How to Honeymoon in El Nido, Philippines (And What to do!)

With a running list of places I plan to visit one day, determining where we should honeymoon should have been easy right?

Wrong.

With flights, costs, timing, seasons and future plans, I found picking a place to be almost overwhelming.

We narrowed it down by determining what we wanted to do. A honeymoon to me has always looked like a beach, a lounge chair and a cocktail in hand. We wanted a region we probably would not visit for some time afterward.

The Philippines has always been on that running list and after seeing images of El Nido; I was on board.

El Nido is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. El Nido is in the province of Palawan. The white-sand beaches, coral reefs, and limestone cliffs are breathtaking.

After many google searches and trip reviews, we found and settled on El Nido Resorts for our stay. It doesn’t get more “honeymoon-esq” than Pangulasian Island Resort. With only 42 villas, at times we felt like the only guests at the resort. We always had more than enough space on the beach and at the pool. We rented kayaks and paddled our way around the island. Service was impeccable and I always felt so welcome. We were told the average stay here is more like 4 days; so by the time we left they were calling us the long timers. We actually met a family also from Minnesota at the resort. They’ve been coming for years and plan to continue to do so; 30 plus hours of travel be damned. If that doesn’t speak to the magic of this place, I don’t know what else will. The monkeys were the only ones not thrilled with our arrival ūüôā Make sure you lock your doors as they are known to enter your villa and make a mess of things! Or they will steal your bananas and cookies!

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There are many stay options from airbnbs on the beach of El Nido, to hostels and bed and breakfasts and other resorts off of the mainland.

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To get there we flew from Minneapolis to Chicago, Chicago to Seoul, Seoul to Manila and from Manila we took Air Swift to El Nido. The views over the islands are spectacular in flight. Try to grab a window seat ūüėČ Bonus if you are staying at an El Nido Resort Hotel; at the airport you have a private lounge with snacks, water and wifi; key! (Just a warning; Air Swift is prone to delays and cancellations. Hold your breath and hope for a smooth arrival!)

Once we got to the El Nido airport our hotel guide was waiting to take us on a golf cart to the docks and then a 30 minute boat ride to the resort.

The resort offered a lot of the island tours included with your stay; but if you are staying in town, get up early and negotiate a private boat tour. The lagoons will get crowded. I’m serious about the early part! Catching the sunrises are an extra perk.

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The secret lagoon was my favorite; we kayaked through the hole and found ourselves the only visitors. It was serene and stunning. Again…. go early! There are so many island tour places to see; Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Helicopter Island, Snake Island, Commandos beach and more.

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Besides island hopping, the diving and snorkeling are out of this world. The coral reefs are unbelievable. We only had to swim five feet from our hotel beach to see the beauty of the underwater world. We also took a boat tour that dropped us off in a few different spots; sharks, turtles, squid and jack fish were everywhere.

If you need a break from the sun and water, try some bar hopping. El Nido is hastily developing and every traveler and backpacker looking for a cold one has options.

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You must eat grilled seafood on the beach; point and pick out what you’d like. Its grilled right there in all its glory.

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We took full advantage of the “it’s our honeymoon so we are just going to relax mantra.” I mean, could you find a better spot to do so?

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There are also private island day trips to be found. El Nido Resorts owns one of them: Entalula Island. We paid for a day trip to the island, which included lunch and an all-day stay. With cabanas, cocktails and that stunning view; what more could you want? There was a public side to the island where many of the boat tours dock for lunch as well.

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Is El Nido on your list? If so, any other questions for me about El Nido? There is so much to say ūüôā

Back to Blogging 2018

Hello friends! It’s been some time since words hit this white space. A lot has changed. You won’t find any more comedy about bad dates. Though you can re-read and reminisce here. And here.

Instead, you may find the joys, laughs, and lessons of marriage.

Because this happened:

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You will still find delectable bites and drinks; perhaps an occasional recipe or two. The love of food doesn’t fade.

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In about five months you may also catch tips and tricks for the new mom or mom to be.

