Updates, News, & What’s Up Next

I’m back! I have been on a month-long hiatus after I realized I kind of just needed a mental break from everything and a chance to reset. I was feeling kind of run down the whole month of July, so I decided to just take some time off and do my own thing for a while. I also recently started watching Shameless, so that has taken up a lot of my free time as of late. (Talk about an addicting show.)

What I’ve been doing…

During this past month, I decided to take some time off work to spend time with family and visit some friends. I went camping with some family members for a weekend, then spent a few days in northern Indiana at my friend’s lake house, before taking a little road trip over to Chicago where I spent a few more days with some other friends from college. It was a nice little getaway for me, and I got to spend some quality time with some of my family and a few of my best friends. (I even did a little babysitting for the cutest little girl ever!) It was really nice to just be able to hang out with friends and family and not have to have anything to actually do. Sometimes that’s all you really need to do to get back on track with everything.

river

Camping near the Current River in Missouri.

campfire cooking

Campfire cookin’ by Chef Ellen: Foil burgersstinging nettles

Fun fact: This is what a stinging nettle rash looks like. Ouch.

nap with dogs

Summer afternoon nap with the pups.

biscuits and gravy

Biscuits and gravy breakfast.

paddle boarding

Morning paddle boarding excursion.

Greek food

Greek night! (Chicken kebabs, homemade tzatziki sauce, Greek orzo salad, and grilled corn on the cob)

breakfast

Sweet potato breakfast hash, eggs, and homemade blueberry muffins.

lake life

I officially love lake life.

dock on lake

Serenity.

friends

Love.

wine tasting at Eataly

Wine tasting at Eataly! (We had to get a SMC ring pic hehe)

rooftop pool

Rooftop pools are the best.

What’s up next…

I’m leaving for a Colorado backpacking trip in a few days! And by a few days I mean two. That’s another reason I’ve been away so long. I have been super busy planning and researching everything that I need for this “expedition”. I’ve never really done a backpacking trip of this magnitude, so I have been busy preparing physically and mentally for it. Here’s the rundown: Some friends of mine and I are going on a week long trip to Colorado where we will be backpacking/hiking the Chicago Basin area of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. We are doing the whole base camp thing where we hike in, set up a camp, and then summit different peaks throughout the week. Apparently, some of the routes are pretty difficult and can be somewhat dangerous. (I even had to buy a climbing helmet since one of the routes is a class 4 difficulty which is apparently very technical.) It’s definitely going to be a challenge, and I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m excited (and nervous) about the whole thing. I think it’s going to be a really cool experience. Either that or I hate it so much I never go backpacking again. I guess we will see.

As for the not-so-immediate future, I have no real plans for any trips or vacations after this backpacking excursion to Colorado, so hopefully I will have plenty of time (and inspiration) to work on some new blog posts. You can expect at least a few posts on my backpacking trip, and maybe some back-to-school type of stuff. And then it’s pretty much fall which makes me happy because it’s flannel and pumpkin spice latte season!!!

Hope everyone is having a good summer!

Favorites: Made in the USA

Happy 4th of July!

In lieu of a June monthly favorites post, I thought I would do something a little more patriotic. So I’ve decided to make a list of my favorite things that are made in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Lodge Cast Iron Skillets

Lodge has been making cast iron cookware since the late 19th century, and they still make all of their classic, seasoned cast iron pieces in their foundry in Tennessee. Their products come in lots of different shapes and sizes (check out this cute one!), and there are various accessories and cookbooks dedicated to the famous cast iron cookware. I have the classic 12-inch cast iron skillet and it’s one of the most versatile kitchen pieces I’ve ever had. You can use it both on the stovetop and in the oven; I even take mine camping for some delicious fireside fare. They do take a little work to maintain (they are not dishwasher safe), but they can last forever if you clean and season them properly.

Darn Tough Socks

These are the best socks EVER! I will never live without these socks again. And I may not have to. All Darn Tough socks are guaranteed for life. If you are not satisfied for any reason, just send them back to their headquarters in Vermont (where all of their socks are made) and they will send you a new pair. I have several of their wool hiking socks, but they make both wool and synthetic socks for pretty much everything (running, skiing, hunting, biking, lifestyle, etc.). They are comfortable and durable and come in tons of different styles and colors for men, women, and kids. They are a bit on the pricier side (around $20 per pair), but well worth it in my opinion.

Pyrex

 

I love anything and everything Pyrex. I have old, vintage pieces and new, vintage-looking pieces, as well as quite a few of the basic glass dishes. Pyrex’s glassware line is still made in Pennsylvania, and it has been since 1915. Today’s pieces comes in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes, and almost all are dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe. I use mine for everything from leftover storage to meal prepping to mixing bowls. I use the cute, colorful lidded glassware pieces several times a week to pack my lunch.

Dr. Bronner’s SoapI’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s soap for a few years now. It’s not my everyday soap, but I use it when I travel and on camping and backpacking trips. It’s an organic, all-natural, fair trade certified castile soap and can be used to wash/clean almost anything. (Some of my friends even use it to brush their teeth! I’m still not 100% on board with that yet. It is soap after all.) I’ve used it as body wash, shampoo, shaving cream, dish soap, and laundry detergent. It can also be used as pet shampoo, baby shampoo, and as an all-purpose cleaner to clean floors, tabletops, etc. I have sensitive skin so I usually get the milder, unscented version, but I’m also a fan of the lavender-scented one. This is one of the most useful soaps I’ve ever used, and it’s still one of the top selling soaps in America today. Which is not surprising considering the Bronner family has been making soaps since 1858. They really know what they are doing.

