Elderflower Lemonade


Just over a year ago, Justin and I missed our flight from France back to Atlanta and, in order to make the best of our last hours in Paris, I convinced Justin to take me to the Seine to purchase some of the gorgeous (Chinese knock off) paintings that we still have yet to frame or hang. (We're lazy, slow, and crazy busy if that combination makes any sense.) Anyway, to purchase those gorgeous treasures, we needed Euros. Strangely enough upon arrival to the CDG airport (before we knew we were missing our flight) we had somewhere between 2 and 5 Euros left. We were actually doing pretty good. But yeah, then we missed our flight and went shopping so we had extra Euros in our wallet. What should we do with those extra Euros? we wondered. More shopping! was my obvious conclusion!

So we then found ourselves in one of Paris's biggest department/grocery stores searching the aisles for delicious drinks, macarons, and, honestly, anything we found the least bit appealing. For example, I convinced Justin to purchase not one but two French cookbooks thinking that maybe we might be able to improve our French just by cooking. (The books had pictures for each of the steps which was the one thing Justin requested.)

Anyway, while we did find delicious macarons and exciting cookbooks, one of the things I've held most dear since returning are the exquisite lemonades. For example, one of my favorite lemonades from France is Elixia French Artisan Lemonade with gold specks in it! It's almost like bringing home a snow globe … minus the little buildings inside. Or what about Orbitz that space drink from the 90s? (Does that show my age?) Anyway, I love, love, love my gold speckled Elixia which I still haven't been able to bring myself to drink! (It's pretty!)

Having almost given up on being able to find my French favorites in local American stores, I first stumbled across this Elderflower lemonade (which I originally picked up in France because of the pretty label!) at a meat shop in Washington DC last fall. Quite frankly, it was my first time trying the drink since I seem to have an aversion from drinking anything I brought back from France… The taste was delicious and quite different from what I had originally expected. It has an almost sour taste that you would expect from a lemonade without sugar. But this sour taste isn't off-putting either, it's just different. I imagine it's not actually "sour" at all but rather the very distinct taste of Elderflower. It is very good, and once you get used to the taste, you can't help but go back for more.

For me, the question of where to obtain "more" has been overwhelming and stressful since I returned from DC. I felt I only had 2 options: either return to DC … or return to France. And no offense to DC, but France (supposing they could somehow reduce the $1000 flight fare and 7-hour flight time) would win every time. (And this includes my adamant distaste for the CDG airport!) No, I needed a quicker, easier way to get my hands on this delectable beverage … and Justin found it. Crazy enough, last weekend as Justin was searching our local Kroger for breakfast making supplies, he stumbled across bottles and bottles and bottles of the Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower Presse lemonade in both plain and rose flavors. You can't even begin to fathom my happiness. We proceeded to buy the entire stock and now I am set for a year without that $1000 fee or 7 hour flight time! So now what excuse do I have to return to Europe? Hmm…

Point being – try this amazing lemonade. It is delicious, technically made in the UK, and now available in stores near you (if you're lucky).

Check out their website to find out more and discover some awesome recipes that you can make using their drinks! Or visit Amazon to buy the drinks online!

Have you ever heard of or had any of Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks? What about visiting a location and bringing back random food/drink items but never opening them? Am I just weird? Share your stories and tell me what you think about Elderflower lemonade in the comments below! I'd love to hear! :)

* I DID NOT receive a free product or sample in exchange for my review, but I would happily accept one should Belvoir Fruit Farms want to send me one.  As usual, no matter what, all opinions are 100% my own. :)

Making Baby Shower Invitations Pt. 1 + Book Review


Remember when Justin and I spent 3 hours in Sam Flax (an art store) working out the intricacies of what was to be baby shower invitations? What about how we had to consume frozen pizza just to get everything done in one night? (Enter the giveaway! Hint! Hint!) Well… that was just the beginning of what was to become a month-long ordeal.

I was in charge of font and finding images that would work on the baby invitation. I also came up with a concept to work the idea around. After doing just the tiniest amount of research, I knew the colors had to be mint green and grey and that there would be elephants involved. From that point forward, I decided on using a watercolor backdrop due to the "shower" theme. (Get it? Water? Shower? heh.)

This was the point when Justin and I wandered down to Atlanta to Sam Flax to begin our shopping. I went in thinking about watercolor paint and paper, and Justin went in thinking about something entirely different, which we'll talk about in another post. ;)

As he was searching for products to help me with that second aspect of invitation making, I stumbled upon William F. Powell's Color Mixing Recipes for Watercolor. Having never taken a watercolor painting class before, I was intrigued. The idea of having a precise recipe for the exact color I was going for rather than trying a bunch of things and none of it working had me ordering the book on Amazon Prime with 2 days shipping that very next Monday. This project was not something I was going to stress over. As it turns out, those were "famous last words" (only not so famous and clearly not actually spoken).

Getting the color mixing just right!

We bought the watercolor paint that closest matched what we considered to be mint green in the recipe book and took our watercolor paper to Kinkos to get it cut. Having learned from making wedding invitations in the past, I knew that getting it pre-cut would be the easiest stress-free way to do it. Then, to prepare myself for the actual watercolor painting experience, I studied a few youtube videos learning the intricacies of wet on dry, wet on wet, dry on dry, and dry on wet methods. There are a lot of different ways to paint with watercolor! Through watching, I was able to learn how to best control my paint and get the look I wanted to achieve for these invitations.

On the day of, Justin started off working with the recipe card that came with the book to achieve the right color. Following the book's instructions of 5% yellow to 95% blue, he put a thin amount of paint on the sheet and began mixing it when he thought he had the correct color. As it turns out, no matter how many times we tried using that recipe sheet, we never got the same color as the book! In our case, the paint was often simply too blue for our needs! This is when I began taking matters into my own hands (with Justin following suit shortly after). I don't remember exactly why or how, but Justin got distracted by something (the dog, perhaps?) and I just shoved a bunch of yellow paint into the mixture while he was looking away. All of a sudden, the paint color went from too blue to the almost green color we were looking for! Success! :)

Success!

Of course, we ran out of paint midway through painting … So Justin tried mixing according to the recipe again … but this time, he realized on his own (without my doing it behind his back) that more yellow was needed. So into the bowl went more yellow.

We really had a lot of fun with this, our first watercolor painting experience ever. Obviously I had learned a bit from watching Youtube, but I also learned some from watching Justin work with the paint. Quickly we went from using straight paintbrushes and paper towels to using our hands as well. With yellow and blue paint from our elbows to our toes (not really) we successfully finished adding color to the invitations within 2 hours.

Was the book worth it? I'd say yes. I tend to sell off books that I think aren't useful, but I plan on keeping this one. Even though the recipe card wasn't very helpful, the book did make it easy to discern what specific colors we needed (beyond the generic blue and yellow) to receive the results we were after. I should note, however, that if you know nothing about watercolor, take advantage of the Youtube videos online and don't be afraid to experiment! Honestly, using watercolor on these invitations ended up being one of the most fun and easiest things we could have done! I look forward to using this method on cards and invitations in the future!

The background for what is to come. – They are all different!

