Monday, March 31, 2014

Hello Stranger!

Hello blog! Have you missed me? Forrest and I have just gotten home from 9 days in Peru! The week before that, we were trying to distribute animals, clean the house for showings while we were away, pack, finish painting at the new house, and on top of that I had Sardis court, Service Guild, and Farrah and I had to decorate our Girlfriend Gala table. I have so much to catch you up on in the lives of the Baileys, but it will take time to get life back in order! I promise to fill you in just as soon as I get all of my ducks in a row, plus, I need to share with you some more traveling for free tips, as we utilized them to get to Peru! Happy Monday and it's good to be back!

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Blessed to be Stressed

It's easy to forget how lucky we are in the midst of stress and anxiety. Most of the time, the things that stress me out don't even deserve to be called stressors. Like this weekend for example. It was jam packed with fun events but there was so much other stuff going on, I was stressed to the max. I do pat myself on the back, however, for allowing myself to actually go and do the fun stuff. Otherwise I think I would be a crazy person!
Last week was very busy. On top of our regular work schedule, we were at the new house painting every night. We were so lucky to have Mr. Bailey helping us and even my mom came one night. The painting went well but it was anything but smooth--one color came out wrong, I bought the wrong type of paint one time, and on and on. On top of that, Forrest and I were running back and forth to the house to let in electricians, carpet guys, appliance deliverymen, you name it, they came to my house. THEN I was also running all over town picking up things for the Girlfriend Gala that is this week. Whew. I skipped lunch probably 3 days last week, which is probably the number of times I skipped lunch the entire 2013 year.
On Friday night Forrest and I were so happy to go to Supper Club at the Gandhis. It was so nice to hang around with friends and not worry about what all I needed to get finished! They served us Khowsey, which is a Burmese noodle dish. We got to make our own noodles bowls and mine, I must say, was delicious! We stayed late playing board games like little kids--it was awesome!

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The next morning Forrest had to work and I hit the ground running. I had so much to do I almost was late for our most important event of the day--dinner for Kelly's birthday! A large group of us ate at Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham to ring in the occasion and afterwards we went to see Kelly's favorite, Elton John!

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Happy Birthday sweet friend! (As you can see, we had the boys sit at a different table)

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Sweet girlfriends

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We were beyond excited to get to meet Executive Chef and James Beaird award winner, Frank Stitt!

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We were in the rafters but Kelly was this close to Elton!!

Sunday was just as wild a day as Saturday with church and endless errands and things to work on at the new house. It was nice to relax for a bit at my parents' house for dinner but there wasn't much rest for the weary--we basically ate and ran back home to continue with everything else that needed to be done.
Even though the weekend wore me out, we were really blessed to be busy with all of the things we had to do. We weren't busy with anything negative or troublesome and for that I'm truly grateful! Hope you had a great weekend too!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kendra's Night Out

I am so excited to share this post with you today! I was asked by travel guru Kendra Thornton to help her design an ensemble for a night out at Ghost Bar in Las Vegas. Ghost Bar is one of Vegas' hottest spots and is located in the Palms Hotel and Casino. I was unable to get to Ghost while I was in Las Vegas last summer for Miss USA, but I do know a thing or two about dressing the part. One thing I struggled with in packing for Vegas was looking appropriate. Ghost Bar's dress code is "Stylish Nightlife"....well that does that mean to me, a 30 year old lawyer, and of course to Kendra? I struggled to find the right mix of sassy night life and age appropriateness. I didn't want to be wearing an outfit I was uncomfortable in or one that screamed "This woman thinks she is 17". I know it's Vegas and all, but still. I felt like I was able to achieve this balance and so I'm excited to share it with you, Kendra, and her readers today.

First, here is a little info, sent from Kendra, about the challenge and her evening out...

"While I love spending time with my family, I’m really looking forward to my upcoming getaway to The Palms Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, but I need your help. I want to look great while I enjoy my time with friends. Your challenge is to help me create a fabulous outfit to wear on an evening in Sin City. To help you, I’ve included a brief description of one of the hot spots I plan to visit.
The Palms has several fun bars and clubs. One of my favorites, because of the spectacular views it provides, is GhostBar. Located on the 55th floor of the resort, GhostBar affords some of the most amazing views of the Las Vegas strip. I especially love the views from the glass panel in the balcony floor. This intimate lounge provides a more low-key atmosphere than many of the bars at The Palms. I plan to enjoy my visit here with a couple of drinks and perhaps a couple new friends.

