Don’t Forget Facebook!

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I haven’t been neglecting my blog on purpose, I’ve just been finding it easier to post little snippets directly on Facebook lately!  Recipes, articles, travel tips & recommendations can all be found there, when I’m not on here!  So please “Like, Follow & Share” my Facebook page, Trips and Tastes and be sure to check out all my pics on Instagram as well!

Thanks for the love!

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All-Inclusives… Yay or Nay?

20170801_063332I was inspired this morning by this great list of all-inclusive resorts published by Caribbean Journal. Some I have visited before & some have been on my bucket list for quite some time. I’m a huge fan of the all-inclusive concept & have been checking them out regularly since 1998 with our 1st trip to Sandals 🙂 They’re certainly not for everyone, but the ease with which they operate, and all they have to offer, makes them a no-brainer in my book.

Sandals Royal BahamianI’ve been to Sandals, Beaches, Excellence, Melia, Iberostar & several other all-inclusive chains, big and small. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the more laid back, less cookie-cutter resorts, without an overwhelming number of activities or the invigorating “party” atmosphere. It could just be that I’m getting old, but I like to think at this point in life, I’m more than capable of entertaining myself… lol. Don’t get me wrong, I always love some local, live music in the evening & I’ll never pass up a good snorkeling or boating excursion. But usually I’m just there to relax, read my book on the beach, do a little sightseeing & enjoy a delicious meal each night!

The beauty of an all-inclusive (AI) lies in its simplicity… one-stop-shopping if you will. Pick your resort & then enjoy everything a small beachside village would have to offer, without ever having to leave the property. You’ll have the option of fine dining from all nationalities, shops, a beautiful spa, a gym, a water sports center & more. Easy peasy.

Pineapple Beach Club

Perfect local entertainment!

With that said, it becomes more a matter of personal preference when selecting the perfect AI. For me, it’s all about the beach & the food. I don’t need a super luxurious room, a fancy spa or lots of theater-style shows, but those amenities are important to some, and widely available.  I enjoy a good “adults-only” resort (or at least an adult “section”), but when traveling with my son, I need to adjust our requirements a little and include a good pool & an active kids club.

AIs are found mostly in Mexico and the Caribbean with an extreme number on the Yucatan Peninsula & in the Dominican Republic. You definitely get what you pay for, however sometimes the brand name alone, dictates a higher price but not necessarily a better experience. It’s important to read reviews & be clear on what type of resort you’re looking for. Here are a few things to consider:

Size of the resort.  AKA… how far do you want to walk to the beach or to dinner.  Layout plays a part here as well… some resorts lie parallel to the beach, while others form a long, perpendicular strip from the main road to the sea.  Another trend seems to be combining multiple properties into one, creating a huge mecca of dining options, pools, etc.   It all depends on what you need to keep you entertained and your mobility level.

Variety (and quality) of restaurants. If a buffet for breakfast & lunch and a few a la carte options for dinner are sufficient, any AI will do.  However, if you want access to room service, need to order breakfast off a menu or would like a high-end French meal for dinner, you’ll need to stay on the upper end of things. Some of the smaller resorts may only have 2 or 3 restaurants, but if their focus is on quality, you should still receive an excellent variety of fresh & creative food.  Some of the best food I’ve had at an AI was at the Excellence Punta Cana last year… here’s just a snapshot of the types of items available at the BREAKFAST buffet!

Room accommodations.  Do you want to be next to the ocean? Do you need your own swim-out pool? Are 2 beds a requirement?  As with all resorts, most AIs offer a large variety of rooms and the cost will most likely be determined by the view & proximity to the beach.  Many AIs now also offer an exclusive section (usually adults only), that includes a private stretch of beach, select restaurants and other upgraded amenities – it’s up to you to determine if this extra expense is necessary.  Reading resort reviews on TripAdvisor or other trusted sites, is the best way to find this out for each particular resort.  Here’s a perfect example… our room at the smaller, Pineapple Beach Club in Antigua wasn’t the most luxurious, but it literally sat on the water, with a huge balcony… I couldn’t have asked for anything better!


Location.  Do you want to explore the town/culture/sights or just stay put? Some of the best resorts are often farther from any centralized “downtowns” or local hot spots.  Consider your sightseeing needs when making our selection.  Also, depending on the length of your stay, you’ll want to consider the drive time to & from the airport.  In Cancun, for example, most resorts are on the main strip, with a quick, 20-min ride from the airport.  If you venture out towards the Riviera Maya area, however, you’re looking at 45 mins to an hour.  For shorter trips, the closer the better, but if you have the time, the ride is often worth it.

