Occidental Caribe Punta Cana Travel Diary

I kicked off my first trip of the year by heading to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with a handful of great friends. Sounds like the perfect trip to escape the could northeast winter, right? Well, that’s what we thought. But unfortunately, besides the warm weather, there was nothing perfect (or even particularly great) about our trip to the Occidental Caribe in Punta Cana.

To start things off, we check in and our rooms aren’t next to each other as requested. Now, I know what you may be thinking. That is an optional perk that you can hope for when booking your rooms, but typically isn’t guaranteed. I get it. But when booking our rooms we specifically asked for all of the rooms to at least be close to one another, since we were traveling with my brother who is still a minor and therefore needed a guardian for our trip. Fast forward to check in: not only is one room in a totally different building across the resort, it also happened to be my room, making me super far from my little brother. I asked them to at least put us in the same building, but they insisted it was impossible until I refused to back down and they found us a room right above them.

As if that wasn’t a headache enough, our rooms weren’t even ready! We were checking in well after 3pm (check in was at 3), and only one of our 3 rooms was ready. That was ridiculous. After a long day of travel they insisted we give them another hour, so we had to cram in all our belongings in our of our friends’ room and all change and freshen up so we could go grab a late lunch on the resort. During this, I changed in a closet. A CLOSET. Because there were 7 of us who were hangry and wanted to get to a restaurant (and unlimited drinks) as quick as possible.

Occidental Caribe Punta Cana

When we finally got our rooms, neither of our keys worked. We had to get a new set of keys and I found that a teeny bit ridiculous. Pair that with the fact that the numeration of rooms and layout of the resort didn’t make sense, and you have a whole bunch of us (highly educated, pretty bright) traveling to a resort that confused us and made us lost multiple times.

Now. Food and drinks. Food was the worst of any resort I’ve ever been to. EVER. Let’s put it this way: the Mexican resort on the resort didn’t even have Mexican food. (Since when is a tuna sandwich Mexican cuisine?) There were 5 restaurants on the resort and only one of them didn’t require a reservation: the nasty buffet. I’ve been to resorts where one or two of the restaurants require reservations as they are more upscale and/or a la carte plated meals, but never have I experienced such a frenzy for reservations. The restaurants were super small and they did reservations in half hour increments. I’d say that each restaurant could do no more than 200 covers a night, which is nothing considering that I know multiple thousand people stayed on our resort.

The drinks were watery, in the smallest plastic cups ever, and the bartenders didn’t know how to make any classic drinks (even when we asked in Spanish). I knew this wasn’t going to be a 5 star resort so I didn’t expect the luxury I experienced at Secrets Wild Orchid in Jamaica, for example, but this was straight up like the Motel 8 of resorts. Our toilet broke every single day, and not be all TMI, but it broke with just #1 in the toilet. Like what kind of nonsense is that?

Occidental Caribe Punta Cana
Occidental Caribe Punta Cana

Many people spoke very little English and essentially only the front desk people weren’t fluent just conversational. Luckily I can speak conversational Spanish to get by, as could a couple others in our group. If there weren’t those of us who can speak and understand fairly easily, we wouldn’t have even be able to order our meals at most of the restaurants. Speaking of which, some restaurant employees weren’t even informed; in one restaurant, the waitress couldn’t even tell us what time the restaurant closed!

Other complaints? Room service had a fee (unlike other all-inclusive resorts I’ve stayed at). Our tub was dirty upon our arrival. There was only one ATM at the resort and it was broken the entire time we were there. (We ended up having to pay major $$$ fees in the form of cash advances at the casino which was open limited hours.) There were multiple broken slots at the casino. Entire hotel was counterintuitive and layout made no sense (e.g. one of the restaurants was right across from hotel rooms). The channels on the TV said they were in English but they were in Spanish. (We were able to watch Judge Judy in English one day though.) Only one device per wifi. What if you have your laptop and phone? You paid $12 a day and it didn’t even work. You had to log back in every 5 minutes. Luckily, I had an international phone plan so I didn’t have to bother, but some of my friends did and were disappointed with the fee, one-device rule, and constant timing out.

