*Disclaimer* I am not a doctor, please check with your doctor before you attempt to fast. So, Lent is coming. I’ll be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to it before (except when we used… More
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a blog – I want to say it’s because I’ve been busy.
Yes, we will say it was a combo of the holidays, vacation, and busyness of trying to serve in ministry, film & edit videos, all while entering into the production phase of our new board game (check out SoapBox Games).
…but I’m back….
Today, it’s a video on my latest gel shot experience.
12 years ago I tore my meniscus (working out on the elliptical of all places). I ignored it until a few years later when we went on a cruise. Simply walking around NYC for a full day, I tore it even further.
I’ll spare you the details, but the back of my knee turned into a blue baseball.
Surgery was the answer. It was supposed to make it all better.
…it made it all worse.
I had a scuff on my knee cap and the doc decided to take all the shredded cartilage out of my knee.
Bone on bone. That’s what I was left with.
My options were slim, but I opted for gel injections. (Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried them before). I have a love-hate relationship with them, but they provide me with much-needed relief.
I don’t want this post to be too long, so I won’t go into the details…but until something new and innovative comes along (like a bio-knee or something), I’ll be injecting this beauty of synovial-fluid-like gel into my knee for the next 30 years.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done any travelling.
I seem to be in the mode of booking vacations just before or just after each vacation.
I’ve had my Facebook memories hitting me up with past cruises and Disney vacations, which is absolutely pulling on my travel heart-strings even more than the norm.
We try to take a vacation of some sort around April or May, but that didn’t happen this year. We took a big trip to Israel in February, so that meant we needed to save, save, save before we booked another vacation.
So, until then, I’ll be dreaming of all things vacation.
Wait, I mean, we just got back from our third vacation this year.
(but I’ll still be dreaming of all things vacation)
We have visited Disney a few times as a family. I am a crazy vacation planner and I hate wasting money, so I put together a list of things that can help you afford a trip to Disney.
Fly on a discount airline.
Lately Spirit has been flooding my eyes with $50 flights. Choosing a discount airline can really help save you money (as long as you don’t book extras and don’t over pack). Try Spirit or Frontier.
Yes, I know this isn’t necessarily an option for everyone (like if you’re travelling overseas), but for those who live in the US or Canada, it is not only possible, but it can save you money. You can use sites like Gas Buddy to map out your fuel stops and estimate an approximate cost of fuel to drive.
If driving isn’t an option, try to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday, they are the cheapest days to fly (my absolute favourite airline is Southwest).
Vacation Resort Certificates
A lot of people stay on Disney property because they don’t know there are super amazing money-saving options (and maybe some people just love Disney more than others). I may have mentioned it in a post before, but resort certificates are basically unused timeshares that companies sell on discount sites. I always check out Sky Auction. The site is a bit overwhelming when you first see it, but once you know what you’re looking for, it’s not as daunting.
Vacation Resort Certificates are usually sold under the heading ‘Hot Deals’ or ‘Deal of the Day.’ They run between $250-$300 (US) for a week.
We have stayed at beautiful resorts equipped with full kitchens, laundry and much more. In 2017, we stayed at one that slept 10 and was less than 10 minutes from Disney.
I’ll just insert here that I’m extremely picky when it comes to places I will stay.
This really depends on your specific desires for what parks to visit, etc. When we went in 2017, there was an option to buy a 4 Day Ticket and you also got 4 Fun Passes, which could be used for the water parks (Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach) or mini golf. This type of ticket only seems to be available now if you choose the park hopper option. I don’t personally recommend the park hopper because from my experience, I’ve been too wiped out to travel to more than one park in a day. Plus there are so many things to do at each of the parks, I’m not even sure where you would find the time to go to another park (unless you are a frequent Disney visitor, then maybe you’ve been there, done that and ready to just experience your favourites at each park…I don’t know, if you’re a park hopper, let me know why you love it in the comments below).
For our most recent trip (2018), we were able to get the Canadian Resident Discount, which saved us some money.
Food & Drink
If you are going to Disney with the intent on buying food and drinks while you’re there, be prepared to spend an arm and a leg.
You are allowed to bring in food/drinks within reason to the parks. We went to the grocery store beforehand and stocked up on snacks and protein bars (ok, and some brownies) and threw them in a backpack like this one. It’s great because it has a ‘water bottle’ built into it. You can ask for water at any station and they will give you a cup of cold, ice water for free. That allowed us use our money for more meaningful things (like Starbucks!!), plus it’s healthier than pop (which will cost $4-5 each). Then when we left the park, we would swing by a restaurant for a light meal.
Besides food, this is where they get you.
If you stay for the show at the end of the night, chances are you or your kids are going to see all the flashy, glowing Mickey Mouse things and impulses may kick in. Let’s just say, if that happens, you’ll easily spend $20 on something you could’ve bought a few miles down the street for a buck. Orlando is packed with stores that sell Disney goodies. We went to Target and Wal-Mart and found whole sections stocked only with Disney gear.
Go prepared. I actually bought a Cinderella dress from the Disney outlet in Michigan for my daughter before we left for Florida in 2012. I spent $10 on it. The same dress in Magic Kingdom was far beyond that.
Don’t forget that there will be little extra costs laced throughout your trip. The best way to save money is to be prepared (like planning for the $25 parking fee per day).
Speaking of preparation, make sure you go online ahead of time (30 days in advance/60 days if you stay on Disney property) and book your Fast Pass+. Map out how you want to visit each park. That way, you can get the most bang for your buck! Beware, though, you’ll end up exhausted and sore by the end of your trip. It’s just all part & parcel for the experience.
