2013 in Review

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put this year to bed. It started off sooooo magnificently, but presented many unique challenges. I’m hoping maybe my lower key start this year will mean better things ahead for 2014. So without further adieu, here is my year in review!

January – I rung in the new year on the beach at Isla Mujeres Palace, dancing with my feet in the ocean, glass of champagne in hand.
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You can also see the Cancun skyline in the distance. It was pure magic. We left Isla Mujeres to spend another stellar week at our second home, Le Blanc Spa.
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February – February brought a lot of snow, and no real other activities for us.
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March – March brought my first winery tours. Yes, really, they were my first.
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April – In April we returned to Boston and Foxboro MA. It was right after the Marathon bombings so a trip to Copley square was a must.
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May – May brought late spring cherry blossoms!
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And a car accident 😦
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June – My dad turned 70!
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And I broke my ankle 😦
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July – July brought a drive-in movie date of Despicable Me 2 for this broken shut-in.
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And a lot of physio..
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August – I tried out acupuncture for the first time for my very slowly healing ankle. It was AMAZING!!
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September – I went back to work on light duties, but it was short lived because my long planned return to Vegas was on the go!
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And I finally got to see the Grand Canyon!
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October – Time for Canadian Thanksgiving.
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And re-learning how to knit!
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November – I got to go see Les Miserables with my Mom.
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A great weekend with friends where I had my first ever slot machine winnings!
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And then celebrated US Thanksgiving at Zehnders.
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December – As always, some decorating for Christmas..
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Little blue box delights..
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Another car accident, no pictures, still too upset, once again not my fault. Very very upsetting and frustrating.

In exciting December news, I found out on Christmas morning that I was published for the very first time!! It was in the Let’s Get Sketchy Sketch Inspired Christmas issue E-zine! I’ve never submitted to be published before, so my first submission and publication in one. I’m very flattered!!

There is a lot of scrapbooking talent in this issue, and the Let’s Get Sketchy blogging community is amazingly supportive!

I’m looking forward to a 2014 that is better than 2013. I haven’t given a lot of thought to resolutions beyond something that looks towards holistic health (mind, body, spirit, financial), and to travel more! I’m not sure how that works with wanting better financial health, but I’ll do my best to figure it out! I also want to blog and create more, so hopefully I’ll have more to say in the coming year as well.

Thank you to all my amazing supporters. Wishing you and yours all the best in 2014. Happy New Year!

Recapping Thanksgiving

For many years I’ve had a yearly tradition of going to Frankenmuth & Birch Run Michigan for US Thanksgiving and “Black Friday” shopping. I missed last year because I was just back from Mexico, and prepping to leave for Mexico again(!) and that was a more than worthy tradeoff, but I definitely missed it. This year I wasn’t missing it at all.

Somehow Frankenmuth seems to just do Christmas right. Maybe part of that stems from being the home of the “World’s Largest Christmas Store”, Bronner’s. Bronner’s actually even has it’s own wiki and some of the factoids about it are just mindboggling. One part of my yearly tradition involves going to Zehnder’s for their Thanksgiving buffet dinner. I’m not sure what they do to their sweet potatoes or their Hubbard squash, but those are 2 dishes I definitely can’t duplicate at home.

Here’s a shot of some of the decor in Zehnder’s:
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After dinner we went to the Premium Outlets in Birch Run for some all night shopping. I managed to score some incredible deals and get a lot of my Christmas shopping done! Yes, really! And it wasn’t even December yet! Canadian retailers have tried to drop prices to be competitive, but their deals don’t even come close to the ones I find on the US side, add in that the taxes in MI are significantly less than Ontario it all adds up to more money in my wallet. I don’t even give much thought to my hotel bill because I look at it as a cost of a mini-escape.

I must say though, I definitely do avoid Wal Mart, Best Buy and any of those stores that have people camping out, lining up for days, trampling each other to the death over ridiculous sales at least in the morning on Black Friday. I’ve been in a Wal Mart on the Saturday and it was shockingly quiet and easy to shop.  But I’m not one to risk life or limb for a sale, and this diva princess doesn’t camp. The closest I’ve come to unruly shoppers was some near anarchy at the Coach outlet one year when people cut the line repeatedly and security couldn’t be bothered to do anything to control the crowd. I still kept my distance because my health is worth far more than any Coach bag.

