Happy Cyber Monday! ..and busiest shopping time of year

    I'm big on online shopping. Save gas money, save time, save money by researching to find similar items at a lower prices, and at this time of year, save yourself from fighting traffic, long lines, and save your life [have you seen how cray cray people get on Black Friday?] So my opinion is that if you're online shopping at all you're doing it right, BUT if you're not using EBATES, you're missing out!
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SO EASY:

     EBATES is pretty much the only way I shop online and it's so easy. With over 1,700 stores I never have trouble finding what I need! I simply log into my EBATES account, search for the store or the item I'm looking for, click to open a shopping cart at that store, and start shopping and earning!
    Saving money is something else I'm 'big' on so I'm always on the lookout for great deals which are guaranteed at EBATES. Even if they don't have a current coupon code for the store you're wanting to shop at, you're always going to get cash back. On average, I usually get about 3.5% cash back. There are stores that only give 2% cash back, there are stores with 10% or more, and some days stores have special "double cash back" times [like today!]! Even as little as 1% is still something in my eyes.

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE:

    If you've seen the commercial on TV you've probably thought, "no way" - and I can tell you, the amount some of those ladies have 'gotten back' is either blown out of proportion, combined from several years, or they have a slight shopping addiction. My first check was around $15, nowhere near $900, but that's my half of a date-night dinner out, a movie ticket, or a few specialty coffee drinks at Starbucks! I honestly thought it was too good to be true but so far it's worked. If I'm already shopping online, I may as well get a little extra back!

DIRECTLY FROM THE EBATES WEBSITE:

"People often ask: "This sounds too good to be true, how are you able to do it?" It really is quite simple. Just like almost every other online shopping center, we get a commission from the stores when you make a purchase. Instead of keeping that money - like almost all other sites do - we share it with you!"

SIGN UP NOW:

    Signing up is so easy and EBATES does not ask for any bank or credit card information, simply an address for where they should send the check. Which, ps., they're also willing to send to a charity of your choosing if you wish. You can learn more by clicking the link below! Happy Shopping!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back
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    Many of you may have received a puzzle piece in the mail last month. October 9th was my dad's 60th birthday so I had to do something BIG! Thanks to my friend Bri, who saw the idea on another blog and did something similar for her boyfriend's birthday, I got this idea!

STEP 1:
Purchase a Puzzle
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    I purchased my puzzle from Portrait Puzzles because I was able to get the best price for the size puzzle pieces I needed. I wanted each puzzle piece to be large enough for people to write more than just "Happy Birthday! Love, So-and-So" on! The quality was great, shipping was fast, and I upgraded to the metal tin because that's something my dad would appreciate.. if you know him, you get it. See below for a special coupon code for Portrait Puzzles!

STEP 2: Create Your "How To" Sheet
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    I basically copied the formatting from Bri [thanks, girl], and just changed the wording a bit! Not great at formatting and 'graphic design'? I kind of have a business where I get paid to do that, I have reasonable fees, and I'd love to help! *end shameless plug*
    I recommend not printing the "How To" sheets until you're 100% sure on all instructions. I decided last minute to put a piece of cardboard in each envelope to help protect the puzzle pieces from getting bent in the mail so I used a label sheet and placed a sticker at the bottom of each instruction sheet saying, "Leave the cardboard in the envelope to protect the puzzle piece" ..miraculously I still had people not follow that direction.. and I also placed a sticker in each envelope to seal his envelope with so I ended up hand writing on the back of each sticker, "Use me to seal the envelope!" Both of those items could have fit on the "How To" sheet if I'd just waited to print them!

Step 3:
Buy Envelopes and Stamps
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    This is another step I recommend waiting on! The puzzle information said that the piece sizes were approximately 3.5"x3.5" each, so while waiting on the puzzle to arrive I went to my local office supply store to get a head start on addressing and stamping the envelopes. I knew I'd need a larger envelope to fit everything in [the "How To" sheet, the pre-addressed/pre-stamped envelope, the sticker seal, the puzzle piece, and the smaller envelope with the cardboard inside] plus the smaller envelope to hold the cardboard and puzzle piece in. I purchased the "Invitation" and "Photo" envelopes, approx. 4.5"x5.75" and 4.75"x6.5" respectively. I started stamping and return-addressing away until..
    When the puzzle arrived I quickly realized that about 8 of the pieces were too big/awkward to fit in the smaller envelopes. Luckily, the cardboard cutting took so much of my time that I hadn't even gotten to addressing the envelopes so it was an easy fix - for those 8 pieces I used the larger, photo, envelopes as the "small" envelops then went and purchased "Greeting Card" envelopes as the larger, outer, envelopes! Major crisis averted!
    Why wait to purchase stamps? With the "weight" of the puzzle piece and protective cardboard, one stamp wasn't enough - wait until you have a puzzle piece, package one envelope up and take it to your local USPS to find out the exact amount of postage you need! Remember - you'll need the same amount for both the outer and inner envelopes [the "How To" sheet isn't going to remove that much weight!]

