It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done any travelling. Just kidding. I seem to be in the mode of booking vacations just before or just after each vacation. I’ve had my Facebook memories hitting… More
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted about makeup. Mostly because my no-spend August sparked a spending freeze in my brain. I just haven’t wanted to buy any more makeup. Plus, I haven’t really been wearing a lot of makeup since my skin has been extremely sensitive lately.
I have been sitting with 2 $50 Sephora gift cards in my wallet since August, so when the VIB appreciation sale came up (and my skin was feeling better), I decided to splurge a bit.
Before I tell you what I got (and whether I love it or not), I want to start off with my online shopping experience this time around.
Has anyone else noticed that Sephora changed the standard for the amount of samples they give with each order? You now get 2 samples in stead of 3. I was a little bummed by this, mostly because that’s the main reason why I shop online at Sephora – I love trying new products!
Regardless, I still decided to shop online.
Once it shipped, I remembered that our lovely postal system is on strike. I didn’t think too much of it because last time they still delivered relatively quick.
Not this time.
I kept getting updates that my delivery date was changing. At first it was just a day at a time, then it switched to a week behind. Then 2 weeks.
Nonetheless, it did arrive a few days ago.
When I opened the box, there weren’t any samples.
Ok, so I’m thinking I may just go back to shopping at the store. Then I can get my product immediately and if I want to try a product, I can just get a sample in store.
Alright, let’s move on to what I actually purchased.
I purchased this for 3 reasons. First, it was super cute. I couldn’t resist. Next, you know how I said that my skin has been overly sensitive? Well, my lips have felt like they changed to shards of glass as well – even lip balm burns when I apply it. The only thing that has given me a bit of relief has been the agave lip mask. Since this set has a travel size lip balm, lip mask & lip scrub, I decided to try it. I’ve used it for the last couple days and it has helped my lips feel so much better! The third reason I bought this is that I’ll be traveling again in a few weeks and I’m only bringing a personal item – no checked baggage or carry-ons! This set will fit perfectly in my purse!
This was a re-purchase. It is a bit pricey, but this is by-far my absolute favourite scent to wear! It’s star ingredients are cedarwood, lemon and papyrus. It is described as ‘crisp blue cedar enveloped by warm amber.’ If I’m having one of those days, I can spritz this on me and it instantly brings me to my happy place. Because of the price, and my love of travel, I bought the travel size one.
I walked out on a limb for this one. I’m particular about the lipstick formulas that I use and there’s something about the name Melted that doesn’t sit right with me. However!! I quickly fell in love with this formula and colour! I originally toyed between 2 colours and I watched countless swatch videos on YouTube to see what colour would be best for me. Most of them said they thought this colour was ‘just ok.’ I decided to get it anyway. I’m glad I did. Years ago I had a lipstick that was the perfect pink hue with a gold shift to it. I used it up entirely and then found out it was discontinued. I haven’t been able to find anything close enough to it – until now! The soft pink with a twinge of coral is the perfect shade for my skin tone and the gold shift gives it that extra that I love.
I bought something similar to this last year and I loved it! So, why not try again. This package has 8 travel-size (1 is a primer) and 2 full-size mascaras. The price is equal to purchasing 2 full-size mascaras, so it is absolutely worth it! Plus, I love the fact that I can try new products to see if I like them. I like to crack open a new travel-size mascara for when I travel. It takes up less space and I can try out a new mascara. It’s a win-win.
So, that is where my order ends. I am absolutely pleased with my picks this time. Every single product will get great use!
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
I was searching for a good mountain/climbing quote to intro this post and they were all saying things that pointed the focus away from the difficulties of climbing a mountain and more toward celebrating the heights you have achieved. Then I clicked on the quote of the day and it was the above quote by the wise Eleanor Roosevelt.
It just really made me think about the times when life is busy and stressful and how we deal with it. My natural tendency is to recluse and isolate myself – after all, I know that as an introvert, I need separation to recharge my batteries. However, I also know that we need people in our lives. Friendships are key.
So, I venture out.
This week we went rock climbing in Madison Heights, MI at Planet Rock.
