Monday, August 31, 2015

Fall Getups in the Summer Heat!

It's honestly really hard to believe that tomorrow is September 1st...
AND that the pumpkin spice latte comes out this week (what?!).  We all know that the PSL isn't even that good, but I still can't help but be excited about it! :)

Although "fall" is well on it's way, the weather here in Scottsdale still has some triple digit highs this week... AKA - the cooler weather ain't happenin' anytime soon... and I'm not about to break out my sweaters or boots, because quite frankly, the thought of long pants gives me anxiety!

So, I'm going to need to get creative with my warm weather get-ups to make them a bit more seasonal - oh fall, how I love thee!

Below you'll find some fall inspired looks that are also heat-friendly!



Fall Fashion for the Heat





Fall Fashion for the Heat






Fall Fashion for the Heat






Fall Fashion for the Heat




Monday, August 24, 2015

A San Antonio Weekend!

Ohh, Monday... Here you are again!
John and I spent the weekend in San Antonio and didn't get home until late last night.
Here's a quick peek of our weekend adventures!


We explored the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio, and enjoyed a lovely Mexican dinner outside at Acenar.



And you can't go to San Antonio without remembering The Alamo!


We explored the Pearl district and had a lovely dinner at Southerleigh.



We explored Gruene, Texas with a little sangria, country music, and ribs by the Guadalupe river.


 Fun fact: Gruene Hall is Texas's oldest dance hall and many, many famous country artists have played there! We were there on a Sunday and the place was hoppin'!


John was a happy camper with riverside seating at the Gristmill!



Friday, August 21, 2015

Black Bean Chocolate Cake

I'm all about sweet treats, and it's a bonus when those treats can be "healthied" up a bit!
AND, when they are simple to make (and only have two ingredients...) it's a total win!

Que: black bean chocolate cake!
(Don't be freaked out, you can't taste the black beans one bit!)



What you need:
1 can of black beans
1 box of chocolate cake mix
Chocolate chips (optional!)



How to:
Pour the whole can of black beans into a blender and puree.

Once pureed, slowly add the cake mix into the blender.  The batter will start to get pretty thick, so you will need to stop the blender and help stir every now and then.  

Next, pour the batter into a greased 9x9 pan, top with chocolate chips (optional, but obviously a very good idea!), and bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

And tada! A moist, delicious chocolate cake that tastes 100% like the real deal!




Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top or serve with a few berries (...or, if you're like me, a scoop of ice cream!), and you've got yourself a pretty perfect after dinner treat (that happens to have a little extra protein, fiber, and vitamins!).

As with most of my desserts that contain "unique" ingredients, I don't let John in on the secret until he is already half-way through the pan... works like a charm! ;)



Prefer brownies?! 
You can make black bean brownies by simply substituting the cake mix for a brownie mix!

You can learn more about the health benefits of black beans here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday Confessions

Happy Wednesday (which is actually my Friday - yay for vacation days and long weekends!)
Here are 10 confessions for this start to my "weekend!"


ONE
About once a month I will accidentally stay up way too late watching old country music videos... I don't know what over comes me, but once I start, I just can't stop!

TWO
I hate loading and unloading the dishwasher.  In fact, last week my husband very gently asked me if there was a reason that I "boycotted" the dishwasher - I was hoping he wouldn't notice...

THREE
I do really well eating healthy until about 9PM; and at that point, all bets are off.

FOUR
I like to start every Monday with a full tank of gas in my car.  It doesn't matter if I still have half a tank... it needs to be topped off for me to start the week off on the right foot!

FIVE
Whenever John and I fly on a plane together, I always get the middle seat - lame! But I love him, so I'm happy to do it.

SIX
I finally parted ways with my (very, very) old first pair of Sperrys.  Scout had kindly jazzed them up for me, so it really was time.  It was a sad day (although John was quite thrilled at the departure!).  Some shoes have just been with you through it all!

SEVEN
A few weeks ago I got a standing desk at work.  And so far, I've stood for a rousing total of 10 minutes!  I've found that I just cannot concentrate standing up!

EIGHT
I tried the new "promote a pin" on Pinterest, and I must say, I am quite impressed!  Cheers for re-pins!  Has anyone else tried this yet?

NINE
I love cherry tomatoes; I could eat them like candy!

TEN
John and I are in desperate need of a new TV show to watch... any suggestions?! We spend the majority of our night watching TV trailers with no success!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Dreaming of Fall

Maybe it's the fact that this weekend's high (on both Saturday and Sunday...) was 115 degrees, or the fact that September is right around the corner, but recently, I've really been dreaming of fall!

