Wednesday, February 27, 2013

January in Pictures

I kind of fell off the "Month in Pictures" wagon in November and December.  I may go back and do a late update just for memory's sake. In the meantime, here is January!

 New kitchen toys at work! My kitchen is already bursting at the seams, but my wonderful family gifted me with a bread machine and a smoothie blender for Christmas. I put both to work for a semi-healthy, first-day-of-work-in-2013 breakfast.

God bless Texas and its patio weather- even in January. 

 {Lovingly} making fun of my niece's chipmunk cheeks after a few glasses of wine.

 Mavs! D's friends invited us to a game and we were practically sitting in the players' laps. It was really neat to be that close- we could literally see the sweat dripping off Dirk's nose. The downside is that now I'm spoiled for all future games!

 Even better, THE STARS! Thank goodness they figured out this lockout business... our little ad agency had already spent hours upon hours on their media plan not knowing if they would play or not. We were a grateful bunch when it was announced the season would start in January.

Celebrating Den's birthday with my parents. 

I gave D Cotton Bowl tickets for Christmas. As a Texas Tech grad, I was very torn on what to wear to a game that was A&M vs. OU. I decided to swallow my pride and wear an A&M shirt for my man. In return he bought a Tech shirt. As you can see, both of us were a little apprehensive about it. He hasn't worn his yet, so I might plan a road trip to Lubbock this fall just to get him in it!

Tailgating before the game. It was my first tailgate to "host" and in my usual party planning mode, I went a little overboard. I made ham and cheese sliders, buffalo chicken egg rolls, sausage balls, and a huge batch of apple cider spiked with salted caramel vodka. For six people. Needless to say we had a LOT of leftovers!

Alisa is a teacher and takes "Flat Felicia" everywhere to take pictures with her for her class. So naturally she had to be photographed at Jerryworld!

Jules and I at the game.

I think the boys liked their Christmas gifts! 

Dinner date with the old roomie. She ordered shrimp and grits at Max's Wine Dive and this was how the shrimp came. Um... nice presentation, but really??

Ben Flajnik came to Dallas for a wine tasting so of course we had to go check it out thanks to our close family ties to the former Bachelor. 

After reflecting on the whole "what could have been" Bachelor experience, I am very thankful for this guy. I can't imagine having gotten into all that drama! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Money Saving Tips

I was professing my love for Amazon Prime to our media buyer the other day and it got me thinking about how much money you can save if you just open your eyes and look around. I have found some great tricks over the years, so I thought I would share some of them here!

Amazon Prime
My first and foremost is the previously mentioned Amazon Prime. For those of you that don't know, you pay $79/year and get free three day shipping on almost anything. I signed up for a free trial two Christmases ago and forgot to cancel it, so I was DETERMINED to get my use of it. Y'all. I'm so glad I forgot. Amazon and I have since developed a pretty serious love affair.

I've found that 90% of the time things are cheaper on Amazon. It doesn't matter what I'm buying from gifts to paper towels, I typically check Amazon first. I recently saved $23 on a baby shower gift (for the EXACT thing she registered for elsewhere). And after Christmas I returned a Simple Human trashcan because it was too short (and Moose would have had a hayday with it), and got one twice the size for $10 cheaper on Amazon.

I started using the site so much that I just recently opened up a credit card that gets triple points on Amazon purchases. In addition to getting bonus points on what I buy on Amazon, I literally charge everything but my rent on the card and pay it off once a week. I was shocked at how fast they add up- I've been using it for three months and already have over $50 in points! Free money to spend on restaurants or traveling? No brainer.

I just started using Ebates after seeing their television commercials. I had heard about it in the blogosphere awhile back, but never looked into it. I signed up for an account and quickly realized that I should have done it years ago. You just sign up and then when you get ready to buy something online, go to Ebates and then click through to the company's website through Ebates. It opens up a tracking ticket and logs your cash back amount in your account. Different businesses have different cash back percentages and they will also do specials with higher percentages from time to time. I shop at Sephora a lot (more on that below) and last week they were doing 8% cashback for Valentine's Day. Then four times a year, Ebates cuts you a check for what you've racked up. My first check from all the online Christmas shopping was $19. Again... Free. Money.

