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Relaxed, Rejuvenated, Recharged

28 Jul

This post is being brought to you by the new and improved Calm Carrie just coming off of a ridiculously relaxing vacation.

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Lloyd and I just spent a week in the infamous retirement town of Boca Raton, Florida.  We stayed at a recently renovated resort that was located right on the beach and was the perfect spot for our post-CPA/engagement celebration/summer vacation that I’ve been anticipating for a loooooooooong time.  (Side note: We did attempt to visit the Del Boca Vista Phase III, but, unfortunately, we were unable to locate it.)

In case you hadn’t noticed by my numerous complaints and rants on the blog, the CPA took a lot out of me.  More than I ever expected.  In college – to put it simply – I owned.  I plowed through 18 hours of Accounting, Business, and Spanish classes each semester with internships and a busy social scene on the side without so much as a second thought of it all.  School had always come very easy to me.

But, when I started studying for the CPA, something didn’t click.  I struggled from the beginning.  I lost sleep from the first night I cracked the books (Which, by the way, had never ever been a problem for me before.  Prior to the CPA, I could have come away from the Sleep Olympics with gold medals in endurance, strength, and skill if there was such a thing.).  I had trouble balancing the new 25 hours per week recommended study schedule and spent many nights lying awake in bed considering giving up the entire ordeal.

But I didn’t.  I pushed through despite all my struggles.  Physically and mentally, I haven’t felt completely relaxed since I started the process.  Even after I passed, I still felt rushed and stressed.  On top of that, I got engaged and started planning a wedding.

Anyway, I knew I needed to get away.  I knew I needed to turn off my phones, computer, e-mail, twitter, mailbox, and blog, and recharge myself to my pre-CPA capacity.

Low-key, slow-moving Boca Raton was the perfect answer.

We spent an entire week eating, snoozing, sunbathing, reading books for pleasure, and playing and frolicking in the waves of the Atlantic.  With each passing day, I felt more and more of the CPA anxiety that had engrained itself into me slowly seep out of my body.  By the end of the trip, I’d wrung my body almost completely dry of that stress.  The test finally started to seem like a distant memory. (Side note: The CPA Exam process was totally and completely worth it.  I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Yes, it was grueling; but, it has made me stronger and better.  Nothing wrong with that.)

It was, hands-down, the most relaxing week of my life.  Well, at least since I became an adult, because, let’s face it, age 6 is pretty relaxing when all you have to worry about are dollies and popsicles.

I’m back.  I’m relaxed, rejuvenated, recharged, and, most of all, happy.

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I’d Rather Be At “The Fat Pelican”

2 Apr

TGIF!  Humor me while I ramble on about life….

I’ve been tossing around ideas for Lloyd and I’s summer vacay this year.  We usually go somewhere once a year (last year we broke even in Vegas and the year before that we spent a week in a strange little beach town in North Carolina where we discovered our favorite little hole-in-the-wall bar, quaintly named “The Fat Pelican”…but I digress).

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I’m tossing around the ideas of Miami, Mexico, or Los Angeles.  I’ve got a little obsession with celebrity gossip (who I’m I kidding, Perez Hilton is my homepage) and would love to see if I could spot Lauren Conrad in a tiff with Franken-Heidi Heidi Montag on the streets of L.A.  However, the beaches of Miami and Mexico are calling my name as well.  Stick a cool beverage in my hand on a sunny beach and I’ll be happy for a week.

So…I ask you readers, where would you go for summer vacation this year if you were me?

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My finances?  The finances are doing good.  I’ve recently started experiencing some good ole Catholic guilt (as Lloyd calls it) with my tithing amounts.  I’d love to tithe 10%, but what exactly is 10%?  10% before or after taxes?  Or 10% after all necessary expenses?  I’m going to start donating more to the church until I feel a light stretch.  Maybe then I’ll know how much is right?

I also started a Roth IRA, but some weird part of me feels sad that the money isn’t going directly into my 401K account anymore.  I guess I liked having my office do all the work for me. 😉  Better work on automating that IRA contribution.

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The CPA?  Still taking over my life.  My study schedule is….going.  I am having trouble motivating myself to study every night when the weather is so glorious outside, but I know I just have to do it.  My plan is to take the last test the day before the next Sex & The City movie comes out (May 28, 2010 if you guys are wondering….these kinds of dates are what I plan my life around).  Anyways, I’m like 1/5 of the way through the book – Woot!  Only 4/5 more to go….!

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Lloyd and I are looking forward to Easter this weekend.  It’s gonna be a great weekend with all of our church friends and family and hopefully on Monday morn I’ll feel pretty darn holy. 😉  Any of you hitting up church this weekend?

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Oh – since my last post, I’ve been hitting up the gym like I used to!  My bod is thanking me and I’m thanking myself because my, er, work pants were starting to feel a little snug.  They feel much better now.  Me + sweat, we make a good team.

