Atlantis Paradise Island Resort Review and Photo Diary

In March, on the Friday before my 40th birthday my husband came home and said “Pack your bags we are going on vacation!” Like something out of a movie. And in true Hollywood plot form, he refused to tell me where we were going. Just that I needed to pack for “hot” weather and needed a swimsuit. So it was with no small miracle that we quickly packed the car and headed to the airport for a quick 3 day getaway!

Paradise Found

Brian truly did not tell me where we were going till the taxi to the hotel. I had heard of Atlantis but seeing it with my own eyes as we drove up was surreal. The immense SIZE of the place was instantly the first thing that impressed me! Huge, with multiple hotels, a casino and even a marina village all part of the Atlantis property.

Our room was one of the upper level rooms with a stone balcony!

Our room was located in The Towers, which has a perfect central location to everything. And.the.room. Simply amazing. Suite actually, with a kitchenette, huge balcony and an incredibly large bathroom with his and hers showers! The suite had way more space than we needed, but I definitely wasn’t complaining. It had incredible views and it was very nice to come back to the suite and have room to spread out. I would describe it as being perfect for those planning a longer stay, traveling with children or bunking up for a group trip. Our son slept on a couch in the living room and it worked out perfect for each of us to have our own space.

Now The Atlantis isn’t your standard resort– there’s a reason they call it Paradise Island – because it’s like it’s own city! The property is massive and while you are free to roam as you please, every section of the hotel has it’s own easily-accessible pools and restaurants. We spent most of our time at the waterpark but it was nice to walk the aquariums everyday and we even spent some time at the beach one afternoon. I did get in a facial at the spa as a treat for my birthday, and I highly recommend you check that out if you get a chance. They offer free use of their facilities for the day if you get a treatment and it was very relaxing to enjoy their steam rooms, saunas and pools for a bit before my facial.

The water park area is huge and options from water playgrounds to lazy rivers

The open air and closed aquariums are amazing and a must see! Bryce had endless entertainment watching the animals and actually learned a lot about them while we were there. The property is simply breathtaking and themed perfectly. Just walking around felt like a vacation seeing all the marine life.

One of the aspects I like about The Atlantis is that it’s a destination for all ages. No matter if you’re traveling with family and children, a large group of friends or if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, the resort is so large that’s there’s a place and an activity for everyone.

Before we know it our trip was over. We hope to go back someday as there is still stuff we would like to see and do there! It is definitely a place you should add to your bucket list and I can’t recommend The Atlantis enough if you’re looking for an upbeat resort with endless activities. And for those of you who live in the south or on the east coast in the U.S. it’s an incredibly quick flight– it was just two hours for us from Charlotte. Easy enough to go for a long weekend!

Bye for now!

Birthday Wishes

Today is my birthday.  39 years young 🙂

img_2296

 Someone asked me this morning if I dread getting older.  I replied back heck no!  To me age is the great leveler.  The older I get the more I actually feel like I can relate to people.  I have always been an old soul but burying parents, struggling to have a child and otherwise growing up way before my peers has made me feel different.  It is hard to relate to people when they complain that their parents won’t pay this for them or they complain about their parents not watching their kids when my parents weren’t even there for the birth of my son and never will be there for him.   I am a strong person but yes it gets hard and some days I struggle with it.  So yes, I am loving getting older.  Every year makes me feel less different and the wisdom that comes with age is pretty nice too. 

 Brian’s birthday was yesterday.  He made a cake for both of us.  It was delicious and I am sure to have another piece today. Lol.  He truly has become a master in the kitchen and I am so lucky to have him in my life.  We are going out just the two of us Friday night.  It will be nice to get away for a few hours and enjoy a nice dinner.  

img_2292

 This next year will be a big one.  Transitioning out of one decade into another.  Lots of changes.  But regrets about getting older?  Not here.  Not here.

 

 

 

Gluten Free Black Forest Cupcakes

Growing up, my Omi (grandmother) made a traditional Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte or what we call a Black Forest Cake.  The cake featured sour cherries soaked in a cherry brandy known as Kirschwasser.  She then topped the cake with whipped cream, cherries, and fresh chocolate shavings. She learned this recipe from a tenant who was a baker back when they used to rent out rooms from their row home in Queens. Over the years her cake became legendary and no celebration was complete without it.  I still remember the last time I was able to eat some of her delicious cake.  If I would have known it was the last time I would have hounded her for the recipe.  She never wrote it down.  She always baked from her “head and heart.”

