Birthday Part 2: Freebies

One of my favorite parts of birthdays are all the freebies involved.

Remember how you wanted to go shoot fish at the Georgia Aquarium? ... Done. Although you might ought to leave your expensive significant other at home.

Free dinner with family at your favorite Italian restaurant? ... Done.

Beautiful sunset on your way home? ... Done.

And specific to my birthday ... rain. Every. single. year. I like to think it's because I'm special.

What do you most look forward to on your birthday? Do you have any traditions, or do you make it up as you go along?

Weekend Overview + Anthropologie

Since it was my birthday weekend, the husband and I got quite a bit done and had just the tiniest bit of fun doing it. (In other words, I wore him out.)


We started off the weekend on a good note. Justin's credit score had jumped quite a bit, so we applied for two credit cards; both of which were accepted. We are now the proud owners of the CapitalOne Venture visa card with free foreign transaction fees (hoping this will help with our travel to Europe) and Chase Slate (which will provide a free transfer of what we owe from the one credit card to this one as well as no interest for 15 months making it easier to pay off credit card debt faster). Along with the two new credit cards, Justin's credit score will more than likely jump due to all the extra credit he was offered. YAY!

So to recap from this summer:
- received a $50 Travelocity gift card towards future vacations after price matching for our trip to Charleston in which we received $130 back. (If you count the gift card as cash, we netted $180 total.)
- dropped our internet bill from $72 down to $39 with AT&T for the next year saving us $396 total for the year which will save us $120 more than we paid last year (when we were paying $50 per month).
- Justin received a raise upping his total income by approximately $200 a month. :)
- changed car insurance providers which didn't save any money, but our coverage was upped. Instead of paying X amount for liability only, both cars are now fully covered in case of an accident.
- received a $25 coupon for Airbnb for a follow up trip after reviewing our last trip on the Airbnb website.


Saturday I decided to take advantage of my birthday weekend. Justin took me to get my hair done and then my nails done (30% off! Woot!). Finally we made a stop by Anthropologie for me to spend my lovely 15% off birthday code. (We left the card at home, so many thanks to the sales associates who made it possible for me to still use the code!)

Anthro had a HUGE sale during the month of July which I didn't really take part in. With so many vacations, it was hard to go shopping. Plus, you can only use your birthday code once during your birth month, so I thought it would be best to wait until the very end anyway. Despite the long wait, I still had plenty to choose from on the sale racks; I didn't hesitate to take any of it back in the room to try on.

One of the first dresses I tried on was the Dandelion Wish Dress. No longer online, I knew I would love this dress, but I can't buy without first trying on. At first glance, the skirt of the dress looks very vintage 1950s. In fact, it is very reminiscent of the poodle skirt. In real life, however, the skirt has almost a fit and flare factor to it whereby it flares out just the tinsiest bit more in the bottom 1/3 of the dress.


Maybe that look is cute for some people, but for me (and my shortness) it just did not work.

Then, on top of that, the bust is huge! And it looks it! If you have a tiny bust and your want a fuller look, then the top is perfect. As for me ... no.

I was huge fan of all of the lace detailing. As you can imagine, vintage styling definitely had an effect on fabric choice and the dress itself is a bit heavy. It's not heavy in an I'm-about-to-fall-over way, but moreso in a sturdy vintage fabric kind of way. The dress fit TTS and fell between my knee and ankle. It was a gorgeous dress, but even at a sale price of $99, it wasn't the best dress for me.

I followed up with the Embroidered Elysian Dress. Justin had picked it out for me, and I wanted to appease him. I don't have a whole lot to say about this dress since I didn't pick it out. It very much reminded me of the Overwhelmed Aster Dress which I already owned. The colors were lovely, the lace was beautiful, and who doesn't like ribbon ties? Nevertheless, even with the TTS fit, I decided that the dress was much too similar to another I already owned and that I would always choose the other over this one. Back to the rack it went.

I was completely uncertain with the Windward Halter Dress. The colors were cute and the style was cute, but I wasn't sure I was a nautical kind of person. The boat wheel and anchor pattern at the bottom of the dress really threw me off. Banding at the knee? Who does that?! While the online reviews suggest that this dress run large, I did not find this to be the case. There was only a size 2 available at my store (and a few much larger of course), and I found that the 2, despite being a size larger than I normally wear worked out fine.

