Friday Favs – Middle of May

Happy Friday! We all survived another week! I say we deserve cookies & wine, don’t you?

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Here’s what I’m loving this week!

1. Perfect riding weather! It’s been in the 60s and 70s, so I got two good rides in since last Friday. It’s so nice to be able to get out and ride without freezing or sweating! Hoping to ride as much as possible while it lasts!

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This is from yesterday morning. I actually made it out of bed at 7:30 am to get in some riding time with a few barn ladies! Gambit and I are on the left.

2. Okay, I know this is a terrible photo, but I have to share my kind of genius invention with you guys.

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I found a pair of black petite, boot cut jeans at a thrift shop last month that I decided would make awesome cut-offs. (Ah, the joy of making shorts – no need to worry about the right length or cut!) After hacking off a good chunk from each pants leg, inspiration struck. What you see above is about 12″ from those jeans, folded n half and slipped over the jeans I was wearing to ride in. It makes the PERFECT phone holder while I ride!! I hate riding with my phone in my pockets – back pocket hits up against the seat of the saddle, front pocket isn’t very secure due to how my legs are bent. I tried putting my phone in a little bag attached to my saddle horn, but getting the phone in and out was super awkward.

My super fancy invention is rad because the slightly stretchy denin fits snugly enough around my thigh that I can just slip my phone in and it won’t go anywhere. And it’s just wide enough that about an inch of my phone sticks out the top, so grabbing it when I want to take a fast pic is easy. Plus, it’s a fairly large target to aim at when I’m ready to put my phone back in, which is helpful because it’s a law of nature that as soon as I pay attention to something like trying to put my phone away, my horse will do something dumb, so I like to be able to do so as fast as possible.

I’m a crafty genius, is basically the point I’m trying to make here.

3. I discovered this week that Dollar General has chocolate covered cashews for $2.35/can, and they’re actually good. I don’t want to question why they’re so cheap, I just want to stuff them all in my face.

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4. This is so true.

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5. Buzzfeed Yellow on Youtube has been doing Body Positivity Week. LOVE this one!

 

Linking up with these other fans of Fridays!
fri-favs 5-friday Friday blog linkup

Feeling Spoiled at Ameristar Kansas City

You know you’re totally on top of your blogging game when you’re writing about your February adventures in mid-May! I attended a horse convention/event/shindig thing in Kansas the end of February, and decided to spend a couple of nights in Kansas City on my way there, both to get in some relaxation and sightseeing, and to break up the drive a little bit. The absolutely awesome people at Pinnacle Entertainment, (who you might remember let me check out their River City Casino & Hotel in St Louis last year!) hooked me up with two nights at their Kansas City location, the Ameristar Casino Hotel. This place should totally be on your list of where to stay in Kansas City!

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I’m not a big gambler, but I love staying at casino hotels, and I think you’ll get why by the end of this post! Having my room, lots of dining options, as well as entertainment all under one roof is awesome, especially when I’ve been traveling all day and just want dinner & relaxation without having to find my way around a new city!

I asked on my blog’s Facebook and Twitter accounts just how many photos were TOO many when it came to a hotel post, and everyone who responded said there was no such thing as too many pics, so get comfy because I have a LOT to share! Let’s start with…

The Room:

You guys probably know that I’m a huge hotel nerd. I worked front desk and concierge for 7 years, with jobs ranging from a small independent 100 room hotel in Branson to Disney’s All Star Resorts, which comes in at over 5,000 rooms. Hospitality nerdiness aside, I just love a good hotel room! You get to step totally away from your usual life and relax in a beautiful, cozy little getaway that you don’t even have to clean yourself. Yes, please!

My contact at Ameristar went SO above and beyond this time – instead of the regular hotel room I was expecting, she got me an absurdly awesome King Suite that was larger than most apartments I’ve lived in!! (Actually, I just looked it up on their website – the Deluxe King Spa Suite is 1104 sq ft! So it IS bigger than any apartment I’ve ever lived in!!!) I only got lost in there a couple of times.

