Sandals Ochi Beach

Disclosure: We were provided with two free day passes to the resort, however all opinions on Sandals Ochi Beach are my own.

Back in November when I sailed on the Carnival Vista, one of our stops was to Jamaica. I knew they had a Sandals resort there, and so I was really excited to spend the day exploring, in hopes of coming back for longer one day. The weather was dreary, but we still had a great time and I learned a lot about Sandals Ochi Beach resort!

This place has a beach club, 11 bars, and 16(!!) restaurants. You can take the shuttle to the other side of the road for more fun. Tranquil, lush gardens and quiet relaxing places to read or just enjoy your surroundings. This place has something for everyone!

Of course when you stay at Sandals Ochi you get top notch service such as free wifi, free airport transfers, unlimited land and water sports, unlimited wines and premium spirits, unlimited fine dining, golf, and access to the beach club where there are so many activities going on all day and into the night.

We were given a tour when we arrived, and this place is HUGE. I don’t think if I stayed for a month I could do all the things there are to do. So for those worried about getting bored at an all inclusive, that’s definitely not an issue here!

I loved the laid back atmosphere of the resort. No one was in a hurry, everyone was happy and relaxed, and it was so peaceful. The first thing we did was enjoy a breakfast buffet overlooking the ocean. I was handed a mimosa, and thought “I can get used to this!”

We enjoyed out food and the excellent customer service from the staff before heading to the pool to relax and enjoy some drinks. We ended up at the Beach Club area and at the swim up pool bar (so nice) where they will make you pretty much anything you want. I had a great time trying different drinks I normally wouldn’t order, and listening to the music as we looked out at the water.

Everyone was so friendly and we enjoyed chatting with other couples from all over the place. Some have been back several times which speaks very highly of Sandals Ochi Beach. Before we knew it, it was lunch time, so we headed back to the buffet area (there were other options as well) and enjoyed another meal overlooking the water, and I tried the drink of the day which was delicious.

After lunch I spent some time exploring the grounds and taking photos. I still didn’t have time to even take photos of everything!

I was jealous of everyone who got to stay there overnight when we had to go back to the ship.

I definitely would love to come back here, or try out another Sandals property, and actually be an overnight guest and experience more the resorts have to offer. I would also love a sunny day (haha).

If you are considering an all inclusive, I highly recommend Sandals Ochi Beach. There is something for everyone, and there are even direct flights from many airports. They have accommodations for all budgets, and activities and experiences you won’t soon forget. I know I was just there for a few hours, but I know I won’t forget the fun we had in Jamaica.

sandals ochi beach

Pppssst: If you are sailing here on a cruise ship, they offer a limited amount of day passes, which is what we had, so you can go check out the resort for yourself!

Sandals ochi beach

 

Universal Orlando Resort Blue Man Group

Disclosure: I was provided free tickets to The Blue Man Group show, however all opinions are my own.

A few weeks ago when I was visiting Orlando, I was able to experience my very first Blue Man Group show. I have heard of the show and seen advertisements, but really wasn’t sure what it was all about, and was excited to see. I mean, blue men are pretty intriguing right?

Blue man group at Universal Orlando Resort

I’m not even really sure what to categorize this show as to be honest. It’s lights, it’s music, it’s art, it’s comedy, all rolled into one evening. It definitely stretched my imagination and made me think more creatively. There are acts with the blue men catching marshmallows in their mouth, painting on canvases, drumming on pipes, and spraying pain everyone. I mean everywhere. The front few rows wear ponchos! It was so interesting every time they started a new act because you had NO idea what they were going to do next, which was so fun.

The show lasted about an hour and 45 minutes, and you can purchase tickets from the Universal Orlando Resort website. The venue is located in the Universal City Park area near Hard Rock, so you don’t need a theme park ticket to see the show.

They also have a concession stand inside the venue so you can have a snack during the performance.

Blue man group

I loved that due to the nature of the show (they don’t speak!) it’s great for all audiences, languages, and even for kids (3 and up is recommended). If you are into art and music and thinking outside the box this is definitely the show for you. If you are looking for something fun to do while visiting Universal Orlando Resort, be sure to check out the tickets page and order in advance.

 

Health and Fitness on the Carnival Vista

Disclosure: I was provided with a free cruise from Carnival, however all opinions about fitness on the Carnival Vista are my own.

