Trader Joe’s Fall Finds

It’s here!!! Some people count down until the day Starbucks releases their Pumpkin Spice Lattes, or the holiday menu in November. I count down until Trader Joe’s bring out their harvest treats. I love pumpkin. I am a believe that you can add pumpkin to anything and I t will taste good. So, this year I super stalked my local Trader Joe’s until someone would give me the release date on all of the pumpkin products.

Last year I thought I did good on stocking up on some of these products but I was all out by the new year so this year. With the long winters we have here in Connecticut. I need my pumpkin coffee 5 months out of the year, but damn is it hard to come by. When I went to my local TJ’s there was only ONE pumpkin coffee left in the tin. I always try to get coffee grounds rather than pods just because it goes so much further. But in this case I had to grab some boxes of pods for back up. Someone behind me even got upset that I took the last one… sorry about it.

The pumpkin bread and muffin mix is another awesome go to. Actually I’m a big fan of their corn muffin mix too. I am not a baker so this is the perfect, easy mix to have one hand for a quick breakfast or to bring to a brunch when you’re in a pinch. And you can always add chocolate chips to the pumpkin mix to make it a little more of a dessert.

Trader Joe’s Greek Yogurts are by far my favorites. Again another quick breakfast idea so I had to pick up a few of these along with some new tries. I’m not sure if this Pumpkin Soup is new or if I’ve just never seen it before but I can’t wait to try that. Something else that I saw for the first time was this Harvest Spice Trek Mix. It looked perfect for my flight tomorrow. I am off to Canada and with a whole day of travel, you know I like to have something in my back pocket to snack on. What are your favorite fall finds at TJ’s?

Friday Five – September

I just noticed, my last Friday Five, I only did four…. What!? What a mess! So this month I am going to have six fabulous spotlights to make up for skipping out on you before.

September may be my favorite month of the year. I love the spring but back and forth weather here in the northeast can be a little much. You know exactly what you’re going to get with September. Sunny and warm days and cooler nights. Perfect firepit and wine on the patio weather. Swoon.

New favorite TV show to binge
Binge watching season is upon us folks! One of my favorite things about the fall and winter is the built in acceptance to stay home on a Friday and Saturday night to watch up on shows from the week, or start a whole new show you haven’t seen before. This month I just caught up on the new Kevin Costner show on Paramount Network, Yellowstone. I am obsessed and cannot recommend it enough, but it defiantly has a specific type of audience. It’s pretty graphic on the violence and sexuality. It also swears a lot so if that’s not your cup of tea I’d opt out. But you can always binge this month’s option for Netflix show, Hart of Dixie. So cute, so happy, and such a good before bedtime watch.

Soaking in the summer nights
September nights are what I live for. Crazy humid days, bring either wild thunderstorms (like tonight) or insane sunsets. Last weekend we had a fire at my friends beach house and the weather was perfect. Then this week I had a midweek glass of wine down at the beach to soak in the amazing sunset that is the month of September. And tonight I’ve been stuck on the coach listening to this crazy rain storm.

Book club book of the month
Its been a while since my A.D.D. was able to give into a good book. I could barely put this one down though. The Couple Next Door was really the first thriller that I truly loved. I love horror movies and thrillers when I watch them, but its always been hard for me to read a thriller. This had so many twists and turns and I really wasn’t sure how it was going to end, even when I had figured out who was the antagonist was.

Me time
My goal for September is to really get back into a routine. It is so easy to let all senses of a routine get pushed aside during the summer, as you can see from my lack of posts this summer. I’ve been scheduling myself a me night once a week. I take my laptop to a local coffee shop, turn on my favorite podcast (hey Straight up with Stassi) and write. This year, I got not one, but two promotions at work, so this fall is about putting myself out there, and diving deeper into my passion projects. And a little bit of people watching once a week doesn’t hurt either.

Sephora’s Cream Lip Stain Liquid Lipstick
These aren’t new to me, but they are perfect for fall. Last year one of my girlfriends introduced me to Sephora’s Cream Lip Stain Liquid Lipstick. Their shades are everything and best of all: they stay put! I can wear these all day and I barely have to reapply. These three are my current favorites (here, here, and here) and perfect for the fall. Because my complexion is so fair, I can’t really get into the dark maroons, browns and purples that scream fall so these are great for the pale skinned girls out there.

