A life under the Pink Umbrella!

Travel

This week while in Florida I was finally able to cross something off my Florida Bucket List and visit the Keel and Curley Winery! I have been a fan of this wine since I discovered them in a Publix Grocery store about 10 years ago! Even a move to Ohio still had me missing my favorite wine and I have been known to ask family to bring me a bottle or two on their visits! So, as you can imagine, I was incredibly thankful when my mother-in-law and father-in-law offered to take me to the one and only winery for a visit on the way to see family in Orlando!

The Keel and Curley Winery is located in Plant City, Florida and far enough off the beaten path to enjoy the charm that comes with a small Florida town! Plant City is known for their annual Strawberry Festival and their amazing Strawberries which is not coincidental considering that this is my favorite flavor of wine that Keel and Curley produce! Upon arriving to the winery, the building known as “The Tasting Room” looks almost like visiting a southern family’s home-it is where the Oak trees draped with Spanish Moss and Palm trees grow together with rocking chairs and a big swing on the front porch-we are definitely in the south folks! Inside the room is lit up with wine bottle light pendants, there are 2 bars and a large open area with high and low top tables for an abundance of seating and along the back wall are shelves filled top to bottom with freshly bottled wines you can purchase to take home or for gifts.

We picked the perfect time to visit since it was their “Wine Down Wednesday” which meant wine specials including $1 off glasses, $2 off bottles purchased and 25% off charcuterie trays. Along with the great daily specials they also offer a full menu and I won’t lie but the Florida girl in me was tempted to get the Alligator Bites on the appetizer menu! We decided to do a wine sampling option and I picked Peach Chardonnay, Sweet Blueberry, Strawberry Riesling and Key West-Key Lime as my four selections for my wine flight. Selecting only 4 from 12 was a difficult to do since I absolutely love the Strawberry Riesling and savored sampling this flavor at its origin! My favorite thing besides the taste of real Florida fruit in the wine is the aroma of the wine itself. When you swirl the glass and breathe the notes I was taken away to Key West and a Key Lime pie or a basket of Summer Peaches or fresh Blueberry Cobbler or bowl of fresh picked Strawberries on a hot day! I’m not sure how they are able to capture the flavor of Florida fruits in their wine, but I am so glad they do!

After finishing my wine flight, I decided to discover the outside portion of the venue and discovered an outdoor bar, more seating and a stage all under a covered porch looking over a pond and grapevines-so picturesque! Additionally, there is another covered patio adjacent to the connected one to the building called the “Party Barn” which I feel is reason enough to visit again just to experience this!

Back inside The Tasting Room and after some careful consideration I decided to purchase the Black Raspberry Merlot for my parents that I would visiting within a few days. Chris offered me a mini sample to make sure I approved of it for them and offered friendly assistance and answered any questions as well. Chris also shared with me the Vino Brew Keel and Curley Wine Club since I was visiting from Ohio and could have fresh Florida Wine shipped to me directly every month! How tempting is that?

While reading up more about this winery at https://keelandcurleywinery.com/  I learned they also offer a behind the scenes tour every Saturday and Sunday for only $5! I am already looking to plan another trip to enjoy this too! Overall, this winery was everything and more I had dreamed of-my favorite wines, beautiful and charming accommodations and friendly faces!

Nothing better than a front porch swing! Welcome to Keel and Curley Winery
Some front porch sitting!
I have made my choices!
Cheers!
My favorite!
Who am I kidding, they're all my favorite!
Covered patio-ready rain or shine!
The Party Barn!
I love grapevine leaves-they look like hearts!
Enjoying Wine Down Wednesday at Keel and Curley Winery!
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I compare snorkeling and/or swimming in the ocean in Aruba to swimming in an aquarium! The water is as clear as a swimming pool and the ocean life is not only colorful but also plentiful! Our second full day in Aruba I spent most of the day with my personal snorkel gear in the water in front of our resort with my husband swimming behind me with the waterproof camera as I anxiously pointed out fish, coral, seaweed and sea urchins. Later that afternoon on a walk through the resort lobby my husband spoke with the DePalm Tours tour guide desk about setting up a three-hour snorkel cruise for the next day that included two stops. I was elated because I could only imagine what I would see beyond the reaches of our resort!

The next morning, we checked in at the DePalm Pier (conveniently located between the RIU and Hilton resorts) and was issued wrist bands confirming our trip. We then boarded a 40-foot-wide catamaran with approximately 50 of our closest vacationing friends in Aruba and set sail, but not before quick introductions including safety measures and what to expect for the trip.

