Vegas…it truly never gets old!

I really mean it when I say, ‘I could go to Vegas every year’. Honest. Just coming back from my third trip out and already can’t wait to go again. I think I have convinced one of my fellow travelers that this needs to be a yearly thing. There are so many things to do: shows to see, pools to lounge and drink by, gambling, shopping, did i mention drinking?!?! Even though drinking is more on the expensive side, I don’t know anywhere else you can walk around in public with a drink in your hand. Everyone experiences or enjoys Sin City in a different way, here’s how I enjoy it…

Booking/ getting there:
For my first and recent trip we got a non stop flight both ways and I can’t say how much I love that! Flying to Vegas, I just want to get there and when I’m ready to leave I just want to get home. My second trip out I had a connecting flight in Denver from Des Moines but the flight out of Des Moines was delayed so I had to rebook on another flight out of Denver putting me in Vegas three hours after then I originally planned. If I fly domestically I try to avoid doing a connecting flight at all possible costs; it’s nice just have one time and one destination to worry about. Also it makes for a LOOOONG journey home when you are tired of people, drained from having too much alcohol, I mean FUN, and being in airports. Save doing connecting flights for international travel when it saves you money and don’t have a nonstop option. When we land I always get a cheap shuttle to the strip hotels and on the day we leave, I find it much easier and faster (and cheaper if you get three people in) to take a taxi back to the airport.

Hotels/where to stay:
Before we booked this trip I’ve decided each time it could be fun to try a different hotel every time.
My first time out in March of 2011 for my cousin’s wedding, everyone who came out except me and Tyler stayed at Tropicana. Since one of the nights we needed to stay there was sold out because of an event, Tyler and I stayed across the strip at Excalibur. Tropicana is one place I definitely can’t wait to stay when I get around to it: VERY nice and claims to have been voted Best Pool In Vegas. Excalibur is a great stay too mostly because it’s more affordable but our stay was comfortable. If price is something you need to make work in order to get out to Vegas, Excalibur is always a nice stay for the cost; always affordable. Their pool is nice too! Sure it is on the south end of the strip and may seem far away from everything but there’s action everywhere: north, south or middle. Plus I have found I get more drinks when I gamble there than I do at any other casino.
My second time out in Vegas, I only need a room for the last night; I stayed with a friend and her husband on the air force base two nights and another night I had driven out to LA and stayed with another friend from college. Even though I wanted to try a different hotel I stayed at Excalibur again because I had tickets to see “Thunder From Down Under”, which was where it was showing so I didn’t have to leave the hotel. Also in Excalibur is the awesome bar/restaurant: Dick’s Last Resort. This is one of the few chain restaurants I love because of the fun atmosphere of the staff purposely being assholes to you. Your wait staff will make offensive hats for you to wear:
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For this last trip out with two friends we stayed in the middle of the strip at Flamingo. This was a fun hotel, affordable too with access to everywhere since it was in the middle. We just got a basic room since we were only in it to shower, change and sleep. This hotel made me realize when in Vegas stay somewhere with an awesome pool because when you are in the hot climate you don’t really need to do anything else during the day. A good pool= more relaxation. Flamingo had two, technically three pools. A smaller children’s pool, the Beach Club Pool for all ages and the Go Pool for ages 21 and over. There is a live DJ everyday at the Go Pool so the crowd there averages in the early 20s which can be annoying when you can’t stand the guido type crowd. Rachael and I found that we started our day at the Beach Club pool then later in the afternoon transition over to the Go Pool when it starts clearing out and you can actually find a place to sit.
Next time I hope to get a room at Monte Carlo since I heard it will be remodeled and made into a bigger resort. I see nothing wrong with it currently as it has an awesome looking pool and rooms. I guess better try to book a room there while you still can….

Gambling
I really don’t have much to say in this area, I only play penny slots to get free drinks. I know I’m kind of lame in that aspect. I will put a five or ten in and milk it as long as I can get free drinks (which by the way just keep tipping your wait staff and they will keep coming back!). While passing through the Mirage, I saw and Game of Thrones penny slot machine and just had to play it! I put in a 10 and cashed out at 30, winning my money back plus 20 bucks. I did feel lame going to the cashier and here’s a lady ahead of me walking away with a couple hundred dollar bills and there I am walking away with 30 bucks. (I look like an excited little kid playing it! :D)
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Get tickets for a show!
This trip the one thing I didn’t do was see a show because I figured we’d all just want to relax and decide what to do on the fly. Always book a show because going to Vegas just isn’t the same without one; you HAVE to see one when you are there. The only ‘show’ I have seen is Thunder From Down Under which I don’t think I need to say anymore about that! 😀 I still haven’t seen LOVE at Mirage or any Cirque show for that matter, Tournament of Kings would be awesome too. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Britney! Something I never thought I’d say, I’ve never liked her early stuff when I was a kid and still don’t but I appreciate her more being an adult making adult music and still dancing like she does! Sure she probably lip syncs her entire show but she looks amazing after having two kids!
The Luxor has two exhibits that you must see: Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit and Bodies. My last trip I saw Titanic and was VERY impressed by that exhibit as it has a lot of artifacts. I enjoyed it WAY more than the tour in Belfast. Bodies I have not seen but it’s another on my list; real bodies on display. I’m pretty sure it’s neat even though it sounds super creepy and gross. The High Roller Ferris wheel is another new attraction which you must do at night to see all the lights!
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It’s located right behind the new Linq hotel which was built after the shit hole hotel Imperial Palace was torn down. Little shops and restaurants were build between the Flamingo and the Linq so that’s a nice new area and the bars there are technically off strip places and prices are a little lower than the major hotels on the strip.

Where I have to eat when I’m in Vegas:
Since eating here after my cousin’s wedding on my first trip out, both times following I HAVE HAD to eat at Battista’s Hole in the Wall. Excellent Italian food, served with unlimited table wine, salad or soup, breadstick and a dessert cappuccino. Did I mention UNLIMITED table wine? The menus are located on the wall and each entree’s price has all that I listed above included. Seriously some of the best food I’ve ever had and they have their own accordion player on staff that comes to each table and plays. He’s a tiny little old man and so VERY adorable! Even when it’s super hot outside and Italian food is the last thing anyone wants I still have to eat here! Seriously check out this website! Here It’s located right behind the Flamingo so we didn’t have far to walk this time!

Fremont Street:
I always stay in hotels on the strip but one of your days must be designated to visiting and drinking on Fremont Street. Original old school Vegas two miles north of the strip where it’s cheaper to eat and drink. It’s less busy during daylight so you can get on the zip line faster but it’s more fun at night and you can see the light show they have going on above. Every hour on the hour they highlight and artist or music: I saw them do a Doors show and another one for DJ Tiesto. They have nice restaurants to eat at during evening meals but we found that during the day you may only find buffets to eat at. We found one for 10 bucks a person and as Chad said: “Paradise Buffet: you get what you pay for!” SO true for this one but we had fun cracking jokes like “if any of you are backed up there’s prunes up at the salad bar!” Speaking of buffets, our brunch buffet at the Flamingo was pretty good! Brunch goes until 2 PM daily. During the week it’s 19 bucks M-F, Saturdays and Sundays are 22 and they include bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys! Any food that cures your hangover I swear will be on this buffet!
Getting to Fremont/around:
Take the Deuce bus which runs 24 hours to Fremont and back down to the south end of the strip. I find it funny that going Northbound on the Deuce up to Fremont sucks and takes forever but going back down Southbound to the strip takes less time and is more tolerable. I don’t know why but at least when I’m ready to head back to my hotel on the strip it’s a better ride. Only 8 bucks for a 24 hour pass or 20 bucks for a three day pass; pretty awesome and comes in handy when you get tired of walking within the 6 mile stretch of the strip. However the Deuce is the ONE place in Vegas you can’t drink. It’s a no fun bus.