By the time it was time to come home on Saturday, my car was well loaded up with lots of goodies and gifts. The following pictures are of some things I somehow miraculously resisted bringing home. That didn’t stop me from snapping a picture or two…

Heck yes I need these Hello Kitty Vans.
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An egg cooker that will give you perfect soft, medium and hard “boiled” eggs.  It’s only $39.95!
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I really want to know..
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The purrrrrrfect kitty cat onesie jammies for this crazy cat lady…
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Polar fleece. Leopard print. HK. Pyjama pants. Shut the front door!
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These are the most badass Christmas cat boxer shorts I have ever seen. They’re also the only Christmas cat boxer shorts I’ve ever seen, but not the point.
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Black Friday, thank you for not disappointing for another year. Can’t wait to do this all again next year!

Christmas Layouts

While I was scrapbooking and getting somewhat into the Christmas spirit, with SiriusXM Holly on in the background, I started to scrap some pictures of Christmasses past. I have a great habit of buying TONS of Christmas themed paper and then never scrapbooking Christmas. When I was away shopping on Black Friday I got a 12×12 pad of Simple Stories Handmade Holiday because clearly I can’t help myself. I haven’t used the pad yet because I made myself promise to use some of my older stuff first, so these layouts are from my paper stash.

Stuck?! Sketches has a new sketch posted to start the month and I was happy to be able to play along again.

Here is the sketch:

And here is my take on the sketch:
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The cardstock is Stampin’ UP!, the paper is all Echo Park Reflections Christmas, washi is My Mind’s Eye, twine is American Crafts, buttons are Bazzill Basics and Doodlebug, frame is Pink Paislee, quote sticker is Bazzill Basics, the “be merry” tag and holly is old from stash and I think from Ki Memories (I pitched the original packaging). The photos are all from my super fun Instax mini! I love that thing!

My next layout isn’t from a sketch, isn’t for a challenge, was just for fun.

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Cardstock base is Stampin’ UP! (because their kraft now crumb cake is the best!), patterned paper is My Mind’s Eye, ribbon is Close to My Heart (isn’t it amazing!!), stamped with snowflakes from an Imaginisce stamp with Close To My Heart white ink, paper overall was misted in Tattered Angels glimmer mist in iridescent gold.

Back to Scrappin’!

I finally had a few days at home this week to get some scrapbooking done so I went to work on some of my Inspiration Unlimited projects. When I needed a change I started to tackle some of my beloved sketch challenges. It’s a new month so new challenges are being posted and it was a great time to join in. I so wish I could do this far more consistently than I do.

So, over at Let’s Get Sketchy they had this great sketch posted:

And here is my take on the sketch:
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The photos are from our first night sunset at Le Blanc Spa in January. I’ve said this so often but Le Blanc is truly our home away from home and pictures of there always make me happy. I loved the pinks in the sky so I used those as a jumping off point for my patterned paper.

Cardstock – Stampin’ UP!; Patterned paper, “The Best” tag, brad  – Carta Bella; Washi tape – My Mind’s Eye; Flowers and brads – Prima; “Perfect Moment” sticker – Teresa Collins; “unforgettable” and “delightful” tags – October Afternoon.

I’ve been a bad bad blog buddy lately – even worse than my blogging. I will be around to share love this week. It’s on my list!

Better Late Than Never!

At long last I’m finally blogging about my trip to Las Vegas for Inspiration Unlimited 2012. A warning, this will be long and full of lots of pictures!!

I was genuinely concerned at the outset of this trip as my fankle hadn’t recovered overly well before I left.  I was still in physio and I  still couldn’t walk a heck of a lot. And If you know anything about Vegas, it’s that there is a TON of walking to be done!! This girl had lots of plans that I’d been making since last year when I realized how much I didn’t get done on my first trip: the Grand Canyon, Fremont Street, the iconic sign at the south end of the strip, watching the Bellagio fountain show, and riding the mechanical bull at PBR Rockbar.  I’m happy to say this time I accomplished all, bad fankle and all, except the mechanical bull. I feared getting hurt again/still/worse from getting tossed from the bull and I wasn’t sure how I could explain that to the physio after all the work he’d done on me all summer.

I got in on Saturday night, which also happened to be fight night at MGM Grand (that of course was not scheduled when I booked my plane tickets), which means Vegas was a zoo. I wanted to stay at Planet Hollywood for the duration of my time on the strip, but for that Saturday night PH was crazy expensive, and they had a mandatory Friday checkin for that night. I opted to stay at the cheap and cheerful Hampton Inn Tropicana for the one night. It was one of the only hotels that still had availability and not jacked rates. Minus the free airport shuttle that was a total disaster (that I waited almost 2 hours for a pickup), and trying to get a taxi to come pickup when it was time to leave, the Hampton was fantastic. The service was good, the location was great, and the room was clean. By the time I finally got there, my foot was swollen and sore from the flight, and I was tired so I didn’t venture out to the strip at all.