Because this also happened:

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What does remain unwavering is the love of travel and joy of writing. With trips to Paris, Amsterdam, Bruges, and the Philippines; we’ve got a lot to catch up on!

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Ready to join me again? Or for the very first time? ūüôā

Nutmeg’s Spreads: My New Favorite Snack that Gives Back

Farmers markets are my jam. I could spend every weekend perusing each vendor. I want to learn about the products, those new cookies and that bundle of flowers.

When the season is right, I stock up on¬†ALL the tomatoes I can get my hands on. I’m always walking out with two or more bundles of flowers.¬†At the¬†Minneapolis Farmers¬†Market you just cannot get me away from¬†the pork egg rolls, omg yum!

But the¬†last time I went to the¬†Linden Hills farmers market;¬†I may have just found my new go to every day snack. Like I need a new jar of this already. I’ve licked that thing clean.

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Have you had Nutmeg’s Spreads yet!? If not, introduce your life to the best peanut, almond and cashew butter. Not only is this my favorite almond butter, but every time you’re eating this delectable snack, you’re giving back! Nutmeg’s exists to provide financial resources to nonprofits in Kenya. So every time you’re snacking.. you are actually spreading the love.

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During the time I spent sampling each; I met multiple repeat customers. They either told me or I overheard; we just cannot keep this in our fridge. Our kids/we/me keep eating it!

So its delicious and you’re spreading the love. What more could you want? Well an added bonus is that Billy and Megan, the owners are so welcoming and informative. They’re mission driven and full of jokes. The company reflects them and is named after them, Megan (Meg) and Billy (he’s the nut ;)).

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This weekend you can find them Saturday at the Northeast Farmers Market and Sunday back at Linden Hills. Stop by, say hi and try those spreads!

How to Staycation: AC Hotel Bloomington

Growing up I moved ten times before high school. Ten! When your family moves that much it is inevitable that you will live or spend significant time in hotels. I look forward to hotel stays, heck I even crave going to a hotel just to relax. It feels like coming home.

These days I am most certainly not moving around as much but I still enjoy a good staycation. In fact after last weekend I’m pretty sure Staycations will happen for me more often. I’m getting them on the calendar ūüôā

There is no better place than the AC Hotel Bloomington Mall of America to kick off your staycation tradition or to book for your next trip to the Twin Cities. With its proximity to the Mall of America, a shopping weekend could not be easier. It was the perfect excuse for me to pop in to the new Zara and do a little wardrobe updating.

From the minute you walk in the lounge, the entrance is enticing. The signature scent embraces you. All of the natural lighting makes the lounge a comfortable space to hang out, relax or to get some work done. The modern clean lines remind you of Europe yet the art is local and gives you that Minnesota feel at the same time.

 

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After all that tiresome wardrobe updating at the MOA, nothing could be more refreshing than one or two of the hotel’s signature cocktails.

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Cocktails require accompaniments and the AC’s tapas style lounge menu will absolutely do!

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After an evening of signature cocktails and tapas, getting out of that heavenly king sized bed was not on the top of my to do list. I could have stayed cozy in there all morning!

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But alas I had to… a European breakfast was calling my name! I mean they even have a machine fresh cutting prosciutto for you each morning. How do I get one of these in my house?!

 

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I was also pretty impressed with the help yourself breakfast drink selections. Iced coffee and soy milk, yes please!

Now if this doesn’t look like the perfect little breakfast plate.. ūüôā

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Signature scents, cocktails, tapas and beds you don’t want to get out of.. what more could you want in your staycation?

Thank you AC Hotel Bloomington MOA; I had a wonderful stay!

(Disclaimer: A complimentary stay was provided in partnership with this post)

Where to Wine: Willamette Valley

I recently returned from a bucket list trip to Portland, Oregon. I had heard tales of this Foodie Mecca and for far too long drooled over the Instagram posts coming out of that city.

Finally it was time for me to explore Portland and feast away!

We walked all over; ate till we could not eat anymore; stopped by as many breweries as we could in sequence… and¬†got caught in a political protest!¬† The airbnb may have had mice, but even that could not stop my new found love for Portland.

