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Feb 27, 2013

Before I Fly Away...

Happy Wednesday, folks! We're half way through this painfully long week, so hang on! The weekend is near! As for me, another painfully long activity is in my very near future. But the reward at the end of it shall be worth every single second. Friends, I've been keeping a little secret from you. I'm catching a flight back to the states tomorrow! WHOO HOO!! It's the perfect time of year for military families to try their chances at scoring a seat on the coveted Space-A flights (basically free stand-by flying for military and their families), so I'm taking advantage. Because it's the low season for traveling and all the rugrats are still in school, flights going back and forth to the states are often empty or bare-gilled, so lucky ducks like me get to go visit their puppy dogs and enjoy some serious retail therapy with their mommies! And since Germany's a veritable soggy wasteland of gloom this winter (and every winter), I NEED to get outta here as fast as that airplane will take me. Sadly, though, D will be stuck here amongst the gloom, playing Air Force, as usual. That makes me sadder than you'll ever know (and I HATE flying alone), but D is all but carrying me on that plane. He says he really wants me to see Tuck, spend time with our niece & nephew, and mail him some of those Chicken & Waffle chips everyone's been so gaga about...but I really think he just wants me out of the house so he can watch football and play hours upon hours of uninterrupted video games. He never really got much of a life as a bachelor (seeing as I've been his main squeeze for over 12 years now), so I know he enjoys his alone time when I'm gone. He'll get 2 weeks of it. That should satisfy him for a good long while. :)

Since I'll be enduring...oh, let's say 24-30 hours of travel time over the next day or so...and 3 to 4 days of mind-numbing jet lag shortly thereafter, you might not see much of me here in blog land for a while. I've got a few scheduled posts (GASP! Amazing, right?), but nothing else planned. I have hopes of blogging while I'm at home, but I'm not promising anything substantial unless my mommy leaves me home alone with nothing to do but chores. THEN you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be writing. Nobody wants to do chores, now do they? Which brings me to my next point...BLOG HOUSEKEEPING TIME!! I'll do chores for this blog, but that's it, Mom! Kidding, don't lock me out of the house, please.

First up...
From now until March 5th you can take advantage of having 25% OFF ANY SIZE AD! Use code MARCH13 and hop on board this gravy train! Let's get started promoting you and your creative space!
--I've also officially retired swap ads...for now. You may see them pop up again in the future, but I'm currently off the swapping market in an effort to move my sponsorship program in a different direction come summer time.--

Ever heard of the super cute clothing company eShakti? If not, you should go educate yourself. eShakti's mission is to provide affordable, timeless pieces that are customizable in both style and fit so that any woman can look her best without compromising wearability for price. That's totally something I can get on board with. I've got a snazzy eShakti dress on its way here to me right now...so be looking out for my very first outfit post this spring! Dear Lord, help us all. Until then, the nice people at eShakti sent me a coupon code for *20% any purchase from now until March 10th to share with all my lovely readers! Use the code KEEPNGPWTH and see what eShakti can customize for you!
*Code has to be entered in the 'Promotional Code' box. No Minimum Order Value. The discount code is not case sensitive. The code can be used any number of times until the validity period. This code can be clubbed with any other gift coupon or gift card in the same order. This discount code is not applicable on our Overstock category. Not applicable on previous purchases.

Ok, that's all for now! I'm off to finish packing. Seriously, when will my suitcase just learn to pack itself? If you've got a few to spare, please send up a prayer or two for my safe travels. Even though this flying alone thing happens often, it never get easier...or less nerve-wracking. Sometimes I wish I liked drinking on airplanes. Oh and if you aren't already, make sure you follow my Instagram stream (username: @CaseyCote) to keep up with my adventures in 'Merica. I guarantee you they'll all be photos of Chick-Fil-A or my dog, but follow me nevertheless. Auf Wiedersehen, Freunde!

Feb 26, 2013

Get to Hoppin', Y'all!

