportunity to get outside and out of the office.

This year the food trucks have moved to Marquette. It's always fun to walk around and see what trucks are there since it changes from day-to-day. There are also a couple of venders handing out free items as well such as humus and free soda. 

Below are the three food trucks I visited. None of them disappointed. The only thing that I have an issue with is the long wait, prices, and how awkward it is to eat. The food comes in flimsy containers, and you have to walk a few blocks away to find good seating if you aren't heading back to the office. The containers are definitely not for "To Go". You can't cover your food up and save it for later. It's more of an eat it all or toss it and dream about it later situation which is fine...but I love eating leftovers.

Chef Shack:

Chef Shack

I told my coworkers that I wanted something that was easy to eat, but a burger with a fried egg on it was the opposite of that. However, it was worth all the messiness and napkins.

World Street Kitchen:

They have Bangkok Burrito with flour tortillas, stuffed with fried rice, "secret sauce", cilantro and basil . You have the choice of red curry chicken, Korean "BBQ" beef short ribs, or crispy marinated tofu.

You also have the option of getting the rista tostas which had spicy jerk beef with white cheddar.

Korean "BBQ" Burrito

Hola Arepa:

Mole Chorizo Sausage Arepa
As you can see, I got the Mole (accent mark on the e) Chorizo Sausage Arepa. Other options were: slow-roasted pork, chimicurri chicken, Cuban ham and roasted pork, and black bean and queso fresco arepas.

Get Sauced:


Sadly, I don't have the exact name of the sandwich I got at "Get Sauced" but it was topped with coleslaw with an amazing spicy green sauce on the side!

My favorite food trucks this season was Hola Arepa and Get Sauced; hopefully we'll see them next summer.

There's lots of other trucks I have to try though. Let me know what food trucks you've enjoyed as well. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Best Juicy Lucy: Matt's Bar vs. 5-8 Bar in Minneapolis

As a food lover, the topic of food often covers a good portion of my conversations and once I get a food item in my head I have to have it. This was definitely the case of the Juicy Lucy. After having discussions with my friend about going for Juicy Lucy's, I had to have it. I even braved the severe Minnesota winter weather to get it.

The first place, I went for the Juicy Lucy was at Matt's Bar. There is much debate about where the infamous Juicy Lucy originated from. This seems like a hole in a wall restaurant with have too many chairs and tables shoved into a tiny space. The prices are cheap though! We (my sister, brother-in-law, and I) were all in great anticipation for the Juicy Lucy and were all left a bit disappointed. They had only offered on standard Juicy Lucy with cheddar cheese in the middle.

When I got my greasy burger cravings again, I decided to try their competitor's Juicy Lucy at the 5-8 Bar. I was not disappointed. That or I was so disappointed at Matt's Bar that it made 5-8 Bar seem awesome! They had more than one option of the Juicy Lucy. I have to go back and try them all!!!

Juicy Lucy Options
I actually went with the Saucy Sally which is considered the Lucy's younger sister. It's a half pound burger stuffed with their "secret sauce" and topped with American cheese, shredded lettuce, raw onions, and a smear of Thousand Island Dressing. I'm a sucker for Thousand Island sauce, but it was extremely hard to decide between that and the Pepper Juicy Lucy.

Saucy Sally
Compared to Matt's Bar we didn't have to ask for anything extra. They already added the lettuce and all the ingredients for us plus we didn't have order fries separately. This paired with a beer definitely hit the spot for me this time!

Just one more place to try, The Blue Door Pub, and then I'll make a true decision on the best Juicy Lucy in the Twin Cities area.

Let me know if you've had a Juicy Lucy and where you think the best one is located!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review on The News Room Restaurant

I'm grateful that I finally got to try The News Room restaurant and take it off of my list of places to try. It's definitely a place I'd suggest you try at least once. The overall food and quality wasn't really worth the price, but the atmosphere and design of the restaurant would be.

