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DogVacay + A Night on the Town

I am no blog superstar by any means, but occasionally I am approached by advertisers to check out their products or pay me in exchange for a post on the site. As you can tell from the lack of sponsored posts on this site, I normally reject them. I’m not against sponsored posts per say, just am very selective about the companies I endorse and never ever want to come across as writing something just for a buck. If it isn’t something I naturally wouldn’t write about anyways, I politely decline.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from the folks at DogVacay asking whether I would be interested in using their service for my dog for free and a gift card towards a night on the town, in exchange for a blog post. They even included a picture of Leia found from my blog in their email:

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Presh. Advertisers, if you want to get the attention of a publisher, find an adorable picture of their dog and they’ll be 10x more likely to pay attention to your message.

DogVacay reminds me a little of Airbnb, except for your pet. Instead of sending your dog to a boarding place, you can send your pup to stay at someone’s house. A little home away from home. Plus they include free pet insurance, 24/7 customer support and (my fave) a daily photo update so parents know what’s going on while they are away from their pet.

I love this concept, and it’s certainly something I could see ourselves using for the next time we go out of town. So I decided why not! Let’s have a fun evening downtown and see what this service is all about.

I searched the listings and found Shelly, who lives fairly close to my house, and contacted her whether she was free to watch Leia Saturday to Sunday. We met up at a dog park to make sure Leia and her pup got along (they did), and I made the reservation online. Easy peasy.

Saturday afternoon we dropped Leia off for her Dog Vacay date, then hit the town!

As much as J and I love to travel, we’re kind of boring cheapskates when it comes to where we live. We tend to stay in the five-mile radius of our house and stick to our same old restaurants and same old routine. And normally when we do anything fun for an evening, we always have to rush to be back to feed and take Leia out, so it was good to know she was in good hands while we were out.

We parked our car at the Red hat Amphitheater and explored downtown Raleigh.

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We walked around downtown for a bit, stopping into a few antique shops and boutiques. We first went into Father and Son’s Antiques, which is a four-story shop filled with vintage indy treasures.

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^This chair felt very Emily Henderson to me. 

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I liked this shirt from Deco shop. North Carolina residents, are you a tomato or vinegar bbq fan? :)

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After walking around for a bit, we ate dinner at Cafe Luna, a charming Italian restaurant near Moore Square. I am in the middle of the Whole 30 challenge, and it was reeeeeeally hard to stick to the diet when all I wanted bread and wine and pasta! But I was on day 18, and determined not to cheat, no matter how tempting. I ordered red snapper with grilled vegetables, and it was delicious.

IMG_1942IMG_1941Sorry for the blurry photo … I always hate being “that girl” that is taking photos of her food in a nice restaurant. ;) 

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Meanwhile, I got some sweet pictures from Shelly! They went to the dog park and she said she was having a good time and behaving herself. :) It was so nice to get an update!

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After dinner we walked back to the Red Hat Amphitheater for the Ray LaMontagne concert. This was my first time at the amphitheater, and it’s a really nice venue with the Raleigh skyline behind you.

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The show was great! For a concert in July it was certainly warm, but not nearly as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. The whole time J and I were like Why do we never do stuff like this?! So add “do something new in Raleigh/Durham” to every monthly goal for the rest of the year. ;)

We got home late, and then picked up Leia Sunday morning. She evidently had a great time because she literally slept all Sunday afternoon:

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It was so nice to go out for an evening and explore downtown Raleigh, all the while knowing Leia was in good hands.

If you’re a dog owner and need a place for your pet, use the promo code PRETTYPENNY for $10 off the next time you use DogVacay.com.

Also! A lot of readers have asked me about how to make a little extra cash if you’re trying to pay off debt or looking to make a little extra income, so if you are a dog lover, you could sign up to be a host. Sounds like a really easy way to make some money doing what you love. :)

Dog owners — what do you normally do with your pup when you are out of town? Friends or boarders? 

PS – Disclosure: If you couldn’t tell from my first paragraph, this was a sponsored post by DogVacay, but all opinions were mine. :) 

Seven Tips on Traveling with your Significant Other

In the beginning of a relationship, your world is like a little fairy tale. Life is happy and love is wonderful. Your significant other can do no wrong! If their tastes differ from yours, it’s endearing! If they want to do something you’ve never done, you’re game! Anything is fun with you, darling!