Fiestaware

Fiesta dinnerware is another product that’s been made in America since the early 20th century. The colorful line of dinnerware was released in 1936 by the Homer Laughlin China Company (who still owns and manufactures Fiestaware today at their West Virginia headquarters). There were only 5 colors (red, yellow, cobalt blue, green, and ivory) when the dinnerware was first introduced, but these days you can choose from colors like lemongrass, shamrock, scarlet, and slate…just to name a few. I have a few sets of the 4-piece place setting, as well as a few small bowls and a salt-and-pepper shaker set. I love all the bright colors and the fact that they are dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe. They’re definitely the prettiest, most perfect place settings in America.

Hope you enjoyed all my Made in America favorites! Enjoy your 4th of July celebrations!

 

Yoga for Beginners

 

Happy International Day of Yoga!

Since today is a celebration of all things yoga, I thought I would write a little bit about beginning a yoga practice. I, myself, am fairly new to this whole thing, but I have learned a few things here and there in the short time I have been doing it. I’m not going to show any poses or talk about sequences or anything, but I do have some general thoughts on beginning yoga.

First off…you do not have to go to a fancy gym to do yoga. I do enjoy going to classes every now and then, but I’m equally happy doing it at home by myself. Since I am an amateur yogi, I am in no way knowledgable enough to do it without some kind of assistance though. I usually just use an app on my iPad or take advantage of various YouTube yoga channels to guide me through different poses. (If it were up to me, I would probably just stay in the savasana pose the whole time. Ha!) Gyms are great, but if you’re like me and on a budget, at-home yoga is a little more practical. Plus, I feel more relaxed when I’m not in a room with 30 other people who are way better at yoga than me. Just find a quiet place at home with lots of space, maybe light a candle, and get to yogaing.

Types of Yoga
There are several different types of yoga, but I’m honestly only familiar with a few (Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, and Ashtanga). Hatha is the most widely practiced type. It’s slower and incorporates more of the basic postures, which makes it good for newbies. I’ve also done Bikram yoga (the hot one), but I still can’t decide if I like it or not. It may be just a bit much for me at this point in my life. I would probably not recommend starting out with Bikram or hot yoga classes, because I think it’s little intense for the amateur yogi (unless you really like sweating your ass off.) Although if you are curious about it, I guess you could just go outside and do some yoga considering most of the U.S. is experiencing a serious heat wave right now. (Bikram and hot yoga are usually practiced in a room heated somewhere between 95 and 108 degrees so you would probably get a pretty good idea of how hot an actual hot yoga class is if your current temp is somewhere in that range. I know mine is.)

As far as Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga go….I’ve never really done either so I’m not super familiar with those, but I know they are both a bit more on the advanced side. Both are faster-paced and more intense where you flow quickly from one pose to the next. Again, probably not the best type of yoga if you are just starting out. Stick with Hatha yoga for now.

Yoga Resources
I’m all about free, online yoga “classes.” Yoga with Adriene is my favorite yoga channel on YouTube. She has tons of different playlists and hundreds of videos to choose from based on what kind of practice you want to do. My favorite playlists are Yoga for Beginners, Morning Yoga Routines, Yoga for Healing, and Yoga for Busy People. She also has her own website where you can watch free videos, purchase her e-courses, and read her blog. There are, of course, tons of YouTube channels dedicated to yoga, but I’ve been following Adriene for years and find her to have the best variety of classes. Plus, her videos are super down-to-earth and simple (she does most of her videos at her home), and her warm, carefree personality creates more of a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

You can also download various yoga apps for your phone or tablet. I have been using the Yoga Studio app for a few years now, but they recently switched to a subscription-based model (without notifying customers who had already paid for the app’s content!! I’m not bitter…), so I’m kind of boycotting them and looking for a new app to use. (Let me know if you have any good recommendations!) The most popular yoga apps seem to be Daily Yoga, Down Dog, Pocket Yoga, and Yoga Workout – Meditation and Fitness Plan, but I haven’t used any of them yet so I’m not sure how good they are. I will get back to you on that one.

Yoga Journal is also a good overall resource. It’s actually a magazine, but they have a pretty good website with lots of different tips, videos, articles, and advice for all experience levels.

Yoga AccessoriesYou really don’t need a ton of stuff to start doing yoga. Yes, it’s fun to have cute yoga mats and trendy yoga tights, but all you really need is comfortable clothing that that you can move in, a yoga mat, and some space to stretch out. Obviously some water if you are doing hot yoga or yoga outside. Lots of water. I will admit that over the years, I have somehow amassed quite the collection of unnecessary yoga accessories. You won’t need much when you are first starting out, though. If you are like me and really not flexible at all, you might want to pick up a yoga block or bolster to help make some of the poses easier. Other than that, everything else is pretty much optional. I opted to get a couple of towels and a pair of grippy, toe socks because I sweat a lot (even with the smallest amount of physical exertion…it’s annoying), but you won’t necessarily need to buy those. Going barefoot and using a plain, old bath towel are perfectly acceptable.