Occidental Caribe Punta Cana

The balcony attached to our room was broken. BROKEN. One of our friends was swinging it one night and I got a video of how badly it was broken and how much of a safety hazard it was. We were on the third floor!!! That could have been a tragic accident for someone who had one too many drinks.

But here comes the worst part: my tummy was bothering me on our last morning and I was curled up in bed while some friends enjoyed their last morning on the beach. Check out was at noon, but at 10am two men walked into our rooms! Yes, used their hotel keys and just walked in. So not only did the front desk check them in 5 HOURS before they should have, they also gave the room away while it was still being inhabited. It was scary, gross, and a total shock that solidified our horrible experiences. 

Meanwhile, when our friends were checking out a receptionist told them “I won’t let you go home” when they were missing a room key. Like what?!?!?! So the moral of the story? If you’re going to Punta Cana, don’t stay at Occidental Caribe. 

(Bob has stayed at other lovely resorts in the country as one of some other family members, so if anyone is looking for recommendations, I’m happy to pass some on through their word of mouth.)

Gift Ideas For The Beauty Freak In Your Life

The holidays are right around the corner and it’s time to get shopping! I’m starting off the oh-so-cliche gift guides on here by featuring hair and makeup products. Maybe you’re a beauty freak yourself; perhaps your best friend or sister is beauty obsessed. Either way, the holidays are the perfect time to introduce them to some new goodies to add to their beauty routine!

I have picked out some of my absolute favorite beauty products at the moment, as well as products that I have my eye on myself. From hair straighteners to brow definers, I’ve rounded up beauty faves that will keep your beauty game #onfleek well into the new year.

Some of my most used beauty products as of lately have been made by NYX Cosmetics. Their line of affordable makeup was really appealing to me as a timid makeup-lover. (I’ve only started wearing makeup recently, so I still hesitate at purchasing big ticket items unless I know it’s a product that’s worth it.) What I love most besides the great price point though is that the quality exceeds the price. That’s a bonus with anything you’re purchasing, regardless of price, so I’m all about their makeup for things like lipsticks and mascara. I purchase more upscale foundation and concealer, because those are crucial in the quality department, but when it comes to lipsticks in particular I don’t mind shopping drug store products.

I’m sure there are great beauty finds that I’m totally missing this holiday season, so don’t hesitate to let me know if there is something I absolutely need to add to my wishlist or buy for fellow makeup junkies. In the meantime, check out my beauty-centric holiday gift guide and stock up on stocking stuffers in the blink of an eye!

Are you a beauty freak? If so, what products are on your wishlist this year?

AS

Drug Store Liquid Lipsticks I Love

I was a little late to the punch when it comes to wearing makeup, so I by no means claim to be any sort of a beauty guru. However, I now dabble in makeup enough to know my way around Sephora, and I’m constantly trying to learn more. I keep a relatively low-key makeup routine on a day-to-day basis, but I love adding a pop of color via a great lipstick.

Liquid lipsticks have become my favorite lately. I love that they apply like a gloss, but set like a lipstick. I especially love matte colors; I think they’re young, fun, and I just love that they’re not shiny. I’ve been picking up liquid matte lipsticks like it’s my job, so today I’m recapping five colors that have been in heavy rotation. They are all available at drug stores (Walgreens, CVS, Target) as well as online; I’ll review each one and share my thoughts.

best drug store lippies

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream – Cannes

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream - Cannes

Okay, so I’ll start with the positive. I love that NYX’s Soft Matte Lip Cream in Cannes is so easy to apply. It sets in about 5 minutes, and it has a true matte look. I like the color, but its doesn’t apply evenly. I find that often have to go through 2 or 3 coats of application before I am pleased with the evenness and coloring. All in all, I’d recommend this color — just not when you’re in a rush. 😉

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream – Monte Carlo

.NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream Monte Carlo

NYX’s Soft Lip Cream in Monte Carlo is a bit less appealing for me. Once again, it applies unevenly, and I’m just not in love with the color. I wear this lipstick occasionally, but overall this one is a pass. FYI: My favorite classic red lip a la Taylor Swift is the Nars Velvet Matte Lip Liner in Cruella.

Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid – Berry Boost

Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid - Berry Boost

Maybelline’s Vivid Matte Liquid lipsticks come in awesome colors, but I’ve noticed they’re not truly matte. After trying this color on for the first time and giving it over a half hour to set, I realized it just wasn’t gonna happen. Since then, I’ve begun gently patting my lips once I apply it, that way some of the sheen disappears. The Berry Boost color isn’t my favorite, but I take it out on the town every once in a while.

Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid – Possessed Plum

Maybelline Vivid Matte Liquid - Possessed Plum

I love love LOVE this color. I never thought I would’ve enjoyed a vampy look on myself as much as I do, but Possessed Plum is probably my favorite lip color at the moment. I have to pat this one a bit as well, since it doesn’t truly set into a matte finish either, but I love the hue so much that I deal with it. My only other complaint would be that it makes my lips feel really tingly when I apply it (so does the Berry Boost), so that must have to do with something in their formula. Because I love this color so much, I highly recommend — especially as we head into fall and winter!

Wet n’ Wild Velvet Matte Lip Color – Looking For Truffle

Wet n' Wild Velvet Matte Lip Color - Looking For Truffle

Wet n’ Wild’s Velvet Matte Lip Colors are so darn affordable, I can’t help but grab a handful whenever I’m feeling like expanding my collection of drug store lipsticks. I love that Looking For Truffle is a light, natural color. It is really easy to apply and goes on smooth. My only complaint is that the lipsticks constantly break after a use or two. Even at such a low price point, that’s extremely frustrating. But alas, I keep buying them anyways…I just can’t stop Looking For Truffle. 😉

Shop this post:

 

AS

Must Have Monday: Cozy Home Goods

I’ve accepted the fact that no matter how much I moan and groan about the cooler weather, winter is around the corner. So I have whipped out my North Faces and UGGs, and I even bought a pair of gloves today.

Team USA Just Do It Shirt

Team USA “Just Do It” Shirt // Fitbit Blaze

On top of the cold weather gear I stock up on (thanks to our brutal winters), I also feel the need to make my home extra cozy as well! Shag rugs, soft blankets, and cozy decor all make a home feel extra warm. When you’re stuck inside because of below-zero temperatures or a blizzard, trust me: you’ll want your home to feel as comfy as possible!

While I don’t talk about home decor here much (…I’d much rather style clothing than furniture haha), I can’t help but share some of my Must Haves to add coziness to a living space when the temps get bitter. Here are some odds and ends that I’ve been eyeing in order to add some more warmth to my space as the days grow shorter and colder.

 

Do you have any tricks for making your living space more cozy? Let me know!

AS

Three Resources To Become An Informed Voter

I’m going to go out on a limb and share what may be an unpopular opinion: not voting in this election (November 8, 2016), is an extremely irresponsible decision. I was out to dinner last weekend, and some friends-of-friends (aka acquaintances haha) that I’d just met were gloating about how they weren’t going to vote in the presidential election.

Rock The Vote
Giant and I want you to rock the vote!

ProCon.org
Want to know where the candidates stand on major issues, from health care to immigration? You can easily see a break down on exactly what a candidates stance is on an issue without drowning in a bunch of complicated political jargon or persuasive talk. The nice part is that you can see the candidates’ positions listed side-to-side, that way you can scroll down the list of different issues and see exactly how the candidates compare and contrast.