As people who work out on the regular, it is important to us to have active and healthy things to do, even while on vacation. I was so pumped to see that the Carnival Vista has plenty of options for health and fitness lovers, and we took advantage whenever we could, which meant more dessert for us!

fitness on the carnival vista

Up on the open decks, the Vista has a great sports and activities area. There was a huge caged in basketball court, and even though we never had the chance, we saw where they play volleyball up there, too!

There is also a really fun obstacle course, mini golf, ping pong, and other games you can play with your family.

Fitness on the carnival vista

Don’t forget about the one of a kind sky ride where you pedal all the way around the boat, up in the sky! Talk about a workout with a view. A walking/jogging track also goes around this area if you just want to take in the view or chat with a family member while walking and burning some calories.

Our favorite however, was the fitness center which is located int he Cloud 9 Spa.

They had tons of treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, weight machines, dumbbells, bosu balls, medicine balls, and even a foam roller. There was definitely not a shortage of workouts to do here! They also had health and fitness seminars you could attend, personal training, and Pilates.

The treadmills have the best view in the house, looking directly out the front of the ship. it was gorgeous!

Fitness on the carnival vista

After you are done with your sweat session, you could pay a little extra to have access to the thermal suite (we got it free with our spa stateroom.) Here you can go into the sauna, hot tub, steam room, or several different cool showers.

I spent some time on the heated tile loungers to relax my sore muscles, which was just what I needed.

We worked out three of the five days we were on the ship, which I think is a great balance for a vacation. There is no need to ruin your routine or hard work just because you go on vacation. I love knowing that Carnival gives me great options and cares about my health, and hope you too will enjoy fitness on the Carnival Vista!

5 Reasons to Stay at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

Disclosure: I was provided a hotel stay and park tickets from Universal Orlando Resort, however all opinions are my own.

Recently I had the opportunity to stay at Universal Orlando Resort’s newest hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls. I had only seen pictures, which looked beautiful so I was really excited to experience this resort for myself. There is a lot that could be said about this gorgeous tropical retreat, but I condensed it into my five top reasons that you will want to visit (and stay at!) this property.

1.) Easy access to the parks: We arrived at the resort early in the morning so we could have a full day at the parks. After parking in the convenient parking garage, we set out to find our way to the theme parks. We discovered not only is there a gorgeous and tranquil walking path, but a leisurely boat ride that drops you off at City Walk. We took the boat and walking path during our stay and enjoyed both! There is also a bus if you prefer to take that instead.

2.) Beautiful and bright rooms: I’m a big fan of tropical and bright decor, and Loews Sapphire Falls did not disappoint. We were honored to have been upgraded to a suite which was HUGE! Below you can get a feel for the color scheme and amenities in the rooms. I’m not oing to post photos of the rest of the suite as to not confuse anyone about the rooms. One of my favorite things was the fact that there were power outlets and USB plus everywhere! I hate going to older hotels and not being able to find outlets for everything I need to plug in. Not the case here. It made me a happy girl.

sapphire falls resort

 

Everything was so nice and fresh and clean, I felt so relaxed the whole time. There are lots of blues and whites which are so peaceful to me.

sapphire falls resort

sapphire falls resort

 

3.) Extra options at the resort: I love staying at a resort where there is so much to do, you don’t even feel like you have to leave. If you are like me, then you will love it here. There was an arcade, several restaurants, and a gorgeous fitness center. This wasn’t like a little room with a few dumbbells and a treadmill. This was a real gym and it was so nice!

4.) Great pool area: Having a kid, one of the things I always look at when trying to decide where to stay is the pool. We did not have a chance to swim this time, but we did go check it out and it looks fabulous! First of all, when you walk outside they had corn hole, ping pong, and other games as well as a bar and tables to sit at and eat.

There were cabanas for rent, and nice sandy areas making you feel like you were at the beach.

There was also a water slide which I know my daughter would have loved.

This just means we have to go back, right?

5.) Early entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: When you stay at Loews Sapphire Falls, you have the added bonus of getting entry into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour earlier than park guests not staying onsite. Especially at peak times of year, this is a huge deal! Getting to head into that part of the park with hardly anyone there is amazing, and great for photo taking. I was able to ride everything and see all the things I wanted to see within that first hour.

If you are planning a visit to Universal Orlando Resort, consider staying at Loews Sapphire Falls. You will fall in love with it’s charm and will enjoy the tranquility of this beautiful resort.

