The Ultimate Mexican Experience: Teotihuacan

One of the ultimate Mexican experiences you will EVER have while in Mexico is definitely hiking the pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Teotihuacan. I’ve been to the pyramids three times in my life: once as a kid with my family, a second time with my classmates for a Cross-Border class I took in college, and the third time I went with my boyfriend.

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Every time I’ve visited the pyramids I’ve traveled with foreigners -whether it was my mother and my grandfather, my classmates or my boyfriend, they’ve all walked away mesmerized by the mystique symmetry of these monumental man-made creations. It is mind-blowing to think cement and construction machinery were non-existent back when the pyramids were built, but what’s more incredulous is that unlike several modern buildings in Mexico City, the pyramids have survived two major earthquakes and are still standing to date!

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100% Guarantee! Exploring Teotihuacan will be one of the best journeys you will ever experience in your life. That’s why you need to go and check it out for yourself!

ARCHEOLOGICAL PARK

Hours: open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. all days of the year.

Entrance Fee: $70 MXN pesos. Make sure you hold on to your ticket to enter the museums inside the park. Videocameras cost an additional $45 MXN pesos.

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Journey: The Death Valley is a South to North path, about 4 KM long, that will take you through the archeological park. My biggest recommendation is you start at the South entrance of the park and work your way up.  You don’t want end up walking North to South and back to the North again. The walk from the citadel to the pyramids is a pretty long haul, trust me you do not want to make the same mistake as me and walk it twice. There is no need!

There are so many things to see, and depending on how much time you spend in the museums, or how slow you are walking, time might be a little constraining. So, make sure you at least hit these spots:

  • Templo de Quetzalcóatl
  • Calle de los Muertos
  • Museo de la Cultura Teotihuacana
  • Pirámide del Sol
  • Pirámide de la Luna

To see a map of the site click here. Unfortunately, the site is only in Spanish, but you can get a good idea of where these places are situated on the map so you are able to navigate through the park.

DISTANCE

If you followed my hotel recommendation in my post “Why Mexico City Should be Your Next Adventure Destination,” Teotihuacan is nearly 50 KM from Hilton Reforma Mexico City –about a 60 to 90 minute drive (subject to the level of traffic). Be sure to ask your concierge for more information on Teotihuacan Tours to book your excursion!

WHAT TO WEAR & WHAT TO BRING?

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Shoes. You must be prepared for a long day of walking and hiking! The ground is mostly rocks and dirt, and the stairs on your way up the pyramids are very narrow. I know we all have really cute shoes that hurt our feet, that we still wear despite the painful fact! However, don’t wear them. I cannot stress enough how much you will regret it!  Wear comfy flat shoes –may it be tennis shoes, sneakers or any derivative of this sort.

Attire. It depends what time of the year you are going, but you are bound to experience a mix of chilly and warm weather that same day. To be safe wear any variation of leggings, shorts, jeans and a loose blouse or T-shirt to keep you warm if it’s chilly in the morning, and stay cool should the temperature rise throughout the day. I don’t recommend dresses at all since you will be going up many narrow stairs and it can be windy –you don’t want to show all Mexico what you are wearing under (this is a Mexican expression we use whenever your undies get seen LOL).

Here are a few important items you won’t want to forget for your long day journey:

Cash. Remember what I said about getting cash in “Why Mexico City Should be Your Next Adventure Destination,” ? Well… guess what?! You will most definitely need cash at Teotihuacan. Typically, none of the vendors at Teotihuacan accept credit cards, so if you want to buy hand-made souvenirs you should bring MXN pesos. Yes, things are cheap in Mexico, but things add up quickly so bring enough to cover your expenses, plus your souvenirs. If you are going to carry a significant amount of pesos (anything above $2,000) you don’t want to put it all in one place; keep some bills in your wallet, and others in your pocket.

Essentials. Whether it’s a backpack or a purse, just make sure you bring something that allows you to carry all your essentials like sunglasses, sunblock, snacks, water bottles, cell phone, camera, an extra blouse or a sweater. I took a purse, and honestly, I think it would have been better to carry my things around in a small backpack.

WHERE TO EAT?

You will notice there are a lot of small restaurants near the entrances of the archeological park, but take note of this place I am about to recommend: La Gruta, “The Grotto.” Eating at this restaurant will only enhance your ultimate Mexican experience; it is truly one of a kind.

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Location. La Gruta is about 15-20 minute drive away from the archeological park of Teotihuacan. You can grab a taxi and ask them to take you there for a few MXN pesos.