I have never been officially rock climbing before (aside from cruises and summer camp). I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to do it. One of the things that has taken a back burner (while starting up SoapBox Games) has been my regular gym routine.
Let me start this by saying I had no idea how popular rock climbing is! The place was packed out!
We got the Starter Package, which included everything we needed (shoes, harness, belay device, chalk, training). It also included a pass to come back again within 30 days.
We paid for our package, signed the waiver and then we sat by the fire and waited for our lesson to begin.
After about 15 minutes, someone came over and called everyone in our group, except Brian and me. They told us that we had to wait for the next class. This was a bit of a bummer because the class was about an hour, so we were separated from our group of friends for that long.
The class was great, though. They taught us about the equipment, how to tie knots, safety checks, belaying (holding the ropes) and climbing.
Then we practiced.
When we ‘passed’ the belaying test (where your teacher climbs/falls 3 times and you have to belay/catch them), we were able to find our friends and start climbing.
There are 2 types of climbing you can do – top rope and bouldering. Rope climbing is where you have a partner belaying you (they even have auto-belayers, so you don’t necessarily need a partner). Bouldering is where you are not roped in – you free climb (like a little monkey).
I stayed mostly with the auto-belay climbing. They were easy enough to be fun, but difficult enough to challenge me. If you fall, the auto-belayer lowers you slowly to the ground, so you don’t just fall. I felt like a graceful acrobat every time I was lowered. It was fun.
I also tried to boulder a few times. The walls are shorter and there are squishy mats to break your fall (if you fall). The first time I tried it, I forgot that I wasn’t tethered, so I had no fear. When I got close to the top and thought I couldn’t finish the climb, I was about to let go and fall. In a split-second, I realized that I would be free-falling, so I determined to finish the climb.
It was exhilarating!
At the end of the night, I tried a harder bouldering course – the pink one. I was determined to do it, but it was hard. I swung my leg up and over to the grip that was just outside of my reach. I got it.
Then, it happened.
The very last climb.
The skin on my palm ripped.
So I dropped.
Overall, I loved this place! The facility was very clean, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful and they made it easy and fun to learn.
Although I didn’t accomplish the pink bouldering course, it gives me a goal to achieve next time I return.
Fall is my absolute favourite time of year.
The sun shines on the beautiful, colourful trees.
The leaves fall.
The nights are chilly.
Leather jackets become a staple.
Warm socks, hot cocoa and the promise of a shift in atmosphere.
It’s just pure beauty.
This year, fall has brought some changes that I didn’t anticipate. So it’s causing me to really focus on enjoying the little things in life. It’s not always easy to find the silver lining in the clouds, but someone once told me that if you cry for losing the sun, you’ll never get to see the beauty of the stars.
So, besides the obvious things in life, here are some of the things I’ve been enjoying this fall.
I’m not sure if this really counts, but I’m really grateful for the deals that we were able to get with Spirit and Carnival. Sometimes getting away can really help refocus your priorities, but money doesn’t always allow for it. If it wasn’t for the amazing deals we got, we wouldn’t have been able to go. Setting aside the stress of everyday life and going on an adventure with Brian was exactly what I needed. I love travel. Soon we will be heading on another adventure with the kids.
I have a love/hate relationship with my duvet. I love to be wrapped up in it, and I hate crawling out of its cocoon. I got this duvet at Costco a few years ago and it is one of the best ones I’ve ever had. I can wash it in my washing machine and there is no mess. It is so warm that sometimes I have to turn my fan on to keep my body temperature from soaring at night. Perfection for cozy fall Sundays.
Every August, I tend to reevaluate our schedule. Within that, I try to find great resources to help cultivate an atmosphere of worship within our family. Last year I stumbled upon a devotional (geared to homeschoolers) that I absolutely fell in love with. They are age-appropriate booklets with specific Bible reading, questions, prayers, memorization, etc that work together at all ages. So, their Bible reading is the same, but their questions/devotions are geared to their respective ages. It’s also something we can do together or they can do on their own. I loved it so much that I bought them again for this school year!
