Christmas Vacation: Part II

We did lots of classic “New York” things while we were in the city, but we also indulged in some tourist spots like Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Today I’m going to share two classic New York things you must do if you ever visit!

Brooklyn Bridge

 I mentioned yesterday that we shopped in Chinatown and dined in Little Italy, but then I convinced everyone that we should go see the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, really, I put everyone on the subway in that direction. 😉 My mom wanted to go too, but my brothers were getting tired at this point!

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We walked up the stairs of the subway and saw this cute little park area. This is one of the reasons I love being in a city…tall, historic buildings with some hidden peaceful greens in the middle.

There were SO many people headed across the bridge. One lane for pedestrians, one lane for bikers…and everyone going across and back. There were also little stands of NYC souvenirs, but the funniest item for sale were selfie sticks. Everyone needs one, apparently!

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We made good use of ours…

…and the views were spectacular! Check out that light post with all the locks on it. Just like the Lock Bridge in Europe! #kinda

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If you ever visit the Brooklyn Bridge, I definitely recommend just going for it and really walking all the way across into Brooklyn! There’s a subway stop not too far away from the other end, plus when you get towards the middle, the crowds thin and you can really appreciate the bridge and the scenery. I know it sounds crazy to appreciate a bridge, but if my brothers found enjoyment in this, you definitely will too. 🙂

Bryant Park

Okay, so I’ve been to the city at least once a year for the past few years, but I have never made it to Bryant Park! With its close proximity to Times Square, I just don’t know how that is possible, but when you are riding the subway and being driven around in taxis, it’s possible to miss some hidden gems. 🙂

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My favorite part of Bryant Park were all of the holiday shops! Each one was so unique, selling a variety of items from handmade jewelry to makeup bags to kids games to chocolate. In the above picture, you can see the green and white awning that tops the carousel. My mom and I just had to go watch the little ones riding around. Such fun!

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See…my favorite view. Little shops, a little bit of nature, and the beautiful tall buildings in the background.

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Perhaps the most fun thing I saw were the ping pong tables, all occupied with excited players! Apparently, there is also putting, chess, pétanque (a French ball game I believe is similar to the Italian game Bocce), and an art cart. You simply cannot get bored on this little stretch of land in Midtown. 🙂

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Visiting right after the holidays allows you to see all the beautiful decorations. How awesome is that Christmas tree?! The ornaments were as big as my head…truly.

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And if I could’ve convinced my brothers (and Jake would’ve been an easy sell), we would’ve stood in the lengthy line to ice skate. It was only $15 and the line really wasn’t too bad! At this point, the boys had taken our shopping bags and headed back to the hotel with visions of comfy hotel beds dancing in their heads. Ha! Listen, we walked A LOT on this trip.  Plus our hotel served a complimentary dinner and happy hour each evening, so you can’t really blame them. And don’t worry, my mom and I made it back to relax and have dinner, too!

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Linking up with Stephanie!

Christmas Vacation

Well last Monday at this time, I was driving to New York City. Since I am going back to work today after a nice long break, let’s review all the fun. 🙂

The day after Christmas, my mom, my brothers and I packed up for a few days in Hershey, PA and New York City. Hershey is perfectly halfway in between Pittsburgh and NYC and it is such a fun little town! Since we were only there for one night, we visited Chocolate World and drove through the Sweet Lights display of Christmas lights.

Do you see the castle on the left?! It is made entirely out of Hershey’s chocolate! The “bricks” are made out of the cookies and creme Hershey’s bar. You can totally tell now that I told you that, right?! 🙂

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The next day, we woke up bright and early to drive to NYC. I annoyed Jake and took selfies of us in the car. I was also the one in the driver’s seat on the way into NYC and as we were going through the toll on the highway before the Lincoln Tunnel, I saw the gas light in my mom’s car was on. And it didn’t say 30 miles until empty…instead, the GPS popped up with a warning that said “nearby gas stations”. Hahaha! It was a close one. 😉

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Can we all take a moment to make fun of my brothers and their excessive number of shoes?! I packed one pair of black over-the-knee boots and my running shoes…they brought three different colored pairs of Timberlands plus other shoes. Ha!

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We stayed in South Times Square in the Garment District. After we unpacked, we went to eat a late lunch at Heartland Brewery which is also right across the street from my future place of employment. Aka The New York Times. #inmydreams

Lunch is when we also started messing around with the selfie stick! Jake got one for my mom for Christmas, knowing that we would be going on a trip right away. We had so much fun with it all weekend!

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We started walking up towards Times Square and kind of walked right through it until we saw Bryant Park! This is one of my favorite pictures that I took while we were there. I’ve actually never seen or known where Bryant Park was located before, even though we always stay near Times Square. It’s funny how you can discover “new” places every time you visit!

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We were also trying to get a taxi or an Uber at this point because we were headed to Brooklyn for the New York Islanders hockey game. Unfortunately, Uber was taking forever and the one taxi driver we talked to (who was off duty) told us there was so much traffic that taking a taxi would be way too expensive. So that meant taking the subway for the low, low cost of $2.75 a person…and praying we didn’t get lost. I was terrified because of my experiences with Kristen in October, but we actually didn’t get lost once! I will say that one time when the train announced where we were I yelled and made my family run off because I thought we were going the wrong way. No fear, we were actually going the right way. They loved standing in the station and waiting for the next train. 😉 That experience let us see the world’s largest rat climbing all over the tracks. Yikes!

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My brothers have both gotten really into hockey this past year and Alex got tickets to see the Pittsburgh Penguins for Christmas! Still, we thought it would be fun to see a game while we were in the city. Ironically, the Islanders were the opposing team when Alex went to the Pens game this past weekend! So it was like he was checking out the competition a week early. Ha! They lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs terribly, but we had a lot of fun!