When to go and how long for?
In my opinion I love going in May or June or July during the warmer months. Sure the last two times I’ve had the luck of going right in the middle of a heat advisory and temps being in the 110s. Honestly though you are in the middle of the desert right in the middle of summer so that is expected. However the pools are open longer during these times and that’s pretty much where I spent most of the daytime hours. One of these years I go maybe I’ll get a time when it stays in the 80s or 90s. It’s always cheaper to book in winter months but if you do it ahead of time May or June can be just as cheap. The only downside I have found to being in Vegas during the summer is if you are in the middle of a Heat Advisory it is almost impossible to even get a buzz because what alcohol you do consume, you just sweat it out being it’s hot and because of all the walking.
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I have found 3 nights is the perfect duration to stay out there. I would only do four nights if you had to in order so see one/another show. Also: three years ago I did drive out to LA, which is four hours from Vegas so I would recommend that as a another reason to stay an extra day. The drive alone is pretty epic and something everyone should experience. After your third day or night staying on the strip, you are tired of paying 8 bucks for a small pool beer or 17 bucks for a margarita. It’s always cheap to get out there and stay but it’s the having fun while you are there that can add up if you want to live it up. I think I’ve figured out a good handle on how to spend money out there. Thank you penny slots….

IRELAND!- One year later…

How do I even start this blog without sounding snooty? My husband and I were blessed to spend our honeymoon in Ireland. This truly was a dream. There are so many pictures and memories to share, how do I choose or condense it down to one post? I promise to not ramble and keep the reading enjoyable and easy to follow without seeming endless.
Before I begin I just have to say that my in-laws are amazing. They have a time share through Marriott Vacation Club and it turned into a point system to use on hotels or airfare so they gave us points to use for our flight; their wedding present to us. Tyler and I are lucky!
Also I have to recommend the website: wanderable.com which we used for one of our wedding registries. We didn’t really need a lot of things for the home from Kohls so we registered on this Honeymoon website and guests were able to gift us with: A night stay in a castle, tickets to tours, etc. (If you are interested to see what it looks like http://www.wanderable.com/Jones_Doden )

Sunday May 17th, 2015
The big travel day with 10 hours spent in the air inside a steel tube! We started flying out of Mason City, IA to Chicago, IL on a very small charter plane with Air Choice One. For those who live around me who are curious about flying on one of these cessnas: they are small and fly lower than a commercial jet so they are more easily affected by weather. I only recommend flying if you have to book at last minute and know the weather is going to be clear which will give you a smooth flight. It rained the day we left and even though our flight was on time, a person who worries easily like me was panicking on what would happen if it had. If the flight to Chicago from Mason was cancelled, that’s a 7 hour drive to make to try and get to O Hare to make our flight. Yes our flight made it on time but it was a VERY bumpy flight and I was terrified the whole two hours as Tyler slept. If anyone can handle the possibility of lots of turbulence, it’s only $50.-$60. each way, so yeah it’s cheap.
After making it to safety on the runway of Chicago O Hare, we transferred from the small Terminal 3 to the bigger International Terminal 5. The other downside of flying Air Choice One to make a connecting flight in Chicago is that even though you checked your bags in Mason, since you are in the small terminal with the smaller air lines, you have to re check your bags and go through security again. We had a good dinner and boarded the plane leaving at 8 PM: we were off for a ‘wonderful’ 7-8 hour fight that we didn’t sleep through.

Monday May 18, 2015
We arrived in Dublin around 9:30 AM Ireland time or 3:30 AM Iowa time. We were both very tired and the line at Customs seemed to not move. We finally got through, got our luggage and made our way to pick up the rental car. It was weird for Tyler to drive stick on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. Since it was too early to check into our hotel we drove into the city centre to kill some time and recharge. We stopped at the Old Jameson Distillery on Bow Street:
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This was the original site of Jameson but it’s not the distillery anymore due to it outgrowing the sight and a fire so it’s just mostly a tourist trap now.
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We ordered some Irish coffees and it was the pick me up we needed!
After we finished we were fortunate to catch a short tour of the ‘distillery’ with a history lesson and how whiskey is made. We got to do some sampling and at the end, a free drink in the ‘bar’. Like I said, VERY touristy but it’s nice if you are looking for something to do.
It was now finally nearing the time to check into our hotel. We stayed in the ‘suburb’ Tallaght at The Plaza Hotel which was close to the Motorway, perfect for when we would leave the next day. This was supposed to be a two night stay but days earlier we found filming locations for Game of Thrones and did some last minutes changes to plans to try and fit more of these in so our first four days consisted of staying in four different hotels; try NOT to do this. It’s very exhausting to check in and check out staying one night at at time. We checked in and crashed for a nap but made ourselves get back up to eat dinner and get on Ireland time. Dinner at the hotel bar restaurant and of course this was the start of having Guinness with every meal. A pint with every meal is like two meals at the same time!

Tuesday May 19, 2015
This was a jammed packed day! Traveling from Tallaght to our next night stay at Holiday Inn Express in Antrim, Northern Ireland. So much green everywhere! SO BEAUTIFUL!
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It rained all day but only in spurts as it does often. We left early to cross into Northern Ireland to see as many filming locations as we could.
Castleward, a national park made up of an old castle and estate was filming sight of Winterfell:
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Just on the other side of Castleward was Audley’s Castle the sight of Rob Stark’s camp:
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On our way up the hill to this sight we pretty much walked through a field of sheep. They were hanging out in the distance looking at us like no big deal.
Tyler doesn’t like to admit that he had so much fun driving a Toyota Yaris around the country side with their twisty, winding roads and hills. He also loved how all fence lines were made from stone and “everyone has their own little driveway”.
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Next stop: Inch Abbey or the remains of it. Still an amazing sight hundreds of years old and we were the only ones there! This is not a busy tourist spot so it’s a nice little scenic stop to frolic in the grass and trail to the sight. There was a cute little dog that made friends with us while on a walk with his owner:
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Moving along into Belfast to stop in the Titanic Quarter for lunch and a tour. This is where the famous ship was built and it’s now the home to Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones is one of the shows filmed there. Since we were now in Northern Ireland, we had to switch to using Pounds instead of Euros. Everything is more expensive. The tour of the Titanic Experience was OK but was too touristy and lame for our taste. Honestly the Titanic Exhibition in Vegas is FAR more impressive as there are more artifacts. I just wasn’t impressed by it at all. If you are in this part of Belfast, tour the Titanic Dock and Pump House, which was the original pump house from when it was built and launched. This is more historical and more interesting. Plus you are next to the dock so you can see how big it actually was. We sadly didn’t have time to see this. So yeah skip the Titanic tour and just see the Dock and Pump House.
We finally made it to our hotel in Antrim to check in and drop our bags off. You think we would be resting now but nope. Yes we were tired but wanted to get in two more sights in before the end of the day:
The Dark Hedges (The Kingsroad in GoT) A road of 18 century beach trees; the most photographed road in the world!
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Our last sight of the day was Downhill Beach along the northern coast. This is one of the most amazing places I have ever been!!! The sun was setting when we arrived and it was foggy so it looked eerie but beautiful as you stared out into the abyss. This was the farthest north either of us had been in the world. It was just so beautiful; and the cliff with the temple on the hill just seemed so surreal. Very windy and chilly but just being there made us forget that.
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Back to the Holiday Inn Express in Antrim: complete with a bar in the lobby and a kitchen in the back so you could order pizza, sandwiches and other things. They do a good breakfast in the morning as well. Booking and staying in Northern Ireland we the feel of Dollars converted to Pounds. Booking the room with Expedia look reasonable only $69.00 for the night. At this time last year dollars to pounds wasn’t even and the room went for 105 pounds that night, which I’m sure there were taxes in the cost as well. Last year the exchange rate was 1 British pound was equal to over a dollar and a half, this year in 2016 1 pound equals to $1.40 American. Something to remember when you want to visit Great Britain, bring more money than you think you will need.