I'm a bit in love with the top. The material crosses over the chest in an x pattern, but it is super nice that they have the bit of fabric right in the middle to make the dress more conservative. (I could see this being a great dress for an elementary school teacher. Justin compared it to one that Ms. Frazzle wore in the children's book series The Magic Schoolbus.) The fabric also goes across the waist giving the dress something similar to a belt. (Can you see my black line?) It nicely pulls in the waist and is very figure flattering. I also love the nice thick strap that goes across your shoulders and around the neck. Unlike other straps of this nature, this one doesn't pull or hurt the neck during a day of wearing. It's actually pretty comfortable.

Finally, I should mention that the fabric for this dress is quite a bit unusual. I wish I knew more about fabric, but the best I can say is that the fabric is similar to fabric you'd find on dining room chairs or curtains. It's thick, but it's not too thick. It definitely has an interesting texture. 

This dress is one that I bought and would highly recommend. Having been marked down twice in Anthropologie and costing approximately 1/3 of it's original price, it is a steal. I wore it all day yesterday out in the hot Atlanta summer weather and did not break (much of) a sweat. In fact, some girl saw me and sought me down to find out where she could get the dress. If that's not a statement on how lovely this dress is in real life, I'm not sure what it.

The last combination I tried was the Waverly A-Line Skirt and the Stubby Pocket Tee in black. This was a really fun vintagey combo to try. In fact, now that I see the cute sandals on the model, I think it would be fun to obtain those as well.

The shirt is definitely baggy and loose, but I'm not a big fan of tight fitting tops on hot summer days. I knew Justin would hate it on me, but he actually didn't. The neckline on me was more of a round shape than the v-neck it shows. With the skirt, I definitely tucked the shirt in. I think this skirt would probably look really cute with a button up fitted top as well for wearing to work.

The skirt was huge. It looked huge, it felt huge, and it acted huge, but it seemed small with a crinoline underneath to help the skirt keep it's shape. The crinoline was well fitted which made the skirt TTS without any real ability to size up or down based on hip or waist size. Usually with skirts like this, the hip size doesn't much matter because of the width of the hip area in the skirt. With the crinoline underneath this skirt, hip size does matter.

The skirt was put together in much the same way as a quilt with layers upon layers upon layers. Don't buy this skirt thinking it will be light and airy. It acts and feels like a vintage skirt. I did in fact buy it and considering the type and amount of fabric, it probably is a good deal on sale. In any other situation, I may have held off until it was at a deeper discount. I think a price of $50 is good for this type of skirt.

After a Saturday full of shopping, Justin and I spent the rest of our weekend roaming Atlanta.

How did you spend your weekend?

Panoramic Mountain View

So I've done panoramas and HDRs. What's next? How about a panoramic HDR? (Click on the image above, because it is awesome.)

Or maybe not. We'll see.

Next week goes back to normal for me.


I haven't had any time today, so you get a picture. Aren't you lucky? :) I'm guessing I have a few things to review for you including Airbnb, the current exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and Jane's Carousel, but these things will have to wait. :)

Maybe you could go check out the news from the royal baby instead?

A Month of Discoveries

In case you hadn't noticed, I have had a crazy month thus far. The first week of the month we were in Charleston taking advantage of sunrays and ocean waves as well as all the beautiful sights and foods of the city. The second week I was babysitting approximately 10 hours of my day while still preparing for vacation #2, going to a city wide meeting, and continuing dance lessons. Stressful? Yes. Last week we were out of town again visiting New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. I got to meet some of my husband's extended family for the first time as well as experiencing some physical and mental draining that was last week. 

On the up side to this oddly drawn out month, I have learned a ton about myself, my husband, and my camera. I've had a lot of fun, and I think my photography is much better for the time spent shooting.

I think one of my favorite moments thus far has been shooting the sunset Friday night at the marina in Fall River, MA. Somebody saw me shooting the sunset with my nice camera and huge telephoto lens, and they offered to let me go back through the clubhouse onto the docks to get a better view of the sunset. Equipped with the password and directions, our group went through the gates to a dock with the most beautiful view. A party for club members was going on at a separate dock with a live band that was within listening distance. Honestly, I could have stayed in that spot forever. Gorgeous ocean night time view + live band + privacy = serenity. I think that may have been the first time Justin's family understood why I do what I do. Once you slow down and actually begin to experience a scene, it is soooo much better than rushing around trying to do everything. You begin to take in sights you couldn't "see" before. Everything becomes beautiful or interesting in it's own special way.