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Hello, kitchen!

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I love that all of this company’s hotel rooms come with free bottled water! These were so convenient to grab before I went out on adventures!

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Living room area. I had some glorious times on that sofa with pizza & cable news.

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I never got around to actually using the dining room area, but how awesome would this be for playing board games? DSC_1857

Yeah, I’d say that’s ample counter space for all of my makeup and skin care stuff! (Although there was actually a totally separate vanity with awesome lighting for doing makeup!)

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Is there any person alive who doesn’t love hotel soaps? That shampoo smelled awesome, btw.

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And, of course, the bedroom!

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You guys know I made excellent use of the bath robe and slippers!

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I arrived at the hotel just before sunset, so everything had a sort of dreamy pink and blue glow.

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My room had a ginormous wrap around balcony with a view of the Missouri River. 

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Yeah, I could get used to this!

Deluxe King Spa Suite

Oh, did I forget to mention the giant jetted tub? As soon as I saw this, I knew it was going to feel a-mazing after my horseback riding lesson the next afternoon!

Relaxation:

Between work and health stuff and taking care of my mom, I was SO READY for a couple of days to just hang out and relax!

One of the first things I did after arriving was run downstairs to purchase a pizza slice the size of my head and a decadent dessert, and then settle in on my sofa to watch larger-than-life Chris Hayes. 

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There is no vacation from my cable news obsession!

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Yes, I’m wearing my beloved “Socktopus” socks here. Because they are the best.

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No, for realsies, it was the size of my head. And only like $3.

The problem with working from home is that it’s hard for me not to work ALL the time. Just kicking back on the couch with pizza and TV is something I NEVER get to do! It felt totally indulgent. 

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And yes, that bath felt as great as it looked.

And I may have spent like 90% of my time in the room wearing these little slippers. Because vacation.

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I even had bonus relaxation for falling asleep! I went to stick my phone on the bedside iHome to charge while I slept and discovered that it was equipped with nature sounds! Happily fell asleep to gentle rain for the next 2 nights.

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Yes, I keep weird night owl hours no matter where I am. Don’t judge me.

Entertainment:

First, let’s discuss that this is what you see when you enter through the main Ameristar doors heading towards the casino:

Ameristar Kansas City lobby

Yes, that’s a train. No, it isn’t Platform 9 3/4. Yes, you’re indoors – the whole complex has a gorgeous painted sky ceiling.

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The actual casino is SO PRETTY, you guys. My photos don’t do it justice. But check out this big light…fixture? Ceiling thing? What do you even call this?

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This photo from Ameristar KC’s Instagram account captures the awesomeness way better than I did:

Pro tip: I’m the kind of person who carries a ginormous purse most of the time. I need room for my multiple notebooks and eighty thousand lip glosses and a spare pen or fifty. I have no desire to lug all that around a casino with me, though, so I brought this cute little bag that I picked up in Mexico for $5 several years ago:

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I tucked my room key, players club card, drivers license, and some cash inside to take downstairs to the casino with me. Way easier! And I just wore the bag’s strap across my chest like a crossbody style so I didn’t have to worry about it, since it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I spaced out and left behind a purse I had to remember to pick up any time I moved to a different slot machine!

I also discovered a new slot machine that I like. I think I only broke even, but the excited little bonus fish cracked me up, so it was worth it!

 

There’s plenty of non-casino entertainment here, too, though! Live music on some nights, an arcade for the kids (or big kids), and an on-site movie theatre! On my second night there, I took the opportunity to FINALLY see…

Movie Theatre Cinema Times

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Yesssss. If you’re keeping track, my Thursday included horseback riding, Star Wars, and cake. I have no idea how they ever got me to leave.

Eating All The Things:

Look, let’s just skip to the important stuff here.

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There’s a solid chance that I ate my weight in tasty things from the Falcon Bakery. But there were so many tempting looking things that I felt like it was my duty as a blogger to sample them for you! You know, in the name of research and journalistic integrity and all that. Right?
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I still have dreams about this passion fruit mousse dome thing.

