Sunday, December 28, 2014

Train Trip - Birthday Present!

In the middle of November, I finally got to "redeem" my birthday present.  I know, I makes hubby seem horrible (my birthday is in April).   It was always on the roster for "things to do", but we waited because the summer version of the adventure was shorter and not as exciting.  And likely to be more crowded, and I sort of hate being around a ton of people.  So November it was!  What did we do?

First, you have to know that over the past two years, I have come to really love trains.  Real trains.  Sure, Thomas is cool, but I like the real trains.  I'm always interested in what's in them, who is driving, where they're going.  And plus, they just look really darn cool.  They don't even bother me when they block traffic, or blow their horn at 5 in the morning.  All together, I find them a bit majestic. 

When I found out there was a train in Austin that took you on a trip, I knew we had to go!  It picks you up way up north and takes you to a historic town called Burnet.  There, you have time to go eat lunch, watch the reenacted gun-fight in town, and explore the other cars of the train and the town itself.

We got tickets in a coach car, and I was so excited to take off!  The employees are dressed in old fashioned railroad outfits and they even come to stamp your tickets.  I was a total kid.  When we started off, the rail yard had tons of neat machinery and gadgets to look at.  The ride was pretty slow, but the windows were large, so there was always something to look at.  You could walk between the cars, and they even had a concession car with a little gift shop, it was so cute!  Mike was tempted to get a conductor hat...we resisted.

Once in Burnet, we hopped on a shuttle to go to a southern food buffet called The Highlander.  The chicken fried steak was delish!  Back in the city center, we were able to catch the last few minutes of the farmer's market and buy some goat milk soap.  We hope to have goats one day, so we wanted to patronize the wonderful lady selling there.  It smells fab!

So Excited!
We saw the first part of the gun fight, which was so cute.  They made all of the little kids deputies, taught them a bit of gun safety, and then proceeded to act out the rest of the fight.  It was really cool, but we decided to check out the rest of the train.  I just HAD to see the rest of the cars. 

We walked the whole length of the train and I was mesmerized by the unique details in each separate car.  One thing I loved was the built in Dixie cup dispensers built right in to the walls!  The doors, handles, compartments, were all so neat.  I was pretty much like a little kid checking everything out, pushing all the buttons, etc.  We eventually went all the way to the front and got to hear the loud horn which meant it was time to load up and head out. 

Neat Handles
Taps at the bar
We cozied back in to our seats and ended up taking a little nap on the way home.  It was such a fun little trip, and I absolutely loved being on an old restored train.  Mark that one off the bucket list!  Thanks for a memorable and unique birthday present! 

The only thing I could complain about is that I wanted to learn more of the history of the whole adventure.  Who built each car, where did they come from, what is shipped on these tracks?  I expected there to be audio playing while we were riding so that we could learn more about the train itself.  Other than that, the trip was fantastic.

When we returned back to the car, I was still giddy.  I had an amazing time!  We treated ourselves to some Dunkin' Donuts and eventually made it back home.  It was a different kind of Saturday and one I will always treasure.  Thanks to the husband for a fun trip!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

4 Gifts of Christmas for Kids {and Adults}

Don't forget to:  Go like my Facebook page - Being Mrs. Olson Blog.  We will be doing a fun giveaway when we reach 250 likes!

I have been seeing this idea over the past year about getting kids four gifts.  One of each that they:

How perfect is that?!  I think this a great way to keep things even, have a fun tradition, and makes it easier to remind people and teach kids what the season is really about.  There is so much stress over getting the perfect toy, making sure all the kids' gifts are somewhat equal, waiting in lines, and of course - spending tons of money.  That's no fun for anyone. 

But what if you had the perfect map on how to gift each child (and adult) properly?  Give them one thing they really want (special doll, bicycle, toys), one thing that they need - I am ALL ABOUT practicality, one thing to wear (new jeans, sweater, ice skates), and one thing to read.  I think books are a fantastic holiday gift.  They last a long time, provide quality quiet time (or reading together time), and generally are not too horribly expensive. 

I remember being younger and having tons and tons of presents to open on Christmas morning.  I even got my parents to let me open one on Christmas Eve was a fishing pole.  Woo-ee!  As I got older, the amount of presents decreased, which I remember being sort of bummed out about. 

Now that I am an adult, my mom gets super annoyed when I ask for practical things.  I'm usually asking for kitchen things, and last year I got a vacuum from my parents and a steam mop from my husband.  BORING!  But, hey, I use them so why not?  I think I would absolutely love this method of gifting.  I could always find something in each category that I might need. 

This year, I had a total blackout and could not think of what I wanted/needed or of what to buy anyone else.  I got really stressed out.  It's not supposed to be stressful, people!  This is supposed to be about spending time with your family and friends, telling stories, enjoying each other's company.  Not being worried about if they will like *whatever* gift you got them. 

