Category Archives: Events, Festivals, and Holidays

How To Survive a Beer Festival

Ooooh Beer Festivals. That most debilitating of spectator sports. How I love you.

It’s getting in to Beer Festival season. We went to one last weekend, the Asheville Winter Warmer Festival. It was a blast, and the first of several this year I’m sure.

A couple of days ago, I was advising a friend on beer festival strategy. Apparently I was a fountain of information, because she told me I needed to do a blog post about surviving a beer festival. So, Jennifer, here you go. Everything I know about Beer Festivaling.

IMG_20150129_165421First thing’s first, there are two ways to approach beer festivaling.

Wait. Backup.

I’ve been to 4 festivals in the last year and a half. So in case you’re wondering about my credentials, there you go.

Ok. Two ways to approach beer festivaling: Selective Swigging and Total Toasting.

Selective Swigging: You know what you like, and you’re sticking to it. Chances are, you’re at the festival because you want to get your fill of some obscure brew. Maybe it’s a seasonal. Maybe it’s a small batch. Maybe you only like light beer and anything else makes you gag. Whatever you like, you find it and you stick to it, and anything else gets tossed. Only tried 4 different beers? No problem for you. You’re a beer snob.

Total Toasting: You believe variety is the spice of life. Chances are, you have a broad beer palate. Or, you’re a newbie and don’t know what you like. Your goal is to try as many different beers as you can. You have grand plans to take pictures of all the beers you like, so you can find them later. You don’t like Porters? You just haven’t found the right one. Maybe it’s here, maybe it’s not, but you’re going to make sure you’ve tried them all just so you know.

In case you’re wondering, drunk levels tend to be similar regardless of approach. And know this…you WILL get drunk at a beer festival. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t. If you’re sober at the end, you’re not trying hard enough. Just sayin’.

So if everyone at beer festivals gets drunk, why in the world would anyone want to go to one? (Well, besides the obvious.) Answer? Because they are FUN. Because you will meet 5000 new friends (most of those while you’re waiting in the bathroom line). Because there are beers that you don’t get to drink every day. Because there’s no consequence if you don’t like one. Because there are food trucks and live music and stickers and brewery t-shirts. Because it’s an experience.

Try it once, and if you hate it, tell me, because I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have a good time (even if they felt horrible later).

The way it works, for the most part, is pretty simple. You buy a ticket (usually between $30-50) and that gets you entry into the festival, and a cup. Festivals range in size, but a decent one will have anywhere from 40-60 brewers. Each brewer typically has 3-5 beers. DO THE MATH. Brewers are set up like a trade show, and they pour you whatever you’d like. Lines move very quickly, so waiting isn’t an issue. There are usually buckets and water jugs so you can empty and rinse out your cup between beers if you like (or if it’s outdoors, just pour it on the grass).

Important Survival Tips

Most of the festivals I’ve been to have given me a 2-ounce cup. (Winter Warmer gave me a mug – bad news.) Two ounces doesn’t sound like much, I know. IT IS. Brewers are there to attract new customers, so the majority of them are generous on the pours. They want you happy, and they want you to have a good-sized sample. I love that, I really do. That said, I don’t know anyone who’s been to a beer festival and made it to every brewer, every beer. I’m not sure it’s even possible. So, how do you make the most of it?

Simple. Ask for half pours. I didn’t know I could do this until halfway through my second festival. You’d think it would be common sense, really… but most of the people I’ve talked to also didn’t know it was an option. It most definitely is. The brewers are more than happy to give you a 1-ounce pour. The smaller pour lets you try it without feeling like you need to drink it all or waste it. If you want more, just get more. Do this from the start, and you can extend your sobriety for quite some time, which makes it easier to taste more beers. Believe me, I know.

If you don’t like a beer, don’t drink it. Pour it out. The brewers won’t mind.

Also, work the buddy system. When we go, we all get a different beer. Then we try each other’s. I like IPAs, Jimmie likes stouts and porters. I try his without having to drink a whole lot of it. Another thing that should be common sense, but surprisingly isn’t something you see a whole lot of. (Though to be honest, by the end, I’m trying the stouts and porters, because everything tastes great.)

At most beer festivals, if you lose your cup you’re out of luck. Don’t lose your cup. And do not, under any circumstances, take your cup into the bathroom. Because you will lose it in there. I know this as well. Every festival I see girls with cups (some full, some empty) in the bathroom, and I just shake my head. Ask your buddy to hold your cup. Not hard.

BE NICE. People are going to run into you, step on you, and cut in line. Big deal. There’s plenty of beer. Be nice to the people, be nice to the brewers, be nice to the event staff, and for crying out loud, be nice to the security or police officers. JUST BE NICE.

