Friday Five: December 2017

Friday, December 29, 2017

1 | Christmas

How was your Christmas? Did you go anywhere or get anything fun? Adam, the dogs, and I went to my parents’ house in Prescott, AZ for a few days. We had a fun trip and of course it was great to spend time with my family. I got an Instant Pot from my mom and I'm so excited to try it out this weekend! If you have any tips or recipes, leave them in the comments! 

I also got a present from Adam that made me cry. He put together a 'Choose Your Adventure' binder and it was the sweetest thing ever. He cut out pictures and letters from magazines to make it. I felt stupid crying, but I couldn't believe the thought and effort he put into it. Of course I'm excited for the adventure we're going to go on too!

2 | Cone of Shame

The weekend before Thanksgiving Adam noticed something wrong with Ringo’s ear. It felt like an air bubble, but after a quick Google search we discovered it was a hematoma (like a blood blister). So we took him to the vet and after discussing our options, we decided that he needed surgery. That was the day before Thanksgiving, so we had to wait until the following Monday for the surgery. Anyway, he had the surgery (they drain it and suture the cartilage in his ear together so I won’t come back) and he had to wear a cone for 3 WEEKS! We didn’t want him scratching his ear and ripping his stitches, so cone life for Ringo.

We were so worried that we were going to have to fight him over the cone, but he was SO good about it. He just accepted it and wore it without any fuss. The stitches finally came out on the 18th (he had to be sedated because he’s so wild) and he’s loving life without the cone of shame. The tip of his ear doesn’t stand up anymore and we’re not sure if it ever will again, but he looks cute either way!

3 | AZ Blogger Bash

A few weeks ago I went to the AZ Blogger Bash hosted by Cathy from Our Mini Family. It was so fun to meet and mingle with other Arizona-based bloggers. We did a white elephant gift exchange and I ended up with the gift that Tammy brought and she ended up with mine. Crazy! Of course the food was amazing (give me all the Nothing Bundt Cakes bundtinis) and the swag bags were so, so good. There was a bottle of wine in them! I also won a raffle prize! It was a bottle of Queen Creek Olive Mill’s limited edition Cranberry White Balsamic Reduction and it’s delicious (we also got a bottle of their EVOO in our swag bags).

I had a really great time with my fellow bloggers, especially the ladies at my table: Beverly, Camille, and Isabella. Beverly gave me her bottle of wine so she’s officially my best friend (although she doesn’t know it). I’m pretty shy and awkward around new people, so I had to really push myself to go and not be the weirdo in the corner. Like I seriously gave myself a verbal pep talk before I went…and I’m so glad I did. I had such a fun time and can’t wait for the next event!

4 | Hamilton

The touring show of Hamilton is coming to Phoenix in February and I got tickets! I had to go through the Ticketmaster Verified Fan process to get them though. The process was kind of a pain, but I don’t think there’s any way I would have gotten tickets otherwise. I’m sure all of the bots and dealers would have bought them all before I could have gotten seats. They were expensive to begin with, so I can’t imagine how much they would have cost at resale value. I read some stories about people hating on the Verified Fan process, but I actually think it works.

Have you seen Hamilton? We’re SO excited to see it!

5 | The Handmaid's Tale

Adam and I just finished watching the first season of The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu and it was SO good. It's so crazy, but I loved it and can't wait for the second season! Also, I'm totally moving to Canada if they ever start forcing women out of the workplace. Seriously, that means it's time to GTFO!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year! Are you doing anything fun to celebrate?

Winter Break To-Do List 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

I’m officially done with work for the rest of the year! Today’s our first day of Winter Break and I couldn’t be more excited. Our site is closed starting today through New Year’s Day and I have the best intentions of working on a few projects during that time. So today, as I have almost every year before, I’m sharing my to-do list for the break. I’m hoping this will motivate me to get some stuff done around the house. I don’t have to best track record for completing my Winter Break to-do list, so we’ll see…

I’ve put 12 projects on my list this year, but I’m under no illusions that I’m going to complete all of them. I just want to give myself options based on what I feel like working on next year…and based on the weather since a few of them are outdoor projects. You might recognize some of these from my recent Fall Project List….I guess I should rename that post to Winter Project List.