Step 4: Stuff Away!
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    By far the longest process if you're a perfectionist. I wanted to ensure everyone had a significant piece of the puzzle; I got my face, my sister got the piece with hers on it, my mom's family got pieces of her and my dad's family got pieces of him and so on.. I know, I'm weird. Ps. Sorry if you're just now realizing where you fell in that priority list!
    An "assembly line" set up works best for this to make sure each envelope gets everything it needs!

Step 5: Mail!

    I sent these out about a week and a half before I wanted them to start mailing them back. In all reality, it doesn't matter if they don't all come before the actual birth-date [or anniversary date] just as long as they start coming before then!

So, If My Dad Had Facebook..

    If my dad had Facebook, he would use it to post a status saying how grateful he was for all of the time and effort each and every single one of his friends and family members put into his birthday gift. Almost everyone went above and beyond just writing, "Happy Birthday! You're OLD!" and you all blew him away with your kind words. His status might say something like the text he sent me:
"Thank you very much for the puzzle. It was a very wonderful gift. The entire process was well thought out and nicely done. I was deeply touched by all of the effort and love that went into this birthday present."
    I'm sure on my dad's Facebook "wall" he'd have a "Joke of the Day," his thoughts on Ebola from a doctor's standpoint, countless "Happy Birthday" messages on October 9th, I'd hope he'd have plenty of "Thanks for all you do" notes, I know he'd have a million and one photos of his beloved dogs [seriously, who could blame him? Have you seen how cute they are?!], and this week, he would have posted a picture in remembrance of his father who passed away a year ago; the man who influenced my dad to be the amazing man he is.
    Now for a video of dad opening his favorite puzzle piece [sorry to my mom, sister, and myself, but this piece took us out of the competition.. not that there was one]! Disclaimer: My dad will have my head for putting this up because he'd already taken his dress shirt off and only has an undershirt on. Oops, sorry dad! But I had to post it to show how much he truly loved his gift! The heart-felt words you all sent were so wonderful! Also, you will want to cry in the middle but you will die laughing at the end.. maybe a puzzle wasn't the best gift?!
    Thanks again to everyone who participated and made this the best birthday present ever! Thanks to the original blogger who gave Bri the idea so I could copy, and thanks to Portrait Puzzles for the amazing puzzle! Want a puzzle of your own? Portrait Puzzles has graciously offered a $2.00 off promo code to my readers! Use code pporder06 at checkout!
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    Last weekend was our first weekend as homeowners and we started the process of tackling projects! Our first major project: storage and organization! Other than the master closet, the two other bedroom closets are fairly small and there are no coat or linen closets in the home. Just off of the laundry room was a rather large [5'x4'] "closet" with a blank slate:
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    ..the builder recommended it could be used as a small office, which we did consider, but with no window, no air conditioning vent, and our need for coat and linen storage, we nixed that and decided to make it a closet! Inspiration? Every California Closet I've ever seen, and this beauty from the Pottery Barn catalog:
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    ..after seeing that, I knew we could do something fun with the space so we decided to check out the closet section at Ikea. We fell in love. And we turned the empty space into this:
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    We used the Pax System from Ikea and could not be happier with the results. There's a space for everything we need it for and then some!
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Top shelf storage for bins with candles, light bulbs, batteries, etc.
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Pull-outs for hats, umbrellas, sports bags, and purses!
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Coats, extra linens, cleaning supplies, and shoes!
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Handy pull-out tray to use as a folding table or use with a mini ironing board for quick touch-ups!
    The best part about the Pax System is that you design it to fit your needs - originally I had a shelf where the folding table is now but I loved the accessibility of the shoe tray so I returned the shelf and purchased the pull-out tray. Although you can choose to have everything delivered and installed for an added fee, we chose to do the building ourselves to stay on budget. Speaking of budget, everything seen here was just under $525 total. That's both units, all clothes rails, drawers, trays, shelves, and pull outs. In my opinion, putting it together wasn't terribly difficult. As with any Ikea project, it's important to have patience and really look at the word-less directions or you could end up putting a small wooden dowel in a larger screw hole and not be able to get it out - points finger at husband.