Anyway, now that I have returned I'm sure it's time to start editing some of the few thousand pictures taken within the past few weeks. Wish me luck. I have a feeling I will be in front of the computer a long time.

Boston: Day 1

So far in Boston we have only had time to spend with family and get settled into our new home for the next few days. I think today we are planning on spending time at the beach. Yay!

The above flower was found and shot at Central Park. I think it is lovely. :)

A Picture A Day While I Am Away

Yesterday we visited Central Park, the Donald Trump building, the apple store, and FAO Schwarz along with getting lunch at one of the street vendors. I think most of our time was spent getting lost on the MTA (subway). Nevertheless, we got the above great shot of NYC while hanging off of an outdoor garden located in the Trump Towers. I'd like to say I wasn't afraid of my camera being dropped into oblivion, but I definitely was. Thank goodness that did not happen. :)

Today we move on to Boston. Apparently it's a five hour drive from here, so I imagine there is quite a bit more boredom to come. We've definitely worn out Justin's parents, but his aunt and uncle have quite a bit of spunk and energy that is surprising for their age. Perhaps we will find something exciting to do in Boston. :)

New York: Day 2

We've been keeping busy. Yesterday we went to the Museum of Modern Art followed by shopping a bit downtown on Fifth Avenue at Saks, Macy's and an antique store. We went to mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral despite the fact that only one in the group is Catholic. :) The best part of the day, in my opinion, was seeing the sun go down. I can't wait to HDR some of the images.

Only one more day left in New York before traveling to Boston. I'm definitely sad to think of leaving the city, but I have almost accomplished everything on my list of must-dos. :) Now to begin day 3!

New York, New York!

I didn't mention this before, but this week Justin and I are spending the week in the big city of New York followed by a quick visit to Boston with Justin's parents, aunt, and uncle. It's been an exciting whirlwind of an adventure thus far. After a 14 hour drive and texting everyone on my friend's list until they were sick of me, we found ourselves in New Jersey staying with Justin's aunt and uncle. Despite the lack of sleep, we jumped right into our trip riding the subway, visiting the 9/11 memorial, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, eating some New York style pizza, and visiting Jane's Carousel. Surprisingly not as many New Yorkers knew about Jane's Carousel despite the intricate work put into it to reclaim it as well as the beautiful location it was at.

I'm not quire sure what we will do today, but I am definitely looking forward to a week full of fun and new experiences.

Anybody have any New York City or Boston recommendations?

Bowling Fun

image courtesy of google

Recently I found out about an awesome program provided by AMF that allows you to take your kids bowling for free! As a babysitter, I am constantly looking for fun things to do with the kids I watch. If it gets the kids out of the house and it's free, rarely will the parents complain.

When I was a child, I remember having a lot of boredom filled summer days. Occasionally we would go to the dollar theatre, but mostly we stayed home. I am so excited that companies like AMF would provide an awesome, cheap excuse to get out of the house and let the kids (and parents) practice their bowling skills. Just today, the AMF employees were helpful enough that we were able to get one-on-one advice and tips on the best methods for getting a strike. By the end of the day the two girls I was with were increasing their scores and getting more strikes than I have ever seen them get before! I can only imagine what that kind of practicing will do to improve their confidence and make them better bowlers at the same time!

If you have the opportunity this summer to take advantage of the free bowling at AMF with your children, I definitely recommend doing it. By signing up here, you get two free games per child under the age of 15 per day for the entire summer! While shoe rental is not included, those two free games typically last at least an hour long and get everyone out of the house for only a few dollars! Once you sign up, all you have to do is present your membership card or your name at your local AMF. If you decide you want to stay longer, additional games can be added for $1.49 per game. So if the competition is hot and the weather is hotter, you can keep the strikes coming and stay cool for less!

The Summer Unplugged and Summer Pass programs run May 13 through September 2, 2013. Members can redeem their bowling games every day from open until 8pm using their membership pass, member ID, first name, or other unique identifier. With over 250 locations, AMF is where America goes bowling! Click here to find an AMF Bowling Center near you!

I participated in this campaign as a member of One2One Network and am eligible for a prize drawing. All opinions stated in this post are my own.

