Here are some delicious finds we had in Playa Del Carmen and Tulum
I love Valentine’s Day. It’s the one day to we celebrate love in a world full of negativity. It’s like beating the odds or overcoming the wrong in our world.
There’s so much negativity all around us everyday in our work, circumstances, and pressures of life that we get one day to stop and smell the roses.
These are 3 simple ways we can celebrate Valentine’s.
If you like to create things this might be an idea for you. Are you artistic? Do you like to work with your hands? Is money short this time of year? Here are some ideas you can create:
Create a video with pictures you have collected, add music and send it to someone you love.
Create a beautiful dish or cup at a local pottery store.
Create a warm and inviting environment with candles, fresh pillows, flowers and scents. Use this time of the year to create warmth around your home to remind you that no matter what, we need more love in our lives.
Make jewelry. Visit a local bead store and buy colors that remind you of them and create a bracelet, earrings or necklace.
Create a scarf. I bought material one year and made a whole bunch of scarves for friends one year and they loved them! I have had 2 friends knit me scarves and I’ll never get rid of them!
Make dinner with candles, a tablecloth, glass dinnerware and even cloth napkins with a table decorated with simple flowers.
Make a card!
Make someone’s day and share Valentine’s Day with them.
If you have the means and you’re out of time, this is probably the most popular idea.
Buy a card
Buy flowers – remember: white is for purity, yellow is for friendship and red is for love, A mixed bouquet says appreciation. I like to buy what speaks to me that day!
Buy perfume, cologne spray, pillow spray, a fragrance mist for yourself or another.
Buy bagels or donuts for the office.
Here is a list of people you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with;
Neighbor – don’t forget the elderly!
Did I leave anyone out?
Now go out and celebrate love!
Eat as much as you can, drink as much as you can and see the Coliseum. Well, sort of like that.
We had a one night layover and then returned for the weekend. Whether you come for one night or for the weekend, Rome is everything they say it is. Just spectacular.
I have to admit that it’s a city that comes at you fast. Unless you know the language or are with a local tour guide, you can get lost very fast and at the very least, the city can be intimidating. The maps made no sense, I had no WiFi a lot of times because I did’t want to pay $10/day for 2 weeks and, I couldn’t seem to ever find the name of the darn streets we were on! I love New York City and really feel I’m in my element there but Rome? Rome is on a whole different level.
The madness of it all is what makes Rome so enchanting, so romantic and stunningly irresistible. How you decide to enjoy this city is up to you.
On my first visit to Rome, this truly took my breath away. There are few landmarks that have such an effect on me as this did.
Here is what I would suggest and what I wouldn’t.
The Trevi Fountain
Yes it will most likely be very crowded but even though the city could be intimidating, I certainly wasn’t when I approached this fountain. Make your way to the front and sit right in front. There was no where to sit because it was so full even at 10pm on a Monday night, but when a seat opened, I quickly sat down. I took out my silly selfie stick and clicked away! I was not about to miss out on this Facebook opportunity, are you kidding? We walked up to the front, sat down, took a few shots and off we went.
This was after standing there in front of it just staring at it for awhile.
What we will avoid next time:
With only a few days to explore the city I’d suggest to skip out on these. The area we stayed in was so central and convenient that we were fortunate to run into a lot.
Tour buses - Unless you have ample time to explore the city, I would avoid jumping on one of these. If you do decide, make sure it’s one of the buses you see A LOT! Although that’s hard to tell. We spent quite a bit of time waiting for the bus when a cab might have been quicker. The upside was resting my feet and grabbing some great video with a cool breeze on my face.
Entering the Coliseum - If you have little time in Rome, just get there and snap your photo from the outside. It’s enormous and certainly worth at least seeing in person but if you’re limited in time, seeing it from the front is just fine.
If you do decide to enter, you’ll get the details of all that happened thousands of years ago that will stay with you on your dreamy trip in Rome. It’s not a good feeling. You’ll know because if you want to get in, you’ll need a tour guide just to avoid a long wait in line.
It does’t mean you won’t have to wait but you’ll enter from the other side of the coliseum. We had a light snack and a drink at a nearby cafe with a view while we waited our turn…to get in line. If you decide to enter just remember that you’ll get the details of what happened there and to actually see the inside in person could be a bit creepy.
Now about our health; because I’m all about Healthy Food and Wines.
what i would definitely “stick” with the next time
I was so happy to have these with me and when I realized I didn’t have them, I purchased them.
Selfie-stick — Who cares what you look like! Everyone has them anyway. You’ll be glad you have it when you can capture the scenery in the background along with your entire faces, especially when the background is why you’re taking the photo. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip and you’re going to worry about what other people think? Take the right photo.
