2016: The Year of Wine, Britney Spears, & Unforgettable Times

I think it’s because I’m getting older but HOW IN THE WORLD IS IT 2017? I don’t understand how the world keeps moving so quickly. It feels like 2002 was five years ago and don’t even get me started on how college feels like it was last month (really five years ago). HOLY CRAP.
Anyways, one of my fave bloggers, Helene In Between, put together an “End of Year Review” link-up and I had to participate! So here it goes (in no particular order):

top-travels-of-2016

1.  Driving around Laguna Beach while blasting Hilary Duff’s “Come Clean”. (And making Brandon super annoyed.)

laguna-beach-stephen

2. Experiencing NCLS games at Wrigley Field. GO CUBS GO!

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3. Singing “Friends in Low Places” in front of the actual songwriter of that song!!!!

Now this one I will never live down. This was straight up destiny. Here we are just hanging and listening to music in Nashville at the Winners/Losers bar (can’t remember which one we were at), and of course, I want to go up there and sing karaoke with the singer, then he nonchalantly says, “That guy is one of the songwriters of “Friends in Low Places”. UM WUT. So I sang with the other singer in front of him!!! Then I was able to tell the songwriter (Earl Bud Lee) that I’ve always butchered the lyrics “slip on down to the oasis” to “old aces”. *facepalm*

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4. Playing on the same piano as Tom Cruise in Top Gun at San Diego’s famous place, KC BBQ (also from Top Gun). 

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5. Falling in love with the Las Vegas High Roller

I didn’t think I would fall for such a huge tourist attraction but this thing is so much fun! Here’s the thing: You get in there for a happy hour and you’re of course about to have a great time!

Here I am sad that I have to leave…

happy-hour-high-roller-vegas

6.Visiting the Unsinkable Molly Brown’s house!!

Those who know me know I loveeee the history of the Titanic, so visiting the famous “Unsinkable” Molly Brown’s house in Denver, Colorado was quite the experience! I learned a lot about her and grew in more love with her story. She was a huge activist for women’s rights and votes among her other philanthropic work. Highly suggest checking it out if you’re in the area. Beware though, the house is old and doesn’t have air conditioning so if it’s hot out… be prepared!

visiting-the-molly-brown-house

7. Visiting the Oklahoma City Memorial

I actually visited this place shortly after the attack when I was younger and this summer I had the privilege to see the memorial they have built. It’s beautiful and so peaceful. It’s a must-see if you’re in the OKC area.

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8. Touring the Shedd Aquarium solo

2016 is the year I stopped being afraid to do things myself. I’m no longer afraid to go see a movie by myself, so I thought what the heck when I wanted to visit another museum in Chicago’s museum campus. IT WAS AWESOME!

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9. Seeing the one and only Britney Spears!

There’s really not much left I can say about this other than OMG. SHE’S FANTASTIC AND MY CHILDHOOD WAS THANKING ME!

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fave-posts

A Weekend in Chicago…

The Day I Became a Wine Expert – My personal favorite of the year!

20 Reasons Why 2016 Wasn’t So Bad

The best recipe of the year goes to… Vegetarian Buffalo Cauliflower Wraps!!!!

Visiting the Chicago Field Museum (I hope to do more posts like this in 2017 #Travel)

The Best Part of “Back to School” Season – These were my favorite photos of the year AKA my only photo shoot sesh thanks to Brandon’s photog skills 😉

Goodbye, 25. Here’s to another year!!

San Diego and L.A. Recap

The Stars I Saw in California

and the one, the only! “The Weirdest Weekend of My Life”

Welp, cheers to 2017! I can’t wait for this year. I am pumped for this year you guys.
Helene in Between

‘Twas the Night After the Holidays…

2017

Oof. The days we all dread. The Holidays (Christmas and New Year) are officially over and it’s time to get back to reality. My decorations are put away and I’m really sad about it. I never realize how bare this apartment can be without a Christmas tree taking up an entire corner with lights and bling. I feel like our living room just went from full-on “winter candy land” to “simplistic spring”. No joke, there’s flowers and white colors everywhere and I feel like it should be spring now. Too bad next week 8 degrees tomorrow… EEK.