Finally getting sleep with the help of Young Living
I’ve officially drank the kool-aid and got myself a Young Living starter kit. If you’ve been on Instagram for even a second, you know that these essential oils are everything right now. I’m not going to lie, I can’t get full on into them. I’m not here to switch up every product in my house, stop buying candles, and say that an oil can fix everything. But for me, it’s fixed my sleep problems for sure. I’ve always had problems sleeping. Whether it’s getting to sleep or staying asleep, it’s been a struggle for a long time. Diffusing Cedarwood, Frankincense, and Lavender has helped so much. I sleep throughout the whole night, I sleep deeper, and I was up feeling rested. I even made a spray to bring with me this week on my trip. If you’re interested, definitely reach out to me, I’d love to talk more oils with you.

New England Weekend Getaway Ideas

Growing up it was always funny to me how much some people loved New England. The quaint beach towns and little shops and restaurants, I just thought every town was just like mine. And then I moved to Los Angeles, where you would assume the beaches are better than anywhere else. I was stuck in mobs of people heading to the same beach as me, fighting for a spot, and eating at over priced restaurants that were just ok.

Now as an adult, I appreciate my cute little home town, and I embrace the other towns and areas around me. One thing I’ve learned recently is you really never know where your path is going or where you’ll end up so I believe in living in the moment and taking advantage of what is around you.

I put together some of my favorite spots in New England that are perfect for weekend getaways. I included a few places I haven’t been but are on my bucket list to check out really soon.

Maine
My favorite ways to travel is to have no expectations and be shown around like a local (hence the reason I fell in love with Oregon). One of my best friends grew up in Maine on a cute little island. In college we would go up during the summer and explore her town, eat copious amounts of Lobster, shop all of the outlets in Freeport and spend the nights enjoying the lack of light pollution. This was before Portland (Maine) had become such a food and beer mecha. I would love to get up there again and really explore Portland as an adult, and as someone that appreciates food and drinks now.  I also never was able to stop in Kennebunk or explore north to Acadia and Bar Harbor area. There is still so much of Maine to see.

Newport, Rhode Island
Over New Years one of my oldest girlfriends got married in this magical town. I hadn’t been there since my cousin got married in Newport 20 years ago. This beautiful place definitely turns into a ghost town during the winter months, but in the summer the amazing views of the mansions on the cliffs, the legendary Newport Bridge and all of the gorgeous lighthouses in the area really set the stage for a perfect weekend getaway.

Cape Cod and the Islands
This summer I went to the Cape for 24 hours and it was just what I needed to start my summer. Nothing says summer in New England like Cape Cod. Even though I’ve been to this amazingly quintessential New England area countless times, I have never been out to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. Just a quick ferry ride from Hyannis, you can get to either of these islands and enjoy a perfect long weekend away from the rest of the world.

Long Island, New York
I can see Long Island from any beach in my town. The 11 miles across the sound seems so close on a clear day, but the hour and half ferry ride, or nearly two-hour drive through New York’s boroughs to Long Island makes it seem so much further. This summer I took two trips over to Long Island and finally got to see it more than just a shadow in the distance. One day we spent the day exploring Port Jefferson, walking in and out of the shops and eating and drinking our way through town. A few weeks later we took the ferry over again and explored the wineries on the north fork.

Finger Lakes, New York
During our drive across country last year, we stopped at a winery in Virginia and when we told the owner where we were from, he couldn’t stop raving about the Finger Lakes and their wines. I literally have never heard of New York having a wine region outside of the North Fork of Long Island, let alone, had I ever heard of the Finger Lakes. (To us in the Tri-State area, New York is the City and Long Island and that’s about it.) Then when every blogger under the sun went to Aurora last summer to check out the Mackenzie-Childs HQ, I decided I needed to put it on my list. The Finger Lakes area little further away, which is probably why I wasn’t able to get there this summer. A good 5 hour drive north-west of NYC, I would definitely want to take at least a 5-night trip up there. Wineries, beer, good food, and tons of hiking and waterfalls, this seems like it would be my paradise.

Burlington, Vermont
Most people think of Vermont as a winter destination, but for my non-athletic ass, I like Vermont in the summer the most. There are a ton of lakes you can play on and at night, the weather is perfect for a bonfire. Last summer a few of us went up to visit our friend who lives on Lake Bomoseen and it was a perfect end to the summer. But Burlington is an awesome place to check out if you’re not so into the great outdoors. There are tons of restaurants and shops up here on Church St. Definitely on my list of the fall or next spring.

Summer Must Dos in Connecticut

Summer in the Northeast is what we have been looking forward to pretty much since Thanksgiving. Once the weather starts getting cold, New Englanders go into pure hibernation so when the leaves start showing their buds and the flowers start parking out from the ground, everyone goes bananas.