Rooftop View + Dresses

Last year the best HDR shot I could get from my camera on the rooftop of a building in Charleston was ... with my cell phone. :( I got some pretty great shots from my cell phone, and I am not at all complaining. I do have to say that I am pretty in love with the above shot taken using bracketing and combining the images in photoshop to create HDR style detail in both the clouds and the buildings. Perhaps I'll being trying this method again very soon. :)

Moving on...

I received two dresses in the mail yesterday which I am pretty excited to tell you about.

When I was checking out the Free People website, I came across the Sundial FP One Dip Dye Emily Slip. I wasn't entirely sure I liked it, but since it was on sale ($69 down from $98) and the store was within driving distance I decided to go ahead and order it.

I also ordered the Seamless Mini to wear under the slip based on suggestions in the review section of the Free People site.

After about 30 minutes of trying on the ivory and mint colored slip with many different things under it and over it, I was in love (as I always am with pretty dresses). I especially loved pairing it with a small brown Anthropologie belt with gold specks on it that I had bought on sale forever ago and had yet to find a use for. With a camisole and petticoat underneath, the belt positioned just under the bust and denim coat, I felt like I was really styling. :) Then I tried pairing it with jeans and a sweater which was also cute and more casual. I found nearly half a million (okay, maybe just two) ways to wear the slip and all of them were cute!

As for the sizing and fit, I bought the extra small and it fit perfectly for someone with a small chest. Hips and waist size, while it may look tight on the model, is actually not terribly fitting. The slip flairs out a bit below the chest providing ample room to fill especially if, for example, you have a small chest and wide hips. Women with larger chests, however, may need to go up a size or so. The dress itself is really flattering when worn with a belt. You definitely have to provide shape enhancement if that is what you want. I should also mention that the slip is also incredibly see-through since it is lace. You will not be able to walk out of the house in just the dress/slip, and the dress does not come with a slip underneath like what is shown on the model (i.e. it is unlined). Also, keep in mind that models are tall. For me, this dress hits right above the knee. I can wear it with jeans, but it is still a dress on my 5'2" body. I think the dress would look adorable with the Charmed Lariot Pendant! :)

As for the Seamless Mini ... I will probably be returning it. I haven't yet found a way to wear it. This dress/slip fits like a glove.  It will follow EVERY curve whether you want it to or not. I thought it was too slim fitting to wear under the dip dye Emily slip, but I'm sure others may think it is perfect. I think it really just depends on body type. Do not buy this slip if what you really need is shape wear though; it will not do the job. It is a really soft slip though. The length is good for shorter people with the slip hitting right where it hits the model; I'm not sure if this slip will work for taller people?

I also received the Tea Rose dress from Bhldn in turquoise yesterday. I was heart broken when they sold out of the pink dress similar to this in my size, but I have to admit I'm not too upset that I get to prance around in the turquoise version of this dress. When I first pulled it out of the box, which was nearly impossible to open by the way, I just knew the dress was going to be too big for me. Based on the sizing chart, I had ordered a size 2. The color was beautiful, the lace was beautiful, but I knew that it wouldn't work for me.

I was definitely wrong. It turns out the dress is a bit big when you first put it on. As soon as you take into consideration the boat neck and the belt, the dress fits like a dream. Quite literally, you feel like Cinderella. One of my favorite features, other than the boat neck, which is just darling and very much feels vintage, are the bows on the sleeves.

Aren't they just too cute? I also love that the dress sleeves end at the elbow. And the little key hole in the back of the dress?!? :) The lace is gorgeous, I have no complaints about how the dress is put together (i.e. seams and what not), and the the dress has a huge circle skirt!

I can definitely tell where taller girls my have problems with this dress feeling like it would be something they wore in elementary school. Considering I am short though, this dress ends at my knees making it a great tea dress.

When I put this dress on, I feel like I am wearing a very expensive dress ... something appropriate for attending a wedding or having a date night out. This is not a dress for running around the house in. I can guarantee you that the first time you spill something on it, you will probably cry. It is that kind of a dress. :)

So there you have it. My reviews for my two new favorite dresses. Time to get some sparkly shoes and go out for the night. :)

A Break-In

While I was off spending time with my loved ones over the weekend, it turned out that someone else was trying to spend time in my house with my things. Honestly, I was really glad I was not home, but I thought I would share a few things I've learned from this experience:

1. The perpetrators can be absolutely anyone. It turns out I was a witness to one of my neighbors being broken into and didn't even know it. The burglars just looked like anyone else. They didn't have anything covering their faces and they didn't look like they were in much of a hurry. In fact, they looked like people moving in.

