Weekend Wrap Up [Date ideas]

It’s officially my last day of being 28 – and it’s been a damn good year (and weekend). Friday, I spent the morning with my adorable niece and nephew. Damon and I went to Discovery Place Kids.

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And then I got to see my sweet niece who was super smiley and happy. She loves giggling at her big brother and she kept pushing up like she was getting ready to crawl. Won’t be long now!

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They are seriously cute together. He loves her so much!

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We had the most delicious shrimp tacos for dinner and stayed in instead of battling the cold outside. No time for pictures because they were so delicious I practically swallowed them whole and proceeded to talk about them for the rest of the weekend  (in my true OCD form). On Saturday, we had the most exciting morning ever: WE BOOKED OUR EUROTRIP! Here we come London, Paris and Ireland!

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Since it was my birthday weekend, the hubs agreed to go to Sephora with me so I could replenish my make-up collection. I was set on only purchasing natural items that were paraben free and not tested on animals. There were only THREE brands that lived up to that. Isn’t that crazy?

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First of all, I ordered this lavender Stress Less oil from Organic Bath Co. last week and I’m loving it. As far as the make up goes, I went with the Tarte Amazonian Clay Tinted Moisturizer. I don’t need a whole lot of coverage (or like it) but I do love that this has SPF in it. A little of this goes a long way too, so it will last for a while. They were actually out of the color I needed, so I got a sample and they ordered one for me. I got a shipping notification today! So fast! I also went with the Tarte Pressed Powder. It’s not for coverage as much as it is to set the foundation. I also got the Tarte Amazonian Clay concealer and I already love it! Sadly, I couldn’t find a mascara that I liked so I floated over to the Benefit Cosmetics section and picked up “They’re Real.” It indicates they do not test on animals (and below is an excerpt from their website) but PETA says they do. And because of that “…except where required by law” part, they do. And I won’t be buying their items any longer.

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As I was checking out, I saw the Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo. Since I’m getting ready to travel again, I grabbed a sample for $12. It’s AMAZING. I used it today and felt great. I didn’t purchase the NARS lipsticks, those were a gift for my birthday. I was curious when I got home to see if they tested on animals. Their site says they do not, but other things I read indicated that their parent company does and therefore, any money spent on NARS supports the parent company and animal testing, so there’s another one to mark off the list. Josie Maran is a natural brand that doesn’t test on animals, but I didn’t find anything that I wanted in that section. Slowly but surely I’m making progress on changing over to paraben free and items that aren’t tested on animals. I have a battle with myself over being wasteful and throwing out things I already have and wanting to use items that aren’t tested on animals/paraben free. My conclusion is that I will replace when I’m done using what I already have. Here are some other products I like if you’re interested in switching over too!

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This morning after trying out a new church, we separated restaurants we want to go to into two jars: Weeknight and Weekend. We put the more expensive/farther away restaurants into the weekend jar. This will not only help us eliminate the dreadful “where do you want to go for dinner?” question, but also give us the chance to try some places that we put off in lieu of going to our usual spots. I’m excited to try this out and see how many new spots we can taste together! [Jars are from Beach Blues and the color scheme is “Aruba”]. There’s a 3rd jar that I’ve labeled “Be Spontaneous” and will put ideas in for things we can do together such as hiking, biking, golfing, tennis, running, kayaking, rafting, go to the movies, a day trip to Charleston, a day trip to the beach, a day trip to the mountains, a brewery tour, etc. Again, I’m excited to see how it plays out!

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My boys have been extra cuddly since they got home from their week at Grandma and Grandpa’s. I think they missed us (or they’re using me as an excuse to be on the couch). Either way, I don’t mind. They’re my favorite cuddle buddies!

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Southernmost Point

Last week, we shut down our work computers and packed our shorts, swimsuits and sunglasses to head to the Florida Keys. We decided to go on this trip to celebrate my 29th birthday and since we had airline miles and hotel points which covered the biggest chunk of our travel, we were just left with the cost of food (lots of it!).

66180_10101167996088583_3838449796269054260_nWe had a direct flight to Key West and upon arrival, we heard “You’re okay with a convertible, right?” A convertible while we drive through the Keys? We’ll take it!

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We landed around lunch time and started driving towards Islamorada, where we were spending our first night. Seafood was calling our name as we pulled into Mangrove Mama’s on Sugarloaf Key.