I have a very intricate way that I plan my travels. I like spending my money on things that matter, rather than spending all my money just to get somewhere.
Disney is expensive, there’s no way around that. However, there are ways that you can experience the happiest place on earth without breaking the bank.
I’m sitting here in Baltimore, at the airport.
I’m waiting for a flight home – well, to Detroit.
I booked this Spirit flight over the Southwest flight because the layover was shorter – only 52 minutes.
…or so it was supposed to be.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Our flight from Orlando to Baltimore was delayed because of an incident with a passenger on the flight before ours.
It was all good, though.
He apologized to us after he was walked off by the officers.
After he exited the aircraft, we were able to board.
The flight was mostly uneventful, until the captain came on the speaker and announced that we would be experiencing some turbulence during our landing.
That may have been an understatement.
My kids said they felt like they were riding the Slinky Dog Dash at Hollywood Studios.
I’d agree with that.
As we decended into Baltimore, the weather was wet and visibility was poor from our window. I didn’t even see the ground until moments before we touched down.
I couldn’t help but feel like something was wrong with the plane.
I said a little prayer asking God to have them check the plane before we took off again to Detroit.
You know what?
They announced that they needed to run some diagnostics on the plane and we would be delayed an hour.
An hour went by.
Finally, they announced that our flight would be delayed for 4.5 hours.
People started screaming and that’s when you start to see things that make you shake your head.
They offered everyone vouchers.
It was 8:45pm.
I waited in line for our vouchers.
The options were
- Get a refund, find your own flight
- Get a $7 food voucher and wait the 4.5 hours
- Rebook the same flight for the next day, 7:30pm
We took option 2. It was really our only option because we had nowhere to go in Baltimore.
It was now 8:52pm, I walked down the corridor to the food places. They all seemed to be closing their gates.
I asked the lady at McDonald’s.
Yes, they all close at 9pm.
McDonald’s gave me all the food they had available – a 10 pack of chicken tenders, 3 fries and 2 ice cream cones.
Now, as I write this, everyone is sitting, charging their devices, sharing food and waiting another 2 hours for our plane to arrive.
So much for my decision to book the shorter layover.
It’s all good, though.
The way I look at it, there are two ways to process this.
- Get mad at everyone and everything.
- Be grateful for our safety.
I choose option 2.
I choose gratefulness.
I would much rather arrive 5 hours late, than not at all.
So, for that, I am grateful that Spirit has my safety in their best interest.
All in all, our travels home took us more than 12 hours, but we arrived.
Ok, I did it.
It’s all booked.
The Disney tickets.
…with NO LUGGAGE!
Yes, we are taking the kids on vacation in December to Florida.
I’m serious. I love vacation. I love organizing it. I love experiencing it. Maybe most of all, I love figuring out the challenges of finding the best prices and packing in the most efficient way.
I really want to save for a Disney cruise, but until I wrap my head around spending 2 years’ worth of vacation resources on one trip, it’s not going to happen. Although, we did go to Israel, so I guess anything can happen.
Let’s get back to the topic of luggage.
You all know how much I like to save money, so once again Spirit came through with $50 flights. You also probably know that if you want luggage (including a carry-on), you have to pay for it.
I opted out.
That means that I have the challenge of packing 4 people in 4 pieces of underseat luggage!
18″ x 14″ x 8″, to be exact.
I thought the challenge was going to be packing, but I’ve come to realize that the real challenge is going to be finding the perfect underseat luggage.
It seems that there’s no standard underseat luggage size, so I was out to find one specific to the exact allowance for Spirit.
After much searching, I found one.
Yes, only one.
The sad part is that I can’t even find it online – only in-store at Wal-Mart in Canada.
Nonetheless, I found it.
It is exactly 18″ x 14″ x 8″!
That means that I will be able to maximize my packing!
It retails for $69.97 CDN, which is reasonable, but still on the higher end of reasonable.
I’ll explain why.
The stitching and manufacturing have a few flaws, but nothing that I’m upset about. The lining has some exposed rough edges, the stitching has some inconsistencies and one of the wheel housings is attached on a slight angle (but doesn’t affect the wheel moving).
These are the only cons and are all things I can live with as it will be in my care/hands at all times. Plus, I’m not super rough on my luggage. If this was checked luggage, or even a carry-on, it would be a different story.
Let’s get to the pros of this piece!
I love the look and colour of it – quilted black with rose gold zippers/accents. The interior is a soft pink and it’s so pretty and girly.
It has a hidden telescopic handle that extends 27″ (42″ from the ground). The handles are large enough that you can carry the bag like a purse on your arm or shoulder, or lift it like a bag with your hands.
There are 3 compartments, plus 2 mesh pockets on each side of the bag.
The main compartment is huge. I will be able to fit ample clothes/shoes/accessories for our 10-day vacation (comment below if you’d like to see a video on how I pack). There are 3 pockets inside the main compartment that you can use for undergarments, toiletries and/or documents.
The second compartment unzips and has a padded section for a small laptop/iPad. It also has a pocket for a phone and 4 slots for papers/ID. There is also a mesh pocket on the flap-side.
The third one is a single zipper-pocket with lots of space for cords or anything similar.
All of the hardware seems to be good quality. The zippers are thick and heavy-duty, and the wheels are similar to roller blade ones.
The dimensions are exact to Spirit’s allowance, so it will probably be a tight fit. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little worried about how exact it is, especially because I just realized that the wheels stick out about 1/2″. It’s not a hard shell, so it seems to be easily squishable.
What do you think? Should I keep it or keep looking?
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.