Unfortunately this newfound knowledge has made me second guess every individual I run across that fits the description of who is currently breaking into houses around my neighborhood. :(

2. You don't have to look like you have a lot of money or like you are even gone from the house for someone to attempt to break-in. While we were gone from the house, we left the radio on inside and both of our cars in the driveway. It would have been very difficult for the perpetrator to actually move anything big to their vehicles with our vehicles in the way. Did that stop them from trying? No.

In fact, Justin and I don't own anything of much value. We had my laptop, camera, and both of our iphones with us when we left the house. All that was left was paperwork, some change, and our car keys. In fact, we don't even look old enough to own much of anything. Half the time, people stop me and ask if I'm twelve. They get dumbfounded looks on their faces when my dad walks into an a shop and announces, as he is prone to do, that he has a son-in-law and his daughter is ... old. ;)

3. Don't leave your car keys out on the kitchen table. Granted the perpetrator is usually after something bigger than car keys. They typically want something sell-worthy or money. I'm thinking in terms of big screen tvs, video game consoles, and laptops. I don't know for certain though that someone looking for something and being unable to find it would not just go for the keys on the table, even if the car itself is only worth very little money. After all, a title is needed to sell the car. The likelihood of a thief having time to find that too? Probably not likely.

However if you do have secure information, the best place for you to put it is in your child's bedroom if you have a child. Don't stash money in the master closet, the freezer, or your underwear drawer. Those are some of the first places a thief is bound to look. You'd be better off sliding important paperwork into books on your bookshelf or taping them to the bottom of drawers (assuming you do not have a safe box  that is screwed to the ground).

4. If you are aware of your neighbors homes being broken into, keep an eye out for the perpetrators or anyone that looks suspicious. Take pictures of things that seem unusual with your cell phone. Even if you weren't comfortable calling the cops right at that moment, if you discover your pictures are worth something to the police later, it is all the better.

Be aware that you will more than likely judge people based on their looks or personality for a while after. For example, the people that have been breaking into homes near us have usually been juveniles with black skin. Therefore, as Justin and I walked to get frozen yogurt on the square last night, we just so happened to pay more attention to black juveniles than we might have otherwise. This is not necessarily a bad thing as Justin reminded me. I'm not trying to discriminate, but I do want to notice if anything seems unusual.

5. When you go on vacation, if you have an alarm, set it. If you can, set it to go off immediately if someone opens the door and you aren't there. If you don't have an alarm, let your neighbors know you are gone so they can help keep an eye on your house. Stop your mail for the time you are gone. (You can do that on the USPS website.)

6. Finally, if you do get a call, try to think back over what was available to be stolen in the house. Hopefully you have copies of your debit and credit cards somewhere to make it easy to call the bank and cancel these cards. Write down serial numbers for electronics to make it easier for police to contact you if something of yours is found. Even having a back up of gift card numbers can make it easy for you to replace gift cards that were stolen. Above all, homeowners or renters insurance that covers what you own will be perfect in situations like this.

I definitely had an awesome time at the beach over the weekend, but I can't say I am yet over the phone call that my house had been entered while I was away. It makes it hard for me to sleep or get comfortable when I'm home alone. I also double and triple check that the alarm is armed when I am home and when I am away. I sincerely doubt that anyone will try to break in again, but the fear still remains with me.

Hopefully my little tid bits of information will help you remain save and your house secure while you are on vacation, if and when you go.

Thankfully the police arrive at our house within 5 minutes of the break-in. I can only hope that others would be so lucky.

Happy 4th!

Dear Friends,

Hope you are having a fantastic July 4th! I'm going to be spending today and tomorrow with friends and family watching fireworks, eating barbecue, and soaking up sun rays. Have a fantastic weekend, and I will see you all next week!

* I will have a weird schedule next week, but I will try and post as early in the day as possible. :)

Charleston Points of Interest

One of my favorite things to do in preparation for a vacation is to scour the web to see what other people like doing in the area that I am going to be visiting. This is especially true of a place like Charleston, SC where I've been multiple times. Of course no matter how many times I've been, I always seem to find more to do there. I think if I could live there, I would.