Have you ever done watercolor painting? If so, do you have any tips for me? If not, would you consider doing it in the future? … Especially if you have a useful recipe book like the one by William Powell? Let me know in the comments!

* Sidenote: William Powell also makes recipe books for other paint types including acrylic and oil-based paints!

Wordless Wednesday – My SIL


I'm so grateful to have such wonderful in-laws, but I am especially grateful for my wild-child sister-in-law. Over the past 11+ years, she has kept me both sane and insane at the same time! I've watched her grow from a cute, adorable child to a vivacious teenager, to a … Well, I'm not sure she's grown out of the teenage bit yet! No matter. She is amazing, and I love her spunky, crazy self as is! Love ya girl!

Best Tourist Attractions In The US

Thrillist, a fantastic website for finding just about anything to do anywhere, recently posted a list of the top tourist attraction in each state. Even though I haven't been to very many states, I decided to take on the list and see, of the states I've been to, how many tourist attractions I've done…

States in the US I've been to … Or at least drove through.


1. Alabama – US Space and Rocket Center

I went in elementary school. I don't remember much about it aside from the Dippin Dots ice cream, which was a new thing at the time.

2. Florida – Disney World

If you live within driving distance of Orlando, Florida and grew up sometime after the opening of the WDW Park, you've probably been. I remember going once at the age of 6, again at 10, and for the last time at age 12. We even took the grandparents one year and walked them to death. They learned quickly that they were far too old to ever vacation with me and my younger brother again. Of course, the problem was probably more so the heat index of 100+ and the high humidity Florida is known for. As you age that high heat and humidity slowly ruins any desire you may have for visiting Florida, or at least it did for me.

3. Georgia – Georgia Aquarium

Having only been to one other aquarium in my life, located in Chattanooga, TN, I have found that the Georgia Aquarium is one of the most interesting and busiest aquariums to visit in the south. (Be sure to let me know if I am wrong.) With ticket prices at $30+ a head, it's hard to fathom going more than once to see the humongous whale sharks or pet the sting rays. Do keep in mind though that you can go free on your birthday though!

4. New York – Statue of Liberty

I can't say I've actually been on to Liberty or Ellis Island, but I've seen the Statue of Liberty from the coast of NYC; does that count? … Of course, then I looked at the website and saw that there are 377 steps going up to the top of the Statue of Liberty, so I'm guessing it doesn't. :( I just don't have any reason to visit. Readers, have you seen the view from the top? Is it worth the climb?

5. North Carolina – Biltmore Estates

My parents claim we went once when I was younger, but I don't remember much about that. More recently, my husband and I bought a season pass and we've been at least 3 times since. (The pass pays for itself if you go at least twice in the year.) I plan to go at least once more in the fall and then again in the winter. The estates are simply gorgeous and it's a lot of fun to explore the trails. (Most tourists are just interested in the house, which is grand and enormous, but gets boring after the second or third walk-through.)

6. South Carolina – Historic Charleston

I am a little surprised that Thrillist chose the whole town for this rather than singling out one attraction or another. To be fair though I suppose historic Charleston could be considered a rather large tourist attraction in the same way that Disney World is one. All of the historic homes are unique and interesting and there is so much history that is spread out all through the area. It's hard to visit just one spot and call your trip to Charleston done.

7. Virginia – Colonial Williamsburg

One of the colleges I was considering was located here, so my family stopped by one year on our way to Washington DC. We explored George Washington's estates and simply took in the beauty and historicness that makes Colonial Williamsburg a tourist attraction. Is it the most interesting thing to do? I suppose it depends on how interested in colonial American history you are…

Given that there are 50 states in the US and I've only been to 7 attractions, it would seem I still have a lot of attractions left to explore, see, and do! How many US tourist attractions have you been to on the Thrillist list?

Summer Movie Reviews Pt. 2

Remember how I said I watched all of the movies this summer? I wasn't lying. Welcome to part 2 of my summer movie reviews! Today I'm reviewing Jurassic World, Minions, and Ant Man. :)

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Jurassic World


Absolutely not my first choice ever, the kids I was watching that fateful day wanted to go see it. Having never seen more than a little of the original Jurassic Park, I was a little bit worried. Scary movies are soooo not my thing. And reptiles? Lord, help me. :) But I took the 10 and 12-year-olds like the good sport I am, because the alternative would have been to sit at their house and do nothing. Seriously, would anybody actually choose nothing over something? So, we went and we got our 3D glasses and our candy and we sat mesmerized for the next 2 hours.

So let's back up a minute…

Chris Pratt is amazing! I have not seen him in any movies recently that I haven't liked. Then, let's just pair him up with director Steven Spielberg; what have you got? A blockbuster, obviously! If you add Jake Johnson, from New Girl, you have a movie that I can't help but like. :)

Set 22 years post-Jurassic Park, brothers Zach and Gray Mitchell are sent to Jurassic World to explore and enjoy as well as get to know their well-meaning aunt and Jurassic World's operations manager, Claire Dearing. Unsurprisingly, Claire is far too busy working on and preparing for the opening of a new exhibit at the park where a new genetically modified (whatever that means) dinosaur will be unveiled and doesn't have time to spend with her nephews, so she sends a babysitter. The boys, as it turns out, are uninterested in having a babysitter and somehow manage to sneak away (read: run away) while she is distracted on her phone. (Thankfully the kids I was watching didn't get any crazy ideas!) Afer sneaking away, while on a ride, they decide, stupidly, to ignore the demands of the park overseers to return to base for safety concerns. (Why the ride doesn't automatically return I have no idea! Clearly this park's overseers have more faith in humanity than Disney's do!) At about this time, Claire, who has taken her co-worker Owen (Chris Pratt) to see the new dinosaur have discovered this dinosaur to be missing. How did he escape from his cage? they wonder. Could he have climbed the 40-foot wall and escaped? Rather than making intelligent decisions about it, Owen and friends decide to enter the cage and see what's up. (Because when you are in Jurassic movies, that's what you do, right?) As they look over what seem to be wall tracks, the dinosaur makes his appearance escaping the cage and giving everyone (dinosaurs and humans alike) a run for their money. Can the staff of Jurassic World capture the dinosaur before he kills hundreds if not thousands of people and dinosaurs? Will children Zach and Grey make it back home to their loving parents?

Grossing $208,807,270 during it's opening weekend at the Box Office, Jurassic World set a record for the biggest June opening ever, the largest ever opening weekend, and had an IMAX opening record of $20.6 million. Viewers of the movie were split evenly between men and women, those over and under age 25 (source). Clearly this was a movie for everyone.

As for me and my skepticism at viewing the dynamic between human and dinosaurs? I loved it! The opening scenes were absolutely beautiful and well-filmed, the characters and plotline were mostly believable, and there was a bit of humor in there too which was nice. The dinosaurs weren't as scary-seeming as I had previously only imagined they would be, and then there was that line about Christ Pratt being a "badass" which, for the record, he totally was. This is one movie I am not only glad that I had the chance to see, but that I very much enjoyed seeing in 3D. Yes, this is definitely a film I recommend seeing. :)

Minions


I'll admit that I begged Justin to take me to see this on opening weekend. Thank goodness we had far too much to do as this movie would have led to disappointment and heartbreak.

