Travel Recommendation: Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa, Aruba

This June marked my fifth anniversary with my wonderful boyfriend. Now that I was finally done with school and we both had good full-time jobs with paid vacation days, we decide it was time we really celebrated our relationship. After much discussion and research, we decided on a 5-day, 4-night trip to Aruba, staying at Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa.

This was, quite honestly, the most amazing vacation I have ever been on. I’ve been lucky to travel to several really interesting and beautiful places over the past few years, including London, but this was by far more beautiful and relaxing than I could have imagined.
IMG_1456.JPGOur view from the plane – love at first sight!

When I was researching which hotel to stay at, I had trouble finding information other than just the reviews on Tripadvisor and similar sites. So I thought I would share our experience for other potential guests. I only wish I had taken more pictures of the hotel itself!

Manchebo in General

IMG_1516.JPGThe very first picture I took upon hitting the beach – no filter needed!

Manchebo Resort is located on Eagle Beach, which from what I’ve read (and seen) is the nicest of the beaches on the island. It’s a cheerful and luxurious resort. We were greeted at the front desk by a friendly staff and welcome mojitos – yum!

I loved the resort but I will admit – it’s not for everyone. It is located in the low-rise portion of the island. This area is generally quieter, without a lot of restaurants, shops, nightclubs or other activities in the area. This was great for us, as we were looking to mostly just unwind and just relax. The hotel was very peaceful, day or night, and with just 70 or so rooms, we never felt like the beach or restaurants were overcrowded.

If you’re looking for more activity, the high rise area might be a better option for you. We went to that area once and it was much to busy and crowded for my taste. The beaches are also much smaller and not as nice. And with 10 or more times the people, you don’t get the privacy of the low-rise beaches like at Manchebo!

The Room

We chose an ocean view room and were very happy of it. I completely forgot to take a picture, but the ones on the hotel website are accurate! We had a king bed, tv, safe, small fridge and a balcony. We had plenty of space for the two of us and felt very comfortable.

The bathroom wasn’t huge but was large enough. The rain head shower was a cool feature! I had read in some reviews that the shower caused the entire floor to get wet, but that was certainly not the case for us!

Our view (seen below) was quite nice. It got a little loud one afternoon since we overlooked the Pega Pega bar and it was during a big World Cup game, but other than that we heard hardly any noise. The only downside to the balcony was that the furniture was dark, so it was too hot to sit on until well after sunset.

The Food

IMG_1925.JPGJust a few of our meals. Everything was incredibly delicious!

We chose to do the all-inclusive plan and were very happy with it. I actually did out the math after the fact and it was indeed worth the price, so it worked out in the end. You’re given a bracelet and an all-inclusive number that you put on your check. All service fees (an automatic 15% of any bill) are also included, as well as room tax and any other fees. The only out-of-pocket expense we had was the tips we chose to leave. They aren’t required, as the 15% covers tip, but we had such great service we were more than happy to tip extra.

There are three restaurants total at the resort itself – Pega Pega, Ike’s Bistro and the French Steakhouse. Pega Pega is a beachside bar that is open at lunchtime. The food is nothing fancy but was always delicious. We had burgers, a lamb sandwich, quesadillas, spinach dip and other similar lunch options. The great thing about Pega Pega is you can get beachside service as well. Once it opens, the waiter drops a flag off at your palapa (adorable straw huts) and you just stick it in the sand when you want to order. Not the fastest service since the beach is quite large and there’s usually only one waiter, but it was nice when we just wanted to order a drink but didn’t want to leave the sun.

Ike’s Bistro is an open-air restaurant open for breakfast and dinner. Tables are also placed poolside, which is makes for a beautiful setting during a sunset dinner. Breakfast is from 7-11 with a buffet or an a la carte menu. As my boyfriend is a late sleeper, we often didn’t make it down to breakfast until after 10a. By that point, the buffet was a bit picked over so we generally went with the a la carte options. We had one dinner at Ike’s and really enjoyed it. I had a delicious shrimp risotto and he had the special of the day. The service was friendly and the setting incredibly peaceful.

