Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mexico Paradise: Grand Velas Riviera Maya Review

{The view from our room}

{Hanging at the Zen pool}

{During our stay our conciege arranged a beach front BBQ for the entire family. The food was outstanding! Some of the best pulled pork I have ever had. This private, beachfront lunch was included in our stay.}

{Sunrise from our room}

Can you even believe this place is real?!?! Photos certainly do not do it justice but even still I can't stop looking at photos from our recent trip to Mexico. A few months ago my FIL suggested we all take a family vacation {he didn't need to do too much convincing} so Shane and I got started on planning. We knew with as many people as we had going {10 adults and 2 babies} we needed to enlist our favorite travel agent. We let him know our preferences and budget and away he went planning a trip of a lifetime. 

If you are in the Naples area I highly recommend Mad Travel. Lee {the owner} who we work with is amazing. He planned our honeymoon and our trip to Europe a few years ago. He has suggested so many great activities and excursions over the years including the private catamaran trip we did while in Mexico. Everyone had the best time on the boat trip and the crew made us the BEST shrimp ceviche ever! Lee really hit it out of the park with this trip!

When he first suggested Grand Velas Riviera Maya we were a bit unsure. It is an all-inclusive resort, which in our past experience can sometimes be lacking in food quality and service. We were BLOWN AWAY when we arrived. This resort is nothing less than 5-star for absolutely everything. Many of the restaurants have Michelin Star Head Chefs. The food, service and atmosphere is just heavenly and I am still depressed that we had to leave!

We stayed for 7 nights, which was a great amount of time to be at the resort. Shane and I agreed we could have definitely stayed 2 more nights. The resort is massive! There are three separate parts: The Ambassador Experience {where we stayed}, Grand Class Experience {adults only} and The Zen Grand Experience. We didn't get to check out the adults only area too much because we loved the Ambassador pool which was kid friendly but some of our other family went over there and that it was just as beautiful as the rest of the resort. We spent a lot of time at the Zen area as well as the Ambassador area where our rooms were. They have two amazing restaurants we ate at plus Koi Bar which is an insanely chic, modern bar where we all hung out in the evenings after dinner. They made a mean dirty martini and I was living for it!

Grand Velas is an extremely kid friendly resort {minus the Grand Class area}. They provide at no additional cost cribs, bumpers {similar to the one we use at home}, bottles, bottle sanitizer, strollers beach toys and so much more. They provided basically everything we needed for Lawson. We brought enough diapers for a few days and then Shane went to the nearby Walmart to grab more. Our concierge told us they would have went for us if we had asked. 

We had room service bring a small breakfast in the morning for Lawson and there were snacks and drinks restocked in the room daily at no additional charge. The room service was spectacular and probably the best room service I have ever had in my life. They have the BEST french toast I have ever tasted in my life! It was simply divine. 

We utilized their on-site babysitting services for both Lawson and our niece during our stay. The babysitters were incredible and the sweetest with both kids. We booked them to stay with Lawson during his nap time so we could enjoy the pool for a few hours kid free and then in the evening we had them come around 7:30 after we had put Lawson to sleep and off we went to dinner and drinks. This is allowed Shane and I to enjoy dinners with his parents and siblings but it also allowed us to enjoy a dinner to ourselves and pool time together. I would absolutely recommend to use the babysitting services while you are there. Every couple needs that time and it's so important to take it especially while on vacation. The babysitting cost is not included for children younger than three. Children three and up can be dropped off at their Kids Club and they have great babysitters there that play with the children. They had televisions, video games, crafts and so many different toys for kids to play with. The Kids Club is open daily from 9am-10:45pm. Shane and I agreed we would love to go back when Lawson is older and can be dropped off there. 

We also went to the spa while we were there and let me just tell you... it was perfection. Forbes rated this spa Top 30 in the WORLD! As soon as I heard that stat I booked a couples massage for Shane and I. We also did the water ceremony before our massage and it was incredible. The best and most luxurious spa I have ever stepped foot into!

I posted on my Instagram asking for questions people have about the resort and our trip and that I would answer them here so lets get started.