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So, I know my posting has been rather lack-luster lately.  When I get the time to write after everything else, I find myself just wanting to sit around and watch that crazy Kardashian show relax instead.  I could start posting less about finance and more about life type things until the CPA is over with and I have more time to focus on drumming out outrageously fabulous personal finance articles (exaggeration…sort of).

Are you guys wanting more life postings or are you okay with the (mostly) dead air until the CPA is over with?  Lemme know!

And…I’m out!

Have a great Easter weekend, readers!

My Dream Destination Spots

5 Aug

Weekend Trip:

  • New Orleans
  • Seattle
  • Boston
  • Great Lakes
  • Niagra Falls
  • Denver

Vacation:

  • Miami
  • New York City
  • San Fransisco
  • Ocracoke Island
  • Mexico
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Paris
  • Canada (not sure where?)
  • Fiji
  • St. Tropez
  • The Caribbean
  • Japan
  • Hawaii

Lloyd and I normally take a week long vacation every year.  I’m sure we’ll go somewhere next year as well, but today we were talking about saving some extra dough and going on 2 additional weekend trips to places we’ve never been.  That would make 3 vacations next year!  Yay!

I’m ashamed to admit that I never really thought much of Canada until I started blogging.  There are SO many Canadian bloggers!  You all have intrigued me and now I really wanna visit!  Canadians: where should I go, eh?  (Aw, my first “eh”.)

I’m a beach girl.  I’m one of those people that hates wasting vacation on places other than beaches….but I really wanna see places like NYC and Boston, so I guess I better suck it up for those places.

Where have I been?

  • Texas (everywhere – my family is all over that state)
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles/San Diego
  • Washington, D.C. (where every American should go at least once)
  • Las Vegas
  • Raleigh/Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Orlando/Cocoa Beach, Florida
  • Yellowstone Park, Wyoming
  • Madrid/Valencia, Spain (studied abroad)
  • Ibiza, Spain (Wow)
  • random places all over Kansas & Missouri

What are your dream vacations?  Where are places that you’ve been that you thought were amazing?

Going To The Lake Of The E.Coli…Er, Ozarks

16 Jul

I know the bad economy does crazy things to people, but endangering the health of the entire population of the state just to keep tourism coming in?  Not cool, Missouri.

Apparently, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources failed to release a report that the great Lake of the Ozarks (a place that thousands of Midwesterners frequent each summer) was a breeding ground for “unhealthy levels” of E.Coli.

EWWW!!!

“All the reasons DNR gave for not releasing the report have to do with the economy,” said Ken Midkiff, who writes and advocates for water quality in Missouri. “The Department of Natural Resources is supposed to protect water quality and the environment.”

Lovely!  I just can’t wait to go to the lake in a couple weeks and come back with a raging E.Coli infection.  Luckily, they said the levels in the lake are back to “safe” levels – but how I can I believe them now?

Damn economy.  You can read the entire article here.

All The Crazy Things I Did In VEGAS

9 Jun

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Lloyd and I didn’t get married.  I didn’t wake up with a tiger in my hotel room (a la The Hangover movie).  But, we had a damn good time.

THE PALMS

We stayed at The Palms.  The Palms was my request.  I’m a celebrity-aholic.  It was high on my agenda to see a celebrity.  And we did…

How much was is to stay at the Palms?  Not bad.  The price was one reason we decided on Vegas for our annual lovers’ getaway.  We got a package deal on Orbitz.  We paid $412 each for both the flight and the hotel (4 days and 3 nights).

FREE WEEKDAY PERKS

We got a few free perks since we were there during the week.  The Palms gave us free passes to two clubs that I’ve seen mentioned in the trash magazines (one of my many guilty pleasures):  Ghostbar and The Playboy Club.

Now, as I said before I left, I am no longer a college party girl.  I’m mature and all grown-up, okay?  I write a blog for crying out loud.

We went to both clubs.  Just to say we did.

We were not impressed.  We bought two drinks in The Playboy Club and it cost us $25 after tip!  No, thanks!  We took some pictures (it had a great view of the Strip), downed our drinks, and high-tailed our Midwestern butts out of that place.

We stopped by Ghostbar on our way back to our room.  It was more or less the same as The Playboy Club, except it did have a fabulous outdoor patio (below) which is pretty surreal when you’re 55 stories in the sky.

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P.S. Flava Flav was at the Playboy Club the night after us.  Um, too bad we missed that.

GAMBLING

Lloyd taught me the Blackjack technique for the hundredth time and I finally listened to him.  I dominated in Blackjack one night at the, uh, “less fancy” casinos – won about 50 bucks.

Can you really dominate at gambling?  No.  Do not get cocky with gambling.  It always wins.  You start off getting a couple good hands and next thing you know you’re emptying your emergency fund savings, taking out payday loans, and forgetting all about that personal finance crap you blogged about last week.

I lost that $50 the last night.  Well played, gambling.  Well played.

CASH

My number one Vegas tip:  Bring cash!  This did not occur to me before I left and I had to get cash out of the casino ATMs and got owned big time on ATM fees!

If you do forget your cash, take out a large lump sum ONE time.  Otherwise, you’re gonna get slammed with ATM fees while you’re there.

