Victory! - A Countdown, New Challenge, & Giveaway

In 7 hours Justin and I will be boarding a plane to France.

image credit

In 15 hours we will be landing…

In ~35 hours we will be driving to Germany for a wedding.

In 1 week we will be in Venice.

In 2 weeks, we'll be on our way to Paris again.

In 3 weeks we'll be home.

And guess what? … In 3 weeks, someone will win a $100 gift certificate to!

I received it as a gift, but I can't do anything with it. I couldn't find any restaurants in my area that I wanted to visit, so I decided the only right thing to do was to pass it on to my *loving* readers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This will most likely be my last post in the A-Z challenge. I have had a blast participating. For the month of May, as much as possible, I will be attempting to have 31 Days of Happiness (my take on 100 happy days). I will be sharing things that make me happy once a day and tweet when I can't or I am too busy to blog. This month is looking pretty busy with 2.5 weeks in Europe and a weekend in Florida, but I'm excited about being HAPPY! Will you join me? #HappyDaysAreHereAgain :)

* Participate in the A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)

Unifying Belongings & Packing Last Minute

Over the weekend, Justin and I shopped and shopped and shopped … then we packed and packed and packed staying up until midnight both nights simply trying to get everything done. I had to write a list in order to remember everything I had to do and every store I had to go to on Saturday, and then I still forgot a store! Argh!

Luckily, Justin and I are almost ready to go to Europe tomorrow. We have narrowed our belongings down to one checked bag (under the 50lb limit), two carry-ons, and two personal items. It's a lot of luggage, and I keep nitpicking trying to decide if I can take more out. I know that taking less will only benefit me in the long run. Nevertheless, there were definitely a few things we put off buying until the last minute to add to our luggage. I hope, even in my effort to continue to reduce my luggage, I didn't forget anything.

A few things I bought on Saturday for the trip:

I always have dark shadows under my eyes. Since we are going to a wedding in Europe, I decided it was a great time to go hang out with a Bare Escentuals associate to find out what they recommended for my "problem". The Stroke of Light Eye Brightener is a nice concealer and brightener for under the eyes, because it brightens the eye area without the need for additional make-up. Plus, you can layer it on to be as thick or as thin as you'd like. You can wear it on top of or under your usual make-up.

I bought this brush to use with the eye brightener. It lets you apply the make-up easily without using a heavy hand. Plus, it was recommended. 

Free People: Strapless black dress with red flowers

Unfortunately, I can't find a picture of it. :( The dress is made out of two different materials with a much thinner material making up the skirt of it. I thought it would be a good day dress, so I returned my black lace dress in exchange for one that I could wear a little more frequently (i.e. this one). Because of the thin material in the skirt, Justin had to sew a black slip for it. I love pairing it with my nude heels, black leggings, and …

I already owned the black version of this cardigan. I ended up sizing up from an xs to a small because of how thin the arms are on it. It was great fun seeing that it is now on sale though!

Anthropologie: Quinby Dress

While you may recall that I already own this dress, when Anthropologie announced their sale on sale-priced items, I immediately took this dress in and got a price adjustment of $20. If you don't own this dress and want to, they are still offering their sale on sale items with free shipping when you use the promo code "justbecause". Today might be the day to buy it. :)

for sunset shots with my wide angle lens.

for water shots.

and a case to carry them in.

Who wants to lose filters?

Marvis Toothpaste in tiny form

If you haven't tried this toothpaste, you simply must! It is minty and fresh and wonderful! I love it! Justin loves it! It is a bit more expensive than Crest or Colgate though, so if you aren't too particular about toothpaste this may not be the right paste for you.

I usually use homemade laundry detergent, but some of my Free People clothing is expensive, so I am extra particular about how I keep them clean. One of the ways I make sure they stay looking their best is through my use of Woolite. I figure that Woolite is typically meant for delicates, and sometimes my clothes seem delicate and easy to mess up. Buying the woolite packets means that I can keep my clothes looking good while I'm on the go. 

a few gifts for special occasions Justin and I will be missing out on while we are gone. 

Sometimes it is difficult making sure your friends and family still feel loved, thought of, and appreciated even when you are gone for special moments in their lives.

Do you do any special shopping for your vacations? Is there anything you splurge on or go out of your way to buy? Is there anything you forget until the last minute?

* Participate in the A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)

Friday: Trip Thrills

Starting on Tuesday I will be in Europe. I have definitely shared a large amount of the stress that I have dealt with going into this trip, so today, in an effort to get more excited, I decided to share 7 things I am most looking forward to on the trip.