And I am over it.  Next year, I convinced my family to draw names for gifts.  I am planning to use Elfster, a website that makes it nice and easy for everyone involved.  I am hoping to keep a list going over the year of things I'm interested in, so come time to share my list, I'll have some ideas. 

We are spending the holidays by ourselves in Austin (just like Thanksgiving), which I am okay with.  We sent and received packages, and I guess I'm saving the world by not using any wrapping paper this year.  Box cutters, here we come! 

Tonight will be filled with gourmet cheeses and baguette, along with Christmas movies.  Tomorrow, we will make breakfast, open presents in our pajamas, and enjoy more holiday television or movies. 

Merry Holidays to everyone reading out there.  Remember to take pictures, enjoy the memories, and be grateful for being here! 

Sending sunshine from Texas - The Olsons!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

#Monthly Mani - Winter Wonderland

Two exciting new things for the blog, my friends!

First:  Go like my new Facebook page - Being Mrs. Olson Blog.  We will be doing a fun giveaway when we reach 250 likes!

Second:  I am joining the #MonthlyMani crew for a new linkup party!

So here we go!

If you've seen me at all in the past few years, you've probably seen my nails painted.  They may be a bit chippy at times, but they usually have color.  I told myself a few years back that I would ALWAYS have my toenails painted and try to have my fingers done as well. 

By "done", I mean painted by myself.  For special events, I will sometimes treat myself to a REAL manicure, but I generally do it pretty well at home.  Which is why the #MonthlyMani linkup is perfect for me!  I am joining along with a few other ladies who have been doing this for a while.  It will give me an opportunity to be a bit more creative and also a great reason to invest in some great polishes and adornments. 

I am pretty excited, but didn't go too crazy this month.  I was recently reminded about my grey nail polish I bought while I was in Norway.  Though you might not think of grey as being "in the holiday spirit", it looks great with some gold glitter! 

This way, my nails can go along with anything I am wearing.  I really love this grey color for any season and tend to get a lot of compliments on it.  With the large gold glitter as an accent, I'm ready for ANY holiday.  But especially Christmas, because it's my hubby's birthday!

Polishes include Black Poppy in Gold, Sinful Colors clear coat, and H&M Nail Polish in Miss Stone Hart.  I like this clear coat, but make sure your colored polish is VERY dry before you use it.  It tends to do a bit of stripping and some color can stick to the brush.  If you look closely, you can see some red residue on my left pinky from the color I put on my toes.

Lexy and I's new rings...polish highlights the gold!
For my first #MonthlyMani, I have to give a shout out to my mom.  When I was younger, she refused to paint my right hand for me (I'm right handed) so that I would get practice and get better at it.  To this day, I paint my right hand better than anyone I know.  Thanks for being a meanie, mom.  Now I'm great at doing my own nails!  I can also thank her for my long, strong nails.  I am lucky!

Check out my thoughts on Sinful Colors Nail Polish and Shellac Manicures.
Also, check out my fellow gals posting today for our holiday manicures!

Kristi from Delightfully Kristi
Piniel from Pins-Place
Jacki and Lesli from Sistas from Cali
Marlena from Here, Pretty Kitty


Friday, December 12, 2014

Review of: The Theory of Everything

This past weekend, I had a movie date (among other things, more on that soon) while visiting a friend in Charleston, SC.  It was a rainy, cold night, so we walked across the street and decided to see The Theory of Everything.  I had seen a few previews and was intrigued more so than anything else at the theater.  Holy moly, did we make the right decision!


1.  Go with a friend.
2.  Bring your tissues.

The movie tells the love story of Stephen and Jane Hawking based on a book she wrote about her life with him.  I didn't know too much about Stephen Hawking other than that he is a genius and is in a wheelchair.  I now have a greater understanding of just how smart he is, and also the effects of diseases like ALS. 

He is diagnosed with a motor neuron disease related to ALS (hello, Ice Bucket Challenge) at the age of 21 while he is dominating his life in college.  Given two years to live, he sets out to accomplish as much as possible.  And Jane holds on for the ride.  Actually, more like steers the ride.

The movie is absolutely gripping and by the time it was over (123 minutes), I felt like I was taking my first breath in hours.  I literally had to not talk and stretch my muscles immediately after the movie.  I needed a minute to calm down.  You will find yourself adjusting your position to take in all of the emotion. By no means will you want to walk away or take a break.  I was totally enthralled with their life, family, accomplishments, struggles, and once again, his intelligence.

But this movie IS NOT SOME SAPPY LOVE STORY made for ladies only.  Any guy would easily enjoy this movie.  I am trying to decide if I have it in me to go see it with my husband...that's how emotional it was.  It is on par with my feelings about the movie The Pianist (review written in 2013).  These movies are both dramatic, stunning, and beautifully written and performed. 