Food. There are so many authentic, delicious Mexican dishes here, it will be hard to decide what to order. I can help you narrow your decision-making by confirming that the “consommé de cornero, “beef broth soup,” and the barbacoa plate, “beef,” are two excellent choices on the menu. If you any questions about the menu, some of the waiters speak really good English, and are very helpful.

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*Note: if you REALLY want to be adventurous, ask for an appetizer of chapulines, “crickets.” I kid you not… they are delicious -a bit salty and crunchy. My recommendation to you if you decide to eat them: Don’t think about the cricket and don’t look at it, just toss in your mouth and enjoy the flavor!

Drinks. I ordered the mezcal de chapulines which I believe is off the menu. I literally thought this cocktail would have crickets swimming in my mezcal drink. Thankfully, the crickets were blended into the mezcal. If nobody told you you are about to have a cricket drink, you wouldn’t even know it’s a cricket drink! This has been one of my most favorite mezcal drinks; it was AMAZING!!! I highly recommend it.

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*Note: make sure you have a sweater packed because this place can get a bit chilly even on a hot, sunny day.

Well people… I hope these notes about Teotihuacan motivate you enough to go experience it yourself. Keep us posted on your trip and share your best experiences with us. I look forward to hearing all about it!

Safe Travels,

~Steph

There’s More to New Orleans than Mardi Gras

Literally… Mardi Gras is the synonym of New Orleans! Every year, tons of thousands of people from around the world come visit “The Big Easy” (one of several nicknames given to NOLA) to celebrate “Fat Tuesday”, and pack Bourbon St. while catching beads, drinking hurricanes, and collecting doubloons (the Mardi Gras coins). I am 100% positive you’ve heard of this big festivity!

No doubt, NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) is definitely another city you must add to your “bucket” list! However, please beware that visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras can get a LITTLE  (notice my sarcasm?) overcrowded and a BIT (notice it again?) crazy. Sooo… if you’re like me, and you don’t like squirming through the masses like a sardine, this is NOT the time for you to visit this charming city.

My boyfriend and I recently drove to New Orleans for a friend’s wedding and managed to fit in some time to explore the area. Despite the fact it was an ordinary weekend (no special holidays or events going on), we still (somehow) ran into a lot of traffic before getting to the French Quarter -where our hotel was located. Fortunately enough once we checked in and valeted the truck, the fun begun!

As I have previously shared with you, I don’t have too many vacay days therefore my trips are typically limited to weekends, which means I need to maximize each trip to its fullest capacity by doing the most in the least amount of time. If you’re in desperate need of more vacation days but have to suffice with what you got, I think you will find my advice a little (I hope for very!) helpful.

We were able to cover a lot of ground during our short stay; so if you are planning to visit the folkloric city of New Orleans, allocate your time as wisely as possible! Be sure to set aside enough time for the following places:

1. French Quarter. Thankfully the Omni Royal Orleans hotel (a block away from Bourbon St.) was located in this area and everything was walking distance -we truly didn’t need a car to get anywhere! The only transportation I recommend taking (if you have time) is a horse/mule driven carriage -it’s the most authentic way to tour the French Quarter! (Tickets can be bought on the spot, make sure you shop for the best deal by asking around before you buy).

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2. Bourbon St. The whole purpose about going to NOLA is to walk through this street! If you do not accomplish this, you completely missed the point of your trip.  Bourbon St. is full of live entertainment; there’s music, dancing, food, booze (bourbon included -duh!), fun and plenty of good vibes all around! As you can imagine, there is also an overwhelming number of restaurants and bars which makes it more difficult to decide where you should spend your time, and what’s worth your while. Let me help you slim down your choices:

  • The Old Absinthe House. The oldest speakeasy in the French Quarter, dating back to the early 1800s offers a unique, mystique experience at Bourbon rue. Their menu obviously consists of a variety of “Green Fairy” drinks -remember to drink within your limits. (I’d never had absinthe in my life so I asked the bartender for her recommendation; she advised me to try the Butterfly drink).
  • Erin Rose. A few steps off of Bourbon St. you will drink the BEST Frozen Irish Coffee you have ever had!
  • Pat O’Briens. You cannot leave this street without ordering one of NOLA’s  signature drinks -the Hurricane!
  • Fat Cats. This bar has a live band, playing your biggest hits of the 80s -it’s the perfect spot to drink and sing-along with the frenzzz!
  • Big Easy Daiquiris. If you are searching for quick and tasty food, this place is legit! Their pepperoni pizza was beyond AMAZING -so good it does not compete with Costco Pizza! Plus, they have a frozen bar and you can order whatever flavor you want! This place was our savior!