Eventually, though, these love-colored glasses start to fade into a secure, comfortable relationship, and you start to notice that you are in fact, very different people with very different tastes. I realized this shortly after dating that J that we were really different. In so many aspects of our life.

Including traveling.

We have very different agendas when we travel. He loves to get to know a place like a tourist — museums, tours, popular restaurants, organized fun. I, on the other hand, like to blend in when I travel and do what the locals do — eat at the hole in the wall places, shop at the one-of-a-kind boutiques, and study maps of cities beforehand so I act like I know where I’m going (sidenote: my proudest moment of our trip to Boston was when someone asked me for directions. Ha!)

We were long distance for two years, so every time we had a chance to travel we visited the other person, which was different than a real trip or vacation. So I was a little worried one of my favorite things in the world (traveling) would be ruined after we got married and I’d never be able to enjoy a trip again. (If I could go back in time to my 24-year old self, I would say: Ease up, princess. Marriage is a partnership. You love J and you love being with him, so you will enjoy traveling with him.)

It’s taken a lot of communication and a little practice, but we are finally at the point where traveling is our favorite thing to do together. Here are some ways J and I make it work.

7 tips on traveling with your significant other

1. Decide on a trip budget and how you’re going to pay for it.

Did you know that money is the number one thing couples argue about? Guess what, that applies when you travel together. There is nothing worse than coming home from a great trip and then paying for it for the next few months in credit card payments. Figure out what you want to do, where to stay, how you’re going to get there, how much it should cost, and then how you plan to save for it. If you can’t afford it, don’t plan it.

2. Spend as much money before the trip as you can.

The last thing you want to be thinking about when you are traveling is money. It’s a buzz kill. You are on a trip to relax or get away, not stress about whether your budget is going to break this month. For this reason, we try to pay for the trip in stages, and as much as possible beforehand. For our recent trip to Boston, we bought our flights in February, booked our lodging in March, bought our Go Boston pass (for all of the attractions we planned to visit) in April, and bought our Red Sox tickets in May. The only money we spent out of pocket during our trip was on food and two $5 subway rides. The trip was sooo much less stressful while we were there since almost everything had already been paid for.

3. Communicate expectations.

Half the fun of going on a trip is the planning, at least for us. We dream about what we want to do, places we want to see, and (maybe most importantly — for me), where we want to eat. When J and I are planning a trip, we communicate what our purpose is beforehand. What is the balance of relaxing to sight-seeing? We make a list of things we want to do and figure out why we are going and what we want to do in order to meet those expectations. Our trip to Boston was most definitely not relaxing, and we both agreed beforehand that we would be on the go most of the time.

4. Come up with your must-do items.

Before a trip, J and I each come up with a must-do or must-see or must-eat list. These are things that if they don’t happen, we would be disappointed. For our trip to Boston, J wanted to go to a Red Sox game. For me it was bike riding around the city and going out for a nice meal. If all of our other plans fell through but we ended up doing those things, we would be perfectly happy. Both partners get to choose at least one thing, then decide what else is on your list and prioritize the rest.

5. Make time to relax.

We like to pack in as much as we can when we are in a new place. But you can only go so long running around without losing steam or needing a break. And losing steam — or worse, getting hangry — is never conducive to a good time. Make time to relax and take it easy. Sleep in. Go out for a long, lingering brunch. Take a break at a quaint coffee shop and scroll through the photos you’ve taken that day. When I look back to the various trips we’ve taken, these are some of my favorite memories.

6. Do something you normally wouldn’t do. 

The root of my hesitation in traveling with J was fear of losing my voice and only doing what he wanted to do. But that’s just silly — marriage is all about compromise, and I have learned so much through doing things outside of my little box. Our trips are so much fun because we each do things we naturally wouldn’t do, together. I would never buy tickets to see a Red Sox game by myself, but I had the best time and loved seeing J’s face light up when he entered Fenway Park. He would never choose to go on a 20-mile bike ride, but he had a great time and it made me really happy. We were riding around in the cheesy duck tour quacking around town at people we saw on the street, and I literally was laughing the entire time. These things make the trip fun, keep things interesting, and you learn a lot more about your significant other by experiencing things they love.