Not only did we traverse the city…. But we found ourselves a driver and booked it to wine country. I may be a wine country newbie but the Willamette Valley blew me away. Our driver Chris, if you can, you must find Chris, was the most knowledgeable, funny and charismatic guy. He has lived in the area for many years and developed relationships at multiple vineyards. I credit Chris for much of¬†the¬†attention and care we received in each and every tasting room.¬†¬†With Chris we truly received the VIP treatment. Every na√Įve wine question I asked was answered with respect and an intent to educate. I’m quite certain we received more pours than the anyone else in those tasting rooms.

The rooms we were in felt personal, welcoming and boutique.

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Our first stop was at Domain Roy & Fils. Upon arrival we were treated to champagne and a tour around the facility. We were given time to enjoy the view and walk around. I could sit on the patio here all day. Our tasting took place by the fireplace and could not have been more enjoyable. Jordan explain their processes, the wines and exchanged dog stories. If you go, he is the best!

Our second stop was at Alexana Winery; another beautiful tasting room with floor to ceiling windows over looking an 80 acre vineyard. Here to my surprise I found a Chardonnay that I absolutely love. It is a stunning bottle and may have reopened my palate to Chardonnay. I’d be remiss not to mention that I also walked out of Alexana with a few Pinot Noirs as well. The staff here were beyond happy to educate, talk and get to know you.

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Our third stop was Fairsing Vineyard and I’m quite certain the view cannot get any better than here.

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There are no descriptors for this place. Its like a heaven on earth, a peace, a calm and warmth from the wine. Take me back.

Our fourth and final stop was Saffron Fields Vineyard. We sampled more wine and walked around the beautiful Japanese garden here. Our trip happened to coincide with a thanksgiving meal pairing and we snacked to our hearts’ content. I walked away with a bottle of the most delicious Rose.¬† The tasting room staff gave us many more restaurant recommendations for our last night in Portland.

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Seriously stunning. I’m dying to go back. Who is with me?

 

Season of Joy and Coffee.

Thanksgiving weekend¬†came to a close and it is raining outside. Raining! In November. In Minnesota! I’ll take the rain though and patiently await the snow. Perhaps it will make this holiday season feel as if it is not racing by. I always say I’ll¬†¬†take in and savor¬†each activity, each moment with family and friends and every twinkling light. And yet every year¬†it all goes by in a blink of an eye.

The rain almost reminds me to stop, breathe in the season’s tidings and enjoy it.

Perhaps this season will be one of new traditions for you. One I just started is decorating seasonal plants for our front porch. Ok ok.. I know tons of people do but this year was my first time. I was totally that person out front in her pajamas decorating, with my coffee in hand of course! I loved it.

Another new tradition I’ve enjoyed this year has been¬†heading to Caribou Coffee¬†and creating my own drink. Caribou is¬†going over the top this season, with toppings to make more than 500 holiday drinks!

¬†I stopped by my local Caribou, ordered up my drinks of choice and played around with toppings to my heart’s content. I was a barista for 5 years so¬†Caribou’s Topped By You¬†is right up my alley. I totally miss whipping up new drinks behind the espresso bar.

Of course I couldn’t just try one; I mean I dream of one day ordering an entire restaurant menu… at one¬†sitting ūüôā

So first I went with the Blended Truffle Mocha, topped with dark chocolate chips, brownie bits and candy cane.

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Next up, the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Mocha with more brownie bits and dark chocolate chips. Both were topped with vanilla whip cream. Let me introduce them to you below, my Joyful Chocolate Delights! (because with this amount of chocolate you cannot help but be joyful!)

Voilà. And holy yum.

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Head into your Caribou Coffee store for Topped By You Tuesdays. Try all of the whips and toppings being offered for free between 3-4pm. Also on Tuesdays snag a dollar off a large holiday drink throughout the holiday season! Create your own holiday drink, Top Me and Top Bou. Or order one of my Joyfuls!

I’ll be over here breathing in the season, taking it slow and sipping on a Joyful Chocolate Delight!

(I’ve partnered with Caribou Coffee in facilitating this post. All opinions are my¬†own.)

