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Archive for "Life"

Life During COVID-19

Posted on April 5, 2020 by under Life.    

I feel like I’m in the middle of a horror film. Never in my entire life did I imagine we would be living like this — fearing for our lives, unable to leave our homes. It feels like the zombie apocalypse minus the zombies.

Since I’ve been working from home the last two weeks and we’re not supposed to go out for non-essential activities, I’ve pretty much been stuck at home 24/7. It’s been driving me crazy. I’m so glad that Kirk and Alicia organized a ZOOM night for us. We’ve had two of these virtual get togethers since the start of the stay-at-home order and they’ve been my lifeline.

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Brian set ours up in the basement so we could connect the computer to the big TV and see everyone’s video better than we would on our tiny computer screen. He was so excited that we were actually the first ones on. Actually, we were both looking forward to it all week. We even got a special bottle of wine just for the occasion.

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In all seriousness, it’s actually a bottle of Sequoia Grove (one of our favorite wines). Brian just printed a funny label to put over it.

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It was a nice evening so Jay and Becca set up on their back deck.

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Clockwise from top left in the below pic: Alicia and Kirk, me and Brian, Jay and Becca, Jared and Hazel, Justin and Tina, and Marc and Reniece.

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On the first night, we were joined by our #CostaRica2019 #VacayWithJayJay pals plus a couple of friends of the Shorts – Jarred and Hazel. It was like a mini reunion.

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We played virtual Cards Against Humanity with the group and it was super fun. I usually get crappy cards but I actually got the perfect card to play for this round.

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Here’s another round that I won.

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We had another get together the other night. We were supposed to dress up like where we wanted to go after we are all set free from the travel ban and stay-at-home mandate. Only Alicia and I really participated though.

I wore one of my Sofibella pickleball outfits because going to play pickleball as soon as we regain our freedom to be around other people is first of my list of things to do. Alicia wore her “Corona Beach Party” shirt because the beach is her first stop. Having Corona on the shirt was perfect though, because Coronavirus is the reason we are all in this mess.

Brian considered wearing his Star Trek shirt because he said he wanted to be off-world, but he was lazy and just stayed in his robe. He rationalized it by saying that’s what one of the characters wore in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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Here’s the group from the other night. We were minus Tina and Justin and Jarred and Hazel but still have enough people for games.

We played Cards Against Humanity again, which Brian won, and then also some Pictionary. Pictionary was really challenging but a lot of fun.

Oh, I forgot to mention Alicia’s sister AJ joined us both times too. Her husband who is currently stationed in Las Vegas got off work too late for us to meet him the first time but he was able to join this time around. He seems like a nice guy. Hopefully we can meet him in real life when we all get through this.

For our next ZOOM social we’re celebrating a bunch of birthdays — virtually of course. So we’re moving the event from Friday night to Saturday night. I may not have Zumba and pickleball anymore but at least I have one thing to look forward to each week. Alright, everyone hang in there. Stay heathy and safe. GNG.

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Meeting the Legendary Jack Oxler

Posted on March 20, 2020 by under Hobbies, Life.    

Jack Oxler is a name that comes up quite frequently in our little pickleball community because the Wichita people are so very proud of Jack and legendary achievements. When I first started playing and had the opportunity to meet and play with some of the more seasoned pickleball players they would always ask, “Do you know Jack Oxler?” Immediately followed by, “You need to meet him.”

I’ve actually wrote about Jack before without even meeting him. It was about a year go at Chicken N Pickle when I met one of his friends. So many people know Jack because he used to live in Wichita before moving to Kansas City. Even though he doesn’t even live here, his name comes up a lot. Matt Wright, one of the biggest names in pickleball, even mentioned him during a Q&A at Chicken N Pickle a few months ago. Currently Jack is the Director of Pickleball and one of the teaching professionals at the Kansas City Chicken N Pickle. I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to meet him unless I made a trip to KC for a pickleball lesson.