It's Tuesday again which means it's time for the GFC Blog Hop! Blog hops are an excellent way for you to find new bloggers, make connections, and gain new followers yourself!
When I want to follow a blog the first thing I look for is GFC (Google Friend Connect), it's so easy and  nice to be able to go and see all of the blogs you follow in one spot. It's really a great tool to have. 
One side note- Did you know you can follow through GFC using your Twitter Account? TRUE, it's definitely an option!
Ok, so let's get to the party, shall we?
RULES are simple:
1. Follow your host via GFC
The First link below
2. Follow your co-hosts via GFC
The Next 8 links below
3. Link up below using your main blog url not a specific post.
4. Make sure to visit some of the blogs in the link up and follow them via GFC 
and if you want to leave them a comment, I'm sure they'd appreciate that as well.
5. Tweet about this blog hop

6. Share about this blog hop by grabbing a button and putting it on your sidebar!
*After 6 months of the waiting list to cohost being extra long, I finally have paid cohost spots available! Email me if you're interested at melissa@thelifeofanotsoordinarywife.com

Feb 25, 2013

Paris: Montparnasse Tower

When planning at trip to Paris, you can become overwhelmed by all the options for sights to hit during your visit. There are countless monuments to see, museums to wander through, and cafés to rehydrate in, but honing in on what's top priority can be more difficult than coming up with the funds to travel there! Like with every trip I plan, I spent HOURS combing through travel websites and trip reviews trying to organize and optimize our limited time in the city of lights. Thankfully, I came across The Paris Pass...the one stop shop for all your Paris sightseeing needs. Normally, I try to stay away from buying all-inclusive passes, as many of those passes include sights that I couldn't care less about seeing, so I'd be wasting money purchasing them, but The Paris Pass was a whole different ball game. Not only did it include a guidebook and a metro pass (with the option that we purchased), it also included entrance fees (and line skipping!) into top sights like the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, Norte Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, Seine River cruises, Hop-on-hop-off bus tours, and one of our favorites, the Montparnasse Tower.

The Montparnasse Tower (also know as Tour Montparnasse) was the tallest structure in Paris up until 2011 when the Tour First skyscraper was completed in the La Défense district. Montparnasse is home to a slurry of businesses that occupy office space inside the 59-floored building, but it also boasts some pretty spectacular views from its restaurant and panoramic rooftop outlook. Although this modernized structure looks a bit out of place against Paris' historic urban landscape, with the views it provides, tourists don't seem to mind. We sure didn't. If you add Montparnasse Tower to your Paris itinerary, make sure to squeeze it in at sunset. You can thank me later. :)

Feb 21, 2013

Haggling on the Champ de Mars

Not many things get me riled up easily. Chewing with your mouth open? Gross, but tolerable. Leaving the toilet seat up? Annoying, but I can overlook it. Crappy drivers? Ok, bad example. I do have some wicked road rage when taunted, but that's a character flaw I'll leave unexplained for another day. BUT the people who sell things where they're not supposed to be selling things and incessantly pester you about them, also known as "hawkers," "peddlers," and "mongers," I want to KILL THEM! Ok, so maybe not kill them, but I like to give them a taste of their own ridiculous medicine from time to time. 
Case and point, our first lovely evening lounging on the lawn of the Champ de Mars in Paris. After spending a day sightseeing, all we wanted to do was grab a few crêpes and plop down on a patch of grass to relax and bask in glow of the Eiffel Tower. Sounds nice, right? Well, it was until the sun went down and we were pestered to death by stealthy international hawkers (I say international because they weren't French, in any way) who roamed up and down the length of the Champ de Mars trying to sell their "goodies" to every person who made eye contact with them. As we sat, trying to enjoy our Nutella and fruit filled crêpes, we were hounded by EVERY SINGLE HAWKER in that friggin' place! "You need Paris keychains, I have keychains! You want cigarettes? I've got 3 kinds!" All they were selling was crap. Total crap. Like those silly spinning glow-light thingies you get when you go with your mom to the Ice Capades...only they were shaped like the Eiffel Tower. Being shaped like the Eiffel Tower doesn't make me want to buy it more, for the record. One thing that these hawkers did have that I wanted though? Wine. We forgot to bring wine. Even after roaming around the local grocery store stocking up on cheese and fresh baguettes, we forgot to buy wine and bring it for our picnic. And after sitting on the lawn staring at all the happy tourists who were enjoying their overflowing glasses of Bordeaux, we had to have it. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I'll let you decide) these traveling salesmen were pushing bottles all over the place.