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I highly recommend stopping in if you’re passing by, if not for the fish tacos, then the flavored mojitos!

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We continued on our journey and marveled over the turquoise water, tiny islands and just how long the 7 mile bridge is. Our first night was spent at the ridiculously adorable Postcard Inn.

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I LOVED that they were pet-friendly and immediately wished our pups had traveled with us!

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The Postcard Inn has a Tiki Bar, a raw bar, kayaks, jet skis, stand up paddle boards and two pools (one is heated). Seriously, what more could you ask for? We watched the sunset as we ate Key West peel and eat pink shrimp and sipped on coronas.

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We explored the grounds, watching tiny barracudas in the water and pelicans by the boats.

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For dinner, we made the short drive to Island Grill and decided to try the tuna nachos. I now understand why they are world famous. Seriously, this dish was TO DIE FOR!

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After a morning walk on the beach, we decided to find a breakfast spot other than the restaurant at the hotel. We hit the jackpot with Midway Cafe. It could not have been any cuter and the mocha almond frappe (which LW called a “breakfast milkshake”) was delicious. My order caused the staff to call me “Vacation Girl.”

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After a filling breakfast (I got the veggie wrap), we headed towards Key West – but not before putting the top down. We decided to take every opportunity to stop at overpasses and state parks along the way.

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We walked several miles at each of the parks. We were delighted that we only saw one snake at this Florida state park. Last year in Ponte Vedra, we saw dozens of poisonous snakes. I loved our little stops along our road trip.

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Bahia Honda State Park had some seriously amazing views. I dipped my toes in the water and promptly announced that I had no desire to snorkel when we arrived in Key West. Kayaking was as close as I was going to get to being in the water.

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We had a delicious lunch at the Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key. We split small plates and enjoyed adult beverages while giggling over the Square Grouper story. We talked along the way about where we’d live if we ever moved to Florida. I said Tampa or perhaps Islamorada, if we weren’t going to work ever again. LW voted Orlando. But we’re not going anywhere. North Carolina is home!

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Dinner that evening was our most favorite of the whole trip. We went to a tiny restaurant in downtown Key West called “Seven Fish.” I had scallops and LW had the catch of the day. Both were amazing.

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I ordered a mango mojito in a pineapple. Yes, in a WHOLE PINEAPPLE.

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You might think that this would be my favorite treat of the whole trip, but it wasn’t. Dark chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick became my new favorite dessert.

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Oh, and we tried a lot of Florida beers on this trip. Kermit’s had the best key lime pie in my opinion, but I will say that we tried it from three other places before coming to that conclusion.

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Our next favorite dinner was at Firefly. The double porch on the restaurant screamed “Southern!” After devouring crab beignets, I splurged on the fried chicken while the hubs ordered the catch of the day, corvina.

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Did I mention that we rode bikes around ALL DAY LONG before this dinner? So I pretty much burned off that chicken before I ate it!

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We explored every inch of Key West while we were there, some two or three times. Of course we took an obligatory tourist photo of the Southernmost Point (although apparently it’s not actually the southernmost point?). Either way, it’s the one that has a photo prop and a line of tourists waiting.

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Surprisingly, we didn’t run over any chickens or roosters while we were there. Although I did have an unfortunate incident with one at Bo’s Fish Wagon. I’ve never seen so many chickens and roosters in my life – and I grew up on a farm!

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Speaking of Bo’s Fish Wagon, we got the tacos and were a little disappointed. They were very slaw-y and mayonnaise-y. And frankly, there wasn’t a ton of fish on the tacos. I think if we were to go back, we would check out Garbo’s Grill instead of going back to Bo’s.

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One place we really wanted to go was Deuce’s Off the Hook Grill. The regular menu looked pretty good, but the specials sounded AMAZING. However, they were booked solid when we got there for dinner one night, and we were 30 minutes early for lunch the next day. We decided we just weren’t meant to eat there.

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The hotel pool was a nice little escape. I even had some friends to hang out with – including this orange iguana. I’ve never seen an orange iguana before but apparently he is a regular at the pool and even sometimes goes swimming.

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We spent the day being tourists and exploring Mallory Square and the waterfront. We watched the tarpon swimming by the marina and even saw a nurse shark!

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Ernest Hemingway’s home is in Key West, so we decided to take a walk through (we skipped the guided tour). The house (and garden) was FILLED with cats. I’m surprised LW didn’t have an allergic reaction but he was careful not to touch any of them. The house was interesting, especially the pool and the story about it.