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Cheesecake + chocolate + “on a stick” = Very yes.

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That chocolate mousse cake, though…

I’m guessing that a magical little Ameristar fairy Godmother saw my tweets about all of the desserts I was buying, because when I got back to my room after riding on Thursday, I had a note that I had a message at the front desk. When I got there, they handed me my “message”.

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Sorry I ate you, little birdie, but you were delicious!

One thing that I meant to check out but never got around to was Ameristar’s fancy fruit beers, which are available at their Amerisports Bar & Grill. (In the city of the KC Royals, you MUST have a sports bar!)

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Something for next time’s to-do list!

If you happen to be one of those people who can’t survive on pizza and cheesecake alone (weirdo), there are also plenty of “real” food options.

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There’s a steakhouse (above), a traditional buffet, a food court, a deli, you name it!

(Confession: I just had to take a break from writing this blog post to go make lunch. Writing about food makes me hungry!)

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Just me, or does Pearl’s Oyster Bar look like it was designed with being Instagrammed in mind?

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And, of course, room service! I had originally planned to order myself the big kids grilled cheese after riding, but ended up just doing pizza 2 nights in a row. Oops.

I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t been super excited to get to Equifest that weekend, they may have had to literally drag me out of my room. I had cool horse stuff to do, though, so I waved goodbye to my awesome bathroom (literally…)

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…and set off towards Topeka. Definitely looking forward to staying at the Kansas City Ameristar Casino Hotel again the next time I’m in the area! I mean, did you SEE all of the desserts I didn’t get to sample yet??

If you’d like to learn more about Ameristar Kansas City so that you, too, can hang out eating cheesecake in bath slippers while trying to decide if you’re in the mood for a movie or some blackjack, you can find them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and, of course, their website! You can also find my review of their gorgeous St. Louis area River Ctiy Casino & Hotel here! So much love to Ameristar for taking awesome care of me, and letting me hang out in this gigantic suite for 2 nights in exchange for sharing my experience with you guys!

Weekending

Happy Monday, everyone! I know we’re all going to kick ass this week, but let’s take a few minute to chat about our weekends, first! 😉

here to be awesome

I was suuuuuuper sick on Friday, but luckily I bounced back in time to go help with a pony party at my barn on Saturday morning. This was my first pony party, and I’ve gotta say it was adorable! We had around 8 kids, I think, so we saddled up Darbe and Millie for them to ride. Darbe got to basically be a Lisa Frank unicorn, but Millie is a little less tolerant of getting dressed up, so she just got tail bows and glittery hoof polish!

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I led kids around in big circles near the barn, giving them super technical riding instructions like “Tell her ‘Go, Millie, Go!” (The birthday girl was turning 5, so most of the kids were tiny! Also, I have no idea how to make conversation with children.)

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My sleep deprived self with the birthday girl and her friend, who insisted on “helping”me lead Millie around on the last ride.

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Could Darbe look any cuter!? I let the horses graze for a while while the kids did cupcakes and presents after they rode.

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We got cupcakes, too! Pony parties aren’t a bad gig at all!

After the kids all left, Blakely and I saddled up to just ride around the property surrounding the stables for a while. It was perfect weather for riding, Gambit was a super good horse, and I got to just kick back and enjoy spending time with my goofy little pony pal! pink_heart

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saturday-ride

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Gambit is so silly. I gave him a handful of hay to snack on while I was grooming, but he wasn’t interested so I just stuck it between those bars on the stall door. He decided to stick his nose in it and just stand there, staring blankly into the distance, for a good 5 minutes. Horse aromatherapy, maybe??