The main actors (Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones) were fabulous.  Although I had not seen them in other films recently, I felt like they were actors that I had loved for years.  They are going to take over during awards season.  Mark my words...this film will clean house.  Actually, after a Google search, they just received four Golden Globe nominations.  Go team! 

This is definitely one of the best movies I've seen all year.  (And we have been watching a lot of movies.) 

My advice:  whether you like or dislike science, biopics, England...what have you...GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thanksgiving in Texas

This Thanksgiving, we stayed put at our place in Texas and enjoyed the holiday a little differently.  We did not have family in town and did not do any friendsgivings.  We enjoyed four lovely days by ourselves doing whatever our little hearts desired, whenever we desired it.  It was sort of fantastic. 

I am a family lover.  I absolutely love spending time with family and eating great food and snuggling in a warm, cozy house.  But sometimes, I feel that holidays become so much of a stressful hoopla that you forget to take time to relax and take in the love of your family.  You're worried about the food being perfect, the décor sitting just right, someone shows up late, the other person is a jerk, the in-laws, the weather, BLAH BLAH! 

So we did our own thing.  Thursday (and most days) consisted of sleeping in, making breakfast and eating it in bed, and loving up on our Lola bunny.  We had our Thanksgiving meal at Marie Callender's and snuck in to Old Navy (which opened at 4) while our name was on the list for dinner.  I'm not a Black Friday shopper, but I did find a few things 50% off at Old Navy while we waited.  My favorite is a chunky knit scarf that I wear almost every night around the house to keep cozy. 

Friday evening we loaded up our bikes and brought them downtown.  Austin has this huge trail around the "lake" (it's a river) on the edge of downtown and it is a popular place for exercise.  We parked in my garage (my job is marked by the black arrow below if you're interested), entered the trail at the red arrow on the right, rode west to the highway, and rode back on the south side of the river.  I think it was just under five miles, the weather was perfect, and we really enjoyed our little adventure. 

Logically, we followed up the exercise with an ice cream trip.  We tried out a funky place called Lick that is known for their unique texture and interesting flavors.  The most interesting was chocolate with olive oil and sea salt.  I love trying fun new things!  Speaking of....
We ordered a fancy blender/processor a bit ago and it arrived over our break.  We decided to put it to the highest test and make our own peanut butter.  Although it was a bit of a pain to clean up afterward, it turned out great.  We made a decent sized jar of peanut butter for less than $2.50.  And it tastes great!  I would recommend giving it a try.  Since then, our blender has become a favorite for healthy smoothies and hopefully some soups, too!
Saturday evening we tried out this new "boutique roadhouse" that opened up on the main road near our place.  We are pretty far south in Austin and sometimes it feels like there is nothing to do down there.  Except ride our bikes around the neighborhoods...  So we bucked up and checked this new place out.  It is a small joint, eclectically decorated and has great outdoor space. We posted up in conjoined Adirondack chairs and enjoyed people watching in the back yard before checking out the bands inside.  It was a fun little night out for us, topped off with some McD's French fries! 

Other highlights of the weekend included games, decorating for Christmas, fresh tamales from a local shop, and lots of cuddles and movies.  We really enjoyed our weekend and our holiday.  Here's to Christmas being two weeks away and another four days to spend with my fantastic husband!  We have been traveling a lot lately and I'm looking forward to more time at home with Lola, great food, and making new memories.  It's almost 2015 people!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Card Storage Box - Organize Your Greeting Cards

I have a four level cheapy shelf in my storage closet at home.  It's pretty hideous, but since it's tucked away and mighty helpful, I use it to organize the masses of junk in there.  This includes medicines, bedding, books, craft supplies, iron and ironing board, etc.  Yeah...that closet
I know you have one.  And yours might look a little more organized than mine.  I had all of my cards scattered on one of the shelves.  This led to cards sliding off and slipping all over when I wanted to send one.  Hey, at least they were all in one place!
A few weeks ago, I was looking around the edges of Hobby Lobby for clearance finds, and came across this adorable vintage floral print photo box.  At less than two dollars, I couldn't pass it up, but needed a use in mind for it.  MY CARDS!  I took it home and immediately gave my mess of cards an organized resting place. 

First, I sorted them in to occasions:  Thank You, Congrats, Hello, etc.  Then I placed them in my lovely box!  Now, all of my cards sit nicely organized on my ugly shelf.  Next time you see a photo box on sale, snatch it up!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tassel Garland - Easy At Home!