Sunday morning I was up early for Vegas time. I got to enjoy breakfast in bed from the buffet downstairs and watch the tail end of Sunday NFL Countdown, and the start of the first football games. Then it was time to checkout and move on (finally!) to Planet Hollywood. I was so happy to see this sign again!
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I love staying here. I love the atmosphere. I love the location. I love the amenities. I loved going up to the Heart Bar after finding my room to see how Sunday football really should be watched!
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Oh, and that room? I splurged a little and got a strip view. I couldn’t justify going to fountain view, and the advantage of where my room was is I had a great view of the Cosmo pool where Enrique Iglesias was playing that night! Free show! Here were my daytime views – first the Cosmo pool and Bellagio “lake”, and below directly below me to the PH pool, bar and outdoor gambling tables.
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That evening, still full of energy, after watching some of Enrique (who was fashionably late, natch!), I went over to finally watch a Bellagio fountain show. In my super quick stint on the strip last year I didn’t have time to stop and watch the show, this year, I made sure I had time!
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A beautiful end to a fantastic day.

Monday – I picked Monday to be a mostly relaxing and touring the strip day with plans of Grand Canyon for Tuesday, more relaxing and strip on Wednesday, before migrating to Green Valley Ranch and Inspiration Unlimited for Thursday. So I started off sunning by the pool with my Starbucks in hand.
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I tried to use my MyVegas rewards to get a Zarkana ticket but it wasn’t working, so I opted to go over to the box office at Aria and see what I could find. I did check with Tix4Tonight first, and while they said they could get me a great price, they had no idea where the seat was until I got to the box office at Aria, so it only made sense for me to do my own legwork. On the way into Crystals, someone in character was handing out discount coupons for Zarkana. I managed to snag an AMAZING seat at a FANTASTIC price. I celebrated my find with delicious pints and oysters at Todd English P.U.B.
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And a mandatory after-show touristy photo:
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Zarkana was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw O last year and it was definitely the better of the 2, but I wanted to see something new. Next up it was time to go across the street to the Cosmopolitan to the second feature at their “Dive-In Movies” shown on the huge screen by the pool. It was Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Another movie I’d been dying to watch but had never seen in it’s entirety. Well, my busy day and excitement caught the better of me. I got onto my comfy poolside lounge bed, got a great view, saw the first few minutes and the next thing I know I’m hearing Moon River and watching the credits scroll by. Yes, I slept through the whole thing. 😦 Sad girl.
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Tuesday – I was up bright and early, renting a car and I was on my way to the Grand Canyon, with detours to the Hoover Dam and old Route 66 with stops in Kingman and Seligman AZ. In the Pixar movie Cars, the town of Radiator Springs was loosely based on the town of Seligman. I have a ton of pictures from this road trip but there are some significant ones missing. Normally, when I travel I use at least 3 cameras to take pictures – my SLR, my point and shoot, and my phone, and sometimes even my Instax mini. When I got to the Hoover Dam I got camera cocky and only used my SLR. When I stopped in Kingman to review my pictures I discovered I had none! It seems I brilliantly left my CF card out while shooting. I’m just thankful I noticed it early on in Kingman, and quickly shed my cockyness and went back to snapping with 4 cameras..

FINALLY, after several trips to Phoenix and now my second trip to Las Vegas, finally I made it to the Grand Canyon, and it was every bit as spectacular as I’d hoped.
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I can’t get over how big it is. I know that sounds silly when it has the name “Grand” but seriously, so wide and so deep and so long. I took their shuttle bus system all over the park and found the views no matter where to be quite similar, and yet I couldn’t see a lot of the places I’d already been from one lookout point to the next.
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It’s definitely an excursion that should be on everyone’s bucket list to do at least once. And don’t waste your time with the tourist trap fabricated West Rim, go all the way to the South Rim.
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On the way back I made sure to stop at the iconic sign.
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With rental car I went up to my last stop, Fremont Street. In being fully honest, I really didn’t like it and it was the most unsafe I’ve felt on any Vegas trip. The canopy kept the smoke in, so that wasn’t overly pleasant at all. The laser show was a bit neat. The casinos were dingy and sketchy. The crowds were different than those on the strip. Most of them were quite fall down drunk and had ZERO respect for personal space. I downed a very overpriced drink and made my way back to Planet Hollywood where I settled in for a well earned sleep.

