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Post Birthday Trip to Mexico Part 1

Posted on December 2, 2019 by under Travel.    

For my birthday this year, I managed to convince Brian to travel to Mexico with the Vacay with Jay Jay crew. It’s quite exciting because Brian has always been super paranoid about Mexico (based on stories from former coworkers who lived there) and vehemently against traveling there for vacation. We’ve been to Cozumel, Mexico via cruise ship but we’ve never flown there and stayed at a resort because he’s always been very afraid of being ripped off, mugged, abducted, or worse – murdered – because there’s supposedly a lot of violence and criminal activity. I’ve never been worried about this because the best resorts (about the only places he would even consider) provide transportation to and from the airport. I didn’t think we would ever be in any danger. This time we had two other couples on the trip (the Huntees and the Dills) and I suppose it’s quite a special birthday (we were going with the group but also the trip was what I wanted for my second 21st birthday). This was the year he actually caved and gave in.

We’d heard of people vacationing in Mexico for less than $1000 because of all the fabulous deals to be had. That was not the case with this trip. The place we stayed at was relatively new (only two years old) and in such high demand — we paid a lot. But, as you’ll see from the pics, the place was worth every penny.

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We’re going to start our recap at the Wichita airport. As always, Brian had us there two hours before our flight which was completely ridiculous. The airport wasn’t even open yet! I tried to tell him but he wouldn’t listen.

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There was not a soul there. I really could have slept an hour longer but instead we were at the airport at the butt crack of dawn waiting for airport security to open. All of the time wasted waiting at the airport is probably one of the worst parts about traveling with Brian (the other bad parts are his incessant paranoia and constant worrying — the man just cannot relax). I often joke that had we traveled together when we were dating, we probably wouldn’t have ended up getting married. He is such a pain to travel with!

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We traveled with the Huntees — Justin and Tina Huntington. I suppose they are smiling because they didn’t have to get up as early as we did. They arrived at the gate just as First Class passengers were getting boarded so they walked right on. They didn’t have to wait at all. I told Brian that, next time we travel with these guys, I am spending the night at their house so I can ride with them to airport and not have to get up stupid early only to have to wait for two hours in an uncomfortable seat at the airport when I could have been still sleeping!

Anyway, the Dills didn’t travel with us because they were already in Mexico on a work thing. They basically just extended their trip so the six of us could hang out.

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The place that we stayed at is called Hotel Xcaret. Our arrival was actually delayed almost two hours because we missed our connection in Dallas. Our plane left Wichita late because the de-icer wasn’t working and they had to get another de-icer truck. Thankfully, the four of us were able to get on the next flight out to Cancun so it wasn’t too bad of a delay.

Once we arrived in Cancun, we made a beeline for the transportation pickup outside. The Dills were already there. Rather than paying for a special transfer from the other resort they stayed at for the first part of the trip to Hotel Xcaret, they took the free/included transfer from their resort to the airport and then just hopped on the Hotel Xcaret bus. It worked out great because the six of us were able to ride to the resort together.

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When you arrive, the first thing that you notice, besides the grand lobby, is the amazing smell. Brian thinks the fragrance comes from the hanging plants which are not only decorative but also serve a purpose. No matter where fragrant aroma comes from, I loved the walking through the lobby because of the wonderful spa-like smell. It’s very relaxing.

We splurged on an ocean-front swim-up room just ’cause. I mean, how often does one turn 21 really? Well, this will be my second 21st birthday technically but the first time I couldn’t afford to travel to another country. LOL.

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Here are some pictures of our amazing accommodations.

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Upon entering the suite, you’re immediately drawn to the amazing view of the ocean outside. Though you only see one hammock in this photo, you actually get two (one for each person).

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You can see the other hammock hanging in the corner in this next photo.

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Here’s a pic of Brian and me enjoying the hammocks.

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And a pic of just Brian. It’s nice that we each got our own.

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While the view outside is magnificent, the interior of the room is equally impressive. We found the bed comfortable and the rest of the furnishings very nice.