I referred to myself as “sleep deprived” above… OMG, you guys. A church near me was having their annual spring yard sale that morning, so I set my alarm for 7:30 am so I could get there right at 8 to take advantage of the $3 bag sale. (I got SO MANY clothes in that grocery bag for $3!!) 7:30 wouldn’t have been a terrible wake-up time, except that I didn’t fall asleep until about 6 am. YAY, insomnia! I discovered that ANOTHER church on the same street was  also having a sale, so I ended up with two big bags of clothes for a total of $5, and JUST enough time to grab breakfast at a gas station between the sales and heading off to the pony party. I had to stop at Target for groceries and general Targeting after we rode horses, but I probably don’t even need to tell you guys that I crashed shortly after I got home! I think I was in bed before 8 pm!

Sunday was one of those days where my mom needed a LOT of care, so that was pretty much my day. By around 5 I needed a break from the stress SO much that I decided to run out to buy coffee and then stop at the lake for about 10 minutes on my way back to mom’s. It’s amazing how therapeutic just spending a short time outside by the water can be!

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Gotta be honest – I spent most of my time there trying to pretend I was at Bay Lake by the Magic Kingdom, waiting for a boat over to the Wilderness Lodge. I miss Florida A LOT, guys!

Linking up with B Loved Boston for Weekending!

Ins and Outs of the St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine, FL

This post originally appeared on my old blog, Straight On Till Morning, on January 12, 2014.

Ah yes, the Florida vacation posts continue! One thing that I was really looking forward to for this trip was actually leaving town to visit St. Augustine. Even though it’s only about two hours northeast of Orlando, I’d never been! (In my years of living in Orlando, I almost never made it out of town! Time off work was rare, and gas money was even more scarce!) I originally planned for four days of blissful beach relaxation, but sometimes life happens, so I only ended up being able to go for one night. I’ll write about playing tourist in a separate post, but I wanted to show you the snazzy Bed + Breakfast that I stayed at, first! (My site’s refusal to let me type ampersands gets annoying when I’m talking about a B and B! So pardon the weird ways I type that to get around the ampersand issue.)

I wrote this post a few weeks ago about why I chose the St. Francis Inn out of the abundance of charming places to stay in St. Augustine. Did it live up to my expectations?

I was happy to find that the inn was easy to get to via the directions on their site. It’s about a five minute walk outside of the touristy part of town, but I appreciated the quiet of the more residential area. There’s plenty of parking just across the old brick street from the inn, and the parking lot was easy to spot. (see the sign at the top of the post!)

I hope I look this good when I’m over 200 years old!

The street-facing sides of the building are quite plain, but the rest makes up for it!


I think this was supposed to be an “Ooooh, check in!” face. It came out totally awkward. 


When you pass through this little gate, you’ll find the lobby to the right, and a lush courtyard to the left. It’s a great place to bring snacks or drinks, or to just hang out with a book. (Or your laptop, since there’s free wifi!)

Looking down at part of the courtyard area.


My favorite part was a little spring-fed koi pond, which had a statue of the inn’s namesake.


Helloooo, fishies!


There are three separate guest areas (other than the rooms) in the main building – the lobby, which has the front desk and a selection of gifts, a dining room, and a small sitting room. Being the awesome blogger that I am, I totally neglected to get photos of any of them! Well, that’s not totally true – I snapped one photo of the selection of gift items, but it came out totally blurry (my awful new camera strikes again!). I borrowed these two pics from their website and Facebook to give you an idea:

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Lobby 

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Sitting Room

Just mentally add a lot of Christmas decorations, since I was there in December! Oh wait! I did get a photo of the tree in the sitting room. Woohoo

Totally in love with the giant old fashioned tree lights!


Upon arrival, we were given all kinds of info, including a menu of the various food and drink offerings throughout the day. (This should be called a “Bed and EAT ALL THE THINGS!” Because I did. But more about food in a bit!) I loved having a printed listing of the food and times it was served to refer to throughout the day. (You guys know I wasn’t about to miss free food!) After taking care of checking in, the lady from the front desk led us up to the room and gave a quick tour. Since this post is going to be long and photo heavy as it is, I decided to do a separate post about the room I stayed in, and keep this one just about the inn itself, so check out the Garden Hideaway details post if you’re interested!

If you just spent all week iced in like I did, this probably looks like heaven about now.