 

 

 

Christmas Recap 2017

Happy January guys! I can’t believe it’s now 2018. How many of you are still forgetting and writing 2017 on everything? Hand raise! We had a great Christmas, but just like every year it flew by so fast and I want it back! Here are a few of my favorites photos and things we did.

The Friday before, Emma Kate had PJ day at school and obviously had to show them off.

Saturday we made reindeer food and fudge.

Christmas eve we went to church along with my mom and dad. 

Love singing Silent Night with just out voices and the candles. So beautiful. 

After church, we hit up PDQ. I know it’s not very traditional, but we knew we were going to be cooking all the things that night and the next day so I was not up for cooking again for lunch.

Bobby cooked pork chops for dinner and mom was in charge of bread, which is terrifying because she always burns it. So she sat in front of my oven to make sure she didn’t. Bless it. 

We made cookies for Santa and left them by the tree with some milk. 

We read the Christmas story from the Bible and the Night Before Christmas. My sister’s plane arrived just in time for her to get to join in and tell Emma Kate good night.

My mom, dad, and sister left to go to their house, then Santa came!

On Christmas morning, I made EK sit at the top of the stairs and wait just like I used to do. She was a trooper even though she didn’t really understand ha.

She ran downstairs to see that Santa came, and was so excited! She even had gifts in her stocking.

This is my FAVORITE Christmas photo from the day. Sums it all up perfectly. 

Happy girl loved her “doctor things”

Self timer for the win!

We got ready then drove down to my parents new house for the day. It was my first time seeing it with furniture and I love it!

Emma Kate even has her own room.

Also, Santa made a visit to Grammy and Papa’s house, too.

Bobby also got in on the gift action. (and he got me a laptop!)

Maybe a future career?

The weather was in the low 70’s and perfect.

We had our big meal at lunch, and it was delicious.

Santa even left Emma Kate a cupcake.

Self timer again! 

Lunch goodness.

Christmas day is also my moms birthday so we had a cake, of course!

Emma Kate learned how to “drive” papa’s golf cart.

The sign of a good day, asleep int he car by 7:30. We drove home and were so sad it was all over, but thankful for the great memories!

I hope you had a great Christmas with your loved ones. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Better Body Jump Start FREE Email Challenge

2018 is upon us, as is the time we all make goals or resolutions for the new year. Let me ask you a question. How many goals do you ever actually keep? Let me make it a little easier…how many do you keep for at least a month? That number is hopefully higher, but the sad truth is that so many of us have GREAT intentions, but then fall off the wagon because we have no support or accountability, or we just plain don’t know where to start.

I want you to be successful in 2018, and actually stick with something. I realized 2 things: 1.) Changes can and need to be SMALL if we want to really make them stick, and 2.) it truly does take a village. I don’t know about you but when I’m working out with a group, I push harder than when left to my own devices. So I figure in health in general, if we are left to fend for ourselves, we may be likely to cheat, skip, and give up all together.

 

I want to put an END to excuses and an END to goals that never get met. That’s why I created the Better Body Jump Start 7 Day Email Challenge. This is a completely FREE challenge. When you sign up, you will get 7 days worth of emails in your inbox, one each day, with ACTIONABLE tips, motivation, ideas, and calls to action to get you going.

 

 

Remember, little changes add up to BIG things, so don’t discredit the small shifts you make in your schedule, habits, and life. I KNOW you can do this, and I want to help you prove to yourself that you can.

The emails may only go on for 7 days, but I CHALLENGE you to keep up the thins I discuss all the way through the month of January. At the end of January if you don’t feel stronger, healthier, more energizes, and better about yourself, then you can stop. BUT, if you do the things I talk about, then I know you will feel amazing and want to keep going!

All you have to do is click this link to sign up (make sure you confirm your subscription when it hits your inbox, and be sure to check your spam!) Please email me with any questions, I’m happy to help any way I can.

Let’s make 2018 the year you become the best version of yourself. To get you really thinking about your goals and what you want out of 2018, I decided to share with you something that I actually started a couple weeks ago but was nervous to share out loud, but I am letting go of fear and taking action in my life.

I started a podcast! It just so happens that my very first episode is all about goal setting. I encourage you to listen to it if you are on the fence about the challenge (it has nothing to do with the challenge itself) or if you are telling yourself NOT to make goals because they never happen for you. After you click the link, check out the December 18th episode. I hope you enjoy, and then will join in the email challenge.

 

Episode 1: Goal Setting Strategies You May Not Want To Hear (But Will Work!)