Yoga Clothing
If you are looking for some good yoga clothing and/or accessories, however, I do have a few suggestions. Let me first start off by saying that yoga clothing can be pretty expensive. The athleisure trend is big right now (I am a huge fan of the trend myself), so a lot of companies are producing yoga and fitness merchandise that serve little to no purpose for actual yoga. To keep up with competition, these companies have to come up with cool, new, innovative ideas and designs for such clothing, which is why people end up paying $130 for a piece of polyester and spandex (I’m talking to you, Lululemon). Anyway…if you aren’t into going into debt because of yoga pants, I suggest checking out Target, Old Navy, and Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. I have several pairs of tights from Marshall’s that I paid like $15 for, and quite a few shirts and shorts from Target and Old Navy that I’m pretty sure I got for under $10. I will say, however, that I have learned that you kinda do get what you pay for. My Target shirts were pilling and developed “runs” in the fabric after a couple of washes, and my tights from Marshall’s already are looking quite worn. (In all fairness, however, I do wear my yoga/fitness stuff for more than just yoga.) My Old Navy stuff, however has held up considerably well. I’m impressed.

If you want higher quality yoga clothing (or just really great athleisure wear), I suggest Athleta, prAna, or Lucy. Clothing from these companies are quite a bit more expensive (yoga pants from these brands run about $70-$90) than what you would find at big-box or discount stores, but I bet you they will last 5 times longer. Athleta and prAna also use sustainable fabrics in a lot of their clothing (prAna even has some fair trade certified pieces), while Lucy and Athleta offer extended sizing on a lot of their stuff. Whatever route you go, the most important thing is just finding something you are comfortable in.

Anyone can start doing yoga. You can do it in your living room, outside at a park, or even on a paddleboard. (Yes, stand-up paddleboard yoga is a thing and it looks awesome.) Yoga has so many health benefits, and it can be relatively cheap and easy to do. The trick is getting into a routine. Do some quick sun salutations in the morning before work, or spend an hour practicing yoga at night before bed. You don’t necessarily have to do it every day (although it would be more beneficial), but 3-4 times a week should be enough to improve several physical and mental aspects of your life.

On that note…I’m off to do some yoga!

P.S. Happy First Day of Summer today too!

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

TGIF! I actually am off this whole weekend, so that phrase actually means something to me today! I’m honestly not sure what I am gonna do with myself. I will be spending Sunday with my dad since it is Father’s Day, but a whole two days off in a row??? What to do?

Anyway, I did a Mother’s Day gift guide back in May, so I thought I would do one for all the dear old dads as well. So if you still haven’t picked up a gift for your dad, check out my gift guide. All of the items listed can be bought in a variety of stores, so no need to pay for rush shipping! Yay!

1. Yeti Tumbler
I bought my dad one of the 30 oz. Yeti Tumblers this past year for Christmas, and he uses it all the time. In fact, it’s one of the few things I’ve ever given him that he actually uses. (Don’t tell him I said that.) And…just in time for Father’s Day…Yeti recently came out with four new colors for their Rambler series. You can get all of their tumblers in black, olive-green, Tahoe blue, or seafoam, as well as the traditional stainless steel. Their Rambler water bottles would make great gifts as well. Get them at Ace Hardware, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy, Cabela’s, and REI.

2. Coolmax Socks
I always love warm, cozy, wool socks in the winter, and I love giving them to people as Christmas gifts, but when it’s hot out, I’m all about the Coolmax socks. And when I say Coolmax I basically just mean any synthetic sock (no wool or cotton) that is highly breathable and wicking. My favorite Coolmax socks are those of the Darn Tough brand, but you can get similar socks at most running, outdoor, or performance footwear stores (i.e Footlocker, New Balance, REI, or your local running store). My dad likes to bike a lot, even in the dead of summer, so I usually get him some good performance socks to wear in the heat and humidity. So, if your dad is one of those active guys, get him some good, cool socks for the summer!

3. Shiny, New Grilling Tools
This is a pretty cliché gift, I realize that, but sometimes a dad really does need new grilling utensils. Weber’s Stainless Steel 3-Piece BBQ Tool Set is great as a starter set or an easy upgrade from dad’s old grillin’ tools. You can also buy individual utensils from places like Target and Wal-Mart, as well as most cooking specialty stores. During this time of year, you can even get grill and BBQ accessories at most grocery stores. You definitely got some options. Maybe throw in some new grilling spices and a cheesy “King of the Grill” apron for extra dad-ness.

4. Tickets To A Ball Game
You could get tickets to any kind of event, really, but I got my dad tickets to a good, old-fashioned baseball game. It was a dual Mother’s Day/Father’s Day gift from my brother and me, and it was one of the best gifts we ever gave them. At least I think so. Sometimes it’s just nice to give an experience rather than a thing.

5. Smart Speaker/Personal Assistant
For all those techie dads out there, why not give the gift of a personal, virtual assistant? The Amazon Echo and Google Home are the two big ones on the market right now. (Apple will also be joining the competition later this year with the release of their new HomePod.) Both the Amazon Echo and Google Home are basically just larger, louder versions of the Siri/Google Assistant/Cortana entities. If your dad plays a lot of music and uses his phone’s virtual assistant features a lot, these would make pretty sweet gifts. Get them both at Best Buy, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

6. Leather Flip-Flops
If your dad is a sandal kinda guy, maybe it’s time to upgrade his sandal game this Father’s Day. If you are not on board with the whole Birkenstock thing, get him some nice, leather flip-flops for a dressier-casual look this summer. (Yes I just made that up. No, I’m not trying to sound like a bad infomercial.) Rainbow, Olukai, and Reef are probably the most well-known makers of leather flip-flops, but stores like J. Crew and GAP also make house-brand versions. You may even find some good leather sandals at stores like DSW. Check out department stores (Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Kohl’s) for the biggest selections.

7. Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
Another gift idea for the tech-loving dad! If the whole virtual, talking speaker/assistant idea isn’t your dad’s thing, a not-so-smart bluetooth speaker would also make a great gift. You can get them at almost any price these days, but the one I see consistently getting the highest ratings is the JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker. Get it at Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, and Kohl’s.

8. Gift Cards
If you still can’t find the perfect gift for dad, you could always get him a gift card or gift certificate. I know some people think it’s not quite as personal of a gift, but I know some dads are really hard to shop for, and sometimes it works out better for everyone. If you do get a gift card, at least put it in a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. 😉

Thanks for stopping by! Have a good weekend and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

 

Again…nothing in this post was sponsored in any way, shape, or form. 

 

HomeGoods Happy

Hello all! Happy Hump Day! I’ve got a busy next couple of days, but as promised in my favorites post a few weeks ago, I am writing all about the wonder that is HomeGoods today.

Most people are probably not as enamored with this store as I am, but there is something very exciting to me about going into a store and not knowing what you will find. There is no online website where you can view inventory, and each store is completely different. (And some are definitely better than others.) You really never know what is in store for you! (Haha…get it?) It’s like treasure hunting and bargain bin shopping all in one store. And it’s not crappy stuff. I have bought Eddie Bauer bedding, various items from Kate Spade, shower curtains from Tommy Hilfiger, OXO storage containers, and Tommy Bahama barware for half of the price you would pay at a regular retailer.

I’m not saying you can’t great deals at other places. Sure, stores constantly have sales, but there are a couple of items that I almost ALWAYS find cheaper at HomeGoods. So, in the spirit of things, here are my top five things to buy at HomeGoods:

Paper Products

Notebooks, journals, file folders, stationery, and wrapping paper. I get all of those things here. I have amassed a ridiculous amount of notebooks from HomeGoods. They are cheap, plentiful, and really, really cute. I give them as gifts a lot, usually wrapped in wrapping paper I also bought at HomeGoods. (They have the best and cheapest wrapping paper!) I usually hit up the paper/office section first and – depending on how much stuff I end up getting there – check out the other sections after.

Kitchen Essentials

HomeGoods kitchenI love getting little things for the kitchen here, like storage items, utensils, dish towels, etc. They have a pretty decent sized kitchen/cooking section, and you can usually find name brand stuff (i.e. Le Creuset, OXO) if you are willing to take the time to look. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes, but it’s well worth it.

Throw Pillows

My favorite place to get throw pillows! I will say that it’s hit or miss depending on the time of year, but in the spring and fall I always find the cutest throw pillows. All of the throw pillows on my bed are from HomeGoods, as well as a few others lying around my apartment. And they are usually only like $15 or $20 so you can really stock up!

Barware

This is where I get all the glassware and accessories for my bar cart. I just bought some nice acrylic wine glasses (a pack of 4 stemless and these cute pink ones) as well as some fun, little books full of drinking quotes. I also bought some really nice marble coasters recently that I have been complimented on several times already.

Picture Frames

Picture frames really aren’t all that cheap! I don’t know why square pieces of glass with metal and/or wood are so expensive, but damn. Luckily, HomeGoods has some really great picture frame options. They usually have a pretty big range of sizes and styles too, so you can definitely get enough to make that gallery wall you’ve seen on Pinterest a million times.

Just for fun…check out my most recent HomeGoods finds!!!

(Apparently, I was in a particularly girly mood that day…)

I will also leave you with a few tips for shopping at HomeGoods…

  1. Shop during the week – and in the morning – if you can. I realize this is unrealistic for most people, but weekends are busy and most of the inventory has been picked over by the end of the week.
  2. Don’t go in looking for a specific item. I have found that if I go in looking for one specific thing, I always come out empty-handed. That’s not to say go and just buy stuff at random, but I find it’s easier to have a general idea of things you need rather than a list of specific items. The good news is, if you don’t find what you are looking for, their inventory changes constantly so you can always go back for a second look soon!
  3. Walk down every aisle. Yes, this is time-consuming and maybe a bit tedious, but it will prove beneficial in the end. I have found some really useful things in the outdoor section, the kid’s aisle, and even the pet area. For the record, I have no outdoor space whatsoever, no children, and zero pets. But, outdoor pillows work just as well inside. Children’s rugs keep your feet just as warm, and dog food storage containers hold just as much in human food. Basically, you just have to get creative.
  4. Don’t pass up the impulse section! Also known as the checkout line, the fixtures of smaller items leading up to the registers hold some pretty great stuff. I almost always pick up at least one or two little things at the last minute here. They don’t call it an impulse section for nothing.

So that is my rant/homage to/review of HomeGoods! Go check it out!

This is not a sponsored post! Just thought you should know. 🙂

May Favorites

May Favorites

It’s time for another “favorites” post! Hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day holiday and is enjoying the unofficial beginning of summer!

This post is a few days late, but I’ve worked the past 11 days in a row, so cut me some slack. I’m freaking exhausted. I didn’t even have time to take any pictures or make any fancy photo collages, but I still wanted to mention a few new things I’ve really been into lately…

Handmaid’s Tale TV Show (Hulu)
I have no idea why I’m so into this show. It’s disturbing, twisted, kind of demoralizing, and yet somehow, so completely addicting. It’s based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood and follows the story of a woman living in a new dystopian America after the government was overthrown by a totalitarian/Christian fundamentalist group who now rules all. There was also some kind of environmental disaster that left most people infertile. So basically, if you are a fertile female (and also very unlucky), you have to become a “handmaid” and are required to have sex with an assigned male master in this super weird, creepy “religious ceremony.” Then, if somehow you get pregnant, you have to give your baby to said male master and his wife for them to raise. It’s a whole other kind of messed up. But, dang, I’m so hooked! It’s one of those shows where you just can’t not watch because you want to see how much crazier it’s going to get.