We went there for lunch and were blown away by their extremely large and overwhelming drink menu. I am definitely hoping to stop by there again for their Happy Hour.

However for their lunch, I wasn't incredibly impressed. Although I thought the service was decent as well as the cuisine, I didn't think the prices were worth it. Of course, I am a little bias since I love the hole-in-the-wall or mom and pops restaurants.

For appetizers we ordered:
-Arancini: crispy fried croquettes filled with risotto, benton's bacon,
and bleu cheese, served with marinara $8.95
-Brie Curds: deep fried brie, homemade blueberry ketchup $11.95

For the Arancini, we only received three tiny balls. A little steep for the price, it was good though. We were extra excited about the brie curds as lovers of curds of any kind and extremely intrigued about the homemade blueberry ketchup. I thought it tasted delicious, and the dish was worth it for the blueberry ketchup experience. However, my brother-in-law was not a fan of the blueberry ketchup as he thought it was too sweet.

For the main course, we ordered the Southern Bell Flatbread, Fish 'n Chips, and Kobe Burger. All of these dishes I thought were decent. However, the flatbread barely had any ingredients on it. When you first see it, it looks enormous, but it's definitely lacking any substance. My brother-in-law was super excited about the malt vinegar that came with the fish 'n chips, but having never been a fan of either I thought it was mediocre. I didn't think any of the dishes were something I would order again, but overall I do hope to make another trip there just to check out their happy hour.

Aside from the food and service, we also found the restrooms to be confusing. Still to do this day, I'm not entirely sure I went to the women's restroom. There are no signs and they are located right next to each other. I assumed I went to the correct one since it had more black and white images of women, but after leaving and taking a closer look so did the other side.

Are there any other dishes you've had at The News Room you would suggestion? Have you been to their Happy Hour?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Things to Do on a Budget in the Twin Cities

Twin Cities
Twin Cities in Minnesota is an awesome place to live and explore. There are so many things for you to do. I personally love trying new activities and attending variety of events, but maintaining that life style can get a bit pricey. However, if you are on a budget or trying to save that doesn't mean you have to spend your nights staying in.

Here are some fun activities for you to do when you are on a budget:
Indeed Brewery
1. Visit a brewery. What's more awesome than learning about a how beer is made while getting free booze?!

My sister, brother-in-law, and I just visited Indeed Brewery. Although the tour guide wasn't extremely charismatic, because he was under the weather, we got an ample amount of beer samples and great service at the bar. It was probably one of the easier breweries to sign up for. You can also try Summit Brewery and Fulton as well. Fulton you have to sign up for the tour the day of. You cannot sign up for the tour ahead of time, which I found particular aggravating since it's based on first come first serve. But I can't complain to much since it's free!

2. Hear live bands perform for free at the 311 Club. There's never a cover charge and a great variety of music!

3. Watch movies in the park for free. This past summer my friend and I watched "Back to the Future" at a park near by to us. You can see which movies are coming up through or City Pages.  It's so much fun! Make an event out of it and pack a picnic as well. There are a lot of people with dogs and their children. Get there early so you can get a prime spot to watch the movie. Be sure to wear some bug spray as well and bring a blanket or some lawn chairs to sit on.

4. Do something inside which is fun and educational by taking a tour at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The free tours are typically on Tuesday and Thursdays.

5. Watch comedians perform for free at ACME Comedy Club on Open Mic night. You might be a little wary since comedy is a hit and miss depending on the comedian but these comedians are actually pretty good. If they aren't you saved on the show, so grab yourself a drink!  

Hope these suggestions helped you get out into the city without breaking the bank. Let me know any other suggestions you have!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to make rice stick noodle soup

Everyone loves eating something warm during the cold winter days. Soup is probably the best way to warm you up and fulfill your food cravings. For me, pho, rice stick noodle soup, is a dish for everyday.

This is also a great meal to make when you are expecting guests. It's fairly easy to prepare and make a large amount of. Plus everyone can make their soup taste as they please with the ingredients they choose to put in it. The recipe below is just for about 2-3 people.