This movie is the prequel to Despicable Me. For as long as the minions can remember they have strived to work for the very best villain imaginable, but keeping their masters alive is harder than you would think. Slowly over time, one by one, the masters die off and these yellow little freaks have to find new ways to spend their time. Rather than become depressed, Kevin, a minion, decides to go off on an adventure doing whatever is necessary to bring happiness to his tribe, which mainly includes finding a villain to serve. Luckily, when he, Stuart, and Bob arrive off the coast of New York City in the 1960s, they manage to find a family to travel down to Florida with as they head to Villaincon were all of the world's best villains are going. Once arriving, Kevin, Bob, and Stuart land a job with the world's best villain and fly off to London in search of Queen Elizabeth's crown, which they must obtain for Scarlet Overkill. Will they be successful? Will they land a new career working for one of the world's best villains? Or will she "huff and puff and blow their world to smithereens"? Only one way to tell… :)

While the commercials for this movie basically giving away the whole story, I was amused enough to see the movie. How would Disney pull off this prequel? Sadly, as it turns out.The minions are cute enough, but cuteness isn't enough to lead a movie. And Scarlet Overkill? Seriously? I'm sorry, but the combination of the script and Sandra Bullock's acting just didn't work for me. Scarlet Overkill seemed less of a villain than the little girls in Despicable Me. And what does her character tell young girls about positions of power? All I took from it is that women can't hold positions of power without having a husband behind them. No thanks, Disney. Try again.

In essence, take your kids to see Minions if you have to. Laugh a little. Just don't expect too much. It's not that good.

Ant Man


When Justin and I originally saw this trailer in theatres, I'm pretty sure I leaned over and said "I'm not going to see that movie when it comes out." Well, guess what? I did. You see I do something called mystery shopping, and it just so happens that the same week I was going to mystery shop the theatre was the week of the Ant Man opening. Go figure, right? But I took it in stride. Marvel makes some pretty amazing movies, and I had high hopes for Ant Man. Even if the movie was about disgusting little insects, I had high hopes that at least the superhero aspect would be fun. How could it not be?

So here's the story:

Man gets out of prison. His ex-wife is now married to a police officer and neither ex-wife nor police officer husband will let ex-prisoner see his daughter until he gets a job and has a stable living condition. Political issues aside (as blatant as they may be), ex-prisoner (from this point forth known as Scott) can't get a job. Unfortunately because he lacks a job, he also lacks a stable life. Even Baskin-Robbins won't keep him on. Enter friend. Luis (AKA friend) gets a lead on a break-and-enter job. All Scott has to do is enter wealthy man Hank Pym's home and steal whatever is in his vault. Thinking of his daughter and how much he wants to see her, he agrees. Perhaps this job will get him the extra financing he needs to afford that stable life he desires. On the day of the heist, Scott discovers there is absolutely nothing in the vault except for a stupid looking costume. He takes it anyway thinking this job was all-for-nothing. Back at the apartment, he tries the costume on, shrinking to the size of an ant, running and escaping the treacherous aspects of a normal life that an ant leads. (Ever feared going down a shower drain?) When he finally manages to get back to a normal size, his first instinct is to return the scary costume – only Hank Pym's daughter is watching and she has other plans. She calls the police on him and sends him back to jail. At this point, Hank Pym meets with Scott as his lawyer and suggests that an opportunity will come along that will help him get out of jail. If Scott accepts this opportunity, he must become the Ant Man. Without knowing what all is involved, Scott escapes jail in the ant suit and slowly learns what all is involved with being a superhero. He has a daughter to see and a future to save, and this ant suit is just the beginning…

The box office numbers for this film weren't too impressive; Justin and I got to see and experience that since we went on Sunday evening of the opening weekend where we were in a theatre of about 12 people. While some of that could be chalked up to a "work night", I still thought the number was really low given how many kids and teens are out on break for summer. The movie itself wasn't bad. Justin took issue with some of the politics and science in the film, but nothing really bothered me too much. I was surprised to see Michael Douglas performing the role of the rich Hank Pym and thought he did very well alongside Paul Rudd as Scott Lang. Overall it was a good movie that had it's ups and downs. I'm not sure it's necessary to pay for 3D experience aside from the very cool miniature effects you get a la Honey I Shrunk the Kids. However, it is nice that this film is rated PG-13, so finally you can take your kids to see an action movie without worrying! And that little girl in the film? Adorable!

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Anyway, that's my take on this summer's hottest new flicks (that I've seen). Have you been to see any of these movies yet? Would you go? Share in the comments and let me know!

Oz Naturals Super Youth Eye Cream Review


At this point in my blogging career, I have tried 3 different eye creams to cure my dark under eye circles. As I've complained before, dark hair + dark eyes + dark under eye circles = a goth, of which I'm not. While I'm certain that adequate sleep and drinking my weight in water would probably make a difference in my life, I like to live life a little on the edge. :) But to be truthful, I was a little nervous about trying the Oz Naturals Super Youth Eye Cream. After all, I have really enjoyed using the Key West Health & Beauty Dark Spot Corrector. Nevertheless, I had become lazy about using any eye creams at all, so it seemed this was the perfect time to fit a new product in.

Despite my scepticism, I loved that this product could be applied at any time during the day – morning, noon, or night. I didn't discover this little tidbit until rather late in the trying process, but it is one aspect of this product that makes me oh-so-happy. You have no idea how many times I get distracted during the day and think "Dang! I didn't put X product on at Y time!" And that, my friends, is how you start skipping out on using products you know are good for you.

Aside from the any-time use, I also love the pump on the little .5oz bottle I received. I don't need a lot of this product, and this pump only squirts out just the tiniest amount at a time. Woo! Of course at the rate I found myself using this product, with the tiny squirts that I dabbed under my eyes, it will probably take me a year or more to even finish using this amazing product!

Which brings me to my next point – There is an expiration date. Does that mean you can't or shouldn't use this product afterwards? I don't know… My expiration date isn't until August 2016, a full year from now. So if it really does take me a year to use this product, I'll let you know then if it still works that many months later.

Now, let's talk about the product itself! My eyes and the skin underneath my eyes (and on my arms and legs as a matter of fact!) is dry because I don't drink enough liquid (or at least that's the story I'm going with). One of the great things about this product is that it creates a cooling sensation right underneath my eyes making them hurt less and softening my skin at the same time. A skin moisturizing eye cream complete with aloes and vitamins ftw! Plus, the cream is alcohol free, 100% vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, mineral oil-free, lanolin-free, gluten-free, and GMO-free… So what does this tell us about Oz Naturals Super Youth Eye Cream?

It will give you wings!

Oh wait – wrong product. ;)

Seriously though, if you need an awesome eye cream to moisturize your face, brighten your skin, and bring out your eyes, try the Oz Naturals Super Youth Eye Cream. It may not actually give you wings, but at least it's highly rated. :)

Do you have dark circles under your eyes? Have you heard of Oz Naturals Super Youth Eye Cream? Would you consider using it? Or do you have another go-to brand? Share! I'd love to know how you are solving this problem – and maybe you know of a better product than any I've tried!