Eat a LOT before you go. Preferably something heavy and hearty. Burgers are good. Pancakes are good. Salads are not good. Beer festival day is not the day to worry about your diet. You’re going to blow it, so just embrace it and repair the damage later.

Eat a LOT after you go. You might not feel like it – in fact, you probably won’t. I never do. But you need to, just like you need to drink water after. As tempting as it may be to drink more alcohol once you leave….DON’T. You’ve had enough. Just trust me on this.

And it should go without saying, but take a cab. Or walk around. Or call a friend. Just don’t drive. It’s not worth it.

What to Wear

I’ve been to two outdoor festivals, and two indoor. Surprisingly, the attire isn’t that different. Check the weather and plan accordingly, of course, but there are a couple of things to consider.

Gents, you can skip most of this. Or read it to your ladies. As usual, you have a much easier time dressing for events.

Comfort is the goal here. Comfort is above all else the most important thing you need to worry about. If you can find the balance between cute and comfy, you’re golden. I like dresses if it’s warm (just make sure it’s not too long, or it’ll get stepped on). If it’s chilly, go for leggings or skinny jeans or something equally comfortable. Honestly, for the next Brewer’s Jam I’m going to wear my workout clothes, because it’s the same day as Race for the Cure.

If it’s cold, by all means, take a jacket. Both of the winter festivals I’ve been to had a free coat check. (If you do this, take a picture of your coat check ticket!!!)

Wear shoes you don’t have to think about. This means absolutely no heels. If you wear heels to a beer festival, honestly, you should be turned away. Flats, boots, tennis shoes, Toms….I wouldn’t do flip flops because people step on your toes a LOT at beer festivals. Plus, they tend to fall off or catch on things…like the floor.

Also keep in mind that you’re going to get beer spilled on you. It’s a given. And it will be someone else who spills it on you. (Again, be nice.) Wear something you can clean easily, or something you won’t be too upset about. And think about the fabric – what breathes well. Be selective about jewelry – make sure it’s attached and can’t get caught on things. I’ve lost earrings. I’ve gotten tangled on people. It happens. If it’s outside, take your sunglasses, or even a hat.

It’s been my experience that the less you have, the better. Ditch the bag and put everything in your pockets if you can. Or, take a small crossbody bag. Nothing big, and nothing that you have to think about. Follow the clothing guidelines and pick something easy care.

Here are a couple suggestions for good beer festivaling attire.

Fall Beer Festival Wear

Fall Beer Festival Wear

Summer Beer Festival Wear

Summer Beer Festival Wear

What to Bring

Check with the festival to see if chairs are allowed. If they are, take them. Yeah, it sucks to carry them around, but you’ll be thankful you have them. Buy a helium balloon and tie it to one of your chairs, so you can find it easily. It probably goes without saying, but don’t leave anything valuable at the chair by itself.

If you’re worried about rain, don’t take an umbrella. Take a poncho. Yeah, you’ll look like a dork, but you A) don’t have to hold the umbrella, and B) won’t stab anybody.

One word: SNACKLACE. You might think they look dumb. You might feel dumb wearing them. You might feel like a kindergartener on the way to school with your pretzel necklace or your fruit loop necklace. So you might decline to wear one. And then, an hour in, you will sorely regret not having it, and you will be forced to pay $8 for one.

Remember this from the Wings and Beer post?

Remember this from the Wings and Beer post?

They’re easy to make. Just get some snacks, and some string, and you’re set. Trust me. You’re gonna want it. And actually, at Winter Warmer, people were super jealous of ours. We got tons of Snacklace props. Yogurt pretzels, fruit loops, peach rings, butter cookies, pretzels…anything with a hole in the middle. I also tied fruit rollups, Slim Jims, and cheese sticks on them….because you know, you need protein when you’re drinking.

IMG_20150124_121610

Making snacklaces in the car

As for money, bring cash. It’s easier and faster, and universally accepted. And there will be stuff you want to buy, whether that’s food or brewery memorabilia.

And yes, you need your ID. To, you know, get in.

Truthfully, there’s not a whole lot else you’ll need. I usually take some chapstick, and of course my phone, but otherwise, that’s about it.

Last Words

Finding a beer festival is easy. There are tons of sites, but I enjoy Real Beer and the Beer Festival Calendar. Both are great, but neither are all-inclusive, so the easiest thing is to Google “beer festival + your city.”