20 cups water
4-6 beef ribs
1 package of rice stick noodles
1 bundle of cilantro
1 bundle of green onion
1 package of instant beef broth for Vietnamese Noodle Soup
1 dehydrated galangal
2-3 star aniseed
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce
1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon of beef flavor
1 lime
1 green leaf
3 stalks of celery

1. If you are planning using the rice stick noodles that are thick and wide like the one in the picture below.

It's best to soak it the night before in a large container of water. If do not soak it, the noodles will be too hard. 

2. Prepare the broth. In a large pot, add about 10 cups of water and the beef ribs. Also, add the dehydrated galangal and star aniseeds.

3. Let the meat cook for about 15 minutes. Be sure to scoop out the film/froth on top. Stir in the instant beef broth. Let this boil and cook for about 30 minutes. When the beef ribs are cooked, you can take off the meat from the ribs put it aside to be added into your soup later on.

4. While  you are waiting for  your meat to finish cooking. You can start rinsing off and chopping your veggies.

From left to right: Green leaf, Celery, Cilantro, and green onions
Not pictured: Limes

5. I like to also boil another pot of water (10 cups) to cook additional meat in. This water is used to soak the noodles in also.

6.Once the water has started boiling and the meat is cooked. Take a strainer and put the rice stick noodles (about 1/4 of a package) in the hot water without the broth. Let the noodles soak in the water for about 15-30 seconds until it is nice and soft. Drain the water from the noodles.

7. Put the noodles in a soup bowl and add the beef broth to it.
Don't worry if your is not this dark.
If you taste it and it's too salty, just add more water.

8. Now your soup is ready for the ingredients.

9. Put a little bit of each ingredient (can be found at your local Asian grocery store) in to your liking. Sometimes people also like to add roasted peanuts or peanut butter as well as sugar and hoisin sauce. Some people like this without adding the ingredients as well. It's really optional, but I personally prefer adding it.

10. Be sure to squeeze in some limes and add the veggies to your soup.

If you'd like to make this dish but you can't find all the right ingredients. Don't worry. There's another way to make this that is faster and healthier.

You can just boil the water, soak your noodles to make it soft and add ingredients and your choice of meat and veggies. For noodles that you don't need to soak the night before, you can use this type.

Enjoy! Feel free to comment below if you have any questions or other ingredients you like to add.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Single and Occasionally Lonely

Dear Amy,
I'm single and occasionally lonely. What should I do?

Single and Occasionally Lonely

Dear Single and Occasionally Lonely,

I'm going to address "single" and "lonely" as separate issues. 

In order to solve your issue of loneliness, it starts with figuring out "Why you feel lonely?"

1. Has there been significant change in your life?
2. Are you unhappy with your life?
3. Are you uncomfortable being alone with yourself

4. Do you lack a social life?

There may be other reasons why you feel lonely. 
Below are a few articles you can read to better understand loneliness and how to get yourself out of the rut:

Being single and lacking a social life are a little easier to address. :)
It starts with initiative and confidence. If you don't have confidence, you need to focus on how to make yourself more confident. People are only allowed to belittle you and make you feel insignificant if you allow them to.

If you want to get out and meet people, you need to make the effort to put yourself out there. Yes, it would be great if everyone approached you and invited you to events, but most people are too lazy, comfortable with their current situation, and self-absorbed to do that.

What are you interested in? There are bound to be people who are interested in the same thing you are. You just need to figure out how to find them. If you are interested in a sport, find a league to join.

Found some awesome people you want to hang out with? Invite them out to events. Don't wait for someone to invite you. You should make the active effort. It is exhausting to always be planning, but in the beginning you need to make the effort. Most people already have their own group of friends that they hang out with. They don't feel a need to make new friends.

Still out of ideas:
Still can't find a group that is interesting on there? Create your own group.
Start volunteering or join a community committee. 