InsideGov
Okay so I love love love this website. You can easily check off the issues that are important to you in a candidate. (Do they support abortion? Oppose it? Are they neutral?) As you check off issues that are important to you, the candidates disappear if they don’t line up with the issues that you care about. I find this to be an extremely useful tool, especially for people who identify less with a certain party and more with specific ideals. InsideGov’s nifty tool will allow you to see who your ‘best’ option is based off of what you value most.

10 Reasons To Vote
I also adore this list of 10 reasons to vote. It’s short and sweet, while getting the point across about honoring our civic duty. As the list points out, Benjamin Franklin said, “What have we got, a republic or a monarchy? A republic, if you can keep it!”

I know that this is a casual little blog on a tiny section of the Internet, but I think it’s foolish to pretend that blogging exists in a bubble. This election affects us all and we darn well better act like it. After all, Gil Sery said: “Apathy gets you the government we have today.”

Are you voting on November 8th?

AS

Flannels Under Fifty

It’s flannel season, for better or worse. (In my case, it’s for worse because I have no desire for winter to be right around the corner.) While I definitely love fall style, I am already missing my summer wardrobe filled with bright colors, classic shift dresses, skater skirts, scalloped shorts, and cropped tops. Not to mention, dressing for fall seems to take so much more effort than summer. Layers, layers, and more layers. (I’m always cold so yes, multiple layers are necessary.)

Complaining aside, I do mean it when I say I love fall style. So as I’m preparing to transition my wardrobe to apparel fit for cooler temps, I’m eyeing pieces that I need to pick up before the temperatures get consistently lower. A great fall staple that everyone should have a few of in their closet are cute flannels! Flannels are comfortable, versatile, and can be layered for fall and winter, then pared down for spring and summer. The one thing I always keep in mind when deciding whether to purchase a flannel is how comfortable it is; some flannels are thin, rigid, or just downright uncomfortable. My favorite flannels are soft, warm, and cozy. But beyond that, your options are endless. From full-sleeves to 3/4 sleeves and from traditional plaid to Buffalo check, there are so many ways you can embrace flannel this season.

My three favorite flannels so far are here, here, and here. But I’ve linked up a ton of solid options — from classic to trendy — below. And the best part is they are all under $50!

 

What’s your favorite fall wardrobe staple?

AS

Music Midtown + Citi Private Pass Travel Diary

If you’ve been tuned into Insta and/or here on the blog, you can see that Bob and I have been traveling non-stop. This summer alone we’ve been to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Jamaica, and most recently, back to Atlanta for Music Midtown. Music Midtown was the first music festival I’ve ever attended, and it was a great experience! I’m already itching to see who will perform next year and even looking into trying some other festivals next year.

When I was perusing the Music Midtown website, I noticed that Citi cardmembers could take advantage of Citi Private Pass benefits at the festival. We’d gain access to the Citi Cardmember Lounge, which was air-conditioned, equipped with a private bar and a GIF booth, charging station, and live feeds of the stages. They were also giving away promotional swag (sunglasses and branded sunscreen) and playing games to win VIP passes throughout the weekend!

A really awesome perk was that you could link your Music Midtown passes to your Citi card, so you could go “cashless” and make purchases throughout the festival simply using a pin you set up. This was a convenient feature that provided me with the peace of mind that I wouldn’t have to bring my wallet and risk losing it as I traipsed around the festival.

Citi Private Pass Cardmember Lounge

On Saturday, the first day of the festival, Bobby and I got there early and headed to the Citi Cardmember Lounge. We spent a couple hours there, enjoying drinks, making GIFs in the photo booth, and playing corn hole outside. I struck up a conversation with Chris and Meghan, executives from Livenation and Citi respectively, and to our surprise we ended up with VIP passes for the day.

Music Midtown Citi Private Pass

We headed over to the Citi viewing section at the Electric Ballroom stage to see DNCE, and trust me when I say they were amazing. I have no shame in admitting that I’ve been a Jonas Brothers fan for 10 years now (eek, I’m getting old), so seeing Joe do so well with his new project made me so happy! They sounded great live, had impressive stage presence, and performed a ton of songs — both songs from their upcoming album and covers from Prince, David Bowie, and Drake.