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I really wanted to go to Serendipity for hot chocolate after the game, so we took the subway a few extra stops to the neighborhood where that restaurant is located. Travel tip #1: we didn’t make reservations (because I honestly didn’t even think of that) and when we got there at 10 PM, the wait was two and a half hours! Luckily, there is a Dylan’s Candy Store on the corner of that block, so we decided to go there to satisfy our sweet tooth instead. Travel tip #2: Dylan’s Candy Store closes at 9 PM on Sunday evenings. Ha!

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We decided to walk back to Times Square (think 42nd street) from our failed Serendipity and Dylan’s attempt (think 59th street). My brothers were all about this walk for approximately five blocks and then they were OVER it. Somehow, I became official direction giver and no one liked my directions plus Siri was getting on my nerves so this was a very interesting walk. 😉

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I tried to appreciate the scenery as much as possible! How pretty are those lights on the trees?!

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The next morning, we discovered the 22nd floor of our hotel was the roof, complete with outdoor seating and Bose speakers hidden in the plants. I kid you not. But it was freezing up here so I snapped this picture and ran back inside!

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Our mission on Monday morning was to shop on Canal Street in Chinatown. I remember going here in high school when I visited with the chorus and band, but I have never been back to shop there with my family. My brothers LOVED bargaining with the workers there. And you couldn’t walk ten feet without someone asking you, “Hand bags? Michael Kors? Louis Vuitton? We have it all! I’ll show you!” I bought a pair of sunglasses from a suitcase on the sidewalk…I will let you decide if they are real Ray Bans or not. 😉 I swear the worker said they were $25 so I said $20 because I was walking around with a $20 bill in my pocket anyway. He agreed, I paid, and my brother and I walked away. Alex later told me that the worker initially said $35!!! I kind of felt bad because I didn’t mean to jump all the way down to $20, but I really thought I was just saving $5, not $15!

We ate lunch in Little Italy and picked up two cannoli’s from a street stand! I got hazelnut and my mom got chocolate, but we weren’t huge fans of either. They were SO sweet! We intended to eat lunch at Sofia’s, but they weren’t open for lunch, so we chose a restaurant across the street because the owner was standing on the sidewalk and he was very convincing! I wish I could tell you the name, but I honestly don’t remember…I just know it was across from Sofia’s. It was delicious though! There was a 45 minute wait for a table by the time we left (and we went in and sat right down!) so either the owner got a lot of business by talking to tourists on the sidewalk or it’s a really popular place. 😉

Monday was a marathon day…I will tell you all about the Brooklyn Bridge, shopping at Macy’s and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in another post!

Happy Monday!

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Traveling Here and There

Good morning from me and my iPhone! I’m already bothered that this won’t be centered. Ha! Currently on an adventure with my mom and my brothers. The adventure almost didn’t occur as I practically drove into NYC with zero, literally zero gas, in my mom’s car. Hahaha! Thank the Lord for the last exit in NJ. We have yet to get lost on the NYC Subway and for that reason, the entire trip is already a success. 😉 

First stop: Hershey, PA to visit Chocolate World and see their Christmas light display!

 
   
Second stop: New York City to see holiday decorations, go to an NHL game, shop, eat, and gallavant around like the tourists we are.
 

 

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If I can get decent wifi, I might post something a little more interesting while we are away! If not, keep up with my adventures on Instagram. 🙂 I hope you had a very merry Christmas!!
  

My Favorite Weekend

Hello there. 🙂

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I love weekends, but I especially love weekends when my family and friends come to spend time in my new town! Originally, my family was planning a trip to DC to see me run the Marine Corps Marathon, but life had other plans, and instead of prepping for the race and running, I simply got to hang out with everyone which was definitely just as wonderful. 🙂 My mom and my brothers arrived in town on Thursday night so they could have a longer day on Friday! I woke up and went to work because I am a great hostess, but they were able to meet up with my aunt and my cousins for brunch and some sightseeing, so they had a good day without me!

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I invited my mom to be a guest reader in my classroom so she could see it now that it is all put together and meet my students! I have been the guest reader and helper in her classroom many times over the years, so it was fun to have her come into my space to do the same thing! Alex and Jake surprised me by coming to say hi, too! They took a quick tour of the school, scared my students because they are both 6’5″, and then went to Target while my mom and I did teacher stuff. 🙂

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I left work and headed straight into DC with them. We checked into our hotel and immediately turned around to go meet our other relatives for dinner at a family style Italian restaurant called Carmine’s. My friends and I tried to eat at this restaurant a few months ago, but as we arrived, so did a tour bus. Guess who got to sit down first that night?! On this night, we had a reservation, and everyone got to enjoy lots and lots and LOTS of Italian food! The waiter will tell you that each dish serves three people, but I would safely say that each dish serves 4 people! We ordered the Carmine’s salad, eggplant parmesan, and shrimp with pasta in garlic and oil to share. My aunt and cousins ordered salad, steak, and chicken marsala. Needless to say, the eight of us had tons of leftovers…none of which we took with us! It was such a nice, cool night out that of course we had to sightsee a bit. Carmine’s is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of DC and my youngest cousin really wanted to go to the Spy Museum, which was nearby. It was closed on Friday night, but we peeked in anyways and made plans to go back later during the weekend! Alex and I moved my mom’s car closer to the National Mall while the rest of our family walked over, so we got to the Washington Monument first. One of my favorite ways to see the monuments is to lay on the ground and look up. 🙂 I know it’s weird, but it’s a fun perspective!

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Once we all caught up to each other, we took a family photo. 🙂 My mom was behind the camera on this one, but she was in attendance! My dad’s sister is the one in the pink jacket. She raised her family in Indianapolis, so that is where her kids and their kids live now. We have visited them many times over the years and it is always fun to get together, no matter what we do!