But then fate intervened. A few weeks ago Aaron Trost, the former head of pickleball at the Wichita Chicken N Pickle, moved to San Antonio to run the pickleball program at that new location. They hired Michael Harris to replace him and brought Jack Oxler down to Wichita to train the new guy and show him the ropes. Jack offered some lessons while he was in town. Of course, they were all during the day from Tuesday through Thursday and, when Michael first posted the info in our Facebook group, none of the times worked.

On Tuesday I found out that my lunch meeting on Wednesday got canceled so I actually would have time to squeeze in a lesson but all of the appointment times were taken at that point. I still wanted to meet this guy in the flesh because tales of his pickleball and tennis prowess are legendary so I thought, even though I couldn’t book a lesson, I could still have lunch at Chicken N Pickle, meet him, and have him sign my special pickleball paddles. I didn’t want to go up there unannounced and unexpected, though. People already think I’m a weirdo. I didn’t want to provide yet another example of me being weird by going up to a total stranger and asking for his autograph. But then I recalled that, in his how we got started with pickleball story, Matt Wright also mentioned Chris Heck. Chis Heck is another local pickleball pro who is magnificent and happens to be my friend. I’ve been taking lessons from Chris since January and we have now officially moved into friend status and with him being my friend I asked for my first friend favor — to give Jack a heads up that I will stop by Chicken N Pickle at lunch because I’m dying to meet him.

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And so that’s how it happened. I finally got to meet the great and legendary Jack Oxler. And, I got his autograph on my paddles.

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He is much shorter in real life than I expected, even though I’d watched enough YouTube videos. I just assumed it’s because all the other players are super tall. I always had it in my brain that I would never be any good at pickleball because I’m not tall enough. Meeting Jack gave me hope. I can be amazing even with the height disadvantage. Of course, Jack is very talented and skilled so he’s in a special category but now I’m thinking maybe it’s not so bad being short. If I continue to learn from Chris (and Kayla and Lucy and others I’m taking pickleball lessons from) and work hard, I can compete with players at my level and maybe even beat them despite the height disadvantage.

I’m hoping that Jack will return to Wichita and offer some lessons again. If not, I’m hoping to make a trip out to Kansas City at some point to schedule a session with him. I just want to get his perspective — short person to short person. LOL.

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Jokes aside, some of my friends (Jenny, Amy, Beth, and Debbie) got to learn from Jack while he was here. I took some pics of their session when I was at Chicken N Pickle for lunch that day.

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A bunch of us got together for a group photo with Jack before I went back to work. From left: Beth, Jenny, Debbie, Jack, Tammy, Amy, Jack’s mom, and me.

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After their lesson, they all stayed and played some more pickleball. Of course, I had to go back to work before returning that night for the Intermediate Women’s Doubles League Tournament. I usually stay to watch the Competitive Men’s Doubles League. This was actually a record day for my friend Debbie because she stayed to watch the men play too. Their tournament lasted past 11 o’clock that night. She spent over 14 hours at Chicken N Pickle without ever leaving that day.

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Brian came out to livestream the league tournament that night. Debbie got this picture of us. I later realized that she got Jack Oxler in the background looking very James Bond (Daniel Craig without the tux).

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Here’s a better pic of us with Brian looking at the camera this time.

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It’s always great when Brian can come out to capture videos and do a livestream. You can watch some of the videos we captured that night in this post. But I digress, it was so great to finally meet Jack Oxler. I’m hoping it won’t be our last encounter. Until next time. GNG.

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The Best of 2019

Posted on January 19, 2020 by under Hobbies, Life, Travel.    

This past year has been memorable in different ways than previous years. We started the year by celebrating New Year’s Eve at our house. And, true to our superstition, we spent a lot of time with the Dills last year because we rang in the new year together. We actually traveled with the Dills a couple of times last year.