Ikea ‘Micke’ desk
I went to Ikea a few weeks ago in search of a desk. I really haven’t had one in a long time, and I was really tired of trying to do everything on the kitchen table and/or my bed with a lap desk that I somehow still have from college. So, after months (maybe even a year) of debating whether or not I really needed a desk after all, I decided on the Ikea ‘Micke’ desk. It comes in a couple of different sizes/versions, but I went with the mid-size one with the shelving unit/cabinety-thing ($79.99). It was a real bitch to put together I will say, but after two days (and several glasses of wine – it can get pretty frustrating), I had a pretty nice desk on my hands. I’m really happy with it so far. It’s the perfect size for me, and it has a pretty decent amount of storage.

Gaiam Yoga Studio App
When it comes to buying apps on my iPhone of iPad, I rarely pay for them. I usually just put up with the stupid ads and videos and ignore the “buy the full version and get rid of ads!” banners that pop up all the time. A few years ago, however, I bought this Yoga Studio app ($4.99) that my cousin recommended to me. I used it a few times back when I first got it, but then kind of forgot about it until recently. I use it ALL THE TIME now. It’s like having a yoga instructor at home with you. (Cuz real, live yoga classes are expensive, ya know?) There are different difficulty levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and categories (relaxation, flexibility, yoga for back pain, etc.) that you can choose from. Then, you just download the class you want and voila…instant at-home yoga class! There are also different lengths of classes, so you can do everything from a 4 minute sun salutation to a 60 minute advanced combination class, depending on what you’re looking for. Yay yoga!

***UPDATE (6/8/2017): As of the past week, this app is no longer $4.99. They have changed their app to a subscription-based model and now there is a $2 monthly fee or a $20 yearly fee to use the app (which they failed to tell the people who have already bought the app). I do not recommend this app anymore as I was seriously disappointed in their decision to not grandfather in those people who have already paid for and downloaded content. I would recommend getting another yoga app, and when I find another one with better business practices, I will for sure let you know!***

HomeGoods
I think I may have already posted about this store in one of my previous favorites posts, but in case you still don’t know…I love HomeGoods. A lot. More than I probably should. I actually follow someone on Instagram who goes by the name ‘homegoodsobsessed.’ She literally just posts cool stuff she finds at the store. She doesn’t even end up buying anything most of the time. I love her. Anyway, if you haven’t been to HomeGoods ever, you need to go ASAP. I always find something I don’t need there. Every now and then I’ll pick up something I actually do need, but most of the time it’s a completely unnecessary purchase. What else is new? What do I buy there? Everything. I’ve gotten everything from an Eddie Bauer comforter for $30 to a set of acrylic wine glasses and some super cute (and very inexpensive) wrapping paper. I have just decided that I’m gonna write up a whole post on just HomeGoods next week. So stay tuned…

Wine
I’m just gonna go ahead and throw wine on this list because I don’t know how I would have gotten through the past 11 days without it. Not any particular kind of wine…literally just wine in general. It’s always my favorite.

This is a pretty short favorites post…I’ve been so busy the past two weeks I haven’t even had time to care about anything, hence my pitiful list of favorites from the month of May. I promise to be back next week with more/better posts after I get my nice, relaxing weekend off.

Happy Friday!

Favorites: REI Anniversary Sale

It’s that wonderful time of year…Memorial Day sales are just around the corner. One of the best sales, however, starts today: the REI Anniversary Sale!

And since it starts today, I’m going to share with you a few of my favorite items in the REI Anniversary Sale. If you are not familiar with said sale, it is REI’s biggest and best sale of the year, with loads of products up to 30% off. This year’s sale runs from May 19-29 and will include a little bit of everything. In addition to the ridiculous number of items that are actually on sale, members of the REI Co-op are also getting two 20% off coupons to use, one for a full-priced item in store or online, and one for an item in the online REI Garage (the clearance/closeout section of REI’s website). It’s the best time of the year to stock up on anything and everything you would need for your outdoor adventures or upcoming trips. Or maybe just treat yourself to some fun, new stuff.

Check out a few of my personal favorite items on sale (not in any particular order):

ENO Hammocks ~ 25% off

My ENO hammock is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I actually bought a second one last year; I now keep one in my car and one in my camping stuff. They pack down to the size of a softball and are incredibly easy to travel with if you are going to the park for the day or on a camping trip. There are several different styles (one-person, two-person, backpacking, insect repellent, etc…I, personally, have two of the DoubleNest two-person hammocks) and they come in a ton of different, fun colors. (Note: If you buy a hammock, you also have to buy the straps that suspend it…they do NOT come with the hammock. The straps, unfortunately, are not on sale and run about $30 for a pair.) REI even has several special edition hammocks that benefit different organizations such as the National Park Foundation and various trail conservancies. Sounds like a great time to get yourself a hammock, if you ask me.