    We're so content with our Pax System that we're thinking of biting the bullet and doing something similar in the master closet to provide that built-in look with more structure and organization:
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    Maybe that will be a "Weekend Warrior" project in the near future? Regardless, the fluorescent light has got to go! Happy Friday! Enjoy the weekend! Need something to do? I highly recommend the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
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    Yes. I did sing that song in my head all. weekend. long. We left LA the morning of the 25th and stayed in Las Vegas through the morning of the 27th. The drive from Los Angeles to Vegas isn't too bad and it reminds you of a scene from Cars or the main ride at Cars Land in Disneyland!
    We had a blast in Vegas, but 48 hours was not enough time so we will definitely be going back! You get the feeling of a compact strip and assume everything is close but once you start walking, you realize just how BIG everything is. It took us more than 5 minutes to get from the entrance of the MGM Grand to the CSI exhibit which is inside MGM.
    Our first night there we stayed at New York, New York - not our first choice [hello Venetian] but a less expensive alternative [we went on a weekend which was not intentional, it's just how it fell. For our next trip we will know to stay weekdays when the rate isn't so high]. The hotel was in a good location but it didn't have quite as much to offer as some of the others we went inside [again, hello Venetian] and the Wi-Fi was absolutely horrible; like, I-lost-two-hours-worth-of-work horrible. Thankfully, the hotel did rectify the situation by refunding our "resort fee" which included Wi-Fi.
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    Day one we toured the strip, waited a well-worth-it hour for some treats from Carlo's Bake Shop inside the Venetian, and drove to the Pawn Stars pawn shop - but only for a picture, that line was just as bad as Carlo's Bakery was with no promise of treats at the end!
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    On day two we played Crime Scene Investigators [per my request, total forensic fanatic] at the CSI: The Experience exhibit. This was not entirely what I expected it to be; I wanted more of a mystery, several suspects to choose from and I had to use the clues and my amazing detective skills to choose at the end and they tell me if I'm right or wrong.. but they pretty much gave the answer away. Despite the simplicity and the fact that it was "so easy a kindergartener could do it" it was still fun to see how a CSI analyzes clues from a crime scene. Plus, we got these amazingly green-screened photos [total sarcasm, although I do like the photos]:
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    On the evening of the second day we went to see Mystère by Cirque du Soleil - amazing! This was my first ever Cirque show and I loved it! I have nothing to compare it to, but I do know that the show provided humor as well as the acrobatics and I believe it is the longest running Cirque show on the strip. I'd be interested to see other performances in the future to compare!
    After Cirque we went to the Bellagio to see the famous fountain show which ended up being cancelled due to high winds, major bummer! After the letdown, we drove down the strip one last time and headed to a hotel about 20 minutes east of the city to get a head start on the next day's drive.
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    My only complaint about Vegas [other than ridiculously priced hotel rooms with sub-par Wi-Fi] is the smoking. Even if you avoid the casinos, you still end up smelling like smoke just from walking by them. We kept our Febreze bottle handy the entire trip. We aren't into gambling, and Tyler hates to lose at anything, but we do enjoy a good Dave and Buster's game every now and then so we treated the casinos like that with the hopes of getting money back and not a cheapy toy or candy. We used $20 budgeted "fun money" [Tyler would die if he lost more than that, and I would cry] and ended up walking out $80 richer - hello fancy dinner somewhere later on in the trip!
    We are currently over halfway through the "48 hour" road trip and just arrived from Carlsbad, NM to Tyler's grandma's in Fort Worth, TX! Thankfully it looks like the weather to the East will be calming down by the time we make our way out, but when you're praying for our travels, please keep the families that have been affected by the weather in mind!