Okay, let’s talk about FOOD! And DRINKS! This place certainly does not let their guests go hungry or thirsty! A few hours after check-in, there’s a “social hour” with free beer and wine. Of course, if you’re like me you can choose to totally avoid the “social” aspect and just hang out with your travel companions (or take your glass of free wine back to your room to enjoy with a book!) They’re totally cool with you taking your food and drinks anywhere within the property, so even if you’re not in the mood for a drink when social hour rolls around (But seriously, who is ever not in the mood for free beer?) you could always just grab one for later. (That’s what I did with dessert, but I’m getting way ahead!)



This photo is making me a little nostalgic for vacation. Look at all of that pretty free wine. Looking back, I have ZERO idea why I didn’t try all of them. (Especially since I wasn’t a big fan of the sweet red that I grabbed a glass of.) Note to self: Never pass up the chance for a spontaneous wine tasting! Anyway, the cool thing here was that they featured wines from a local winery (San Sebastian Winery), as well as a few selections from Corbett Canyon. (Since you probably can’t read the little signs, that’s a Merlot, a chardonnay and a white zinfandel.)


There was also a selection of cold beer for those who prefer it to wine. You can also purchase glasses/bottles/carafes of beer and wine outside of happy hour, as well as mini liquor bottles and mixed drinks. There are also non-alcoholic drinks available, if that’s how you prefer to roll.

Also: Snacks! Those who know me know that I can totally make a meal out of crackers and dip (or chips and salsa.) At first when I saw the menu that I was given at check-in, I was totally bummed to see that I missed hummus and pita chips night by ONE DAY. (The social hour snacks change daily. Also, I am a hummus addict.) The homemade curry dip totally made up for it, though. I have no idea what’s in it, but it was SO GOOD. Great, now I’m craving curry dip and free wine.

I was a LONG way from the inn when I realized that the time that free desserts are served was coming to a close, so I did some major speed walking to get back on time. Missing dessert time is unacceptable and unthinkable! Thankfully, I made it and grabbed a pecan thingy (that being the technical term) for later, since I’d just eaten dinner and was totally stuffed.

The things on the left were some kind of peppermint chocolate cup thing. I don’t like mint, so I passed. I was a little sad that there wasn’t a non-minty chocolate option, since I was totally craving chocolate (well, I always am…), but the pecan pie bar was really good! (Especially with the sherry upstairs!)

As you can probably guess from the fact that this is a Bed and Breakfast, there was breakfast the next morning! (Shocking plot twist, I know!) There are few things that get me out of bed as effectively as knowing that there is someone waiting to make me a gingerbread latte. Yep, they do seasonal lattes! I believe they were also offering peppermint at the time, but as we already discussed, I don’t do mint. Seriously, though, look at this magnificent creation:

It’s so pretty! I wish there was someone waiting to make me specialty coffee drinks every morning! I’m referring to the little printed menu they gave me as I’m writing this, and I JUST noticed that I also could have asked for an espresso! Do you guys know how blissed out I would have been with a gingerbread latte in one hand and a shot of espresso in the other? Opportunity missed!

If I recall correctly, they have coffee on hand pretty much all the time. There’s plenty of sweetener and creamer to choose from, as well as a variety of flavored syrups that you can kind of see on the tray to the left.

If you’re more of a tea person, they had a selection of both bagged and loose leaf varieties.

And of course, actual breakfast! Again I was sad to see that I missed the menu offering that sounded the most awesome (strawberry soup) by one day! Most of the offerings involved eggs, which I don’t eat, but there was a cheesy hash brown casserole that was really good!

I also ate an absurd amount of bread with apple butter. (And by “absurd” I mean two pieces. But I never eat in the morning, so it felt like a LOT!) And although it’s not pictured, I seem to recall some kind of fruit salad. Why didn’t I take a photo of my plate? Man, my trip reporting skills have gotten totally rusty!