1. A view of Paris

For our first night in Europe, specifically in Paris, Justin and I paid a much higher premium to fall asleep to the magnificent views of the Eiffel tower and Paris at the Holiday Inn - Notre Dame. I totally plan on staking out a spot either on the terrace or in my room waiting for the sun to set with a glass of wine in one hand and my camera trigger in the other. Perhaps I'll let my husband sit with me too.

2. A surprise.

I can't share now, but I am simply dying too! Maybe once the newness of the idea for the surprise wears off, I will be better able to control my desire. Super grateful to my husband for working with me to pull this one off.

3. Views in Venice

I like views. (Who doesn't?) I was super excited when the Hilton Molino Stucky offered me an upgrade after booking to a room with a view. Not only will we be able to go up to the terrace to view Venice, but we can also view it from our room! Huzzah! Of course, the upgrade is limited to space availability and I don't know how great the view is. It sounds like fun though. We'll be living like royalty!

4. Airbnb German Rental

We rented a house from a German fellow that has been super helpful and friendly throughout the planning of this trip. He even offered to get us breakfast or fruit from the store the day before we get there since all of the stores will be closed the day we arrive! Aww! :)

I'm not sure if I will like German food. I mean bratwurst? sauerkraut? This is another reason I'm grateful to be renting a house rather than staying in a hotel. I don't know if there will be time, but I would love to explore some grocery stores, find fun foods, and cook a bit! (It's much easier to try new things, when you only have to try a tiny bit and not throw out a whole plate.)

5. VRBO Paris rental

The food thing is even more the case in Paris! Apparently, the location we are staying at is known for having fresh food stands. I just want to go buy some fruit, cheese, bread, and wine for a picnic near the Eiffel tower! Yum! :)

6. Coffee and ice cream in Italy

I don't drink coffee, but I just want to go to an Italian coffee shop and smell it! Mmmm! :)

And gelato? Fresh gelato? I don't think I will ever be able to eat "Americanized" gelato again.

7. Spending time with Friends (and family)

I've been married to Justin over 2 years and it still feels weird to call him "family". Clearly, I am not as Italian as my family history would lead one to believe. I also find it odd that I have been married to Justin for 2 years. It feels like … 2 seconds. Maybe 5. ;)

Oh and the friends bit. Love the friends. Without them, this trip wouldn't be happening. Kudos to them. Or best wishes, since they are getting married. :)

What would you be looking forward to most on a 3 week tour of Europe? Food? Friends? Museums? Something else? Do you have any recommendations for me?

* Participate in the 
A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)

Scatterbrained & Stressed + So Much Candy!

Traveling to Europe in the next few days has me so incredibly stressed out. I have all of these tasks in my head that need to be checked off, and I'm holding my breath praying I don't forget anything or screw anything up. In fact, this has been so much the case as of recently that I've had a crazy number of tension headaches along with a lack of sleep. :(

Luckily, in the afternoons I get to go play with my favorite little mud-slingers. They are always so happy and excited to tell me about their day and their plans for the rest of the week. And when they aren't talking at me, I get to raid their Easter baskets for some delicious Easter candy. (Don't judge!)

Here are a few of my favorites:

Are you getting the picture yet? 

For good measure, let's throw in at least one non-sour candy!

What are your favorite Easter candies to steal from tots? (Or buy on sale after the holidays?) Do you share any favorites with me?

* Participate in the 
A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)

Review Day!

I feel like I review clothing at least once a week! Scary, isn't it? I generally find that I am so picky that it quite literally takes me months (and sometimes years) to build a substantial wardrobe of things that I like. Unfortunately, I end up wearing those "favorites" so much, that I never have enough time to shop for more favorites before I find holes in my clothes or accidentally get bleach on them (or what have you). Definitely frustrating. With our trip to Europe coming up in less than a week, I jumped on the bandwagon and went clothing shopping being perfectly willing to pay full price for things I loved that I thought I would enjoy wearing overseas. Don't get me wrong though; I will still find a reason to do some shopping in Paris. How could I not? ;)

As always, when I go looking for new things to buy, I always stumble on a few things that are on sale including the Forever Yours Dress at Free People. I was going through the sales racks late at night with a tired husband and another female not much older than me who just happened to like the same things as me. I found this dress first in white and asked Justin what he thought … and I'm pretty sure he ignored my question in favor of his phone the first 3 times I asked him. I kept holding on to the only size 2 left on the rack despite his inability to hear me or respond. I was glad I did hold onto it though, when the other girl complained to her shopping companion(s) that they only had this dress in 6s and 8s. (I assumed what she didn't know couldn't hurt her.) When I finally got around her, I found this dress available in a size 0 in black which I also picked up. (FYI: the dress in currently priced at $88 in the Atlanta Free People stores in comparison to the $128 price online.) As is usual for Free People with their large sizing, the size 0 fit me far better than the size 2, so that is what I bought.