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Our #VacayWithJayJay crew traveled to Costa Rica for Jay’s 40th birthday and then we had another trip (this time to Mexico) later in the year with the Dills and the Huntees. The Costa Rica trip was in April and the Mexico (Cancun, Riviera Maya) trip was in November. Brian and I try not to take too many trips in the same year but, as work as been a little cray-cray lately, the breaks were actually helpful in keeping me balanced. Plus, even though we went a little overboard on trips (we also spent a weekend in Austin, Texas following one of my work conferences and, of course, my annual pilgrimage to Orlando, Florida for #ZINCON), I considered the Mexico trip as my birthday present this year. I had fun continuing my second 21st birthday celebration with the Dills and Huntees in Mexico. I enjoyed it so much I think, instead of just having a birthday month, I’m going to have a birthday “quarter” every year. LOL.

Just kidding. I know my birthday does not trump Jesus’ birthday in December, which Jay was nice enough to remind me.

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Speaking of birthdays, I really milked it this year. In addition to all of the birthday dinners Brian and I typically have the entire month of October, my friend Matt organized a birthday-slash-Halloween pickleball party at West YMCA. Never in my entire life had I ever thought that I would have a birthday party at the YMCA. Mainly the Y does kids’ birthday parties but I guess adults who are young at heart can have them there too. It might be the most underrated thing at the Y. Granted, you cannot have any alcoholic beverages at the YMCA (duh?) but grown up birthday parties at the Y can be a lot of fun. Specially if you are part of our ever-expanding Wichita pickleball community.

Pickleball really exploded in Wichita last year. I think Chicken N Pickle had a lot to do with it. I didn’t know this at the time but even before CNP, pickleball already had a huge following in Wichita in the senior circles. CNP made it more mainstream and accessible to everyone. And then we got new outdoor courts at Seneca Park and we brought everyone together — new players and veteran pickleball junkies — on Facebook.

The Wichita Pickleball Connection started last year with just a handful of people and today (exactly a year later) were at about 850 members strong. It’s insane! Yes, today is actually the first anniversary of our little Facebook group.

In terms of pickleball, the biggest event to ever happen in Wichita is the Franklin Pickleball Masters. Sure, there were tournaments that happened throughout the year but the Franklin event brought the nation’s top players to Wichita (a few of them live here, actually — at the time, I just new of Matt Wright and Lucy Kovalova but we have some up and coming players like Jocelyn Devilliers and Patrick Smith who live here also) and we got to see pros play the game in real life. It was amazing!

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That weekend was HUGE! I ended up hosting Regina Franco (one of the pros playing in the tournament) and her friend Belinda Dettman completely by accident and sheer luck. They even came to the pre-tournament cookout that Matt hosted at Seneca Park. Regina and Belinda were great house guests and Regina became my first ever professional pickleball player friend.

I really enjoyed watching Regina and her women’s doubles partner Sarah Ansboury play at the big tournament. Of course, we cheered for our hometown favorites, Matt and Lucy, but it was fun cheering for Regina and Sarah in the women’s division too.

Lots of things happened with pickleball last year. The event was added to the Wichita Corporate Challenge. At the time, it wasn’t that big at work yet so I got to play in it (being an early adopter) by default with my friend Chris Wilson. We were the only two people who volunteered for the pickleball event. I suspect that will change this year with pickleball being so popular and highly addictive.

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I also played in the Bob Jackson Friendship Tournament, my first “Light Up Edgemoor” event. There’s a big group that’s organized behind raising money to get lights installed at Edgemoor Park where we already have six outdoor pickleball courts thanks to the efforts of Becky Middleton and others. We are trying to raise money for lights for the pickleball courts so that we can play later in the evening in the summer time when the weather is nice.

Besides pickleball the year was also filled with fun parties. We didn’t attend as many as we did in previous years (as I don’t think I’m on that list anymore at work) but at least we had the opportunity to attend some of our faves:

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In addition, we had the opportunity to attend some events we’d never been to before like the Blues & Brews Festival in Andover, the Gatsby Gala (for United Way Young Leaders), and the Crawl for Cancer, which we actually had a dozens of others who participated in the event with us. We had a mega-team of almost 50 people. Anyway, I know the Cancer Crawl has been going on for years because I have coworkers who do it every year but I think the other two events are one offs.

