February 2013 archive

All Inclusive – The Benefits of All Inclusive Holiday Packages

When was the last time you had a vacation?  Where did you go and how much did you end up spending?  The last few times I have gone on vacations I have used all inclusive holiday packages.

Best All Inclusive ResortYep I really love having a trip where almost everything is covered in the cost and me not having to worry about having a lot of money to spend on other things the most people don’t really plan for.

All Inclusive Includes Food!!

I know when I travel one of the things I tend to spend a lot of money on is eating and trying new cuisine.  Well when you are on an all inclusive vacation food is covered.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner and for the most part all the restaurants are free for you to enjoy!

This means I don’t have to worry about cooking or figuring out the best place to eat for taste and budget.  Going to a different place every time I get ready to eat is a great benefit and if I don’t like it oh well I just move on to the next place.

Pools, Relaxation, Excursions, Massages

Yeah those are the things that follow after I have had my fill and I don’t usually have to worry about paying for them.  The resorts I have been to in the past have all had great pools.  The last one I went to had a great infinity pool that just made me feel like I was relaxing in the ocean.

Need a break?  Well how about just relaxing by the pool, in the sauna, or hmmm what about a massage?  I knew a few places require you to pay for this but the last holiday package I got had two massages included and girl did I ever need them.  I was so stressed and tired that they really came in handy.

I got my first on the morning I arrived and scheduled the second on the night before I left.  Most of the excursion though were not free however I didn’t get huge discounts or what I thought to be discounts.

Try An All Inclusive Next Time Out

If you have never tired an all inclusive resort I would really recommend one for your next vacation!  The biggest problem I have found is that you don’t or won’t find any in the states.  Most all inclusives usually are in places like Mexico, Dominican Republic etc.

Just give it try and let me know how things turn out for you!

Til next time say ya!


Good and Slow

I recently bought a Crock Pot in an attempt to spend less of my evening slaving away at the stove. What I’ve discovered, though, is that Crock Pot cooking still requires a little slaving – you just do it in the morning before you go to work.

Chopping onions at 7 a.m. is hardly glamorous, but the effort is worth it when I come home to a warm meal that simmers to perfection while I’m at work. My most recent Crock Pot meal comes courtesy of POM Wonderful (which was kind enough to send me some glorious free samples!) and Stephanie O’Dea, whose slow-cooker blog is filled with impressive Crock Pot recipes and techniques.

An average chuck roast turned into something delectable when it simmered in a sauce made with pomegranate juice, fire roasted tomatoes, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. I threw the meat and sauce in the Crock Pot along with onion, garlic and golden raisins, which got nice and plump after 8 hours of slow cooking. This dish was delicious straight from the pot, and even better the second day after I shredded the meat and let it sit in the sauce overnight.

Consider this recipe the next time you’re looking for an alternative to your tried and true pot roast recipe. Admittedly, the pomegranate juice is a little pricey, but it makes a ton of sauce – and you can usually find Pom Wonderful in 16 oz bottles if you’re concerned about leftovers going to waste.

Slow Cooker Pomegranate Beef

adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

serves 8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 lb beef chuck roast
4 garlic cloves (whole is fine, or you can chop them)
1 14 oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, such as Muir Glen (note: if you can’t find crushed, buy diced and puree them in the blender)
1 c unsweetened pomegranate juice, such as POM Wonderful
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 c golden raisins

Swirl the olive oil into the bottom of a large slow cooker (the original recipe suggests 6 qt or larger). Add the onion. Combine the cinnamon, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper in a small bowl and rub on all sides of the meat.

Add to the slow cooker along with the garlic, tomatoes, pomegranate juice, vinegar, and syrup. Sprinkle the raisins on top. Cover the slow cooker and set to low. Cook for 8 hours or until the meat is tender.

You can serve the met in chunks or use two forks to shred it. Serve the sauce as is, or take 1/2 to 3/4 cup and simmer it over medium high heat until it reduces and thickens slightly.

Short Getaway Ideas for the Weekend

Seems like I should be an expert on this subject.  I haven’t been able to take a full vacation in a long time and as such I find that I usually spend my weekends finding little getaway trips.

Find a Weekend Vacation

Have a short break doesn’t mean you can’t relax and have fun you just have to know where to go and how to have fun.  My last weekend getaway was actually right here in my town where I just got good deal on a hotel from Groupon and decided I would just stay their for the weekend and relax.

Visit A Friend a Few Hours Away

If you are short on time and have a friend close by that you haven’t seen in awhile why not make a trip of it.  You can go visit them and instead of finding things to do in your town you can explore theirs.  Have them so you around and take you out on the town.  Try a restaurant or two that you don’t have in your neck of the woods.

Stay Home But Not At Home

Yeah you can stay in your town but just don’t stay at home.  Get a nice room at a nice hotel and just chillax!  You know by just going to a hotel you cut out a lot of the weekend hassle.  No doing the dishes, cleaning or worrying about things that need to get done.  While in the hotel you can get pampered, massages, room services, and of course not having to clean a thing!

Hit up the Deals Website

Places like Living Social, JusGetaway, and Groupon all have great deals on things to do and places to stay.  I have gotten some of the best deals on great hotels using these sites.  I must admit though they can get a little addicting.  Just find things you would like to do and go do them.

Places Close Enough To Fly

You know there are a lot of places you can go that might be 3-6 hour car rides but only a 1 hour flight.  Check out whats near you that you have always wanted to do but have been to lazy to drive to.  Then go get a plane ticket and fly.  If you leave just after work you will usually land before 8 if you pack and take your stuff with you to work.

Got any other weekend getaway ideas?


Good Enough to Blog

While I don’t document all of my meals on this blog, I can tell you I cook 85 to 90% of what we eat in a given week. Most of our meals are eaten at home, and I include the recipes I like best on Pretty By the Bay.

The other meals are either too boring, too simple or too tasteless to document. (We all have our bad days in the kitchen!) This Potato, Leek and Carrot Soup initially fell into the “too simple” category. I made it last weekend for Corey and I to take in our lunches this week, and I deemed it blogworthy when I realized each bowl tasted better than the last.

I’m not sure if the intense flavor came from the leeks, the chicken stock or the touch of half and half stirred in at the end, but wow – this recipe is a keeper. The original recipe (which comes from my beloved Mark Bittman) says you can leave the soup chunky or puree it using an immersion or traditional blender; I used the former, as I’ll take any excuse to use a fun kitchen gadget. If it’s cold in your neck of the woods, I guarantee this soup will make you feel warm and cozy inside!

Potato, Leek and Carrot Soup

adapted from How to Cook Everything

serves 4 to 6

1 tbsp olive oil

3 medium potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and cut into chunks

3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds

2 large leeks, chopped and well cleaned (I slice them into rounds and soak in a bowl of water, separating the rings to remove any hidden dirt)

4 cups chicken broth (recommended: Kitchen Basics)

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup half and half or milk, optional if pureeing the soup

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. add the vegetables and saute for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook the soup until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Adjust seasoning. You may eat the soup as is, or puree it. To do this, remove from heat, stir in 1/2 cup half and half or milk, and puree in the pot using an immersion blender or in batches using a traditional blender.

(If using the traditional blender, you may wish to bring the soup back to temperature before you serve it.) Leftover soup will thicken slightly; add a splash of water or chicken stock, if necessary, when you reheat it.


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