This city has a unique style unto itself. To find the best hotels and hot spots in the city I read all the reviews I could from the experts on Gogobot. Whether I catch a show, enjoy some time gambling in the casino, indulge in dinner at one of the city’s fine dining establishments or catch up with friends over cocktails, I’m sure to have more fun if I look stunning. I can’t wait to see the fabulous fashions my readers recommend, and I look forward to taking your fashion advice out for a fun evening in Sin City. Doesn’t every mom deserve a night out once in a while?" 
To that Kendra, I say YES! So with out further adieu, here is my pick for Kendra's night out wardrobe...

Kendra Thornton collection

In this example I have given two options: one that is a little more "Vegas" and the other that is definitely Vegas, but more versatile.

On the left, I've chosen this darling color block bandage dress. The bandage dress is HUGE in Vegas, but has the ability to make its wearer look huge if not worn appropriately. Kendra will look great in a form fitting dress such as this one, but if she feels uncomfortable with her clothes being so tight, she can always go up a size and achieve the same basic look with this dress. The other option is this black leather mini dress. It's short but not too short and is fitted but not skin tight. I think this dress, when worn with a little cardigan, can be worn out to dinner or to parties when Kendra is back at home and she won't have to worry about looking too "Vegas".
Shoes--ahh shoes. One thing to remember about Las Vegas is that it is big. The casinos are giant and you have to walk a lot to get anywhere. To that end, it is very important to consider one's footwear, even if you are just going to a club. Not only will you be dancing and standing to talk to friends in the club, but you will have also probably had quite a stroll in your heels to get to the club in the first place. Comfort is KEY. However, when I say comfort, I don't mean to insinuate that you should break out your flip flops. That is SO not "Vegas". Sky high stiletto heels rule the night in Sin City, so to look the part, Kendra is going to have to find the perfect pair that not only looks good, but that also feels good. Most definitely she is going to want to try on her shoes and wear them around, even in her home, just to break them in and make sure they will work for her. A pair of heels with a platform are going to be her best bet. They are perfect for adding a few inches without toppling you over. I've again chosen two options for her. The first are super cool and trendy strappy heels. These shoes scream "Vegas" to me and they will look great with either of these dresses. However, I think that this pair of shoes coupled with the bandage dress would make for a killer outfit! The second option is a simple nude pair of pumps. These are still super high due to the platform so they will be Vegas appropriate, however since they are plain they can be worn to work, church, parties, etc. Some people would rather their shoes fade into the background and their outfit hold its own and if Kendra wants that, then these shoes will achieve that with either outfit, and if she wants to take the black dress up a notch, the strappy shoes will do the trick!

Moving on to accessories! Typically on a trip I pare down my jewelry for easy packing but when going to Vegas you should really up the ante when it comes to your night life accessories. However, you can still use affordable pieces that can be used when you are at home--we aren't talking anything too crazy here. For Kendra I've chosen this gold statement necklace that will look great with either dress and still be functional at home. I've selected two pair of earrings that can go with either dress--a more tailored, simple pair of gold bow studs and a more "out there" pair of gold dangles. She really can wear either pair with anything so they are quite functional. It will just depend on how "busy" she chooses to be! Next I've selected a bracelet for each dress--a simple pair of bangles for the color block dress and a chunky cuff for the leather dress. Bangles and cuffs are very trendy right now so these would be wearable at home but will look perfect in Las Vegas. I always feel naked without a bracelet but Kendra might decide that earrings and a necklace are enough, or just a bracelet and earrings. The beauty of these collections is that they mix and match well! Finally I've added a simple gold clutch. Kendra will definitely want to have her phone and wallet and lipstick with her so a purse is a must, but no one wants to be saddled with a giant purse, so a clutch is the way to go.

Ok guys, what do you think?? I hope that Kendra loves this collection and I hope you do as well, especially if you are off to Vegas soon!
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Baileys take Colorado