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The house is also right across from the light house. One of my most favorite parts of the trip was visiting Sunset Pier (we grabbed drinks at Ocean Key resort) and watching the sunset.

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There were at least 200 people on the pier with us (and probably 50 more at the bar watching the Seahawks/Packers crazy game). Live music is abundant in Key West, and was no different here. The band played, people danced and the day came to an end.

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We bit the bait and went to Blue Heaven for breakfast after the race on Sunday. The banana bread was incredible. The whole meal was incredible, but the banana bread was the best (and my belini was pretty darn good, too!).

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On our last day, we sat by the water and had our last lunch. I indulged in more fish tacos… and more mojitos.

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And I have to say it was kind of the perfect way to end our trip. Sunshine, water and my most favorite person beside of me.

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Oh, and of course I had one more chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick before we headed back home and back to reality.

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Appreciation

Each year, I come up with a word that I’m going to focus on for the year. Patience was one of my harder words because I’m a very impatient person (admitting it is the first step!). This year, I chose ‘Appreciation.’ I once read that telling people “you’re welcome” when they say “thank you” has a totally different impact than if you were to say “no problem”, “sure thing” or “anytime.” So I want people to feel that. I want people to know how much I appreciate what they do – big or small. I want my husband to know how much I appreciate him. I want my co-workers to feel that. My goal to this point as been to tell people every chance I get how much I appreciate what they’re doing, and to definitely say it at least once a day. So far, so good. Only 352 days to go!
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I also decided to try this savings plan this year. I don’t have something specific in mind for it, but maybe I’ll put it towards a new car in a few years or towards a spontaneous trip (the hubs is not big on my spontaneous trip ideas, but if there’s random cash available, who can argue with that?). We’ve always talked about going to Red Rocks to see one of our favorite bands play.

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It will be a nice addition to my other savings accounts which will one day go towards things like college tuition for our kids (future children). We actually just had this conversation the other day about how much we would need to save to make sure our kids are stuck with student loans. Student loans are the worst. Speaking of kids, I got to see the most adorable ones (my neice and nephew!) this weekend and this girl was all smiles!

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I’m also continuing my goal this year to use more eco-friendly and non-animal tested products. I got some great suggestions from you guys last time, and I’d love to hear more. As I try new products, I’ll be sure to share my reviews! Have a great 2nd week of January!

 

PS – last day to enter the monogrammed guest book giveaway!

Be Our Guest (book) GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to 2015’s first giveaway! This item has to go to a special group of people, those who are engaged and I know that’s A LOT of you since most engagement happen between Thanksgiving and Valentines day! (Congratulations – SUCH an exciting time!!). I want to help you knock one thing off of that planning list with this giveaway:

Customized Wedding Guest Book

This hand crafted, personalized guest book by For Love Polka Dots will be created JUST FOR YOU. It will include both of your names, your married last initial and your wedding date, along with 86 (43 front and back) pages to be signed by all of your friends and family on your special day. Gorgeous, right?

So here’s how you enter:

DONATE: Donate $5 or more to the Pretty in Pink Wishes campaign to make bucket list wishes for breast cancer survivors through the Pretty in Pink Foundation come true. For every $5 donated, you get an entry!

COMMENT: Come back here and leave a comment letting me know you donated, what your new last initial will be and your wedding date (it’s okay if you don’t know the date yet, they’ll work with you!).

Giveaway starts now and ends on Tuesday, January 13th at midnight. May the odds be ever in your favor – and high five for doing a good thing for these breast cancer champions!

*Comments are moderated. It may not appear immediately after leaving comment but will once approved. Winner will be chosen at random after giveaway ends. I will do the drawing on video and post an update here. Share with your friends. All of the money raised is for an excellent cause!

Happy Hump Day!

Good things and good reads!

On New Year’s Day, as we laid in bed, closing out the first day of the new year, we went through our “Good Things” jar from 2014. It was a nice way for us to remember and reminisce on all the amazing things we had done throughout the year.

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Throughout the year, we had slips of paper and a Sharpie laying by the jar so that any time, either of us could write down something we felt was good and slide it into the jar. The jar was QUITE full when we went to empty it out – and surprisingly, we only had a few duplicates!