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3. Jackson Square. Make sure you take a walk through the historic landmark of the city; this area is really cool because there are many artists trying to capture the essence of The Big Easy on canvas and sell it for a living. One of the artists we spoke to had very neat paintings that my boyfriend liked and bought for his house; the frames were made of wood the painter found in dumpsters! (Isn’t that so cool?!)

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4. Saint Louis Cathedral. Hopefully you’re timing will be better than ours; we didn’t get to see the cathedral on the inside. (A little secret about myself -when I travel I love to check out churches and make a wish for every new church I visit).

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5. Other Places. Some other places you want to make sure you get to see even if it’s just walking by are:

~Amelie Café. This is a neat spot to have a long brunch. Unfortunately for us, it was only drinks at the bar. If you want to eat here, I highly recommend calling in to make a reservation; walk-ins are accepted but are limited -so don’t risk it and call in.

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~French Market. I hope you’re in financial shape to walk through six blocks of non-stop shopping! Here you will find anything from cajun food, local art & art crafts, used books, unique apparel, handmade jewelry and much more! Have your credit cards available and ready for a fun shopping spree!

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~Hot Sauce House. If you get sick of waiting in line to be seated at Café du Monde, walk across the street to check out this store -they have a wide selection of hot sauces to sample; hopefully you have a high tolerance for  “picante” -some of their sauces are very spicy!

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~Fiorella’s Bistro & Wine Bar. After passing up restaurants with long waiting lists, we discovered Fiorella’s, a bistro that served excellent raw oysters marinated in champagne-wine (not on the menu), and very moist, charbroiled oysters. I really liked this place to grab a quick bite and keep moving forward.

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I hope you get to checkout all the places I’ve listed and you get to see way more than I did! Make sure you share any other pieces of advice you pick up during your trip here.

AIRFARE

Not needed when your only a drive away! If you are further away than just a few hours, search for your best flight deals on Expedia.com, Priceline.com, or visit directly the airline websites such as United.com and/or Southwest.com.

HOTEL

As always, my boyfriend and I do our due diligence searching for a place to stay with the main criteria listed below:

  1. Location. Making sure your hotel is in a safe area is always important (safety first!). Additionally, when you are visiting a loud city, it is nice to find a place where you can find peace and quiet to get a good night’s rest.
  2. Comfort and Quality of Service. Comfy beds with clean, fresh sheets, at a high end hotel calls for good night’s rest. The hotel staff was very welcoming and friendly which always makes a difference during your stay!
  3. Proximity. Being able to walk to all the hot spots around town is a major convenience when you’re out traveling! We wanted a hotel that would allow us to spend most of our time exploring new sites, such as the ones I’ve listed.

The Omni Royal Orleans was the hotel of our choice based on this criteria. Located on Saint Louis St. (a few steps away from the busy Bourbon St.), the Omni Royal Orleans offers a friendly, relaxed, and luxurious atmosphere -perfect for a fun getaway weekend!

Overall the staff provided great customer service. Check-in and -out were quick and easy; which we all know can sometimes be a nightmare and delay the beginning of your fun or your journey.

Based on the experience of our stay, I rate the Omni Royal Orleans with a full five yellow stars. You should TOTALLY check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

TRANSPORTATION

Like I said, everything is walking distance within the French Quarter. If you really need a ride to get somewhere you should truly take a carriage tour around town.

DON’T MISS OUT!

Wherever the streets of New Orleans take you, please do not leave the French Quarter without visiting these places!

~Bourbon House. Take this as my best recommendation! This restaurant/bar has an amazing showcase of all types and kinds of bourbon -I think your drink for the night is quite self-explanatory. This restaurant’s ambiance is graced with elegance, and their food is served very rich in flavor. Please, please don’t walk away from Bourbon House without trying their charbroiled oysters -they are exquisite! By the way… they prepare a delicious vanilla, whiskey shake you must order -remember, don’t be counting calories! (No room for diets when you’re on vacation LOL).