My first festival, I tried to keep track of the beers I liked using my cell phone. I tried typing in the names. Then I tried pictures. Finally, I gave up. Then, I found the Untappd app. It lets you log and rate beers. I used it at Winter Warmer to keep track of the ones I really loved. It’s a free app, and a lot of fun – and available on both Android and iPhone. Sign up, and friend me: my username is EmeraldElephant.

If you find a brewer you like, or a beer you really like, follow them on social media. It’s an easy way to say thanks, and to let them know you enjoyed them.

And finally….take lots of pictures. You’ll get some great ones, and you’ll get some hilarious ones. But it’ll be tons of fun the next morning.

Oh, and one more thing….

Have a blast!

IMG_20150124_152506

2014: A Year in Review

Happy New Year!!!!!

It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I hope you’ve all had wonderful holidays, whatever you celebrate. December was a busy month for us – Jimmie’s new job got going full swing, I spent a week in Montana, we had our annual Tacky Sweater Party AND a board game night, my bestie got hitched, my other bestie is moving to Mississippi, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve….and probably a million other things I’m forgetting. It was a blast, but I’m kind of ready for things to slow down!

And honestly, I got a little burned out on blogging. I’d been writing so much, but it was starting to feel….superficial. I felt like I’d lost the sense of why I started doing this in the first place. I had a lot of product reviews, which was lots of fun, but wasn’t really making me feel like I was writing anything worthwhile. And I was starting to feel the pressure of posting three times a week. So I took some time away, thought about what I really wanted to do and write about, and what I didn’t. What I’ve come to is that I’m going to continue to write about anything and everything – but I’m not going to stress about how much or how often. And I’m going to do my best to make every post something I truly care about, and not just something I feel obligated to write about. Easy enough, right?

With that in mind, let’s take a look back. At the beginning of 2014, I set several goals for myself – I wasn’t willing to call them resolutions, though in a way that’s what some of them were. So how did I do?

11

The whole thing, no walking.

Nope. Didn’t make it, though I did two 5Ks. I walked the majority of both of them, but that was perfectly fine.

Lose it!

Lose it!

Snort. Right.

Complete a Beachbody program, all the way through

Complete a Beachbody program, all the way through

So far, I’m on a roll. I didn’t do this either.

Continue my daily fitness challenge (now way past 100 days)

Continue my daily fitness challenge (now way past 100 days)

I made it to 260+ days, so I’ll count this as a WIN.

15

(I’d go with daily, but let’s start with every other day to be reasonable)

YES! Though in the spirit of full disclosure, I just barely squeaked this one in. Proud flosser since December, but now I can’t stand not to do it….so yes. Completed.

17

No excuses!

I didn’t get to this, but I’m not giving up. This year.

I'm going to knit one!

I’m going to knit one!

I didn’t make a hat, but I did make several really awesome scarves….and bow ties….and a case for my tablet. So this counts too. And I sort of learned how to knit in the round, so at least that’s progress.

Complete 10 projects off my DIY Pinterest Board

Complete 10 projects off my DIY Board

1. Knitter’s Ornament: I made this for Linda. It was supposed to be a Christmas present, but I got behind on my gift-giving, so it became a Happy New Year present instead! It was pretty easy, and I used toothpicks for the needles.

2. Paw Print Ornament: Zoe’s favorite color is purple, so of course her ornament had to be purple too. I didn’t buy Sculpy, and I probably should have. Whatever brand I got was hard as a rock and incredibly difficult to knead. I baked it as long as it said to, but I may go back and bake it longer…it seems a little too fragile still. Regardless, this was something that had been on my board for 2 years, so I’m happy I finally did it!  

3. Anthropologie Inspired Stamped Tea Towels: I used two separate tutorials, and liked things from both of them. I bought a super cute watering can stamp, some flour sack tea towels, and some green fabric paint. The towels were huge, so I ended up only doing one at first. It’s part of a late Christmas gift for Lydia.  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/217509856973008714/ and http://www.pinterest.com/pin/217509856977141307/

4. Wrapped iPhone Charger: This actually took me two tries. The first time, I was switching colors, which meant I had all these little knots. Then I figured out the whole waterfall method, where you just wrap the string and switch colors when you’re ready. Much easier. I didn’t cut my string long enough, unfortunately, so at the end I had to tie more in – which wasn’t pretty. And this took me probably 6 hours (not counting the time it took for the first try). All that said, I love the end result. 

5. Natural Yoga Mat Cleaner: Technically this is now on my Namaste board, but it started out on my DIY board, so it counts. I debated about this for a long time before deciding to make it. I was afraid it would hurt my mat. I thought it might be cheaper to buy it. I was lazy. I didn’t have essential oils, and didn’t want to buy them. Finally, I borrowed some lavender from a friend, and just made the stuff. And I’m so glad I did! This worked so well, my mat is super clean and smells great. I also figured out that it works on windows too – I figured I’d give it a try, and it’s better than glass cleaner! Streak free and cleans in seconds, and no nasty chemicals, so I’m not worried about the dogs pressing their faces on the glass. Definitely worth investing in some essential oils!