This holiday season was an unforgettable one, we spent almost an entire week living in a small Nebraska town. Working from home and bowling at a bowling alley where you keep your own hand-written scoring!! NO JOKE. More on that in a bit.

Starting on Friday (12/23). Brandon and I started our own little tradition where we spend the holiday alone together. We made pasta, drank wine, and shared presents. It was great and nice to hang out before the madness of the week began!

img_6878On Christmas Eve, I was back home for the first time in two years. My fam has an amazing tradition of day drinking so you know I participated! It was so much fun and still managed to get home in time for dinner, fun, and sober up in time for bed. Which was good because we had an early A.M. wake-up call for a drive to western Nebraska!

Christmas day we headed to Paxton and holy crap it was just like tornado weather outside! We had to pull over a few times because it was nuts outside. Very, very odd weather. It definitely did not feel like Christmas day. There was one point lightning struck close to us and it was the loudest boom! It made it feel real ominous with slow Christmas jams playing too. NO THANK YOU.

But, alas, we made it!

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Just in time for Christmas celebrations at the bar! Yes, you read that right… at a bar! If you’re ever in Ogallala, Nebraska, might I suggest stopping at the Underpass?

It was another great day full of family and fun!

The rest of the week, we worked from Paxton and spent the nights having more fun! One night, we wanted to go bowling and got shut down by two separate bowling alleys in surrounding towns because of bowling leagues. So we had to drive an hour away to a tiny town to go bowling and what an experience it was! YOU HAD TO WRITE YOUR OWN SCORING! No computers here, folks! It was nuts! I’ve been bowling my entire life and never had the chance to keep my own hand written score, it is an experience every bowler should have at least once lol.

Here’s how it works: You get a projector screen to write the score on and it projects it up on the screen over the lane! MIND (BOWLING). See what I did there?

small-town-bowling

My mind was about to get even more mind blown because I realized that Colorado was extremely close to where I was. I had no idea. I promise I passed Geography but I didn’t realize that the panhandle was that close to me! We could literally see lights from Colorado and even went to a restaurant for dinner in Colorado! WHAAAT.

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Next up: NYE!

For New Years we went to Kearney… Yup, Kearney. And it did not disappoint! I have to say Kearney is pretty fun and have great bars. We went to the Stars/Storm hockey game (Brandon’s idea) haha and might I add that we had glass seats – BOOYA! We also hit up Mac’s Creek tasting room (last wine of 2016)!!!

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Then headed to dinner at the one, the only, Chicken Coop, and then bar hopping! Bonus: The close bars at 1am in Kearney, which was very good for my liver.

We also decided that every new years eve should be spent in a small (or smaller) town! Next year… any recommendations?

Which brings me here… Watching Harry Potter for the 4th time in two days (Thaks Freeform channel). Getting ready to head back to work tomorrow and crush 2017!

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20 Reasons Why 2016 Wasn’t So Bad

As 2016 unraveled before our eyes, we felt all kinds of feels, some bad, some really bad, and some were just downright awesome (yup, awesome)! Unfortunately, the negative tended to lead the race this year, but in the midst of the grossness that 2016 gave us, there was a lot of greatness.

In fact, throughout 2016, I kept channeling my inner Countess Luann.

Me in 2016 to just about everything:

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The good news is that there was a lot of cool in 2016. Not only did you just live through another year but the world did change in great ways. It might be hard to see it, but I promise, this list will help you see the silver lining in what seems to be one of the most brutal years of our lives.

1. The amount of homeless veterans has been cut in HALF!

Read more about this here.

2. AIDS is declining!

Read about it here and here.

This fund alone has saved 20 million lives!

3. People rallied together for a homeless teen who biked 6 hours to get to college classes.

Read about it here!

4. Texas inmates broke free from their jail to save a prison guard.

Read about it here.