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~Café Beignet. Everybody that visits New Orleans has their mind set on visiting Café du Monde ( in Jackson Square) to order a café au lait -coffee with milk- and an order of beignets -Google it if you don’t know what they are. However, people typically don’t know about the 2+ hour line you need to go through to be seated! (So soo crazy!). If you have all the time in the Monde (get it? LOL), then by all means be patient and wait to be seated. But, if you are on the “go” and want to have just as good of an experience, definitely visit Café Beignet!

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~Hotel Monteleone. One of the fanciest hotels you’ll find in the French Quarter is famously known for its Carousel Bar & Lounge -which by the way, does spin around! (FYI: You don’t need to be a guest at this hotel to sit at their bar and order a drink! Oh yeahhh… no reservations required either!!). For drinks, I suggest ordering “The Corpse,” a cocktail off the menu that another person sitting next to me at the bar recommended; a Sazerac -which is a variation of cognac and whiskey- if you like strong drinks; or a French 75, a very refreshing type of mimosa -made with gin and lemon juice instead of the usual orange/grapefruit juice.

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I ranked these three locations as the main highlights of our trip; be sure you check them out and share your thoughts -remember to take it easy on the drinks (LOL)!  If you have any questions on other topics, please feel free to message me; I wish you the best experience ever at “The Big Easy.” Look forward to hearing all about your visit!

Safe Travels,

~Steph

 

Why Mexico City Should be Your Next Adventure Destination

Most of the time when I ask people if they’ve been to Mexico, their answer is “Yes!” However, once I ask them where in Mexico they’ve been, they typically respond: Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, or Cabo. (Are you included in this bunch? It’s OK, no worries!).

I personally have only been to the first two that I mentioned, and I think they are GREAT for fun, vacation and relaxation! Nevertheless, you might agree with me and concur that these beaches even though very fabulous, they are a bit Americanized -which only means they’ve lost some of their Mexican flair and therefore don’t give you a real taste of Mexico!

This might sound a little biased (partly because I am half Mexican), but… Mexico has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world -crystal clear waters and white-dusty sand make Mexican beaches a hot (literally!) destination for many national and foreign tourists every year. So, if your mission is to lay back, relax and catch some Vitamin Sea, Mexican beaches are a perfect fit for that purpose!

BUUUT, if you are interested in experiencing the “true Mexico,” I highly recommend you visit Mexico City! As you may remember in my “About” page I shared with you that my dad is Mexican, and part of my roots are deeply tied to the culture, customs and traditions of mi querido (my dear) Mexico.

Ranking amongst the top 10 largest cities in the world, Mexico City offers a pool of different activities, including sight-seeing (of course!), that would take up to two weeks at least to do them all! As I previously shared with you, I have a real office job where I get limited vacation days for the entire year, so I narrowed my visit to a long weekend. My main focus was to visit as many historical landmarks such as:

  • The Palace of Bellas Artes
  • Hemicycle of Benito Juarez
  • The Tile House (Casa de los Azulejos)
  • El Zocalo Historical Downtown (the Cathedral, the National Palace, and the Tenochtitlan Temple)
  • Angel de la Independencia
  • Chapultepec Castle
  • Pyramids of Teotihuacan
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Palace of Bellas Artes
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Benito Juarez Hemicycle
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Pyramid of the Sun
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Tile House

AIRFARE

To be honest, flying into Mexico City can be really inexpensive given it is Mexico’s and Latin America’s busiest and biggest airport -so you should be able to find great deals as low as $255 a round trip with airlines like United Airlines or Southwest (that’s been the lowest I’ve found; if you can get a better deal that’s awesome!).

Search for your best flight deals on Expedia.com, Priceline.com, or visit directly the airline websites of United.com and/or Southwest.com. Don’t be afraid to mix and match airlines either -I’ve done it in the past to reduce airfare costs, but if your a points person, stick to your preferred airline.

HOTEL

My boyfriend and I did our due diligence searching for a place to stay during our visit. Here are the criteria we looked at to decide on a hotel:

  1. Location. Making sure your hotel is in a safe area is highly important. (Safety first!)
  2. Comfort and Quality of Service. Comfy beds with clean, fresh sheets, and some  AC make it a suitable environment for decent sleep. Note: depending on the time of year it can get hot -VERY hot and not all hotels have AC!
  3. Proximity. It’s nice to be able to walk to most places when your traveling to not miss out on any sight-seeing! We wanted a hotel that was walking distance from the downtown area where we would spend most of our time exploring the sites I listed.

Based on these three components we chose Hilton Mexico City Reforma which indeed is located on Paseo de la Reforma Avenue. Originally, our room was on floor 12, but at check-in we asked if there were other rooms available with a better view, and guess what?! We got moved to the 22nd floor with an amazing view of Alameda Central park (it was gorgeous!).