Salomon Footwear ~ 25% off

Salomon is one of my favorite brands of footwear. I own several of their trail-running shoes, and am planning on purchasing a pair of their boots in the next few weeks for a backpacking trip I’m taking in August. And, during the sale, EVERYTHING in their footwear line will be 25% off: trail-running shoes, water shoes, hiking shoes/boots, backpacking boots…everything. REI carries a pretty big selection of Salomon’s footwear, so there are plenty of opportunities to find something that works for you.

Patagonia Synchilla Lightweight Fleece ~ 30% off

I would put everything Patagonia on this list if I could because everything they make is amazing IMO, but I’ll keep it to a few items. It’s weird to think about fleeces when it’s almost 90 degrees outside, but sometimes you just can’t pass up a deal like this. One of Patagonia’s best-selling and most famous fleeces is on sale (30% off!): The Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Fleece. You have probably seen them around…they come in really ridiculous patterns and colors and are pretty ubiquitous on college campuses, from what I can remember. I have had my Patagonia fleece (I think mine is actually the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T version, but it’s basically the same style of fleece) for 5 years now and I would never live without it. It’s cozy, comfortable, and can be worn as a layer or an outerwear piece. Not to mention Patagonia stuff lasts FOREVER so you will not have to buy another fleece for a long time. If ever.

Hydro Flask ~ 20% off

One of my favorite products in the sale: Hydro Flask! Basically, it’s a prettier version of the Yeti Tumbler and Rambler stuff…and at a lower price. (Although, REI does have some select Yeti Stainless Steel Rambler items on sale for 25% off through June 4! *cough cough Father’s Day gift cough cough*) I have so many Hydro Flask items it’s ridiculous, but they work just as well as Yeti products and come in more styles and colors. I also like Hydro Flask because they make a ton of different stuff (not just water bottles): coffee/tea travel mugs and “flasks,” beer growlers, food containers, tumbler cups, pint glasses, and even a whiskey drinking vessel called ‘The Rocks’ cup. All of Hydro Flask’s products are high quality, sweat-proof pieces that will definitely keep your liquids or food hot or cold well throughout the day.

Merrell Moab Footwear ~ 20% off

All shoes in Merrell’s ‘Moab’ line of footwear are on sale! This is one of the best-selling, most comfortable hiking shoes on the market, and works well for a lot of different people who want an all-around good shoe. It’s definitely a lighter weight, more flexible hiking/walking shoe, so I wouldn’t recommend doing any really tough hiking or backpacking in these, but they are great for everyday walking or some shorter, easy-to-moderate day hikes. I have three different shoes in this line: a hiking shoe, a waterproof hiking boot, and an insulated, waterproof winter boot. The Moab hiking line of footwear comes in several different styles for men and women: waterproof, non waterproof, mid boot, low shoe, etc. Plenty of options for someone looking for a good, entry-level hiking boot or versatile, everyday shoe.

ExOfficio and Patagonia underwear ~ 25% off

ALL underwear is 25% off during the sale, but ExOfficio and Patagonia are the only ones really worth buying, if you ask me. (Yes, I realize it’s pretty weird that I’m raving about underwear, but I’m a pretty big fan of this stuff). ExOfficio is the original brand of travel underwear, and is well-known for their lightweight, super quick-drying, wicking fabrics. Their underwear comes in several different styles and colors for both men and women, so if you are doing some traveling this summer, pick up a pair or two. Patagonia also makes a similar type of underwear that is very comparable to the Exofficio brand. I, however, prefer the Patagonia brand to ExOfficio, but only because Patagonia’s are a little sportier and have just bit more stretch. Patagonia underwear also comes in different styles for both men and women (women’s Patagonia sports bras are also on sale) with different colors and patterns for each style. My goal is to one day replace all of my underwear with the Patagonia ones because they have changed my life and I will never live without them again. I will say that both the ExOfficio and Patagonia underwear are pretty expensive (normally $18 and $24 per pair, respectively), so if you need some, definitely get them on sale. Because no one wants to pay $24 for one pair of underwear.

Marmot Precip Rain Jacket ~ 30% off ($69.99 down from $100)

If you are looking for a good, versatile, packable rain jacket, the Marmot Precip Rain Jacket is absolutely one of the best deals. It’s one of the lighter and more breathable waterproof jackets (not including the super technical backpacking and mountaineering jackets, which can run from $200 up to $700) that can be used year round as a wind breaker or waterproof shell. You can layer an insulated coat or heavy fleece underneath it in the winter and wear it like a 3-in-1 ski jacket, or use it in the spring and summer over a t-shirt as just a plain old rain coat. Plus, it has a stowable hood, pit zips (NEVER buy a rain jacket without pit zips), and can pack itself into the left-hand pocket. It’s available in several different colors for men, women, and children. (The children’s are on sale for $45.50 down from $65.) If you need to keep the other half of you dry as well, the matching Marmot Precip Rain Pants are also on sale.

If none of the above products strike your fancy, there are tons of other great deals as well. I just wanted to share some of my favorite things that are currently on sale.

Don’t forget that members can use their 20% off coupon on almost (there are several exclusions) anything that is not already on sale or clearance. But don’t wait too long…the sale only goes until May 29!

 

*This is NOT a sponsored post. I did not receive any compensation from REI or any of the companies mentioned above for writing this post. As an “outdoor industry expert,” I do, however, receive discounts on certain products from various companies for testing purposes and personal use. All products that I own, however, have been purchased with my own money. 

Spring Fashion Favorites

Well, it looks like warm weather is finally here to stay. I think it’s now safe for me to put away all my winter stuff and break out my spring and summer attire. (It’s also a good time to do some late spring wardrobe cleansing!)