 

To Do In Philly: The Magic Gardens

On this 70 degree November day, my heart is happy. I’m jumping for joy and lifting my face upwards towards the sun. Give me all the rays!

I am one of those forever summer people; one who’d be pretty happy posted up on a beach for the rest of forever. So naturally I get the end of summer blues. At 30 I’ve finally learned the cure to such blues.

Fall travel!

The first such trip was to Philly in September. Have you been? I absolutely love Philadelphia. On this trip I wanted to check out¬†Philly’s Magic Gardens. The Magic Gardens are a non-profit,¬†visionary art environment. Its located within Isaiah Zagar’s largest public artwork. The gardens are an outdoor installation spanning half a city block on South Street. Isaiah used nontraditional materials to transform an empty city lot.

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Walking through this beautiful mosaic garden, I felt almost transported back to Spain. It felt like a Gaudi masterpiece. There was so much to look at, so many colors, materials and sayings. As we perused the garden, the artist himself was even there, happily engaging visitors in conversations regarding his work.

 

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I highly recommend you add the Magic Gardens to your itinerary. And after you’ve explored to your heart’s content, you’re going to need some afternoon wine and snacks. So make your way over to Tredici Enoteca.

The restaurant has a warm coastal feeling.

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¬†No better place to Rose all Day ūüėČ

To enjoy some oysters..

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And to eat hands down, the best bacon wrapped stuffed dates ever!

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I’d say this trip was a great fall blues cure.

Do you experience the same blues? How do you beat em?

 

Wedding #458

Wedding Number 458. That is officially the numbers of weddings I’ve been to in the last year and a half.

Well ok NOT 458 but it feels that way. People ask if we do anything else. Others ask if we TRY to get invited to as many weddings as possible.

As if its our hobby…

Nope. No sir, we do not.

It just happens to be an ongoing season of love, of two people coming together who happen to invite us. And you know, we go. We eat, we drink and we dance the night away. I am officially a wedding pro. I may be adding it to my resume.

Professional love fest aka wedding attendee.

In the spirit of adding to my resume, I’d also like to add Professional Foodie. Is this a thing? I am a phenomenal eater. I even practiced my skills at the new Pimento Jamaican Kitchen on Eat Street.

The space is bright, colorful and with the open garage style window, has a flowing breeze. All of which remind me of a previous Jamaican vacation, so my mouth just watered with anticipation and memories of jerk chicken. My hopes were high.

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My taste buds were ever so delighted with flavor, texture and spice. Man were they on fire after a few of those sauces! Gimme all the spice!

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I had to go with the One Love Special, a combo of the fire grilled jerk chicken and the slow roasted jerk pork.

Hello bowls of love.

AND the Jamaican pattie with spicy beef. (These brought me back to¬†ALL those patties I ate at the beach…)

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Curried vegetables and other meats were ordered around the table. My nose may have been dripping from spice but my fork just was not stopping. Word of advice, just order another Red Stripe!

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I’d say my Professional Foodie skills were put to good use here.

P.S.¬†This week I’m off to another wedding…. #459 ūüėČ

The Montserrat Tour to Take: Barcelona, Spain

I was listening to a podcast the other day, in which the speaker stated that there were two ways to look at life. There were those that would sit in their cubes dutifully saving income in order to live life after 60. Then there were those that looked at life as a now and not as a future state. Those that seek to explore while they are young. Those that will find a way to build that lifestyle they seek now.

Of course there are more than two ways to look at life. However if we are going to follow along and play into that speaker’s philosophy, I’d fall into option two. I strive to find a way to play now. To explore now. To put my wanderlusting soul in a box, with a key only to be opened upon hitting a certain amount in my 401k; would equate to a death sentence for that part of my soul.

Perhaps you call option two the proverbial millennial in me. Call it what you will.

Travel I must. It’s a directive running through my veins. It cannot be ignored.

So along the lines of option two, I am finally getting up a few more Spain travel posts.