For Bryce’s birthday my husband wanted to recreate Omi’s cake for Bryce’s birthday. Problem? We needed it to be gluten free and we wanted a cupcake version, not a cake.  We decided to use Betty Crocker’s Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix for the base to make the preparation easier and less time consuming.

The recipe below is the result. Gorgeous to look at and even more delicious when bit into, this recipe allows Gluten Free people the opportunity to experience Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte in the form of a cupcake and utilizes a gluten free cake mix for the sponge base.

Ingredients

image

Cake:

  • 1 – 15oz box of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
  • ½ cup of water
  • ½ cup of cherry juice (can use juice from tart cherries)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup of butter) softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp of Kirschwasser

Filling:

  • 1 can of sour cherries
  • 1/3 cup of cherry juice (you can use the juice from the sour cherries or other cherry juice)
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup Kirschwasser

Frosting:

  • 3 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 packet (0.25 oz) plain gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp cold water
  • 3 Tbsp Kirschwasser
  • 1 cup of chocolate shavings
  • fresh cherries

 Directions

Cake: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Prepare muffin baking pan with liners.
  3. Cream butter until smooth with electric mixer.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and mix.
  5. Add kirschwasser, water, and cherry juice.  Mix to combine.
  6. Add Gluten Free Cake Mix to the wet batter and blend with electric mixer until combined.
  7. Pour batter into liners (about ¾ full)
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean
  9. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack

Filling:

  1. Drain juice from the cherries.
  2. Add cherry juice and sugar to a pot and bring to a simmer while whisking.
  3. Add cornstarch and whisk until combined.  If you cannot get the cornstarch incorporated, then add to a blender and blend until combined.
  4. Add cherries and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, stir in Kirschwasser.  Allow filling to come to room temperature before using.

Frosting:

  1. Place water in small pot and sprinkle with gelatin. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.  Whisk the gelatin and water in the pot and heat on low whisking until the gelatin is dissolved.  Remove from heat.
  2. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the whipping cream on medium high speed until in starts to thicken.
  3. Add powdered sugar and Kirschwasser.  Whisk and taste.  Some people like their frostings sweet and others less sweet.  I provided a rough range for the powdered sugar to allow you to tweak the recipe to your liking.
  4. Continue to whisk at medium high speed until the cream begins to get fluffy.
  5. Slowly add gelatin while whisking until incorporated.

Preparation:

 

    1. Cut a small hole out of the middle of the cupcake.  Save the top of our cut out.
    2. Spoon about 1 Tbsp of filling into each cupcake and replace top.
    3. Ice with frosting.
    4. Sprinkle on chocolate shavings and top with a cherry.
    5. Refrigerating the cupcakes will allow the frosting to slightly stiffen and allow the frosting to look and behave a little like a buttercream frosting.

 

Notes:

  • The gelatin will allow the cupcake frosting to set up and stiffen.  This is a great trick for keeping your whipped cream frostings looking perfect.

image

 

Maybe Reality Really Does Bite

I turned 37 years old yesterday. I didn’t think it was going to bug me. I mean, 40 is the new 30, right?

So I should be OK with turning another year older.  But I am a mess.  It isn’t the whole “I’m so damn old, woe is my aged self” thing that has me reeling, although I do confess feeling kind of old of late. It is the nagging “shouldn’t I feel like a dang grown up by now?” question. I am like, way far into this dog-and-pony show, right? At what point, exactly, will I feel like I am where I should be?  When will I feel like I have this life thing figured out?

I briefly considered diving into a good old-fashioned midlife crisis – but dipping my toe in those waters just doesn’t appeal to me. For one, I can’t drink a 21 year old under the table anymore, let us be honest here. And those clubbing clothes of my younger days? Let’s just say there is a reason there is not a junior clothing section for moms.

So the midlife crisis is off the table, which is for the best as I don’t have time to self-destruct just now. There’s really no spare time to blow everything up when you are just hoping to get your kid and yourself out the door with lunch packed and pants on both of you, seriously!

But what then? Or what now, I mean. Here I am being all old (but not), coming to terms with the idea that maybe, JUST maybe, this is all there is.

Maybe I am not destined to change the world, or even my little corner of it. There is no cosmic line to cross or switch I have to find to make things “the way they are supposed to be.” No fairy godmother is going to come donk me on the head and pronounce that I am now fully qualified for adulting and open a door to some wonderland land of perfection for me.

And then this thought hit me last night. Here in 2016 and MANY years away from my college degree, I have come to the realization that I’ve been on this planet for 37 years and still cope with stressful situations primarily through nacho consumption and wine drinking.

Maybe growing up is overrated. Pass me the nachos please.

IMG_2300