Sephora Value Sets
I buy pretty much all my beauty products from Sephora for a few reasons:
  1. I love getting samples to try out and they send three with every order.
  2. I love their rewards program. 
  3. I love their value sets.
The value sets are my money saving tip. A few months ago I was buying my Origins moisturizer online and when I searched for it, I noticed that there was a value set for the exact same price as the moisturizer. I looked at it and it included the same size jar of moisturizer that I had planned on buying but it included a small thing of serum and face wash. I go through a LOT of moisturizer, so this was a great find for me. I haven't bought face wash since. 

I am a BIG fan of Groupon and it's counterparts. I buy them for everything- movie tickets, brazilian blowouts, restaurants, car detailing. You name it.

I added up the money I saved through Groupon since I started using it years ago and it was over $1,300. Most of this was money I would have spent anyways. The sushi place right by my apartment has one every few months, so if you're going to go anyways- you may as well go for 1/2 off! However, I have bought a few randoms that I wouldn't have normally bought just because they looked fun. I bought one for a wine tasting class at Wine Therapist and a few weeks ago D and I went on a horseback riding adventure that I found through Gilt City. Totally random and not something I would have thought of on my own, but we had a blast!

My last little trick is to use Open Table ANY time you want to make a restaurant reservation. They have a point system and give you 100 points for every reservation you use. For every 2,000 points, they will mail you a $20 gift certificate that you can use at any restaurant that takes Open Table reservations. It obviously takes a little while to build up, but they also have 1,000 point reservations if you are willing to go at off-peak times. You could essentially book two 1,000 point reservations and get $20 off your next reservation. Not a bad deal! 

I know a lot of these things might be common knowledge, but I thought I would put them out there just in case it might help one of you. As someone who has spent the majority of her adult life with champagne tastes on a beer budget, sometimes you have to get scrappy! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Birthday Weekend in Charleston

We had such a great time in Charleston! If you haven't been, I highly recommend it for a quick weekend trip. The weather was perfect, the food was delicious, and the people were so incredibly friendly. It's one of my new favorites!

1. My sweet guy had the hotel deliver champagne and chocolate covered strawberries with a birthday card when we arrived. I set my manners aside for a celebratory swig.
2. Den in Marion Park across from our hotel.
3. In front of a theater that was in a scene in The Notebook.
4. Hall's Chophouse. One of the best meals I've ever had and it happens to be run by an old boyfriend of one of my friends. It was also our hangout for a large part of the weekend since I didn't have an ID and Tommy knew I had a solid decade on the drinking age. 
5. Our other favorite that didn't card during the day, Closed for Business. Such a cool space and really good food. We ended up going there every day we were in Charleston.
6. Beer flight at Closed for Business.
7. I tease Den that he's dating a cougar since he is two years younger.
8. At the Calhoun monument in Marion Park.
9. On our culinary tour, we stopped by this old cemetery. Random for a food tour, but it was really interesting.
10. D at the cemetery. It had gravestones dating back to 1762. 
11. On King Street.
12. Trying to get creative at the Calhoun monument.

D was most excited to see Fort Sumter. After a 20 minutes, two wrong turns, and a lot of goofy pictures, we got there only to realize that we had just missed the last ferry boat of the day by 20 minutes. Very frustrating but we were able to see it from afar!
1. Oh, what I wouldn't do to have access to a little crepe stand like this in Dallas.
2. This was as close as we were able to get to Fort Sumter. If you look directly above his hand you can see a teeny, tiny speck of it in the distance.
3. The running joke was that I referred to Charleston's most historical site as "Fort Sumpter" in a text and Den promptly told me "to pick up a book every once in awhile." This was my attempt to add the "p" back in Sumpter.
4. Charleston had such gorgeous homes.
5. Our hotel was in the perfect location- right at the intersection of King & Calhoun.
6. Super old door with no historical significance that we knew of. It was just cool and old so we took a picture.  :)
7. Den pointing out that it is indeed "Sumter" with no p. 
8. Back at our favorite spot, Closed for Business.