7. Let go of expectations and laugh when things go wrong.

Expectations can ruin a trip fast. Just let ‘em go. And when things go wrong (like the time we got lost biking in downtown Boston during morning rush hour), the best plan of action is to laugh and work together.

What tips do you have when you traveling with your significant other?
Do you like to do more touristy things, or lean towards what the locals do?

PS - Day one, two and three from our Boston trip, in case you care to read more. :)

June Highlights

June was such a happy, sunny month. It always is! Here are some memories we made last month:

June 2014 Highlights

June Highlights:

+ Peonies!
+ Leia riding in the trunk
+ Weekend trip to Boone for J’s birthday
+ Boston with the birthday boy
+ Bike riding to Harvard
+ Getting lost in the North End
+ Business trip to Blacksburg, VA
+ Card playing with friends/family
+ Antique shopping with my SIL

Recap of my June Goals:

Accomplished:

  • Keep my tomatoes and basil alive
  • Organize and create a plan for teaching ESL this summer
  • Build wainscoting in dining room // I’m halfway done, so I’m keeping it in the accomplished pile. This project is not for the faint of heart, but it should be done in the next few weeks.
  • Learn to grill pizza
  • Start a neighborhood running club, if anyone is interested :) // Sort of? I found a neighborhood running buddy and go at least once a week for a run through our neighborhood. Yay! 
  • Go to a Red Sox game with J
  • Throw at least one cookout with friends

Did not accomplish:

  • Read at least one book // I have had such a hard time getting into books recently. Hoping lazy July days will change that.
  • Blog at least once a week // Nope, no blogging last week.

How was your June? :)

Mid-Summer Update on our Weight Loss Competition

Seven weeks ago J and I agreed to participate in a summer weight loss challenge — a friendly competition to see who can lose the most weight by September 2nd. And y’all the stakes are high. We are halfway through the competition, so I thought I’d give a little mid-summer update on how we’re faring. Here goes….

IMG_1480This is the only active photo I have of J and me. I know, you just saw it from our Boston trip. I gotta work on taking more photos.

WHO IS IN THE LEAD:

J, of course. Who is surprised in a weight loss competition between a man and a woman, the man is winning?! I had a feeling this would happen over the course of the 15 weeks, but had no idea how fast he would lose and take the lead! On our first weigh-in, he lost five pounds! Gulp.

So far he has lost 13.8 pounds, leading with a 7% weight loss, and I’ve lost 5 pounds, 4% weight loss. We are measuring by percentage weight loss, but does it even matter at this point? There is no question who is in lead, and I’ve got some serious work to do to catch up.

Even though I am sorely lagging behind, I am still pretty pleased at how it’s going.

Food is my favorite. And eating is one of my favorite things to do with J (or anyone, really). We plan our trips and weekends around where and what we are going to eat. Our way of celebrating or commiserating with each other is through food:

You had a bad day? Let’s go get some ice cream.

You had a great day? Let’s go get some ice cream!

On top of this great love for food, losing weight is really hard for me. I don’t have the smooth metabolism some other people are blessed with, and it’s only gotten harder as I’ve gotten older. So I am pretty stinking proud I’ve been able to lose five pounds in seven weeks. That’s a big deal to me.

BUT. Enough playing around. I gotta step it up in this second half in order to even think about winning!

Since weight loss is so hard for so many, and I’m always curious to see exactly what changes people make in order to lose weight, here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been doing the last few weeks:

DIET CHANGES:

We both decided not to go on any fad diets or restrict anything major, since the real purpose is to establish healthy lifestyle, not primarily to lose weight. So we have adjusted our diets slightly, both making decisions on our own.

Breakfast: No alterations.
What I eat varies between scrambled eggs, granola with yogurt and fruit, or a protein-packed smoothie. I have a cup of coffee every morning with cream, but stopped adding sugar. J doesn’t eat breakfast, which makes me feel faint just thinking about. I would literally pass out at 10am if I didn’t have breakfast.

Lunch: No alterations.
I normally fix a smoothie and keep it in the freezer at work (if I didn’t have it for breakfast), eat a green salad with some type of protein, or eat leftovers from last night’s dinners. J eats tuna salad on Arnold bread, with crackers, apple and a Coke zero. He’s a man of routine, that one.