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On Saturday, we woke up and I made myself a delicious hotel breakfast! Jake and I were determined to get a made-to-order omelette. Alex and my mom were having none of the line, so they just got scrambled eggs instead. An omelette always wins in my book! Of course, I had a pancake on the side because I love something sweet with every meal. 🙂

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It was kind of chilly on Saturday but it wasn’t raining, so we decided to do one of my favorite things EVER! We rented bikes and rode around the city. My family and I love to ride bikes when we are at home or on vacation. It’s just a fun way to move around, plus it’s easier and faster than walking. 😉 We went to Big Wheel Bikes in Georgetown and were given four of the most random bikes ever! My mom had a cruiser, I had a road bike, and Alex and Jake had cross bikes…whatever that means!

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I took them along the river in Georgetown until we hit the National Mall. Then, we crossed the 14th Street Bridge to get to the Mt. Vernon Trail. I was determined to get us to Gravelly Point Park, which is the closest you can get to Reagan National Airport. I LOVE watching the planes land and take off. It is the coolest spot ever!

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We rode all the way back to Georgetown on the Mt. Vernon Trail, which is my one of my favorite places to run. It was perfect to bike on because it is made for runners and bikers! On the other side of the river, we kept running into the road and needing to cross at somewhat inconvenient times. It was nice to ride with no interruptions from other cars! We rode mostly a flat circle, except for the final climb to the Key Bridge…then we really had to use our legs to pedal up the hill. 😉 That was at the end of the ride, so no one could get too mad at me. Ha!

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I made them take this picture because the cobblestone street in Georgetown was just too picturesque. Can you tell they loved this?

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We headed to Pentagon City after our bike ride to get lunch and do a little shopping. I have had my eye on a $130 pair of fringe booties from Nordstrom, but while I was at Nordstrom Rack, I found these beauties…for the low, low price of $138! I was very sad. Rack is supposed to help me out, not make me feel worse! Ha! Lucky for me, I found a $39 blardigan. If you read Sheaffer’s blog, then you know what a great find this was! 🙂 I may have put it on my body as soon as I left the store and kept it on for the next 24 hours. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t…

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I’m wearing it here! Seeeee the beauty of the $39 blardigan!

Our hotel had a free happy hour for guests, so I went to have wine and snacks with my mom and this guy decided to tag along…he’s 21 and big stuff now. 😉 Cheers to happy hour!

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Once again, we met up with our family for dinner. We ate at Old Glory in Georgetown, which seemed to be known for it’s barbecue style food! I ordered a chicken wedge salad, so don’t ask me how the barbecue was, because I have no idea. The cornbread muffins and corn butter were delicious, though!

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We walked M Street after dinner and I finally stopped in Dean & Deluca. There were so many different kinds of food available in that store! Different varieties of candy, baking supplies, hot foods, cold foods…they seemed to have it all. I had to try their coffee. It did not disappoint!

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We bought the most typical thing you could buy in that store: two huge cookies! For all the variety we saw, it came down to the classics when we had to make a choice. Chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin? What is your favorite? I LOVE oatmeal raisin. 🙂

Other highlights from the weekend include:

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–> Alex stuffing his bed full of pillows to scare the maid when she came to clean our room!

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–> Jake trying to make me help him with 11th grade Pre-Calc/Trig. I think he forgot that I was recently hired to teach second grade…

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–> A present from my Dad. He makes fun of my selfies, so now I make them even weirder than they need to be! He sent me pumpkin butter. What a nice guy. 🙂 It is delicious and so sweet!

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–> This fountain. It kind of looks like a black staircase in this picture! I slept on the fold out couch this weekend because I am a good person (ha!) and I could hear the water falling from our room. So soothing!

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–> And a really good workout on Sunday morning. I have not been doing anything too serious in the workout department recently. Whatever I feel like, I do. I wanted to run on Sunday, but the two treadmills that worked were taken so I hopped on the elliptical for 20 minutes and then lifted for another 20 minutes. It ended up being a really hard workout and I was happy about it!

How have you been lately?!

Wildwood 2015 [Part 2]

Thursdays are for Thinking Out Loud and today I’m thinking about how much my family and I look forward to our beach vacation every summer, yet we go to the same beach and do many of the same activities. It’s just our happy place so we love being there and we LOVE telling “remember when” stories since we have so many memories there! Have any of you ever been to Wildwood, New Jersey?

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Link up with us here!

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This beach town is actually called The Wildwoods because there are three different “neighborhoods”: Wildwood Crest, Wildwood, and North Wildwood. The Boardwalk runs from the end of Wildwood Crest all the way through Wildwood and right into the beginning of North Wildwood. That’s how my family gives directions. What part of the Boardwalk is this particular place located at? 😉 For a long time, my family and I stayed right at the edge of Wildwood Crest and Wildwood. That’s how we found our favorite bike shop and became good friends with the owner! Now, we stay in North Wildwood, which is just the other end of the Boardwalk. The walk from the edge of the sand to the ocean in Wildwood Crest is LONG…like one mile of walking in the sand before you hit water. I am not joking!

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See what I mean?!

The walk in North Wildwood is MUCH shorter and we found a condo down in that area that we love, so it works for us! Or are we just lazy?! You can decide. 🙂

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Cross the dune in North Wildwood and the water is a short ways away!

Not only does my family love to vacation in Wildwood, we also love to vacation the same way. When you think of vacation, don’t you think of throwing your schedule out the window? Me too! But we have our own little beach schedule that looks something like this:

7:30 AM: Run on the beach (this is an activity that ONLY I participate in hahaha)

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9:30 AM: Ride bikes on the Boardwalk.

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11:30 AM: Make lunch at our condo and get ready for the beach.