There are a few things that I never go through the spring season without, along with a few new pieces that have made it onto my “spring essentials” list.

First off…let’s start with two must-haves for me: rain boots and a rain jacket. These two things have really come in handy this past spring with all the rain we have have gotten. While these may not necessarily be considered “fashion items,” they are definitely a staple in my spring wardrobe. I, personally, use the Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket ($129) and the Hunter Original Tall Rain Boot ($150). Both are a little on the pricier side, but you definitely can use them year round, not just in the spring. (I also got both of these items on super sale, so you can definitely get them at a discounted price if you keep your eye out.) Both, however, are really high quality items that should last you quite a long time. (The boots will probably last you forever.) More importantly, they keep you dry during those incessant April showers. And also when you are moving your friend into her new apartment in the middle of a torrential downpour. Tested and approved!

Now on to my other spring clothing essentials…

Floral patterned anything
I do love me a good floral print. Especially if it’s on a cute dress. I have a couple of floral dresses that I honestly don’t wear nearly enough, but they do come in handy for all those spring weddings and Easter brunches. And they are easy to dress up with a nice cardigan and wedges, or dressed down with something more casual like a jean jacket and sandals. I’ve also been a little bit obsessed with floral purses and shoes this year, but have yet to justify buying any of those. Maybe next year.

Athleisure sneakers
I have a vast collection of athleisure sneakers that I’ve been wearing for years, but my most recent pair is definitely my favorite: the New Balance 247 Classic sneaker in pink sandstone/white. I talked about this (along with my chambray shirts) in my April Favorites post a few weeks ago, but I’m talking about it again because I just love it that much. They are comfortable, versatile, and just different enough from my other sneakers to make me feel okay about buying them.

Chambray shirt
This is a recent favorite of mine, but I have been wearing both of my chambray shirts a ton ever since I got them last month. They are great to wear unbuttoned as a layer on top of a t-shirt, or buttoned up with jeans, black pants, or even a simple skirt (with cute, pink sneakers of course!). I have also seen them worn under sweaters and blazers, but since I am in the process of putting away my cold weather clothing, those outfits will have to wait until the fall. Plus, if you get one of those long, tunic style chambray shirts, you can wear them with leggings and that is a really great thing for us athleisure-loving folks.

Pleated skirt
No…not the school uniform type of pleated skirts…the cute, flowy ones that are seemingly ubiquitous this time of year. I have been looking for a pretty, knee-length pleated skirt for months, and finally found the perfect one at the Express Factory Outlet. Not too long, not too short, and not the midi length style that makes my legs disappear. I was initially looking for a bright, fun colored pleated skirt, or even a floral patterned one, but in the end I decided black was the easy choice. And that is the story of how I ended up with my fourth black skirt. At least my dresses are fun.

Hope you enjoyed reading about my spring fashion favorites! I am definitely not a “fashionista” (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) by any means, but I like to throw in some fun fashiony posts every now and then to mix things up.

Check back Friday for my next post!

(Last-Minute) Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day is this weekend (in two days, to be exact) and I know there will be many a last-minute shopper looking for some gift ideas for their mother. I know this because my dad and brother are those guys you see at the mall Christmas Eve, or at Target the morning of Mother’s Day doing their last-minute shopping. Luckily, this year, my brother and I already have our gift for our mom, and since I don’t have to help him come up with ideas this year, I’m sharing those ideas with the masses.

Here are some of my Mother’s Day gift ideas that aren’t flowers or a card. (And they’re all $50 or less!)

1. Greenhouse + plants. This greenhouse ($20) from Ikea would make a fun gift for those mothers with a green thumb. (Or even those with black thumbs. I don’t think two or three plants require garden mastery or anything.) Put a couple of fresh herb plants or some small, potted flowers in here and you have an instant garden to put on your mom’s window sill or out on the porch. ***Lots of assembly required.***

2. Purse accessories. This Kate Spade card holder ($50) would be a cute addition to mom’s purse for spring. It comes in a variety of fun, springy colors, as well as the basic black if that’s more your mom’s style. Put a gift card to your mom’s favorite restaurant or store inside and double the surprise!

3. Beauty set. Spring is a great time to get rid of old, expired makeup and liven up one’s makeup collection for the warmer months. There are a ton of great sales this time of year on everything beauty related: perfume, makeup, lotions, hair products, etc. I’m a big fan of giving beauty sets as gifts, and the Clinique ‘Spring Into Colour’ set ($39.50) is a perfect package of spring essentials for mom. It even comes with its own cute, little bag. Get it at Sephora, UltaDillard’s and Nordstrom.

4. Tickets to an event or experience. A concert, a sporting event, a wine and paint night, a museum exhibit, a day at the spa…Get mom tickets or a voucher of some sorts to an event or experience that she would really enjoy. Maybe set up a mother-daughter day at the spa, or get the whole family tickets to a spring baseball game. There really are endless options with this, just make sure it’s something she would actually enjoy. And maybe throw in a nice Mother’s Day card, too.

5. Fancy tea. If your mom is a tea drinker, head over to Teavana and pick up some of their new, spring flavors. (Their new peach green tea sounds delicious!) If she is not a tea drinker, but maybe wants to be, they have great little starter sets (I bought one for myself last year!) that would also make a great gift for the novice tea drinker. They also have cute mugs and glassware that you can throw in as an add-on gift.