Anyway, here’s my 2017 Winter Break to-do list:

Install Baseboard in Living Room

Replace Office Outlets and Switches (from almond to white)

Organize Craft Room

Prime/Paint New Patio Cover

Finish Garage Makeover 

Order/Buy New Guest Bathroom Countertop

Update Gym Gallery Wall

Mulch Around Trees

Repaint Hall Tree

Cleanup Backyard (Pull Weeds, Remove Debris)

Purge, Purge, Purge

Clean the Barbeque

Do you have any projects planned during Winter Break? Do you get a Winter Break? I have the time off, but Adam doesn’t so he has to use his vacation time.

Wishing you and your family a safe and happy holiday season! Merry Christmas!

An Afternoon in Glasgow

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

After our stay in Edinburgh and a day exploring the Highlands, we headed west to spend a day in Glasgow (our last day in Scotland).

On our way from Edinburgh to Glasgow we stopped at Stirling Castle and it was one of my favorite stops of the whole trip. Situated on top of a volcanic crag, it’s surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides. Its strategic hilltop position and location (lowest crossing point of the River Forth) made it one of the most important fortifications and defensive positions in Scotland.

The first record of Stirling Castle dates back to 1110 when King Alexander I dedicated a chapel there. Until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, almost every Scottish monarch had either lived in the castle, been crowned there, or died there. Mary Queen of Scots lived at Stirling Castle as a child and was crowned there in 1543.

Stirling Castle was also an icon of independence throughout the wars with England (1236-1356). The castle was fought over and changed hands frequently. One of the most notable nearby battles was William Wallace’s victory over the English at Stirling Bridge. The National Wallace Monument is nearby and is visible from the castle.

We arrived at the castle in the late morning and it was still pretty empty. There was a free guided tour starting just as we arrived and almost everyone there joined, so we had the rest of the castle almost to ourselves. It was fun to explore all of the buildings and walk along the defensive wall in relative peace. 

After our stop at Stirling Castle, we made our way to Glasgow for lunch and an afternoon of exploring. Our first stop in Glasgow was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

The collections at Kelvingrove range from natural history, arms and armour, art from many different periods and movements, and much more. The most famous painting there is Salvador Dali’s ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’. Unfortunately it was on loan to another museum at the time. We did see Rembrandt’s ‘A Man in Armour’ though.

I’m not usually a huge fan of art museums, but I was actually excited for this visit because the day we visited was the unveiling a long-lost portrait (it was missing for 400 years)! This portrait of George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, was painted by Flemish artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens around 1625. The original painting was believed to be lost and this was thought to be a copy. However, the BBC series Lost Masterpieces reassessed the painting and confirmed it to be the original. The painting went through the restoration process to remove layers of dirt and overpaint that had concealed Rubens’ trademark techniques. We ended up catching the special about finding and restoring the painting the night before our visit, so it was fun to see in person. You can read more about the lost masterpiece here.

This art installation is supposed to represent every human expression. I can’t decide if it’s interesting or creepy…I’m leaning towards creepy.

They also have a giant organ (it’s over 100 years old) and recitals are Monday-Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. We were there just in time to catch the 1 p.m. recital and it was a fun experience.

After our time at the museum we took a drive around the city to see the Carrera marble staircases at Glasgow City Chambers and the “cone head” Duke of Wellington statue.

Our last stop was the Glasgow Necropolis and Glasgow Cathedral. The Necropolis is a Victorian cemetery across the “Bridge of Sighs” from Glasgow Catheral. Fifty thousand individuals are buried there.

Glasgow Cathedral is not technically a cathedral. It hasn’t been the seat of a bishop since 1690, but like many other pre-Reformation cathedrals in Scotland, it’s still an active place of worship. Like most cathedrals, it has beautiful stained glass windows. I really like this modern blue window, the Millennium Window.

Unfortunately the lower crypt was closed while we were there, but if you’re an Outlander fan, you’ve already seen it. The crypt was the filming location for the hospital where Claire volunteers in season 2, L’Hopital des Anges.

Oh, if you’re a Doctor Who fan, there’s a police box near the cathedral. I’m not a fan, but my friend Michelle is so I ran across traffic to get my picture with a tardis to send to her.

From there we went to our hotel and rested a bit before heading out to dinner. It was a quick trip to Glasgow and I would have loved more time to see the street art on the Glasgow Mural Trail, but I feel like we packed a lot in an afternoon and we really enjoyed our (short) stay.