Music Midtown 2016

After DNCE, we headed to the VIP section of Music Midtown. Although it wasn’t air conditioned like the Citi Lounge, and the charging station was considerably less efficient, Bobby and I still had a great time. There was free Shake Shack, free alcohol, and private bathrooms! Plus there were couches, corn hole, and chairs set up all around so you could view the stages while relaxing.

On Saturday we also saw Leon Bridges, a bit of Logic and G-Eazy, and then we saw Collegrove (comprised of Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz) close out the night. It doesn’t get more ATL than that! We were able to enjoy the Collegrove section from the front row of the VIP section, so thanks Citi for that awesome perk!

Sunday was dreary and rainy, and the festival was even evacuated for a while because of extreme weather. Even though we bought ponchos, it was downpouring so hard that by the time they resumed with the shows after the delay, we were pretty tired of trudging around in our muddy sandals. Unfortunately, we missed Kesha and Alabama Shakes because of this, but hey — there’s always next time. After we realized the rain wasn’t going to end, we headed off to dinner at a restaurant in Atlantic Station called Yardhouse, that had awesome drinks and delicious ahi tuna nachos!

All in all, Music Midtown was a huge success, even if we only had one full day of bright weather and VIP perks. The next day (Monday), we hung out with friends and went to Top Golf (which was soooo cool), and then it was time to head back home. Side note: I wish we had more pictures from Music Midtown, but they didn’t allow cameras in so I couldn’t bring the handy dandy DSLR. Plus I was trying to live more in the moment. It’s kind of nice just going off memories to reminisce on the experience with.

All the trips we’ve been on lately have been extremely fun and memorable, but I am very excited to settle in and enjoy more than a week or two at home.

Have you been to any festivals lately? Let me know!

AS

Montego Bay Travel Diary

Let me start by saying that I just got back from the best — and I mean best — trip ever. Bobby and I decided a few months ago that we wanted to go on a beach trip this fall, and the destination we picked was Jamaica! My mom’s side of the family is from the West Indies, so I was excited to visit the land of my matriarchal roots. Plus, Bobby jokes that he is Jamaican at heart, because he is so laid back and lives by their motto of, “no problems, mon.”

Montego Bay, Jamaica

We arrived on Monday morning at the Secrets Resort Wild Orchid in Montego Bay, and we were astounded by the hospitality! Once the automatic wooden doors to the lobby of the resort opened up, it was like we’d entered a whole new world. We were greeted with cold towels (to cool down from the heat we’d just been in outside), champagne, and they even had fresh cookies! Our room wasn’t readily available as we’d arrived a little before check-in, but they instructed that two of the restaurants on the resort were open for lunch and that we were free to eat there. (Side note: there were no wristbands at this resort even though it was all-inclusive, and that was a nice touch that we loved.)

We had lunch at the Oceana restaurant, which is a cool outdoor patio restaurant nestled between the pools on the premises. I had an awesome burger and sweet potato fries, while Bobby ordered a jerk pulled pork wrap with fries. Everything was delicious, and we ended up eating there on the last lunch of our stay as well. All of the food was surprisingly delicious, which was a nice change from other all inclusive resorts that both Bobby and I have been to. I think that it was the combination from the resort being upscale as well as the Jamaican culture consisting of really impressively flavorful cuisine.

The drinks were awesome as well! There were some delicious signature drinks that we indulged in all week, and some classic drinks we were used to in the states were made with a fun spin in Jamaica! Beyond the food and drinks, the activities were also so fun! (Special shoutout to Chase in the entertainment department!) There was a schedule posted throughout the resort each day with fun activities, from cornhole tournaments on the pool deck to beach volleyball and soccer. In the evenings, they had sports nights, talent shows, and beach parties! I have never been to a resort with such constant and seamless entertainment for everyone’s tastes!