Hi blog! I apologize for neglecting you. Crazy does not even begin to describe the past 2 weeks, and they are only going to get crazier for a while. We finally got the keys to our new house--hooray! On top of dealing with that I've been slammed with court, Forrest added 2 new chairs to his dental practice, meaning a complete overhaul of his schedule, staff, etc, and I've been out of town the past 2 weekends. Right now, busy is a blessing and we are so grateful, so please don't think I'm complaining!
Since it's been a week since we've returned, I figured I needed to get on the ball and tell you all about our fantastic trip to Colorado! As you may recall, I shared my tips for traveling Southwest Airlines for free last week. What I didn't add was that we also stayed for free, not because of credit card points (although we can do that too--post to come!) but because we stayed with Forrest's aunt and uncle. They live in Summit County, near the ski resorts and have ski passes. There are numerous perks to staying with them---other than having the time to catch up with them, they always cook us breakfast and dinner AND they go skiing with Forrest so he can buy a "buddy pass", making his lift ticket substantially cheaper. I'm really glad that they ski with Forrest because that means I don't have to, plus that means he actually gets to ski the good stuff, rather than watching me cry down the bunny hills. I have skied twice and it was ok, but I don't like heights, speed, or being cold, so that makes snow skiing a low priority in my book. I've given it the old college try, but now that I'm a grown up, I just don't see paying money to do something I really don't enjoy when it's unnecessary. To that end, we say that Forrest skied and I spa-ed in Colorado. Here is how we rolled:

Day 1: Vail
I went to Vail the last time that I went to Colorado with Forrest. I remember attempting to cross country ski, but that just felt like exercise so I didn't like it. It was also really snowy that day and I remember being super cold and miserable. I did buy a sweatshirt that I still wear today though, so it was worth it--haha. Anyway I'm getting off topic. When we went to Vail this time it was BEAUTIFUL weather! The slopes were not crowded and neither was the village, even though I had a hard time finding parking. I ended up in Lionshead at the Arrabelle Spa. I was lucky enough to be worked in so after a quick lunch at Blue Moose Pizza and a swimsuit purchase at Roxy, I was headed in for my body scrub. I wanted to pick a treatment that I couldn't necessarily get at home so I went with that. The spa facilities were top notch and I kept texting Forrest that I felt like I was in an episode of Fraiser, especially while I was in the "relaxation room". My treatment was heavenly!!! Who knew I needed all new skin?? I was able to hang out in the spa and use the facilities until time to pick up Forrest and Aunt Karen and Uncle Tommy.
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Me, a comfy chair, my new bathing suit, and my cool cloth with cucumbers for my eyes. THIS is the life!
(THey used the Isun line on me during my treatment, if you were curious)

They had a fantastic day on the back bowls and didn't have to wait in any lift lines! Score!! We topped that evening off with dinner in an Italian restaurant near their home and before you knew it, it was time for another day!

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Forrest's view was a little different than mine!!!

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Day 2: Breckin "fridge"
We woke up to a snowy Saturday morning so we were afraid to drive to Beaver Creek, our original destination. We ended up choosing Breckinridge instead, since it was closer to home.

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We were really excited to spend the day with our friend Susan, who is in dental school in Denver. Once she got to Uncle Tommy's, we loaded up and headed out. I absolutely LOVED the village at Breckinridge, even if I was walking around in the snow. There were so many shops and restaurants! While the gang skied in white out conditions, I bought myself a new coat and cocktail dress at Valleygirl Boutique, got a facial, and enjoyed a crepe and a hot cider!  photo 992854E5-D271-430B-9A5F-C65AED9D24BA_zpsyidavveq.jpg
At the Mountain Sanctuary Day Spa

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I am dreaming of that crepe from Crepes A la Cart and wishing I had ordered more!

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Forrest, Susan, Uncle Tommy, Aunt Karen

I also rode the gondola to the top of peak 8 (I think) to watch people in the terrain park. I was pretty obsessed with the winter Olympics so I was thrilled to be able to watch some more crazy stunts in person! I highly recommend doing that at any resort if you have the time! It's so much fun!  I treated myself to a little apres' ski spa/shopping snack at The Warming Hut and bought my skiing companions some stuffed cookies before meeting the group to head back to the house. Because it was late and snowy, Susan opted to spend the night with us, which meant she was treated to a fabulous salmon dinner, cooked by Aunt Karen.
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On a walk near Uncle Tommy's house

Day 3: Beaver Creek
I was the most excited to go to Beaver Creek because neither Forrest nor I had ever been before. It was a beautiful day so the gang was anxious to hit the slopes! Instead, I went to Revolution Yoga for a community class. What I didn't know was that it was a HOT yoga class. Man--that is some TOUGH stuff. When the instructor invited us to set a goal for our practice mine was "don't throw up or pass out". Despite being sweaty I really felt invigorated after the class. While my group was skiing world cup runs, I had another quick lunch at Blue Moose Pizza (great sandwiches and salads) and then went to the Allegria Spa at the Park Hyatt. I was able to secure a scalp and foot treatment, even though I didn't know what that was.  photo 655519C4-9BDB-4F6D-B300-20A5D6AFEE2F_zpsyhxtnpni.jpg
Like, Olympic skiers ski this run!! Way to go guys!!!