Confession: I recently went shopping and bought 2 pairs of booties, a couple of chunky sweaters, and a fall jacket... NONE of which I can wear for the foreseeable future.  Bless.  The weather in Arizona doesn't start cooling down until October, but when it happens, I will be ready!

Here's what I'm looking forward to...

booties!

scarves!


layers, layers, layers!

vests!

and of course, all things pumpkin!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Five on Friday!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Five on Friday, and I figured I should jump back in on the fun!
  Linking up with April and crew for a random assortment of fun!


ONE  |  Watermelon Cooler

My favorite summer fruit is most certainly watermelon, and when I saw this watermelon cooler on Pinterest, I knew that I had to make it.



What you need:
3 cups of watermelon
1 cup of coconut water
mint

Blend all of the ingredients together and drink over ice.
Refreshing and hydrating - perfect for the Arizona heat!


TWO  |  Sofia

I don’t have any clue why it took me so long to get on the Sofia train, but I am absolutely hooked! 
It’s a perfect after dinner treat while sitting down and watching a show on TV with the hubby. 




THREE  |  Benefit Mascara 

When it comes to makeup I just about always stick with Bobbi Brown. Except my mascara... which I usually use cheapo Maybelline (with no complaints!).

BUT, I recently bought Benefit’s They're Real mascara, and I absolutely love it! I don’t have super long lashes, but this mascara really does a great job extending what I do have. I also bought the They're Real gel eyeliner, but I was notttt a fan... I will be sticking with Bobbi Brown on that one! 




FOUR  |  Zella Live-in-Leggings

These Zella "Live in" Leggings were my only purchase this year from Nordstrom’s anniversary sale, and I’m not going to lie, they are fabulous. I normally stick with my J.Crew Pixie Pants as my fall and winter legging, but the Zella "Live in" Leggings have fully converted me.

First, they are a great value (a fraction of the price of J.Crew's Pixie Pants!), the quality is great (nice and thick material), and lastly, they are long enough for me. Winning!



FIVE  |  Bachelor in Paradise

Ugh, I seriously feel like the Bachelor franchise is on the struggle bus. I swear, the last good season of anything was Sean Lowe!  And this Bachelor in Paradise is equally underwhelming.  And if the new Bachelor really is Ben H. (has it been confirmed?), I'm concerned it's just going to be another snooze fest... Thoughts?!



Thursday, August 13, 2015

5 Tips for Planning an Adventure Abroad

Planning a trip abroad can be quite an undertaking, but if you do it right, it doesn't have to be an overwhelming experience.  Here are five tips to help you plan your adventure abroad!


ONE  |  Research, research, research

John and I spent several months researching where we wanted to travel, and then several months learning more about where we decided to go.  And honestly, that was part of the fun!

Our biggest travel information resource was the man himself... Mr. Rick Steves!  And lucky for you, Hulu has 8 different seasons available for your viewing pleasure!
So figure out where you want to go and learn all about it!



TWO  |  Flights

Once you figure out where you're going, it's time to start thinking about flights.
For us, our flight was the largest (single) purchase of the trip.  So to find the best deals possible, we used Skyscanner to compare dates and destinations of departure and entry.

When using Skyscanner, you can type in generic searches like "United States" to "France", and Skyscanner will tell you the cheapest place to fly out of in the US and the cheapest place to fly into France (in some instances, flying into Nice was cheaper than flying into Paris!).  Also, if you can be flexible on dates, you can search full months to see cheapest days to fly out and return.



THREE  |  Accommodations

In Paris and Rome, John and I ditched the hotel and booked an Airbnb.  Airbnb definitely has its advantages (and disadvantages), but overall, we were really happy with our experience.

When searching for a place to stay, make sure you're clear on whether or not you're looking for an entire place (like we did), a private room, or a shared room.  Also, you will need to filter for certain features like air conditioning and WIFI, if those things are important to you.

The Airbnbs that we booked were a great value in a location that couldn't be beat... and it's fun to be around the locals!  However, you won't be able to have a concierge call a cab for you at 6AM, so just be prepared for what you're getting into!



FOUR  |  Seeing the sights

Now that you've booked your flights and accommodations, it's time for the fun part... planning the sights you want to see!  John and I knew that we wanted a full agenda - we were good with waking up early and going to bed late since we were only going to be in each location for a limited amount of time.