6. A good book. I know my mom really likes to read, so books are always an easy, no-fail gift for me on Mother’s Day. Or Christmas. Or her birthday. Anyway, Barnes and Noble always has sales or some kind of coupon going on, but I’ve also had luck finding good books at Target. Of course, Amazon is always an easy and cheap place to buy books, but if you are waiting til now to get mom a gift, that obviously won’t work, even with two-day shipping. Unless your mom is into e-books. Which my mom is not. (I’m not either, for the record.) I like to throw in a nice bookmark or gift card to a coffee shop or local bookstore, and voila…a perfect gift for your bookworm mom.

7. Cute stationery. Get mom some cute thank you cards or a nice stationery set for Mother’s Day. Everyone loves a handwritten letter every now and then, and who doesn’t love getting mail? Paper Source and Papyrus are my favorite stores to shop for cards and cute paper products, but Target always has some cute stuff too. (I shop at Target a lot in case you weren’t getting that.) And while you’re at it, throw in some nice pens to make writing on all those fun, new notecards even easier.

If none of these ideas strike your fancy, I guess you could always do the traditional flowers and a card for Mom. Just don’t say you didn’t have any other ideas.

Have a great Mother’s Day weekend!

A Week in Washington, D.C.

I have finally gotten around to writing about my D.C. trip from a few weeks ago. I wanted to get this post up right after I got back, but this time of year is always busy for me, so I’m writing about it now. Sorry. Just pretend that I haven’t been back for almost two weeks.

On this particular trip, I was in D.C. for a full week visiting with some friends from college. We, of course, did all the usual touristy stuff…went to a lot of the museums (most of them are free!!!), visited various monuments, strolled around a few of the cute, little neighborhoods, and went to a few other places of interest, namely the National Zoo and the United States Botanic Garden. Just your basic D.C. stuff.

White House

Washington Monument as seen from the Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The Hope Diamond at the National Museum of Natural History

Modern art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery

Air and Space Museum

Dorothy’s ruby slippers at the National Museum of American History

Cute houses in the Capitol Hill neighborhood

United States Botanic Garden

Panda at the National Zoo

I had done a lot of those things last fall for my when I went to D.C. for the first time, but I was more than happy to do them again. I’m always up for museums and monuments. #nerdalert

Anyway, since I was there for a week, I had plenty of time to do a lot of things that I didn’t get to do last fall. One my of favorite new things that I did was visit Ford’s Theatre.

Ford’s Theatre

Box where Lincoln was shot

The boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln died

For some reason, I didn’t realize the theatre where Lincoln got shot was actually in the middle of Washington, D.C. In my head, it was always on the outskirts of the city. Maybe at the time it was in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know. Regardless of my misconceptions, it was a fascinating tour and we even got to go into the house and see the room where he died.

We also visited the National Archives which is something I have always really wanted to do. Because seeing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights is something every American should probably do in their lifetime. Along with watching National Treasure beforehand. Inevitably, the guards in the National Archives Rotunda room will make a joke about Nicolas Cage stealing the Declaration of Independence and everyone will laugh halfheartedly. Let’s be honest though…I would be pretty disappointed if I went to see the Declaration of Independence and didn’t hear at least one Nicolas Cage joke/reference/snub. Luckily, I was not disappointed because I heard the same Nic Cage joke from two different guards. It was a great day.

The other thing that I was really excited about doing was taking a tour of the U.S. Capitol. (Hint: Set up tours through your state representative’s office instead of doing the public tours through the visitor’s center. The tour groups are smaller and you probably get a better overall tour anyway.)

U.S. Capitol

U.S. Capitol Rotunda

Old Senate Chamber

National Statuary Hall

We saw the Crypt, the Rotunda, the National Statuary Hall, and the Old Senate Chamber. After our official tour ended, we were also able to go into the House Chamber and Senate Chamber. There really wasn’t all that much to see since they were just big empty rooms at the time, but I’m glad we took the time to see them. Just to say we did.

Along with all the cultural goodness that we were doing, I will say that a good part of our time in D.C. was spent eating and drinking. Which are some of my favorite things to do.

Cheers to Happy Hour!

The weather was really beautiful most of the week, so we made sure to take full advantage of that by frequenting a few of D.C.’s rooftop bars. (And by a few, I mean five and a half.) What made the rooftop bars even better were the happy hour specials that often accompanied them. Unbeatable views and great drink deals…it doesn’t get much better than that.

View from POV rooftop bar at the W Hotel

Reunited

The rest of the time we spent just kind of walking around the city exploring different neighborhoods (Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Arlington). We did food trucks for lunch one day, did a lot of walking and metro riding (they have one of the best and easiest metro systems EVER), spent a lot of time hanging out at home, and had a good, old-fashioned Bridget Jones movie marathon. Pretty much a perfect spring vacation.

Fortunately, there is still so much that I haven’t done in D.C., which gives me an excuse to go back again soon! Next on my Washington, D.C. bucket list: see the cherry blossoms and take a river boat cruise down the Potomac. Not to mention the many museums I have yet to visit. Until next time…

Hope you enjoyed my adventures in Washington, D.C.! Have a good Cinco de Mayo!

***

Special thanks to my friends, Brett and Jim, for being such gracious hosts and providing us with such wonderful lodging and food!

Also thanks to my friend, Lindsay, for being an exceptional tourist buddy and putting up with all of my nerdiness.

Finally, I would like to thank my friend, Cassy, for providing us with delicious meals, especially our lovely Easter brunch.