5. A group of people found out that their Uber driver had a son in the Olympics so they rallied together to send him to Rio.

Read about it here!

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6. An all-female pilot crew landed a plane in a country that women aren’t even allowed to drive in!

Yay! Women empowerment! 

7. One man donates his kidney to his college friend and all eyes were leaking.

8. Thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept Facebook in 2015, scientists were able to make break-through discoveries.

Check it out!

9. Cell phones are helping to lift hundreds of thousands of Kenyans out of poverty.

Read about it!

10. Woman with cancer wins 6 games of Jeopardy and donates winnings to cancer research.

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“What is… awesome?”

11. Have you seen the priest and imam Amazon commercial? They are actually BFFs IRL!

Read about it.

12. Remember the first bit of 2016 good news I shared? Well, homelessness in total is down!

Great news!

13. THIS man.

Read his story.

awesome-guy

14. A high school creates a yearbook in braille for a blind student.

Check it out! 

15. This school raised money for new shoes for a student!

Watch it here.

16. Boy wearing plastic bag meets his hero!

17. Black man befriending KKK members has led to 200 people quitting the organization!

Awesome! < Read it!

18. Subway passengers come together to prepare anxious man for his job interview.

Check it out!

19. High school student gives new shoes to other student being bullied.

These stories get me every time! Watch the feel-good clip here.

20. Refugees had their own team in the Olympics!

Check out more about them here!

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This barely cuts it when it comes to how many awesome things happened in 2016, but to be honest, I was lazy and realized that 2017 is literally a day away and this post needs to get out and make people feel good!

Want more good news like this? Here are a couple positive sources:

  1. Sign up for the Goodnewsletter! This is my favorite. Each week, Branden Harvey will send you inspirational and uplifting stories.
  2. Check out the GoodNews Network!

Cheers to 2016 and cheers to making 2017 better. I saw a quote today that said, “2017 will be different. Not because it’s inevitable. Because we say so.” Veronica Roth.

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The Ultimate Wedding Day Survival Kit

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My mom #blessed us with this on our big day and I’ll admit I busted out laughing at her when I saw her roll in with this giant tote, but half way through the morning, we actually needed this stuff!! *GASP*

I stole the epic list from my mom to share because this thing was LEGIT. Just grab a medium-sized Rubbermaid tote and stock it with this list. BONUS: You can print this baby off and use it! Also, this makes a great bridal shower/wedding/engagement gift!

the-wedding-kit-checklist

 

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What I Learned From Watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

*Spoilers do appear in this article, so read carefully or come back and read once you finish! 🙂

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I swear it wasn’t “the time of the month” when I watch ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ on Netflix this past week, but I was bawling numerous times (mostly through the Fall episode). I think it struck a cord a bit with me and let me explain why:

Because their life was moving on and changing, and so was mine. 

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Photo Credit

Now let me explain further (pull up a chair, we might be here for awhile)…

The Winter through Spring episodes were great, I loved them and felt like they did an awesome job bringing in characters and keeping their identity. The Fall episode is the one where I just broke. I literally wondered if I was having a quarter-life crisis, but then decided the next morning it was just the drama of the show that got me.

Throughout the seasons, we watch Rory struggle as a super-smart 32-year old finding her place in journalism and it’s refreshing in a way because it’s like, hey – here’s a Yale graduate who is broke and technically homeless. You’re doin’ alright, Stephanie. It was important, though, because I’m sure I’m not alone in every-so-often feeling like you’re not where you should be in life or that OMG you’re over 25, why do you have so much student loan debt? But, cmon. It’s life. It’s what happens. You’re okay – just keep doin’ you and working hard (this is my inner therapist talking right now, she hijacked my blog real quick).