** I received a product free to try in exchange for my opinion. My opinion is 100% my own.

Wordless Wednesday – Complications

Asheville, NC – Arboretum (May 2015)

How many pictures does it take for me to get one good one that I am happy and perhaps even proud of?




500.

Is that good incentive to take more photos or just become a better photo editor? Hmmm… 

I hope you all are having a fantastic Wednesday and good week so far! Be sure to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a coupon towards pizza! :) And if you are participating in Wordless Wednesday, leave a link to your blog post in the comments so I can check it out!

21 Things to Do In Charleston, SC … That I've Never Done Before

I love seeing sunsets near water…

I've been to Charleston a lot. We're talking once a year almost every year for the past ten years. It is quite possibly one of my favorite cities to visit. There are definitely places I eat and things I do nearly every time I go. I've made lists of those on the blog before which can be found here (where to stay), here (what to do) and here (where to eat). Today I'm going to list 21 things (because it's July 21st) in Charleston that I haven't done so that when I return for my birthday I'm not struggling to figure out what to do in (what feels like) an ever-shrinking city.

1. South Carolina Aquarium

I've been to the aquariums in Chattanooga, TN and Atlanta, GA, but what is special about the one in Charleston, SC aside from it's existence on the coastline and in one of my favorite cities? Perhaps it's time to find out!

2. Cypress Gardens

We rarely visit outdoor gardens in Charleston when we are there, and specifically swamps, because of the excess heat in the summer. But to see all of the gorgeous wildlife, it might be worth it at some point in the future… Plus, this is where The Notebook was filmed! :)

3. McLeod Plantation

Recently opened to the public, it has a number of great reviews on TripAdvisor and it was recently reviewed on one of the blogs I follow. It looks like a gorgeous plantation so rich in history!

Crazy beautiful, but just a tad bit spooky too!

4. Boneyard Beach on Bull's Island

Apparently you aren't allowed to remove anything from this section of a small remote island located a ferry ride away from Charleston. I'd love to take advantage of one of the sunrise photo tours; all of the pictures of the sunrise from this desolate beach look amazing!

5. Fort Lamar Historic Preserve

I had never heard of this site until I discovered it listed on TripAdvisor. I've been to a few of the other war sites around Charleston, so perhaps I should finish what I started and check this one out too?

6. Take in a Rooftop View

Let's be honest. I've done this a few times before, but usually we go to the Pavilion Bar at the Market Pavilion Hotel. The last time I did any research regarding this, there were only two rooftop bars (that I'm aware of) that were in existence, and the only other one I knew of (Rooftop Bar at The Vendue Inn) always seemed crazy crowded and super loud with bands playing every weekend night. With that not being my style (I prefer swanky with jazz music or silence being the ideal hotel sunset background noise) Justin and I have always avoided the Vendue Inn and gone straight for the Pavilion Hotel enjoying a much quieter, and more laid-back atmosphere (as well as high prices, but you know you are paying for the view when you go up there!). Now that I've discovered even more locations to take in a gorgeous sunset, perhaps my husband and I should explore them? I can think of nothing better to do during a relaxing evening in Charleston (aside from walking on the beach while everyone else is at dinner, but that's a different story!).

7. Mepkin Abbey

Having only been to one abbey in our entire lives, I'm certain Justin, my husband and a devout Catholic, would enjoy a visit to this facility established in 1949 along the Cooper River in Charleston. As for me, I think I would enjoy seeing the beautiful gardens located here…

8. Take in a show at the Dock Street Theatre

A gorgeous theatre from the inside out, built originally in 1736, then rebuilt in1835 originally as a hotel and later altered after the hotel floundered in 1935, the Dockside Theatre has captured my interested since I originally discovered it randomly on a walk through Charleston. (Actually, I think we had parked nearby and were walking somewhere to eat…) Anyway, if you combine my love for the theatre with a gorgeous old building in one of my favorite cities in the south, I think you will find the epitome of things I love. One day I will see a show at this theatre and it will be magnificent! Until then…

9. Irvin House vineyards

Southern wine ftw! Seriously! While French wine is definitely better than California wine, I 've never had wine from Charleston. (There's probably a good reason for that.) Anyway, there's a first time for everything!

There are so many awesome things to do in downtown Charleston!

10. Eat breakfast at Toast

The line is always super long at this well documented (on the internet, that is) breakfast joint. The menu looks appealing, and I'm not too interested in returning to Hominy Grill. (The food is good there, but I've had it already…)

11. Visit Summerville's Azalea Park

Just outside of Charleston, Summerville offers a gorgeous park full of luscious blooms that look worthy of a springtime visit. I foresee an after dinner evening stroll here in my future… :)

12. Go bird watching/looking at the Francis Beidler Forest

This isn't usually a vacation must, but I definitely think it could be relaxing and fun to explore the swamp area and discover all that the Francis Beidler Forest has to offer… Plus, I need to practice taking pictures of wildlife!

13. Chow down on a Culinary Food Tour

The thing that makes Charleston Charleston beyond the history, shops, and beaches is the amazing food. Around every corner there are fantastic restaurants both large scale and hole-in-the-wall. Seriously, you never really know if you are eating at a tourist trap or at a place known by locals as the best of the best. From what I understand, there is only one way to tell (aside from asking locals and doing tons of research beforehand, which I've done in the past FYI): go on a culinary food tour. They have options related to which area of town you are in as well as the best food in Charleston… The tour you choose is up to you. As much good food as I've had in Charleston, I'd consider taking one tour a day until I had eaten a little something at all of the restaurants! Unfortunately at $50 a head, that's just not going to happen. In the mean time, perhaps one carefully chosen tour will suffice. Now, which one… :)

Beautiful gardens are everywhere in Charleston!

14. See a sunrise at White Point Gardens

Thank goodness for lists like this or I would never have known about this must-do activity. Yes, I definitely want to see a sunrise here. And everywhere else in Charleston. The question is: how do I make myself get up at early o'clock in the morning to see it? Hmmm…

15. FIG is calling my name … And has been for some time

Justin and I actually, finally, have reservations here. Almost 10PM reservations, but … whatever. I'll take what I can get. AND!! That was booking two weeks in advance! This restaurant is crazy-hard to get into and I plan on milking this reservation for all it's worth! Hello delicious food!

16. Buy a painting

I would love to have beautiful artwork from every place I've visited and Charleston is no exception. The beautiful moss covered trees, gorgeous cobblestone walkways, and pristine beaches all make for lovely artwork. Yes, I can take pretty photos of the scenery, but there is an emotion found within local artwork that makes it that much better. They know the back alleys and forgotten landscapes far better than I ever could. Plus, I like supporting local artists.

Sunsets make me happy. :)

17. See dolphins at sunrise or sunset at the Station 12 Beach Access in Sullivan's Island

So there are typical sunrises and sunsets anywhere (beautiful as they may be), but how many offer a view of dolphins during those magical times? When this writer wrote about dolphins, I knew this was a must-see.

18. Explore Botany Bay

A little bit like the Boneyard Beach on Bull's Island, this beach is very desolate with dead tree limbs littering the coastline for gorgeous beachside views (albeit not a great walking area). Now that I know about it, perhaps my husband and I will get a chance to explore the area and see just what majestic beauty this area actually has.