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// Be Mine //

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    This Valentine's Day I received a heart bkr water bottle - which I wanted really bad - but still, nothing compares to the first Valentine I ever received from Tyler. The kid handmade the heart above,  came over to my house before school, waited for me to back out of the garage and asked me to be his Valentine. Cue 'awws'! The "E" is a little broken from the move, but it's still something I treasure. Not many high-school boys would go into Michael's before their shift at work and pick out craft supplies to hand make a Valentine for someone they'd only been dating six months.
    Despite the sweetness of our first Valentine's, this was probably one of my favorite Valentine's Days to date. So simple and relaxing! We ordered pizza, made our couch into a bed, baked cookies, and watched a DreamWorks movie on Netflix. I have to say, for being a kids movie, we both actually enjoyed "The Croods." Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, and Clark Duke had some funny 'prehistoric' characters. The animation was great, and I liked the combination animals such as flying turtles, alligator skunks, elephant mice, and what seemed to be an iguana tiger - to name a few. The animals seemed more futuristic despite the prehistoric background of the movie. Overall, it kept us entertained.

// Chinese New Year Celebrations //

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    Saturday we went downtown to celebrate two of our friends' birthdays as well as to watch the Chinese New Year parade. San Francisco hosts one of the top ten parades in the world with this yearly event that draws thousands of viewers. I have no idea where the first half of that statistic is from other than one of our friends saying it at the parade, I can however vouch for the thousands of people in attendance! We arrived 2 hours before the parade was to begin and it was already crazy.
    If you're like Tyler and I, you're confused as to why we were celebrating Chinese New Year this late.. San Francisco has one of the largest Asian populations in the country, many of whom go home to China to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family. Hosting the parade two weeks later allows those who went 'home' time to get back and prepare for the parade.
    The parade was great but for some reason really slow.. it would keep stopping for some reason and it would take forever for the next float or band to come along. We ended up sitting inside a bar to watch the middle section and coming back out for what we thought was the end.. it ended about an hour after that point. With tired feet and empty stomachs, we grabbed the closest, most expensive, greasy pizza and headed to a friend's to eat. It was definitely an experience to remember! If you ever have the chance to go, I recommend watching towards the beginning of the parade - you'll be able to stand 1-2 rows back or even have front row as we did towards the end. Watching from where the parade ends in Chinatown guarantees you'll be smooshed up against other - multiple - people and probably won't be able to see much at all!
    Sorry for the awful pictures! A pro photographer I am not, and the lighting was terrible!
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Left: Tyler, Right: My good friend Bri
    Hope you all had enjoyable Valentine's Days and Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the horse, fyi. Which is my year. Feel free to get me gifts throughout 2014.

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The Queen Anne Hotel

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    Originally we had planned to head to Tahoe and ski for my birthday, but thanks to our last Weekend Warriors travel adventure resulting in a sprained foot - that was cancelled. The good news is I am 95% back to normal and should be able to go skiing soon - thank goodness because my wonderful husband got me a legit ski jacket for this season!
    Once we decided to nix skiing, Tyler worked on planning a fun weekend in the city - not expecting rain. We've been in a serious drought over here and of course the rain finally came this weekend! It may have cut our time in the city short, but it made for a super relaxing weekend which in my opinion is a perfect birthday.
    On Friday night, Tyler made us reservations at the Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco. He knows how much I LOVE the old Victorian homes in the city, and how much I love anything historical. Thankfully I didn't have time to research the building beforehand or while we were there - formerly a girl's boarding school, apparently the place is "haunted" by the late headmistress. No ghost sightings or weird stories on this end, although I'll agree with other reviewers on the creepy elevator, but I believe that's more of an age thing than anything supernatural.
    We were able to spend the night walking through the Pacific Heights area viewing other old Victorian homes before heading to a friend's going away party. Although it was a sad "celebration," it was good to be celebrating with friends for my birthday weekend, planning our upcoming group trip to Whistler, eating cake, and staying out later than usual, not worried about a late drive home since we had a hotel reservation.
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    The hotel was beautiful and most importantly for me, clean! My favorite parts were the fireplaces that burn 24/7 [very nice after walking in the rain], the detailed woodwork, and the beautiful chandeliers. [*All pictures above were taken and edited by myself other than the wide lens picture of the parlor which was taken from the Queen Anne Hotel website linked above]. I did not take any pictures of the inside of our room - I have seen pictures of some of their other rooms online and was more impressed by the period decor and styling in those than our particular room. Still lovely! The hotel does offer an extended continental breakfast but we were headed to Mama's so we just grabbed some fruit and a coffee to-go for the line at Mama's!
    Lombard Street was between where we stayed and Mama's, so despite the fact that we've done it before multiple times, we battled the tourists and drove down the famous crooked street again. Not disappointing even with the overcast and rain!
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Lombard Street