Wednesday May 20th, 2015
We left Northern Ireland and made a 5 hour drive to our next stay in Clifden along the west coast. The drive really wasn’t bad saw a lot of gorgeous country side and since the roads curved and every which way up and down hills it was never short of interesting. How I wish we had roads like that here or roundabouts because they keep things going. We really did roads the wrong way over here in the States… Their signs seem confusing but really not at the same time…
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The other nice thing about driving days is you can stop anywhere you want, we stopped by this bridge and walked down to the little river below it:
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The things you don’t know you will drive pass after you stop at a small pub in a town smaller than yours, look Kylemore Abbey:
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Driving to Clifden you pass the west coast, a gorgeous drive on Sky Road. We stayed at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel. Although not an actually castle, it was still originally built to look like a castle but was a home for girls.
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This little town had so many little restaurants and pubs to choose from. Anywhere you go in Ireland no matter how small the eating or drinking establishment EVERYONE had a brand new nitro tap for pouring Guinness. No way you could not not find it. We had fish for dinner then returned back to the hotel bar inside the castle. We had live music to listen to as well and we met some other Americans from Wisconsin and Texas. Very fun night, well too much fun.

Thursday May 21, 2015
Up and ready to get back on the road again. I made it up for breakfast in the castle dining room while Tyler slept in. Another cloudy rainy day but that was alright as this would be a day to recover from the night before.
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(West coast as we left in the morning)
We drove from Clifden to Galway and arrived around lunch time. We didn’t really have anything planned or tried to see anything so we made it into the City Centre to park and find lunch and relax. I was happy to find a restaurant that served Doner Kebaps! A favorite for anytime I travel abroad and I finally got to introduce this fine piece of drunk/hungover food to my husband. This brought me back to both of my times spent in Germany. Like I said a very rainy day so walking around or sight seeing was out of the question. While leaving the city we got a distant view of the coast which was pretty.
We made it to our next overnight in Limerick. I had booked us at a Travelodge in town but the GPS took us to the wrong one; there were two. When we found the one we were staying at (Travelodge Limerick Castletroy), I noticed it was a newer one just built but on the outer edge of Limerick where there was nothing around it within walking distance. The reviews said it was clean and cheap, only cheap because it was pretty bare in the room. This was more of a business hotel where the traveling business person on the go only needed a shower, bed, and maybe a tv and desk. I originally thought when planning this trip we would do some sightseeing around town and would only be in the hotel when we would return to it that night to sleep and shower the next morning but since the previous night was rough this small, simple hotel worked to take a nap and recharge.
Later on that night we tried to see if there was anyway we could get food around our hotel. There was a gas station down the road that was attached to Ireland’s knockoff version of McDonalds: SuperMacs!!! It wasn’t terrible food but it was a terribly corny place. There is only a couple of pictures from this whole entire day, like I said the previous night was rough and today we had to pay for it. I wish we could say more about Galway and Limerick but we only made it to the Doner place, a very basic cheap Travelodge hotel and a SuperMacs. When finding a place to stay always make sure there are places around you can walk to.

Friday May 22, 2015
Our honeymoon adventure was officially back on track! We left Limerick and on our way to our two night stay in Cork. Yes, we FINALLY had a two night stay and next time there will be more of these. Our first stop of the day was to see the Blarney Castle! We got there right away in the morning and I recommend getting there early or at least before lunch before the crowds show up and there are lines all the way up the castle. The path on the way in….
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I don’t want to bore you with details, you will just have to travel there to really experience it.
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Of course when you go up, to get back down you have to kiss the Blarney Stone and no they don’t clean if off after everyone has touched it. Gross. Tyler was able to hold on and fake kissed it. When it was my turn, I leaned back and saw the stone but I’m afraid of heights and even thought people were holding me I didn’t feel like leaning back all the way to ‘kiss’ it.
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After you tour the castle itself, you must tour the grounds, the estate house and the Poison Garden. Yes a Poison Garden where when you bend down to read the sign of what it was there was a disclaimer saying “this scent might be considered toxic’… 😀
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After we explored all the nooks and crannies of the grounds, towers, dungeons, woods, graveyard for horses it was time to move on. Even though I’ve heard recommendations from travel websites to try and avoiding eating around tourists destinations due to inflated costs, the little town of Blarney had a lot of little pubs and restaurants that catered to people like us who were coming and going.
After a quick lunch we were back on track to drive into Cork and check into our hotel, The Kingsley. This hotel was a GEM to find, VERY NICE and affordable. Located right outside of the city centre of Cork but next to the transit stop which allowed us access to anywhere. There was a full wellness center, a pool and a full service spa located inside. I had booked us a Couples’ massage at the spa, this was much needed and enjoyed after four days of non stop moving. Very relaxing and the staff was very nice. After our massage we got to hang out in robes in the recovery area on couch like chairs and enjoy rejuvenating fruit drinks. We had the option to explore the other areas of the spa. Do yourself a favor and check out this website! http://www.thekingsley.ie/ We would go back and stay in a heartbeat!
After resting in our hotel room catching up on Game of Thrones, oh one more thing about the rooms, VERY spacious bathrooms: You could ballroom dance in there! :D, we needed to find food.
We walked down the street to try and find anything that was close by. The restaurant we found was an example of don’t just a book by it’s cover! We had made it to the bus stop and saw a Subway restaurant and a small Chinese place next to it. This is a place I wish I would have took a picture of: the Chinese place looked like nothing special almost sketchy but we both thought Chinese sounded good so we took a chance. Oh my inside was gorgeous and very romantic with dim lights and candles on the tables. This place was open late so it was perfect for people like us who’s eating and sleeping schedules were not quite on with where we are. Delicious food too! I hope to find more off the beaten path places like this when we travel in the future.
Back to finish our night at the hotel bar located across from the conference and meeting center. There was a family function with live traditional music playing!! 🙂 We were two of only a couple others sitting at the bar so that was nice and it gave us a change to visit with the bartenders before going back to the room to bed.

Saturday May 23rd, 2015
With the advice of the hotel bartender from the night before, our adventures today would be made solely by public transportation. Our big plan for the day was heading over to Midleton to tour the Jameson Distillery. This is where the whiskey is actually distilled and then distributed all over the world. Like I mentioned before the bus stop was just down the street less than a block away. We hopped on and got off in the city centre by the big farmers market down by the Lee River (River Lee). We crossed over and hoofed it a quarter of a mile to the train station. Trains run from Cork to Midleton frequently throughout the day and are only 23 minutes each way.
Another benefit of taking the train is you are automatically in the city centre when you arrive. Since we were hungry we began the lookout for a place to have lunch. We found a little diner close by the train station. I ordered Roast Beef with potatoes and Tyler ordered the Shepard’s Pie, something he was looking forward to trying when we arrived in Ireland. We noticed when they offered us coffee or tea after the meal, they never skimp you on the cream served with it. I really wish they did tea/coffee in the afternoon in the States like they do in Ireland or Britain. The two ladies running it were very nice and didn’t didn’t skimp on the friendly goodbyes when we left, “Thank you! Goodbye! Bye now!, Thank you. Good luck to you! :)” They were adorable!
A ten minute walk down the street and we made it JUST in time for the afternoon tour of Jameson. The tour of this location lasted longer and was in more detail, more so because it’s the actual location now. Even though it wasn’t the Jameson distillery until the 1900s, most of the buildings date back to 1759! A lot of history here of how whiskey was made back then. The tour lead through the older buildings that aren’t being used for production. That was a disappointment that we couldn’t see inside the buildings of the modern plant. When you looked at the new buildings it felt like Willy Wonka: no body ever goes in, nobody ever comes out! We concluded our tour like at the other location with a free drink at the bar.
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After the tour it was time to head back to the train station to take us back to Cork. After a 15 minutes walk, 20 minute wait and 23 minute train ride we made it back to Cork station. We then made the reverse route to take us back to the city centre to catch a bus back to The Kingsley. By then it was after 6:00 and we started getting hungry. Tyler asked if we could have Chinese again at the same place as the night before, so we did. The staff found this amusing. Back to the hotel for the night…