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Uncle Roy also had a fun birthday ping pong tournament that was a ton of fun. He had one a couple of years ago during the holidays but everyone was busy with travels and other life events that there wasn’t one last year. It’s always a blast but my ping pong skills haven’t really improved much so I didn’t advance in the bracket. I’m not so worried about my ping pong game these days, though.

Another fun thing that happened is my friends from Kansas City came down to Wichita for a weekend and actually took my Zumba class. Brian and I had fun hosting them. They even got to meet grandma when we all had brunch together at Carrabba’s on Sunday. That’s one of the most memorable weekends of the year.

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The one thing that sets this year apart from other years is the number of new friends I made, all thanks to pickleball. I usually make a few new friends each year just through my Zumba classes and at the various events we attend, but this year was unlike any other. I made hundreds of new friends through our Facebook group.

Anyway, I always have fun looking back at the wonderful memories from the year. Recalling all of the great things that happened, interesting places we visited, fun parties we had the opportunity to attend, delicious food we got to eat, new friendships, etc. makes me realize how truly blessed I am and for that I am beyond grateful. This exercise really gets me excited for the current year. I can’t wait to document all of this year’s memorable moments and experiences and then to look back on them with you at the end of 2020. Here’s to a wonderful year ahead!

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Looking Back at Almost 2 Decades of This Blog

Posted on January 12, 2020 by under Blog, Events, Life.    

As you know, I write a blog post each year around this time reflecting on the things that happened the year before. The good, the bad, and the ugly… but mostly good because I have a real knack from blocking out all the bad stuff that happens.

Before we look at last year (the year 2019), let’s look at all the years that this blog has been in existence…

2002: Everyone knows I’ve been online since before blogging was actually a “thing” but it wasn’t until after Brian and I got married that this blog officially started. It was actually about two months after our wedding.

2003: The first year of marriage is what they often call the “honeymoon” phase. We were young and naive and so cute back then. We would have these movie nights where we would bring the feather bed to the family room and watch movies all night long. We bought a few worthless things this year (like the Bowflex) and I discovered online poker but the biggest thing that happened was me going back to school after having dropped out in 2000 after my four-year scholarship ended.

Ching at Fingers

2004: Lots of drama happened this year but, besides that, this was the year that I discovered bar poker (because I got bored with playing online and wanted to play with people in real life). We also played some racquetball and did some sword-fighting. We added a live-streaming webcam (actually two of them) to the site. Lastly, I officially became a naturalized US citizen.

Our Sugarglider, Ginger

2005: We had a menagerie back then and, at one point, had seven sugargliders. We started hosting some home games and became good friends with Jay and Becca. I think this was the year the Ponderosa Poker Party started.

poker buddies at IHOP

Invisible Poker Players

Can you tell who was sitting at which seat by their drink of choice? Maybe. But everyone’s tastes have changed since then. I can tell which one was my seat though.

Robin, Justin, Ching, Jen and Dawn

2006: I completed my Business degree at Wichita State. My major was Management Information Systems (MIS) and I minored in Management and Accounting. I was going for a Computer Science minor as well but just couldn’t quite get it done. We got a couple of new family members: Molly, our Yorkipoo, and Bebot, my Toyota Corolla which is the first and only brand new car I’ve ever bought.

Molly as a Puppy

2007: I didn’t really take a break after completing my undergrad so I went straight into grad school in fall 2006. This year was pretty crazy. Grad school was so much more challenging. We also had some fun. I got my first American passport and we went on our first all-inclusive resort vacation. And, we got to experience the whole au naturel thing. Oh, and we taught our nephew how to play poker.