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We dropped one bottle of hot sauce and two different gallons of milk on this vacation! This was our attempt to save the second gallon of milk. 🙂 #coffeepottotherescue

Noon – ??? Swim, boogie board, walk, and lay out at the beach.

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??? – 4 PM: Pool time at the condo. Whoever wants to stay at the beach stays at the beach…whoever wants to lay in the shade and cool off heads back to the pool!

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5:30 PM: Go out to dinner

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7 PM: Home from dinner and time for the Boardwalk. With 3 piers full of amusement park rides and games, lots of stores, and tons of places to get ice cream, we never tire of the Boardwalk!

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11 PM: Jake’s curfew. My brothers hang out on the rooftop deck and sometimes I do too…but usually I am getting ready for bed so I make my wake up call the next morning to run. 😉

There is a little bit of happiness and a sense of calm that you get from doing the same thing every day…but we DO like to mix it up on our vacations. We usually do one “different” thing every day. One of our activities this year was Raging Waters Water Park one afternoon.

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We love this waterpark. I floated in the lazy river for two hours so here are some throwback pics. 🙂

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All about the action shots! And look how little Alex and Jake are!

Instead of going out to dinner one night, we ordered pizza, Italian hoagies, and salads to go and we drove to Sunset Beach in Cape May, NJ. It’s only a short drive away!

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I promise you won’t see a more breathtaking sunset than at this particular beach! It’s a little different because it’s all rocky instead of all sandy…

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…and you can’t help but snap a million photos!

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Right around the time the sun is about to disappear below the water, Sunset Beach starts a short ceremony. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, a different veteran is honored every night by flying an American Flag and playing TAPS, the National Anthem, and God Bless America.

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We obviously need some photography tips. 🙂 #brightness

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I made Jake recreate this picture. 2012 on the left, 2015 on the right!

Then, one morning while we were biking, we rode off the Boardwalk and went on an adventure in Wildwood Crest.

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First, we stopped for breakfast at a little corner store called Rita’s Deli and Bakery. After breakfast sandwiches and my first coffee in six whole days (!!!), we went to Lakeview Docks to do some crabbing. Yep, crabbing. Instead of fishing, we were out to catch crabs. 🙂 We used to go here pretty often when we were younger, but we haven’t been back in years. It was so fun! It was also really cool to watch others fishing, riding jet skis, and kayaking around while we were on the dock.

First, this nice lady chopped up a dead fish for us for bait…

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…then we nominated Alex’s girlfriend, Taylor, to hook those nasty pieces of fish into our crab cages. No thank you!!!

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He took a picture of her while she hooked all of our bait into the cages. What a supportive guy. Hahaha

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In return, Taylor caught the first crab…

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…and I caught a whole lotta seaweed. 🙂

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The funniest moments were watching Alex throw his cage into the water. He was terrified the entire time because he thought when he threw his cage into the water, it would pull him off the dock and he hates heights! Jake ended up losing his bait but Jake’s friend caught a few crabs. I think the 3 McGraw children were the only ones who didn’t catch much! My mom tried her luck too, but she was better at being official photographer. 🙂

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Friday night was super exciting because there was a fireworks show on the Boardwalk by the Big Ferris Wheel! At the end of our vacation, we usually go to Atlantic City for the weekend, so we miss the fireworks! But this year, we went to Atlantic City first, so we got to see the display. It was like 12 minutes long and they played music during it which was so cool! Cliche songs like Katy Perry’s Firework, but still fun to listen to. 🙂

Other highlights:

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Jake finally convinced my mom that he should be allowed to get his ears pierced. Did you notice any pictures in this post where he was wearing earrings?!

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We got to see double rainbows on two different evenings even though it never stormed! I think it stormed one night while we were sleeping and it might have spit a few drops while we were at dinner one night, but it was HOT and SUNNY all day long!

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We ate our favorite sugary snacks…like Johnson’s caramel popcorn, Polish water ice, Ken and Mary’s ice cream, and Kohr Brother’s frozen custard (pictured above). Mom got vanilla and orange so it’s like a Creamsicle and I got peanut butter and chocolate! I really wanted to try caramel and coffee, but I didn’t eat ice cream enough nights. Ha!

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I found my favorite Boardwalk game…Fascination. It’s only 20 cents a game and it’s just like Bingo! You have to roll a little ball and when it drops down in one of the holes, the corresponding circle on the board lights up. You want to get five in a row…but for this particular round, we were playing “coverall” so that’s why all my lights are lit up. I was the first person to light up all my lights so I won!

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Rich! Filthy rich! Which is more than I can say for my luck at the casino in Atlantic City. 😉 The guy who owns this arcade used to have an arcade that was JUST Fascination machines. He is like an emcee the entire time you are playing, giving a play by play of the game. There was music and cotton candy and popcorn. I know what I just described sounds like a dream;) but it was so fun! His parents were so supportive of him, but since they have passed away, he can’t go back to that arcade. So he has moved some machines into another arcade that he owns and he hopes that one day in the future, he can open another arcade just for Fascination. He is kind of well known for his arcade games…so well known that he was on the TV show Hoarders! He’s a pretty cool guy…check out his story here!

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I collected treasures.

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I ate the most delicious macaroni and cheese.

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I tanned myself like it was my job (and felt completely good about it because I use sunscreen and typically only lay out for this one week of vacation).

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I offended all my Pittsburgh friends by enjoying an iced coffee from WaWa. 😉 Are you #TeamSheetz or #TeamWawa?!

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Aaaaaaand I made fun of my brothers because my drive home to DC was 3 hours and their drive home to Pittsburgh was 6.5 hours. 🙂
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Besides spending a lot of time in CVS for over the counter medications (Jake’s sore throat, Alex’s sunburn, and my tongue infection that made my tongue feel like it was burned for several days in a row), we had an AMAZING vacation! We made so many good memories and I am already counting down the days until next summer. A week just isn’t long enough…we’re talking about a month next July. 😉 #teacherperks

– Where is your favorite place to vacation?!