Overall the staff was very friendly, spoke fluent English, and provided great customer service. We loved our bar-tender, too, he took care of us every evening after being exhausted from touring all day long. He recommended trying the “banderita” shots -a  Mexican Flag shooter of lime juice, tequila, and sangrita (a traditional Mexican tomato juice served as a chaser to high-end tequilas).

We (I know my boyfriend would agree with me), highly recommend this hotel if you intend to explore the historical downtown of Mexico City!

TRANSPORTATION

If you stay nearby the downtown area, the only time you will need ground transportation is to get to and from the airport. Always request taxi’s through the hotel or at the airport terminal (right after you walk out from customs on the right you will see  taxi booths). Those are registered taxi drivers that are safe to take.

MONEY

Unlike the US where everybody carries plastic to pay for everything, you will want to bring cash so you can change your money into Mexican (MXN) pesos at the airport. There are many exchange currency booths once you exit through customs, make sure you look around before you get suckered into one of the booths that doesn’t give you the most pesos for every dollar/euro (or whatever currency you are carrying).

You will need MXN pesos to pay your taxi driver, tip the hotel staff, and meals at small or street restaurants. Also, if you are into bohemian fashion and love artisan clothes, purses, shoes, and jewelry, definitely bring more cash -you will need it!

Credit cards are accepted in many places, like your hotel, established restaurants, and some shops, but just make sure you carry cash at all times.

DON’T MISS OUT!

Whatever you do, please make sure you don’t leave Mexico City without doing these three things:

~ Visit La Terraza at the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico. This hotel (which by the way… you can stay here too!) has a rooftop restaurant and bar with the most SPECTACULAR views of El Zocalo. Make sure you go online to place a reservation or get there early to secure a spot! (You will have to go for a meal, they don’t let you order only a bottle of wine -this method was already tested by my boyfriend and I, and it did not get us in… LOL).

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Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico

~ Walk across from the Hilton hotel over to the Alameda Central park at night to shop for handmade clothes, or try some of the authentic Mexican street food -you will love it!

~ If you are a coffee fanatic #coffeeaddict, I dare you to try an “Horchata” iced coffee from Cielito -this coffeeshop is  like the Mexican version of Starbucks. I hope you like it a latte!!! :b

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

A lot of people have this idea of Mexico being very dangerous; my “Gringo” boyfriend was under a similar impression. But to be honest, Mexico City is a pretty safe city -we walked everywhere to and from our hotel and stayed out till midnight without feeling endangered. However, I do have some precaution measures I recommend when traveling (no matter where you are going):

  1. Carry your wallet in your front pocket, or your purse in front of you. Ladies keep your purse at sight at all times.
  2. Don’t carry all your cash with you when going out for walks and avoid wandering into lonely, sketchy areas.
  3. Leave your passport locked up in your hotel room’s safe.

Like in any big metropolitan city, be aware of your surroundings and use your good judgement; stay away from areas that don’t look so touristy. Other than that, go out and explore this beautiful historical city!

Hopefully this post wasn’t too long; I really tried to keep it short and straight to the point, but I wanted to make sure to not miss any important pointers to ensure you can make the most out of this wonderful trip!

If you have any questions on other topics, please feel free to message me! I really want you to have a great experience in Mexico! Let me know how your trip goes and what you liked most about your visit.

Safe Travels!

~Steph

 

Valentine’s: 3 Perfect Rose Colors for This Special Day

Whether your relationship status on Facebook is Married, Single, In a Relationship, It’s Complicated, or you don’t know what the heck is going on, flowers (more specifically roses) are always a GREAT present to gift that special someone!

To be honest, roses are a wonderful gift no matter the occasion -birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or just because. All women, regardless of age, love to receive roses because they make us feel special! (I can see you nodding your head already!). Roses are a guaranteed smile; whether it’s one rose or one dozen roses, you can never go wrong!

Now that we are on the same page, and we agree that roses are a great gift, you might be wondering: “What color of roses should I gift to convey the right message?” Well… there are three main colors of roses that I will recommend you gift depending on your relationship status.