People suddenly start remembering they should have been exercising all winter, ice cream becomes life, and every meal needs to be eaten outdoors… on a patio… with rose. Obviously.

My planner has been getting more and more full, and the Netflix binge watching has toned down a lot. It’s been pretty hard to keep up with my Braverman’s on Parenthood since Mother Nature decided it was time she started being friendlier.

I’ve started making my annual summer to do list.

Thimble Island Boat Cruise
Years ago my parents would take us to Stony Creek and the Thimble Islands, a little group of islands in Long Island Sound. Someone my cousin new had a house out on one of the islands and I remember running around exploring the little island like it was out in the Caribbean. Now that I’m not 10 anymore I know that Long Island Sound is far from the blue waters of the Caribbean but the little islands are still pretty cool. I can’t wait to take the tour around the islands, and then maybe check out the nearby brewery with the same name.

Connecticut’s Wine Trail
Last year I was able to check out a lot of the Connecticut wineries but honestly, I barely checked off half of the list of wineries around here. This year I am hoping to finish the list, and maybe even move onto some in the North Fork of Long Island.

Sunday morning hikes
There are so many hiking trails in Connecticut and I am looking forward to my Sunday morning hikes at Sleeping Giant and Devils Hopyard. Connecticut has so many good State Parks with awesome waterfalls and trails.

Book club and rose
Last month my girlfriends and I had our first book club of the summer. It’s basically a good reason to get together, spend very little money, and force ourselves to read. More on that next week but I will say, we jumped right in to our first book by asking the author to come join us for our meeting.

Explore NYC
I always say how much I take living so close to New York for granted. This summer I plan on getting into the city more often then I have in the past. Last month one of my friends from California was in New York and we were able to spend the day strolling Central Park and catch a Broadway show together. Earlier this month a few friends and I stopped into the city for an impromptu Monday night dinner. It’s always easier to get into the city in the summer and not have to deal with the snow and cold that the winter brings. Also having a drink, rooftop at Eataly doesn’t hurt either.

Eat all of the ice cream
Like I said, ice cream is life in New England during the summer. My first job was at one of our local ice cream shops but here most of them close for the winter. The spring weather has most of the shops open again and I’m ready for my weekly ice cream cone.

 

 

4 Days in the Yucatan Peninsula

If you follow me on Instagram, you definitely saw my oversharing from my trip to Playa del Carmen at the beginning of the month. Back in September I was lucky enough to be gifted a trip to Sandos Playacar for me and a guest (one of the many perks of working in the travel industry) and I figured it was the perfect halfway point for me and my west coast bestie, also named Megan, to meet up.

Being on different time zones and just busy all the time, it hasn’t been easy to keep in touch as often as I’d like so this was the perfect excuse to get together, catch up on life and relax a little for ourselves.

Thursday afternoon we each flew into Cancun airport, which is just a quick hour drive to Playa del Carmen. Because we were coming from different airports, and different coasts, my Jet Blue flight landed a whole 3 and a half hours before Megan’s. After clearing customs and grabbing my bags I headed out to the arrival area where they had a few options for outdoor restaurants. I sat down with a margarita, ceviche, and a book and hung outside, soaking up the Cancun sun for a few hours. Once Megan’s plane landed I took the free terminal shuttle over to where her flight was coming in from LAX and waited for her outside of the arrivals gate.

How we got there
Getting to any resort in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, or Cancun is pretty easy. I live by the motto of, if you don’t have a ton of time, spend the extra money for convencience. We had a private car bring us straight to our hotel. We used Olympus Tours and for just $214 roundtrip we were picked up right outside of the baggage claim. No stops at other resorts or waiting to pick up other guests. The next day we met up with Jorge from Olympus to set up our return pick up time and we were actually the ones to bring up doing another tour using Olympus. More on that later, but it was nice to not even think about being pressured into adding on tours or activities, which was awesome.

Where we stayed
Like I mentioned earlier, I was gifted a trip to Sandos Playacar by one of my business partners. When we got down to Playa del Carmen, our driver pulled through gates and I assumed we were at our resort, but we weren’t. Playacar is a gated little subdivision of Playa del Carmen with private homes, restaurants, clean streets and manicured lawns. It was really nice to know that we could go for a little walk around the neighborhood if we wanted and it would still be safe.

We stayed in a Junior Suite Select in the adults only section of the hotel. It was perfect. While Sandos Playacar is a great place for families, we weren’t traveling with kids so the adults only section was ideal for us. Our room overlooked the adults only pool with a swim up bar, and jacuzzi.