19. Stay at a Bed & Breakfast.

I don't have any mind, but I think that this would definitely be a fun and enjoyable experience and provide an entirely different view of the city I hold so dear.

20. Go on a sunset dinner cruise.

Eat delicious food and watch the sunset from a boat? Sounds good to me! :)

21. Stay at the gorgeous Wentworth Mansion

For our upcoming trip, I booked a hotel with my IHG points (Free FTW!), but one day it would be nice to stay in this highly rated luxury hotel. Perhaps another birthday in the future… (Hint, hint Justin!)

With so many things to do in Charleston, it's hard to do and see (and eat!) everything! Return trips are definitely required. I'm so excited about my upcoming birthday celebration trip here now that I've discovered so many places via Google that I never knew about! Hopefully, if you've been to Charleston before this guide will help you also find something new and exciting to do the next time you visit… And if you've never visited Charleston at all, be sure to check out the previous guides I've written before going. Charleston may seem like a small one-day visit kind of city, but it's really not. You should know what you are getting yourself into before you go! :)

Keeping in mind I'm about to return to Charleston for my birthday, if you've been before (or live there) what would you suggest I do? Is anything on this list particularly amazing? Did I miss something vital?

If you haven't been to Charleston, where would you go and what would you do? Did anything on my list spark your interest?

Summer Movie Reviews Pt. 1

Over the summer, I've had the opportunity to see a lot of movies. I'm not sure if I've gotten to see so many because the family's I babysit for pay for my tickets … or if it's because of the awesome deals available for Visa Signature card holders … or because of mystery shopping experiences. Maybe it's a bit of all 3? Either way, some great movies came out this summer… The following are my reviews for Pitch Perfect 2, Inside Out, and Tomorrowland, the first movies I saw this summer.

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Pitch Perfect 2


Nothing like the original, in Pitch Perfect 2, Beca has to move beyond her college singing career into the real work world without losing her friends. Will they understand when her focus transitions to a more serious make or break internship? To make matters more complicated, the Barden Bellas have a just a made a serious offense by sharing more than just their singing with President Obama on his birthday and now have only one chance to compete during the whole school year at the World Wide Championships where the world, as it turns out, hates America. Managing to get under their skin, the Germans, who are the Barden Bellas biggest competitors, are making sure these women know that. Between the girl bonding, and the singing, Beca and the other Bellas have some growing to do in this movie.

The little girl I watch, M, is crazy obsessed with the original Pitch Perfect, so I heard all about Pitch Perfect 2 for the whole month prior to the release of this movie to theatres. I didn't get to go see this movie when it first came out (we saw Chappie instead. Ick!), but it definitely made for a fun experience when I did finally get to see this movie. I really enjoyed seeing Beca grow and change into an adult especially as she worked to develop her own voice and style to prove she was capable of transitioning into a real recording artist. Plus, it was also nice seeing how complicated adult relationships can be as Beca tried to balance her personal life, school, friends, and work.

Elizabeth Banks, the director of both Pitch Perfect movies, skillfully pulled off the charged dynamic between the American Barden Bellas and the German Das Sound Machine acapella groups. By the end of the movie, I was made to feel that the Germans were evil with a harsh sound unfamiliar to me, even after my previous travels to Germany. And as for the Americans? They seemed meek and mild in comparison.

Would I recommend this movie? It's hard to say. While M suddenly lost interest in Pitch Perfect, with the movie having concepts that were a little beyond her level, I enjoyed seeing it for free. There was nothing especially groundbreaking about the script or even the acting or singing within it, but I definitely found it engaging enough for a 2-hour movie. Besides, prior to writing this review, I discovered and fell in love with Pitch Perfect 2 German actor and Youtube star Flula. Check him out if you haven't yet and be sure to watch him make spätzle with American Youtube star Hannah Hart! Totally worth it! :)

Inside Out


Eleven year old Riley has just moved away from her hometown of Michigan to San Francisco and things are changing faster than they ever have been before. Inside her mind, Joy tries to overide all of the other emotions keeping Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust at bay. Unfortunately, as Riley begins to see more than one emotion in her memories, Joy gets worried and, as she tries to fix the mixed emotions Sadness is associating with past memories, she and Sadness both get sucked into Riley's long term memory and away from headquarters. As Joy and Sadness struggle to get back, they watch in horror and confusion as many of Riley's "personalities" fall apart. First Goofball dies, then Hockey … Can they get back in time to save the most important personality – Family?

Based on the true experience by one of the animators, the story begins when Pete Docter relocated to Denmark as a child and had a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings (source). Although he managed to eventually work through his social anxiety by the time he reached high school age, he noticed much the same experience in his pre-teen daughter's life many years later. This is when he decided to consult a psychologist about it. He quickly realized that girls between the ages of 11 and 17 often experience a lot of emotion, and thus Riley and her personified emotions were born. It took some time for Docter, the producers, and animators at Pixar to come up with the storyline of Riley moving and how that would affect her emotions, but, once completed and presented to the masses, the film grossed $3.7 million, more than any other previously made Pixar film, on it's opening weekend. The story was a success and people loved that Riley would, in her own way, show the world that it's ok to have mixed emotions or be sad.

While this wasn't one of my favorite movies, I definitely liked how Riley and her emotions were portrayed throughout the film. I felt the story was a bit confusing going back and forth between A and B storylines. Yes, we understand that Riley has moved to a new home and this has resulted in anxiety, sadness, worry, and fear, but why do Sadness and Joy get lost in Riley's long term memory? Why are the relationships among fictious emotions important to a human?

Tomorrowland –


Originally I watched this movie because of George Clooney (an amazing actor IMHO), but quickly I became immersed in this Disney adventure that has main character, Casey Newton, exploring a world that only Walt Disney could have perfectly imagined, in a desperate effort to save humanity. As it turns out, Frank, George Clooney, was sent to Tomorrowland after getting on a Disney Park ride in the late 1960s (or perhaps it was at New York's World fair…) and being transported to Tomorrowland, a place where the most imaginative are sent to create a better tomorrow. After many years working with robot girl Athena, Frank is sent back to earth as punishment for not solving the world's problems and told never to return to Tomorrowland again. The world is ending and there is nothing anybody can do to stop it. Without giving up, Athena, who was also sent back to earth separately from Frank, uses the Tomorrowland pin to recruit Casey as a Tomorrowland ambasador. Athena, Frank, and Casey will return to Tomorrowland together in a last-ditch effort to save the world. One problem though: there is nothing wrong with the world! David Nix, Hugh Laurie an all around bad guy in this movie, has manipulated the tachyon machine, that shows both the beginning and ending of the world, to dictate when and how the end of the world will occur and confuse all who touch it. Will Casey, Frank, and Athena be able to save the world through the experiments and prototypes Tomorrowland has to offer? Or will David Nix successfully sabotage their plans and end the world as they know it?