Now, as we're sitting there, laughing and chatting about our day, I'd been surveying the wine hawker situation. Quiet a few people around us had been purchasing wine and champagne bottles from them, so I started to get curious. I asked D if he thought we should try our hand at getting a bottle from one of them. I mean, it was only a matter of time before the cops came to shoo them off, and I really didn't want to walk allllll the way back to the store just for wine, so I was on board. He said, "No way...they probably jack up the prices so high that it wouldn't be worth it." What I really heard in my head was CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!...and then proceeded to wave over the grodiest man I'd seen in the history of ever.

Almost instantly, I began to regret that decision. He sauntered over with a smug look on his face and a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, like some Parisian slimeball hanging out in the alley behind the Moulin Rouge. This is how our conversation played out:

Me: How much for a bottle of wine?

Slimeball: Well, if you want champagne, it's €25 a bottle.
Umm, what? Highway robbery. D was right and this already wasn't looking good.

Me: Yeahhh, no. No champagne for us. What about the wine? *holding my breath*
Slimeball: So, uhh, the red is €20, the white €20, but the Rosé is uhhh...€18 for you.

For me? Oh well thank you dude, but NO THANKS! Do I have sucker written across my forehead? Every single price he quoted was complete bull-honkey. That little grocery store was selling wine AND champagne for €3 to €5 a pop, even for decent stuff. Marking up your junk 200% is laughable. He was trying to take the wrong girl for a ride.

Me: Holy cow, nevermind. Nope. No wine for us. Thanks anyway! *now please go away*
Slimeball: Ok so maybe I make you a deal. You get a bottle for €16. Final offer.
Me: Nope, we're good. We don't want the wine now. Thanks. *now you should really go away*

We all turned away from him and started engaging back in our previous conversations, but dude wasn't getting the hint to get lost. So, I put my mean face and my haggling pants on. It was go time.

Me: Listen. No one on this picnic blanket is paying €16 for your wine. So, either make us a real deal or you can go find some other person to bother.
Slimeball: How much would you pay for this wine?
Me: €5. And you'd be getting a bargain.
Slimeball: No, are you crazy?!  I can't do that. No profit. I pay more for this wine than that.

Lies. No way in Hades did he pay more than €5 for one bottle. I watch the Price is Right. I know these things.

Slimeball: €14 for the Rosé. No less.
Me: Guy, I'm telling you. No sale. You can go. Not interested.
Slimeball: You're busting my balls here, lady! I won't make profit. €12, no less.
Me: And you're also not making a sale! If you can't give me this bottle of wine for €7, you can keep walking. I'm throwing you a bone with €7. I'm not paying €12. Move along.

Lots of eye rolling and "ay yi yi's" started happening here. This guy realized he had met his match. D, my friend Nancy, and her hubby all started shaking their heads wishing this whole interaction would just end already. I was ready for him to start kicking rocks, too. He kept saying "Lady, lady, no profit!", but I knew he'd already made plenty of profit from the poor schmuck behind us that actually paid €25 for that bottle of cheap champagne. That guy paid my "profit" two-fold! I could see the hawker wavering, but he wasn't going to leave us alone until he made that sale.

Slimeball: €10 please. Final offer. I can't go lower.
Me: €7. And then you can leave and go hassle someone else. I know you want to get away from me just as much as I want you gone...so lets be done with it at €7. And you walk away with one less bottle to schlep around. All we have is €7 (and then we each pulled our lowest euro coins out of our pockets to physically show him that's all we had). FINAL OFFER.
Slimeball: *sighs* Ok. This is no good, but ok. You only take the Rosé. 
Me: Good, fine. Rosé is fine. Thanks. Goodbye!