My favorite part of all inclusive resorts is that everything is included. You can throw your wallet in the safe once you get there and not worry about anything for the rest of your trip. We ate at a lot of the restaurants on property while we were there but my favorite was definitely Asiana, the Asian fusion restaurant.

I would say my only complaint may be the breakfast options. The buffet was the only restaurant open for in the mornings and it was busy each time we stopped in. One morning we opted for room service, but the options were very limited.

The beach at Sandos Playacar was amazing. I’m not much of a beach person. I love to go and sit but don’t usually get in the water. (My town’s beaches are on Long Island Sound… not ideal swimming water, and in Southern California, the water is pretty cold most of the year, so I’ve never really lived anywhere I’d want to jump in.) This was beautiful, and I could see my toes even when we were pretty far out in the water so that’s a win for me. The resort offered a ton of activities including paddle boarding, jet skiing, parasailing, and snorkeling.

What we did
Going down to Mexico we knew we wanted to visit some of the Mayan Ruins but we were torn on spending the whole day and heading to Chichen Itza or doing a half day trip to the much closer Tulum, with much cooler temperatures. Once we started talking with Jorge at Olympus Tours he convinced us to do both with a private driver and make a full day of it. (What can I say, we’re suckers.) He set us up with Living Dreams Mexico and our guide Edwin. It was seamless.

Our driver picked us up bright and early and drove us over to Chichen Itza where we were some of the first people to get into the archaeological site. Our guide was so knowledgeable and passionate about the history of the ruins and his country it was a perfect match for my history teacher travel buddy and I.

*Tip: Wear light fabrics like linen. It is HOT at the archiological sites and there isn’t a ton a shade. The best part of our private driver, after touring the sites he had cold, wet clothes for us to cool us down. A-MAZ-ING! Also, I opted out of jean shorts this day and stuck with a pair of Old Navy soft shorts.

After spending an hour or so getting a private tour around the ruins we headed to a local cenote where we were able to hop in and swim around for a little bit. It was a perfect way to cool down after spending the morning in the sun at Chichen Itza. Cenotes are scattered all around the Yucatán Peninsula. They’re caused by lime rock collapsing and Edwin told us that the Mayan people would sacrifice themselves in these natural sinkholes because they would be closer to the underworld. Chichen Itza has a famous cenote, Sacred Cenote, where a lot of Mayan people sacrificed themselves for rain, crops, and fortune.

We grabbed lunch at the hacienda on the property of the cenote and headed over to one of the few colonial towns that are still in tact from before Mexico got its independence, Valladolid. We were able to get out and wander around on our own a little here in this European inspired city. The cobblestoned streets were lined with pastel colored shops. Right in the middle of town was a square lined with trees and beautiful, Spanish inspired artwork. Megan told me that in the colonial times the colors of the buildings are what dictated what the building was. They didn’t have signs because they didn’t want the slaves learning how to read so color coding was how they operated.  (Even when the history teacher is on vacation, she teaches.)

After Valladolid we headed an hour and a half back to the Caribbean to Tulum. According to Edwin, Tulum’s ruins have been 100% uncovered where only 20% of Chichen Itza has been. It was amazing to see the city as a whole perched up on a cliff. There were look out towers and the foundations of homes that you would see surrounding the temple. This was absolutely my favorite part of the day and definitely a place where you could go without a guide and feel like you saw a lot.

Honestly, if I were to do it over, I may skip Chichen Itza. I know it is probably the most famous of the ruins, but it felt very inauthentic. We went early, and because we were with Edwin, we were able to skip the lines and get around most of the crowds but there were vendors everywhere. It felt like a tourist trap. Tulum was totally different. There were little restaurants outside of the archaeological site, in the little town, but inside the walls of the city there were no vendors or people trying to get you to buy anything. Edwin recommended us visiting Coba, one of the few ruins you can still climb, and I wish we had taken his suggestion and done that instead of Chichen Itza. But I felt like it was as if I were to have gone to New York and not seen the Statue of Liberty. Next time I go to Mexico, Coba is high on the priority list.

Three nights in Playa del Carmen just weren’t enough for me. Before going to Mexico I assumed it was a place where you would just go, sit on the beach with a cocktail and a good book, and that’s not my favorite type of vacation. Now knowing how much there is to do in the Yucatan Peninsula, and what a great value Mexico is for US travelers, I would love to plan a trip there again.

What I’d like to do, but we didn’t have time
-Snorkel the second largest coral reef in the world
-Visit Las Coloradas (the pink lakes about 2.5 hours north west of Cancun)
-Spend the day at the aquatic theme park, Xel-Há
-Explore Cozumel