 Trip Cost

We stayed during their off season {Easter to December}, which means our cost for the trip was about half of what it cost to stay there during high season {December 20th to Easter week}. During the off season room prices start at $956.00 USD a night. I would not classify this as a "budget" resort but when we factored in the cost of food and beverages it was worth the money to us.
We flew directly from Ft. Lauderdale to Cancun and I thought what we paid for flights was very reasonable. Under $300 per person.
We had virtually no other costs once we arrived at the resort. As mentioned above, we did pay extra to use the babysitters. Once a child is over three, child care in the kid's club is free.


Our transport to the resort from the airport and back was all included.


In late June, Mexico is hot and humid. Being from Florida we are used to this type of heat and humidity. We actually thought the weather in Mexico was nicer than it is currently at home. They have an amazing breeze that blows all day long. Here in Naples we have a light ocean breeze but nothing crazy. The wind absolutely helped us to stay comfortable during in the heat. I would definitely consider the heat during this time of year especially if you are bringing children. Even though Lawson is adapted to hot weather we made sure he stayed hydrated and even then one day he did get too hot and we left the pool. 

We are so thankful we were able to take this incredible trip with our family and it was the best seeing Lawson and his cousin together everyday. Shane and I were able to relax but still spend quality time with Lawson, which for us is the perfect vacation. We are planning another family vacation with Lee for next summer and we are hoping to visit the Wild West! Can't wait to see what they come up with for us.

Thanks so much for reading!

xo, Alina

Monday, July 29, 2019

Yellow J.Crew Eyelet Dress

Dress // Shoes // Purse // Earrings // Bracelets here and here // Ring // Sunnies {Tortoise} // 

Hello hello! 

We went out to dinner with some friends a few weeks ago and I loved this outfit so much I thought I'd share the details here. I mentioned when I posted a photo of this outfit to Instagram that I rarely buy yellow clothing. In the past I haven't felt like it was a flattering color for my skin tone but I loved the style of this dress so much when I saw it on sale at Nordstrom and I thought "what the heck" let's get it. Luckily, I have a little tan still left over from Mexico and that really helps make the color even more flattering. This dress is still available at Nordstrom and it is on sale for $59 which is $20 less than the sale price I paid. The quality is incredible and definitely like some of my older J.Crew items that have lasted years. I think I may try to re-style this dress with a jean jacket or jean shirt tied at the waist.

Recently, I have been into mixing contrasting colors and I just LOVE the way these blue beaded earrings make the outfit pop. I found these earrings while searching for a specific pair on Etsy and came across THIS woman's shop. Her name is Valentina and her earrings are stunning. Needless to say I needed up with 4 pairs of earrings including this custom pair I had made from a design I couldn't find elsewhere. I would HIGHLY recommend purchasing from her shop. The quality it incredible and she is truly talented. 

How cute is this little wicker bag?? I saw one of my favorite bloggers Caitlin from Southern Curls and Pearls wearing it while traveling to Mexico and I legit purchased it right as our plane was taking off. I just had to have it. Topshop has a ton of really cute, moderately priced bags out right now. I love this one this one and this one

Last thing I wanted to talk about are my sunglasses. They are by Le Specs and they are the sunglasses Meghan Markle wore while in NYC for her baby shower. She wore the black which I also own but I am wearing the tortoise shade here. They do look black in the above pictures for whatever reason. I love these sunglasses! They are so chic, the lenses are the perfect size and I love that it is hard to see your eyes when you are wearing them. Makes for perfect people watching. They are also an amazing price point! 

Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great day!

xo, Alina

Friday, July 19, 2019

Christmas in July with Basic Invite

Happy Friday everyone!

If you have followed me for awhile you know we do a Christmas card every single year and about my never ending love for fabulous stationary. Basic Invite reached out to me a few weeks ago to collaborate on a post with them and after doing a bit of my own research and hearing their ideas for this post I knew they were a company I would feel comfortable introducing y'all to.