Episode 1  of my new podcast is fitting for the new year, goal setting. In this episode I talk about the biggest reason you aren’t reaching your goals, and we have a little chat about not making excuses (all said in love!)

I give some calls to action to get your 2018 off on the right foot.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Average Girl’s Guide to Living an Above Average Life Ebook

 

My 7 Favorite Things About the Carnival Vista

Disclosure: I sailed for free on the Carnival Vista, however all opinions are my own.

I have been on several cruises, and really enjoy being out on the water, and having the ability to visit several destinations in one trip. Another things I really enjoy about cruises is exploring what basically amounts to a floating city.

As soon as I heard about Carnival’s newest ship, the Vista, I couldn’t wait to get on her and explore. After spending six nights on this beauty, I came up with seven of my favorite (there were many more though!) things about the ship to share with you.

1.) Anytime Dining: There are some days when you are out in a port, having a blast, and you just aren’t ready to go back to the ship to make your early dining time. Never fear, anytime dining is here! Just show up at the podium on the ship when you are ready to eat, and you are given a ticket and sent down to the dining room when your table is ready. We always ate between 6:00-7:00, and never had to wait. We could take our time getting dressed, no rushing around, and no stress. It was a great way to enjoy dinner and we loved the option! You could even request a certain server or section if you wanted to do so.

2.) Fahrenheit 55 Steakhouse: I have heard people rave about this restaurant, so I was pumped to try it out on our first night. (Bonus: if you dine there the first night you get a FREE bottle of house wine, or 50% off any bottle of wine!) It’s beautifully decorated, the staff was amazing, the food is plentiful, and it’s a very peaceful relaxed place. It was a top notch experience I recommend to everyone who sails. If you are looking for a fun “date night” or a little extra pampering with delicious food, don’t miss this one.

3.) Friendly Staff: With anything in life, dealing with staff anywhere you go can be hit or miss. It can be especially frustrating when you are going to be dealing with the same people over and over again, like on a cruise. I was SO pleasantly surprised with the staff, and in particular our stateroom hostess. She showed up the day we got on the ship and introduced herself to us, asked if we needed anything (I asked for an extra blanket which was delivered immediately) and she also noticed that we had a cord running across the floor for my husbands fan. She didn’t want us to trip so she brought an extension cord and taped it down to the floor for us. Seriously above and beyond, she could have just not done anything. We always had ice in our room, and I loved coming back at night to the turn down service and a fun towel animal. She always spoke to us when we saw her int he hallway, and was just generally a sweet pleasant person (as were all the staff we encountered!)

 4.) Cloud 9 Spa: We were fortunate to be in a spa stateroom on the ship, so our room was literally a hope skip and a jump from the Cloud 9 spa. We really enjoyed using the thermal suite, the heated tile lounge chairs, and we also visited the gym numerous times and found it to be spacious with lots of equipment. While we did not get any spa services while on board, there was a huge menu to choose from and always something going on.

Carnival Vista

5.) Serenity Adults Only Area: Aaahhh. Now you are speaking my language. Our room happened to also be super close to the adults only area which has two hot tubs, a bar, salad bar, and lots of comfy lounge chairs and what amounts to some private clam shell bed complete with throw pillows. This was a great, quiet escape form the hustle and bustle of the main parts of the ship, and we spent part of a port day and literally all day of our last sea day on this deck. If you want to nap or read a good book, this is definitely the place to do it. A couple of things to note though: The salad bar is only open on sea days, and the “clam shell beds” I mentioned (pictured below) get scooped up VERY quickly on sea days. I went out at 7:45 am to snag one and it was the last one, but totally worth it!

Carnival Vista

6.) Ship Water: I know this sounds bizarre, but I CAN’T be the only person who has thought about this, so I had to add it in to my favorites. Confession, I’m really weird about water. Like, really weird. I do not like lukewarm water or water the has a taste. I have been on other cruise lines and at restaurants where the tap water tastes awful, and so I was super nervous about being dehydrated during the cruise. So much in fact, that we ordered THREE cases of water to be delivered to our room so we wouldn’t die of thirst (dramatic, I know.) It ended up being a totally unfounded fear because the water on the ship tasted delicious and we only ended up using one case of water (for port days).