  1. Red Roses → are your classic roses for love and romance; they are universally symbolical for “true love” (how romantic!). So..  if your Facebook status is Married, or In Relationship, and you want to express a meaningful “I love You,” I highly suggest selecting this color for your pretty lady!
  2. Light Pink Roses → are associated with affection, as well as feelings of gratitude, appreciation, and happiness. If you’ve been “dating” someone (whatever that means nowadays), this color is a safe choice to leave a clear message that you like  the girl and would like to continue going out on more dates.
  3. Yellow Roses → are symbolical for friendship, joy and caring -appropriate to express appreciation and good wishes If your relationship status on Facebook is “Happily Single,” and you have many awesome girlfriends why not brighten their day with yellow roses!

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Roses truly are the thought that counts! I hope this short rose color guide helped you figure out the color of roses you are gifting on this special day. It’s not too late yet to run to your nearest supermarket and buy some -so hurry!!!

I hope you have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Best Wishes ♥

~Steph

♥ Cupcakes are ALWAYS a Good Idea ♥

Just this past weekend I went to Crave for a cup of coffee with my family -a nifty cupcake shop that serves your main lattes, cappuccinos, americanos, and  expressos. Believe it or not, the shop was promoting their Valentine’s specials and that sparked a brrrilliant idea: Crave cupcakes for my colleagues at the office!!

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I love going into the shop to stare at all of their exquisite and elaborate cupcakes -they’re all AMAAAZiNG! From your basic flavors chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, to your more unique velvet, coconut, and lemon, any Crave cupcake you eat, you will absolutely LOVE!  I kid you not… the flavor, the texture and the level of detail of each cupcake is ‘World Class!’ (as my boss would say).

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Place your order today to have your customized cupcakes ready for V-Day! Remember to keep a balanced diet by holding a cupcake in each hand! I hope you and your friends, colleagues or whomever you share these delicious treats with enjoy them while sipping on  your favorite choice of coffee.

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Spread the love with Crave cupcakes this Valentine’s Day!

~Steph

Pssst… If you are still looking for ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I highly recommend reading my post Valentine’s: Wine Not Try This? to plan a lovely wine tasting trip in the Texas Hill Country! Note: This idea is applicable to all wine-lovers!

 

Coffee: The Miracle Drink!

Have you ever sat at work feeling so pumped and eager to start your day, and said: Nahhh I don’t need coffee today? Me neither!!!

Every morning I go into work, and the day doesn’t start until I’ve had my first cup of coffee. It’s warmth makes me feel calm, and ready to take on any craziness I have to deal with at the office; and its strength makes me feel like I can get everything and anything done efficiently. On average, I need (at least) two cups of coffee to get me through the day: one in the morning and another one right after eating lunch.

How do I take my daily coffee? Let me tell you… I do not drink the coffee served at the office (I can’t do it!). The first time I ever had a sip was the last I ever drank there. I’ve never been a fan of coffee brewed at any office, there’s something about it that just doesn’t taste right. Instead, I get a cup of hot water and mix it with Nescafe instant coffee, cinnamon powder, and some local honey. I know it’s crazy, but it tastes 101 times better than the coffee at work!

Never heard of Nescafe? Ask any Mexican -we all drink it! It’s a brand of coffee made by Nestle which is a Swiss company, and it’s very popular in Mexico! It’s SO easy to prepare and it tastes great. I know there are other good brands of coffee out there, but I grew up drinking Nescafe since I was young, my dad drinks it, my uncles drink it, even my abuela (RIP) used to drink it -apparently it’s generational! I guess it might be part of the Mexican culture (who knows?!).

The fact here is that four years ago I started contemplating the idea of eliminating coffee from my daily life (crazy -I agree!) to live a healthier lifestyle. You hear a lot of people say it’s bad for you, it causes insomnia or anxiety, and it can make your blood pressure skyrocket. So, I decided that before I took a step forward, I would do a little research of my own to make a more educated decision.

Note: I do not suffer from high levels of cholesterol, nor high blood pressure. Although, I do have family members that have suffered from minor heart attacks and have high blood pressure.

After reading articles published by reputable sources such as Harvard Medical School, Newsweek, Time, BBC and a couple others, I noticed they all arrived to the same conclusion:  Moderate (2-4 cups a day) coffee consumption has shown the results below in comparison to lower coffee intake:

  • Reduces the risk of heart diseases
  • Reduces the risk of death from liver cirrhosis
  • Reduces the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Decreases the risk of developing Diabetes Type 2
  • Decreases the risk of developing certain types of cancer

Other benefits are attributed to moderate coffee consumption according to Medical News Today.