From an early age my Momma ingrained in me the now {almost} lost art of a handwritten note. She would buy me stationary during her travels or we would pick some up at different stores we visited in our area. To this day we both "collect" so to speak beautiful, unique stationary and I love that we share this. She sends me cards every few weeks and I keep them tucked away for the day when those cards won't come anymore and I can look back on her words of wisdom.

I wanted to make sure I was able to see for myself the quality of their stationary before recommending them to my readers so I placed a small sample order. As you can see in the photos above I selected two styles of "Thank You" notes and one custom "Note Pad". The quality is superb and I love the customization I was able to do on their website. Most companies only allow you to view a digital rendering of your custom card but for a small fee you are able to actually order any amount you want, check them out in person and if they are to your liking, order more directly. Obviously that is best if you have ample time to order but you can choose to look at a digital sample if time is an issue.

While creating my custom samples I was shocked at the virtually, unlimited {over 180} color options with instant preview online. I was able to quickly select the exact color I wanted and preview how it would look. I have used many companies for Christmas cards, baby shower and birthday party invites over the last 5 years and I have never seen a company that offers so many different color options. A huge plus for me!

My other favorite "service" they offer is Address Capturing. They create a link you can share to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social media platforms to request friends and family's addresses which will be stored in your customer account and then the addresses can be selected during the design process. They also offer printing of recipient address at no cost on ALL card orders.

If you have an event coming up or want to purchase some high quality stationary Basic Invite is offering 15% off your order with code 15FF51 until the end of July. I have checked out their options for Christmas cards and Holiday Party Invitations and saved a few templates I really love for when we do our Christmas cards later year.

Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

xo, Alina

Thank you to Basic Invite for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Summer Happenings: Sip & Mingle at Ocean Prime Naples

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a Sip and Mingle event hosted by two of my favorite local bloggers {Mandy and Tara} held at Ocean Prime Restaurant in Naples. We mingled and tasted delicious appetizers and sushi from Ocean Prime's Happy Hour Menu. If you live in or around Naples I would highly recommend checking out Ocean Prime for Happy Hour. Great deals on glasses of champagne and tons of appetizers. 

I also got to meet a bunch of other local bloggers and it was so nice getting to connect with these ladies. Thanks so much to Mandy and Tara for organizing such a great event and thanks to Ocean Prime Naples for hosting us!

Thanks for stopping by!

xo, Alina

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My All Time Favorite Books

Hello hello! 
I was on Instagram stories earlier this week talking about my love for historical fiction books and I received a lot of messages from women following me that were interested in hearing some of my favorite books of that genre. Ask... and you shall receive!  
I mentioned briefly that my love of historical fiction books began while I was in undergrad at UF. My Momma gave me The Other Boleyn Girl to read and after that I was hooked. While on breaks from school and during the summer I would spend hours at our local library reading the backs of books and selecting the ones I wanted to check out. This is before I had a kindle so I would haul the books with me on vacation and devour them very quickly. I have always loved to read. It is a form of escape for me and I love learning about history and people's lives from long ago. 

1. Phillipa Gregory- Plantagenet and Tudor Series

Phillipa Gregory is one of my favorite authors. I have read all the above books from the Plantagenet and Tudor series. I didn't read them in order because some of the earlier books came out later. I will say that many details from these books are not completely historically accurate but I love them nonetheless. I particularly love the War of the Roses time period. Game of Thrones is said to partly be inspired by the War of the Roses and if you start reading about this war between cousins you will realize why. 

2. Margaret George 

The Autobiography of King Henry VIII by Margaret George is one of my ALL TIME favorite books in general but definitely on King Henry VIII. All her books are amazing. They usually encompass the subject's entire life and from what I have found she keeps the story historically accurate. I also particularly enjoyed her novel Helen of Troy. I haven't read much about that time period and I learned a lot from that book. 

This is my favorite book of ALL time. Hands down. I have read it at least 5 times. This is the most epic and tragic love story I have ever encounter and Heloise and Abelard are forever my favorite characters. If you haven't read this book DO IT! 
Funny story: I was re-reading this book in college and I was near the end so I was BALLING my eyes out. Shane came back to his apartment where I was reading and finds me hysterically crying on the couch. He was a bit freaked out and very confused to say the least. Now if I am ever reading a book and crying he asks "Are you reading about Heloise again?!". I haven't read it again in the past few years but I may get through it this summer sometime. 