Sunday May 24th, 2015
It was time to leave the comforts of The Kingsley and move on to our next stop; our next overnight would be in Kilkenny with some stops before got there. After leaving Cork, we needed to stop to find an ATM and breakfast. We pulled off the Motorway into small town that I can’t remember the name. Even their small towns have very active main streets.
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We found an ATM and a diner that served breakfast. Tyler and I finally got to order and experience a true Full Irish Breakfast: two eggs, two sausage links, two slices of bacon (though i might add their bacon is not like ours more meat and more like ham, not gristly like in the States), toast, white pudding, black pudding, baked beans and a fried tomato. I really wish I had took a picture of this.
Back on the road to the next stop: The Rock of Cashel. We made it up the hill to the site and entered and waited 10 minutes before there was a tour around the grounds. IMG_0734
The site originated around 400 AD when the Kings of Munster lived there before turning it over to the church years later. The site was going through some reconstruction work due to the limestone but was still very accessible to visitors who were touring.
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Down the hill was Hore Abbey, the remains of a monastery connected to the site. We hiked down the hill and took a peak at that sight as well:
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After our hike back up the hill and down again, it was back in the Yaris and on the road again. Our stay tonight was at Aspect Hotel Kilkenny, a new hotel located just outside of town. Yes it was outside of town but it was easy walk to get into town and very accessible. There was a small bar in the lobby so after we checked into our room we went back and relaxed with a couple of drinks.
The hunt for a place to have dinner was upon us and we started our walk into town. The street across from our hotel took us up a newer residential route before going up to a main road that seemed to branch off into two or three other main streets. There was so much to choose from and neither of us could decide where to eat. We again experienced a fine restaurant by not judging a book by it’s cover. I suggested maybe something of the Italian flavor and Tyler looked over and saw a place called Italian Connection. The front was very basic and plain, but inside VERY intimate. Even though we had a table for two, one side of the table was a bench so you could feel apart of the same seating with another couple sitting next to you. Another great meal by lucky coincidence.
After the meal, we headed back south toward the hotel but decided to make a couple of stops along the way. We turned down another street and into a pub that had a downstairs outside patio/deck. It was a Sunday night but there was live music. The Irish put our Sunday Fundays in Iowa to shame, they really party it up before 11 PM when the pubs close down. We stayed for a couple at our first stop. The next stop further back down on our reverse route back another bar with live music, we noticed this one like the first even though you head their own Irish songs, they play a lot of American music. We hit one more stop before all the bars closed down at 11, then it was back to our hotel for the night. Writing this day’s entry gets me to thinking I may need to write down the names of drinking establishments we stop at to make them more significant in my posts.

Monday May 25, 2015
The Aspect Hotel Kilkenny had a very good breakfast. We took the advice of the front desk lady the night before to eat after 9:00 AM after a big tour group would have gone through about 7:30. We ate a Full Irish Breakfast buffet style. We checked out and drove back into Kilkenny to tour a couple more stops before we spent the rest of the day driving to Dublin. We should have left our car at the hotel instead of trying to find a parking spot in the center but it was close by when we were ready to leave.
Kilkenny Castle was our first stop, and we didn’t know whether to tour the grounds or the castle itself first. Since all the furniture and decorations inside dated back to the 1500-1700s we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. This tour is really worth seeing my favorite was the enormous Portrait Room. The grounds outside we actually got to take some photos…
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Our next tour was of the Smithwick’s Brewery. If you have not heard or have drank a Smithwicks (pronounced Smi-thicks, the w is silent) you are missing on a very delicious red ale, also served on nitro tap. Being brewed in Kilkenny this is a tour I believe people overlook. Tyler and I toured with another couple older than us. A red haired Irish kid asked where each of us were from, after I replied with ‘Iowa’ our tour guide said, “Oh Iowa? I love me my Slipknot!” I busted out laughing, something I did not expect from this happy cheery Irish ginger, oh that made my day. After walking through the tour that taught us the history of Smithwick’s dating back to the time of the monks narrated by a hologram and talking pictures. Really wish I could remember our guide’s name he was so friendly and hilarious.
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After we enjoyed the Smithwick’s experience it was time to hit the road once again but this would be our last long drive of the trip. We didn’t have luck finding a place to eat lunch since it was later in the afternoon and everywhere had just closed after tea time. We found a place that served Doners and other fried things. Food wasn’t bad but the restaurant itself wasn’t the cleanest.
After an hour and a half drive we were in the middle of Dublin trying to find our hotel which was in the Christchurch district of the city centre. Our last place where we would stay two nights was an immediate regret mostly because there was only self parking which I was mislead by online sites thinking there was a parking garage next to it. We found a lot down the street but it looked questionable. Our last check in was at Staycity Serviced Apartments Christchurch. The rooms were updated and clean, the bathrooms though also clean were VERY outdated. Besides a bedroom and bathroom, it had a living room, kitchenette and dining area; all nice and comfortable. I would only recommend staying here if you don’t have a rental car and plan to get around on public transit. The place does have the benefit of being in the middle and close to everything. There was a convenience store and a grocery store down the street so we walked down there to get munchie type of food since we were tired and not very hungry after a big day and afternoon just trying to find this hotel and a place to park.

Tuesday May 26th, 2015
Our last full day in Ireland! How did a week and two days pass by so quickly? Our day started with walking 10 minutes from our hotel to the Guinness Storehouse. Even though a lot of tourists pass through here, this is still a GREAT place to visit, totally worth going to. The first level starts in the center, you look down and see the lease that Arthur Guinness himself signed for 9000 years! Before we started the official tour we grabbed coffee and a grab n go breakfast up on the food floor. The tour is very spacious and spread out among big room and floors so it flows very well and don’t feel you are in an endless line with other tourists. You don’t get to go in the actual brewhouse but you got to see a good view of it from a window and there were videos that showed what they do on the inside. They don’t leave you out like Jameson.
The highlight of tour besides your free pint is doing so at the top of Storehouse that overlooks Dublin. A spectacular view with descriptions on the windows explain what you can see.
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After a couple hours on the tour and a pint at the sky bar it was lunch time. The Storehouse has four different restaurants, we ate at Gilroy’s which featured some Guinness recipes. I had the Shepard’s Pie and we both had what else but Guinness with our meal, I downsized to a half pint.
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Tyler took more beer/drink pictures than me and might I add every single one was complete with my boobs in the background. I had all the scenic shots of everything; Tyler had beer and my boobs. Of course we had to hit up the gift shop before we left to get some souvenirs for family who had purchased these tour tickets for us a wedding present. I don’t think we would be bored of this tour if we went on it again.
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We ran back the hotel quick to drop off our purchases from Guinness before we spent the rest of the day walking around Dublin. We laughed because when we checked in the night before our oven didn’t have a door but now it had a working door attached to it. Another close spot across the road from our hotel was The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub as it says on their sign:
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This was a nice little spot that had inside and outside seating all under one roof. I loved the ambiance of this place. After we got a flavor of the place we decided to keep on moving. Crossing the River Liffey to get some pictures and selfies..
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Not sure of where to go next we kept walking and made it to the Temple Bar district. We may have stopped at a number of pubs but this time of day everything was running together. We found a hole in the wall Tai restaurant which neither of us had ever had it before. It was a hit for Tyler’s spicy loving palate. Being in the area we decided to go inside the Temple Bar to see what it was all about. Nice live music but VERY busy tourist spot. After a drink we asked our bartender where he recommend we try and he lead us down the road to an area where locals hang out. Again I really wish I had the name of the first bar we landed at, we had good conversations with some locals. There were two more we wanted to try out; the first one had live traditional music. The one across the street, Wheeler’s I thought sounded familiar. It wasn’t until I got inside that I noticed this was the bar that was in the film “PS I Love You” where Holly heard the Galway Girl song! It was getting late and we were a ways away from our hotel. We made the trek back to try and find somewhere closer to finish out the night. I was pooped and just wanted to go to bed before we had to be up early to drive to the airport.