Our first of two stops, Boca Catalina, was breathtakingly gorgeous and located on a small secluded bay on Malmok Beach. Because this area is technically in a bay, the calmness of the water in Boca Catalina was also a great place for the experienced snorkeler or a newbie. Sometimes it can take a few minutes to get adjusted to figure out to work your snorkel, feet flippers and life vest all together to really experience the underwater paradise. There was very little of a current if one at all and was very peaceful bobbing up and down seeing numerous kinds of fish, seaweed and corals approximately 10-12 feet below you.  We saw numerous fish and sea life and could have easily spent another hour at this location!

Our second stop was at the Antilla Shipwreck, also known as Aruba’s Ghost Ship is a sight to see! Above the water looking down you see what is left of a 400-foot German freighter called the Antilla which sank in 1940. On this day while the sky was clear, the water at this location was incredibly choppy which made visibility to the depths of the shipwreck very difficult even for a skilled swimmer. Due to the current that was around the shipwreck, myself and others kept feeling as if we would float off into the ocean toward Panama if we did not keep our boat in sight every few minutes! Hovering in buoyancy over the shipwreck it was amazing to see how the fish and ocean life had turned this vessel into their own home swimming in and out of windows and the deck of the boat. I was able to make out parts of the boat that were covered with corals and sponges without diving into the depths. While this was an awesome stop on the snorkeling tour-I would personally have preferred more time in a different calmer area as there was a lot more sea life and to view.

One of my favorite parts about this trip besides seeing all the fish and ocean life were the views of the Aruba from the water. We were even able to point out the California Lighthouse from the sail boat!

Our Snorkel Trip:

Tour: DePalm Tours- Palm Pleasures Snorkel Morning Delight

Stops: 2- Boca Catalina and Antilla Shipwreck

Price:  Adult-$69 Children $52 (3-12 years)

Includes: Snorkel gear, snacks, beverages and open bar

Recommended to bring along:- Sunglasses, bathing suit, waterproof camera, beach towel and sunscreen.

Enjoying the sail boat ride and taking in the views of Aruba! In the distance is the California Lighthouse!
Biba Dushi translates to 'living a sweet life' in the native language, Papiamento of Aruba!
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Approaching the airport-I can see the RIU Palace Antillas (the white tower hotel)
The RIU Palace Antillas Hotel and beautiful crystal clear water!
Our first room decorated for our 10th Wedding Anniversary!
View from our 6th floor balcony
These liquor cabinets are standard in every RIU room!
I could've sat there all day!
The makings for a Corona ad!
The Villas Suite was sweet!
The private pool for the Villas!
Made friends by the pool even!
Why yes that is a chocolate fountain!
Land and Sea Entree at the Aruban Restaurant!
Desserts from the buffet!
This steel drum player made my night- he played a mix of songs including Ed Sheeran!

In the past few years my husband and I have traveled on short vacations (3-4 days) to Aruba, Punta Cana, Puerta Vallarta, Jamaica and again Punta Cana. We enjoy these island trips to reconnect and relax and keep technology and day to day life stateside. It has seemed though that every trip would be compared back to the first place we visited, so when we planned our 10-year anniversary trip we both were eager to go back to Aruba to see if our comparisons lined up.

Aruba, is a small Dutch island in the southern Caribbean Sea approximately 500 miles north of Venezuela, also keeping out of hurricane alley (another bonus). The climate is drier than that of Jamaica or Punta Cana but when you are by the coast it can be very windy and is hotter and drier as you move inland. The airport accommodates visitors from all over the world and is one of the few destinations that allows visitors to complete customs before returning home to the USA. We did not feel we needed to arrange transportation through the resort prior to arrival as you are able to contact a cab from in front of the airport to your resort and in our opinion, feel that the island is very safe for tourists.

We stayed at The RIU Palace Antillas, formerly a Westin property, which was renovated in 2015 and one of the few if not only adult-only all-inclusive resorts on the island. This was our fifth visit to a RIU Resort and we felt for the value and accommodations were well worth the price. This resort was in our opinion set apart from others for being Adult Only (no kiddies in the pool), all-inclusive 24 hours (includes limited room service menu even!) Free WIFI throughout the hotel, four restaurants and full buffet for dining, and unlimited top shelf alcohol including Bacardi and wine.  We visited this resort in 2015 about 4 months after it had first opened and since then stayed at many other RIU’s and always compared other trips back to the first one we experienced.