At the end of my research, I decided I would continue to enjoy my coffee with moderation -as we already know, ALL extremes can be harmful. I personally drink 2-3 cups a day, and get plenty of sleep, do not suffer from anxiety, nor hypertension, nor blood pressure. I believe in the benefits the studies suggest, and will re-evaluate articles in the future to confirm studies continue to see the same or even more benefits from coffee consumption.

Remember we are all different; consumption will vary from person to person. Be aware of your limits and the effects that coffee has on you depending on your intake. By all means, I am not a certified nutritionist; I am only sharing with you my findings and my decision to keep drinking coffee.

 

 

 

Valentine’s: Wine Not Try This?

Let me guess… You still don’t know what you’re doing for Valentine’s?!? Here’s an idea that you might like to consider! Whether you are in a serious relationship with yourself or you have a significant other, I think you’d agree that a winery tour would be a FUN-tastic idea to celebrate love and friendship!  (I know we are already on the same page -so cheers!)

When I say ‘winery’, what’s the first place that comes to mind? Is it… Napa Valley? (I knew it!! I used to think the same too!) Californian wineries always came first to my mind, until my boyfriend took me on a proper winery tour in a German-influenced town called Fredericksburg -this charming town located in the Texas Hill Country completely changed my perception about Texan wineries!

The Wine Tour

Obviously… the point of taking a wine tour is to taste all the wine you can drink! However, in order to get from one winery to the next to the following, you need a car. But if you drive a car, you’re not supposed to drink. This is a bit of a Catch-22 (isn’t it???). So, I bet you’re wondering: How the heck am I supposed to enjoy sipping on some wine,  if I need to be able to drive to the next winery? I mean… yeahhh… you could definitely appoint your best friend to be DD, but you and I both know that is out of the question! Let’s be honest people… who wants to be a DD at a wine tour?! NoOobody!!

The solution to this Catch-22 is: Take the 290 Wine Shuttle! There are over 45 vineyards in this area you can check out during your visit! Indeed, the number of options is a LITTLE overwhelming which can make it a bit hard to decide what wineries are worth visiting -the 290 Wine Shuttle visits thirteen of these wineries on its Saturday and Sunday tours. This ‘hop on-hop off’ shuttle offers an ALL-Day pass, starting as early as 10/11 a.m. and ending until 5/6 p.m. respectively (I recommend you maximize your tour by arriving 15 minutes early!). There are shuttles stopping every 15 minutes at each winery and you can stay as long as you’d like at each one of them. (I kid you not… This is a drink-athon; so be sure to keep up with your H2O!)

~~RECOMMENDATIONS~~

Whatever you do, do NOT miss out on these three wineries:

1. Grape Creek Vineyard should definitely be your very first stop since drop-offs are allowed up until 12 p.m. Be sure to become a VIP member -it really is a great deal! You get discounts on food, and bottles of wine, AND you get two free wine glasses.

BONUS: You also get two complimentary glasses of wine at their store in town. (My boyfriend and I thought it wouldn’t be worth it in the beginning, but let me tell you… it truly was! This winery was my favorite of all!).

 

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2. Becker Vineyards is also a good choice to visit -they have beautiful flower beds which are good for taking cute pictures!!! (Just an FYI)

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3. Wedding Oak Winery was another one I liked, too! This was a bit smaller and quieter location in comparison to the other two wineries, but very enjoyable and very nice to walk around.

I hope you are able to visit more than five wineries; we did the tour only one day. But heyyy. . .  if you’re feeling like a warrior, you should go on the tour a second day to finish visiting all thirteen wineries!

Need a Place to Stay?

We spent two nights at a lovely, rustic cabin ten minutes outside of town (an easy, quick drive) that my boyfriend booked through a property management company called Vacasa -pretty much something like Airbnb. This cabin was out in the middle of the wilderness; it was fully furnished and had two floors. The first floor had a small kitchen area and a cozy living room with a chimney to light up a real fire; the second floor had a king-size bedroom and a full bathroom. This bed & breakfast was perfect for a couple’s romantic getaway! But no worries. . . if you are celebrating Valentine’s with a group of friends, you can search for houses on Vacasa that can accommodate more than two guests.

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Climb Enchanted Rock

If you had enough wine on day #1 and wake up without a hangover, I recommend climbing the mystical Enchanted Rock! This excursion is a perfect way to end your tour on a some-what healthy note.

The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area has several trails to explore with scenic views, geological wonders, and stunning beauty. This area has eight main points of interest of which we only had time to visit one (hopefully you can cover more ground than we did!).