Let me back up real quick: I’m currently reading this book called Slipstream Time Hacking (BONUS: You can get this fo free if you have a kindle or download it as a PDF!) and it has made me think a lot about time. What it means to actually live your life and spend your time wisely. I’ll save this positive rant for another post, but it has me realizing that a week that goes by fast is not a week well spent, you need to savor your time. Have you ever noticed that a vacation might feel like it’s going slow at times? That’s a good thing! I had no idea. But now everything makes sense and I think about time throughout the day to slow down and live in the moment more. Which is why when I was watching their year fly by and knowing that it was about to be all over in less than 90 minutes, I was starting to realize that my life is already over 26 years done. WHERE DID IT GO. It made me realize that we don’t really let ourselves turn the page and live for the next moment smartly.

When Rory and Logan were having their official goodbye: I translated this into all of the relationships and memories I’ve made that I never really closed, I just moved on and kept letting life happen. There are people we will never see again in our lives and we don’t want to believe that nor do we want to think about it so we just keep living. What if we actually got to give someone we will never see again a hug and a proper goodbye? Can you imagine what life would be like then?

Now you can see why I was an emotional wreck and poor Brandon was like, OMG, I have officially married one of those girls who is crying at the TV screen because of a fake show. All that was missing was a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, guys.

Richard’s death didn’t help either (of course). Watching Lorelai come to terms with herself and calling her mom on her “Wild trip”, I was completely melting down. It just stuck a dagger in my emotions of me realizing I didn’t properly get to tell people in my life goodbye because I wasn’t ready and now it’s too late. For those who don’t know, I lost my Aunt Diane the day before college started and I’ve had lots of time to cope, but it still doesn’t get easy. Including the fact that I got to move on quickly because I began an entire new chapter of my life the following day called college! So it hit home a bit.

With my puffy red eyes, Brandon attempted to ask me why it was sad and I couldn’t even explain Richard’s actual death without choking up. DAMNIT GILMORE GIRLS.

So that’s pretty much my emotional ‘Gilmore Girls’ post. Now onto the future of ‘Gilmore Girls’.

WTF.

AMIRIGHT?

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Photo Credit

Those last four words. NOT what I was expecting. Throughout the entire season, I was trying to put it together. I can’t tell you how many times I said words out loud while counting to four on my fingers… I thought someone was going to ask Rory to marry her! UGHHHHH

The issue here is we know it’s Logan (who I LOVE) and that he will be what Rory’s dad was to Lorelai, so Rory will raise the child by herself and maybeeee Jess will be her Luke?

Guys, talk to me. What are your thoughts on all of this???

 

Addicting Vegetarian Buffalo Cauliflower Wraps!!

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I am addicted. Addicted to these (easy-to-make) buffalo cauliflower tacos/wraps! You guys, I don’t joke right now. The cauliflower turning into wannabe buffalo chicken is the greatest thing since cold brew coffee. I was a wee bit skeptical because nothing on cauliflower but I tried “rice” cauliflower once and it was a little nast-ay.

But the grace of the hot sauce and BUTTER make these little nuggets so good! Add a little ranch to the mix and you’ve got yourself crack. Also, the recipe is SUPER easy and quick! Even for me. I’m no cook, guys. Seriously, keep me out of the kitchen. These are easy, yummy, and really healthy (despite the butter and hot sauce) because you can serve them in lettuce wraps like I did or in taco shells like I also did. Both equally delicious!

INGREDIENTS

1 head of cauliflower
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup of hot sauce (I’m not a spicy person, but I’ve been using Frank’s Hot Sauce Buffalo)
2 tablespoons of butter, melted

For the taco part:
1 head of butter leaf lettuce or taco shells
halved cherry tomatoes
avocado cubed
blue cheese or ranch dressing

vegetarian-buffalo-cauliflower

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF

2. Cut the head of cauliflower, pick apart florets with your hands, and trim bottoms. (I find this part almost therapeutic, it’s fun! I don’t know if this does anything but I try to cut as close to the floret as I can.)

3. Toss the cauliflower in a large bowl with the garlic powder, salt, hot sauce, and melted butter.

4. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, while mixing after 20 min.

5. Put together your tacos, fixings, and ENJOY!!!!

Side note: If I don’t have to make the taco, I just dip the cauliflower in ranch!