Wednesday May 27th, 2015
The honeymoon was officially over and it was time to go back home to the states. Our flight left at 11:30 AM so we checked out of the hotel at 8:00 AM to drive our rental car back to the airport. Remember me saying we had to park our car in a lot? Well those two nights of parking cost us about 40 Euro. Yikes, never doing that again. Another reason not to stay in the city centre if you have a rental is that it takes forever trying to get across and out of it and on to the motorways. Always stay in hotels close to main roads and motorways for easier exit and these places most likely will have great access to public transit if you need it.
After the car was filled back up and returned, we were shuttled over to the main terminal. The Dublin Airport is newer and US Border and Customs is part of your security screen before you board the plane. This is nice because that’s one less line we had to wait through in Chicago. Our flight over and now back again was on Aer Lingus. Another 8 hour flight across the ocean and we made it back around 1:30 PM Chicago time. Even though we had already done security and customs in Dublin, we still had to go through security AGAIN when we switched terminals to fly with Air Choice One. We wouldn’t have made their 3 PM flight so we had to wait for the 8 PM flight back to Mason City. TOO long of a wait when you are severely jet lagged and tired. Though when you do land in Mason, it’s nice because parking there is free and home is only 40 minutes away as opposed to 2 hours from Minneapolis or Des Moines. After a layover that seemed to last for days, we boarded at 8 PM and made it back to Mason City around 10:30 PM. I drove like a beast back to Forest City so jet lagged to the point where I was still able to stay wide awake to drive.
I think next time we fly international we will start in Des Moines before the connecting flight in Chicago or somewhere else. Yes it is two hours away but parking in the furthest lot from the terminal (which you can take a shuttle to) is only 5 bucks a day. Cheap! Plus we have more control of what flight we take so our layovers won’t be as long. Did I mention we would only have to check in through security once each way?!?! WORTH IT!!!

There you have it: A 10 day Ireland honeymoon in ONE EPIC BLOG POST!! One year later and these memories are still very vivid. I hope we get to go back someday, we talk about it all the time. I could go on and on with stories and tidbits but I will wait and save them for a future post about a returning journey to the Emerald Isle.

That time I did a cameo role for community theater…

How I am so thankful for the people in our small town who came together last year and brought community theater to life. While I enjoyed my time being on a roller derby team, I am thankful for the hiatus I took from it because now I feel I’m back in my natural habitat.
I did a small cameo (I only call it cameo because my part had only two lines) in our production of Rumors. Cast members arrive as guests made up of four couples at a party with missing hosts and I am one of two cops that show up at the end:
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Special Police… HAHA!

As a newbie to Brickstreet, I expected a smaller role which would be good to get my feet wet again. However, I’m glad I wasn’t alone in thinking my part could have used more lines, split them more up evenly with my partner. When you look at the play’s author and how Rumors was written after he had been divorced three times, you see a trend among the women roles: one is a drunk, one is an idiot, one is weird, one is a bitch and my police woman role was pretty much non existent. Yeah: women issues that Neil Simon had….

When I wasn’t hanging out backstage in full costume throughout 97% of the play contemplating driving down to the bar still in full police uniform for a beer before I had to drive back, I learned how to set lights. I had to get over my fear of heights!:

This show ran for two weeks in a different town each week: three nights in Forest City one week and three nights in Garner the second. With only a week off following Rumors, auditions took place for the summer musical. With my luck, illness struck me on our week off leaving me congested, stuffed, tired and having a husky voice. My husband suggested I audition for a male role, haha. I tried to nurse myself back to health and I auditioned the last night even though I wasn’t back to full out performing. At least I had a voice to audition with. As I write this, I’m still not back to normal and there is still much nastiness in my throat. It will be a moment of truth if what I had to work with got me a role on Saturday…..

Nothing Compares 2 U

I will try but I know words will fail me in this post, there are just none…

The year 2016 has not been kind to a music enthusiast like me! I still can’t believe it as I write this. On Thursday April 21st, while at work I first thought it was a joke like one of those “Haha you clicked on the link and have been pranked” jokes. However when I saw it from a reliable news source I couldn’t deny it anymore. Prince, one of my all time musical influences/icons was dead. HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?? He was ONLY 57, what happened? I NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO SEE HIM PERFORM LIVE AND I NEVER WILL AGAIN!! My heart sank. I wanted to shut my office door and cry!
I’ve been completely devastated when learning about the passing of Prince. The man and his music always seemed more than human to me: just a walking being of pure musical energy. I don’t even know where to begin on how his music and talent have impacted me.
I’ve heard several of his songs before but my senior year of high school, fall of 2004 is when I truly discovered Prince. My English teacher had a copy of Purple Rain in his cabinet of many vhs tapes. I asked if I could borrow it and took it home that night. During this time I was going through a hard time emotionally, a serious bought of depression which I was facing all alone. I felt I couldn’t relate to my family and would almost dread going home every night. I also felt isolated while at school, I just didn’t have a place anywhere. The only thing keeping me going at school was anything music or performance related. I was beginning to fear it could no longer fill me and at school being involved in music, I was just one of many; not important or outstanding in any way. I felt there was no hope. Thank goodness outside of school I took dance lessons and this had become another vice for me. Another way to perform and a place I could be myself and do what I love.
Anyway back to Purple Rain: it changed MY life more than I could say. I don’t care how many people say how horrible it is (the movie that is), they just don’t get it like me. Seriously this movie and soundtrack CHANGED my life! Even only semi autobiographical, Purple Rain was an eye opening look at how Prince took all of his struggles, hardships, work, wants, desires, passions, pretty much his whole life into his music. The soundtrack was just amazing throughout. I felt I could relate the struggles the movie portrayed though maybe my situation wasn’t as intense as his home life was acted out in the film. Each person connected to him whether family, band, boss/club manager, love interest or enemy you really felt all the tensions that were building up. That ending scene though!! I can’t put into words how that title track and ending scene makes me feel all the feels. Prince showed me how to turn your tragedies into triumphs! Don’t be anything other that yourself. Do what you love and love what you do! Put everything in your music, and that’s what I wanted to do: put all of myself in music, dance, performing. Above everything I do I am a performer: right down to the very core of my being.
Dancing was a way for me get everything out and kept my mind busy learning new things. Every senior got a solo in our yearly recital and I began looking for songs for my solo. Going through everything I was: depression, isolation, being an outcast, I felt compelled to do a lyrical dance. I knew right away I had to do my dance to Purple Rain. I couldn’t cut any of the song out; I had to include all the lyrics and leaving anything out would just not be right. This song MOVES me! My solo was 4 and half minutes btw… then again I was only 18 when I performed it.
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Another huge part of the movie and Prince as an artist from Minneapolis that inspired me: the setting at First Avenue. This drove me to pursue music when I went to college. Even though my family disagreed and would put me down saying, “You can’t get a job with a music degree, you will end up singing on the streets.” No support there except from myself. With my Purple Rain vinyl, I moved out of my parents’ the first week of school and into the dorms at school complete with a door covered with a Revolution poster:
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Looking at all his music since then and throughout the years: no one else even comes close to him as an musician, artist, performer. No one can do his songs like him and any cover just sounds like crap. He has the craziest widest range that just can’t be done by any other human and he can play ANY instrument. He seriously is the greatest artist of all time. Michael Jackson has(d) nothing on him. There will never be another Prince. Never. He inspired me to study music, also to move up to Minneapolis and someday perform at First Avenue. This venue is like my temple. After college when I was looking for jobs and apartments up in the Twin Cities, I went out of my way to find and drive by First Avenue. The first time I laid eyes on this venue was a religious experience. This was the place! Purple Rain was filmed here! Prince was made here! Everything that would eventually make it’s way to me and my life all started in this very building.
In May of 2011, I finally attended a concert there! I couldn’t believe I was finally in the same space Prince started and where that magical ending scene of Purple Rain was shot! And then I saw it, the giant star on the wall:
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EEEK!
It would be a dream to perform here but if not, I will find any reason to be a patron here. I’ve gone to concerts for bands I don’t even know just so I could be in the main room. There is nothing like seeing live music here, especially one of my favorite bands. Seriously this is the most amazing venue EVER!!!