The more you meet and interact with people, the better chance you have of meeting someone who could potentially grow to be more than just a friend. 

Want to take a more active approach to finding someone to date?
Join a paid online dating site. Chances are if you are on a paid site, that the other users are serious about finding a significant other as well. Also, ask your friends if they know of anyone who you might be interested in that is single.

If you are looking for love, make sure you are ready for love and not trying to use that as a solution to your loneliness or distraction from other problems. It's selfish to be doing that and unfair to the other person. Love is about being unselfish and for a happy and healthy relationship both parties should be happy on their own first.

Best of luck to you!


Barelo Maya Palace Deluxe Review

During these cold weather conditions, your mind probably is thinking about a warm escape. All-inclusive resorts are a great options for a quick winter getaway. They are reasonably priced and a safe and stress-free vacation. There really isn't too much planning involved.

I went to my first all-inclusive resort at the beautiful Barelo Maya Palace Deluxe. It was about $1500 which included air fare, 7 days, shuttle transportation, food, and access to activities on the resort. The resort is located in Riviera Maya, Mexico. I also exchanged a $200 into pesos beforehand for tipping and to buy other things. Exchanging your money really isn't necessary American dollars are accepted on the resort.

When we arrived to the airport, it was such a simple process to find the shuttle service of the men in the "blue shirt" past all the people trying to sell time shares. Our names were on a list, and we were waiting in the beautiful weather for about 10-15 minutes for our shuttle. Since, it was just the two of us traveling to our resort, the trip took a little longer as we made frequent stops to drop off other passengers. It was nice to get to see the Mexico outside of the extremely touristy resort.

We were dropped off at our resort, and our luggage was taken out of the vehicle as we checked in and were given two glasses of a tasty drink. At the front desk, we received our bracelets that we needed to wear throughout our trip to receive our free meals, drinks, and be allowed to join the activities. Someone then brought our luggage and escorted us to our room. We were told that our mini-bar was included and refilled daily! There was also a complimentary bottle of tequila and grapes for us. It was very exciting and perfect way to start our trip.

Room: Entering our hotel room was really refreshing with the air conditioning as the entire hotel is open so it can get a bit warm wandering the halls. There is both a shower and a separate bathtub. You are given two bathrobes and slippers as well. I thought the sheets and pillow cases where dirty. There was so spare pillows and blankets though. My friend and others with us on the trip mentioned that their beds felt lumpy and their was a clear indentation from where others have slept on the mattress. Another group in our party had a room that smelled very musty as well, causing them to have a hard time sleeping. Our TV had somewhat sketchy connection, but it wasn't too much of an issues as we tried to get out as much as possibly.  

Food: On the resort, they have a snack buffet, and then various restaurants for you to eat at for dinner. In order to eat at the restaurants, reservations did need to be made, and you were expected to dress nicer for dinner. Some of the restaurant choices were a Brazilian steak house, seafood restaurant, steak and pasta, and a french restaurant. The dinner selections were of higher quality than the morning breakfast buffet which had a lot of variety, but tasted like bland cafeteria food which was understandable keeping in mind the quantity that had to be made daily. Near the pool was another buffet you could go for lunch which had more grilled foods such as burgers and hotdogs. Sadly, I felt like I was in Mexico and didn't even eat any Mexican food. That you'd have to get off the resort to do, if you were feeling more adventurous.

View: Amazing. We were right by the ocean. The water as so blue and gorgeous. Their were so many pools and even a sectioned off adult pool. For those of you with kids, there was also a kiddie pool as well as a fun activities for kids to participate in. Unfortunately, the pools closed at 7 pm as well as the bars by the pool. There was also no hot tub that we found.