All-inclusives offer something for everyone and are often easier when traveling with kids or a larger group. It’s also nice to pay for everything up front & not have to worry about extra expenses once you arrive (other than trips to the spa, gift shop or unplanned excursions). Personally, I like to make as few taxing decisions as possible when I’m on vacation, so the concept works wonderfully well for me.  The only way you’ll know for sure, is to do your homework, get recommendations from friends & try it out!

Here are a few links to some of my favorites:

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Melia Caribe Tropical – Larger, well-established resort in Punta Cana.  Go for the upgraded “Level” if you’re leaving the kids at home 😉
Excellence Punta Cana – Beautiful, adults-only resort.  Amazing food & my favorite stretch of beach.
Iberostar Costa Dorada – Smaller, open-air resort on the north coast of the D.R.  Great food & service.

COSTA RICA
Flamingo Beach Resort – Experience “pura vida” at this laid back, boutique resort.  Soon to become a part of the Margaritaville chain… hoping that doesn’t spoil the atmosphere.  Here are some pics from last year’s visit 🙂

ANTIGUA
Pineapple Beach Club & Galley Bay – Both part of the Elite Island Resorts chain… Visited the quaint Pineapple this year (here’s my review), looking to try the more upscale Gally Bay soon!

Don’t Be Afraid of That Crazy Wrap Thing!

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Network marketing, direct sales, even pyramid scheme… whatever you want to call it, if you believe in the products that you’re using, and they’re positively affecting your life, why wouldn’t you want to share it???

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Last month, I joined an exciting health & wellness company called, “It Works” as an independent distributor. This 16-year old, debt-free company, is best known for their body contouring wraps, but they truly offer so much more. I had been looking for a way to lose some weight & also incorporate a healthier lifestyle that I had embraced while training for my 1st half marathon this past spring. I’d also been looking for a new side business, so when the 2 opportunities came up together, it certainly caught my attention.

I’ve sold other health-related products in the past with this same sales format. I signed up with Arbonne, but only truly loved a few of their items, which wasn’t enough to “tie me” to the company. I sold Silpada Designs for 5 years, & despite my love of jewelry & their beautiful pieces, a combination of the “home party” sales model & their inflated sterling silver prices just didn’t create the formula I needed to really succeed.

20170610_132401But this time around, something seems different. I want to get my hands on every single product! And I’m actually experiencing my own amazing results! I’ve lost 5lbs in my 1st month & and I have this new-found energy that’s empowering! In addition, I have an amazing team leader who’s there for me day or night, answers all my questions & sometimes even talks me off the ledge if need be! I feel lucky that she found me & was patient with me while I tried the products and slowly decided to dive in & become a distributor.

20170626_172150The It Works product line is diverse, but not overwhelming. The products are all-natural, plant-based, and designed to help in various facets of your life. Stress, weight gain, joint pain, trouble sleeping, wrinkles, stretch marks – all the things we always want to fix! And they’re affordable… nothing crazy that’s going to break the bank. To check out the company and the products for yourself, here’s the link to my web site: www.kristinmatteo.itworks.com

My personal “Triple Threat” is a combination of 3 products that I’ve been using since I started. They’re helping me to gradually lose weight, while gaining energy & providing my body with the nutrients it needs.

IMG_20170630_112741_587Greens on the Go – This is my favorite of all the It Works products! Each individual packet contains 8 servings of fruits and vegetables and a combination of over 52 nutrients & superfoods. Simply empty the little packet into a bottle of water, shake & go! I drink mine mid-morning or in the afternoon if I need a little boost. The Greens are available in 3 flavors: Berry (my favorite), Orange, & Chocolate (great mixed with milk or in a smoothie!) and come with 30 packets per box.

IMG_20170611_191548_734I recommend using the next two products together in regard to weight loss:
Ultimate Thermofit – This tablet, taken twice daily, boosts your metabolism with the super antioxidant, acai berry and a red hot pepper blend called Capsimax®. I take one with my breakfast & one with lunch to get my metabolic rate going!

Fatfighter – This carb inhibitor & fat blocker utilizes prickly pear cactus to naturally absorb some of the fats & carbs from your “less healthy” meals. I usually take the Fatfighter with dinner, as that tends to be my heaviest meal of the day and the one that could cause me the most damage 😉

20170606_170119Other products I love are the gentle, 2-Day Cleanse, the WOW – Wipe Out Wrinkles Cream, the Protein Powders (in Chocolate or Vanilla), and of course, the original Body Contouring Wraps & Defining Gel.