Here are a few other things you should know about this dress:
-The slip is short. I am 5'2" most days and I had to lengthen the slip to cover my behind. In fact, I'm still thinking a pair or black shorts underneath would not be a bad idea. I don't know what you taller girls can do.
- The dress stretches easily. Be careful. Take all of your jewelry off or it will snag and pull the lace.
- The dress is short. If you are tall, this dress may be more like a top for you. Seriously. It fit me like it fits the model and I am NOT 5'11".

I ordered the Voile and Lace Trapeze Slip in the white/grey combo both from Free People and ShopBop when they were having their Friends and Family sale. I had seen a model pair it with the Reese sweater at Anthropologie, and when the Reese went on sale I decided to order and try the combination. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me. I wasn't in love with the pair and I couldn't think of a way to wear the parts separately that I was content with. This slip is very loose and even when ordering the xs, it still fits like it does on the model which is not the most flattering and a style that a belt simply wouldn't work with. I do want to say that the white/grey combo definitely looks more white than grey, so if you are interested in this slip in white, don't be afraid to try that combo. Also, if you really love this slip be sure to check out other stores that carry Free People products to see if you can find it cheaper. This seems to be a popular slip that is being carried in a few different stores.

In looking for a summer shirt, I ordered the Patchwork Crochet Tunic in both black and champagne. Let me say that again: champagne. No, it is not, not, not white even though it looks like white. The tunic is just a bit shorter than what I usually wear, but I usually wear loooooonnnnggg tunics. My husband was happy to finally see me in a shorter one claiming that the shorter one made me look taller.The tunic on my 5'2" body hit me at about mid thigh perhaps a tiny bit higher. The xs fits loosely and I have been pairing my top with a belt just under my chest to cinch it in and make it more figure flattering. Also, keep in mind that this is a CROCHET tunic so you MUST wear something underneath. (Or at least I do.) It's definitely a fun top to wear, and I think it will be great for the summer.

If you recall, last week I bought and tried the Nikola Dress in size 2. The dress was very cute, but it ended up not meeting my expectations. Neither Justin nor I liked the top of the dress. It seemed very dark for someone who usually wears v neck clothing and hardly ever has anything on her neck (other than a necklace). Also, the sleeves were quite puffy and the material was more of a brown color with lots of texture that I wasn't expecting. It's a very light dress with a soft slip inside that would be great for summer gatherings. I thought it looked best when paired with a belt and sweater, but the dress itself is pretty slimming if you don't take the puffy sleeves into consideration. It came down to this being a cute dress, but it wasn't a dress I would have been comfortable wearing.

The last thing I considered was the Reese Pullover from Anthropologie. I had seen someone pair it with the Voile and Lace Trapeze slip from Free People and I thought I might could pull it off too. Nope. I bought the last xs in ivory from an Atlanta store and when I brought it home to try it on, I was so glad I had bought an xs. This pullover runs HUGE! Like I said, it didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to and I wasn't too enthused with the pullover. It was very soft and thin which I imagine is great for spring, but I tend to wear things with lace and ruffles which this pullover doesn't have. I haven't managed to return it to the store yet, but it will be there this weekend in case you are looking for this top. :)

Just for good measure, here are a few other things I'm interested in that I haven't tried yet:

Free People Handkerchief Halter Dress

Free People Radiance Crochet Dress

Free People Salinas Foil Dress

Anthropologie Melanie Dress

Have you gone shopping at either of these sister stores recently? Anything I've mentioned that you've bought and/or loved? Anything you've hated?

* Participate in the 
A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)


This week we are preparing for our trip to Europe resulting in major stress as last minute things get done. I'm praying I don't forget anything.

To make matters worse, I've been feeling ill and I had to work late last night resulting in my falling behind. (It doesn't take much now that I commute an hour to work daily.)

So, with that in mind, today I am taking a break. Please forgive me.