Most of our trip in Spain we planned on our own, not being held to tour times or group travel. Some places were picked out and others we ignorantly wandered into. But that’s how we like it. A mix of planned and spontaneous. I’d call myself semi-type A, I like lists and itinerarys but I also like to get lost. To see what I may never have seen. To meet and taste and smell the unexpected. Even if sometimes that means I’m lost in an Irish field,the rain is sprinkling down, my hair in hideous waves due to the thick fog and my nose dripping with snot. (See story here)

While we mostly wandered Barcelona on our own schedule we did take one tour. If you are to take one tour in or around Barcelona, this is the one company to use! They gave us exactly what we liked. A bit of an organized tour, a bit of time to ourselves to wander and a guide who was personable, knowledgeable and eager to build new relationships.

Our tour was to the must see monastery and mountain region of Montserrat. The area is full of legend, housing a beautiful Benedictine abbey, the Virgin Sanctuary and did I mention a farmers market of cheese vendors?! You can also ride the Funicular up to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views and a walk with the clouds. It is not to be missed!

Walking in the Clouds

The beauty, mystique and legend of this place not only speaks for itself, it can be felt. My descriptors and pictures lack just how this place takes your breath away. You are quite literally walking within the clouds. Whatever your religious leaning may be, the spiritual presence is enveloping.

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Cathedral

Our tour capped off with a leisurely Spanish lunch and winery tour.

Winery Vines

Oller de Mas is a boutique winery built out of a family legacy. They are quite literally bottling by hand and allowing the youngest family members draw and design the labels. Even the children have a hand in the boutique aspects of this place. With a private tasting room within the castle we got to know our intimate tour group. Thought not a sommelier our guide knew his wine and knew the winery. Our wine tasting was knowledgeable, fun, relaxed and hey, there was a lot of wine!

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Winery Dessert

I cannot recommend this tour more. It was one of the top days of our trip. I may or may not have ended the day with a slight wine induced nap back to the city.

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Winnery Barrels

Thank you Castlexperience tours for an unforgettable day!

(To be clear we found this tour through other reviews. The company did not compensate me for this post, (nor did they even know I was writing it) I merely wanted to share a great experience with those looking for tour options in Barcelona)

I am a Dreamer.

If you asked, I’d say yes, I am a dreamer.

I am one of those that can get lost within my own head for hours. I dream of worlds different than this; of realities that don’t exist.

My imagination fueled my childhood and that of many cousins, as we gallivanted through our¬†grandparents property… pretending to be the “Raiders”, or saviors of souls in need. Off we were to free towns from peril, swinging our sticks in an epic battle with imaginary forces.

My day dreams have filled many an international plane ride’s seemingly endless flight.

Day dreams are fewer and far between these days, though they  have not disappeared.

In fact this year I turned four of those dreams into goals.¬† Yes I became that person that actually writes down her personal goals. I’ve never done this before, outside of a corporate setting. I’m working on two of them. Progress, right?!

While I will selfishly keep them to myself for now, just working towards them helps relieve the feeling as if I’m a gated puppy, chained to my cube, which the corporate world often imparts upon me. It’s a feeling of being stifled, of turning off portions of your brain, creativity or as I’ve been calling them; dreams.

In the meantime new restaurants call my name. But  of course! What is this blog without food? I recently checked out Upton 43 and it lived up to the hype.

Upton 43 Rose

I mean Rose all day right? This glass was the perfect balance of sweet and dry. I like it right in the middle.

Cabbage

Get the charred cabbage… this dish had me at marrow butter. At home, I would have put my entire face into the plate. The boyfriend can attest… this has happened.

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The peas, grains and fermented strawberry dish was just as summer should be. All in a plate about to be inhaled.

Chicken and Cauliflower

My pressed chicken, cauliflower, ham hollandaise and truffle was absolute comfort. This is my new go to comfort food.

If you asked, I’d tell you to order all three dishes and more ūüôā

I’ll be over here working on my dreams and gallivanting around the Twin Cities’ restaurant scene. Don’t worry, you won’t catch me with any sticks hoping to ward off imaginary enemies. I’ve traded sticks for Rose.

Have you been to Upton 43?