Most of my cash went to cabs.  Not a fan!  I am so happy that cabs are not popular in Kansas City.  They are crazy expensive!  Plus, since we stayed off the Strip, we had to take more cabs than the normal Vegas-vacationer would.

EATING OUT

We (by that I mean me) looove eating out!  We always go all out on vacations when it comes to eating out.

We tried to eat fairly cheap for lunch and breakfast, but we had a couple fancy dinners.  We had steak and lobster one night and spent about $70 each that night.  Note to self:  lobster is amazing, but steak is better.

I know I preach Restaurant.com all the time, but it saved us about $150 on this trip.  We used a $75 off coupon the night that we had steak and lobster.  It was SO worth it.

SHOWS

We saw the Cirque de Soleil show – Ka.  It was at the MGM Grand and it was amazing!  The performers are crazy, but wow, they have such a gift!  We snagged a couple tickets at those Half-Priced Tickets stands that they have all along the Strip.  Our hotel quoted us tickets for $135, but we got them for $75.  I definitely recommend the Half-Priced Tickets stands!  They were selling tons of tickets for much cheaper than full price.  I think there are four located on the Strip, so check ’em out if you’re there anytime soon!

POOLS & CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS

Wow – The Palms was pretty amazing, but their pool was out of this world.  The best people-watching I’ve seen in my life!  I have never seen more people try to act like they were “somebody”.  It was the best free entertainment we could find.

Watch out though – the drinks will get you.  One beer was $9.00!  Tally in the tip and that’s one expensive drink!

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Remember how I said we saw a celebrity?  Well, it was at the pool.  The second day we were there, we noticed a huge group of people that had rented out a cabana.  We didn’t really think anything of it until we saw the guy with the mohawk and the tattoos on his head.  Only a celebrity would rock that look.

Turns out, we saw Chuck Liddell, the UFC fighter.  Disappointed?  Me, too.

However, Chuck was quite the entertainer.  There were about 5-7 girls surrounding him at all times and he seemed to be feeling pretty good (if you know what I mean).  He was shaking his hips and throwing punches in the air all day long.  It was like reality TV….right in front of you.

Wouldn’t you know it, I found out through Twitter that Nicky Hilton showed up to The Palms the same day we left.  Darn it!

HOW MUCH DID I SPEND?

I prepaid for the hotel and flight ($412) and had budgeted to spend abut $500 while I was there.  I’m happy to report that total expenditures for the entire trip were about $889!

Vegas Trip Both

 

Now you know everything!  Well, not everything…  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

I Gambled.

4 Jun

Here’s a little teaser to my upcoming Vegas post where I spill all the juicy deets of my vacation.  (Aren’t you all on the edge of your seats? No?)

I gambled.  More than once.  I liked it, too.

I played Blackjack ($5 AND $10 tables), video poker (blah), and slots (more blah).  I had a GREAT time playing Blackjack – finally got the technique down!

So…do you think I won, lost, or broke even?  And by how much?

Viva Las Vegas!

22 May

Lloyd and I are heading to Sin City next week! We can’t wait!  After the stress of moving and studying, I am in dire need of some sun and sin. 😉

This will be my first time to Vegas and mostly I’m just excited to have a week off of work!  We don’t have much of an itinerary, which I how I like my vacations.  We’ll mostly eat, walk, lounge, and relax.  Here’s what we have planned:

  • Walking The Strip (of course).  We’ll be cliché tourists and stare up at the big buildings and take lots of cheesy pictures in front of all the casinos.
  • The Bellagio Fountains.  Ever since I saw Ocean’s Eleven, I’ve dreampt of standing in front of the Bellagio fountains for hours on end.  Of course, Matt Damon probably won’t be there for the real thing.
  • Gambling – Eh.  Maybe.  I’m sure I’ll gamble a little, but not much.  This is Lloyd’s forte, not mine.  You might catch me on some penny slots – or do they even have those in Vegas?
  • Pool.  The girls on E! News are always hanging out at the pools in Vegas and I want to be there.
  • Party.  We might go to a club one night.  I don’t even know how to party anymore, though, so this girl might not make it past 11:00 p.m.
  • Shop?  I don’t know – is there really good shopping in Vegas?
  • Be together.  Cue the “oohs and awws”.  We’re excited just to spend time together and not worry about anyone else.
  • Eat.  We love to eat.  Especially eat out.  We’ve already bought a couple Restaurant.com coupons to:

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Envy Steakhouse: Our coupon is for $75 off of $150.  This is going to be our fancy nice out.  Come to think of it, I don’t have anything to wear to Envy!  Better start shopping!

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Cabo Mexican Restaurant: $25 off of $35 – gotta get my Mexican craving fix at least once while I’m there!

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Kilawat:  $25  off of $35 – I’m thinking we’ll do breakfast here one morning.

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Little Buddha:  Sushi!

I haven’t been off of work or on vacation in almost a year! I’m SO excited!

Have any of your ever been to Vegas?  Any recommendations on what to do while we’re there?