I actually think I got close on this one, because there were a couple other projects that I didn’t keep up with throughout the year. So we’ll count it as a win.

13

A photo a day

I made it to October before I got tired of doing this. It was fun, but I quickly realized that it’s more valuable to take more pictures of events and moments than it is to take a selfie every single day. Though on the plus side, I now have an endless supply of Facebook profile photos.

Read 75 books

Read 75 books

Win! I read 80.

Keep a daily gratitude journal

Keep a daily gratitude journal

I didn’t do this at all. Of all my goals, this is probably the one I’m most sad about not meeting. And probably the one I needed to meet the most (except for maybe flossing).

Plant a veggie garden

Plant a veggie garden

Yup! And we had lots of yummy veggies too.

Try 20 recipes off my boards

Try 20 recipes off my boards

1. Parmesan Zucchini Crisps: These were really good, and pretty easy. I used bread crumbs on mine because I didn’t want to use as much parmesan as the recipe called for. I broiled them, and they turned out wonderfully. I’d recommend eating them all at once though – they didn’t store well (got really soggy in the fridge). 

2. Kale and Cabbage SoupThis was similar to a soup I made last year (Superhero Soup). I added tomatoes and used red potatoes. It was delicious! 

3. Crockpot Pork Loin with Apple, Honey, and Cinnamon: This was good, but I’m not sure I’d make it again. Or if I did, I’d definitely leave the cinnamon out, and probably try it with a milder apple. All I had was red delicious. I also added water even though the recipe said not to….no way was I going to put a pork loin in the crockpot all day without water! 

4. Roasted Balsamic Brussel Sprouts: I haven’t been able to get enough of brussel sprouts lately, but I did want to try a new way to cook them. Not a huge fan. 

5. S’mores Crescent Rolls: I needed a quick and easy dessert recipe, and thankfully I had everything I needed for these on hand. They were super easy, and actually turned out pretty well. I didn’t go overboard on the chocolate chips, and I think that was a good thing… I can see how these would be way too rich if you put more than 7 or 8 chips in each one. They did kinda make a mess though, so I’d cook them on foil next time. The link doesn’t have the recipe, but you don’t need one – just bake them normally.

6. Spaghetti Squash with Avocado Pesto: This was surprisingly easy, and actually pretty good. I didn’t have fresh basil, which I bet would make it even better. I put tomatoes in mine too.

7. Turkey Stuffed Peppers: I’ve made stuffed peppers before, with so-so results. This recipe was delicious! I used ground chicken instead of ground turkey, and I really liked the taste. I did a mix of green and red peppers, and next time I think I’d just do red. They were sweeter than the green. Easy, yummy, and I had leftovers for days. And the rice/chicken mixture works really well in tacos (we had extra!).

8. Corned Beef and Cabbage: I modified this slightly, because I didn’t have any dark beer. I also added garlic and carrots. Turned out well, though really salty, and I’m not a fan of cabbage.

9. Healthy Shamrock Shake: Wellllll….so I’ve never had the original. I tried this, without the spinach because I didn’t have any, and I think I’m just not a fan of frozen banana. I tried once to make the frozen banana ice cream, and that was too much banana for me as well. If you can get past the banana, this is probably awesome.

10. Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Vinegar and Garlic: This was a fairly easy recipe. I didn’t have mushrooms, so I skipped them. It was good – the chicken was super moist – but nothing special. I might or might not make it again, but I doubt I’d consider it a “go-to” recipe.

11. Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake: This was a really easy recipe, and I actually had everything I needed. I made it in a pie pan, and I didn’t bake it long enough because it was more like cookie mush. Tasted delicious though.

12. Greek Yogurt Egg Salad: Well, this wasn’t exactly my favorite. Healthier? I suppose. But the greek yogurt taste was really overpowering, and mine was pretty runny. I’d try it again, with less yogurt.

13. Quinoa Avocado Spinach Power Salad: Um, DELICIOUS. I forgot spinach, but I added cucumbers. This was amazing, and so filling. And so easy, and it transports really well.

14. Mango Salsa:  We had this over tilapia. Turned out really well, but made way more than I anticipated. I didn’t have a jalepeno, so I used a little chili lime rub.