The best part of this business is that you can work it from anywhere… all you need is a cell phone!  So check it out, contact me with ANY questions, and start thinking about what you’d like to try.  And I promise not to stalk you… I’m just excited to share what these products, and this business opportunity, could potentially do for you!

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And don’t worry, my love & passion for all things food-related has not gone astray… it’s just about finding the right balance & enjoying everything in moderation!

Shameless Self-Promotion ;)

moneyThis blog has been neglected lately! I’ve been busy opening an Etsy shop with my photos, joining the company, It Works! as an independent distributor of their amazing health & wellness products, and I’m even working on an article with Under Armour, as they want to feature my “half-marathon” story!  I’ve also designed a new website to keep these adventures in one central location – www.kristinscorer.com.  Add all that to my “day job,” along with my son’s baseball, karate & end of year activities, and you have one busy mama!

IMG_20170613_185542_764But the reason for this post, is not that I’m complaining, I’m actually EXCITED!  I love having all of these opportunities for my personal growth and hopefully, they’ll each become profitable, at some point, in their own way.  It can be a struggle finding the time for all these new “passions” of mine (don’t forget my travel & food obsessions as well!), but I’m squeezing it all in & enjoying the creative process! Thanks to those who have shown great support & encouraging words on each of these start-ups… it means the world to me!

Follow this blog to join me on my journey 🙂

The Calm Before the Storm…

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In a few short weeks, the crowds will arrive and the summer season will officially begin at the Jersey Shore. I love living here, but I have to admit, I’m not ready to give up my empty beaches and boardwalk quite yet!

We’ve had a few mild mornings and I’ve been trying to take full advantage… enjoying long walks, bike rides, collecting shells, taking pictures and mostly just relishing in the solitude. Nothing quite compares to having that empty stretch of sand all to yourself where you can stroll, explore, & search for treasures while listening to the soothing sound of the surf and digging your toes in the sand. It’s the most peaceful and calming time for me… and always so hard to leave!

The locals know how precious this time is, and how beautiful this time of year here can be.  Everyone’s seen the crowds and heard the horror stories of wall to wall people spread across the sand, and bodies bumping into each other in the water, so I wanted to share a handful of my morning pics, and even a little poem… lol… to give a glimpse of life here in the “off-season” 😉  Enjoy!!!

My 13.1 Mile “Trip”

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I’ve never considered myself a real runner. Over the years I’ve gone through stints here & there, as a means of trying to stay fit, but I never really loved it or covered any significant distance. Then a few years ago, I was talked into running my 1st 5K race.  It was right in my town, it was for a good cause & I’m pretty sure my friends “made me” do it. It was not fun. I definitely had to walk a few times & it was really difficult to catch my breath. But I finished, and proudly chalked up the accomplishment.

Fast forward a few years & a few 5ks later… My friend suggested that we do the upcoming New Jersey Half Marathon. My immediate response was absolutely not. The farthest I had EVER run was about 3.5 miles so there was no way a distance in the double digits was anywhere in my future. But then I started thinking… imagine if I could actually do it… how cool would that be???

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I went to my trusty friend Google, and started looking at training plans. I texted my serious runner friends and asked for their thoughts. I was slowly being swayed… but the self-doubt was still heavy. Ironically, timing is what eventually forced my decision. There was an upcoming registration deadline and the race was just about 12 weeks out – the exact amount of time needed for the training plan I’d been studying.  

So I bit the bullet and registered. I only told a few people and decided to keep my plans off of social media (because posting it there meant I actually had to do it!). I would start the training, see how it went and make my final decision closer to the race date. It was a safe, practical, & commitment-free plan. 🙂

And then I started running… 3 miles, 4.5 miles, 6 miles… I couldn’t believe I was actually making it so far. At 7 miles, I seemed to hit my breaking point and around the same time, I started having some crazy foot & heel pain, commonly known to runners as plantar fasciitis. It was awful. Some days I couldn’t run 2 miles before the pain stopped me from going any farther. I was halfway through my training plan and should have been up to 8 or 9 miles for my weekend “long runs” but I just couldn’t do it.

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My Battle Tools 🙂

I finally went to a trainer who tortured me with a process called the Graston Technique, which breaks down the muscle & soft tissue in your legs that is causing the foot pain. It was absolutely horrible (sorry Chris!), but it must have helped because that procedure, combined with regular epsom salt foot baths, icing, inserts & wearing a plantar fasciitis compression sock at night helped me to recover enough to return to my training.