Have you tried other cauliflower recipes? Share them with me because I’m craving it right now!

Holiday Gift Guide Under $30 For Your Crazy, Fun Friend!

THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE!!!!!!!!!!

Everyone! Can you believe it!? I know, I know that we still have a day until Thanksgiving, but guys, Black Friday is this week and gift giving season has begun! I love weird knick-knacks and trinkets and I also feel like anything over $30 is expensive so here ya go! Here’s the perfect gift guide for your crazy best friend, office mate, sister, or really… anyone!

(Make sure you click the arrow to the right for more!)

What am I missing? What’s your fave gift under $50 that you love giving to your “fun friend”?

Books That Have Changed My Life (So Far…)

Now I have to admit that I haven’t been as great of a reader as I plan on becoming one day. A lot of times I prefer a movie or documentary, but once I start reading a book – I’m like, well, this is fun!

So here are some of my favorites. The ones that I would hands-down recommend to anyone who wants to improve life, so here it goes…

Normal Gets You Nowhere
by Kelly Cutrone

51vyplkoc5l-_sx330_bo1204203200_This is my all-time favorite book. It’s like the first book to ever speak to me. I 100% love and believe in Kelly’s life philosophy. The one thing that still to this day sticks out so much to me and when I read it I was like OH SHIZ *epiphany*

She was discussing human rights and the united nations and mentioned how she thinks it’s dumb that we even have passports because we are citizens of the world. Basically, saying that when we are born in a country, we are almost owned in there, but we are really a citizen of the world. Loved that thought – “we’re all in this together”.

Purchase here.

The Harry Potter Book Series
by J.K. Rolling

harry-potter-book-seriesI mean, duh! Also, I understand that adds more than 3 books to this list, but I can’t resist… I’m rereading the entire series and every time I read it I am no longer a muggle and living back in the best mindset ever. For example, I may or may not be watching one of the movies right now and listen to the soundtrack every day at work…

I read an article about studies that have been done that shows those who read (or watch!) ‘Harry Potter’ are less likely to be prejudiced against minority groups. Check it out here! How cool is that? I can totally see it too because Harry Potter is some deep stuff that you learn a lot from without even realizing it.

If I have kids someday, the moment they can read chapter books, I’m sliding Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone into their hands.

Purchase here.

 Outliers: The Stories of Success
by Malcolm Gladwell

outliers-tales-of-successAll of Malcolm Gladwell’s books are nothing short of amazing, but TOutliers was the first one I read thanks to a college journalism class. It was so mind blowing, it was like everything in the world made sense. For example, one of the most popular parts of the book: “The 10,000-hour rule”. How if you practice something for 10,000 hours you become perfect at it like The Beatles did!

That was an eye-opener, but also realized I don’t think I can’t focus enough on one thing for 10,000 hours sooo…

Another eye-opening part of the book is when he explains that success depends very heavily on where you are born and what circumstances you are on. He talks about how a child born into rice field labor in a 3rd world country might be the one to create a cure for cancer, but he will never get the opportunity to do that. If Bill Gates had not received his rare opportunity to attend a private high school with a computer club (when most colleges didn’t even have computer clubs), what would have happened? Would he still have found his way to computers if he wasn’t given the opportunity to use one?

It’s fascinating!

Purchase here.

Year of Yes
by Shonda Rhimes

year-of-yes-shonda-rhimesWell, we already know that Shonda Rhimes is the $hit so it’s not really a shocker that this book will change your perspective on life. In fact, if you’re feeling a little weird from the election last week… this might be a bit of fresh air for you 😉

This is one of those books that I have bookmarked in so many places because her words are so good and she’s real. She talks about dealing with weight, not balancing her life, and shying away from her success at times. If you want a glimpse of this book, just watch her Dartmouth graduation speech here. The script is in her book too.

Check out my full book review of Year of Yes.

Purchase here.

 The Secret
by Rhonda Byrne

51k7ple3bll-_ac_us160_This book will LITERALLY change your life. I need to read this one more often because it’s so easy to forget to live like this every day. There’s also a documentary version available of this! I’m not sure if it still is, but it used to be available on Netflix–check it out!