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Mama's

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    Mama's is a true San Francisco favorite, almost more famous for its wait time than its food. While the long line may deter some, I assure you it is well worth the wait. The pictures above and below are from our first ever Mama's visit, where we arrived 15 minutes before opening and still waited 45 minutes in line to get in. This time, we allowed ourselves to sleep in, arrived a few hours after opening, and had to wait an hour and a half in the rain. I would not recommend doing this on a rainy day unless it's your only opportunity - and I would not recommend doing this with kids unless you have one parent who is able to walk them around the park across the street.. Locals typically do not wait when the line is this long, and we wouldn't have either had it not been my birthday. I needed to indulge in some French Toast, and when it comes to French Toast, Mama's does not disappoint. We both got the same thing we ordered the last time and again, cleared our plates.
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    Fully stuffed and tired from waiting in the rain, we cut our time in the city short and headed home! It was nice to be able to relax for a change - that's needed every now and then! On my actual Birthday I was surprised by some amazing gifts, red roses and red velvet cake, a sushi dinner followed by The Monuments Men, again, I love history [especially WWII] so the movie was the perfect ending to my birthday weekend! Thanks to my husband for making 24 special!

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    One of my favorite decor and home shopping places is Joss & Main. Joss & Main is an online version of Home Goods, and a less expensive version of One Kings Lane. Each day, part of my morning routine is to go through the new sales of the day. Sales open each morning and close usually within 3 days unless it is a curated sale, those tend to stay open up to 10 days. I've had a lot of luck finding items for our apartment at great deals: lamps, trays, vases, pillows, juice glasses, and more! The trick is to get them before anyone else scoops them up! You never know how many are inventoried in the sale; there could be just one or there could be multiple!
   
    If you haven't tried it out, I highly recommend [link below]! You do have to have a "membership" but it's not something you have to pay for! My favorite is the iPad app. that allows me to quickly scroll through the sales - the only thing I don't like about the app. that the web features is that on the app. you can't "love" anything to come back to later. Sometimes I'll see something that I don't want to make a decision on right away and then can't remember where I saw it so I have to go searching through all of the other sales until I find it again. Other than that, love the app. and love this "store"!

    Another great feature: once you place an order and pay standard shipping [$9.95], you have 30 days of free shipping! So if you place an order and find something you like in a sale that opens later that week, you don't have to pay shipping again! Here are a few of my current faves in sales that are open now!:

Sale Name: Color Splashed

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Piper Vase

Sale Name: The Spring Table

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Abbington 12.5" Domed Cake Plate
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Abbington Beverage Dispenser

Sale Name: Colors of 2014: Radiant Orchid

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Venus Bust
    Now that I've shared my shopping secret, start shopping with me using the link below or on the right hand side bar. Also, when I spy something great on J&M, I'll be sure to share on Instagram!
 
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    We are trying to squeeze as much action and fun out of the West Coast as we can before we move to our next location! Read on to see what we were up to this past weekend! Also, the lack of posting is due to an Emergency Room visit and the fact that it now takes me 3x the amount of time to do anything thanks to the reason for the ER visit which you will find out about in this post!
    PS. All pictures expand if you click on them! Enjoy!

Highway 1

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    We thoroughly enjoyed taking scenic Highway 1 up to Mendocino, although we were not expecting the cattle crossing signs to be real! Two curves later and there was a cow in the middle of the road in the opposite lane. As my husband sped past I realized he didn't notice - right as I was about to say something, he started slowing down, in awe that a baby cow was that close to the road. We both found it amusing that there is a fence on the side of the highway 5' from the road to keep them from going to the ocean! Wouldn't it make more sense to just put one fence on the opposite side to keep them from both the highway and the ocean?! Despite the fact that it takes almost double the time, Highway 1 is worth the drive! Most of it is right along the coast with beautiful sights of the ocean! It was so fun to drive up as the sun was setting over the ocean!

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Beautiful sunset in the coastal town of Gualala, California. I love saying that now!