With my maximum distance still at 7 miles, I committed to a 10-mile training run, hosted by volunteers from the NJ Marathon group. It covered part of the actual race course and landed on a perfectly crisp, sunny, Sunday morning. My foot held up, and my confidence was boosted. I kept being told, “if you can run 10, you can do 13” and I believed it. So much so, that I posted that training run on Facebook. 🙂

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I continued with my 3-6 mile runs, not wanting to overstress my semi-healed foot. Four days before the race, I posted my official announcement that my training was done, and that I was indeed about to partake in my very first half marathon. I worried that I hadn’t done enough, but hoped the pure adrenaline & cheers from the crowd would pull me through.

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The night before the race, I ate my big bowl of pasta, set my alarm for 5am and hit the hay. Unbelievably, I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages and I woke up feeling confident & excited. I made my coffee, tried to eat my one piece of toast with peanut butter and banana, settled on an outfit and packed my race-issued, clear plastic bag with enough supplies for days.  

Our arrival at Monmouth Park, where the start would take place, did not go so smoothly.  There was a huge traffic jam leading into the venue, which forced us to hop out and walk the remaining distance. Once inside, the lines for the bathrooms were over 20 minutes long and we ended up missing the start with our intended pace groups. Remaining optimistic, we worked our way into a random spot with the rest of the herd and started our slow jog out the gate.

IMG_20170430_153018_186I won’t bore you with my 13.1 miles of life or death thoughts (only a few of death… mostly related to thirst & my ability to make it to the next water station!), but for just over 2.5 hours, a lot went on in my head.  Luckily, the race route is lined with funny & encouraging signs, people blowing horns and playing music, and tons of little kids offering high fives. I will say this, to all those people who said, “if you can run 10, you can do 13” – it’s a bit misleading.  Miles 10 to 12 were the most challenging by far, and I did have to walk a few times. A more realistic statement would be, “if you can make it to 12.5, you will find the strength to sprint that final stretch!”

And sprint I did… Crossing the finish line with a surge of energy and a huge smile across my face. I don’t know if you get the same feeling with subsequent races, but as a first-timer, the sense of accomplishment is amazing. You’re not concerned about your time or your place, you just know that you made it without dying, and you’re still able to walk! And I’m not embarrassed to admit it, but I definitely worked my way into a good position at the last minute for a clear, unobstructed finish line photo… After all, I just completed a HALF MARATHON!!!  


12 TIPS FROM A FIRST-TIMER:

  1. Sign up with a partner.  Even if you don’t always train together, having someone to keep you accountable & motivated is a huge bonus. (Thanks Sam!)
  2. Commit to your training plan.  But don’t be afraid to make adjustments to fit your schedule. Typical plans include 2-3 shorter runs during the week & a longer run on the weekend, but the actual days are really up to you. Get the miles in, with rest days in between, to gradually increase your distance and endurance.
  3. Get used to drinking lots of water.  It’s going to be a constant during your training, and essential in the days leading up to your race.
  4. Find the right shoes.  Scoring that perfect sneaker can be a huge challenge but running 13 miles is very different than running 3, and you’ll feel it most in your legs & feet. Start with a free evaluation of your technique & requirements at a specialized running store (we went to Road Runner Sports) and let them guide you. However, use common sense and don’t get roped into overspending.  
  5. Wear cool, comfortable clothing and don’t try anything new on race day.  Unfortunately, you won’t know what the weather will be for your run until a day or 2 beforehand, so you need to have a few options ready based on the temperature.
  6. Rally your troops!  Encourage your friends & family to come out & support you and then space them out along the race course. It’s great to hear the roars at the finish line, but seeing a familiar face cheering you on from the sidelines along the way is priceless. Extra bonus if they have water for you!
  7. Plan to arrive AT LEAST an hour early.  You need time to check your bag, warm up & stretch, and make one final trip to the bathroom. The lines can be long and you don’t want to stress yourself out.
  8. Start SLOWLY.  You’ll be chomping at the bit by the time your group takes off, but a cautious beginning will help you to finish strong.
  9. Take advantage of the water stations.  Even just a sip at each stop, will help you to stay hydrated.
  10. Don’t get discouraged.  You might have to walk a few times & that’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up – take a drink, refocus and continue on at a comfortable pace.  
  11. Get ready for your photo finish!  You just ran a half marathon – show that photographer at the end just how excited you are to be crossing that line!
  12. Most importantly… have fun!  You’re not going to win, you’re not going to break any records, and you don’t want to end up getting hurt… so pace yourself & simply enjoy your time on the course!