7.) Hand Washing: My husband and I are a bit of germaphobes (hey, we have a very germ-y three year old so it’s a necessity). I have heard awful stories of sickness sweeping through cruise ships and I for one did not want to be sick on my vacation. We boarded armed with hand sanitizer and Lysol spray. I found one of my favorite ship things in buffet. Not only do they have hand sanitizing stations everywhere, but they had hand washing stations. You just put your hands in the holes, not touching anything, and water and soap sprays out and washes your hands for you. It takes about 15 seconds, but it’s pretty cool and made me feel super clean. Kudos to Carnival for having different options and for keeping everyone safe from the spread of germs!

Carnival Vista

The Carnival Vista has so many great things about it that it was hard to narrow down to just seven, so be sure to check it out for yourself and find your favorites!

Merry Christmas 2017

From my family to yours, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas with those you love.

Luke 2 New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus

 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 

Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2017

This was my first time running the Wine and Dine Half in the daytime, and my first time participating in the two course challenge. Being tired and having my leg hurting me from the 10k the day before I was not feeling optimistic, but had no goals other than to have fun, and that’s what I did!

Keep in mind I was very under trained, I had run a 10k a few weeks prior and did a 9 mile run/walk (more walk than run) training run on a very hot day, but that was the extent of my training.

I was running solo again, and knew the first few miles would be dark and kind of boring, but I was ok with it. After my coral was set to go, I just got into a good rhythm and stuck with it. My leg started bothering me right from the start, but I pushed through, and am glad I did, because I ended up having a good race! I didn’t take any photos on the course because it was so. humid. My entire body was covered in sweat most of the race (and in the beginning before I was too sweaty, it was too dark!) and my fingers wouldn’t unlock my phone, but thankfully I got a ton of great photopass shots! (great as in I’m smiling and still running, not as in I look cute, because I don’t. I look like a sweaty mess.)

Running through Animal Kingdom was really fun because we were the first race to run through Pandora. I was kind of bummed that there were no photographers taking running shots of people in Pandora, just one if you wanted to stop and take a photo. Oh well, moving on.

So my quad and knee were really tight and hurt, but then honestly they just kind of went numb and were just a dull pain from mile 7 or so on. The only walk breaks I took were from stopping at water stops for about ten seconds each, and I stopped at every single one. Check out the photo below. The bottom left of my shirt is the color it’s “supposed” to be.

Running through Hollywood Studios was also fun because they had up their Christmas decorations. Once I got into this park I knew I would make it to the finish because the rest of the scenery was at least interesting after getting off the main roads.

I exited Hollywood Studios and headed towards the Boardwalk. OH! A total runner #fail I forgot to mention was fuel. Typically, runDisney races have GU packets which is what I take when I train anyway. However, this race handed out sport beans, which totally threw me off. Make sure to read all the info so you know what to expect. Do as I say, not as I do.

So I kept plugging along and realized I was keeping a pretty good clip despite my under trained status and the awful weather. I decided to keep pushing and see what I could do without absolutely killing myself. After all, I did want to end with a smile on my face and continue to enjoy the run.

Wwweeeeee!

I made it into EPCOT and knew I was in the home stretch. I was not anticipating turning RIGHT into EPCOT and going all the way around World Showcase (again, runner fail. I’m sure the map was in the runner guide). My GPS is always off so I thought we would be turning left and going around the “short side” so that kind of knocked the wind out of my sails, but I knew we were still close.

I love running around the World Showcase, lots of room, pretty scenery, and it also means you are almost done!

So up until this point I had stopped for zero characters and the only time I walked was for water stops. As I approached this little guy, he had NO ONE in line and I felt bad for him so I jumped in, took a picture and kept going. What a cute little guy. He just needed a friend.

I passed Spaceship Earth and headed “back stage” the old familiar way I have run so many times before. I made the last corner and heard cheering and decided to give everything I had left, which turned out to be a lot! I sprinted to the end and crossed the finish line.

I did it! Another runDisney race in the books. I got my half medal, my challenge medal, and then had to document with a photo since no one was there to take one for me. I was back at the hotel, showered and in bed for a nap before most people were headed into the parks for the day, and I had a great feeling of accomplishment.

I was reminded I am so much stronger than I think, and after all these years of running, even when I don’t actually train, my body knows what to do. I ended up finishing the half in 2:17, which is just a few minutes off my PR, and that’s with running a hard 10k the day before. My mile pace was actually FASTER at the half than the 10k! It just goes to show you every day and every race is different, and this one was fun. I’m so glad I was able to run and have such a fun runDisney weekend.