15. Lemon Garlic Tilapia: Had this with the mango salsa. I’m generally not a huge Tilapia fan…it tends to be rubbery and gross. But this was actually really good! I’d consider making it again, though it took twice as long to cook as the recipe said.

16. Potatoes Baked in Chicken Broth: This was super easy, and turned out really well. I skipped the butter, and didn’t miss it at all. I used yukon gold potatoes, and added a little bit of barbecue rub (from Pampered Chef) instead of the garlic. They were delicious!

17. Asparagus with Feta and Lemon: Another easy one. I used lemon juice, and used way too much. Otherwise, it was good – loved the feta. Will definitely try again, with less lemon.

I’m calling this one done too, because I know I made it. Just got lazy in tracking.

Keep a memory jar

Keep a memory jar

We did this – and now we need to look at it. Oops.

So that was 2014. This year, I’ve decided to take a different approach. I have some things I want to do this year, but I’m not going to list them as goals or resolutions or whatever. I just know they’re things I want to accomplish. Many of them are on my Up In Smoke list. I also have my Reading Challenges. And so, I’ve decided to do a year of goals or mini-challenges. Each month, I’ll pick a couple of things to work on or accomplish. Each month, I’ll reward myself for meeting my goals. I may or may not post about them, but you can follow along on my progress by checking out my 2015 Monthly Goals page.

What are your plans for 2015? Great things, I hope!!

3

Updates and Happenings

Hello friends! I know, it’s been a minute since my last post. I was doing everything “right” according to blog rules, and posting A LOT. And then I stopped.

I’m still alive, and this blog is still continuing, but it won’t be as frequent and won’t be as often (most likely). I’ve got several posts in the works – including one that will explain all this vagueness – but right now, I’m focusing on getting through the holidays!

So with that, hang tight…and enjoy my holiday pupperoos. Hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!

xmas pups

Ready for Black Friday?

Oh Holidays. Some of us love you, some of us hate you, and some of us tolerate you. Most of us spend too much money on you.

This year, let’s change that, shall we?

First things first, get your happy butts over to Ebates and sign up! If you shop online, you absolutely MUST be using this website. Basically, you get cash back for shopping! You can go to the retailer through the Ebates site, or download the toolbar (that’s what I did). It pops up to tell you when you’re shopping an Ebates partner, and all you do is activate the cash back feature. Every so often, stores have bonus cash back. Here are some of the current deals:

EbatesEbates also lists coupon codes on the site, so make sure you check those out too! I love this website….in 2014, I’ve gotten back over $60. In actual, real checks. They send them out quarterly.

There are a few stores that aren’t Ebates partners (namely, Amazon), but it’s still worth signing up. Heck, a buck is a buck, so even if you only get $1 back it’s worth it, right? For doing things you already do.

You also get referral credit, so once you’ve signed up go tell everyone you know to sign up. And yes, I shamelessly gave you my referral link. Full disclosure, folks.

And with Black Friday coming up (yay?) it’s the perfect way to sweeten the deal.

As for Black Friday, I’m a little over it. Seriously. What’s kinda funny is that the only thing I’m considering buying is dog toys, because Foster’s and Smith’s has a sale. It’s just too….too much. What’s that saying, something like “only in America do people trample each other the day after giving thanks”? Call me a grump, but I won’t be participating unless it’s from my couch. That said, if you’re shopping, I hope you find the deals you’re looking for.

Honestly though, I think the holidays are getting a bit too materialistic. I know. You love presents. You love giving them and you love getting them. I do too. It’s ok, we’re human. We like shiny things. And the holidays seem to be the one time we don’t mind blowing the budget and buying everything in sight. Well…until January, when we thoroughly regret it.

So ok. Buy something completely fun, maybe spend a little more than you would normally. Set a budget though, and try to stick to it. Come up with some low-cost gift ideas for friends and family. And coworkers. And neighbors. And mailpeople. Or forgo the gifts and share an experience. Or donate your time. There are any number of ways to celebrate without spending a ton of cash.

I started to do a series of posts, all cute with DIYs and instructions… but then I realized….crap. I don’t have pictures for these ideas yet, and I hate reading blog posts without pictures (like this one?!), so I’m going to have to have pictures. And I don’t want to steal someone else’s pictures, so that means I have to use my own. Which means I have to make or do all these things before I can share them with you.

And then I thought….this is going to take me forever and there’s no way I’m going to get this done in time for anyone else to actually use these ideas. So. What to do.

I could just make this easy and send you to my Gift It Pinterest board.

pinterest gift it

In fact, yeah. Let’s do that. Click on the picture, and it should take you there.

I’ll work on getting a couple of ideas posted – with pictures – but in the meantime, have fun with that board!!