To make the most of our daily itineraries, we used Visit a City which was absolutely amazing!!! On the Visit a City website there are itineraries for all of the major cities to see the major sights based on how many days you're going to be in the location.

You can add and remove sites from your itinerary and totally customize it (then print it!).  The itinerary details the walking distance between each site, a map to get there, a little blurb of history, the hours of operation, and whether or not there is a fee to enter - basically, it is an amazing resource!



FIVE  |  Planes, trains, and automobiles

The biggest expense is getting abroad, but once you're there, intracontinental travel is quite inexpensive.  John and I started in London, took the chunnel to Paris and then took a one way flight to Rome.  When looking to travel between countries, explore the planes, trains and automobiles!

As far as flights, it is very common to find one-way tickets for under $40... just be prepared that you will be paying for extras (bags, snacks, etc.).  But for that price, why not head to Barcelona too?!  Flights are cheap and quick way to travel, but trains (if you ask me) are fun, a great way to see the country side, and definitely more comfortable than flying.  Similarly, renting a car and driving allows you the freedom to stop and explore as you please.

Figure out your preferred way of travel and start adventuring!




More Tips!

Tell your bank that you're leaving
We booked the majority of our reservations before we left, and on two different occasions the credit card company flagged and cancelled our purchase.  To avoid this, make sure you tell your bank that you're leaving and how long you plan to be gone.  This is so important to make sure you have access to money once you get there! 

Register your passports
This may seem like a silly one, but believe it or not, when we were in France, there was actually a travel advisory due to a terrorist attack south of Lyon. Better be safe than sorry on this one - and it takes 10 minutes tops... so register your passport, just do it.

Don't forget your converters and adapters
If you're staying at an older hotel, I wouldn't count on having US plugs available for your iPhone or camera charger.  So don't forget a converter and adapter or two.

International phone plans
Since John and I were planning on staying at Airbnbs, we knew that we wanted to get some sort phone plan to use in a case of an emergency. For $40 we were able to get 50 minutes, 50 text messages, and a very small amount of data.  We didn't really need any of it, but for $40 the peace of mind was worth it.

Pin drop
In case you didn't know, you can use the GPS function of your iPhone's Map app without utilizing any data (at least with Verizon).  You can't search a location without data, but you can still utilize the maps to see where you're located (with the pin drop).  You can also see the names of the streets and major sites... it was super helpful when wandering around looking for things!


Also check out...




***

Now it's your turn! What are your tips for planning an adventure abroad?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

DIY Napkin Rings

I’ve written about my love for napkin rings before... and well, I’m at it again with a new DIY.

  Napkin rings may be outdated, but I will admit, I’m a little but obsessed with them!  However, I really can’t get behind paying over $100 for a full set of napkin rings, so when this DIY came in at about $1.50 a piece, I knew it was a major win.



The best part?  They are totally customizable!

All you need is polymer clay, acrylic paint, and a gloss glaze.

Begin by softening and warming up the clay by rolling it into small, even sized balls (each ball will make a napkin ring, so size accordingly).



Then, using a wine bottle (or a clay rolling pin, if you have one!), roll the balls out into long cylinders.



Next, roll out the cylinders into long rectangles, and form a circle with each of the rectangles.



Place each napkin ring on a tray for baking, and bake for 20 minutes at 275 degrees.



Once the napkin rings are fully cooled (really, fully cooled...), apply the acrylic paint.

I wanted the napkin rings to have a "dipped" look, so I watered down the paint a bit to make it easier for dipping.




Once the paint is dry, add the gloss glaze.



Let fully dry before using.  And ta da... napkin rings!!



Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer Happenings!

John and I have been so busy lately, and I can hardly believe that we are already well on our way into August! Here’s a quick peek of what we’ve been up to recently. 

We spent some time in DC with John’s family, and it was so nice to see everyone.


We did a little nighttime monument sightseeing.




And had a wonderful dinner on Alexandria waterfront.


This past weekend we took a quick trip to San Diego. Neither of us had been before, and it was a perfect beach trip to escape the Arizona desert and enjoy some beautiful beaches and ocean.

San Diego is about a 5 hour drive from Phoenix, and it's pretty easy driving which is nice!


We got to San Diego and hit the beach!


And no trip to the coast would be complete without fresh seafood.  
John and I ate dinner at Ironside Fish and Oyster... and it was delish!


The next day we headed to Coronado Island... it was a bit overcast, which was much appreciated after our sunburns from the day before - yikes!


We walked around the beaches and enjoyed the tide pools - it was a perfect close to the weekend!


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