Wednesday was a relatively low-key day. I started off poolside with my Starbucks again, and Skyped home so he could see what he was missing (me, sun, palm trees). I went up to the Venetian because on my last trip I stopped at the Forum Shops at Caesars and didn’t make it any further north.
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I found my favourite slot machine in their casino and stopped when I was up $5.
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I fell in love with the Canal Shoppes.
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Some of the gelatos there looked positively heavenly. I’m not sure how I managed to resist but I did. That being said, I had a spectacular lunch there at Morels. I paid for the cheese fondue for 2 with a caesar salad and 2 for 1 vodka tonics on the patio that overlooked the strip and the outdoor canals. It was incredible and I was truly living the dolce vita that afternoon.

I went back to Planet Hollywood to get cleaned up for dinner as I had plans to go to Paris to try Mon Ami Gabi and go up the Eiffel Tower, yes another thing I hadn’t done yet. There was a red carpet event going on at Planet Hollywood I thought I may try to take in before dinner, but by the time I got back there, the area surrounding the carpet was already packed, and I’m short, and the celebs were late (natch!).
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Yes, I opted to give up on trying to fight for a glimpse of JT and Ben Affleck, and as I later found out Holly Madison too. Bummer!

I did make it up the tower for some spectacular views of the Vegas strip and the Bellagio fountains.
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I then went down and my patio strip side table was ready at Gabi.  I had a great spot to people watch, watch the fountain show over and through the palms, and my dinner was so incredible.
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After dinner I went back to the Heart Bar at Planet Hollywood for a nightcap or two of my new favourite cocktails, cherry bombs! So so so delicious! And I couldn’t help but take a picture of the super neat light up cocktail menu at the Heart Bar.
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And with that my time on the strip was over and it was time to relax and scrapbook to my heart’s content at Inspiration Unlimited at Green Valley Ranch.

Thursday – I took a taxi from PH down to the airport to catch the GVR shuttle. I took a cab last year and it cost over $40. For less than $20 to get to the airport it was well worth the leisurely trek as I wasn’t in any rush to get there before check-in time. What can I say about GVR?! I love the room and the property. I love the chill and laid back vibe. I love the view my room had:
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Inspiration Unlimited is bar none the BEST scrapbooking event I’ve been to. Teresa Collins is just incredible and I feel so lucky to get to take 2 amazing workshops with her. Ginger runs a super tight ship like a well oiled machine. The roster of instructors is always top notch. I fully plan on going to every one as long as they continue to exist. I’ve already paid my deposit to return next year. And one of the things I love about Inspiration Unlimited is the friends I see there year after year. I love our yearly reunions!

Here’s the worst picture ever of me with Teresa:
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In my defence, it was day 2 and I was tired from my week of adventures and full day of crafting the day before.

I got to make some neat projects:
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I resisted sampling some of these delectable treats from the pastry case at the cafe:
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I had so much fun reconnecting with these ladies:
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Missing Patty who was being our awesome camerawoman..
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I totally need to get more pictures with friends next year because I’m missing so many..

And then the ugly…

On Saturday night one of my girlfriends and I got violently ill from the buffet at GVR. I was so sick and it put an incredible damper on my final days there that I had hoped to spend with friends, and by the pool, and relaxing.. essentially anything but spending it in bed and getting very acquainted with the beautiful bathroom. I’m beyond disappointed to say that when I brought it up to the front desk when I was feeling well enough to emerge from my room in the hunt for some Gatorade, they showed no concern whatsoever, and suggested I should call the buffet manager in the morning. I had far too much to do on Monday morning that I couldn’t call the manager and it was time to go. I will return to GVR because that’s where Inspiration Unlimited is, but I will definitely consider alternate dining options while there.

Monday I had my traditional lunch leaving McCarran, cheese quesadillas at Sammy Hagar’s. I opted to skip out on the Can’t Drive 55 drink because my tummy was still queasy and recovering from the food poisoning.
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Southwest got me, and all my luggage home safe and sound.
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What an incredible trip. I had so much fun and I can’t wait until next September!

A lot of my projects are still in progress but will be shared when completed in a separate post (this one is long enough already!)

In 100% full disclosure I have not been compensated for my reviews in any way shape or form.