Other fun news….I’ve created a Facebook blog page! True to form, I have no clue what I’m doing there. But I’m learning. It’d make me super happy if you’d “like” it. I’m thinking about slowing down on the blog some (going to twice a week maybe instead of three?) so I’ll be posting more on the FB page. I think. Anyway, like it here, and we’ll have some fun!

And if you’re not following me on Twitter, I’m finally starting to get the hang of that, so I’d love to connect with you there too!

You're Invited to a Virtual Halloween Party!

Welcome! So glad you could join me for a virtual Halloween party!

Jimmie and I are boring. We’ll be spending Halloween in. No costumes (unless you count the dogs’ bandanas), no wild partying, no trick or treating. No decorating. SADNESS. So I thought…why not have a virtual party?

Disclaimer: All of these images are from Pinterest. Click on the pictures for the original links, since I had nothing to do with any of this. Best of the web, right here.

Now that that’s out of the way, come on in!!

Copy, enlarge, print, and cut out our silhouette patterns. Trace onto black paper. Cut out the silhouettes and tape onto the inside of indoor windowpanes. Illuminate your display from the inside with a few strategically placed lamps.
You make your way inside, and up the stairs…
Halloween Mice on the Stairs
Where you’re greeted by a couple of zombies….      
Zombie CostumesAnd then your hosts, Casey and Jimmie, the Mardi Gras Alligator (because you can’t tell me that isn’t hilarious).
Mardi Gras CostumesYou make your way over to the bar and grab a cocktail…..

/

Black Widow

Or maybe two….

/

The Haunting

And then snag something sweet.

Scarecrow Treats

And then, the next thing you know, you’re dancing along to…..

Soon it’s time to go, so you grab a goodie bag…..

Stenciled Halloween Treat BagsAnd head home to bed!

goodnight sleep tight

Wasn’t that fun? But wait! I want to see your costume! Leave a link to your costume in the comments!

Thanks for partying with me….Happy Halloween!!!

Racing for a Cure: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the number one cancer diagnosed in women, and the second cause of cancer deaths. But it’s not just a women’s issue – every year, around 2,000 men will be diagnosed, and 400 of them will die.

Last year, my good friend’s father was diagnosed with breast cancer the week before her wedding. They caught it early, and he’s cancer-free, thankfully. He was lucky enough to have a physician who trusted his instinct that something wasn’t quite right with the test results.

Kristin has always supported breast cancer research, and in addition to her dad, has two other female survivors in her family. This year she asked me to join her in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k, so at the crack of dawn this past Saturday I found myself driving to her house for my first-ever breast cancer event.

It’s not that I’ve never been a supporter of breast cancer research – I am. I think what the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the countless others are doing is amazing, I really do. Breast cancer is so prevalent, and it absolutely deserves to be supported. But, we all have limited resources, and must choose which causes to devote our time, energy, and money to. Breast cancer research has always been a lower priority for me. To be honest, I agreed to do the race because I wanted to support Kristin, and not because of a change in charitable priorities. Regardless, I’m happy to have helped.

RFTC KnoxvilleWe got there early enough to watch the sun rise, which was quite an experience. I was feeling all artsy-fartsy, and managed to snap this picture of the Sunsphere, that I’m super proud of. See the moon??!!

Knoxville Sunsphere at DawnWe also got free coffee, which made me so happy I had to take a picture of it too.  Bless you, Starbucks.

RFTC StarbucksWe had a lot of time to kill because we got there so early, but we didn’t mind. It gave us a chance to show off our shoes (the louder the better, AMIRIGHT?), take selfies, and meet the local fauna.

RFTC Kicks

Casey and Kristin at RFTC

I am so doing this to Zoe

I am so doing this to Zoe

As a newbie, I had to be schooled in Race for the Cure ways. The white shirts are for supporters. The pink shirts are for survivors. I think it’s a brilliant idea…after all, seeing so many people in pink shirts suddenly takes breast cancer from the realm of “yeah I know that’s out there” to “wow, this is real…and these people are real.” It was so amazing, and so inspiring, and so humbling to see just how many people have survived breast cancer.

And it wasn’t just the survivors in the pink shirts that were inspiring. A good half (probably more) of the supporters were racing in memory or celebration of someone touched by breast cancer. Reading these signs was surreal. Some had pictures. Some had just one name, or one word: Mom. Some had “my best friend.” Many had multiple names. And then there was Kristin’s.

Honoring Family RFTCWe walked the race, and I was blown away by the number of people there. All ages, all walks of life, showed up to support breast cancer research. At the finish line, survivors are sent to a separate line. They’re escorted by men in tuxes, and given a rose, and everyone cheers for them. (We did wonder what they did for the men, as there weren’t any ladies in ball gowns to escort them!) I’ll admit I got a little teary.