As much as I wanted to like this story, I felt it was a bit cliché. There were no real surprises and the acting was only meh. It felt like a typical Disney or Marvel storyline where the good guys have to somehow, against all odds, defeat the villans. The biggest surprise for me, however, was 1) the beauty of the opening scenes and the music I recognized from Disney rides, and 2) that Hugh Laurie was in this movie as a half villain. (Apparently acting as he did in the tv show House would have taken the Disney out of this Disney movie. Go figure.) Anyway, if you are going to see this and have the option, I recommend seeing it in 3D; the visual effects are amazing. However, don't go into the theatre or put the DVD in your DVD player (or watch on Amazon or Netflix for that matter!) expecting surprises, twists, and turns. This is a Disney movie, after all. (And not Pixar either.)

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I know this a lot of movie reviews in one post, but I hope you were able to find at least one film that interests you. And just maybe one of my reviews will help you decide whether or not to see a film you may not have previously been aware of! Anyway, next Monday I will be reviewing Minions, Jurassic World, and Ant-Man. Have you seen any of these movies (or other movies) this summer? Have you taken advantage of any awesome summer deals? Share! I'd love to hear!

Bon Appétit Bacon Trio Pizza Review + Giveaway


I love pizza.

While I definitely prefer a good brick oven pizza to the traditional delivery or even frozen pizza, sometimes you just don't have time (or the money!) to go to a fancy pizza shop or make a delicious pizza with the freshest ingredients on your own.

As it turns out, pizza night doesn't have to be overwhelming, difficult or expensive. Sometimes it can just be an easy, quick dinner so that you have time to do the things that are most important to you – like screenprinting baby invitations and making an ultimate coconut cake. (Because that's what you were going to be doing already, right?)

With our lack of time in mind, Justin and I bought a set of 4 Costco frozen pizzas and one Bon Appétit bacon trio pizza to eat on one of those crazy nights when we are struggling to get everything done that needs to be done.

Bon Appétit is not our normal brand of frozen pizza, but we decided to give them a try when I received a coupon for a "free" product via BzzAgent.* As we looked through the selection of pizza choices, I was surprised to not see any of the typical flavors – 3 cheese, straight pepperoni, supreme, or even the regular Margherita. Instead what I found was Mozzarella & Pesto, Roasted Vegetable, and Trio Bacon. Odd flavors to say the least. Not being a fan of pesto (ick!) or pizza veggies (black olives and peppers are not my style), we had one choice – Trio Bacon. Given that it sounded close enough to my typical frozen pizza favorite of pepperoni, we decided to give it a shot. With a free coupon, what did we have to lose?

Following the directions on the back of the box, we stuck the pizza in the preheated oven for it's designated amount of time before diving in. As we came to realize, this was a very small thin crusted pizza and certainly not big enough for more than two. To make matters more complicated, Justin and I don't eat very much to begin with, so it's possible that people who eat a lot more than us may struggle to even feed 2 on the very little amount of pizza that comes in the box.

The pizza itself was pretty good. We served it up with a second Costco pizza, a delicious side salad, and some wine to really pull the meal together. Then, with an almost complete disregard to how little time we actually had, we sat down and enjoyed our dinner together. Because the pizza was so quick and easy to prepare, we had more time to talk and enjoy the experience rather than searching the fridge for ingredients, making dough from scratch, or even taking the time to piece together a delicious concoction.

GIVEAWAY

As it turns out, BzzAgent gave me TWO coupons to share with my readers for $1 discount when you purchase and try Bon Appétit pizza available in 5 flavors (Mozzarella & Pesto, Roasted Vegetable, Pepperoni & Pesto, Spinach, and Trio Bacon) from your favorite grocery store.

Just enter the rafflecopter by August 6 to win!


a Rafflecopter giveaway
** I was sent a coupon to purchase one Bon Appetit pizza to try for myself and review and 2 $1 off coupons to giveaway. All opinions in this post are 100% my own.

Throwback Thursday – Stone Mountain


The southern US has taken a pretty bad recent hit following the church shooting in Charleston that took place approximately a month ago. The shooting was considered a hate crime after a young white man sat through an hour of a Wednesday night bible service at a predominately black church (Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church) before pulling out a gun and committing a mass murder of nine individuals. Since that time, the US has called into question what "white supremacy" means and how pieces of our history have, in the past, and will, in the future, continue to affect the psychological state of those that live in the south.

First, on July 6th, after protests outside the State House, South Carolina senate voted to remove the confederate flag from the premises. Following that, Amazon, eBay, and Wal-Mart, in an effort to keep up with the times, also decided to ban all merchandise with the confederate flag on it. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley stated that while the flag was "an integral part of our past, it does not represent the future" (source).

Now the NAACP is calling for the removal of the confederate monument on the north side of Georgia's Stone Mountain. Georgia residents are divided. Along with a carving of Civil War leaders that is 825 feet high, larger than the carving at Mount Rushmore, Stone Mountain also offers a Civil War Museum located inside the park. While the property is owned by the government, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association maintains that the park is self-sufficient and not run by tax-payer dollars, but any changes to the park have to be agreed upon by legislature (source). The NAACP president claims that "Georgia's ownership of this property is part of government-sponsored hate, not history [and that] these depictions only further divide the nation and are why such symbols should be removed" (source).

The picture above was taken in 2007, long before the destruction of the property even became an issue. In my mind, that is exactly what the NAACP is asking the government to do – destroy property. I sincerely doubt that the confederate memorial is continuing to cause hate crime, but, then again, presumably, legend has it that a member of my family helped to carve out the monument. Given how many man-hours went into the creation of this monument as well as the large number of job losses that would occur upon removal of the carving (many of them black), I simply don't think destroying a carving (or any artwork for that matter!) is a viable option. We can definitely talk about changing the museum up and making it more pro-black, assuming what is there now is in poor taste (from what I remember there wasn't much there in the first place!), but I am highly against destroying art with the idea that art begets hate. (If so, why did the removal of the confederate flag not do anything about racism? And what are we going to do about the Civil War panorama located in downtown Atlanta? Should we burn the Martin Luther King memorial because it reminds us of segregation? etc…)

Anyway, I just wanted to do a throwback for a memorial that may or may not exist for future generations to enjoy. I struggle to imagine what the world would be like without a Mount Rushmore, an Eiffel tower, the Mona Lisa, or even the Spoonbridge and Cherry, because that is what Georgia would be like without the Stone Mountain memorial (imho).

What are your thoughts? Do you see Georgia's Stone Mountain as a piece of art and a historical reminder of our past or do you see it as a reminder "white supremacy" and cause of hate crimes across the south? Do you feel most Civil War Museums are in poor taste and should be altered to more accurately describe what slavery was like for black citizens? Let's talk. Both on my blog and with one another; let's solve these problems together, as a country. :)

Mid Month Review

Asheville, NC (May 2015)

Listening To: all things youtube. I've been busy putting together baby shower invitations for my brother, his woman, and my little nephew. While listening to music or watching movies can be distracting if I am doing something that requires concentration or actual thought (I get distracted easily!), it's occasionally nice to have some sort of background noise when I am doing something mindless like gluing invitations or coming up with textual design.

Remembering: what it was like making my wedding invitations, save the dates, and programs and how stressed out I got. It's so much easier 1) having Justin's help and design insight and 2) having someone else pick the colors and theme!