The French Steakhouse is the nicer restaurant at the resort. They have an indoor dining room and a small outdoor patio. We chose the outdoor seating both times we went as there were large groups dining inside and it made it a little loud. The service here was a bit slow and hit or miss. The first time wasn’t bad but the second it was almost like they forgot about us. This was frustrating as we were trying to head to bed early before our flight the next morning and ended up spending well over 1.5 hours at dinner. The food, however, was always delicious. We left both meals at the Steakhouse completely stuffed and satisfied, at least with the food.

One other note about the all-inclusive plan – you’re entitled to an appetizer, meal and dessert EACH, which leads to a lot of food, but also additional value! When you combine that with unlimited drinks, I personally think it’s money very well spent.

The Weather

IMG_1530.JPGThe view from our room – Hello wind!

Weather in Aruba is generally in the 80’s, sunny, humid and windy. I had read about the wind beforehand but I don’t think I realized how strong and constant it would be. It’s not necessarily bad, as it keeps you cool and prevents the humidity from feeling oppressive, but sometimes I felt like I was getting whipped by the sand! We only had one drizzly day, the day we were leaving, but our cab driver said it was very rare for it to rain that time of the year (June/July).

Activities

IMG_1926.JPGTo say there is plenty to do in Aruba is an understatement!

The island is full of all kinds of activities. Right down the street from Manchebo is a cute shopping center, which is where I purchased my beloved Aruba Aloe products. There are lots of casinos all over the island which is a fun thing to do in the evening.

We chose to do horseback riding and a sunset cruise as our two big activities. We did a fun and beautiful 2 hour horseback tour through Rancho de la Ponderosa. The sights were amazing and it was a surprisingly good workout as well! We did a sunset cruise on our last night through Jolly Pirates. It was a little cloudy so it wasn’t the best sunset to see, but our crew was very entertaining and we had a nice relaxing night on the water.

Learn More
Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa was an incredible experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a beautiful and relaxing vacation on the beach. To learn more about Manchebo, I’d suggest checking out their website and the reviews on TripAdvisor.

I think I’ve covered just about anything, but if you have any questions about the resort, feel free to leave a comment. I’m already counting down until our next visit – less than 10 months!!

Back to School Basics

Fall is almost here! And for many of you out there, that means that start of another school year. I’m actually going back to school as well, for an MBA, so I’m fully in back-to-school mode, even though I’m only doing it part-time since I’m working as well.

No matter what degree you’re pursuing or how far along you are, there are some basic items that every student really needs to start off the semester smoothly.

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•While the first item might vary depending on where your school is located, a go-to jacket is a definite must. This faux-leather jacket is a great option – the color matches just about everything, it’s a good mid-weight for warmth, and it’s affordable which means if it gets dirty or ruined, you won’t be so upset since you didn’t spend a small fortune on it.

•Mid- or light-weight scarves are the perfect accessory for the fall. Pick one up in a neutral color and you can throw it in your bag in case it gets unexpectedly chilly.

•Dark wash skinny jeans or jeggings are a favorite of mine. They match any top and go well with flats or boots – my footwear of choice in the fall. Find your perfect pair and grab them in a couple different shades!

•Trust me when I say a laptop case is a worthwhile investment. I had my laptop break due to it getting knocked around in my bag quite a few times an as undergrad. Once I even lost everything on my computer, right before finals. Find a cute style and use it – you’ll thank yourself later.

•Statement necklaces are totally in right now, so find one that can go with just about everything, such as this gold one pictured above. They’re a great way to dress up a simple outfit without much effort. Trend Tribe and Bauble Bar have lots of really cute options that are also super affordable.

•Whether you go with a backpack or a tote, having one bag dedicated to school stuff is key. This way you can leave all the basics like your notebooks or pens in it and just toss your books and laptop in when you’re heading out the door. There’s a lot of cute backpack styles out there right now, so take advantage!

Picking up these 6 simple items will ensure that you start your school year off on the right foot. For details on the items pictured about, check out my Polyvore set.

Good luck with your new semester!

Berrylicious Sangria

Sangria is a great anytime kind of drink. It’s easy to make in large batches when you’re hosting or going to a party but can also be a fun drink on a casual summer night. Last week, I was heading up to visit a friend for the night and we decided to make some sangria to chat over.

She mentioned that she already had some raspberries and strawberries in her fridge. As I had only ever made sangria with citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, etc.), I thought it would be fun to try something new!