Tomorrow there will be some Free People and Anthropologie Reviews. I've tried a lot of things on and bought some at full price(!!) that I can't wait to tell you about! :)

Have a fantastic Tuesday!

* Participate in the 
A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)

Post Easter Cupcake Deliciousness

Over the weekend, Justin and I made some delicious cupcakes for Easter.

We were inspired by this recipe. Of course, Justin is completely opposed to making anything with a box, so he changed it up by using Alton Brown's chiffon cupcake recipe, adding malted milk, and using the Swiss Meringue buttercream found in this book. The cupcakes were delicious and so cute with their little nests and "bird eggs" on top. We also did a few plain with sprinkles. I'm not sure we could have come up with a cuter Easter treat!

Did you make any fun treats for Easter?

* Participate in the 
A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)

Orange + Other Colors

During this past week, I have read a lot about colors: everything ranging from a class at Yale focusing on the color blue to an artist working on matching objects with pantone colors and even a blog post about color facts including a fact that inspired this blog post. Did you know that orange (the color) was named after the orange (fruit) and not the other way around? Apparently orange wasn't even a color until more recently! (I don't know which blog I read it from, but Huffington Post backs me and my forgetful memory up!)

Justin's dad called him at some point before Christmas and asked what we wanted from them. I'm particularly big about keeping my mouth shut when someone asks me what I wanted. I guess I always assume that if you are getting me a gift, you should know enough about me to be able to make a pretty good guesstimate about what I want. Instead of following my lead, Justin instead tells his dad about this book which was on my Amazon wishlist. Rather than ordering it off of amazon though, Justin's dad went to a bookstore and special ordered it. Supposedly, when he went to pick it up all of the employees were taking turns reading interesting color facts from it. :)

ROY G. BIV is an awesome book about color facts and provides a ton of useless information that may only ever be useful when you are at a party and don't know what to say, but it is definitely a fun book to glance through. The facts and the writing get pretty monotonous after a while though, if you are looking for a good 'reading book'. If you want more information about this book, you can read an interview from the author here or go buy the book from Amazon here. I guarantee this book will amuse and delight you for at least a day.

In the mean time, here are ten random cool facts about color:

1. Silver cars are the least likely to be involved in an accident.
2. The taste of your food depends on the color of the dish.
3. People prefer blue … except when it comes to their food.
4. Black boxes that are filled with the same things as green ones seem heavier.
5. Yellow can cause a feeling of nausea, so it is avoided on planes.
6. Before the 1950s, Santa's suit was actually green!
7. Red can cause you to fail an exam. :(
8. Turquoise calms the mind and enhances communication. :)
9. In the US white symbolizes purity, but in Africa it symbolizes death.
10. Dogs are not colorblind!

Do you know any interesting facts about colors?

* Participate in the A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)

Now & Then: 5 Favorite 90s Movies

Remember way back when? Were you old enough?

This quiz by Buzzfeed prompted today's post of my favorite 90s childrens movies, a perfect post idea for throwback Thursday!

1. Hook

What if Peter Pan grew up? What if Robin Williams played him in a movie? Created in 1991 starring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts, I'm not sure even Disney could have created such a fun future-telling response to the original Disney classic.

In the middle of the night, Hook comes and kidnaps Peter Pan's children taking them off to the marvelous world of Never-Neverland. Wendy Darling, Tinkerbell, and all of the lost boys must help Peter Pan to remember what his life used to be. Only then does he have a chance at bringing his children home.

2. Free Willy

There is something special about the 1993 movie about a whale and a boy that touched the hearts of millions. Or maybe it was Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" that really touched lives. Either way, the release of the movie caused an uproar over Keiko, the killer whale that played Willy. Audiences wanted Willy's ending and freedom to also be Keiko's ending. I'm not sure it worked out too well for Keiko since he wasn't used to living in the wild.

In case you aren't aware, Free Willy is the story of a 12-year-old Jesse and his search for a place to call home. His mom abandoned him as a child and none of his foster homes seem to be working. Through the help of a social worker, Jesse is placed in a home with kind foster parents who don't necessarily understand him or what he needs. Working at the aquarium and connecting with a whale that is also dealing with issues helps bring Jesse to a place of contentment and gives him something to work toward. That is … until the aquarium decides Willy isn't bringing in enough money for the amusement park and decides to kill him. I'm sure you can imagine what happens next. Still, it is a heart-warming story about a boy and his whale. :)

Of course, while we are talking about animals and their humans, a few of my other favorite 90s movies of that nature were André and Lassie.