Whether you’re young or old, male or female, please educate yourself on breast cancer. Know the risks. Know YOUR risks, because everyone is different. Learn to do a self-check, and DO THEM. (None of us like them, but they’re important.) And next time you meet a cancer survivor – whether breast or not – congratulate them, for they are fearless and heroic and deserve to be celebrated.

Love this infographic from Online Nursing Programs

Love this infographic from Online Nursing Programs

 

Happy Birthday Zoe!

Zoe's Corner

Just a quick post to let you all know that the resident darling, and my first true love, turned lucky 13 today!!! She’s enjoyed belly rubs, playing with her toys, and licking the chili bowl. All in all, a pretty good day.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ZOE!!!!!!

Happy National Dog Day!

Today marks the 10th year of National Dog Day!

Show your furbaby some love today. They do so much for us, don’t they?

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All four of mine are rescues, and though it’s cliche, they’ve rescued me too. I can’t imagine life without them. From Zoe’s random barking at shadows, Katie’s begging for belly rubs, Lucy’s demanding milk from my cereal bowl, and Luka’s codependency, they make life a whole lot more enjoyable.

I know a lot of you are pet lovers, so now’s your chance to brag on your babies! Tell me about your loves – let’s celebrate them all.

While you’re at it, check out the website for National Dog Day!

Mexico Bound!

I know, I know. I’ve been home for almost a week, and you’re dying to know all about my trip.

It. Was. Amazing.

That’s all.

………

I’m kidding.

Oh, not about it being amazing. It was definitely amazing. But that’s not all I have to say about it. Oh no.

In case you missed it, Jimmie and I went to Mexico for our birthdays. I turned 30 on July 6th, and his birthday is the 9th. Another couple went with us, and we had a fantastic time. Honestly, there’s a lot to say, so I’m going to split this into several posts….otherwise both of us will get tired. Plus, it’ll give you something to look forward to.

However….before I get to that, I’ve got to share a couple photos from the 4th of July. The kids were all decked out in their red, white, and blue best….

4th of July PupsIt was an absolutely gorgeous day on the water.

Watts Bar Lake July 4thAnd because I think it’s funny….here’s our dinner. We forgot to take a fork or tongs or anything on the boat with us…so Jimmie made do with beer cans.

0704141846bThe fireworks were awesome as usual, though I couldn’t get any pictures of them…but here are a couple while we were waiting. I was pretty impressed with my little cell phone, honestly….well, except for that one.

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Oops.

Oops.

0704142143And finally, a sparkler photo. Because sparklers are the best thing ever.

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Ok, on to Mexico.

Thursday before we left on Saturday, I had my hair colored and got a pedicure. Pampering, you know? I was all excited about my hair…my stylist put hair chalk in it for a little extra kick. It was supposed to last a month. It lasted 3 days. But, it was gorgeous.

Pre-Mexico Hair ChalkAs for the pedicure, I used my Sally Hansen Triple Shine polish in Dive In. I absolutely adore this polish. The color is awesome, and it’s got this Ultimate Shield Complex that protects the color from fading in the sun. It’s obviously never met the Mexico sun, unfortunately, because about halfway through the trip I noticed that my polish was a totally different color. It held up perfectly, though, no chipping, and the faded color was pretty enough.

Before After PolishAnyway, our flight left around 11:00am on Saturday. Jimmie and I both agreed that next time, we won’t go the day after a holiday. For one thing, we didn’t feel like we had enough time to pack. I also kinda felt like the holiday was overshadowed by the trip…I didn’t even put out my 4th of July decorations. We also decided we’d get up and take the early flight so we could get there sooner. We didn’t arrive in Cancun until 3:30, so by the time we got to our resort it was after 5:00.

Regardless, Lindsay and I were really excited. Jimmie was….probably sad he didn’t get whiskey shots with Raymond before flying. Or maybe angry at the child kicking his seat.

Airport

On the plane!!!

On the plane!!!

I’ve got to mention that this was my first time flying international. I’ve been out of the country, but it’s been Canada or cruises, so this was the first time I had to do the whole customs thing. Piece of cake, seriously. And CHECK OUT MY VERY FIRST PASSPORT STAMP!!!

First Passport StampWe booked our package through US Airways Vacations, and I would book with them again in a heartbeat. I don’t usually fly US Air, but the entire experience was great. Our transfer to the resort was included, and we had our own personal concierge from Best Day Travel. Definitely, definitely recommend going the package route. So easy, and we got a killer price too. Even better than Cheap Caribbean, which was shocking to me. I think we ended up getting our package for 55% off the advertised rates.