Here are a few of my favorite spots:

1. the rooftop of Vendue Inn over the marketplace. I love going there in the evening as the sun is going down. Of course you have to get there early, because people will crowd in the back making it difficult to take pictures of the sunset going down over the Charleston skyline.

Also, if you decide you actually want to stay at Vendue Inn, do not expect to be able to get to the rooftop during the winter months. My (now) husband, his friends, and I attempted to go watch the sunrise when we stayed there way back when, and the doors were locked. I'm not sure what it is like during the summer.

2. Kiawah Beach. I once read that if you go to the right when you get to Kiawah, you will find fewer people and more scenery. Granted this also means you aren't allowed to actually swim in the ocean due to strong currents and rip tides. It is beautiful and serene though especially when you find yourself sick of crowded beaches (like Folly and Isle of Palms).

I suppose I should also mention that unless you are staying at a hotel on Kiawah Island, you do have to pay to park in the state park. From what I've heard, you also have to make sure you leave before they close. They will close the park locking you and your car in if you aren't careful.

3. SNOB or Slightly North of Broad is by far one of our favorite restaurants whenever we go to Charleston. We've tried a few of the other ones up and down the street, but we consistently go back to this one. The first meal we had here was a steak. Last year we had a vegetable plate. The menu constantly changes, but the food is always good.

4. If you need a place to stay, I highly recommend Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. It is by no means cheap, but it is nice to be within walking distance of the marina, Yorktown, and the Cooper Bridge. I've never actually used it, but I've heard they have a water taxi that will take you to Charleston. They also provide bikes you can rent and s'mores on the weekends during the summer out on their beach area. The pool and jacuzzi are always clean. If you can't afford a hotel on the beach, this is my second favorite most affordable alternative. It is also nicer than any beach hotel I have stayed in yet!

5. Finally if you want a truly amazing dessert, you must stop by Peninsula Grill and get the coconut cake. While slightly expensive, you will never taste anything more amazing (and Southern AND full of calories) than that. Hint: Bring a friend. One piece is at least 1000 calories. You cannot finish it alone. And if you can, you probably shouldn't. :)

I have a few places I have yet to go that I think would be interesting. For instance, I would love to take a walk through Cypress Gardens where supposedly they filmed some of The Notebook (specifically the canoe ride with all of the geese!). I also recently discovered the Charles Pickney National Historic Site and the Charleston Tea Plantation as alternative free places to visit while in Charleston.

Google has been quite useful as well.

While reading The Charleston Daily Photo, I have come across quite a bit of useful information as the blogger works her way around her home town sharing photos, history, and images. Specifically I found her post on brunch options interesting as well as the post she shared from National Geographic and The Charleston City Newspaper useful. All of her beautiful images make me want to visit Magnolia Plantation in the spring, and I loved seeing her Halloween photos as a side of Charleston I have never seen before. I will definitely be following her blog from this point forward!

I love looking at discussion boards both travel and local. It is amazing the kind of insight you get when reading what other people have done.

So how do you prepare for a vacation? Have you ever been to Charleston? And if so, do you have any "insights" for me?

Appearances Aren't Always What They Seem: Don Jose Mexican Restaurant

Over the weekend, Justin, his parents, and myself ventured off to try an unknown Mexican restaurant in the area. We had a coupon in our Entertainment book for the restaurant putting it on the top of our radar for cheap eats. When we pulled up to the restaurant, we were in for one heck of a surprise.

USUALLY when you see coupons in the Entertainment book they are for chain restaurants. You can imagine our surprise when we found ourselves in a restaurant next door to a dollar store, hispanic grocery store, and a cheap Chinese restaurant. (Cheap Chinese never seems to be that great in my experience.) Then we walked into the restaurant.

Honestly it was pretty hilarious. We were the only white, non-hispanic people in the restaurant. Justin's mom was immediately turned off by how dirty she deemed the place to be. Considering there were no rats, roaches, or visible dirt in the restaurant, plus we had a half off coupon, I was willing to take a risk. I didn't see dirt so much as plain restaurant decor and a general "used-ness" of the area (i.e. chipped paint). If I had seen a roach, I can guarantee you I would not have just turned around, I would have practically run out of the restaurant. I do have to mention that it looked like they couldn't decide on the season. We saw Christmas and Thanksgiving decorations up.

Now that I've told you all about the bad side of the restaurant, let me tell you all of the good things about said restaurant (Don Jose).