I think in the 90s we were a bit obsessed with children and their connections with animals. :)

This was one of my favorite movies when I was quite literally a kindergartner. According to my grandparents, I would watch this movie over and over and over again. Now the movie just makes me laugh. After all "I'm not a policeman! I'm a princess!" :) Adorableness. There is nothing quite like seeing a tall man trying to deal with children.

The synopsis is that the LA PD is trailing a drug dealer as the dealer makes his way to Astoria, Oregon in search of his ex-wife and son. Phoebe O'Hara is scheduled to work as an undercover cop/kindergarten teacher in the school when she becomes sick and is unable to attend on her first day. Her partner John Kimble must take her place. Throughout the movie, Kimble must learn how to handle 20 five year olds and build credit among other teachers in the school. Unbeknownst to him he falls in love with one particular boy and his single mother discovering that they are the ones he has been looking for just moments before the drug dealer enters the scene to bring chaos to everyone's world. It's another story where you know the ending ahead of time, but it is worth seeing Schwarzenegger interacting with the kids. I would be surprised if you don't get a laugh out of this movie. :)

I love comedies, but I'm not entirely sure my parents would have allowed me to see this if not for my best friend bringing it into my life. This movie definitely has some adult themes despite the childlike title.

As a young kid Lizzie had an imaginary friend, a real imaginary friend. He encourages her to get into all kinds of trouble. So much so that when Lizzie is still a child, her mom, unknowingly of course, taped Drop Dead Fred (the imaginary friend) into a jack-in-the-box not to be seen again until Lizzie is much older and going through a divorce. From the minute Lizzie returns to her childhood home and opens the jack-in-the-box for the first time in years, she is in for a surprise. No one believes that the chaos being caused is her imaginary friend who seems to appear everywhere and anywhere Lizzie doesn't want him to appear. Will she be able to cure her seemingly psychotic behavior by visiting a psychologist? How will she ever free herself from Fred?

Made in 1993 starring big names such as Christina Ricci, Rosie O'Donnell, Thora Birch, Melanie Griffith, Demi Moore, and Rita Wilson, Now and Then tells the story of four girls as they grow through puberty in a small town in the 1970s. While the majority of the movie is set back-when, the story converges when the girls as adults get together to talk about what life was like for them then as compared to now. It's a great story about the friendship of girls and what it is like to stick together through thick and thin. (Much better than The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!)

And a few runners up:


Yes, children's movies were awesome in the 90s. What were your favorites?

* Participate in the A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)

Monkey In the Middle

A long, long, long time ago, I found myself chatting online with an online friend about the monkey in the family. I'm not entirely sure what prompted it, but I remember being highly amused that the person I was talking with was not actually aware that I was referring to a real person rather than an animal.

My brother and I never got along when we were children. Even as older teens, we would still argue about everything. It's funny how time and growth changes things. As it turns out, at my wedding, my brother stood by me even when my bridesmaids were off doing … whatever they were doing. He was an amazing usher, taking everyone to their seats and making them feel comfortable, he handled his reading during the ceremony well even when he was given the wrong passage to read, and, from what I understand, at the reception he went from table to table asking if everyone had everything they needed. On that particular day, my brother went above and beyond to make me feel special and loved.

Of course, he's still helpful and encouraging even two years after the wedding! I don't know what I would do without him!

But now he is off at college over 4 hours away from home. He's a bit late to the whole college scene since he explored his options for a few years after high school taking a while to decide what he wanted to do with his life. I'm so glad he finally did since he is now happily living it up with his buddies at college and studying to become … who knows what?

(With selfies like that, you can never really tell!)

In honor of my brother being away at college and having to sort (or not sort) his own laundry, let's have another giveaway, shall we?!

Ever heard of Purex No Sort for Colors Detergent? It would be perfect for my brother! (And who am I kidding?! me!) It's a great new laundry detergent from Purex that prevents color bleeding using a dye transfer inhibitor so that, if you fail at sorting laundry, you won't have to worry about color bleeding accidents! Super cool, right?!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to enter the NEW Purex No Sort for Colors Detergent Giveaway on the Purex website where a grand prize winner will win $1000 and a year supply of Purex No Sort detergent! (I even gave you an entry into my giveaway for doing this! Woo!)

Best of luck to all who enter! Have a fantastic Wednesday!

* Participate in the A-Z blogging challenge with me! You know you want to! :)