Ho-ly-crap. Battle=won! He walked away with whatever shred of dignity he had left as we began to celebrate our win with the newly acquired bottle of Rosé. This is the point in the story where I don't tell you how incredibly AWFUL this wine was, but instead how we gulped every ounce of it down in sweet victory. Even though it was the worst wine ever and we probably paid a bit more than we would have if we'd bought a proper bottle in the grocery store, I still wouldn't have changed a thing. Talking the creeper down 10 euros tasted better than that wine ever could, and that was just fine by me. What's even funnier? Not a single hawker stopped by and asked us to buy anything else for the rest of the night. I don't know if it was because we already had wine or if word got round to stay away from the crazy girl in the red sweater, but no more annoying sellers came to bother us. Believe me, we weren't complaining. Haggling for wine on the Champ de Mars will forever go down in our memory book as the ballsiest thing I've ever done while on vacation. Nancy even said, "I've never seen this side of you, Casey!" Not gonna lie, I shocked myself, too. Just proves I'd do just about anything for wine! Kidding! Don't test me.

Needless to say, night 2 on the Champ de Mars...we brought our own wine. If you ever find yourself picnicking below the glow of the Eiffel Tower, I suggest you do the same. :)

{Blurry proof of our victory!}

Have you ever haggled with a hawker? Live to tell of your victories? 
I'd love to hear all about it!

Feb 19, 2013

Paris: Eiffel Tower Views

Anything that had to do with the Eiffel Tower--whether it was standing under it, on it, or relaxing on a picnic blanket on the lawn in front of it--those were the best parts of our Paris vacation, in my opinion. If I had to pick one highlight of the whole shebang...it would be a toss up. A toss up between the said picnicking and wine drinking on the Champs de Mars as the Eiffel Tower sparkled in the moonlight (post to come!) AND drinking a glass of real French champagne as we stood on the top floor of the Eiffel Tower itself. Two more of those "pinch me" moments locked in my heart forever. Can you blame me for not being able to choose? Both were amazingly memorable events all circled around one iconic landmark of love. Of course, they both also involve drinking, but why wouldn't they? I mean, have you met me? ;) Even though that glass of champagne put D and I back a whole €10 a piece, it was worth every bubbly drop. And the memories of a day spent marveling over the Parisian skyline with two of our dearest friends? Well, that's priceless.

{Video of our views from the top floor of the Eiffel Tower--complete with really awful French word pronunciations from yours truly. Accents aren't my strong suit, obviously.}

For more info on planning your own Parisian getaway complete with champagne atop the Eiffel Tower, visit here. I recommend purchasing your tickets well in advance to ensure you won't have to wait in long lines! And those lines get long...like hours long...trust me.

Feb 17, 2013

Meet & Giveaway Saturdays: Love Edition

I realize it's Sunday and not Saturday, and this post was supposed to go up yesterday, but Poland abducted me Friday night and held me hostage amongst its pottery filled cities until late last night. Me and my pierogi filled belly are not complaining. But I am going to give Meet & Giveaway Sunday's a go instead this weekend. I hope you'll take some time and visit all of my fabulous February sponsors and make friends. They're a great bunch of gals to know! Also, make sure you enter to win the fun stuff they're teaming up to giveaway at the bottom of this meet & greet post. I only wish I could enter myself! Happy Saturday (ahem, Sunday), my friends!

Hi! I'm Nicole from La Mia Vita. I moved from California to Madrid last year to get my Master's in Bilingual and Multicultural Education, teach English, learn Spanish and most importantly travel! It's been an amazing adventure and still lots more to come!

What is your idea of the best romantic date ever?
 Hmm, let me try to remember what going on a date is like...I would be very happy with any fun outdoor day. Wine tasting in the napa vineyards, followed by a romantic dinner and more wine in front of a fire. A hike along the coast with a bread and cheese lunch. A whole day at the beach ending with a sunset walk and s'mores. I am most happy when he puts thought and effort into the date, no matter what we do. And if it happens to be a Pinterest inspired dinner on the water surrounded by twinkle lights and candles, that's awesome too :)

I'm Lauren and I blog over at Tennessee Honey. I'm a wife, mother of two, full-time student, and just your general nerd. My blog is a lifestyle blog, in which I post about a recipe I've tried, music I'm loving, a book I've read, or just about my life in general. 