I totally appreciated that breakfast runs from 7:30-9:30, so you don’t have to get up at some painfully early hour just to get your food! I made it out of bed at 9 in the name of gingerbread latte, but anything earlier would have been rough on vacation!

There are no other “meals” served, but they do have snacks available overnight (packaged pretzels, crackers, chips, etc.) and you can get coffee, tea, and bottled water any time. (I asked the front desk for a bottle of water for the road when we were leaving to drive back to Orlando.)

A couple of last random things to throw in: There are DVD players in the rooms, so you can bring your own favorite movies, or borrow one from the inn’s library. They also had a selection of board games, which made me super happy! (Yep, that’s the FSU version of Monopoly down there. Ah, Florida!)

One cool perk of staying at this particular place is that the owners also have a beachfront property a few miles away. Inn guests can use the free parking there, as well as beach towels and chairs. Since my trip got cut so short, I didn’t have much beach time, but I think this is a seriously awesome option to have available.

The inn’s staff was great. Everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful, but we never felt smothered with attention. They seemed to have a fairly large staff for a small place!

And saving the very most important thing for last… ZEKE! As I mentioned in my preview post, the St. Francis has a kitty! I kept an eye out for him every time we were coming or going, but only spotted him once on the first day. I was pretty sad to leave with no quality kitty time, but then guess who I spotted out in the parking lot right when it was time to leave??

Crazy cat ladies give the best ear scratches.

He was a total sweetheart of a cat, and we played a pretty solid game of “I’ll drag this stick that I found back and forth so you can catch it” before I had to hop in the car and leave. (I think he won?)

Since this was super long as-is, I made that a separate post just to show you the gorgeous Garden Hideaway Suite that I stayed in! I’m also planning to write about the fun I had sightseeing around St. Augustine. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Friday Favs for the 13th!

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Didn’t we just have a Friday the 13th a few months ago? I distinctly remember making a cute little graphic for that week’s Friday Favs!

Before we dive into this week’s list of five, I have a question for you guys! Does anyone remember the Target Tuesdays linkup that was a thing a few years ago on Fabulous But Evil? I noticed that my Friday Favs posts almost always contain recent Target loves, so I was curious if any of you would be interested in starting up a Target Tuesdays linkup again! Let me know if it’s something you’d be into! And speaking of Targs…

1. I stopped in Target for basically no reason after riding yesterday evening. (It was like 74 degrees, I had to get my butt on a horse!) It was one of those days when ALL THE THINGS were on sale and I needed them all. I picked up a spare pair of my beloved “Socktopus” socks that I’ve mentioned here before…

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Sorry, Mr. Octopus! I have calves. 

All of the adorable socks from that brand were marked down from $4 to $2, and there’s a deal on Cartwheel for an extra 20% off certain women’s clearance items, so they were $1.58!  (And yes, I totally own the nightshirt that matches these socks. It’s sooo soft and stretchy and comfy!)

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2. I also got the leg warmers I’ve had my eye on since winter! I love them but couldn’t bring myself to spend $10 on them. $1.98 with the Cartwheel discount, though? SOLD! I was worried they might be scratchy since they have sequins, but they’re so soft and comfy and warm! I might pick up the black or pink ones, too, now that I know how great they are.

3. I got TWO of these crazy vintage 70s rompers at a thrift store sale earlier this month. (Other one is same print, different colors.) Now I just need the courage to wear them! 😉

4. This Beezie Madden gif:

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She’s so awesome, she’s been a badass in showjumping since I was a kid! If you can’t tell, her horse takes off an entire stride too soon here, but she’s just like “Whatevs.”

5. It has FINALLY been warm enough to switch from wintery clothes to dresses!

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Yes, I totally took that pic in a Walmart. I was just so excited to not be in layers or barn clothes for once! (Dress is from Stitch Fix. I really need to get around to writing a review of the Fix it came in!)

That’s it for me this week! I have a dentist appointment this afternoon (wheeee), but hopefully the actual weekend will be fun!

Linking up with these rad women!
fri-favs 5-friday Friday blog linkup