Mendocino

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    I was beyond impressed with my husband's choice for a Bed and Breakfast! The MacCallum House Inn was so charming, and only a block from the beautiful beach! I love historical sights so it was fun for me to be able to read about the history of the house we stayed in as we waited to be seated for dinner in the main floor restaurant.
    Dinner was excellent! As we indulged in our banana split dessert including Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Irish Coffee House Made Ice Cream, candied nuts, and pomegranate, a live band played "A Horse With No Name" - a song my dad use to play for me as a child that I was able to completely impress my husband by knowing all the words to the chorus. Thanks, dad, you're the coolest.

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    Our room was fresh, clean, and airy, and complete with our own private 'water closet' and sink area. Please note that the bed was not that wrinkled when we got there! We arrived at night so I did not take pictures until the next morning when it was light - and the bed had already been slept in! I loved the antique furniture, my favorite piece being the dresser!
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     Breakfast was also incredible, and although it's hard to tell in the picture, you could see a glimpse of the beach directly out the windows! The light coming in through the beautiful glass windows was so refreshing! Breakfast is also where the funniest part of the weekend took place:
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    My husband and I both ordered coffee. As a hygienist, I try to steer away from drinking things with straight sugar in them [minus Chick-fil-A's glorious Sweet Tea]. Noticing that there were only sugar cubes on the table, I gestured to that area as I asked the waitress if they had any other sweeteners. They did and she brought them over. The next thing I know, I look up and Tyler is dumping salt into his coffee. Through tears of laughter I managed to get out, "What are you doing?! That's salt!!" His response, "Oh. Well, I saw you motion to this area about sugar, I looked over I saw sugar, cinnamon sugar [the pepper] and a bowl of croutons."
    While he later admitted that he knew the "croutons" were sugar cubes, it doesn't make up for the fact that he thought the salt and pepper shakers from the night before were replaced with ground sugar and cinnamon sugar! This photo was taken after he took a sip of his salt coffee, to which he said, "not bad," and insisted on drinking [after adding more cream and 2 packs of real sugar]. Macho man.
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Beautiful Mendocino!
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Yes, we're obsessed!

The Famous Drive Through Tree

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    Yes. This actually does exist, we were able to drive [and walk] through it, and it is crazy cool! It's a bit of a tight squeeze, and you have to pay, but it's still cool!
    After driving up the 1 to where it intersects with Highway 101, we got off to go visit this phenomenon before heading to the Avenue of Giants. Although this is pretty giant itself!

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Beautiful, humbling reminder for the journey into the Giants that lie ahead.

Avenue of the Giants

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    The Avenue of Giants is a 30ish mile scenic route next to the 101 that goes through the Humboldt Forest which contains the area's largest group of "Virgin Redwoods." Yeah. I had to look that up. Basically it just means that they've been relatively untouched by humans and uninfluenced by human activity.
    The drive was spectacular, but a minor accident 1/4 of the way through [see below] made the rest of the journey less than exciting for me. Luckily we drove back through the next morning after I'd had rest, ice, Advil, and Starbucks. Much better.

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    So, the accident. I like to call it, "A Fallen Tree and A Fallen Me." Mind you, this was on our first hike. Above you see a fallen redwood, and to the right you see me climbing up it's base. What you can't see, is that Tyler is taking this picture from about 3-4' higher than where I began my climb, so I'm actually 4' off the ground. Initially, I stopped here, but Tyler said he wouldn't take a picture until I got in the hallowed out hole, so I climbed on. The wood was slick, we for some reason weren't wearing our hiking boots despite having them in the car, and I slipped. I slid straight down, somehow managing to only get mud on my palms, and landed on the side/top of my left foot. Within seconds it felt like my shoe was strangling my foot. Tyler told me to "walk it off!" so after hobbling back to the car, I screamed, "get the shoe off!" and saw what I thought was my ankle. Really, it was a swollen golf-ball sized bump about an inch in front of my ankle. Having ruined the trip enough by cancelling out hiking for the rest of the day, I sucked it up and we continued the drive with my foot on the dash and an ice cold water against it. Luckily, I got it x-rayed and made out with just a bad sprain!

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    The morning drive was so serene! We had the entire road to ourselves and the sun coming up over the trees was spectacular!
    We even stopped for a hike to see the Founder's Tree and Dyerville Giant. Yes, I hiked on my foot [sorry moms!]. It was only 0.5mi and Tyler carried me for parts.. and I found I am good at hopping on 1 foot!
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Above: pre-hike photo of road to the trail
Right: Founder's Tree - so tall!
Below: Dyerville Giant
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Absolutely love this photo of the new tree sprouting out of the fallen! For scale, my husband [pictured to the left by the base of the tree] is 6'4" - funny how he looks so tiny next to the roots!
Look forward to sharing more California adventures with you!