We went off the resort once during the trip to visit Dunn’s River Falls. It was a really unique excursion where you get to hike up a waterfall in the middle of the forest! You hold hands with the other people in your group and climb up the rocks together as the waterfall gushes down on you. The day we went was pretty busy because two big cruise ships had docked in Montego Bay that day, but we made the best of it…and the 2 hour drive there and back. The experience itself was awesome, the tour guides there were great, and I’d totally do it again.

All in all, I had an excellent time at Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay and I highly recommend you consider it for your next tropical vacation.

Here are some more photos from our trip:
Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay

Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay

Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay

Have you ever been to Jamaica? Let me know!
AS

Target Tuesday: Fast Forward To Fall

I don’t want it to be fall. While I definitely enjoy fall style, the impending season change signifies that winter will be soon to follow. So although some people are rejoicing that we’ve had some rainy days and cooler temperatures over the last few days, I am not nearly as excited. I am not ready to prepare for snow yet!

At any rate, I slowly have been transitioning my wardrobe to fall styles. Flannels, denim, cropped slacks, and riding boots are some of my favorite pieces of fall style. Not to mention, as much as I love vibrant colors, I do look forward to mixing it up with earthy tones once September rolls around.

For this week’s Target Tuesday, I’ve put together a comfortable outfit that is perfect to wear on cooler summer days and then all the way through fall. I’m still on the fence about the small rip that these jeans have at the knee, but they are really comfy so I think I’ll keep them around for now.
Louis Vuitton Eva Louis Vuitton Eva

Louis Vuitton Eva

Flannel // Jeans // Booties (old) // Louis Vuitton Eva

P.S. I’ve recently discovered this online service called HauteTrader, which allows you to swap designer items in your closet for other designer goodies. I think I have some shoes that could use liquidation. 😉

xoxo,

AS

I’m A Bad Dog Mom

I’m a bad dog mom. I have the cutest, fluffiest little nugget of a puppy and I suck at raising him. Why didn’t anyone tell me that puppy parenthood would be this hard?

shorkie

When I was a kid, I used to be terrified of dogs. No matter the size or breed, the mere sight of a dog would lead me to cower in fear. As I got older I was no longer scared of dogs; I was merely ambivalent to them. This phase of general apathy lasted through college. I’d frequently tell friends: “If I wanted a dog, I’d just have a baby.” Because having a dog seemed like just as much work, except a dog never learns how to potty on the toilet, clean up after itself, or make its own meals.

However, a few months ago, I was feeling the urge to nest. I wanted to come home from work to be greeted by smiles and cuddles and a companion who would always be by my side. So what did I do? Had a baby. LOL JK. Obviously there was no chance I was having a child, so I had to contradict my former self and settle for a puppy. I spent weeks and weeks researching different breeds, looking at photos, and preparing to take the leap. Too bad no amount of research could prepare me for the nightmare that is potty training, the hassle of being woken up at 5am by puppy whines, the endless chewing on shoes and nipping on toes, and did I mention the nightmare that is potty training? Because I’m really tired of scrubbing my floors after Giant decides to drop a deuce in the living room or take a whizz under the dining room table. Oy vey.

I really thought my maternal instinct would kick in and that naturally I’d be a fantastic dog mom. I’m loving, nurturing, and have tons of experience with babies. But dogs are not babies, as my mom likes to remind me every time I swaddle Giant in a blanket and rock him around the living room. Wishful thinking clearly isn’t that effective.

So what’s the moral of the story? I’m a bad dog mom. I am failing at potty training and creating a routine sleep schedule, and puppy parenthood is infringing on my freedom to travel…and sleep in till whenever I want. It’s not for lack of trying. Every day I wake up armed with the enthusiasm to make puppy parenthood great again. I may be failing a lot and learning as I go, but judging from my Facebook feed, that doesn’t seem too different from real parenthood anyways.

Fellow puppy parents come one, come all! Please tell me how you raise your dogs without pulling out your hair!

AS