– Are you a beach person?

Wildwood 2015

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I just spent the last 8 days at the beach so it’s time for a little recap. 🙂

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My road trip essentials include a pillow, a book, and something to eat…

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…and of course taking Snapchats to document the ride with my brother peeking out of the background. Jake has his learner’s permit right now and will be able to get his license in September, so of course he had to get some highway driving in for practice…he really is a good driver so it wasn’t scary at all. Ha!

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We started our vacation in Atlantic City, NJ. We love to stay at Bally’s Casino and after some confusion at the check-in desk, we were upgraded to fancier rooms, which was a bonus. 🙂 My getting ready essentials…something to eat (or in this case drink) again. Do we see a theme here?! Even though Atlantic City is best known for its casinos, we stay in a casino hotel right on the Boardwalk which looks over the beach. So for those under 21, there is plenty to do: shop, eat, beach, ride bikes, etc. We started our evening by walking to dinner at Landshark Bar and Grill on the Boardwalk!

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I was already in picture snapping mode on the way there. This is Alex and his girlfriend. 🙂 My mom and I ate at this restaurant when we were in town for Memorial Day Weekend and we loved the food and the atmosphere! You can eat inside or outside and there is a beach bar with live music and outdoor games like cornhole (bean bag toss? What do you call it?) and volleyball. This particular night, we ate indoors because after hearing there was a 45 minute wait, we were shockingly able to sit down immediately. I think having a bigger party (6 people) worked to our advantage!

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When we first sat down, we were by a huge speaker and I felt like that could be a bad idea. I made my family move down three tables and thank goodness we did because that speaker provided entertainment in the form of karaoke! Think little girls singing “Fight Song” and older guys singing “Gangnam Style” and “Baby Got Back”. Hahaha!

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Of course I had to try a Landshark beer…and I was pleasantly surprised! I don’t like “heavy” beers at all and this one was light and refreshing! We all shared chips, queso, and salsa as an appetizer and then I ordered Fire Pit (barbecue & garlic) chicken and a Caesar salad.

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We didn’t hang out at the Beach Bar much, but we did snap a quick picture! And then it was time for some shopping with my youngest brother and his friend…who is also named Jake. Jake and Jake. Could that be any more confusing?! Luckily, most of Jake’s friend call their friend Jake “Ferg” which is part of his last name. So as weird as I felt about saying “Ferg” every time I had to address the boy, it worked! Haha! They were on a mission to hit the True Religion store. I shopped in the boutique next door but they browsed and browsed and browsed in True Religion so I ended up trying on some clothes there, too. I bought nothing; they both bought a pair of pants.

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I love this mall! It’s right on the Boardwalk and the second floor is so pretty. 🙂

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I went into Starbucks in the mall to get a drink, and when I looked out the windows, this is what I saw. I wish I could go to this Starbucks every day!

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After trying my luck in the casino with my mom, I hit the hay…a long day of travel and a voucher for 22 cents will do that to you. 😉

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I went running the next morning and then met up with my family for breakfast. We decided to hang at the pool and lay out on the roof for the day because Jake and my Mom had spent the more at Shore Express…yes, you can go to the doctor at the beach haha! Jake had some virus that felt like strep throat but wasn’t actually strep throat…we could tell he was so tired, but he rallied and kept up with us through it all!

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Jake mustered up enough energy to want to go to the beach, so he, his friend, Alex, and Taylor all went to jump in the waves while my mom and I watched from the roof. 🙂 The sun came out from behind the clouds and we remedied the extra heat by ordering some yummy frozen drinks! Pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris for all…or just me and my mom. Because everyone else is 20 years old or younger;)

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We had packed separate bags for Atlantic City since we were only going to be there for one night, so once the sun wore us out, we hopped in our cars and headed to Wildwood! We checked into our condo and ate dinner at one of our favorite restaurants across the street called Adam’s. The menu is the perfect mix of seafood and Italian food, so because I’m still learning to like seafood, I ordered eggplant parmesan…my favorite. 🙂 And our favorite after dinner activity…walking the Boardwalk. The Wildwood Boardwalk has tons of stores, 3 piers of amusement park rides, and lots of little shops to get dessert. 🙂

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I feel long winded, so I’ll share a few more snapshots of the beach on Thursday! Thanks for reading 🙂

MCM Training [Week 5]

Well, I’m back…

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This is a picture of my mom, my brother, and his friend as we waited in line for coffee and breakfast before our vacation. My other brother, Alex, and his girlfriend were in the car behind us. Six of us could fit in my mom’s car, but then where would we put our stuff?! Anyways, after 8 days in Atlantic City, NJ and Wildwood, NJ, my mom and I drove back to DC yesterday. I left my car at my old apartment in Maryland and I needed to pick up my car and move the last of my stuff to my new apartment in Virginia. Are you tired yet?! 😉 My new bed is getting delivered on Wednesday (hello, air mattress on the floor) and I’m not quite finished shopping for furniture yet, so that’s what my mom and I spent the day doing yesterday. BUT, between all that craziness and relaxation on vacation, I have been running. I swear I have. Because the Marine Corps Marathon is in ONLY 82 DAYS!!! My team and I are busy getting miles in during the summer heat and raising money for two charities: Give To The World and CitiHope. Both send medical supplies and support medical care in underserved populations around the world. I am so excited to run for this team and be part of the 40th Marine Corps Marathon!

– Saturday –

Usually, Saturday is a day to run a longer run…but because I knew I was leaving for vacation on this day, I ran my long run of 10 miles on Wednesday, and rearranged the rest of the days of the week a little bit. So on this morning, I ran 3 miles before hopping in the car to drive to New Jersey!