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    This weekend I watched NBC's production of The Sound of Music. In honor of NBC airing the LIVE version starring Carrie Underwood, I've compiled a list of a few of my favorite things AND along with it, will be doing my first giveaway! Also, if you want a review [from a Julie Andrews' Sound of Music fanatic], see my thoughts below on the Thursday night televised performance.
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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things..
1. Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte - it's my version of Christmas in a Cup. The best part is that it's available year-round AND you can order it as a frap during the hot summer months. I also just found out they sell liters of the syrup for you to put in your own coffee at home.. uhm, yum.
2. COVERGIRL® Clump Crusher - Seriously, no clumps, and super light making it the perfect everyday mascara.
3. Skinny Cow Cookies 'n Dough - Available in your local grocery freezer section. The entire line features low calorie/low fat options making the dessert the perfect ending to any meal.
4. Pretty Pens - I love writing with cute pens like these, picked up in the Target $1 Spot!
5. High Heels Mystery Series - I love reading a good mystery especially when coupled with humor and fashion. I am on book 6 now, trying to take my time in hopes of another book being released before I finish book 7!
6. Post-It Notes - I would never get anything done without them. I picked up these cute sticky reminders at the Target $1 Spot with my pens!
7. White and Gold Colossians Print from SS Print Shop - every print is fantastic, but I especially love seeing this reminder on my nightstand every night before bed and every morning when I wake up.
8. Baby Mama - If you're ever in need of a good laugh. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
9. Crystal Necklaces - The perfect embellishment to almost any outfit; they even make a simple t-shirt look fancy! I got mine from J. Crew Factory online but can not find them on the website now - check your local factory outlet!
10. Down Comforters - I never want to get out of bed! They are an investment but definitely worth it! We worked with a registry agent at Macy's to help us pick the best one for our needs [I wanted a lot of fluff and my husband did not want extra heat] - there are so many options! Pair with down pillows and a Pottery Barn Duvet for the ultimate cozy experience!

GIVEAWAY: WIN a few of my favorite things! To enter you must:
1. Comment on this post with 3 of your favorite things and your email address.
2. Be a follower of BehindtheMaskRDH on Instagram
3. Like and comment on the corresponding Instagram picture and tag a friend!
Winner Announced 1 week from today, Monday, December 16.

    My thoughts on last Thursday night's LIVE Televised The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood:
  • First of all, Julie Andrews ruined it for everyone. No high school, college, Broadway, drama group, drama club, etc. will ever be able to do her version justice. That said, they simply cannot be compared. So stop being silly and be nice. They DID NOT "ruin a classic."
  • Many people complained that this NBC version changed so many things about the movie and created new songs, when in reality, it was the 1965 film that took liberties with the original 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein script. The NBC version stuck closely to the Broadway play.
  • I love Carrie Underwood, but I had seen her act in the Soul Surfer movie and was not impressed so I knew not to expect much in the way of acting. I feel like I "knew" Carrie beforehand in that, I didn't like seeing her act immature and, well, like a dumb blonde. Whereas The Sound of Music was my first introduction to Julie Andrews so seeing her act naive didn't bother me. As for Carrie's singing - not bad. She has an awesome voice, but you could tell she was getting winded at some points [like when she was walking backwards up the stairs with the VonTrapp kids] which brings me to my next point..
  • Why was it LIVE?! And furthermore, why on earth are they going to try to sell the "Live" version on DVD? Live on Broadway is one thing, but Live on TV and DVD is another. So much more can be done with TV and Movies that would have provided a much better viewing experience and could edit out things like Carrie almost tripping down the set in her first scene and losing her breath after walking backwards up the steps. There would also be better scenery, which with today's technology, I am surprised at how terrible the backdrops were. I think the 1965 movie had better backdrops than this version. Also, Carrie would not have had to wear a wig. Just sayin'.
  • All in all, not horrible. While I would purchase some songs off the sound track [Audra was amazing], I would not watch it again. If you missed it, I still recommend watching it, just make sure you're doing something at the same time.. like paying bills, folding laundry, doing homework, ironing, etc. so it's not a complete waste of three hours! If you're in the mood to just relax and snuggle up to a good movie, pop in the Julie Andrews version.
"So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu
Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu.."