Microfiber Hair Towel
I’ve seen these things advertised so much, but my initial thought was that it was such a waste of money. Then Violet chose to spend some of her cash on one. One day she asked me if I wanted to try it. I did. Now, I owe her some money because I’ve completely confiscated this towel. It is extremely light and stays put. It cuts down on drying time – and when you have long locks like me, you don’t want to spend a boat-load of time drying your hair. There’s nothing I don’t like about this. It’s 100% worth buying.
Lastly, I’ve been listening to sermon podcasts on double speed and journaling them. For some reason, I find it absolutely invigorating! We all have seasons in our lives where we aren’t quite sure what the next step is going to be, but I find that listening to teachings really encourages me when I’m feeling uncertain.
Things don’t buy happiness, but sometimes things can make it a whole lot easier to get through seasons in life. There is nothing wrong with enjoying things in life, as long as it isn’t your driving force for happiness.
So, as we are diving into the busyness of Christmas, travel, company start-ups, etc. I’m choosing to keep a daily reminder of all the things I’m grateful for.
I almost don’t know where to start today. I’m pretty sure I was MIA from the world of Rowena Francis recently.
This last week has been a whirlwind.
I’ve been in over my head with our newest venture. However, I’m so excited to state that we are just about ready to launch our very first card game!
We have been working on this launch for almost 3 years, and now we are down to the nitty-gritty details of production and marketing.
If you’re interested in more info, check out soapboxgames.ca.
Nonetheless, at times like these, my kitchen counters get cluttered with tea bags upon tea bags. Caffeine is just a requirement for my utmost efficiency.
However, now that I have probably burned through a Costco-sized box of Tetley Tea this week, I’m craving a little something different.
That’s when Starbucks sent me an email luring me into the beloved Peppermint Mocha.
Ugh, this is my absolute favourite Christmas drink, but with all of the sugar in it, it’s a no-go for me.
For some reason, and much to my dissatisfaction, Starbucks has discontinued the skinny version of this drink. Why? I don’t know. All I know is that I need to figure out how to make my own skinny version at home.
So, here it is. My tried and true Rowena Francis Skinny Peppermint Iced Mocha!
- 1 1/2 cups Milk (I like 2%, but you can substitute almond or coconut milk for lactose-free option)
- 2 oz Coffee
- 1 Tbsp Cocoa (I love Hershey’s!)
- 1/2 Tbsp Coconut Sugar (Splenda or Swerve for a lower calorie alternative)
- 2 drops Peppermint Oil (or extract)
- 3 Ice Cubes
- Whipped Cream
- Crushed Candy Cane Pieces
- Mix the coconut sugar (or alternative) and cocoa together in the bottom of your mug.
- Brew the coffee over the cocoa mixture and stir until it dissolves.
- Add ice cubes and stir until they’re melted.
- Add drops of peppermint oil.
- Fill the mug/cup with milk and stir some more.
- Top with whipped cream and crushed candy canes.
I usually make this in a reusable Starbucks cup because it fits perfectly and I can throw a lid on it and take it with me in the Jeep. This is also a great hot drink. Since tonight is another work night, I’m going to try out a Skinny Orange Cafe Mocha – the possibilities are endless!
I was debating on whether I wanted to write this post, but it’s part of who I am.
So, here it is.
It’s October 31st.
Most people are toting around in their costumes, posting pics of their (awesome) makeup tips and tricks and stuffing their face with candy.
(and maybe a few of you too!)
For us, it’s just another day. However, it’s a day that we had to be very strategic with teaching our kids what we believe and why we believe it.
You see, we all love dressing up on occasion as well. So, what’s the difference between dressing up on any of the other day of the year compared to Halloween?
The truth is, when you know the history and reasons behind things, sometimes it can cause you to turn away from mainstream ideas. It’s not that we don’t believe in Halloween, it’s simply that we don’t celebrate it.
Sometimes this is hard for our kids to understand. I used to keep them home from school because our school still invites everyone to dress up. Last year, I finally felt like they were old enough to understand that other people might do things that seem fun, but that doesn’t mean that you need to feel compelled to do the same.
To my pleasant surprise, it didn’t even bother them.
Today was a bit different.
Today, we had to have another conversation discussing why we believe what we believe.
It was kind of hard. I mean, what’s the harm in wearing your sports uniform to school or adding a bit of fancy makeup to your eyes?