Snacks: Major alterations for me.
We have so.much.candy in our office, and before this challenge I would grab a piece or two every mid-morning and every afternoon. And it isn’t even good candy, just low-quality sugar. Instead, I bought a bag of good dark chocolate to keep in the fridge (at my desk is too dangerous) and limit it to one piece in the afternoon. Other snacks include: carrots with hummus, apple, and Kind bars. J doesn’t snack during the day much, so not much has changed for him.

DinnerSlight alterations.
We have been grilling a lot and paying attention to our portions. We have a green salad almost every night at home. When we do eat out, we usually check nutrition facts and order something a little healthier. At potlucks and dinners, J has been really disciplined not to snack… I could probably use some more self-discipline. Appetizers are the best!

Desserts: Major alterations.
We started this competition with a half-eaten pie in our fridge and both of us were too stubborn to finish it. I nearly cried when I threw it away, that’s how attached I am to my desserts. But in the evenings, sometimes you just need a little something sweet, you know? So we’ve been stocking up on popsicles. Not nearly as satisfying as ice cream, but they are growing on me.

Alcohol: Slight alterations for me.
I really enjoy a glass of wine after work while I cook dinner, but have cut out all alcohol unless I’m with someone else. And since J hardly ever drinks, it’s been reduced to parties and get togethers. And when I do drink (before or during the diet), two drinks is normally my max.

EXERCISE CHANGES:

We both have been working out more, although neither of us have a set schedule. We take more walks with Leia, and longer routes. I try to run two to three miles at least twice a week and go to one class at the gym a week. Some weeks that doesn’t happen, and other weeks I get more exercise in. Exercise really varies on how busy the week is!

MY PLANS FOR THE NEXT SEVEN WEEKS:

Our whole goal for this competition was to spur healthy living, and so in that regard, this competition has already been a success. But we’ve still got seven more weeks to go, and I really want to lose a little more before the end.

Diet Changes:
Originally I really didn’t want to do any fad diets or take anything out of my life, but my other friends decided to do the Whole30 Diet Challenge, so I figured it would be a good time to join and hopefully lose the last few pounds.

What is the Whole30 Diet?
Basically for 30 days you just eat real food. Nothing that has been processed or added to. This is limited to meat, vegetables, fruits and fats, and you give up all dairy, alcohol, grains and sugar for 30 days.

I started it yesterday, and am actually only doing it for 25 days because we’re going to a family reunion in August and I really don’t want to be that high maintenance in-law that is making absurd food and beverage requests. The folks at Whole30 are really strict on doing the diet for 30 days straight, but 25 days is better than zero so I’m trying not to make it a big deal.

I am reeeeeally nervous about this diet. Food is such a social thing, and I hate eliminating foods. My philosophy is everything in moderation. So the thought of giving up such a LARGE chunk of foods is really intimidating.

But I decided to do the diet for a few reasons:

  1. Prove to myself that I can. I have never given up sugar before. I’ve done the FODMAPs diet and did the Paleo for a few weeks in January, but always had access to dark chocolate. So this is going to be hard. I love sugar.
  2. Heal my stomach from digestive problems. I continue to have inconsistent stomach aches and pains. It improved being on the FODMAPs diet, but I never really could pinpoint what was causing it and hoping this will help.
  3. Improve my sleep. I do not sleep well at all. I don’t have a problem going to sleep, but it’s staying asleep. I’ll wake up between 2-4 am, sometimes going back to sleep and waiting up feeling exhausted, or never going back to sleep. It’s exhausting and I am tired of taking sleeping aids once a week to catch up.
  4. Weight loss. Obviously. :)

Exercise Changes:
I am running a half marathon in November, so I want to start training this month. Nothing too intense, but at least get into a schedule of running three to four times a week and doing yoga at least once. I also would really like to start lifting weights, but I’m a little intimidated and really don’t want to get too bulky. Anyone know of a good weight-lifting routine? I know there are thousands on Pinterest but I like personal recommendations. :)

Phew, this post has gone on for way too long.

So there’s my really long-winded update. Bravo if you made it to the end, I’ll keep you guys posted on the final results. If J didn’t lose any more weight (unlikely), I’d have to lose 5 more pounds to beat him. So if I win this competition it will be a miracle.

Have you ever done the Whole30 challenge? Any tips or recommendations?
Do you have a good weight training routine that works for you, specifically for arms? 
Who wants to come and sneak calories into J’s meals? :)



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