After decorating for fall this year with my usual goods, I decided I needed a little more.  The house needed an extra oomph.  And since I don't particularly like the house we're renting right now, I though it deserved a project to pretty it up a bit. 
I've been crushing on tassel garlands lately.  I love the look when they're hung over a bed, an old buffet, for birthday parties or showers, pretty much anywhere.  We have two massive windows in our living room that have no curtains, and those ugly 50¢ curtain rods that our landlord's "contractor" so beautifully installed over the GIGANTIC holes in the wall from when the previous owner clearly ripped their curtain rods out of the wall. You can see I'm really happy about this...I digress.
I decided to make a yarn garland to add some color to the space and make me a bit happier.  I did a quick search and used THIS post as a guide.  You can also make garlands from strips of fabric or tissue paper as well.  For storage, price, and longevity, I chose to use yarn. 
A quick trip to Hobby Lobby and I picked up some yarn on sale, obviously.  I purchased four bundles total and have PLENTY left over.  I am going to buy a different color around Christmas time and swap out some of the tassels.  How's that for a transitioning piece?!
This project took a little bit of time and patience, but requires hardly any supplies and is very satisfying to finish!
::You'll Need::
Yarn (or fabric strips, or tissue paper)
Something to wrap yarn around
Ruler (optional)
Choose an object to wrap around that is the length you will want your tassels.  I chose this cardboard envelope that I received my awesome Snail Mail Designs cards in.  I believe it was about nine inches across.  The size will depend on the space you will be hanging your tassels in. 

Begin with one end of your yarn at an edge and then wrap a determined amount of times until your tassel is the thickness you would like it.  I wrapped each of mine 35 times.  Remember to start and end your wrapping at the same edge and cut your yarn when you are finished wrapping.

Gently slide your whole bundle off of your wrapping object.  Cut a small piece of yarn and tie it four times around the top end of your tassel.  This must be the end opposite of your loose ends (where you started and ended wrapping).

Then CUT your bundle on the end opposite of where you just tied.  Again, this should be the end with your loose strings. 

Trim your tails from your knot at the top of the tassel.

Flip knot inside of your tassel.  Basically, fold your tassel in half.

Take another small string and tie four knots around the top of your tassel.  Making a bulb-like shape at the top of your tassel. 

Trim your ends on that tie as well.  Turn over your tassel so the little knot is at the back.

TA-DAH!  You've made your first tassel!

Repeat until you have the appropriate amount of tassels for your space. 

Then thread the garland string through the top of all of your tassels.  I used a citrus scorer to pull the yarn through.  Depending upon the material you are using, this could be easy or difficult.  Make sure to leave enough space in your "bulb" to pull through your hanging string. 

And HANG!!

Again, my house has HORRIBLE lighting, excuse the drab pictures. 

I absolutely LOVE this garland.  I plan to swap out the orange color for green when it gets closer to Christmas time.  I did this project slowly over a weekend, but it shouldn't take you too long to finish.

It is also something you could work on with kids.  Just have them wrap the yarn, and you can help with tying the knots and using the scissors.  They can even make one for their own room!

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fall Sweet & Salty Snack Mix

I do not like candy corn.  Pure sugar, grainy, super sweet.  Never been a fan of it.  Mike loves it, of course.  Hah!  If you were at our wedding, you know our eating habits positively compliment each other (I like white meat, he likes dark meat, for example). 
About two years ago, my mom introduced me to a wonderful fall snack mix.  It had candy corn in it.  I avoided it all together...but eventually couldn't hold myself back from a treat.  Alone, the items included are nothing special.  But a pretzel with a candy corn for some reason tastes delicious.  And we all know that chocolate and anything is 100% enjoyable. 
I had a few ladies over for some wine last week and with the addition of some homemade fall décor (posts to come soon), I wanted some fall treats as well.  And I remembered this delicious mix of awesomeness. 
1 12.6 ounce bag of M&Ms (I used chocolate, but you could be adventurous on this)
1 canister of peanuts (I used unsalted)
1 bag of pretzels (I used twists)
1 bag of candy corn
Add to festive bowl.  STIR!
**I eyeballed my ingredients when dumping them in to the bowl.  I ended up using the whole bag of M&Ms, about 1/3 canister of peanuts, half the candy corn, and 1/3 bag of pretzels.  Essentially, you can make the mix heavy on whichever ingredient you prefer.  My mix made a large glass bowl that after the fact fit into three to four sandwich bags.  And I had lots of the separate ingredients left over, save the M&Ms.   
We each took a bag to work the next day.  I pulled out this lovely glass dish I got from my grandma and set it on my desk with a little gift tag (found at Target).  I also sent a bag full to one of my coworkers who said she loved this stuff!  She managed to make it last two days.  Meanwhile, coworkers who often walk by my desk were very happy to have a little treat to indulge on!

It made me feel great to share a little love.  Have you tried this mix before?  I highly recommend it.  Delicious and very cheap!