Planning: to take an Ultimate Coconut cake up to my grandparent's house this weekend to celebrate my grandfather's birthday. We get to start the cake-making process tonight because it's a 3-day task. UGH! Wish us well! :)

Anxiously Awaiting: our trip to NYC! Right now I'm trying to decide whether or not to use this promo code for the app Navigate to receive 2 free months of assistance as I figure out where we should go and what we should do in the big apple. I could see it being useful, but I don't want to fritter my promo time away on a city like NYC when I could be using it to plan for a destination overseas… Then again, the only plans I have for going overseas are dreams at this point, so I might as well get some use out of the code, right?

Interested to Know: whether Ant-Man will be any good. We're going to see it in theatres this weekend. It looks good, but you can never tell…

Keeping A Secret:  that we are buying stuffed elephants for the baby shower. Mama-to-be doesn't know yet. I think she will really like using them in the baby's room. :) Her colors are mint green and grey with elephants being the theme.

DIY'ing: cake and baby shower invitations! I'm also going through things and organizing. Ugh. So time-consuming!

Reading: Stephanie Clifford's Everybody Rise.

Here's a look back at the books I have read so far in 2015:

January
• the After series by Anna Todd
• A Lion In Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
• I Sold My Soul to the Devil For Vinyls … Pitiful, I Know on Wattpad
• Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
• Refinery 29 by Piere Gelardi and Christene Barberich
• Frites by Anne de la Forest

February
• Summer Rain on Wattpad
• Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer
• How to Travel the World on $50 A Day by Matt Kepnes
• Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

March
• No Capes on Wattpad
• The Bro Code on Wattpad
• He Wanted the Moon by Mimi Baird

April
• Cookie Love by Mindy Segal
• Sweetapolita by Rosie Alyeah

May
• Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren
• Salsas & Moles by Deborah Schneider
• Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson
• Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady

June
• All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

July
• Fatal Vision by Joseph McGinnis

What have you been up to recently? Have you read any good books or listened to anything particularly interesting? Are you working on a DIY you are proud of? Share! I'd love to hear! :)

Hampton Inn: Historic District – Savannah, GA

moss covered trees scream happiness!

Destination: Savannah, GA
Date: July 2015
Hotel: Hampton Inn
Brand: Hilton
Status: Blue
# of travelers: 4
nights: 1

Hotel & Brand: Making the Decision

Towards the end of May, I became informed that my brother would be moving from his home in Statesboro, GA to another as he and his lady-love prepared for the biggest event in their life to date – the birth of their first son! Originally I was informed that this move would be taking place the first weekend in June, but soon after that date was revised to the first weekend in July – Independence Day weekend. Because of my desire to see fireworks and explore a city that I had been to only once before, Justin and I convinced my family to do a mini-vacation in Savannah whilst moving my brother.

Before booking the hotels, Justin and I had to confirm and then confirm again how many people we would be booking for. Was it 4? Or 6? Finally, around mid-June, it was time to book. First I scoured the area closest to the river for the hotel brands I had elite status with: IHG and Club Carlson. I wanted the elite credit, but I also wanted to make sure we were close to where the firework show would take place. As most Americans know, finding a place before a firework show and then dealing with the traffic afterward can be pretty awful on Independence Day weekend.

My search for IHG and Club Carlson hotels proved to unsuccessful. The closest IHG hotels were already sold out, and I couldn't find any Club Carlson hotels. There was a Marriott hotel nearby which I quickly decided against since I don't really like Marriotts. Next up? A choice between a Hyatt and the Hampton Inn. I ended up going with the cheaper of the two. Plus, the Hampton Inn offered breakfast and unlimited coffee which I knew Justin would take advantage of.

Getting There, Parking, The Lobby, & Checking-In

The previous night, on July 3rd, we had been staying at a house on Tybee Island through Home Away, so it wasn't like we were having to drive in from Atlanta. Rather, instead, we experienced a lovely familial breakfast on Tybee Island, took a long walk on the beach, grocery shopped at Sam's Club and drove the hour out to Statesboro to help R and S (or at least that's what I'm calling them from this point forward) get settled in to their new abode. By the time we were headed back to Savannah, it was already nearly 4PM. We drove straight to the hotel, unloaded, and paid the $20 valet parking fee for each of our two vehicles. While I'm not sure what the rate was for the holiday weekend at the downtown parking, Justin and I decided to simply go along with the high fee so that we could enjoy what was left of our 24 hours in Savannah. Clearly if you have time and are not visiting on a holiday weekend, explore the city to find the best parking rates for your vehicle. My brother claims that there is a parking garage that costs $5 a day nearby.

image from TripAdvisor

The lobby of the Hampton Inn was gorgeous, and the front desk staff were quick to welcome us and find a room suitable to our needs. As I ran out of the hotel to tell R and S that Justin and I had paid for their parking, I missed the front desk staff sharing with Justin that there was fruit and coffee available in the lobby for free, breakfast would be made available for us the following morning, and she gave him the log-in information for the internet as well as 2 bottles of water for the stay. Justin and I were definitely left with a good impression of the hotel right from the start! :)

Room & View

Honestly by the time we got to our room, I was exhausted (from a lack of good sleep the night before) and my shoulder hurt from carrying so many bags (read: mine, Justin's, my camera bag, and tripod bag). In other words, I threw the bags down and went to the restroom before taking our newest home away from home in. (TMI?) Note that I wasn't the only one to feel this way – we were all tired from lack of sleep, moving, and not eating most of the day. Drained would be a good word to explain how we were feeling.

Nevertheless, when I finally found the energy to consider the room, we received a phone call asking what we thought about the room. "Umm… it's fine?" I'm pretty sure I said. What did they expect me to say?! I guess it was nice that the front desk staff wanted to check on us…

Anyway, someone opened the blinds to a disgusting view of a building right next to us. We hadn't paid for a room with a view, but still … it was like really? The least they could have done was paint that dirty wall with rainbows and unicorns! Ok - not really! We'll just leave it at the view wasn't great.

image from TripAdvisor

As for the room itself, it was rather large, but not surprisingly so. We had a mini fridge and microwave available to us along with soaps and a hair dryer in the bathroom. The beds were soft and cushiony. My dad even checked to make sure the tv was working while the rest of us rolled our eyes in protest. (You go on vacation to watch tv?!)  Even the bathroom was a decent size!

Disability Access & Pool

There was nothing in particular that stood out in the hotel as being not disability friendly especially if you were situated on the first floor. On the other hand, the city itself we found to be pretty disability unfriendly with many, many steps and cobblestone walkways. The street crossing signs were nice and loud though to prevent people from walking out in the street when they shouldn't.

One of the main reasons I had decided on this particular hotel was the rooftop access where the pool was situated. Despite the fact the rain had been pouring down earlier, it cleared just in time for Justin and I to make our way up to the rooftop and claim the very last spot on the edge of the roof to see the fireworks. We got up there approximately 45 minutes before they started and by the time the show was going full force, the hotel had to stop people from going out onto the rooftop. It was too full for fire safety codes. While I don't know how well others that weren't standing on the edge could see the fireworks, we had a pretty good view; if you are intending on coming here for any type of Savannah fireworks display and you get to the rooftop early, you should be fine. :)

image from TripAdvisor

As for the pool itself? It's open early and closes late (7AM-10PM) which makes it a perfect location for taking in a sunrise (at the right time of year) or sunset. During the middle of the day, however, I imagine that the rooftop gets pretty hot. There are plenty of seats and the hotel staff constantly brings towels up there, so you should be covered for those needs, but don't expect to be able to purchase drinks like you might be able to if you were staying at the beach. This is definitely a pool more for exercising than recreational beach goers. It is a pretty small pool, and is fantastic if you just want to take a dip or sit with your feet in it. It's also probably good for families with children.