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My town is an old farm town and both neighborhoods that my family has lived in have been right next to farms. They operate on a much smaller scale now, but there’s no shortage of chickens crossing the road (literally) or cows moo-ing as the sun comes up!

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– Sunday –

I still had a 5-miler to get in for this week, but since I was at the beach, I was so excited to run these five miles! I love running the boardwalk or running out in the sand and being right along the water. 🙂

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First, I started on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and while I was running, I found a race! I couldn’t figure out what it was, because if I knew about it, I would have signed up. I gathered that it was a one mile run and there were people of all ages out there…kids, teenagers, adults, grandparents…everyone! It happened in spurts because there were people running/walking when I started my run and people running/walking when I finished. It was cool to see the different waves of this race take off! I wish I knew the name or what they were running for. 😉

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My dad was at home in Pittsburgh so he was sending me text messages wondering if I was out running yet. Hello, Dad, here I am sweating my life off and squinting like crazy because I didn’t wear sunglasses.

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I didn’t hit the sand this day because I felt like I was getting shin splints and I just wanted to be done. I wasn’t feeling adventurous. And I had to walk a good .75 miles in the middle of this 5 miles to get it done. But I started with a run, I finished with a run, and I’m counting that as good!

– Monday –

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Besides the fact that Monday is a rest day, my family LOVES to ride bikes on vacation. In fact, we wake up every morning and ride bikes before breakfast and beach time. We have been going to the same bike shop for as long as I can remember. My dad found some old pictures recently and I showed the owner of Surf Bikes…she was so amazed! She remembers us every year and we love seeing her every day while we’re away.

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Such fun throwback pictures, right?!

– Tuesday –

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 I hit the beach for 3 miles, and I found this little friend…

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…I see one of these washed up almost every year!

– Wednesday –

I made my smartest decision ever and ran five miles without water in the direct sunlight. Runners are so smart sometimes. 😉 I stopped at a restaurant on the Wildwood Boardwalk to ask for a cup of water and the worker said, “Oh, you want a bottle?” And I said, “No…I want a cup…I have no money.” Another great running decision. Leave without your wallet. Hahaha

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This picture was a result of me with my head between my knees in the shade as my Dad texted me and asked how the weather was. Um, Dad, it’s really really hot. We were lucky with the weather, though! We saw no rain all week which is perfect for vacation and laying out at the beach!

– Thursday –

Shin splints. They were real on this day. And I wanted to save my legs for my long run on Saturday, so I did this…

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Went on a 3 mile walk. I had to take photo proof with this little walker guy painted on the boards. 🙂 I walked faster than I would’ve if I was out and about with my family and I really did break a sweat! I need to stop knocking “going for a walk” so much. (Note: I hate walking. It takes forever. I prefer running or biking. Even if I am going to dinner…can we drive or bike? Why walk!? Haha!)

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So because I was walking, I appreciated the finer things in life…like under the boardwalk. 🙂

– Friday –

On Friday, I did PiYo. I am a PiYo LIVE Instructor but I haven’t taught since May because I taught at my university this past year. Oh my did I feel out of shape doing this workout! Good thing I was by myself. 😉 Then…shopping was my cardio. Every year, the convention center on the Wildwood Boardwalk has some kind of clothing warehouse sale. The past few summers, it has been Delia’s clothing, which makes sense because I don’t really know of any Delia’s stores that exist anymore. I haven’t shopped at Delia’s in years so sometimes I had to really look for something that I liked, but it’s a warehouse sale…so it’s all on clearance times ten…so you HAVE to find something. 😉 #girllogic

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This year, the sale was advertising itself as “brand name”, so I was curious. I ended up getting 2 dresses, 3 cardigans, a jean vest, a tank top, a flowy shirt, 2 sports bras, 2 workout tanks, and a pair of pants for $150. Brand names include Free People, American Eagle, C Wonder, and Fabletics. Oh my I was so excited to find Fabletics! I have never ordered from this company because I have heard mixed reviews about their clothes, but I grabbed two sports bras and a tank top for myself and one tank top for my friend, Kristen. Aren’t the patterns fun?! This is the only picture I took of my clothes because I was texting Kristen and asking her if she wanted anything ha!

– Saturday –

7 miles. I woke up an hour earlier at 7 AM to do this run because I didn’t want to get caught in the heat. By 8 or 8:30, it started to get really hot. So I figured if I was almost done at 8 or 8:30, that would be ideal. I went down my favorite path in North Wildwood…

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…took a picture of my favorite house…

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…and turned around and headed back towards our condo. I hit 5 miles at that point which is what I wanted to do because then I would only have 2 to go. At this point, I was having flashbacks to Wednesday’s run where I was begging for water, so I knew if I was going to the Boardwalk again, I needed to stop at our condo first and get water. My mom threw it over the porch railing, I stretched a little in the parking lot, and then I set out for the last two miles.

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Lots of bursts of speed. Not because I wanted to do sprints, but just because I wanted to be done faster. 😉

Things I learned this week:

1.

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My Ray-Bans are the only sunglasses that don’t slip off my face while I’m running. Lesson learned. Aviators, I’ll see you after I get my miles in.

2. Caramel popcorn and Polish Water Ice and nacho appetizers are delicious and might help fuel me through my run…but the rest of my body is CRAVING my regular routine of eating. I made sure to try to stick to normal eating habits for breakfast and lunch. Think egg whites, yogurt, Shakeology, banana with peanut butter, etc. At the beach, I snacked on carrots, cucumbers, rice cakes, and Quest bars…but the rest of the day was pretty much free reign. It’s vacation, right?! But I can’t wait to settle back into my routine of eating. I have no desire to eat out anytime soon. DON’T INVITE ME! Hahaha

3. I really really really love the water and the sunshine and this place.

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Memorial Day 2015

Every year for Memorial Day Weekend, my family goes two separate ways: my dad and my brothers go to Indianapolis to visit our family and go to the Indy 500 and my mom and I have a girls weekend. For the past seven years (ah!) we have gone to Atlantic City. AC was one of my grandparents’ favorite places and you just can’t go wrong with the beach!