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There’s a small round table next to the bed and a bigger one by the sliding door. The glass table (pictured below) is perfect for enjoying some room service.

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We never did get room service (even though it was free/included) but the butlers did leave us some delicious cakes a couple of times.

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I didn’t get a pictures of the luxurious hooded robes and comfy slippers that the resort provides but I did take a pic of the water bottles. The place is so eco-friendly that, instead of providing you with water in disposable plastic bottles, they have water in reusable glass bottles. The bottom of each bottle has a bottle opener. It’s a very elegant and ingenious way of avoiding excess plastic waste.

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Another special touch that I appreciated is the tray of treats that they provide in the room which gets replenished daily. The mazapan candy was my absolute favorite because it reminded me polvoron.

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The free facial kit that I found on one of the bathroom shelves was also a nice surprise. The kit contained a small tube of scrubbing face gel, SPF30 sunblock, moisturizer, and eye contour gel.

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Besides that, the resort also provides everything you could possibly need in the drawer beneath the sink. All the stuff was natural, including the wooden comb and toothbrush (the bristles were not made of wood — LOL).

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The toothbrushes actually came in handy on our departure day because we had already packed ours in our suitcase.

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Every night, you got surprise candy from the housekeeping staff. That was a nice treat as well. We also got a keepsake bag and little hand-woven baskets that the treats came in. There were so many thoughtful touches. They even provided you an umbrella to use on rain days.

Our room was was super nice and the rest of the resort was equally impressive. I will post some pics of the property in the next blog. Until then. GNG.

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Second Holiday Ping Pong Tournament

Posted on November 30, 2019 by under Events.    

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Uncle Roy had another holiday ping pong tournament at the Downing’s recently. The first one was in 2017. They didn’t have one last year because everyone was traveling and otherwise busy but the stars aligned for having another tournament this year. As luck would have it, I was available to play. Jay, because he and Becca are always traveling, missed it again.

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This is our lovely host Aaron who happened to eliminate me from the tournament. Ironically, he was the one who eliminated me from the last tournament too.

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This is a pic of Landon and Bonnie admiring the miniature cornhole game that Troy brought. It was the prank one. He actually brought a real miniature cornhole game that you can play.

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For a friendly tournament, these guys were pretty serious.

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I was at a disadvantage because I hadn’t played ping pong in over a year. About the same time I started to get into pickleball, I quite playing ping pong.

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This is Wes. My first match was with him. I lost that match but it was really close. We went into overtime and finished 22-20 in his favor.

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After being eliminated from the main bracket, I went into the consolation/losers/opportunity bracket and played against Landon (pictured on the right). He was not bad but probably one of the less competitive players in the group. We played with a drink on one hand and a paddle on the other the entire time.

I won the match with Landon but my next opponent was Aaron who has an impossible serve. I didn’t stand a chance.

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I had a great time despite my losses. It seemed like everyone was having a great time as well (even Brian – LOL).

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Brian and I got a selfie with Roy’s wife Bonnie.

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Pic with Jennifer and Wes.

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We also got one of just the two of us.

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By the way, I had to take a pic of Brian and Landon together because Landon was our personal trainer at the Andover YMCA a long, long, long time ago — like ten years ago or so. He happens to be Bonnie’s trainer and they’ve been training together for years (since his Andover YMCA days). He owns his own gym now, Rogue Personal Training.

I remember when he left the Y to strike out on his own, he took a bunch of clients with him. They actually started making personal trainers sign non-compete contracts after that. We didn’t end up going with him because I wasn’t particularly fond of punishment. I just wanted to Zumba. We ended up joining Genesis but then ended up doing some personal training later on with another trainer who was recommended by our friends Gina and Coley.

I’ve joined, left, rejoined, and left again a bunch of gyms. Not much personal training these days. I mostly just like to have a good time so I’m teaching and taking Zumba classes and playing pickleball. My most intense workout is my friend Liz’ STRONG by Zumba class on Monday nights which I love to take.

We probably need to buckle down and take our health more seriously in 2020. Changes are coming. Until next time. GNG.