We climbed the Summit Trail for a little over half a mile up to Enchanted Rock. This hike offers scenic views and tranquility all around -it is so peaceful, I am sure you will enjoy this moment of peace and silence!

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Just so that you know… none of the pictures I took make justice to the amazing views of mother nature’s wonders.

If you’ve taken this trip before and have other recommendations, please feel free to share! This is definitely a trip worth taking more than once -especially when you’re just a drive away!

Safe Travels.

~Steph

Every Penny Adds Up: Save Your Credit Card Change

As our friend Benjy once said. . . “a penny saved is a penny earned”and boy, oh boy was he right! Saving change from cash payments was an easy way to save some extra funds back in the day; but nowadays, we live in a cashless society where most of us use credit cards –eliminating our opportunity to earn a little “bonus.”

 If you’re interested in saving money throughout the year, a really easy way to do it is with the Acorns app. I downloaded this app the first week of the year and have already saved up $54 with their round-ups feature. All you do is link your credit card(s) to your Acorns account and every purchse made on your card(s) will be rounded up to the nearest dollar; this money gets deposited into your Acorns account. It’s a really convenient way to start saving up those pennies –they could add up quickly!

Besides helping you save money for that trip you urgently need to escape from work, or pair of stilettoes you can’t live without because they match perfectly with your new outfit, Acorns offers some other neat PERKS!!!

  •  Earn $5 for every time you refer this app to a friend and they open their Acorns account (you and that person will each get $5 deposited to your respective accounts)
  • Earn $1,000 referral bonus when 10 of your referrals open an Acorns account before the end of January (you will get $1,000 deposited to your account)
  • Earn money on your money (yes, that is correct!). Acorns invests every $5 you accumulate from your round-ups into a protfolio of stocks and bonds which in return can earn you more money for the money you are already saving! Note: your money’s growth rate will depend on what type of investment portfolio you chose (mine is “moderate”), and how much money you continue to add into your account. (But heyyy… at least your savings will be earning more than .01% for every dollar saved unlike my personal bank account!)
  • The Round-Ups feature can be incremented from 1X to 2X, 3X up to 10X the amount from your transaction’s round-up (I personally have upped my account to 2X –but  start out with 1X just to understand how this feature works).

 Just so that you know. . .there is a $1 monthly fee for all accounts with a balance under $5,000 and .25% of the balance per year on accounts over $5,000.

 Don’t wait any longer and start saving today! To download this app to your phone click here. Note: this is a secure site –my brother, some of my friends and colleagues, and I already open our Acorns accounts and have liked the app thus far!

 By all means, I am not saying that I am a professional financial advisor; I am just sharing my experience from using Acorns as a savings and investment tool, helping me meet my goal of saving more money this year.

~Steph

P.S. This is not an “I love you” note, to download this app and earn your first $5 (WoOhoO!) click on any of the hyperlinks in this post from your phone.

Easy Money: How YOU can earn it!

I don’t need more money -said no one ever!!! If you love shopping, traveling, going out and enjoying a good time, this costs money and I know you wouldn’t mind some extra cash (just like me!) to enjoy more fancy shoes, adventurous trips, social happy hours, and cool experiences.

One of the easiest ways you will ever earn money is by swiping a cash-back credit card! (I agree. . . this sounds TOO good to be true, but I am not kidding!)

For instance, I bank with Chase J.P. Morgan and applied for their Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card; once approved, I got an automatic $150 bonus for spending $500 within the following three months. Additionally, I started earning 1.5% cash back for all my purchases. The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card offers:

  • No annual fee (YaY-hOoRaY!)
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn a total of 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter in bonus categories that change every three months such as gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and other categories. (In other words you can earn up $75 each quarter for the advertised categories, and once you max out, you earn 1 point for every dollar spent).

So pretty much this is what it comes down to. . . you get 1 point per dollar spent on everyday purchases, and 5 points per dollar spent on purchases in the categories highlighted during each quarter. Note: Every 100 points you accumulate is equivalent to $1.00

SECRET: Every year, from January to December, I use my cash-back credit card to accumulate points from all my purchases. From drinks, meals and  groceries to bills, rent and insurance, I pay for everything and anything that I can with a credit card to earn as many points as possible.

TRUE FACT: This practice has helped me redeem an average of $350 to nearly $400 per year!! (I typically use this “bonus” to shop for Christmas gifts).

Continue reading “Easy Money: How YOU can earn it!”