We stayed at the Valentin Imperial Maya, an adults-only all-inclusive on the Mayan Riviera (which means I get to cross “stay at an all-inclusive resort” off my up-in-smoke list!!!). If you’ve never stayed at an all-inclusive, basically everything is included in the price. At the Valentin you get alcohol (including top shelf, just ask for it), all meals and snacks, 24-hour room service, a few water activities like snorkeling, and tips are included (though we did tip on top of that because the service was great).

All four of us highly recommend the Valentin….It’s gorgeous, the service is impeccable, the food is to die for, and everything you could ever possibly need is right there on the property. We spoke to several other couples while we were there, and all of them said the Valentin was the best of the Riviera resorts they’d stayed at. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor too…they’re pretty spot-on.

1789787_4_bI’m going to do an entirely separate post on the food and drinks. There’s too much to say to put it all in one post. Yummm.

And let me tell you….going adults-only is the way to go. It was so nice to not have screaming children running around. Very laid back, and the whole resort has a very romantic feel. Even Lindsay and Raymond, who have a kid, enjoyed having adults-only.

The Valentin is fairly good sized. Be prepared to walk. It’s a little confusing at first, but after a day or so we figured out where we were going and it started to feel a bit smaller. I actually enjoyed the walking because it felt like I was getting at least a little exercise! Plus, having the buildings spread out meant that we never felt crowded.

A shot of the walkway leading away from our building

A shot of the walkway leading away from our building

The grounds are absolutely beautiful, and every day we saw staff tending to them. There are tons of flowers, and all sorts of wildlife. Birds, lizards (I have no idea what kind), frogs, and coatimundi are all over. They’re clearly used to the guests, as they let you get pretty close. There’s even a coatimundi named Poncho who likes french fries.

Lizard

Frog 2

Herd on Grounds

Grounds in front of our building

One of the Coatimundi

One of the Coatimundi

This might be my favorite picture from the entire trip. I think it's hilarious.

This might be my favorite picture from the entire trip. I think it’s hilarious.

We stayed in a Golden Jr. Suite in building 8. We chose that room because we wanted a little more space, and we wanted the Jacuzzi. We loved our room. Next time, I think we might get either the Golden Jr. Swim Up – which isn’t really a swim up, but has a little patio (instead of a balcony) and lounge chairs – or the Emerald, the next level up. I know a lot of people say you’re not in the room that much, and it’s true to a point…but the larger room was so worth it.

Golden King Room

Golden King Room

Golden Sitting Room

Golden Sitting Room

We loved the idea of the jacuzzi, but the bathroom was so humid that we couldn't really enjoy it.

We loved the idea of the jacuzzi, but the bathroom was so humid that we couldn’t really enjoy it.

If you’re looking at booking the Golden rooms, be warned that not all of them are King beds. Some have two doubles. I emailed the resort when I booked, and again about 2 weeks before we arrived and requested a King bed. They don’t guarantee anything, but we had a King room.

All the rooms have Wi-Fi and a mini-bar. Every night you get turn-down service, and a journal with the next day’s activities. And I know this is weird, but the toiletries were huge….almost full-size bottles. They’re good quality too (just know that there’s no separate conditioner – only conditioning shampoo). My only complaint with the room was the bathroom was incredibly humid. Otherwise, it was a great home away from home.

I know you’re dying for more….about the food, the pool, the beach, the entertainment, everything….but you’ll have to wait for the next post!

Keep reading for Parts 2 and 3

Birthday Week!!!

It’s my BIRTHDAY WEEK!!!!!!!!! Get excited!!!!

So I’m turning 30 TOMORROW, and I’m super excited. Yes, I’m excited to turn 30. It’s a milestone birthday, and I’m not afraid of it. Plus, I’m going to be celebrating it here….

01Or maybe here….

tour31And definitely here…

1789787_4_bThis is the Valentin Imperial Maya resort in Mexico. By the time you’re reading this, I’m already there. Jimmie and I will be celebrating our birthdays in Mexico (his is a couple days after mine). Bliss.

And yes, I will miss my dogs terribly. I already do.

Anywhoo….I’ve got a whole slew of 30-related posts prepared in honor of my 30th birthday. That means you’re going to see a bunch of posts for Birthday Week, each of them focused on 30 somethings. They’ll all have this graphic, so you’ll know when Birthday Week is officially over (and yes, it will be sad).

bday weekAnd for everyone who says I’m too old to celebrate my birthday week….stop being boring and have a cocktail. Cheers!