The spa has these amazing pools for you to use. First you get in the hot tub, then the mineral hot tub, then you take a cool shower, then you sauna (although I don't sauna--they make me claustrophobic) and then you get to lie on the warm stone chairs in the "tepidarium". OMG--I need one of these chairs in my house! My treatment was also AMAZING--I really don't know how I've transitioned into real life again after all of my spa adventures! I finished the day with Mass at the chapel right on the mountain. It was so beautiful!! I met up with the group afterwards and we were off to another home cooked meal by Aunt Karen.

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I of course made friends with Aunt Karen's cat Bella!!

 Can you tell why we didn't want to leave Colorado? Wonderful skiing, spa-ing, breakfast and dinner cooked for us every day--who would want to leave! We are so grateful to Uncle Tommy and Aunt Karen for their hospitality and we have already promised them we will be back as soon as we can! I hope that if any of you out there are considering Colorado as your next vacation destination, that you will just say yes and go! Even if you don't like to ski, there is so much to see and do!!
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meat Free Recipes for Lent

Happy Ash Wednesday! If you see me, NO, I did not fall down or rub dirt on my face--I've been to Ash Wednesday Mass. Ash Wednesday is the kick off to Lent, the season that precedes Easter. In the Catholic Faith, we typically give up something and we also abstain from eating meat on Fridays. That is usually a problem for me day to day but for some reason all I want to eat on Fridays during Lent are cheeseburgers. To that end, I've compiled a list for you of my favorite, meatless meals. Some of them call for chicken broth so just substitute with water or white wine! Hope you enjoy!!

Shrimp and Grits
We may give up meat, but seafood is a-ok!  I know I just posted this recipe recently but guys, it is that good!
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Roasted Asparagus Tortellini
This is quick and easy and fills you up!

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Greek Salad with Brown Rice
I LOVE this! It would be great as a side or even for lunch.
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Grilled Cheese and Caramelized Onions
Are you drooling yet? This is the perfect Lenten Friday lunch and would also make a great bed time snack!
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Other awesome recipes whose pictures are too hard to find right now (but seriously, check them out).

Tomato Basil Soup--you know this is my fave!!

Red Wine and Goat Cheese Risotto--this was a crowd pleaser. The post says it all. I am going to have to make this asap!

Crab Stuffed Cucumbers--need an app for a Friday night party? Try out these impressive guys.

Grilled Salmon with glaze--the best salmon in the land!

Hope you guys get to try some of these!!
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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Fly for Free

Hello! We have just arrived home from a FABULOUS trip to Colorado to visit Forrest's Aunt Karen and Uncle Tommy and to do a little skiing. Well, Forrest skied. I spa'ed. I was a little hesitant to even go after all the snow we have been having in Alabama. Actually, we were supposed to go the time it snowed so badly in January but after 5 hours in the car driving on ice to get to the airport, they cancelled our flight so we had to reschedule. I have SO much to discuss about this trip and can't wait to document it all, however, lots of the good photos are on Forrest's phone so I'm going to have to wait until I have access to those before I tell the tale of our trip. Instead, I wanted to let you all in on my little travel secret--we fly for free. If you are ever wondering how people are always traveling so much, it's probably because they also do it for free. The best part? It's not that hard and takes so little time, you will probably be mad you haven't done this before now! I can't take credit for coming up with this info, however. Forrest actually researched several travel blogs, his favorites being Mommy Points and The Points Guy. You can read these and several other blogs to get the basics on using credit card points for flights on just about any airline using just about any credit card. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll just tell you how we were able to do this trip for free on Southwest and you can tie up any loose ends on the other blogs. (Although I've got good ones about Delta and British Airways coming up so if you can hold tight I can explain their procedures and my experiences with them soon).  photo EE9DE6A6-6022-48BE-8D0C-E50A648292FE_zpsiwbnntkj.jpg

 Ready? we go.