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The photo below was taken at Couples Resort in Jamaica (now Couples Tower Isle). We celebrated our five year wedding anniversary a month early because I was in grad school.

Brian and Ching

2008: We had some big changes in 2008. Brian started working for Viega and I completed my MBA at Wichita State. But, perhaps the most memorable thing that happened that year was the Halloween poker cruise. We had the opportunity to deal cards on a cruise ship.

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2009: We had some firsts this year such as our first Zoobilee, Brian’s first trip to Germany, and our first and only trip to the Philippines together. We haven’t been back since. This is also the year we really got into racquetball and even introduced our friend Jay to the sport. On the work front, up until this year I’d been going to school full time, so this is the first year that I had time to participate in leadership/professional development opportunities at work. I took the opportunity to complete Leadership Westar and Diversity Champions.

Cable Car Group Photo

2010: We spent a lot of time with the Dills this year, starting with the first day of the year because we were with them in Kansas City for New Year’s Eve. Other trips this year include San Francisco and New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas where Brian got to meet my biological father for the first time. This is also the year we moved out of our house and into a townhouse at Quarters at Cambridge.

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2011: We started the year by getting stranded in Vegas (we were supposed to be back in Wichita on New Year’s Day) and did a lot of traveling the rest of the year. We traveled to the East Coast with the Dills, got to see the Orbases when we visited cousin Tracy in Texas, and I got to visit Nashville for the first time (on a work trip). We joined Genesis Health Clubs and got on a health and fitness kick. I was very much into Zumba and just working out in general. We pretty much lived at the gym. This was also the year that we spent our wedding anniversary at the ER.

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2012: We attended a few weddings, most notably cousin Tracy and Jeff’s destination wedding at Coral Cove in Jamaica. I completed my Zumba Basic 1 training and started teaching Zumba for the City of Wichita (Parks & Rec), took Brian to Nashville for his birthday, bought a house (we actually closed on our 10th wedding anniversary), and ended the year with a thyroidectomy.

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2013: I completed Leadership Elite at Wichita State, started teaching Zumba for YMCA, attended my first Zumba Instructor Convention (ZINCON for short), and made a few appearances on Splurge! magazine. In addition to traveling to Orlando for ZINCON, I also got to do some traveling for work (visited Minneapolis and Davenport). Besides all that, we also got each other his and hers handguns, and threw Brian’s parents a 40th wedding anniversary party.

2014: Brian bought his first tux this year. It was a big Zumba year for me. I attended both the Zumba Instructor Conference in LA and the Zumba Instructor Convention in Orlando. I started my short-lived Stella & Dot business. I joined the Adventurous Babes Society. We switched from Android to iPhone. Alex, my hard-top convertible, joined our family. But the biggest thing to happen this year is my completion of Leadership Wichita.

2015: Rex, Brian’s Lexus SUV, and Saki, our Shiba Inu that we won in the Heartspring live auction, both joined our family. Travels included trips to St. George (Utah), Washington DC, Charlotte (North Carolina) New Jersey, and New York. Brian and I both completed Citizen Police Academy.

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2016: Brian and I went on the first ever Zumba cruise where I met J. Perry (he sings many of my favorite Zumba songs) in person for the first time. I also got to meet Max Pizzolante at ZINCON. I got a tour of Zumba home office and finally made the Wichita Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.

2017: Brian and I kicked off the year with a Plank Challenge. I hosted a Zumbathon to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I committed part of my 401K to Wichita State through planned giving and we were inducted into the Society of 1895. We attended several amazing events. We visited Alaska and Great Exuma (Bahamas). And I became a Zumba Wear 3-Star Insider.

2018: We attended a ton of great parties like always. I started teaching Zumba at VASA Fitness. We went on another Zumba cruise and also went to ZINCON. We started “Coffee Chats” on FLIP + CHING. I discovered pickleball and we quit our bowling league (because pickleball was on the same night). I’ve since found other places to play but, at the time, it was my only option.