Vitamin packs - I live off these to ease the stiffness and soreness when I work out. They worked like a charm as my feet and legs just ached from walking all over the place. Don’t just take one multi-vitamin, take a pack of fish oil, multi-vitamin, vitamin B, etc. All of them.
Small charger and short cable - Even though I left my cable in my room, I didn’t fret and start arguing. (Don’t do that on this trip.) I simply purchased a short one that went nicely in my bag. If you take one with you, always keep that in your bag since you’ll be snapping all kinds of photos from your phone and drain your battery. Don’t stress about losing battery life. There are stores everywhere and they’re so cheap.
Small Backpack - Who wants to carry stuff when you’re walking all over town? Neither did we. Don’t just take a backpack to carry your clothes but a smaller one that is stylish and small enough not to be too cumbersome. A nice idea is to just buy one wherever you go. (Why didn’t I think of that?)
Eat healthy; even plant-based foods - even in Rome. I happily ordered grilled zucchini with mushrooms and since I was on vacation, I shamelessly ordered a side of French fries. I didn’t feel bad at all skipping out every so often on the pasta and gelato. My body craved the energy. It was nice to not feel the guilt; the guilt of ordering differently.
When you know what kind of wine you like, you can’t go wrong with any recommendations. Is it dry? Fruity? Full-bodied? White or red? It’ good to know before you go to Italy because Rome is such a big city that if you already know what you like, you can tell your server.
Also, knowing what kind of wine you like can help you drink more great wine you’ll remember instead of trying wines you don’t like. Who wants to hear how bad the wine is in Italy?
I would say more but Rome is just a city you have to make out for yourself. Just go - even if it’s just for a few days.
If you’ve been, what were your favorite things to do that you would suggest?
When we arrived in a small airport in Split, we were hardly tired but were anxious enough to find a nice laid back restaurant for a late dinner.
As we rolled our luggage through the cobblestone floors in the Diocletian Palace, we were excited to see people having dinner in alcoves and having drinks on tables along narrow walkways.
The place is hard to describe because it’s not too often I can describe myself in an ancient palace bustling with romance. Needless to say we couldn’t wait to drop off our luggage.
People were out and the palace was alive and kicking and boy that got us excited!
We had no idea what we would find just outside our door.
The Wine -- What We Learned
Croatia is not a wine destination – it’s more of an island destination with great wine. With only a few days recommended to visit in most towns, stay a little longer if you want to learn more about their wines.
There are more wineries to visit along the Dalmatian Coast but you’ll be deciding to visit either the Falls, a winery, or swim off a boat. If there are places you’d like to visit other than wineries, take an extra day or two.
Surprisingly enough, as much as we like wine, we decided to explore the towns we visited than go wine tasting. However, since we drank wine with almost all dishes, I can say their wines are solid. They take great pride in their wines like anywhere else they tout their horns so taking an extra day wine tasting would not be a bad idea.
They have a couple of good wineries that were the same ones consistently recommended on Hvar. There’s not a lot of wineries on the island but the fact that there are, I would visit them.
The Food – The Kinds of Dishes You Enjoy or Not
I know, this is a common way to order (above) in a lot of places around the world, however in Croatia they take great pride in their fish dishes. If you make a face here, you might as well make a face with pasta in Italy.
We loved the clams, the mussels, the whole fish served in a pan and the sardines. If you’re allergic to shellfish or don’t like anything outside fish & chips, you might not get the ambiance here. Don’t like wine? Stick to the swimming and stay for not more than 2 days.
If you like Italian seafood, Croatia should be calling your name. Once owned by the Roman Empire, the food of the Dalmatian Coast is highly influenced by pastas drenched in sauce and loaded with mussels, squid and other types of fish.
Another popular type of cuisine is Mediterranean. They rave about cooking fresh fish in olive oil, lemon and herbs and it’s amazing. I loved how they mixed spinach with potatoes; a common side dish and which I’ll be making myself. (As shown in the photo above served with fresh fish served whole.)
Croatians are hard working during the high season months. However, I often found how a lot of them are not jaded to how tough the business of tourism can be.
After the Bosnian War and Croatia entering the European Union when everyone was old enough to remember, it’s good to know how special the people of Croatia are. There is now peace here and at the end of the day, they are proud to showcase their beautiful history including their food and wines.
I feel fortunate to be able to learn about this slice of paradise and it’s history. With palaces and castles that are centuries old that have been turned over by many countries throughout thousands of years traced back to the Roman Empire, the history shows in their cooking.
Our plan was to visit Split and Hvar but we got more than we bargained for.
When we first arrived at night as we rolled our luggage through the cobblestone floor in the Diocletian Palace, we were excited to see people having dinner in alcoves and having drinks on tables along the narrow walkways. These narrow walkways were bustling with romance and we couldn’t wait to drop off our luggage.