4. Sharon Kay Penman- Plantagenet Series

I literally could not love this series more. I HIGHLY recommend Sharon Kay Penman she is a fabulous author. This series starts with the story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor of Aquitaine was a truly, incredible historical figure and the life she led and the children she had with Henry changed England forever. If you haven't read a ton of historical fiction about the Kings and Queens of England and you are looking to I would start here. This series was captivating and I learned so much!

5. Maurice Druon- The Accursed Kings Series

This series is my second favorite behind the Plantagenet Series by Sharon Kay Penman. George R.R. Martin from Game of Thrones wrote the forwards for these books and claims that he also based GOT off this time period and the French Royal Family. I learned so much about french history from these books and I couldn't put them down. If you are looking for new historical fiction books to read I would suggest this series and the one from Sharon Kay Penman. 

6. Sally Christie- The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy

LOVEEEEEE this triolgy! If you watched the TV Show Versailles you will love these books. Cannot recommend them enough and they are very easy to read. 

7. Allison Pataki

When I started The Accidental Empress I didn't even know who Empress Sisi was but boy was I obsessed with her after reading the first book. I anxiously waited for the second book in the series read it at warp speed. Her life was so tragic and my heart broke for her in both books. 

8. Daisy Goodwin

If you love Downton Abbey you will love Daisy Goodwin's books. The only one in the list above I haven't read is My Last Duchess. I believe that is the follow up book to American Heiress. Also the show Victoria on PBS is based off of Daisy's books. 

9. Diana Gabaldon- Outlander Series

I am caught up on the current season of Outlander the show on Starz but I am only on the second book by Diana Gabaldon, A Dragonfly in Amber. I am totally emotionally invested in Claire and Jamie and I got sad when I found out she was pregnant in the book and stopped reading because I knew her and Jamie would be parted forever. Good thing I continued to watch the show and I know they are reunited {sorry for the spoiler}. I haven't had a lot of extra time to read and I've been really into my Bravo TV lately but now that summer is almost here and with a few vacations planned I should be able to get through a few more of this series. I do prefer historical fictions based on people who actually existed in the period over fictional character like in GOT or Outlander but both series are so good I still love them. I've learned a lot about Scottish history from this series and the TV show. 

10. George R.R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire

If you have watched GOT and have not read the books I would highly recommend you do. I have read all five books and like many others I am obsessed. George R.R. Martin is an incredible author and he truly brings the characters to life. He is very truly talented and character development and making you invested in those characters. Like I have said above George has admitted that the English and French royal families have inspired this series and if you know anything about the history of those families you can absolutely see why. I'm unsure if George will finish this series or if the ending will be the same as the show. I assume since he works with the show that he is using his ideas for the ending and the books will be similar but with much more detail. I really hope he does because there are many people that have followed these books for years and I think he owes us the final books. 

This the story of Frances Stuart who was a very interesting historical figure. She knew both King Louis XIV of France {The Sun King} and was the main mistress of King Charles II after he reclaimed the English throne. It is a really good book that explores both the English and French royal families. 

12. Ken Follett- The Century Trilogy 

This trilogy is incredible! I have only read the first two books but Shane has read them all. These books follow 5 families through the 20th century. The first book covers WWI, the second WWII, and the third covers the Cold War. I cannot tell you how much I learned about both World Wars by reading these books. I have always been very interested in history and I was shocked at all the details I had never learned in high school or college. It's actually kind of pathetic that these wars aren't covered in more detail these days. 

Okay I know that was long! I hope you're still with me. To all my readers out there I hope you love these books just as much as I have and you learn from them. 

I plan to start a new series by Conn Iggulden when I go on my work cruise later this month. There are three books in the series Wars of the Roses: Stormbird, Margaret of Anjou, and Bloodline. Although I have read about this time period extensively I always learn something new from different authors. 

Thanks for reading! 

xo, Alina