Luckily, the hike to Fort Sumter wasn't all for nothing. The Charleston Aquarium was right next door, so we just redirected and had a great time.
1. Acting like nerds before the 4D movie at the Charleston Aquarium.
2. Lemurs!
3. Den hangin' with the lemurs.
4. Outside the Charleston Aquarium/Fort Sumter.
5. Upside down tree.
6. Giftshop goofiness.
7. In front of the main tank.
8. Upstairs looking out at Charleston Harbor.
9. Me crawling into the lemur house.

The whole reason we went to Charleston was because Den looked up Citizen Cope's tour schedule (my all time favorite) to see if he was playing anywhere in the US on the weekend of my birthday. I guess I should thank my lucky stars he was playing in a cool city I'd never been to and not somewhere like El Paso or Odessa!
1. Had to take a picture with the sold out sign and my birthday.
2. Sans his band, playing my favorite song.
3. He played at this venue called the Music Farm which was right off King Street. It was really old with this awesome domed wood roof.
4. Mr. Greenwood/Cope, himself.
5. The cherry on top of the weekend was that Den bought VIP tickets and you got to come to the venue early and see the band warm up. Afterwards everyone was invited to stick around and ask him questions. He was undoubtably high as a kite, but it was still very interesting to hear him talk about his favorite bands and what influences him. I also made a giant ass out of myself when he referenced "DFW" and I "woo hoo'd" thinking he was talking about my hometown and not the song on his newest CD.
6. VERY excited to be up close and personal at the sound check.
7. At the actual show afterwards. Our view wasn't nearly as good, but we were closer to the bar, so win some/lose some?
9. This guy definitely gets the gold star for best birthday present ever. 

Our last day, we had brunch and walked around the city for a little bit, trying to hit a few more places we hadn't been yet. Although, we did stop in at Closed for Business one last time!
1. Brunch at Hominy Grill. HIGHLY recommended!
2. Obviously we liked it. And no, I did not eat all of that. My boyfriend eats more than a linebacker and finished the rest of mine!
3. Second Sunday on King is a monthly event where they block off King Street and the restaurants put tables out in the street and they have live music spread every few blocks. We had no idea they did this but had so much fun wandering around.
4. Homemade Nutella ice cream at Hominy Grill. A birthday is about the only time I could rationalize following brunch up with dessert. 
5. Mimosas make having to leave a little better!
6. D at Second Sunday.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to Charleston, go! I highly recommend the Frances Marion Hotel, Halls Chophouse, Hominy Grill for brunch, and doing a Culinary Tour

Thanks babe, for a wonderful birthday weekend!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Birthday Girl

My birthday was on Saturday and thanks to my family, friends, and boyfriend, it was a wonderful week!  On Wednesday, one of our TV reps took us out to a fancy birthday lunch at Ocean Prime and we had this amazing chocolate peanut butter dessert.  If you ever go to Ocean Prime, order this.  It was melt in your mouth delicious.

Our sweet buyer surprised me with a cookbook I've been eyeing for awhile.

And I ended the afternoon by meeting my mom in Plano for a mani/pedi. When I got there she had a tumbler of wine waiting for me. Much needed and much appreciated after a long afternoon of meetings!

Afterwards, Den met up with us and we headed out to one of my favorites- Jasper's. Dinner was amazing, but we skipped dessert and headed back to my parents' because m
y mom made a 19 layer crepe cake with frangelico ganache with candied hazelnuts on top.  For those of you who are Smitten Kitchen followers, it's out of her new cookbook. Be forewarned- the recipe is four pages long and it took her three days (and a good portion of her sanity) to make. Thank you, again!

To top it all off, my amazing boyfriend took me to Charleston, South Carolina a couple days later for a little weekend getaway.  

We did a Culinary Tour of King Street, hit up an old friend's restaurant, saw one my favorites in concert, and (kind of) checked out Fort Sumter. We just got home and I already can't wait to go back! More pictures to come!

Thank you everyone for making turning 30 even more fun the second time around! (31 is not in my vocabulary quite yet... still warming up to it!)