This town is considered to have a lot of tourists for their piazzas built in 300 AD in the Diocletian Palace. I recommend staying within the walls of the palace and explore the area around the town of Split. Stay for at least 3 nights to visit the Krka National Park and the next day to do wine tasting.
I’d recommend taking a day trip to the waterfalls of Krka National Park about an hour away. This was the plan, but we were so mesmerized by the town, we decided to walk up the hill to get a clear look at the vista and then a sunset boat ride along the coast. Still wasn’t a bad idea.
We are really glad we kept exploring around this town. As we looked for a wine tasting room that was recommended we actually ran into another maze of narrow walk ways that housed what looked like all the restaurants in town aside from the waterfront restaurants.
This island is the point to visit all the rest of the islands while staying in upscale hotels and enjoying cafes and beautiful restaurants.
The island of Palmizana is an island for those who like discretion. It’s a hidden gem that we actually got lost when we got off the boat. From the looks of it, there didn’t seem to be any habitation but to our surprise, there were little markets to pick up snacks, a steakhouse and signs that led into a forest of more upscale restaurants to choose from.
As we walked down a path that was taking us to the other side of the island, we saw many different trails to different restaurants. We decided to walk straight and stumbled on a beautiful cove on the other side of the island (shown above) where we were dropped off. I couldn’t believe on what looked like a desolate island were actually restaurants lined along the waterfront with places to sun bathe. I said, well, we have about 5 hours here to enjoy so why not.
We changed out of our wine tasting clothes into our bathing suits.
As we arrived back to the airport in Split, the airline host said we were 5 hours too early because I misread our itinerary. She said not to worry because the town of Trogir was about a 10 min bus ride that we could explore and have lunch before our flight left. It turns out, Trogir is another great town to see. I would recommend dropping your bags off at the airport, get on a bus and explore.
Although there were cafes and restaurants along the water, we decided to discover an off-the-beaten path place to eat. As we continued to walk into the narrow walkways again, only reachable by foot, we found restaurants snugged together into small piazzas unlike the town of Split (similar to the one on the left).
We eventually found a cozy Italian restaurant that served seafood dishes with their pizza. Seafood dishes with Italian food is common and like this pizzeria, it is family owned.
Whatever your destination you plan to stay in Croatia, you’ll most likely stumble on hidden gems. The point is to just go with it and know that you’re discovering a country full of surprises.
What is on your bucket list to see in Croatia?
That’s right. If you keep a diaper bag, why not a wine bag?
Wine bags come in all shapes and sizes and you really don't need to lug that cooler around anymore. Even if it’s a grocery bag, having a bag just to take with you on a picnic is very simple.
If you have a busy lifestyle like us, it's good to keep a list of items you'll need and these bags have definitely helped us pack those little extras for a picnic that have been worth keeping handy. We like to grab these on our way out. I like to keep one in my car too with a table cloth inside.
We have three nice wine bags but if they’re not filled with necessary items that's fine. The problem is you'll have to remember all the little items you'll need like a knife. I wouldn't think to have these items until I'm laying out the food and go, "ughhhhh!!".
Here are top 7 items that mostly will come with your wine bag but that you can add to yours.
- Tiny cutting board
- Cheese knife good enough to cut sausage
- Cloth napkins – not paper. I always add paper napkins just for keeps. Cloth napkins make pseudo place mats too.
- Plastic wine cups – not red cups and not the plastic kind you throw away. Cups with stems are nice so that you can hold it from the stem if you're drinking chilled wine.
- Wine Opener – Just have an extra one in your bag at all times. This would be the worst thing to forget.
- If you're bag doesn't come with insulation like our favorite wine bag, buy a variety of chilled packs to keep your white wine and salads chilled.
- A table cloth - you can get these at the dollar store but I have some plastic ones as well as pretty cloth ones too. I have added one in the bag too that you see below.
If you buy takeout, a lot of times you won't have plates, forks and plastic knives so it's always good to keep those in your bag too. However, I was so glad to have the above items already in my bag. All I have to remember is a bottle of wine.
If you keep these items in your wine bag all the time, you’ll have 1) something to drink your wine in 2) something to open your bottle 3) something to cut any cheese or sausage 4) something to clean up your spill and 5) something to cut your sausage and cheese on instead of your napkins that you’ll end up needing for that spill.
Here are picnics ideas. Now, go on a picnic! Just make sure you have a picnic blanket in your trunk too!
Does anyone else keep a wine bag with them?
Are You Still Putting Sugar in Your Coffee/Tea?
If you love food and wine as much as I do, you’re probably watching how much sugar your eating. Wine has a lot of sugar and if you're going to be drinking it, you might as well get creative with your sweetener.