That pretty much catches us up. Next post will be all about the memorable things that happened in 2019. I didn’t really have great expectations for the past year but it turned out amazing. It’s been the best year we’ve lived yet. But I have a feeling 2020 is going to be pretty awesome too. Anyway, come back next time for the full 2019 recap. Until then, GNG.

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Hanging Out at Casa Fuego

Posted on December 26, 2019 by under Food and Drink, Life, Travel.    

Our adults-only building at Hotel Xcaret is pretty self sufficient. It has two pools — one on the roof and our swim-up on the ground level. We have our own restaurant in the building. We have our own bars — the one inside Fuego Restaurant, at the rooftop pool, and the “secret” bar in the walking path.

All of the amenities in our building are private and for Casa Fuego guests only. It’s easy to sneak in because, even though you have to scan your bracelet to open the glass gates, you could always go around them and sometimes they’re left open. However, the resort is so vast and there’s something for everyone. Other guests staying at other buildings have access to so much, I doubt they even know or care what we have in Fuego. Brian and I had access to everything, plus all of the exclusive stuff in our building. Anyway, it’s very nice if you like to have peace and quiet and privacy.

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Here are a couple of pictures of us having breakfast at Fuego Restaurant, which was conveniently just a couple of doors down from our room.

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They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner so it’s perfect for when we are in a rush or when we don’t want to deal with all the other guests or if we get back to the hotel late and don’t really want to venture out.

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Here’s a picture of Brian looking over the menu.

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Here’s a picture of the fancy menu.

Fuego Restaurant was the perfect place to do our short live update on location. We just did a short video before digging in to breakfast. Some food pictures follow.

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Instead of having a Panero come by, because the restaurant is exclusive to Casa Fuego guests and not many people are usually dining there, they just give you a tray with various pastries. You also get a tray with four different spreads.

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Here’s a closer look at the breads.

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Everything is fancy at Fuego.

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After breakfast, we went back to our room to lay in the hammocks out on the patio.

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We had a great view of the ocean and access to the pool. It was quite nice and relaxing. Then we decided to go up to the rooftop pool.

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The rooftop pool has amazing 360 views of the resort and the ocean.

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Here are some more pictures I took while up there.

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Some pictures of the pool.

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Here are some pictures of the scenery down below.

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We went back to Fuego Restaurant for dinner on a separate occasion. Here are some pictures of that night’s dinner menu.

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Here’s a picture of the restaurant’s signature drink. Of all the delicious drinks I tried there, this was my most favorite.

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Brian even liked it.

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Video of Brian trying to explain the drink.

Here’s the server explaining it. This explanation was more simplified than the first one. We originally thought it was the drink of the day but they let me keep ordering it in the days that followed. I kept going back to the restaurant just to get that drink because I liked it that much.

Picture of our toasted bread in a bread envelope.

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Fancy appetizer on a piece of rock. I could have eaten six of these.

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Everything on the menu was too fancy for Brian so he just wanted tomato soup and fries. The service at the restaurant is top notch. They actually offered to make him a burger, even though it wasn’t listed on the menu. They seriously do everything within their power to please you.

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Here’s a picture of my delicious lobster risotto.

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I can’t remember what this was called but it was also amazing!

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Here’s another picture of my favorite drink on a different visit. I think we were headed somewhere else — maybe lunch with the rest of the crew and I just had to swing by and get one of these to go.

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Brian and I liked the restaurant so much that we decided to go back there for breakfast on departure day.

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We got to eat outside this time.

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The weather we had that day was the best we’d had all week.

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We took advantage of the opportunity to eat outside.

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Here are the amazing views from the restaurant patio.

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Fancy toast and side of bacon.

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The most beautiful French toast I’d ever laid eyes on.

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Here’s a close up photo. It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

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Brian explaining the different jams.

We really enjoyed our week at Hotel Xcaret and loved staying in the Casa Fuego building. Every detail of our stay was amazing. We will definitely go back!

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