FabFitFun Winter 2017 Box

Monday, December 18, 2017

Last year for my 30th birthday I put together a list of 30 things to do in my 30th year. One of those items was to treat myself, so I bought an annual FabFitFun box subscription. A few weeks ago I got my third box and today I’m going to show you all this season’s items. I signed up for a full year, so I’m considered a select member and am able to choose between colors/styles on a few of the items. The rest of the items are a surprise (although you can find spoilers if you want to know what’s in the box ahead of time). I love being able to pick my colors, but it’s also fun to have a few surprises.

*This post contains some affiliate links. I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you.

The big-ticket item in this season’s box was a BB Dakota poncho ($70 value). There were a couple other items with a similar value, which I’ll share later, but this was obviously supposed to be the star. I’m definitely starting to sense a theme with these boxes. The fall box included a large scarf/wrap and there was a lightweight scarf/cover-up in the summer box. I don’t love how these look on me, so I’m hoping they mix it up next season. The poncho was available in three colors and I picked the black. I don’t think I’ll ever wear it out, so I ended up taking it to work for when I get cold. I included a picture of the model wearing the poncho so you can see what it looks like on...of course it looks nothing like that on me...

OK, so I started off a little negative, but I love the next three products. First let’s talk about the Kate Somerville ExfoliKate treatment ($75 value). It burns like crazy, but my skin feels so good afterwards. I’ve used it twice so far and I can definitely see myself using up this bottle. I like using it in the shower to take advantage of the steam and for a quick rinse off. The next product is something I wasn’t super excited about, but ended up loving – the DOUCCE Freematic Eyeshadow Pro Palette ($70 value) in Nude. The last thing I needed was more eye shadow, but I love this palette. The colors look so good on and are so shimmery fun. I picked this lighter palette, but my friend Michelle picked the Smokey eye palette and she loves that one too, so I feel like either option was a winner. Lastly, this AHAVA hand cream ($33 value) is exactly what I needed. My hands are always dry, but they get really bad in the winter. I took this bottle to work with me and use it at least 3 times during the work day. My hands always feels so much better afterwards.

The box also included an 8 pack of these Grace & Stella Anti-Wrinkle + Energizing Eye Masks ($16 value). I’ve tried them a couple times so far and it doesn’t seem like they’ve made much of a difference yet. I’m definitely going to use the whole box though and give the product a fair chance. We also got a pair of Pointe Studio Aloe Infused socks ($19 value). I love wearing fuzzy socks around the house in the winter, so I loved getting these. The color was a surprise, but I was happy to get the blue pair (they also had pink). Another fun item was this This Works Deep Sleep pillow spray ($29 value). I tried it once on both of our pillows, but I decided to put it in my aunt’s #treatyoself gift basket for Christmas.

The last two items in the box were this Homemade by Ayesha Curry mug ($18 value) and 8 OTHER REASONS Nine Lives choker ($58 value). The mug came in three different designs, but the design you got was a surprise. I was definitely happy to see the ‘I’d Rather Be in Bed’ one because that’s pretty much how I always feel! The choker was available in this silver finish and a rose gold finish. I picked the silver one obviously. So for these two items, I like the mug, but I really don’t need any more mugs. I haven’t worn the choker yet, but I like the style of it.

So that’s everything that was included in my box. Now I want to talk add-ons…This was my first box with add-ons and I can definitely see myself buying them going forward. They’re pretty much what they sound like - a bunch of different products available at a discounted price that you can add to your box. Because this was my first time I didn’t realize that items went quickly and were so competitive. Luckily I was able to get what I wanted for the most part. I forgot to take pictures, but I got this AQUIS Lisse Luxe Hair Towel and this bamboo toothbrush for Adam’s stocking.

New this season were free add-ons. They were available to add for free once you had $15 worth of add-ons in your cart. I was able to get all of them, but I read in the forums that they went fast (especially the tote). Speaking of the Singapore Tourism tote, I seriously can’t believe that was free! It included a candle, a box of tea, coaster set, and book (all Singaporean products). I’ve already read Crazy Rich Asians and I loved it, but I’m excited that so many other people out there are getting a chance to read it. The other free add-ons were a Philips light bulb, Digestive Advantage chocolate probiotics, and a product from Organic Doctor. They had a bunch of different products and what they sent in each box was a surprise. I got that tea tree oil roller and my friend Michelle got an eye cream.

Overall I think this was my favorite box so far. Like I’ve said before, I wouldn’t have picked most of these products on my own, but that’s pretty much the point of the box. My favorite items are the ExfoliKate treatment, fuzzy socks, and Singapore tote free add-on. My variance of the box included $388 worth of products for only $45 (not including the free add-ons). I don’t think a lot of these items are actually worth the full price, but everything is definitely worth the $45.

If you want to try FabFitFun, you can use this link to save $10 off your first box. If you don’t want to commit to a full year, you can sign up for just one box using the code and get everything above for $40 and then cancel.

Do you subscribe to FabFitFun or some other subscription box? I kinda want to sign up for CauseBox, but I don’t know if I want to spend the extra money. The boxes look SO good though…

Exploring AZ: Hot Air Balloon Ride

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Earlier this week I shared the ‘Year of Dates’ gift that I gave Adam for his birthday. We went on our first date over the weekend (on his actual birthday) and it was a great way to celebrate his special day and kick off our year of dates. If you read the title of the post or scrolled down a bit, you already know that we went for a hot air balloon ride! I’ll admit that I was a little nervous at first, but it was such a smooth ride and such a fun experience!

Originally I was going to book our balloon ride with one of the companies on Groupon, but after a lot of research I decided to book with Float Balloon Tours (I think I found them from this article about the 10 Best Guided Tours in Arizona). Anyway, after reading all of the overwhelmingly positive reviews online I couldn’t not book with them. They offer a sunrise and a sunset tour (sunset available November – March only) and I picked the sunset tour after realizing how early we’d have to wake up to meet them. It’s $20 more, but definitely worth it for the extra sleep.

We met our group (8 of us plus the pilot) at their warehouse and took a van to the launch site. From what I gathered, they change up their launch site depending on the weather conditions, but that day we launched in the same area as another company. It was fun to watch the other balloons inflate and take off while we waited. 

Once the balloon was mostly inflated and ready to go, they had us get in the basket…but not like you’d think. Our pilot said because of the wind it would be easier to get the balloon upright if there was some weight in the basket. So we all had to get in while it was still on its side. There was a little bench at the bottom, so it was quite as awkward as it looks.

Once the balloon and basket were up, we were ready to fly. The ride is so unbelievably smooth I didn’t even realize how far up we were until I looked down. Our pilot told us our speed a few times and I was always shocked to hear that we were going 10+ mph. I really didn’t feel like we were moving that fast and it was really stable. Even with people moving around a bit, the basket didn’t rock or move like I figured it would.

Of course the view is incredible from up there. We took off in North Phoenix (Deer Valley area), so we had great views of the desert, mountains, and Lake Pleasant. 

The sun set towards the end of our ride, so we saw it from the balloon and from the dessert once we landed. I swear Arizona sunsets are some of the best in the world. Oh, and we completely nailed the landing, which I was definitely grateful for.

Once we were back on the ground, the crew set up dinner right at the landing site. While they cooked and set up the table, we had time to take pictures and enjoy the last of the sunset.

Dinner was family-style under string lights with real plates and silverware (no boxed meals or sandwiches for us). We started with some fruit and a champagne cocktail to toast a safe, successful flight. For dinner we had carne asada with fajita veggies, tortillas, and salsa. At dessert they served brownies and even put a candle on Adam’s for his birthday. 

After dinner, everything was packed up and we headed back to the warehouse. During our whole hot air balloon experience they had a professional photographer out taking pictures. A thumb drive with all the pictures was available for sale after the flight for an additional charge. I bought it because I’m sucker. Actually I bought it because my New Year’s resolution is going to be to take more pictures and I figured I’d get an early start on my goal. I also bought a hot air balloon ornament for our tree. With tip, everything ended up costing me $525, which is not cheap, but it was a birthday present, party, dinner, and bucket list experience all rolled into one, so I’m ok with it. 

Overall we had such an amazing time and it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. I would love to go on another hot air balloon ride, but it would have to be some place new to justify the cost again. There was a couple from Atlanta flying with us and I thought it was such a great idea to go on a hot air balloon ride on vacation, so maybe we’ll do that someday. 

I would definitely recommend Float Balloon Tours if you’re in the Phoenix area, but I would caution about setting your expectations too high based on the amazing reviews. That’s not to say that we didn’t have an amazing time, but I think a few of the reviews are a little over the top. For example, someone said it was the best carne asada they’ve ever had. Let’s be honest, it was good, but not the best ever…and it doesn’t need to be! The excitement is from the balloon ride and then eating dinner in the desert under the stars! Of course that person on TripAdvisor is from South Dakota, so they probably haven’t ate that much carne asada…ok, now I’m just being jerk.

Anyway, it was a wonderful experience and everyone was really nice (we really liked the new guy), plus it’s a small business and I love supporting those…so long story short, go on a hot air balloon ride! 

A Year of Dates Gift

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Adam’s birthday was on Saturday and I feel like I totally nailed his present this year. It’s hard coming up with gift ideas with his birthday being so close to Christmas, but as soon as I saw this idea on Pinterest I knew it was perfect. So, what’s the great idea? A Year of Dates! 12 pre-planned and (mostly) pre-paid activities for a year! I mentioned in my gift guide posts that I love gifting experiences and not just things, so this was seriously the perfect idea.

I got the idea from Camille from Friday We’re in Love (although she credits Shannon with the idea). She’s been planning them for her husband since 2011, so she has a lot of great ideas on how to package them and of course lots of ideas for the actual dates. I really liked her binder idea from 2014, so that’s how I decided to make mine.

*This post contains some affiliate links. I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you.

I have a lot of scrapbooking supplies gathering dust, so my goal was to only use what I had on hand and not buy any new supplies to put this gift together. I did have to buy the binder and sheet protectors, but that was my only cost (not including the gifts obviously). I’m pretty obsessive about details and my handwriting annoys me 85% of the time, but I decided to just get over it and write all of the pages by hand. If we’re being honest, I probably re-did half of the pages because I didn’t like how they turned out, but I do love how personal the pages look vs. printing them out.

For each month I described the date on the left page and then put any tickets, gift cards, details, etc. on the right side.

I thought coming up with that many dates was going to be tough, but once I really started researching and thinking of ideas, I came up with way more than 12. So once I had my list of dates, I had to narrow them down and match them with certain months. We live in Phoenix, so I didn’t want to plan anything outdoors from like May-October. I also wanted to stick with activities we’ve never done together.

I’m sure some of them are hard to read, so here’s a list of all of the dates:

December: Hot Air Balloon Ride
January: A Taste of Old Town Scottsdale Food Tour
February: Wrigley Mansion Tour + Lunch
March: Horseback Riding
April: Overnight Trip to Sedona
May: Museum Day + Lunch in Downtown Phoenix
June: Studio Movie Grill (Dinner + Movie)
July: Pizza Making Class
August: Dave & Buster’s Game Night
September: Escape Room
October: Sunset Pedal Boat at Tempe Town Lake + Dessert
November: Festival VIP Tickets
Bonus Home Date: Sushi Making

I tried to mix in a few expensive dates (hot air balloon ride, night in Sedona) with some cheaper ones. Our library has a culture pass program that gets you into certain museums for free, so April’s date will only cost me lunch. For the Dave & Buster’s date I used my credit card to get D&B gift cards, so that date is pretty much free. I also used my credit card points for a Groupon gift card to use toward Pizza Making Class and Escape Room Groupons (don't forget to use Ebates to earn cash back on those Groupons).

This gift was perfect for Adam’s birthday, but would also make a great Christmas present or anniversary gift! It does take a bit of planning, but it’s actually a lot of fun to put together. I used a spreadsheet to I keep track of my ideas, sort them into months (and rearrange a 100 times), and list notes for what I needed to buy. If you want to make your own Year of Dates gift and need date ideas, I recommend checking out Camille’s blog, searching Groupon, and looking a local event calendars. I also put together a list of the ideas that I didn’t use this year…maybe next year!

Other Date Ideas:
Hiking and Brunch
Beer/Wine Tasting
Sporting Event
Glass Blowing
Fondue Night at Home
Hot Cocoa and a Christmas Movie (perfect for December)
At Home Taste Test – Try Strange Chocolate Flavors
Scavenger Hunt
Concert Tickets
Trampoline Park

We went on our first date last weekend (hot air balloon ride) and it was so much fun! I'm putting together a post with all the details for later this week!

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