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Post Pickleball Chow Down

Posted on November 29, 2019 by under Hobbies.    

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A few weeks ago, before we left for vacation, my friend Amy and I decided we wanted to check out the open plan at Nahola. Nahola is where all of the really good pickleball players play and Friday night is 3.5 and above night. I know some of the better players might not like playing with less skilled players so I had the brilliant idea to invite a bunch of pickleball friends so, even if we did get snubbed, we for sure would have people to play with. LOL.

The players, those who stayed (some people left and went to the single court inside) and played with us, were actually pretty nice. The drop in fee of $7 is a bit steep (compared to the $2 and $3 that we normally pay at the rec centers and local churches) but I wouldn’t mind playing over there again. At the time, Immanuel Baptist Church Family Life Center (FLC) had 4.0 and above listed for Friday night so if you’re under 4.0 you really didn’t have any options. FLC has since opened up Friday nights to lower rated players. It is cheaper ($3 drop in) and actually closer to our house. Nahola is all the way out West. I’ve yet to play on Friday night since returning from vacation because we’ve always had stuff going on and FLC isn’t playing tonight due to the Thanksgiving holiday but I’m super glad that we now have a couple of really good options for Friday night play.

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We worked up an appetite playing pickleball that night so afterwards a bunch of us went to Old Chicago for dinner. It (clockwise from left in the below pic) was Cody, Matt, Michael, Eric, Kimberly, me and Brian. I invited Brian because I figured he would want to eat dinner too. Except that was an expensive night because his Lyft ride cost $30 (going from almost Andover to the West side of town during prime time on Friday night). The price you pay for convenience.

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Oh, well. I think at some point I’m going to have to get over the not wanting to drive two cars thing because this aversion is costing us money. Speaking of money, we’re actually saving quite a bit by opting out of the whole Black Friday insanity. LOL.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy the weekend!

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Vora European Restaurant

Posted on November 27, 2019 by under Food and Drink.    

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Earlier this month Jenni took me to a new European restaurant and bought me lunch for my birthday. I was pretty excited that she picked Vora because I’d never been there before.

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The restaurant is located in College Hill and is super nice inside.

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We were the first ones there that day.

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Here are some pictures of our food.

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Jenni had the mussels with truffle fries.

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I had schnitzel with cabbage and a potato pancake.

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The food was delicious, service was great, and I loved the quite, elegant ambiance. I think Brian would enjoy this place too. I will have to take him on our next date night. Until then, GNG.

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2019 Cattle Baron’s Ball

Posted on November 26, 2019 by under Events.    

Here are some pictures from the Cattle Baron’s Ball earlier this month.

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Brian and I bumped into some of my former coworkers who are now retired: Doug and Suzanne Coin and Glen and Bridget Bowman.

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Here’s a pic of me with the ladies — Suzanne and Bridget.

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DJ Carbon, the most iconic DJ in all of Wichita was there as well.

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Obligatory selfie with the hubs.

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The new dress I got from Southern Fried Chics was perfect.

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Wu Shock was at the event too!

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Here are some pics of the delicious dinner and dessert we enjoyed.

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You can’t have too many selfies. LOL.

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I guess people felt bad for us because they offered to take our pics.

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Brian with Glen and Doug.

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Suzanne got me a bear. It’s super soft!

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Fun photo booth pics!

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As benefit dinners go, this is one of our favorites. For one, the attire is pretty casual. As much as I like seeing Brian in a tux, he doesn’t enjoy it much because he finds it too stuffy. This one is Western-themed so, even though it’s a fancy event, you can be cowboy-like and fit right in. People can be as dressed up or as casual as they want to be. Also, the atmosphere is super relaxed and fun.

It was even more fun this year because the Bowmans and the Coins were there. Usually, Brian and I attend these events by ourselves. It’s always more fun when there are familiar faces or friends to hang out with.

Huge thanks to our friend Joe Parten for hooking us up with VIP tickets! I hope we get to go again next year. Definitely something to look forward to in 2020.

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