Except, now we’re talking about seeing how close we can get to the line without crossing it.
That’s a big concept to fathom.
It’s one that can be applied to anything that you believe is wrong. If you’re asking yourself how much you can get away with without appearing to cross the line, it’s quite possible you’ve gone too far.
So, if you wonder why I don’t post or participate in the festivities of the day, this is why.
Tonight, instead of hiding out in the basement with the lights off during trick or treating hours, we will be heading to an alternative option that our Church provides – Quest.
There kids will have the opportunity to have fun while going on a Quest to learn epic Bible stories and when it’s over, they get a treat bag filled with candy.
It’s a safe environment that glorifies what we believe in.
That’s something that I can stand for.
Ok, so I tried my first attempt at making a vacation highlight video.
I’m not going to lie, it was kinda fun.
I know I reviewed the cruise in my last post, but now you’ll kind of get to see some of those highlights.
Don’t worry, I booked another vacation yesterday, so more vacation posts will be coming soon.
It’s no secret that we went on a cruise.
It was pure bliss.
Well, after the first 2 nights.
Then it was pure bliss.
Let’s just say, when you travel during hurricane season, you are almost guaranteed to have at least a little rain.
…and maybe some rocky waves.
- Amber Cove, Dominican Republic
- St. Thomas, USVI
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos
We stayed in a deluxe ocean view stateroom on the first floor. Many people don’t like the thought of staying on the first floor, but there are so many great things about it – like, being able to get on/off the boat quickly because you don’t have to wait for an elevator to take you to the gangway.
This was by-far the biggest stateroom we have ever stayed in. There was the massive window sill that you could sit on and watch as we pulled into port. We also had a king-size bed (could be separated to be 2 singles), a couch that turned into a trundle-bed and a bunk above the couch. On top of all of that space, we also had a double restroom – 1 full restroom with a shower and a 2nd one with a sink and tub/shower. Across from the couch was the desk area, and beside that, we had 4 separate closets.
So, even though you don’t spend very much time in your cabin, this one was more than enough room to party.
Most people know that I’m partial to NCL because of the food (amongst other things), but I have to say, Carnival did not disappoint. The very first thing we tried was Guy’s Burger Joint – DELISH!!! I think I had a burger/fries every single day.
The dining room was ok. I wasn’t super wowed by it, but it was decent. There was only one night where I took one bite and was turned off by it – they offered to bring me something else, but after that first bite I was finished eating altogether. Except for dessert.
I stayed sugar-free for this cruise, which is honestly getting so much easier. The sugar-free options were absolutely stunning! There was not one that I didn’t like! I should’ve asked what they sweetened them with because there were no adverse side effects that followed. If you’ve ever over-eating a sugar-free dessert, you know what I’m saying.
All in all, the food was delicious.
Here is where I get a bit partial. I don’t care for smaller boats, skinny boats, large boats or older boats. Maybe I’m a boat snob, I don’t know. Anyway, I find smaller, skinnier, older boats is where you’ll probably find the most opportunity to enjoy sea-sickness. Not my cup of tea, although I don’t get sea-sick very easily. Then, large boats seem too much like a floating city and I don’t want that either. I still want to know that I’m cruising the ocean.
So, all that to say that this boat was one of the rockiest I had ever been on, although I don’t think it was entirely due to its size. I’m still trying to do some research into stabilizers and what makes some boats rockier than others, comment below if you have any insight. I’m sure the tropical depression we were cruising into had some to do with that (we enjoyed storms for a few hours for the first 2 nights), but it wasn’t the first time we have traveled into a tropical storm/hurricane either.
As far as the layout of the ship, it was pretty decent. Everything was easy to find and get to. The water slides were a lot of fun, but made me dizzy for sure! My absolute favourite deck was the Serenity deck (adults only), because they had hammocks/swings, cabanas, padded lounge chairs and a beautiful breeze that kept us from overheating.
I’m saddened to say that we decided not to get the spa package, although it was quite reasonable with their couple’s rate. We did tour the spa, though, and it had a few steam rooms, salt rooms and a thalassotherapy pool. My only qualm – and my deciding vote on not purchasing it – was that the views were extremely limited. I guess the peaceful view of the ocean is a big deal to me when I’m relaxing.