As I mentioned before, we were the only non-hispanic people in the restaurant. After we got there, the restaurant got CROWDED. There was only one empty table in the whole establishment by the time we left! Justin and his dad, unlike most people, took this as a good sign. They told me that it suggested the food was not just good, but that it was also more likely to be authentic. With terms like pollo and carnitas being tossed around, I had no doubt in the authenticity! The waitress even suggested a hot sauce to dress up the food we ordered.

While Justin's mom had issues with a sticky menu, the rest of us quickly decided upon looking at the menu to order fajitas to split among the table. Justin and his dad each got a taco a la carte. At $10 for the chicken fajitas, $11 for the steak fajitas, and $1.99 per a la carte taco, we were surprised to discover we had filled up our table with food. The waitress even joked that next time we should sit at the bigger table!

I always order a soda and cheese dip at new Mexican restaurants just in case I don't like the food, which does happen. When I went to order my soda, I was told it came in a can. There is NO WAY I'm paying a $1+ for soda in a can, so I drank water instead. (It's probably better for me anyway. I don't drink enough water.) We did order cheese dip without jalapeños though. (I don't like them, and Justin's mom can't eat them.) It was good, but not unlike any other Mexican restaurant.

Then our fajitas (and tacos) came. Justin's dad got a steak taco while Justin got a pork taco. Both men seemed to enjoy them. I can't speak for their quality since I didn't touch them. The fajitas on the other hand may have been some of the very best I have ever had (and I have had a lot over the years!). Justin and his dad ate their fajitas on corn tortillas while Justin's mom and I stuck with the regular flour tortillas. The fajitas each came with a plate of rice, refried beans, iceberg lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole. I don't like pico, so I ordered an extra bowl of diced tomatoes. They charge $1 for extras, but you definitely get your moneys worth.

Both the chicken and steak fajitas came on a plate sizzling with onions, peppers, and tomatoes. I found the chicken to be a bit spicy but not overly so. The steak on the other hand, with freshly squeezed lime over it was absolutely amazing. I may not have eaten my portion of chicken, but I definitely ate my portion of steak.

Too often, we as consumers (or maybe more specifically me) pass up hole-in-the-wall restaurants with superior food and service because of "decor" or location. This experience has definitely encouraged me to give these types of restaurants a chance.

As we left the restaurant, we made sure to shake the owner's hand and let him know that we would be back for more in the future. This definitely seemed to make his day. :)

If you find yourself in the Atlanta area with a hankering for authentic Mexican food, I definitely recommend checking out Don Jose. But even if you aren't in the Atlanta area, let this be a lesson to you: sometimes even the places you would least expect to have amazing food actually do!


Price Matching & Best Rates Guarantees

As most of you are aware, I have been in the throes of planning not one vacation -- but TWO! Both of which will be happening within the next month. (And both of which were planned in the last month! Talk about stress!)

Anyway, I think I've already mentioned how happy I was to find some good deals when booking a hotel through Travelocity. I failed to mention, however, that I was head-over-heels in love with their pro-consumer terms. Not only was I able to book the hotel using discounts specific to Travelocity, but they also guarantee that you are booking the lowest available rate up to one day before your trip AND allow you to cancel up to (I think it is) three days prior to your trip. Heck yeah!

I actually missed my first planned hotel stay near Charleston that would have cost a mere $60 a night due to miscommunication and indecisiveness, but I am quite happy with the new $90 rate (received after price matching) that is at an ideal location and comes with a free buffet style breakfast (including waffles, eggs, coffee, juice, etc...). With breakfast costing approximately $20 for two anyway, I'm "seeing" the hotel rate in the $70 range making it far more worthwhile and cost effective than previously expected.

As I mentioned, after booking on Travelocity, I immediately went on a search for a lower rate. Guess what? I found one!! So Travelocity gave me the difference back on the credit card as well as an additional $50 travel credit to use on our next Travelocity booked vacation!!! (Granted our next booked vacation was through Airbnb, but I am sure we can find some way to use the extra 50 Travelocity dollars in the near future.)

If you have had the opportunity to use any of Travelocity's recent deals or are considering booking a hotel for vacation in the near future, this is a good listing of how to get the most for your hard earned travel money. Whether you are booking through the hotel, Travelocity, or another travel site (orbitz,, etc...), you can find the perfect website to either book your travel for the cheapest price OR get your travel price matched.