A great way to experiment is with different flavors in a simple sugar. So instead of using the inevitable, reach for a simple syrup instead.
Cocktails are far exceeding wine consumption nowadays in popularity but that's ok. The experiments with simple syrups and all their uses are opening the doors to get creative in how you mix sugar in your drinks and foods. Save that sugar for that wine! Let cocktails grow in popularity as you put a few drops in your coffee on your way to work.
As I was conjuring up a story here, one of the gals at work created a few simple syrup concoctions for the office and sure enough, I was hooked! Have you ever had Lavender Simple Syrup in your tea? It’s amazing!
If you want to know how darn simple it is, here is the recipe for simple syrup.
Below is a list of ingredients you can add to simple syrup or just by themselves without the sugar. There were so many variations to write about I broke them out by category.
This is my short list but this can go on forever with all the different herbs there are.
My number one favorite - I love this as a substitute to sweetener. I use it mostly in tea but also in ice cream, smoothies and can't wait to try this in a cake.
Fresh Vanilla Bean
Fresh or just about anything. I added this to a seltzer water and gave it to my sister. She was like, “ooh! This is nice! what is this?” Yes – it has few calories than a cream soda.
This might be great for an elixir but also added to the bottom of your steamer for an aromatic touch to your veggies. Having a hard time with grapefruit juice? Add this flavored syrup to a ruby red grapefruit juice with a splash of seltzer and it’s amazing! Add gin and you have yourself a dainty cocktail.
Add this to your water with lemon for a quick water infusion!
Oh let me count the ways; desserts, teas, coffee, a hot toddy.
Add to Lavender syrup for lemonade
My favorite herb although I hardly can find it - mix with a peach puree, a squeezed lemon and spritzer.
Mix with lemon and whiskey and you’re cured from whatever it is you have.
Do you often find your fruit going bad? Here are syrups that you can create instead of trying another water infusion.
Any citrus Rind
Orange, Lime, Grapefruit, Lemon, Kumquats,
I wouldn’t think blackberries would work but with raspberries, this is a nice combination. Before both of these get bad in your fridge, why not steep them like tea to store in your fridge longer? Add to melon and pears for a beautiful fruit salad that quietly knocks all the ladies socks off at a brunch. No sugar even needed.
Add in a milkshake for a true summer drink.
Spiced pear syrup= ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and pear puree as its base liquid for some fancy cocktails. Hint: the harder the pear, the better the syrup.
From Your Cabinet
Look no further.
I want to think about this one but when fresh fennel is infused with apple, it’s great for digestion. How about in a spritzer?
This is beautiful in teas but of course also as wonderful in desserts – blend with one scoop of vanilla ice cream, serve in a vintage dish, and it will taste as pretty as it looks.
Great mixed with pancake syrup and of course coffee.
Chocolate and sugar - I'll let you take a crack at that.
Maybe you won't keep a stash in your fridge but maybe you will because you like this sort of thang.
Growing up, I loved how my mom added fresh cloves to an orange - the smell was so amazing. So with this, add oranges for an aromatic flavor to any dish or maybe Rosemary
Coffee, desserts and a twist to Indian or Malay drinks
Add this with Cardamom and I learned that together, these two are added in a mango lassis drink or any other exotic dish.
I say, skip the sugar and let this steep for awhile for soup. However, what a great way to stir your senses in a simple syrup for your tea before starting your morning. What inbox?
This would be great to add as a medicinal, which is what I did for a homeopathic tea when I was sick. I pierced peppercorns in a sliced pear and steeped it with honey and ginger and it was the only drink that cut my cough.
You didn't think these would qualify?
Sweet spicy and bitter for not just a spicy margarita but a kick to a dip without making it too hot. Just add a few drops at a time?
Dips, salad dressing or my favorite Greyhound drink of vodka and grapefruit juice for an even better health kick.
You want to add this to the fruit that you’re steeping and skip the sugar altogether. I never thought to add peppercorns into an Asian pear and boil with honey and ginger but boy did it remove my cough. If you're boiling any kind of sauces, remember to add the peppercorns and not just sprinkled over for a kick to your foods. Surprise others.
If you thought these wouldn't go well in a shake, maybe now they do!
Maybe you need the red for color but the orange are just as beautiful. Try them in smoothies, greek yogurt, or other cooked fruit like poached peaches and pears
Many people can’t seem to break the habit of adding sugar to everything even though a lot of store-bought foods or restaurants already have sugar. So you might as well take control now.
The idea is to broaden your use of different foods instead of just adding sugar. This is actually a great way to experiment and add health to what your body is going to absorb anyway. Like everything else, as long as we do this in moderation, we’ll be able to continue enjoying our wine because boy, does wine sure have a lot of sugar!