1. In order to fly for free on Southwest, you need a credit card. We chose Southwest because they fly out of airports that are close to us--Birmingham and Atlanta. Plus, they fly to just about anywhere domestically and now that they have bought Airtran, they fly to Mexico and several Caribbean locations. We currently have a free trip to NYC planned for later in the year and I'm working on one to Puerto Rico for the summer--all flights free. I also booked Forrest a free flight to New Jersey using my points when he had to attend a training back in January! You want to go HERE to sign up for your Southwest Rapid Rewards Card. Here is the key---you need to do it when they are offering 50,000 miles for starting out. Don't do it if it is less than 50,000!! You need as many as you can possibly get FOR FREE!! Guess what--they are having that deal RIGHT NOW so you need to sign up immediately! Go do it!!
2. Ok so now you have your card---get another one. Yes--you need 2!! I have the Premiere Card and the Plus card--they explain the differences on the website so make sure to check them out. There are a few fees associated with them (like right now it's $99) but if you use the points correctly and fly for free, then you are actually making more money than you spend. The system should automatically put both of your cards under your one Rapid Rewards number, but I always call and double check. This means all of your points that you earn on each card goes to the same place. Why do you need 2 cards? So you can earn companion status! Hooray! The Points Guy tells you all about companion status HERE if you don't believe me. Get this---once you accumulate 110,000 RR (Rapid Rewards) points, you get to choose a companion to fly with you FOR FREE! Like, no points, no dollars, FREE. This means that since I earned companion status, I get 2 for one flights. Every time I buy a flight on Southwest (and by "buy" I mean "pay with points--aka free money") Forrest gets to go with me FOR FREE. I just click a little link on my reservation and voila! He is my flying companion! (There is even a precious card you get to present!) You can even CHANGE your companion if you call the nice people at Southwest if you don't have particular one in mind. It does take time so make sure to check with Southwest on this. Ok so got it? 2 credit cards at 50,000 each equals 100,000 points FOR FREE so you only have to earn 10,000 on your own.
3. BUT CATHERINE! I don't want to jack up my credit in the name of free flights! I hear you--loud and proud. You have got to be realistic with yourself when you do this program. In order to earn the 50,000 you have to spend $2000 on each card in your first 2 months of having your card. That is NOT an issue for us, and we are not crazy spenders. When we are trying to earn the points, and actually every day, we put EVERYTHING on our cards. Gas, groceries,  bills, insurance, everything. Then, we buy reloadable gift cards and put them into our Blue Bird account with American Express and we use that to pay our mortgage and other things you really can't put on a card. (If you don't have Blue Bird you can just buy those gift cards and use them as your credit card--it's simply moving money from one place to another). I could talk all day about this so I'll do another post on it soon. Just know that when we get 2 cards, we always are able to reach the spending minimum and we never have credit issues. We don't buy things that we don't need and we always pay off our balance at the end of the month. If we can't afford it we won't buy it in the name of credit card points.
4. Ok, so you have your 2 SW cards and you have spent the required amount of money. PAY OFF the cards! The points take 6-8 weeks to arrive but we've found they arrive faster if you actually pay them off when you hit the balance. So if say you just went out and bought gift cards right away, go home and pay your card off. Then sit back and psycho stalk relax and wait for your points to appear in your account!
5. Make sure to spend enough in the next few months to earn the additional 10,000 points needed for companion status and pay that off too. You get 1 point for every $1 spent, and 2 points for every $1 on Southwest/AirTran. Make sure to read all of the benefits/qualifying info HERE. You get an email that you have achieved companion status (a GLORIOUS email) that prompts you to enter your companion. You have to do that before your companion can actually fly! AND just a little FYI that nearly happened to us--the main flyer MUST fly or the companion can't go. It doesn't matter the reason. For example, during the bad snow Forrest was actually in ATL, where our flight initiated. I was just going to stay home and not brave icy I-20, but if I didn't fly he didn't fly and it didn't matter that he was there. They have to be on the same flight as you at the same time---plain and simple. That means your companion can't be someone far away from you.
6. Book your free flights!

Now, if you don't care about companion status,  you can still get 2 cards and just not worry about the extra 10,000 if you don't want to. You will still get about 4 free flights and if you continue using the card you accumulate more points.You can also just sign up and get the one card for 50,000 and be done with it, but if you really want to maximize your spending, you should get 2 if you can qualify. I also will do a post soon about how to easily reach the minimum spending level, even if you are short on cash. Oh, so many posts to write!
I hope that this was informative and helpful to you! Please leave a comment or email me if you have any questions, or consult The Points Guy or Mommy Points or any other travel blogs!
Do you fly free like me? Let me hear from you! We can share our tips and tricks!
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