I took to Google and Pinterest to get some ideas, and here is our final product:

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Here’s the recipe for 1 750mL bottle of wine. Feel free to adjust it as needed – we had one of the larger bottles so we doubled everything!

Ingredients
•1 bottle of red wine (we used merlot and I really liked the flavor mixed with the berries)
•1 cup strawberries, sliced
•1 cup blueberries
•1 cup raspberries
•1/2 cup brandy (I just used an inexpensive bottle the guy at the liquor store suggested. A pint or even half pint will have more than enough if you’re not a brandy drinker)
•Sprite (to taste)
•Ice
•Optional: a few teaspoons of sugar if you’d like it a little sweeter. We didn’t use any and it tasted great!

Process
•Pour wine into a large pitcher
•Add berries, brandy and sugar (of desired). Mix with large spoon
•Place covered pitcher in fridge to sit. We let ours sit for about 2 hours and it blended well.
•Pour into cups, add ice and top off with some sprite

And ta-da! You have some delicious sangria to enjoy!

Some other tips:
•You can either put the berries in as is or crush/mull them so the juices mix in. We did it the first way so the berries would absorb the liquid and we could eat them. The strawberries were delicious that way.
•To fancy things up, you can dip the rim of your glass(es) in sugar.
•If you don’t have a pitcher, there are other options! Make it in a Brita pitcher (with the filter part taken out), mix directly in glasses in smaller portions, or buy a cheap one. Most grocery stores have large pitchers for under $5.

Enjoy!

App Review: Jo-Ann Fabrics

I have been on a crafting spree lately and as such, Jo-Ann Fabrics has become one of my favorite stores. Unfortunately for my wallet, there is a store right on my way home so I’ve found myself making almost weekly visits!

It was on one of those trips that I first heard about the app for Jo-Ann Fabrics. I was surprised to hear they actually have one, since a lot of my favorite stores still don’t, so I was really interested to check it out.

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Perks
•The simple app layout makes it easy to navigate, unlike some other stores apps I’ve seen

•Coupons! You don’t have to create an account or log in to have access to these coupons.

•Plus, the app shows upcoming coupons. This way if you know you need something soon but not right away, you can plan your trip around the best upcoming coupon.

•Easy-to-view sales flyers let you see what’s on sale at the moment, which is great if you’ve had your eye on a certain item but don’t want to pay full price

Disappointments
•You can’t shop directly on the app. However, if you select the “Shop” app, it does open their site in your browser.

•Most of the coupons on the app don’t work on sale items. It is written in the fine print of the coupon itself but still something to be aware of when you’re shopping!

•The downside to the simplicity of the app is that there aren’t all that many features. There isn’t much to see beyond what I already listed above.

Overall, I think this app is a good start for Jo-Ann Fabrics. It gives shoppers the essential features upfront and allows room for growth and development over time. I look forward to seeing the app progress and will be taking advantage of what it does offer in the meantime!

Hummus Dip

When it comes to cookouts, desserts are usually my thing. So when a friend asked me to bring an appetizer instead, I was a little unsure of what I should bring. I knew I didn’t want to bring a “hot” appetizer, since I wasn’t sure if there would be room in the oven. So I searched Pinterest for an idea, and came across a great hummus dip recipe!

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This recipe is great because you can tailor it to your own tastes! The basic premise is hummus (homemade if you’ve got a good recipe or store-bought, like I did) with a variety of chopped veggies on top. It’s a simple dish but is a little different than the traditional salsa and Tostitos that everyone always seems to go for.

Recipe:

1 10 oz. package of hummus. I used Sabra and since I needed to make a double batch, I got a plain one and the super spicy flavor. Both worked well!

Chopped Vegetables – whichever you prefer! I used (pre-chopped) onions, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and yellow, green and red peppers (also pre-chopped). The original recipe I found suggested olives and avocados, but I had trouble finding them since it was the weekend and the grocery store was packed. You could even try sprinkling some feta cheese or shredded Parmesan to add some more flavor.

Pita chips, toasted pitas, pretzel chips, etc. – for dipping!

Simplicity is key for me when I’m preparing for a last minute BBQ, which is why I was drawn to this recipe. It doesn’t take long to prepare but it isn’t something that most people think to bring, so you don’t have to worry about someone else showing up with the same thing!

Enjoy! 🙂