Basically, you have the power to achieve anything you want in your life if you just believe in it and send your vibes out there in the universe. I don’t know if this was a coincidence or not but I ended up putting a fake check that you can print off from The Secret website and wrote $50,000. I looked at it every day and kept seeing it as real. Well, a couple weeks later a friend randomly asked to meet up with me and told me about a job available she thought I would be good for and guess how much the salary was? $50,000. I didn’t go for it, but holy crap IT WAS THE SECRET!!!! Thanks, universe!

Purchase here.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondo

life-changing-tidy-upBefore I go any further, I must admit that I haven’t finished this… yet. You can only handle so much decluttering and organizing at a time. This book is insane how effective it is, though. I read this over 30% of this book in one night (which is UNHEARD of for me #ADHD) and the next morning I felt extremely motivated and got rid of so many clothes. I’ve never whipped through stuff like that before, I’m not necessarily a “pack rat” I just tend to lean towards that but I might use this sometime…

Well, not anymore! Check out my full review here!

I am definitely forgetting other important books right now and some are just great book, so I’ll have to write another post later about those!

 

But, I want to know… What are the books that have changed your life??

Nashville in One Minute

Back in August, two of my best friends and our dudes went to Nashville. BOY WAS IT WILD! You know, that trip where we met the songwriter of “Friends in Low Places”? 🙂

Yeah, that one.

I’ve also been testing out my GoPro Session and trying to improve my photo/video game. Well, this probably doesn’t look fantastic but it’s my first one! Also, we only used it one night – so the footage was scarce. However, every night was pretty much like this with this group, so I would say this lil vid turned out alright!

Enjoy!

Halloween Hangover

By the time you’re reading this Halloween will be over, your stomach might hurt from to much sugar (good job!) and you’re probably tired from staying up too late because you scared yourself from watching scary movies.

If this is true, congrats, you did Halloween right!

I’ve been out doing my typical Halloween in the past seven days, and currently watching Hocus Pocus  for the third time in the last five days. Goodness, it’s a great movie! P.S. I can’t stop thinking of this meme I saw once:

How I think I look in the morning:

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How I actually look:

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Bahaha that will never get old. I’ve also been flipping between The Ring during commercials. Still a pretty freaky flick 12+ years later and to think I watched it when I was 12! TWELVE!

And before this (when it was still light out) I watched The Babadook. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t scare me (I refused to take a shower until Brandon was home), but it wasn’t AS bad as I thought it would be. It’s just a really dark movie that sets the stage to make you worried during every scene.

So this year I did it again. You know when Halloween begins to peep its head out and you’re all like “I’m going to have such a good and creative costume this year” – then it’s suddenly a couple days before Halloween and you’re just trying to find something on Amazon Prime that will ship in time?

This was me. On Tuesday I decided that I could put together a “Chef Boy-ar-dee” AKA “Chef Boy-ar-Steez” outfit together with three things: a chef hat, red scarf, and chef coat. So the day before I needed my costume the chef hat arrived and I found a scarf at Wally-world. The coat, of course, arrived Sunday, when I no longer needed it. THANKS A LOT AMAZON PRIME! I learned a valuable lesson here: always look at the expected delivery date when checking out, it will deceive you. Good news is I had the most important pieces for my getup.

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BOOM! Good enough! We watched the ‘skers play at the movie theater and LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING. This was so much fun. So much fun in fact that I returned to the theater the next day (Sunday) for a full-out Harry Potter marathon. It was fantastic. Paid $5 for the last two HP movies, then got a wild hair to pay for overly priced popcorn. Yeah, freaking $6 for a SMALL! *internally cries* followed up by a stomach ache. I’m used to going to Tuesday night movies: $5 movies and free popcorn (highly suggest this move if you live in the Lincoln area)!

Now it’s time to finish up Hocus Pocus and then start blasting Christmas music tomorrow morning.

Happy Halloween!

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