This amazing city I am lucky to have two hours away, Prince has definitely left his mark here. “He was ours” an online article proclaimed on the day of his death. Seriously that couldn’t be any more true. This has been such a huge loss, and I was one of many who’s life was changed because of his music. We’ve lost such an amazing soul. This post has been difficult to write because I really can’t find any words to explain how much this person whom I’ve never met means to me. A sad time but also a time of celebration: A celebration for the life he had and the music he left. How many good times have I had to his music? Cruising around with friends to Raspberry Beret, dancing in the bar to I Would Die 4 U, Baby I’m A Star, Kiss, 7, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Fury, Let’s Go Crazy, Delirious, Pussy Control; it’s a LONG list! Also how many songs have I heard from other artists only to find out Prince wrote them? I remember being with a friend in a music store and noticing the Prince single for: How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore, a song covered by Alicia Keys. I then said to my friend, “If you think a song is good by an artist you don’t care for, it’s probably because Prince wrote it!”
I can only imagine how much unreleased music is in his vaults and I hope the world gets to hear someday.

Thank you for the music, inspiration, energy, life, love.

Goodnight Sweet Prince.

Nothing Compares 2 U

Moment of Truth….

First off apologies this entry is a day late. Things are getting a little busier but will slow down just as quickly as they came. I won’t let another post be late again, unless I go on vacation. In that case I will post a notice that I’m on break.
Ok, so here’s is the report about the month of March. I made it over 31 days and an extra week without having a drop of alcohol or soda, no sweets, no fast food, etc. Since I did it last year it wasn’t much of a struggle and it passed quickly. Between work and practices, I got at least 60-90 minutes of workout time a week. I know if I want more results, I need to spend more time but it’s still not bad. Between commitments I’m glad to get 30 minutes a day instead of nothing.
Half way through the month I decided to weigh myself to see how my progress was going and if I needed to adjust:

9 pounds!

At halfway through the month I already lost what I did last year in the whole month. I didn’t want to rest, I had to keep going to try and lose more before the month was over. Some of it could have been water weight but when all I’ve been drinking is water, it couldn’t have been solely water weight. I tried a new workout class on Tuesday nights at the Y; HIIT Workout. (High Intensity Interval Training) It was only an half hour class but each of the six intervals we did were very intense cardio. Jumping rope for two minutes is a lot harder than it looks! Oh and you will hurt for the following two days after. I would still be doing this class but I have play practice now on Tuesdays and Thursdays up until opening week of the show. Something I can get back into after April.
Anyway, after taking an extra week of cleansing on for women’s troubles: it was finally time to weigh myself to see if I got anywhere close to my goal of 135.

Beginning Weight: 155.2
Weight at end of month: 143.6

Down almost 12 pounds! So I didn’t get down to my goal but I lost more than I did last year. I’ve been told you shouldn’t completely go by numbers on a scale alone but use them as a guide to see if you are moving in the direction you want to. I should try to go by inches or see if I can squeeze into a size 4 pair of jeans I’m trying to get back into again. So there you have it, want to lose weight fast? Cut out drinking, soda, fast food, sweets, basically all things bad for you and work out for at least 30 minutes a day. All things in moderation, it’s common sense. Devote one day a week to go meatless for making sure you get your veggies in! Take a daily multivitamin too!

Post Wellness Month Goals:
1. I will try to get an hour in of working out a day; I will follow the rule of half hour to maintain weight, an hour or more to lose/ton.
2. Another thing I want to do is try and go whole wheat on our pastas and other things like tortillas or buns. We are already wheat bread people and if other breads or tortillas can be wheat as well it would just be a healthier option and eliminate more unnecessary sugars and carbs from our diet.
3. Learn how to Meal Plan and implement it
4. Only drink on weekends, only do it during the week for special occasions with friends.
5. Start doing a little more weight training for toning and to get some upper body strength. I seriously don’t have any and it’s sad! I can’t even do one push up!

Tune in next week as I write about being involved in our local Community Theater, Brickstreet Theater, and our upcoming production of Rumors by Neil Simon.

March is Over!!..Well actually not quite yet…

I have one more day left of March. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!! All month I have gone without a drop of alcohol, soda or any amounts of the unhealthy food I wanted to stay away from during these last four weeks. Half way through, I weighed myself to see if I was headed in the right direction. I was down 9 pounds and at only after two weeks! This excited me. This week for final weigh in, I was disappointed. I was going back up! But how?!? I’m working out more than ever and I literally have nothing that is crap in my diet. I realized I have been forgetting one minor detail. As a female, my last week where I do my final weigh in landed right in the middle of my cycle where I bloat and gain extra pounds from water weight. The water weight is not consistent and every month I never know what to expect. DAMN!!

So therefore I must go ONE MORE WEEK without any booze or fun. I’m not too worried, I have gone this far so what is one more week? My final weigh in will be next Tuesday or Wednesday after I am done harpooning the whale this month.

Sorry to disappoint you all but it’s only one more week. Not everything goes as planned am I right? All you ladies feel my pain.