As for the gym, I didn’t actually go. AHHH! Shocker, I know, but we decided to take the stairs all week, which was a lot of exercise since we were on deck 1.
Ports of Call
This section could be a whole blog post on its own, so for now I will give a very brief summary.
This was the first time we visited 3 of the 4 ports as we have been to St. Thomas a few times before. I love St. Thomas and feel comfortable enough to hail our own cab and head to the beach for some snorkeling. The taxi was $10/person each way.
I was most disappointed with Amber Cove because we didn’t book an excursion and the port was locked down so we couldn’t charter any locals to do anything. We walked around the shops in the port, but I didn’t feel like we got to see anything of value.
My favourite was Old San Juan because we could walk everywhere on our own. It was stunning with all of the colourful buildings and the forts were simply amazing! It was $7/person for the forts and it only took us (less than) 20 minutes to walk between them.
Grand Turk was also a great highlight! I love the beach, and the water was crystal clear. Simply stunning. The beach is literally right off the pier (and goes on for miles), but I was grossed out by the thought of swimming directly in front of the cruise ship. Also, it was crowded, so we walked down the beach and rented some peaceful beach chairs for $5 each. It’s not beneath me to pay for peace when I’m at the beach.
I absolutely enjoyed this cruise. I probably won’t sail on the Magic in the near future, but I will absolutely book with Carnival again. It wasn’t my favourite all-time cruise, but it did rank up there in my top picks. I was pleasantly surprised.
I have decided that I want to become a professional vacationer.
Is that something that I can just decide? Just like that?
I don’t know, but either way, I’m already working on my next travel plans.
I’ve been on a handful of cruises in my life and each time I learn about things that make the trip more efficient.
If you’ve ever tried sunning on the top deck of a cruise ship while it is cruising through the ocean, you understand how windy it can get. Towel clips help keep your towels and cover ups secure to your loungers.
Waterproof Phone Case
Previously, I bought waterproof pouches to protect my phone/money/etc. while on the beach or excursions. However, I recently bought a GhostTek waterproof case and it is so much better! I was able to get some very clear photos and videos underwater.
Salty hair, don’t care. Right? Except, if you don’t have a good conditioner, chances are that you won’t be able to brush through your locks after a shower. With my long, bleached hair, if I don’t have an amazing conditioner, the only hairstyle I’ll be sporting is a rat’s nest…I mean, a messy bun. This time I brought this John Frieda conditioner, which actually worked so well that I didn’t even have to dry my hair to ward off the frizz. It just left my hair as smooth as a glassy sea.
Wristband Card Holder
There are actually a few different options for this – it really depends on personal preference. The point is to have something to protect your ship card/ID/money/credit cards while out and about. I have a wristband that holds everything, so when I go snorkeling, all my important cards are with me. Some people prefer a lanyard or something similar.
This was the first time we brought our own snorkel masks and it was well worth it! Instead of doing excursions through the ship, we just took a taxi to a beach and snorkeled on our own.
USB Charging Station
Ship staterooms usually only have 1 outlet. Let’s just say, it’s likely that the average person has more than 1 thing that needs to charge at the same time. If you have a wall charger that has multiple usb slots, you can charge everything faster.
This is gross, but there’s such thing as cruise poop. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the water on board or something, but many people struggle with digestive issues on cruises. ZenGest (doTERRA’s digestive blend) helps keep your gut in tact and your close quarters from smelling foul.
Cruises can be noisy. There have been many times where our sleep has been disturbed by waves crashing, engines running, tipsy guests in the hall and toilets flushing. Brian swears by earplugs and always keeps extras in his luggage.
This was also the first time we utilized a hydration backpack. It’s great because the pack doubles as a backpack, so you are carrying your water and anything else on your back. Also, it is insulated so the water stays cold and refreshing. There’s no need to lug around a heavy water bottle.
Have you utilized any of these items on your cruise/vacation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these.
We are home from vacation.
The very first thing – and I literally mean the very first thing I do when we arrive home from vacation is…
…look for another vacation.
I love a good deal and sometimes they just land in my lap – but mostly after I chase after them.