Upon arrival we were greeted with glasses of champagne and a concierge to bring our luggage to our room. We reserved a sea view room for the eight nights. Our room upon initial review was quite large including a main sitting area with couch, table for two, large flat screen television, small refrigerator stocked with sodas, water and beer, and four full liquor bottles. There were doors that led into the bedroom area that included a king size bed with nightstands, dresser and another flat screen television. The bathroom included two sinks, a bath tub, small closet area with safe, and a glassed-in shower with rain shower head.  The balcony was 3 doors wide and gave view to the beach and partial resort. Overall the room was sufficient but noticed that minimal updates had been made to the rooms compared to the overall resort.

Unfortunately, after only three nights and a service call due to our air- conditioning was not working satisfactorily, we asked to move rooms. The resort was very apologetic, and we were able to relocate to a Villa Suite the next day. Upon arriving at the Villa Suites, we wished we would have booked our vacation there and not in the tower rooms! The Villas are rooms separated from the tower rooms and have their own salt water pool as well. These rooms were new and not just renovated property-these compared to the rooms we enjoyed at other RIU resorts such as in Punta Cana.

We enjoyed the private pool as part of the Villas as my husband and I are not too social while on trips and found the larger pools on the property very crowded and on the verge of rowdy. We spent our time 75/25 between the pool and beach. The beach is one of the few that I have visited that the water is literally crystal clear with beige sand! There were beach chairs under tiki umbrellas that filled up entirely too fast many days-we found ourselves getting up earlier than we do at home just to get a spot on the beach-which again made the Villas nice because you could leave your towels and sunscreen on a chair there and walk to the beach for a swim if you didn’t reserve a beach chair.

One of the areas that we saw welcomed change in the resort was with dining. In the past at RIU resorts, guests needed to make reservations for restaurants other than the buffet and now it is first come-first serve. We found the Steak House and Krystal (French restaurant) filled up rather fast, however with Italian and an Aruban restaurant and the buffet-there were still lots of options. Our favorite restaurant which was new to the resort and us as well was the Aruban restaurant. We ate at the Aruban restaurant 5 of the 8 nights-the food was amazing to say the least and served traditional Aruban cuisine of Land and Sea (steak and lobster), grilled Grouper over Polenta-our favorites. The buffet dinners included a pasta bar in the evening, seafood, steak, pork, vegetarian and were easily compared to that of what cruise ships are known for-if not better! Breakfast was always served in the same area and was buffet style including a full juice bar, pancake/waffle bar, omelet bar, egg bar and even Mimosas! Lunch/snack items were served in a lower buffet area and included burgers, chicken tenders, fish filets, tacos, pizza, guacamole and chips etc. If you went hungry or couldn’t find something to eat at this resort, we always agreed it was your fault!

Most evenings after dinner we would walk around the resort or to the neighboring resort (also a RIU) for an evening drink, a snack or people watching (always worth it). Every night the resort had something planned whether it was steel drums serenading the buffet dinner, a beach dance party, a circus act, live music including a saxophonist, jazz and other music as well as a nightclub. There was always something to see or experience!

We decided to bring Yeti cups to the resort as we are not big drinkers but liked reducing waste, and keeping our drinks cold-this also limited the number of times we had to go to the bar for, refills-so I felt this was a win-win on many levels!

Tips were included with the cost of the resort however we found many times that concierge, servers, bartenders, and service professionals went above and beyond their call of duties. We were always met with smiles and friendly hellos-there was not a single time we didn’t feel we were not being taken care of and felt completely spoiled!

Overall, this resort won our hearts again-adult all-inclusive, the friendly staff, dining, the beach, the pools, entertainment made this again our favorite RIU!

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October 13th marked my 10 Year wedding anniversary with my husband! We decided to wait till November to take our anniversary trip due to hurricane season interfering with flights and weather and an excuse to get away from a chilly Ohio fall!

This was our second trip to Aruba and much longer than the previous trip as well! This trip honestly felt like a dream in so many ways, our resort was gorgeous, everyone on the island was friendly and outgoing, the water was a clear turquoise blue, the food was impeccable, the weather couldn’t have been better (which is the usual according to the locals) and we got a full week away from life to reconnect and celebrate 10 years of wedded bliss!

We stayed a total of 8 nights in Aruba and packed it full with relaxation, walks on the beach, couple’s massages and facials, a snorkeling excursion, a trip to the Butterfly Farm, hanging out on Renaissance Island (AKA Flamingo Island) and lastly an off-road excursion that I consider a highlight of the trip for many reasons!

So instead of trying to pack everything into one post I thought it’d be better to make a few posts to share everything instead! For those of you planning a trip I hope that you find yourself one day on the world’s happiest island, you won’t regret it!