Activities: There are tons of fun activities to choose from if you were looking for it. We got a blast doing water aerobics with the fun and flamboyant instructor. They also had zumba, pool volleyball, mini golf, archery, free scuba diving lessons, free snorkeling rentals (with $50 deposit), paddle boating on large bicycles, and lots of stores to shop at. There were also a variety of shows you could attend later in the evening at 9:30 pm as well as a night club that opened at 10:30 pm. The club was a lot of fun with great music and even a few instructors teaching us dances.

Other features: Luckily with all of the food and alcohol you are consuming, it's easy to keep that weight off if you'd like too. They have a fitness room and sauna you can visit if you'd like. Down on the bottom floor, you can go talk to some tour guides to arrange trips to visit the Mayan Ruins or other adventures.

Mayan Ruins: For about $117, we took a trip to visit the Mayan Ruins, go zip lining, cave repelling, and canoeing as well as get a meal made my the Mayans of today. It was a great adventures. I would highly suggest it for everyone!

Access off of the resort: We took a day trip to visit Playa de Carmen which was about 30 minutes away by taking a shuttle for about $3 each for both ways. It has a lot of great shopping choices to buy souvenirs and get clothes. The beach their is also beautiful so be sure to bring a swim suit so you can jump in. There are a few pushy sales men but nothing too be worried about from what I experienced.

Wildlife: While walking to the mini golf area, we definitely got see a little bit of wild life which was too much for my friend and I. There are a lot of critters running around such as lizards and iguanas. They have signs educating you on the wildlife that you saw. It's interested and fun if you like that stuff, but a little too much for me. But don't worry, it can all be avoided as there is a bus that takes you around to the various locations of the resort. So no walking around in the "jungle" is necessary. 

Customer Service: For the most part, I thought the staff did a great job. They were friendly and very helpful. Our traveling mates had mix reviews on the staff at the front desk. The group who had the musty room were not switched into a different room right away. However, another couple who wanted one queen size bed instead of two bed was switched right away. Also, we were only given one key card to share with our roommates. Some were easily given additional room cards while others were not allowed any additional cards. Our rooms were either cleaned too frequently or not frequently enough.

Overall, I had a blast. It was my first all-inclusive trip and was extremely free of stress. There was nothing to worry about. Not everything was included though. The internet access you would still have to pay for as well as room service. There were also some drinks that weren't included as well. More of a side note, since when I travel I enjoy being immersed in the culture, I wish I would have actually eaten a truly authentic Mexican meal and seen more of Mexico. So, if you are looking to see Mexico and not paradise, all-inclusive is not for you. But if you want simple and stress-free definitely come here. However, keep in mind resorts are safe compared to other locations in Mexico. If you've been on a cruise and enjoyed it, you should definitely try a resort. They are essentially the same thing minus the ship.  

Let me know if you have any other questions or have any other suggestions for great resorts to visit.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Is a destination wedding for you?

You and your significant other have finally taken it another step further and decided to get married. Now for the planning. What kind of wedding do the both of you want? Should a destination wedding be an option?

Here a few things to consider:
1. Budget. Who said money and love shouldn't mix? Realisticly, this is probably the first thing that needs to be discussed. Who will be paying for the wedding and how much is your maximum budget? Keep in mind, everything is lumped together in a destination wedding package. You only deal with a few people in this planning process. This is also your honey moon if you'd like it to be. You can easily stay a few days later after the guests have left to enjoying being a newly wed couple in a romantic and beautiful location.

Here's more about the budget of a destination wedding budget:

2. Theme. Do you have a theme in mind? What's something that both you and your significant want out of a wedding? What colors did you have in mind? What type of scenery do you want for your wedding photos. Below are a few theme options for you to consider.

Theme options:
And more

3. Once you have decided a theme, the next thing to think about is your venue.  If you both have decided a beach wedding is what you want. A destination wedding is definitely a great option. Your ceremony could be right along the beach with an amazing resort right next door. Who wouldn't love the option of walking along the beach with the warm sun and umbrellas in their drinks?