March My Wellness Month: Week 4

With every passing year of my 20s, I’ve slowly accepted more ways of adulting: saving money and being financially stable have become more evident with time. The habit to spent and not to save is a really hard habit to break though looking at my past I could have been much worse. I didn’t have a real credit card until years after college when I needed it to rent a car. The only debt I had after college were the loans themselves. The couple years after college working my first entry level job were spent being very broke but taking care of myself in a cheap one bedroom apartment. I never put money aside, I just figured that after paying bills, student loans, groceries, etc that if I still had money left and didn’t go in the red I was ok. Even if you only have a couple of dollars left, I still should have started the routine and get in the habit of saving SOMETHING.
After going through a layoff and being unemployment at age 24 for almost a year I still managed to get by and not use assistance of any kind. I owe it all to the simple budgeting skills I had developed and knowing what to cut; which in my instance the only thing I had to get rid of was cable. Luckily I lived in a building were the units were kind of funky and even after I cancelled, I still got all the channels anyway. Shhh! Haha come on, if you were broke and unemployed you would take advantage of that free shared analog cable too!! I also decided this was the time to quit smoking. The last pack of cigarettes I bought was on August 25th, 2011 and for a couple of months after Tyler and I would share when we would go out on the weekends. Eventually this gradually cutting back helped me kick the habit. Tyler’s last cigarette was Thanksgiving weekend of 2011 and I followed a couple of month after.
When you break the cost it saved me: I smoked an average of a pack and a half to two packs a week at the most. When I quit Camel Crush’s ran $6.50 a pack. So $6.50 X 1.5= $9.75 to $13.00 a week. That’s $507. to $676. a year!! If you are a smoker who’s short on cash QUIT SMOKING!! No excuses!!! Think of your health!!
I have to laugh now at when I went out to the bar I also budgeted, which was often because what else do you do when you can’t even get an interview and you spend all day job searching, cleaning, playing guitar, and going for walks? I would walk into the VIP with a 10 or 20 and when that was gone so was I. I could get a couple of drinks, tip and get a song or two on the jukebox if I wanted.
Fun side story: That same time period from the layoff to finding a part time job and still drawing unemployment: it was Halloween season and I’m a huge fanatic and love going all out. I realized this year I also needed to cut back. Having TOO much time and very little money, I decided why not make my costume this year? Using a recycled Xena costume, pieces found on Amazon, consignment stores and supplies from Hobby Lobby: I spent over a month making myself into Lady Gaga! I loved the look from the Edge of Glory music video.
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(These three from the video are not my photos! I found on google images.)

Anyway on to wrapping up the story of my broke ass: Finally after a year had passed I was now 25, I was employed full time again with better pay and benefits! Tyler, my then boyfriend, bought a house and I moved in with him. All the joys of cohabitation and no more outdated small apartment with annoying neighbors who I could hear bang frequently like clockwork! At this time besides my loans (which I still continued to pay during my unemployment), I had accumulated more short term debt: I owed $2000. to my dad for a car I bought from him before the layoff and another $2000. in hospital bills for having to get my tonsils taken out. I was lucky that is happened when it did because I was young enough to be back on my mother’s health insurance. My dad had me hold off on payments to him until I was employed full time again. If I had to be unemployed for a period in my life I’m glad fate picked this time. While working at Winnebago making bank by being on so much overtime, I took care of these two debts within 10 months. If my bank account got big, I would move the over flow to savings. That wasn’t bad I started to save then but it still didn’t get me into a habit of saving a set amount and more into having fun with all the money I was making. I did have fun wisely, I took a bitchin trip out to Vegas to see friends and drove a BRAND NEW Mustang with only 3 miles on it out to LA and back putting over 600 miles on it. I’m more for experiences than blowing my money on a shopping spree. I’m the best wife ever only for the fact I hate Coach purses and would never spend hundreds of dollars on a purse or anything like that.

January of 2015 when I started working at Waldorf at age 28 I finally decided that being almost 30 I need to start getting more serious about saving. Getting paid once a month can be the pits but in a way it helps SOO much with budgeting. I started the habit of what was left over at the end of the month before the next check got deposited would go into savings. In April I decided to take up a part time job so I could build a savings up faster. It was also time to look at where my money was being wasted and what could be cut. At work I had been putting money on my ID card to eat at the grab n go lunch place. Putting money on the card saved money on tax and if you put $50. on, you would have $5.00 added on. So pay $50. and get $55. However if you put 50 bucks a month on this card like I did, that added up to $600. a year! I could go back to Vegas for that amount.
Something I have also implemented was the Penny A Day savings I kept seeing over Facebook and on Pinterest:

“365 Day Penny Challenge: Day 1- Save $.01, Day 2- Save $.02, Day 100- $1.00, Day 365- $365. By the end of the year you will have saved $667.95 and it will seem like nothing throughout the year.”
I have been making deposits from checking to savings once a month at the beginning and so far:
January: $4.96
February: $13.36
March: $23.56
Bringing this to a grand total of: $41.88, so far so good but the only possible flaw that I can see is toward the end of the year when the amount per day goes up this is the holiday season and that can conflict with trying to shop for Christmas. Hopefully if this can be executed along with not eating at the Warrior Crossing this can put $1267. extra in my savings by the end of the year.
This month of no drinking has made me save a ton of money $20-$30. per week. Besides being busy with my graduate course, play practice and bartending two nights a week, I have no time to spend money on fun. It literally pays to be boring and busy, haha. I do like having fun though but after taking a break, it will be easier to go back and manage how much fun I decide to spend.
One last little tip I have for anyone who is my age, you know the lingering pain of student loans but they really don’t have to be. After consolidating my loans; my minimum payment has always hovered between $100. and $150. a month. I want these fuckers gone so I started paying over $200 a month, bumping it up to $300. a month after a couple years and then finally to $400. a month a couple more after that. Always pay more than the minimum payment if you can! The sooner you attack the principal amount the sooner it will be paid off and there will be less interest paid in at the end. My goal when I started paying back my federal loans was have them paid off by the time I’m 30. I’m happy to say that next year I will be 30 and my student loans WILL BE PAID OFF!! 🙂 Eeek! Oh that just gets me so excited I might just pee my pants.

That is all for this week, please like, comment, share this post. Also comment here with any tips, questions, concerns. I like to hear what anyone else who reads does in all the areas I have covered over the last month. Next week is the final March Wellness entry and my final weight in! How much will I lose over last year? Stay tuned!!

March My Wellness Month: Week 3

I’m a very busy person I’ve been told, and I suppose that is true but all I owe it all to how I’ve learned to manage my time. Besides my full time job, I have a one to two night a week part time job, I write this blog with weekly posts, I just started graduate classes (one at a time thank God), I will be in a play for our local community theater at the end of April, and I still find time to get a 30 minute work out in three days a week. It’s very good to get involved with activities and have routines but I’ve had to learn when to say ‘No’ when there is too much going on.
With all that I have going on outside of the home, I try not neglect my life at home. I could go on about things I’ve learned or tips I acquired but I am like one of many that owe creative ideas to Pinterest. I am still amazed at all that I find on there. Below are two in particular that I LOVE!!!

This makes me hate cleaning less:
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Makes it easier breaking down cleaning a little each day. I follow this one for the most part but add laundry in on Mondays or Tuesday, depending on what I got going on for the week. It’s nice to get everything done to be able to relax on the weekends. This is also the only period I get to spend quality time with my husband so the less I have to do besides hang out on Saturdays and Sundays, the better. The cleaning products I use from Melaleuca make it more enjoyable too. Less harsh chemicals and they last a long time! Good way to get my money’s worth.

Look at this! Sorry I am unable to get it into any other file but A PDF document.
Buying-Guide
This is a Monthly Buy Guide as it shows the best time to buy any type of product each month. Example the best time to buy swim wear is January or July. I was able to get a good deal before we left for our Cancun trip.

That is all for this week, I said it would be a quickie. If you haven’t noticed a Pinterest link on my side tab, please check out my Pinterest page, http://pinterest.com/vanessadoden for more tips and other boards. Please follow me as well that way I can get more ideas from your page as well. Please comment on this post as well, would like to talk tips and such with others…

March: My Wellness Month Week 2

Hello to anyone who showed back up to read about how my March is progressing. So far just a week in and there’s noticeable differences but I’ll get to that later. It was a little strange this past weekend to just drink water at every stop my husband and I made on Saturday. Ay Jalisco: no margarita or sangria, Paddler’s Tap: no West O (my fav when I’ve gone there), Bowling Alley: no beer. It really wasn’t that hard, I’ve done it before, but it just made me wonder what else is there to do in this town besides drink? Well maybe a movie at the theater but that’s pretty much it. That’s ok even when I’m not drinking in drinking establishments I do enjoy conversations no matter my state of mind.