Hotel Property & Free Breakfast

The rest of the property, open to the public, seemed to be centered around the lobby and was really only available for use during the breakfast hours. The breakfast bar contained the typical hotel fare (eggs, sausage, biscuits, bread for toast, bagels, cereal, yogurt with sugar, oatmeal, waffles, apples, and bananas). Perhaps for the special holiday (?) they also pulled out patriotic donuts (donuts with chocolate icing and red, white, and blue sprinkles) as well as a strawberry/blueberry concoction that could be eaten on the side or on top of waffles with whipped cream. The drinks included hot teas, hot coffees, hot chocolate, orange juice, milk, water, and cranberry cocktail. I enjoyed the super sweet breakfast foods that seemed more like dessert than breakfast (read: waffle fruit concoction I mentioned as well as a donut and oatmeal) while Justin chose healthier options (nasty eggs, gross sausage, and raspberry yogurt).

Location & Checking Out

One of the best aspects of the entire experience at this hotel was the location. A full two hours before my parents were up and ready to explore Savannah, Justin and I had already walked a good ways exploring the city and taking in at least 10 of the 20 squares located in Savannah. We got to enjoy the city before many were awake and active. Plus, the hotel seemed to be in the center of it all!

Rather than leave immediately after my parents had awakened, we asked for some extra time and the hotel granted us an extra hour which we used to productively explore antique and book stores as well as buy macarons (review to come!) and pralines (which we intend on making ice cream with)! Woo!

Finally, at check out time, we mentioned that the air conditioning unit in our room wasn't working quite right, so the hotel offered to cover our parking for the stay! Wow! I would definitely say that the service at this Hampton Inn went above and beyond to meet our needs and make our stay as pleasant as possible. Because of that alone, I would definitely consider staying here again!

Price

As for price though, the Hampton Inn was a bit on the expensive side, perhaps because of the holiday weekend but also most likely due to it's location and amenities. Be sure to check out the IHG if you are looking for a cheaper hotel in the same area.

Overall Review


Fireworks over the river

★★★ (average)

While the hotel staff definitely stood out as amazing and the property (on the whole, not necessarily the view from our room) was gorgeous, nothing in particular made this hotel a hotel I would have to return to during any other trip to Savannah. The beds were very comfortable, the breakfast (aside from being terrible for me) was delicious, and the location was absolutely perfect. It did take the valet a good half hour to get our car after we checked out, but in his defense someone had moved it and not marked where it was within the garage. (The valet staff really ought to work on that.) It was nice that the front desk was willing to accept responsibility for the things that went wrong during our stay and compensate us for it to make the visit more worthwhile and leave us with a good image of the hotel. Finally, and most importantly, this was definitely an ideal place to stay for the July 4th firework celebration in Savannah should you ever need one.

Your Turn

Have you ever been to the Hampton Inn in the historic district of Savannah? Would you consider going?

Clash of the Financial Goals

I'm about as good at Monopoly as I am with money…

Remember how we did pretty bad at saving money and paying down debt in May? It got even worse in June. :(

First, let's talk about what we did right!

All of the following good resulted in lower assets… :(

1. Being around for the family. – Most of the time I am able to draw the line on my own spending by saying "y'know I don't really need that" but when family and friends get involved it becomes much harder to say no. I think it's because my father has always drilled into my head that you never know long you will have on earth with these people and you should cherish every moment with them. He's right, but dang was that expensive in June!

• Host and pay for father's day dinner for 12? √
• Take my father to Alabama for his father's day gift? √
• Buy art supplies for putting together my nephew's baby shower invitations? √
• Pay for a vacation night out for 6 in Savannah, GA? √

2. And to top it all off, because of how busy we've been, we've been eating out too much. Quick dinners are so much easier when you know you will be staying up until midnight to get projects completed. *sigh* (I'm counting this as a right, because of how dead we'd be otherwise!)

3. Getting Justin a laptop. We couldn't afford it, and we probably should have waited to get it another month when we had more money, but at least now he has a laptop and can work from home if he'd like. (Plus computer engineers like having computers to engineer. Crazy, right?)

4. Signing up for 2 new credit cards! We signed up for the Amex Blue Cash which gives us a $200 introductory offer and 3% back on groceries (which is more than our current 2% back) and Chase Freedom which has rotating categories (which currently is 5% back on gas purchases from July to September) and $200 back for spending a certain amount on the card in 3 months. For $400 and the additional perks, these definitely seemed like good cards for us. (We won't see that money until August fyi.)

5. As if the cards weren't enough, we were pleasantly surprised to see Justin's credit rating go from great to excellent! This will definitely be a benefit to us when we purchase a house and we are already benefiting from it with our car insurance rate! :)

6. Justin is putting more in his 401K account than he was previously!

Debts still on the decrease…

7. And it seems the Earnest account we set up for student loans means we are paying off our debt just the tiniest bit faster! :)

Now, here's what we did wrong:

1. $7 bank fee because Justin hadn't used his Suntrust account the way it was designed to work (i.e. with at least one direct deposit a month). Obviously, if this happens to you, the best thing to do is to call and see if the bank will reverse the fee. Unfortunately, we were too busy and Justin never found time to do that. *shrugs*

2. We spent too much. Yes, I am counting all of the family spendings as good, but if we could have spent just a tiny bit less we would be in a far better position financially.

3. Not managing to find time to take full advantage of our Serve card. I'm not going to go into full detail because it can be a controversial subject, but I suspect if you know what Serve is you probably know what I'm talking about.

4. I wasn't able to get a price match at Anthropologie like I should have… We were just really short on time in June.

Spending graph
yellow = last year; green = this year
(The little random note at the top is because of a hack I used to get this comparison.)

5. We spent more this June than we did last … no thanks to Mint's comparison feature not working. But even worse, we spent the most we've spent all year! :(

6. AND we had to take money out of savings to make up for over spending. :(

7. Student loan payoff date got moved back a month to August 2020. :(

Takeaway:

Net worth – Could be better; could be worse.

*shrugs*

Technically it's the same as it always is – Spend less, save more. HOWEVER, I see July and August looking bad as well. The baby invitations have cost us quite a bit to make and we still have to pay for the baby shower. On top of that, there is the drive up to north Georgia to see my grandfather for his birthday, the trip to NYC in August, and the fact that both Justin and I need new jeans. *sigh*

So is my finance song "Livin' On A Prayer" or is it "It's My Life"? I'm still trying to decide…

What is your financial theme song? Are you barely making headway on debt (like me)? Or are you successfully following a budget and succeeding at all things money? (Could we talk?) Share! I'd love to hear! :)