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We went through them all, alternating who opened and read the paper and got to relive our excitement over moments such as promotions, certifications, being published, and finishing grad school. We smiled about our travels to St. Martin, Annapolis, Ponte Vedra Beach, Chicago and Boston. We high-fived for things like renting our townhouse out and buying a new house, fostering 7 dogs/puppies and seeing the very few wins that the Hokies had live this year. We talked about the best concerts we saw this year, the best weddings we attended, the friends we made. We added a new niece to our family this year and we BOTH added that into our jar.

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While we obviously enjoyed the moments as they happened throughout the year, it was so nice to go through each one together and take a moment to reflect on them. Once we finished, we talked about some of our goals for 2015 and moments we were excited to add to our next jar, like: the Cliff of Moher, exploring castles, seeing the Eiffel tower, spending a week at Cape Cod, running a half marathon in Key West, remodeling our master closet, celebrating our birthdays and our 2nd wedding anniversary and 6th dating anniversary. We guessed which friends are planning to or might tie the knot this year and discussed how excited we were to celebrate with them. I’m so grateful to have someone who makes life so enjoyable, even on the bad days. I am looking forward to everything that we will do together in 2015 (and the 60 years that follow that!).

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I read this book by Lara Casey to start the new year. Lara has a very inspiring story and lives to inspire others to chase their dreams and make it happen. I wanted to share a few things I took away from the book:

  • Don’t waste time laying in bed and playing on your phone browsing through Instagram or Facebook (or checking emails), get up and get your day started!
  • A reminder not to choose social media/phone over spending time with your significant other. It’s hard to put our phones down since they give us so much information but it’s really inconsiderate
  • Take time to lay out your outfit, pack your gym bag and lunch the night before, it makes the morning so much less stressful (does anyone else change outfits like 10 times??)
  • Prune your tomatoes. I had no idea that we needed to do this but am thankful for the information as we start to plan our 2015 garden.
  • Say “I love you” always. Even when it is hard. Even when you’re mad. Always.

If you need a push to take that leap you’ve been dreaming of or some tips for living your life on purpose and cutting out waste, it’s a great book and an easy read. I highly recommend it.

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To round out the New Year’s Day weekend, my mom adopted this sweet pup who was tied up at a rural shelter on a freezing cold night. She was literally being walked back to be put to sleep when a volunteer scooped her up and saved her. She’s a little shy but very sweet. I’m so excited that we got a chance to meet her!

 

Cheers to a New Year!

It’s always exciting to look back and reflect on our year as it comes to a close. 2014 followed one of our most exciting years, the one where we got married. This year was full of travel (both work and pleasure), weddings for dear friends, new challenges, exciting moments (buying a house), my husband finishing grad school and of course, our first year of marriage. Tomorrow we’ll go through our “Good Things jar” and reminisce on the year and our best times! Here’s a quick recap:

Year in Review 2014-2

A few things not mentioned:

  • I wrote three articles that were published in Charlotte Happenings, a local magazine through the Charlotte Regional Visitor’s Authority (CRVA)
  • My husband finished his Master’s degree through Northeastern University (we’ll be heading to Boston to celebrate in 2015)
  • I was offered a teaching job at a community college for Communication courses (due to work travel I couldn’t swing it this year, but maybe in the future)
  • I only ran two races this year, but spent almost all of my Wednesday nights this summer at NoDa Brewing’s run club with my (new) girlfriends
  • I started a book club with some really awesome girls that I look forward to seeing each month
  • We saw some really awesome concerts
  • We watched the Hokies beat UNC and Duke
  • We grew a really awesome garden with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers and herbs (AND A LEMON TREE!)

Some of our favorite trips were to Ponte Vedra Beach, Ocean Isle, Annapolis, St. Martin and Chicago. We also loved our trips to Boston but we were too busy frolicking around and eating that I apparently forgot to document us being there!

We fostered some really awesome dogs this year (and only fell in love with one of them!). I also began managing the Twitter feed for a local rescue group and have grown our following. Fostering saves lives like the ones above. It’s a great way to help out if you’re not sure you want to adopt. If you can’t foster, helping out at adoption events on the weekends or transporting dogs are both great ways to help out.

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I’m beyond grateful for our sweet friend, Sarah, who took our anniversary photos for us. And I’m even more grateful for this guy and everything he did to make this year amazing. 2014 was another wonderful year and I’m looking forward to all that 2015 brings. Off to ring it in with some fun friends and my favorite husband! Wishing you a happy and healthy 2015!