What is your idea of the best romantic date ever?
My ideal romantic date would be to first off, lose the kids. Well, not necessarily lose them and not be able to find them, but just get rid of them for the night, preferably with a grandparent. A quite dinner, a movie, and a late night trip to Starbucks would be perfect for me! I'm simple.

 My name is Brittany and I blog over at The Domestic Geek about the adventures that come with motherhood and marriage, and of course I blog about video games because I'm slightly obsessed with playing them. I have monthly gift guides for your gamer guy and I have some video game tutorials geared towards women who have never played video games before in the works (so you can kick your mans butt at his favorite games!)

What is your idea of the best romantic date ever?
The most romantic date I've ever been on was my 2 year dating anniversary with my husband. He took me to an adorable little town, and we explored all the shops on their Main Street. We bought all kinds of cute things for our new house, checked out some candy shops, and I even picked out my wedding band from the cutest jewelry shop! It was so nice just spending the day wandering around a town we didn't know very well.  

Hey y'all!  My name is Gayle, and I blog at Grace for Gayle -- a place I describe as authentic, honest, and encouraging. By day, I work in HR as a Compensation Analyst; when I'm not there, you can find me at the gym, blogging, doing church things, reading, doing my nails (obsessed!), hanging with my BFF, and of course loving on my sweet little fur-babies (4 of them, 1 crazy me). I truly hope to see you around my blog, and if you visit, be sure to sign up to receive some G-Mail!

What is your idea of the best romantic date ever?
I don't have a specific answer, plus I'm single at the moment.  I will say being the person in past relationships who usually was the planner and the "romantic" type, I would LOVE to be swept off my feet, and have him plan out a full day-date with all different activities.  Something personal to me, that he knows we would enjoy together.  I would love to see what he came up with for us to do, AND it would be really meaningful to be romanced like that.  Acts of service, one of my love languages!

I'm a middle school teacher and busy mom of 2.  I use my powers for good by blogging about the ways we save time, money, and sanity at our house! 

What is your idea of the best romantic date ever?
Well, at this point, being able to take a nap without anyone touching me or waking me up would be super romantic. That's probably not what my husband would want me to say, though. So I'll settle for a quiet stroll along the Mediterranean coastline, holding hands, and then having a picnic on the beach.  Perfect. With the nap afterwards.

Hola! I'm Dominique blogging over at The Adventures of Holly. I like to think of myself as a Christ loving, adventure and travel seeking (paragliding, anyone?), mishap expert, and life lovin' gal living in Seville, Spain for a year as an au pair while taking care of three crazy kiddos! You can find me blogging about travel, language barriers, cultural differences, my random and crazy thoughts, and everything in between! 

What is your idea of the best romantic date ever?
Hmmm, how about we wake up early and hop on a plane to the Swiss Alps and go skydiving? Then, we unwind in the Arabic Thermal Baths in Seville, Spain. Next, we make our way over to Harrods in London for high afternoon tea. After that, we'll head to Tuscany, Italy to go wine tasting in the vineyards. Then who wouldn't want to go to Paris, France for a romantic dinner at the foot of the Eiffel Tower? And finally, we'll end our night at the Igloo Hotel in Finland staring at the stars and Northern Lights. In my dreams, haha! 

Hi Ya'll! My name is Cortne and come on in! Pull up a chair, relax, and kick up your heels (or in my case boots) and take a peak into my 'lil lifestyle blogging world over at Coco in Magnolia. As we say in the South, everything about life comes through a story. We will gab about adventures in travel, the occasional (but not always successful) DIY, crafts with the munchkins, healthy (sometimes) eating, and mindful moments that might just bring a smile to your face or a tug in your soul. Thanks for stopping by! 

What is your idea of the best romantic date ever?
My idea of the best romantic date would be: an afternoon of beer golf with the hubbs, followed with dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant with the hubbs and munchkins (I don't have those munchkins for long, they'll move out one day!), and then home to snuggle with my man.

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