4. Date. When will your venue be available? Does that match when you'd like you have your wedding? Make sure it's not around any holidays. It may be ideal for you, but most people will not be thrilled about attending a wedding on New Year's eve or around the holidays. Will it be during the winter or summer time? Everyone will be eager to get out of the cold to go to a nice and warm destination wedding.

5. How many people do you want to attend your wedding? If you want something more intimate, a destination wedding would be a great idea. Destination weddings are a lot harder for people to attend, since it's more costly to attend one. But it's a lot of fun and you get to do a variety of activities with your guest while getting some alone time with your significant other.

Hope this has been helpful on deciding if a destination wedding was for you. Please share some of your stories about your destination wedding in the comments section.

Monday, February 4, 2013

10 Tips to Make Your Airport Experience Better

After returning from my seventh trip out of country, I can almost consider myself a pro at traveling, but I still make rookie mistakes. My most recent all-inclusive trip was to Maya Riviera, Mexico where my college friend's destination wedding was held at the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe.  It went flawlessly which left me still wanting.

For me, personally, the most stressful part about traveling is the actual travel. Airports are possibly the worst.

1. Always keep your passport and boarding pass in a place that is easily access. Always have it ready when needed as well. It makes the process faster for everyone.
2. Make sure you are wearing comfy clothes that is appropriate for both climates you will be encountering. For me I was leaving the cold snowy weather of Minnesota for the warm 80 degree weather of Mexico. I left my coat behind and just wore a nice thick zipped hoodie. My sister dropped my friend and I off, so when she returned to pick us up the car was already warm and she brought me my winter coat, hat, and mittens as well.
3. Wear shoes you can easily take off and walk in. Airport security is still making you take off your shoes. You don't want to waste time taking them off and putting them on when going through security.
4. Make sure you can run with your luggage if you have too. Life happens things rarely go according to plan. Your flight could arrive late to your next connection. This may mean you need to run to your next gate. You don't want to be the one slowing everyone else down. Also, if you don't think you can run with your luggage you may be carrying too much. Unless you are staying somewhere permanently, you really do not need more than one check in and one carry on.  
5. Bring a pen. You will need a pen to fill out your custom forms. If you want to get through customs fast, be sure to fill out the custom forms on the plane. Of course, you can ask surrounding passengers or the flight attendant for pens, but it's always nice to be prepared.
6. Take the stairs when you can. When we arrived from Mexico to the Houston airport, everyone who had gotten off of our flight where lined up on the escalators. Seriously? It's way faster to take the stairs that way you can pass everyone and get in the front of the line. Plus, most likely on your vacation you weren't eating the most healthy meals. You could probably use the exercise. :)

7. Bring snacks. No joke most of what I have in my carry on is food. Of course, I have a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, extra underwear and an outfit in case my luggage is lost. But mostly I have snacks. Airport food is so expensive. Also, they may charge you for your food on the plane now. I usually pack: meat sticks, granola bars, chips/crackers, chocolate, and possibly a fruit. I love to munch and my eating schedule isn't always aligned to when they feed us, if they do. 
8. If possibly, don't put your carry on up in the overhead bins. It is so time consuming to wait for everyone to sit and unload your baggage out of the bin. I always bring a backpack. It's less intrusive and large enough to carry all I need. There's also more compartments for a variety of things. It's still small enough to squeeze under the seat in front of you. 
9. Exchange your currency beforehand. It's just always faster and easier to get foreign currency at your local bank. Be sure to call your bank ahead of time to make sure they have the foreign currency you need. When you arrive to your destination, the first thing you will want to do is get to your hotel and out of the airport.  
10. Listen! Most of the time, your pilot/flight attendant will let you know which gate your connection will be at or where you can pick up your luggage. Pay attention. It saves you time.

Some of these things might seem like no brainers to you, but a nice reminder is always helpful. I know I definitely have stuck with this. It makes going through security and everything else about the unpleasantness of traveling better. 

Did I miss anything? What are some of your tips?

Below are some additional articles to keep in mind about airports: