Visiting Independence Hall + The Liberty Bell

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A few weeks ago I shared the first post from my trip to Philadelphia…a trip that I took almost two years ago! As I mentioned in that post, it was a business trip, so we didn’t have a lot of time to explore. We had to be at the office for two of the days, but we were able to work a half day on our last day. One of my coworkers had never been to Philadelphia before either, so we decided to take that morning off and play tourist. Of course when you’re in Philadelphia for the first time, you have to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

We wanted to beat the crowds (and finish early enough to work the afternoon) so we met bright and early to get tickets. Entrance to Independence Hall is by tour only and timed tickets are required March-December. Same day tickets are free and available at the Independence Visitor Center starting at 8:30 a.m. You can also reserve in advance online for $1.50 fee. Anyway, we arrived at 8:30 and got tickets for the first tour of the day at 9 a.m.

I know my tip is always to start early, but it really makes such a huge difference in dealing with crowds. We were on the first tour of the day, so there were only a few other people on the tour with us and there was no line at the security screening area. It’s also a great opportunity to get pictures without other people in them.

The tour of Independence Hall was led by a NPS ranger and it was really interesting. The Assembly Room is where the Continental Congress declared Independence in 1776 and debated and signed the U.S. Constitution in 1787. It’s kind of surreal to stand in one of the most historic rooms in the United States. 'Murica!

The desk and chair in the middle of the room was George Washington’s spot. There’s a sun carved into the back of Washington’s chair and it became known as the Rising Sun Chair because of an observation made by Benjamin Franklin.

Next door to Independence Hall is Congress Hall. This is where Congress met while Philadelphia was the temporary capital of the U.S. from 1790 to 1800. Presidents George Washington (second term) and John Adams both took the oath of office in this building. The first floor was where the House of Representatives met and the Senate chamber was upstairs.


Once we finished the tour (it took about 40 minutes) we walked over to the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell is located at The Liberty Bell Center, right by Independence Hall. Admission is free and no tickets are required. The Liberty Bell is obviously the main draw, but there are some pretty interesting exhibits lining the way to the bell. Topics range from the original State House bell to the famous crack to the inscription on the bell (Leviticus 25:10 in the Old Testament:… Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof).

Even if you want to read most of the exhibit information, you won’t need more than 30 minutes to see the Liberty Bell. Because we started so early, we finished our visit to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in time to still have breakfast. We ended up going around the corner to the Red Owl Tavern and I had some AMAZING French toast. Highly recommend!

If you have more time in the area (and don’t have to go back to work…boo), there are plenty of other historical/interesting places within walking distance: Christ Church, Betsy Ross House, United States Mint, National Constitution Center, and many more! I think a tour of the U.S. Mint would be really interesting…hopefully next time!

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center are managed by the National Park Service, so be sure to check their sites for hours and information before visiting.

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Learning How to Compost

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Adam and I have been talking about starting a compost pile for over a year now. It’s another one of those things that we’ve been meaning to do, but keep putting off. I even put a compost bin in my Amazon shopping cart at one point, but never pulled the trigger. So when we found a compost tumbler at our community garage sale for only $20, we knew it was a sign.

*This post contains affiliate links.

I had looked at the exact same one on Amazon (Lifetime 80-Gal Compost Tumbler) months ago, but didn’t want to spend the money (currently $130). I seriously can’t believe we got it for only $20! Anyway, it was full of big twigs and large branches when we bought it (they were WAY too big for composting) so I quickly cleaned it out and it was good as new!

Before we could start composting, we had to figure out where to keep our new tumbler. After doing some research it’s recommended to place them in partial sun. You’ll want some sun so the mixture will heat up, but you don’t want it to get too hot in there. We also had to think about ease of access. It would be nice to have it near the house so it’s easier to fill, but it also makes sense to keep it near the garden where we’ll actually use the compost. After taking all of that into consideration, we decided to put it next to the shed. It ended up being the best place for partial shade and with the hot temps in Phoenix we figured that was more important that having to walk some extra steps to fill it.

We’re still new at composting, so I taped this free compost list printable from Not Just a Housewife on the inside of a kitchen cabinet. It’s a helpful reminder for what we can/cannot put in our composting tumbler.

We’re also using this countertop OXO Good Grips compost bin to collect our scraps. We empty it every couple of days, so we haven’t had any issues with flies or smell.

So now we’re just working on filling our compost tumbler. I bought a bag of compost starter on Amazon, so I’m hoping that’ll help us create our first successful batch of compost. If you compost and have any suggestions for us, please leave them in the comments. We’re still figuring this out, so we’d love advice from compost pros.

Oh, and if you want to start your own compost bin, but don’t want to spend the money on a tumbler or bother building a bin, check with your city trash program. Our city provides compost containers (modified trash bins) for only a $5 delivery fee.

Friday Five

Friday, July 28, 2017

One – Seattle/Tom Petty

Adam and I are headed to Seattle in three weeks! We’re going for a long-weekend getaway and I’m so excited! I’ve never been before (Adam has), so we are going to do all of the touristy stuff. We booked an Airbnb close to the Space Needle, so that should be convenient location for sightseeing. We also got tickets to see Tom Petty in concert while we’re there! Tom Petty is my bucket list concert, so I couldn’t be more excited to see him live.

If you live in Seattle or have any travel/restaurant tips, let me know!

Two – Famous in Love

I just finished the first season of Famous in Love (on Freeform) and I’m kinda obsessed. I feel like I’m probably too old to be this interested in angst-y 21 year old drama, but I can’t help myself…I love it. They haven’t announced if there’s going to be a second season yet, but I really hope so. I need to know if Paige chooses Rainer or Jake.

Three – Case of the Mondays

You guys, Monday was a rough one. It was pouring rain when I got to work in the morning and my flats ended up getting soaked in the parking lot. It’s cold in the buildings and we don’t have hand dryers, so there was really no way to dry them. I tried my best to soak up the water with paper towels, but that’s not super effective, so my shoes were still damp by the end of the day. Ugh, it sucked. Then I went out to my car after work and the battery was dead. I got a ride home from a friend, so Adam and I had to come back later that night to jump it and take it to get a new battery. Obviously it could have been worse, but wet shoes and dropping an unplanned $150 on a car battery was not the best way to start the week. 

Four – Travel Journal

A couple weeks ago I went to get a haircut and of course my hair stylist and I spent the whole time talking our heads off. I’ve been going to her for about 8 years now, so we’ve shared all kinds of stories about life’s ups and downs. Anyway, she had just gotten back from a trip to Mexico so we spent pretty much the whole time talking about that. While we were talking she mentioned that she started a travel journal on her trip and absolutely loved it. She knows I love to travel so she asked me if I’ve ever kept a travel journal. Of course I’ve always thought about it, but I’ve never actually done it.

She ended up convincing me that I need to try it next time I travel, so I just ordered the cutest Rifle Paper Co. travel journal from Amazon (*affiliate link). I’m going to take it with me when we go to Seattle in a few weeks and again on our big Scotland-Ireland trip in September. I think she’s so right about it being a great way to document all of the memories and feelings each day while away. Have you ever written a travel journal?  

Five – Black Flats

Help! I need recommendations for a pair of comfy, cute black flats. The pair that I love and wear to work almost every day went from needing to be replaced soon to completely unwearable this week. They were Dana Buchman flats from Kohl’s and they were so cute and comfortable. Of course they don’t make them anymore and none of the pairs on sale on eBay are my size. So if you have a favorite pair of flats that can be worn with dress pants, please let me know!

Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend? I think we'll probably just relax with the dogs and do some work around the house.

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Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I was in Philadelphia and I’m just now writing about it! This trip ended up being completely overshadowed by my Italy trip. I think there were only two weeks between when I arrived home from Italy to when I flew to Philly.

Anyway, back in October 2015 I went to Philly for a business trip. I lucked out and traveled with a couple of my favorite coworkers and had an amazing time. We stayed at the Doubletree in Downtown Philadelphia and it was such a great location. We were kinda far from the office, but it was worth it to be able to walk to dinner every night and be within walking distance of the major landmarks. We flew in Monday, worked full days Tuesday/Wednesday, explored the city Thursday morning (worked in the afternoon) and flew home on Friday. It was a quick trip, but we were able to see some of the most famous places in the city.

Before we flew out Friday afternoon, we spent the morning exploring Eastern State Penitentiary. 

Opened in 1829, the prison was the largest building in the United States at that time. It’s now surrounded by houses and shops in downtown Philly, but originally it was two miles outside of the city. Reminiscent of a medieval castle, the architect who designed prison wanted the exterior to be imposing enough to scare people into not committing crimes. I love that there are gargoyles surrounding the entrance. I feel like not enough buildings in the US have gargoyles. If I ever win the lottery and buy a mansion, I’m putting gargoyles on it!

We arrived a few minutes before it opened, so we were the first visitors for the day and got to explore a lot of the prison by ourselves. Honestly, it was a little creepy walking through the abandoned cell blocks with no one else around.


The prison was built in a hub-and-spoke design with a center surveillance hub and the seven cell blocks radiating out from there.  Most of the cell blocks are open to the public, but a few are closed for safety reasons. The medical wing is one of the cell blocks that’s closed off, but it’s worth walking down to the end to see the red cross on the gate.

The most famous inmate at Eastern State Penitentiary was notorious gangster Al Capone. In 1929 he was arrested in Philadelphia and sentenced to a year in prison for carrying a concealed, unlicensed gun. He was connected with the prison officials so his stay was actually pretty comfortable. His cell has been restored to show the furniture, rugs, paintings, and radio that adorned his space.

Although I think the most interesting inmate was Pep the dog. Pep, the pet dog of Governor Pinchot, was sentenced to life for allegedly killing the governor’s wife’s cat. He was even assigned an inmate number and you can see his mug shot below. However, a few years later the wife cleared Pep’s name and said that Pep was actually there as an experiment in prisoner reform and to help boost morale. You can read more about Pep here.

As you can see, Eastern State Penitentiary has an interesting history and all of us really enjoyed our visit. I’m so happy that we had time to stop by before our flight out that afternoon. We spent about two hours touring the prison and that was plenty of time to see everything.

Eastern State Penitentiary is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and as always, I suggest getting there early to beat the crowds. Tickets are available online or at the door are prices range from $10-$16. The audio tour is included with your ticket and it’s excellent. It’s narrated by Steve Buscemi and includes interviews from former wardens, guards, and inmates.

Also, if you’re in the area around Halloween, they set up a haunted house inside of the prison. I’m a total chicken, so I would NEVER do it, but it’s probably awesome if you like scary stuff. You can read more about Terror Behind the Walls here.

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Look for Less: Marble Box Frame Coffee Table

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about our new living room rug and promised to share an update when I bought a new coffee table and pillow covers for the space. Believe it or not, I’m back today to share part two of our living room refresh! This seriously has to be a record for quickest turnaround time from me promising to follow up on a project and then actually posting an update. Anyway, here’s our updated living room:

Originally I said that I was probably going to order the metal and marble coffee table from West Elm. I seriously love that table, but two things stopped me from ordering it. For one, it was expensive ($600 plus $50 white glove delivery), but the main reason was the size. It’s four inches smaller (length and width) than our current table, so I think it would be too small for the space. I just couldn’t justify spending that much money on something that wasn’t perfect. So I searched like crazy online and found a similar table at Hayneedle. It’s the same length as our current table and it’s only $230!

To save even more money I bought a 10% off Hayneedle coupon code from eBay for $3.90. I was hoping to find one online, but it looks like they are all unique codes. I saved $23 with that code plus they offer free shipping. My total ended up being $207 (plus $4 for the coupon code), so over $450 cheaper than the West Elm version!

The table shipped quickly and arrived well before the estimated date. It arrived in two boxes – one for the metal frame pieces and one for the marble slab. The marble box was HEAVY! The table was fairly easy to assemble and it looks SO good for the price. The marble isn’t as white as it looks on the website and it has a lot more veining (which I like). Based on the website pictures, I would probably prefer the marble on the West Elm table…but not for $450 more.

I also ordered new pillow covers from The Pillow Cover Store on Etsy. I paid $50 for three 19” x 19” pillow covers, which seems like a killer deal. I briefly considered making the covers myself, but the fabric would have cost me almost as much as the finished covers. It was definitely worth the extra few dollars to have them made instead of procrastinating for months.

I added a new wood tray from Target, but the rest of the accessories are the same as before or found in my stash. I think all that’s left to do in this room now is to replace the missing baseboard and some additional accessorizing/styling…and maybe a new end table.

I’m so happy with how this room is turning out now. The new rug and coffee table have completely changed the vibe of the space and I love it!

Pinned It, Made It #3

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It’s been almost a year since my friend Michelle and I started our monthly craft nights. We’ve had so much fun creating the projects that we’ve pinned. You can see our first three projects here (burlap wreath, reversible scarecrow/snowman signs, and string art) and the next three projects we completed here (ornaments, wood tags, and painted signs).

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We had our July craft night over the weekend, so today I want to share the last three projects we’ve completed. In March we made patriotic rag wreaths. Michelle had just had back surgery so we picked this craft because it wouldn’t require a lot of moving or bending. Plus the supplies were minimal so I didn’t have to drag a bunch of stuff to her house for us to work on them.

They took FOR-EV-ER to complete (we had to meet a second day to finish), but I’m so happy with how they turned out. I hung mine on our front door around Memorial Day and just recently took it down after the 4th. We used this tutorial from Vintage, Paint, and More as a guide for “cutting” and tying the fabric.

We were both busy in April, so we had to skip that month, but in May we made these outdoor wooden sign posts and welcome signs. They turned out so cute and this is definitely one of my favorite projects so far.

We mostly followed the directions from this post from Shanty 2 Chic except that we bought these fence post caps from Amazon for the tops instead of the wood pieces. We also screwed our bottom pieces together instead of just using wood glue.  

We also missed June due to summer craziness, but we met over the weekend for a different kind of craft night. Instead of picking a project together and working on that, we decided to do a Dollar Tree craft challenge. We gave ourselves a budget of $15 and 30 minutes to buy our supplies. We weren’t allowed to check Pinterest or the internet while we were shopping. It was so fun (and challenging) to come up with a project on the spot. I think the most stressful part was making sure to buy all of the supplies needed for the project. Here’s what we ended up buying:

And here’s what we ended up making:

It was so fun to see what we both came up with. I marbled items using nail polish and Michelle made cotton ball/q-tip holders out of candle holders and glass stones. I love both projects and I love that we tried something new and pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone a bit. The white tiles weren't from the Dollar Tree, but I got kinda carried away with this project and was looking for more items to play with.

I’m so happy that we started craft night! I love crafting and creating, but need a push like this to actually go buy the supplies and sit down and make. We haven’t decided what we are going to make for our August craft night yet. Do you have any suggestions for us?

30 for 30 Recap

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Last year for my 30th birthday I put together a list of 30 things I wanted to do in my 30th year. I knew I wouldn’t get to all of them, but I thought it would be a fun way to get myself to try new things and make the most of the year. I turned 31 last week, so let’s take a look at what I crossed off my list:

Volunteer – Adam and I volunteered to foster dogs for Mountain Girl Transport Rescue. We fostered 3 dogs over the past year…and foster failed on the last one.

Grow a Veggie Garden – So far only our cherry tomatoes are producing (jalapenos are hopeful), but we actually did it!

Get a Makeover/Update Beauty Routine – Last July I went to Sephora and got a makeover. I ended up purchasing a few of the products and they totally improved my beauty routine. 

Go to a Concert – Adam and I went to a Mumford & Sons concert in October and it was ah-mazing!

Spoil Myself with Something Lovely – I bought myself a one year subscription to FabFitFun!

Read 3 Classic Novels – I read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Old Man and The Sea, and 1984.

Bake a Successful Batch of French Macarons – I baked a batch of Blueberry Cheesecake macarons in September and they actually looked and tasted pretty amazing.

Take a Road Trip – Adam, Ringo, Abby, and I road tripped to Montana last summer!

OK, so I crossed 8 items off my list over the past year. I also had a few items that I partially completed:

Visit 4 States I’ve Never Been To – I didn’t make my goal of 4, but I did visit 3 new states on our Montana road trip (Utah, Idaho, Montana). We’re going to Seattle in August, so I can cross this one off my list then.

Explore Arizona –Over the past year we visited the Natural History Museum, explored our city’s downtown area, visited Petrified Forest National Park, stayed in wigwams in Holbrook, and took a day trip to Jerome. This one is kind of hard to judge, but I was hoping to explore more than we did so I put it on the partial list.

Learn to Play Chess – I definitely don’t understand the strategy and I still get the pieces mixed up occasionally, but I actually played my first game of chess this year (against the computer on the easiest setting).

Watch Top 10 Greatest Movies of All Time – Ugh, this was a big fat fail…we only watched two of the movies on the list – The Wizard of Oz and Vertigo.

Send a Handwritten Note Each Month – I think I’m 10 for 12 on this one. I know for sure I sent things every month except for October and March. I think I sent something in October, but I can’t of what that would be, so I’m not counting it.

Visit 2 Museums Around Phoenix – We went to the Arizona Museum of Natural History in February, but never made it to a second museum.

Organize/De-clutter the House – I think the master bathroom is the only room that got a full de-cluttering. I started on the closet in the master bedroom then never finished…

Learn How to Shoot in Manual/Photoshop – I bought the Photograph 101 class from Shoot Fly Shoot and watched part of it. I feel more comfortable using manual settings, but I still wouldn’t say I know what I’m doing.

Random Acts of Kindness – I did a few nice things, but nothing noteworthy and I definitely could have done a lot more for others.

Visit 5 National Parks – I only made it to three National Parks (Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Petrified Forest), but I’m hoping to visit the Grand Canyon and Saguaro once the weather cools down again.

And then there’s the remaining 12 that I didn’t do:

Run a 5K – I kept meaning to sign up during the winter, but never did and now it’s too hot!

Learn a New Language – This one was a bit of a stretch. I added an app to learn Japanese on my Kindle, but never used it.

Refinance House – I missed the window for this last year and now it’s not worth it.

Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride – I came SO close to buying a Groupon for this, but when it came down to it, I chickened out.

Go White Water Rafting – I knew this one would be unlikely, but I’ve always wanted to go so I added it anyway.

Ride a Zip Line – Same excuse as above

Get Dressed Up and Splurge on a Fancy Meal – We should have done this…I have no excuse

Hike a Mountain – I did a fair amount of hiking in the past year, but I didn’t hike to the top of any mountains.

Backup All My Photos – I can’t believe I never even started this! Next year…

Get in Shape – This is probably the biggest fail on this whole list. Adam and I were going to the gym pretty regularly for a couple months in the fall, but we got off our schedule and haven’t been in months. Ugh…

Sign Up for a Class – I got as far as looking up a class
schedule for some sort of art class, but never actually registered. I definitely still want to do this though!

Finish 2 Rooms in the House – I think we all know that this didn’t happen…

So as I said before, I didn’t get to all of the items on my list (I didn’t think I would), but I still feel like I accomplished a lot this year and 30 was one of the best years of my life. I think I’m going to rework this list into 30 things I want to do in my 30s, but I have a lot to think about before I'm ready to announce that big of a list!

Friday Five: Birthday Edition

Friday, June 30, 2017

One – Happy Birthday to Me!

Today’s my 31st birthday! Last weekend Adam and I went to Prescott to celebrate with my family. While we were there we took a day trip to Jerome and then all went out for Mexican food (my favorite). Tonight my friends and I are going to a Brazilian steakhouse to stuff ourselves with meat. 30 was one of the best years of my life, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of this decade brings!

Two – Outlander

A couple weeks ago I had a really bad cold so I stayed home from work for two days. I spent those two days binge watching the first season of Outlander (16 episodes). It took me a little longer to finish the second season, but now I’m all caught up and can’t wait for season three! I bought the DVDs during Black Friday last year and have been meaning to watch them since then. With our trip to Scotland coming up in a few months, I figured now was the perfect time to watch. The scenery is so beautiful (as is Jamie Fraser amiright ladies) and now I can’t wait for our trip!

As for the show, I loved the first season except for the final two episodes (did it really need to be that graphic?) and the second season was pretty great once Jamie started to be a badass again. Have you seen the show or read the books? I’ve heard that for the most part the books are better…as usual.

Three – Model Homes

A few weekends ago Adam and I went to check out a couple new subdivisions in the area. Both had model homes available to view and we had so much fun checking them out. It was really interesting to see what styles Adam was into and how similar our tastes actually are.

The first subdivision is actually in our price range and we’ve been casually talking about moving there. It would save Adam about 10 minutes on his commute each way and my commute time wouldn’t change much, just a different direction. We still have a lot to talk about before we get serious about moving, but it’s a possibility.

The other subdivision is totally out of our price range. Actually, we could probably qualify for the loan, but I don’t think I’d be able to sleep at night with that kind of house payment. Both of the model homes were so beautiful and one was decorated totally my style. The kitchen above is from the first home we walked through and I’m obsessed. I seriously love that kitchen!

Four – thredUP

A couple months ago I cleaned out my closet and put together a bag of clothes to send to thredUP. I requested a clean-out bag months before so all I had to do was fill the bag and drop it off at the UPS Store. It took a few weeks for them to finally process my bag, but I ended up making $90 plus possibly an additional $17 for my consignment items. Over $100 for clothes I was just going to drop off at Goodwill!

If you’re planning on cleaning out your closet I highly recommend trying out thredUP. It’s easy and free! To make the most $, research the brands that they accept and only send items in good condition. If you want to sign up, use this link for $10 credit (I also get $10 credit). NOTE: This post is NOT sponsored. Everyone with an account can earn referral credit.

Five – Jalapenos

I mentioned in my last Friday Five post that Adam and I started a veggie garden. At that time the tomatoes were the only plants flowering and producing anything. BUT, over the past couple of weeks our jalapeno plants have really taken off. Look at those cute little peppers! I just hope they survive the extreme heat and we’re able to actually get a few full size peppers to eat!

Anyone have anything fun planned for the weekend or 4th of July? Tonight we’re going out for my birthday, but other than that we don’t have any set plans. I’m taking Monday off and we get Tuesday off for the holiday, so I’m just excited to have a 4 day weekend! 

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