The kiss after saying I do’s on Long Boat Key, Florida

It is amazing how fast 10 years have gone by!

Happy 10 year anniversary!

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It’s officially summertime!

In the four summers that we have lived in Columbus, OH it has turned out to be the prime time for family to visit and I have made it my mission of sorts to turn their southern minds around about this midwestern state.

Before my husband and I moved to Ohio, I had only visited the state less than a handful of times but the summer we visited for a job interview the city of Columbus hooked this southern girl for a change in latitude and attitude. I fell for the constant summer breeze, numerous water activities and feeling of community with festivals and gatherings.

And like a good tour guide-I’ve listed out my fave things to do when someone comes to town!

Activities:

One of over 12,000 whistles made every day at American Whistle Company!

 

 

The American Whistle Company: americanwhistle.com For less than $5 you can take a tour of the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the United States and come out with a freshly minted whistle to call your very own!

 

 

 

 

 

One of many Dale Chihuly’s glass works at the conservatory

The Franklin Conservatory fpconservatory.org A favorite of mine year-round is a place you can easily spend a day exploring with art collections by Dale Chihuly, Garden and plant collections, taking classes or walking the grounds-a must do for any gardener or outdoor enthusiast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Anthony Chocolatesanthony-thomas.com Need to cool down from the heat-head here for a tour of the factory while chocolate bars and the famous Ohio Buckeyes are being made. A sweet treat for any age!

 

Ohio History Center and Ohio Village: ohiohistory.org This is on my summer list this year, because after close to four years of living in Ohio-I never really knew how much the state had to offer and learn about! Things that have peaked my interest about the state include: Mammoths and Mastodons roamed the state millions of years ago, how the state was shaped by the glaciers, or about how the state leads the country in the number of astronauts from any state.

 

The Book Loft: bookloft.com 32, Yes 32 rooms of books- a book worm’s dream come true and a true Columbus cool find! I could literally spend hours here and they also have a nice garden area outside which is lovely on a cool summer night or in the fall

 

Columbus Museum of Art: columbusmuseum.org This was recently renovated and when I visited again I felt like I had stepped into a museum in Europe. This museum has it all including art collections from Ohio artists and others from the United States to collections brought in such as last summer’s Picasso exhibit, a cute café with indoor/outdoor seating, a spacious gift store all while combining new and old architecture seamlessly!

 

Places to Eat:

NorthStar Café: thenorthstarcafe.com A Columbus based restaurant with 5 locations and a breakfast favorite that is requested every time family visits for their fresh biscuits, Cloud 9 Pancakes (amazing) and neat atmosphere!

Cloud 9 Pancakes and biscuits so southern they make this girl feel at home here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the neatest menu’s I’ve ever seen! Flip them over and it’s an old record sleeve!

Melt Bar & Grilled meltbarandgrilled.com A Cleveland based restaurant that takes a grilled cheese sandwich up about 5 notches with 16 kinds of cheeses for a total of 29 different kind of grilled cheese sandwiches-there is literally one for even the pickiest eater!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schmidt’s German Restaurant: schmidthaus.com Schmidt’s and Columbus are almost synonymous and have been since 1886 first as a meat packing plant then a concession stand at the Ohio State Fair and finally the restaurant it is today. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the sausages rival a trip to Germany without the need for a passport! Oh, and while you’re there-please don’t forget the Cream Puff! The Cream Puffs are half a pound each-yes you read that correctly-each month they have a specialty one in addition to chocolate or vanilla!

 

 

 

Jeni’s Ice-Cream: jenis.com Jeni’s Ice-cream another Columbus favorite has been around since 2002 and Jeni is her name and ice-cream is her game! She creates specialty flavors that you won’t find in your grocer’s freezer (unless you live in Ohio) She now has scoop shop locations in 8 Cities around the country including Los Angeles! Favorite flavors include (but not limited to): Churro, Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet, Wild berry Lavender, and lastly Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach Jam, Brambleberry Crisp.

 

 

 

 

Places to Shop:

Easton Town Center: eastontowncenter.com Imagine trying to decide between 60 places to eat, almost 300 places to shop, live entertainment, or catch a movie -then you’re at Easton if you’re in Columbus! The city knows shopping and has the headquarters for Victoria Secret and Express here and has even been known to have a Victoria Secret Model to make an appearance too!

 

Polaris Mall: polarisfashionplace.com If Easton Town Center sounds like too much ground to cover (literally) then check this one out instead-about half the size of Easton with 23 places to eat and over 100 shopping options Polaris Mall will make sure you find what you’re looking for without needing a day to cover it in!

 

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