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We all left on Friday morning. Our favorite place to stay is Bally’s Casino. I was perfectly happy with my window seat and ocean view. 🙂 This year, my aunt and my friend Julianne joined us. After unpacking and walking on the Boardwalk a bit, we walked down to the beach. Because the first time you feel the sand and see the ocean after a long winter is the best feeling!

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We ate dinner at The Rainforest Cafe and my mom and aunt headed to the casinos shortly after! Julianne and I aren’t high rollers yet (#collegekidproblems) so we walked the Boardwalk and checked out all the little shops. It was warm this weekend but pretty windy so we were kind of cold after awhile! Luckily we made our way to Margaritaville for drinks and found a window seat so we could see the beautiful outside without feeling the wind. 😉 We saw fireworks over the beach in celebration of Memorial Day and seriously contemplated getting our palms read, but ended up meeting my mom at Bally’s Beach Bar to people watch and hang out instead!

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My family’s favorite thing to do on vacation is wake up in the morning and ride bikes on the Boardwalk. It’s just so relaxing and fun! Memorial Day Weekend is the first weekend for a lot of things at the shore, bikes included, so I was so happy to be there for the “first ride” of the season. 🙂 In Atlantic City, I like to ride on the Boardwalk towards Ventnor (the next town over) because the sights change from tall hotels and casinos to beach houses that I will one day own. Ha! We made our way all the way to the Ventnor City Pier and took lots of touristy pictures before heading back. It was pretty windy on Saturday too, so we spent the day tanning on the pool deck/roof of our hotel. I actually got some serious sun on my chest and back!

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Tan lines look so good, right? 🙂

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My aunt loves to visit the casinos off the Boardwalk over on the Marina, so on Saturday night we had dinner and gambled at the Borgata Casino. I spent a little bit of money each night on the slot machines but it wasn’t enough to win big…just enough to keep me playing for a little bit, which I guess is okay! Only 1/4 of us were lucky winners this weekend, but one is better than none!

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There’s a part of Bally’s Casino called Wild Wild West and it sounds just like its name. Very outdoorsy and country in the form of a casino and bar! Julianne and I got these adorable mason jar drinks on Saturday night after our time over at Borgata. Wild Wild West is fun because there is a dance floor and people actually get really into it! We had so much fun. 🙂

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And because I’m me, I like to balance my mason jar fruity drinks with Shakeology. Travel blender for $14.99 at Target, I love you.

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On Sunday morning, we went shopping at the Tanger Outlets. We found lots of good deals because of the holiday weekend, but sadly, this little elephant romper thing didn’t make the cut. 😉

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It was supposed to be warmer and less windy on Sunday, so we put our brave faces on and went to the beach. Mind you, it was about 70 degrees this entire weekend, but the wind KILLED and made it feel so much colder at times! My mom said if you looked left and right while we were at the beach, the number of people playing, taking pictures, laying out, and even swimming (!!!) made it seem like it was 90 degrees and HOT outside but that was not the case. The wind struck again and I took to laying on my towel in the sand because the ground was warm. Hahaha

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We took some cliche beach pictures and headed back up the pool. First stop: one of the many hot tubs. I seriously laid on the beach with my towel around my shoulders! Ha! We found lounge chairs in the sun next to the pool…but it should be noted we were inside. The pool at Bally’s is inside, but the ceiling is all windows, so it technically felt like we were laying in the sun. 😉

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The cutest new bakery called Boardwalk Cupcakes opened in Bally’s and they make SO many flavors of cupcakes, but we decided to purchase this six pack: Chocolate Mudslide, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Margarita, Creamsicle, Pina Colada, and Jack and Coke. They were glazed and infused with alcohol. Because why not. Hahaha

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The cupcakes themselves were delicious…the frosting on top and the icing in the center definitely let you know you were tasting some kind of alcohol! I liked the Pina Colada and Mudslide cupcakes the best. Of course we only took a bite of a few of them because we had to do a taste test! They were also very sweet so I cannot imagine eating an entire one myself!

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I love The Pier Shops at Caesar’s because I love to shop BUT on the third floor, they have huge Adirondack chairs sitting along the wall of windows that look out on this beautiful view. 🙂

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Monday morning included more bike riding, iced coffee drinking, omelette eating, shopping, and finally packing up to come home to Pittsburgh. It was such a fun weekend away with some of my favorite girls! Of course, the reason for Memorial Day goes much beyond the eating and drinking and traveling with friends and family. We’re meant to remember those who have fallen serving our country…and I am so grateful and appreciative of the sacrifices our armed forces have made for me and you. We are truly blessed!

Show And Tell Tuesday: Riviera Maya

The weather is finally getting warmer, so it only makes sense to reminisce about my favorite vacation…and day dream about where I want to go next!

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Check out the link up on Andrea’s blog. 🙂

I have traveled to a bunch of cool places…New York City, Las Vegas, Disney World, Niagara Falls…and then I have my favorite places…the places that my family and I go back to time and time again. We LOVE to go to the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey. I have been to Wildwood every summer since I was six months old. 🙂 It’s just the best family vacation! Stick around the blog for a few months and you will get to read all about this summer’s trip;) But I have to say that my favorite vacation EVER was one that I took with my friends last May…

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Me, Johna, and Lindsey

…we hopped on a plane and went to Mexico! It was a special trip because we had all just finished our semester of student teaching AND graduated from college, so we had a lot to celebrate! I had never left the country before (except to go to Canada and that was before you needed a passport), but Lindsey had been to the Cancun/Riviera Maya area many times with her family so she was our tour guide of sorts…making sure we didn’t get lost in the airport and such;) Our trip started out with a ridiculously early flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and then from there, we flew to Cancun. You can’t be too mad about an early flight when the sky looks like this!