*Diet*
I’ve done very well sticking to the things I said I would give up. Not a drop or bite of anything. I think for the remainder of the month I plan to see if I could cut down on portion sizes a little. I read a very good article and I can’t for the life of me remember where I found it but in this I remember a couple of very important tidbits. The main one being that you need to eat a bigger breakfast or lunch instead of your evening meal being the biggest. Your body slows down later in the day and this can pack on extra unwanted calories. This made me realize I may need more than just a yogurt or a banana for breakfast. I should add on a yogurt/cereal bar, oatmeal, toast or something, so by the time lunch comes Im not so starving which can carry on the dinner. I’m glad my breakfast diet has gotten better and more healthy but it just needed to be a slightly bigger portion. However it’s quite an improvement from the Casey’s breakfast sandwiches or blueberry bagels kick I was on last year. Bagels are not at all healthy especially if you want to loose weight. Plain coffee in the morning though.. that’s where it’s at. I really can’t get through my morning or day without it and it’s good for your metabolism. That extra spark of caffeine goodness that makes me change drastically from the zombie I was crawling out of bed (even after a shower) to Mary Fucking Sunshine. Plus it makes you take a big giant deuce in the mid morning and come on, who doesn’t enjoy that? You know, the ones that change your mood and make you feel like new person afterwards. My friend Ben calls them “Life Changers”, so true!
Any way moving on from poop…The Meatless Mondays I’ve adapted have me getting veggies and other greens in my diet I wasn’t getting before. Plus it’s a way to even out the weekend when I don’t care as much. (I still stuck to my diet this weekend out so there wasn’t much to have to even out)
It (the article) also stressed the obvious importance of water. Keeping hydrated by just sticking to water has helped me make better choices for the afternoon portion of my work day and throughout this cleansing month. The real A-HA moment was that those times I’ve felt hungry late at night while drinking alcohol may not have been hunger. When you drink you become dehydrated and this sends the same signals to the brain as being hungry. Drinking water is really the best thing to do even though you really want that Original Grand Slam from Denny’s at 2:30 AM.

*Vitamins/Supplements*
I decided last fall to take the advice of my doctor and start taking multivitamins even after years before not having luck. I once took something over the counter like a generic version of One A Day for Women (Women’s Daily I think was what it was called). Little did I know many over the counter vitamins like One a Day or Centrum are just shit and are not soluble at all; you basically just pee them out. Taking those One A Days I felt no difference and just eventually would forget to take them because they didn’t seem to matter anyway.
Last fall I signed up and became a customer of Melaleuca and was on board right away because of their Multivitamins Vitality. I felt a major difference in my energy levels at work, I was alert at 2:00 PM instead of almost falling asleep at my desk. When I work out, I can actually run instead of just walking. I’ve never been a runner AT ALL in my entire life. My body seems to recover quicker or fully after a workout. I can’t say enough good things about these vitamins, I don’t know if you could find these anywhere else in another brand but I don’t want to try. Love these and how they make me feel; even thought they turn your pee like a bright florescent neon yellow. I also take the calcium supplement that comes in a pack with it. You can take anywhere from 1 to 4 of these calcium pills a day. Being I’m not that old and not sure how much I need I just take 1 of these a day with the two multivitamins.

*Exercise*
I’m really not the exercise expert and everyone’s needs are different but I can just share what I do or what seems to work for me. I try to do a little bit everyday; somedays I do things very intense other I can’t because I go from one job to something else and have no time in between. I have a Y membership and last fall I tried out some of their classes. My favorite was Ultimate Cardio, once a week I got my ass kicked in the good way it should be. I would shoot for this once a week on Tuesday night, then I would follow up my Wednesday nights with Yogalates. This class would help with stretching and serious toning; much needed after an intense 45 minute class the night before. At times I feel there’s too much breathing and relaxing for me but it was nice for those nights you were still sore from the night before.
Now Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday if I can’t make a class and just have a window of time I ALWAYS try and just do even a half an hour workout in the cardio room on the treadmills or ellipticals. That’s one thing I always tell myself to keep that routine, unless I have something special going on, I should spend 30 minutes doing some cardio. Now that the weather is nice I can go on walks again for a change of scenery and to be outside.
One of the best thing I could have done for my myself was getting that stand up work station for my desk at the office… Let’s look at that sexy thing up high one more time….
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Oh yeah!!!!

Well that is all for this week. Hit me up with any questions or tips that you do; I always love talking health and fitness things with fellow wellness enthusiasts.

Next week for Part 3: Activities, routines, at home, cleaning- seriously it’s more intriguing than it sounds… Trust me…

March: My Wellness Month

Last year in March I decided to not drink for a month just to see how much weight I would lose. This came two months after I started my job at Waldorf College (about to be University); a sitting desk job after spending the previous two and half years at a factory being very physically productive 10 hours a day. Going from one extreme to another is very shocking to the body and an unwanted weight gain started to occur. Also during this time I was apart of the River City Dames of Anarchy and we would practice for two hours, two nights a week. (Man I’ve said the number two a dozen times already in this post. I swear it’s just a coincidence. No theme intended). Even though I kept active after work by walking or roller derby practice, majority of my day was spent sitting so it just counteracted itself with no benefits.

I wanted to also see for myself how much weight you can take off just by not drinking. It sounds so simple to do but it has become part of my routine and it’s something I do socially with others that take it away it just feels awkward. I don’t really drink when I am at home; I will have a glass or two of Cabernet here or there but most of the alcohol I consume is when I’m out with others. To help boost the potential pounds I decided to cut out other unhealthy foods that I enjoy in moderation.

After four weeks of cutting out alcohol I lost a total of: 9 pounds. I wasn’t down to where I wanted to be again by a few pounds but I was able to squeeze (and I mean SQUEEZE) into my old high school prom dress for the Cinderella premiere Princess dress up event at the Forest Theater!!!
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Ah, to be the size I was at 18 that I thought was big… *Pseesh*

One year later I’ve started 2016 by making some better choices for my overall wellbeing such as:
-Getting a membership though work to the Y
-Participate in Y classes or develop my own fitness routine
-Trying one day a week to go meatless (Meatless Mondays)
-Taking a daily Multivitamin (Vitality is the SHIT!!)
-Investing in a stand up work station thanks to my husband:
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This March I want to beef up I did last year. Teetering between 150-155 pounds, this is the most I’ve ever weighed, ever. I’ve been told this comes with age but I’m not ready for that yet and just want to be down to my happy medium weight of 135, what I was before taking a desk job. With the healthy choices I’ve made so far this year I want to see how much more I can better myself by removing more unnecessary things.

For the month of March I will give up:
-Alcohol
Foods I enjoy mostly in moderation that will get cut:
-Fast food (good bye big greasy delicious burgers)
-Soda
-Junk food or sweets/ desserts of any kind; potato chips, chocolate:(
-White bread of any kind (I’ve had a weak spot for garlic bread lately)

I don’t even care that I’ve been missing St Patricks Day the last two years. March is the first glimpse of spring and warmer weather and this gets me in the mood to start getting more healthy after suffering though what all winter does to my body.

Stay tuned to the weeks to follow as I will center on each aspect of my health and wellness goals as well as some tips and tricks:
-Vitamins, supplements and exercise
-Routines, planning and cleaning
-Financial and savings

How much weight will I lose this year? Hopefully with the additional improvements made from a year ago I can slowly develop better habits that will keep the weight off this time instead of doing a yearly cleansing.