Imagine taking a vacation with the love of your life for 10 days and it costs you less than $1500 for everything – flights, food, lodging, excursions.
How did we do it?
As you know, I put a lot of work into finding the best deals for the best getaways. I booked inexpensive flights through Spirit and we packed in one suitcase and one personal item (these are well worth buying!!). I saw people with multiple suitcases and carry-ons, but it never makes sense to me. How do you need so much stuff for vacation? There’s not enough room in your stateroom and it is such a hassle trying to move all that luggage on and off the boat. My goal next time is to pack in my personal item, to eliminate any added bag costs with Spirit.
The other travel gem I found was the bus trip from Miami to Orlando. I booked it through GoToBus.com and it was well worth it! It cost me double just to go from Fort Lauderdale to Miami through the cruise ship – and the trip to Orlando was about 3 hours. I highly recommend GoToBus!
I have an interesting view on excursions. We got such a steal on our cruise tickets, that any excursion would cost more than what we paid for our vacation.
I just can’t do that.
So, we like to ‘do our own thing.’ Obviously, you have to be careful with security issues, but for the most part, we like to charter the locals for excursions. They cost less and are way less crowded than ship excursions. If you live life on the edge like that, it can be hit or miss, but that’s where flexibility comes into play. This time we brought our own snorkel gear – and seriously, these masks are genius!
Food & Drink
Yes, food on the boat is included in the ticket. However, they have lots of options that cost extra. Also, one of the things that I noticed is that people get off the boat and instantly go to a bar or restaurant to eat and drink – which you have to pay for. We almost always stick with eating only on the ship. We also don’t drink alcohol, so that cuts out a lot of added costs (it was something like $56/day for the drink package).
Ok, down to the cruise cost itself. How did we get such a steal on this? First thing was that we booked last-minute. Also, it was a flash sale directly through Carnival for those who have sailed with Carnival before. Lastly, it is hurricane season. You have a high possibility of rough waters, bad weather or missing ports. Like I said before, that’s where flexibility comes in. The thing to remember is that hurricane season comes every year between June and December and cruise ships maneuver the ocean waters every single day. They know how to handle the waters. They know how to handle the storms.
Add that all up and you have a beautiful vacation for less. It really makes traveling often affordable.
Now all we need is some friends to join us next time…
As a strong Christian woman, one of the things I love to do is study my Bible.
But I’m not into boring.
I can read a lot in a short period of time. I love speed reading.
However, I don’t like the idea of things going in one ear and out the other.
Creativity is key.
Especially if I’m going to remember things that I’m learning.
One of the ways I add creativity to my studies is Bible Mapping.
If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a creative visual of what you are learning. It can be hand-drawn or mastered digitally.
Here is the process I use when I do Bible Mapping.
The title I use is almost always the Scripture reference I’m picking apart. There’s nothing overly complicated with this, but I like to doodle it in a creative way.
If you’re going to study a certain passage of Scripture, you might want to know what it says. I usually write my favourite version big in the middle (ish) of the page. I like to leave enough space around each word for further study.
Re-write Multiple Versions
I’m a KJV girl, through and through. However, there are sometimes that it’s understood just a little easier with multiple versions of the Bible. I like to write a good 3 or 4 versions along the side of my page.
This is where the fun begins. I look up all the words in the concordance and I start writing down my findings. I like to include the concordance reference, plus the meaning. That way, if I have any questions when I’m re-reading it in the future, I can easily pull up the word in the Greek/Hebrew.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to look up what those words mean in the dictionary. My favourite dictionary is Websters 1828 Dictionary. Noah Webster was a Christian and the definitions often have Scripture references contained within them.
At this point, I like to jot down what I feel the general overall key points are within the passage I’m studying. There are usually themes that pop out when we begin to dive a bit deeper than the surface level of the Scriptures.
Once I’ve finished all of that, I like to re-write the Scripture with a personal touch. I like to include tidbits from the concordance and dictionary that stood out to me. This really makes the Scriptures step out off the page and hit me on a personal level where it’s all about me and God.
That’s a wrap. When I do these, it usually takes me a good chunk of time because I tear every part of the Scripture apart.