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We stayed at Barcelo Maya Beach in Riviera Maya so it was a bit of a drive from the airport, but it was so worth it! I loved how open everything was…you could always see the sun and feel how warm it was. Sometimes, when you’re from Pittsburgh, you forget what the sun feels like;) This is a view of the fountain separating the lobby from the space where our hotel room was.

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 It was an all-inclusive trip and it was so nice to order food and drinks at our leisure! We could try as many new-to-us dishes or drinks as we wanted and indulge. It is vacation, after all! I specifically remember one afternoon when I left my margarita next to my beach chair and went to wash the sand off my legs in the ocean…when I came back, one of the workers had taken my drink away thinking that I was finished! So I ran (literally ran…;) back to the bar and quickly ordered another one. #priorities We had access to pools, outdoor activities, and of course, the beach…which was about 20 steps from my hotel room. I couldn’t ask for anything more. 🙂

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Our resort was nice because there were five different “hotels” on the property but it felt like we were all neighbors. Hahaha there was a golf cart that would trolley people back and forth between the buildings which was perfect when you wanted to go see a show or shop somewhere else on the property. From end to end, it was only about a mile long [I know, because I ran it every morning;)], but once we started walking around, especially in and around all the different buildings, we were exhausted! Ha!

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Thanks to Google Images, you can see what it looks like from the sky:) The red rooftops are the five different little hotels on the property and you can see how grand all of the swimming pools were!

Every morning, I liked to start the day off with a nice run around the resort. So many walking paths and different routes to take!

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I quickly learned that paradise doesn’t always look this pretty…sometimes when you wake up, there are workers out there clearing palms that fell down in the night! Haha

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Our favorite breakfast spot was the buffet. There were SO many different kinds of food…breakfast food, lunch food, salad bar, fruit, dessert, pastries…you could have anything! I decided it was only appropriate to finish breakfast with a crepe and a mimosa daily. 🙂

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Then, we would head to the beach. It was nice to get some sun before it got TOO hot! Riviera Maya is the only place I have ever been where I needed to put sunscreen on the tops of my feet and on my ears. The sun is SERIOUS! Although one day, even though it was 82, it was so windy we were cold at the beach…

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We only looked a little crazy. 🙂

The beach was always lots of fun. We would read, take walks, people watch…and occasionally, someone interesting would walk by…one day, we got henna tattoos, another day, we posed with this parrot.

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When it was my turn to hold him by myself…well, I almost ran away. I wanted to hold him but his creepy little bird feet were scary!

And then there was beach yoga. I don’t know if there is anything better.

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At noon, we would walk over to the pool for water aerobics. Yes, water aerobics. It was so fun!

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The fitness instructors were hilarious and always included some kind of crazy challenge that made you swim with a partner or run around the pool. They played crazy loud music and were so energetic! And they started to recognize us because we were there every day. We made friends. 🙂

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We liked to take crazy pictures…

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…and order fun drinks…

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…because hey, if you don’t like it, you can order something else! #nbd #iloveallinclusive

And we liked to find random things to do. Like paint pottery!

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We chose our pieces, painted them whatever colors we wanted, and left them to be glazed. I painted the fish on the bottom with its mouth wide open…and I love it because I keep my everyday jewelry in it on my nightstand!

Dinner was always fun because we would dress up and go somewhere new. We usually ate at the same place for breakfast and the pool side spot for lunch, so it was nice to put on real clothes and eat in something other than our bathing suits. 😉

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Then we would walk around and find the entertainment for the night…on this night, there were very talented dancers on stage. We also saw an acrobatic type show, but the best shows were the ones where there was karaoke singing or some type of audience involvement! We watched five couples on stage one night competing against each other in strength challenges…it was hilarious to see the men and women fighting with each other to win!

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Pretty much every day, we heard someone at the resort tell us that we needed to go to Coco Bongo that night. We were kind of afraid to go anywhere else even though a ton of people went out every night…we were happy in our little resort bubble. 🙂 The closest we got to Coco Bongo was this Spiderman dude by the pool!

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So because we felt like we needed to do SOMETHING adventurous while we were there, we decided to swim with dolphins! This was not included in our trip but it was so worth the extra money. We purchased a CD of photos from our time with the dolphins and we have a video of it all too! So. much. fun.

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First, we all stood in a line at the edge of the pool. It was very deep so the dolphins could easily swim around, but there was a ledge on the side for us to stand so the water was about waist level. Our instructor had worked with this dolphin for YEARS so they kind of had a little relationship going on which was so cool! She had the dolphin do tricks for us first and in between tricks, he would swim past and we could pet him…kind of get used to us, I guess. 🙂 Then it was time to actually swim with the dolphin! One person in our little line would swim to the other side of the pool and wait for the dolphin to come past…you just had to cross your arms across your chest kind of like the letter T, hold his fins, and you were off!

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I actually did have fun, even though my face says otherwise. 🙂

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But I wasn’t so sure about kissing him…

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When it was time to go home, I sat under this baby palm tree until the airport taxi pulled up. Seriously. I thought Lindsey was going to kill me! Haha! It was such a fun trip and I would go back to this very place with these very people any day of the week. The resort was beautiful, the food was delicious, there was so much to do, and the people were so friendly! I was very impressed with my first venture out of the U.S. Now if I could just make it across the Pond…