Nationwide was on Our Side….With a free trip to Texas!

Welcome back for part 2 of my vaca to Texas recap! You can read part one here if you haven’t already and get caught up!

After we left Austin, we headed to Horseshoe Bay, Texas where we stayed at a really fancy resort. As Megan’s guest, Nationwide paid for my flight and hotel, and also all my food and drinks at the resort, which was awesome! And I promise you we got our money’s worth on the drinks part! Plus we had an amazing gift basket in our room when we checked in filled with delicious snacks {including BOMB chips and salsa}, and Megs left with an iPad mini and freakin’ $50 gift card!! Seriously–great company!

It was about a 60 minute drive from Austin to Horseshoe Bay, but it was a gorgeous ride. I thought for sure Texas would be flat and brown, but it was hilly and green, which totally surprised me. We also drove right past Willie Nelson‘s house–and although all we could see was the gate {obviously adorned with music notes and cowboy boots!}, it was still pretty cool knowing we’d seen it. Once we got to the resort we checked in and headed straight to the pool in our swim suits. At a hot 80+ degrees, we didn’t want to waste ANY time not soakin’ up the sun.

Gorgeous fountains at the resort

Gorgeous fountains at the resort

There was even a real grass mini golf course at the resort!

There was even a real grass mini golf course at the resort!

Gorgeous flowers

Gorgeous flowers

After several hours, it was time to get ready for dinner.

girls at dinnerFun fact–My dress was one I bought as a $14.98 “final sale” item at Loft a couple years ago as a possible bachelorette party or rehearsal dinner dress, and HAD NEVER WORN IT. Literally, I probably bought it in 2010 or 2011, and I packed it with the tags still on it. But I threw a cardigan over it and added a belt and I thought it turned out looking pretty cute! I’ll have to wear it again soon! 🙂

Dinner & cocktails were served outside over looking the lake at sunset. Hellooooo amazing Texas! After dinner we went back to the hotel where the party continued well into the night. It was an absolute blast–and I can’t say it enough, but such fun people!

Saturday morning Megs had work obligations, but as her lucky guest, I had the morning free to relax. My new friend Emily and I spent the morning at the spa since it was overcast outside, and went from the relaxation pool, to the hot tub, to the sauna, to the steam room, and back around again. It was the perfect way to relax and nurse my {slight} hangover.

Spa day

That afternoon Megs and I had our spa day. We had chosen to get manis and pedis, but unfortunately were not scheduled for the same time. We had the cutest lady ever doing our services, Penni. She was pure Texan through and through–and we loved her fun energy and of course Texas accent–and drinking wine didn’t hurt make it a great time, too. While we were getting our nails done, a group of about 6 guys and a barber walked in. They were in a wedding at the resort, and the barber had been hired to pamper the guys before the wedding. I’m not sure how they got put in the same little room as we were getting our nails done in, but Megs and I were sure glad they did–they were VERY attractive men {aka, delicious eye candy}. AND we came to find out they were FIRE FIGHTERS from Austin. I think poor Megs about passed out when she found that out! And it was hilarious how many of the ladies who worked in the salon kept coming in, giggling, asking them if they needed anything. Needless to say, we were especially disappointed when Penni told us it was time to go. If Megan ever goes missing, and people are wondering where she could be, I’m heading down to Austin and will start looking in every fire department I can find.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much more time to lay out after our spa day, but we went back to our room and took a little snooze before getting ready for the Nationwide awards dinner and reception.

girls outside

 

Horseshoe BayDinner was outside, and a 5 course meal at that. UNFORTUNATELY the beginning of the dinner it was sprinkling, so it was funny actually sitting outside eating in the rain….{literally rain drops were splashing in my glass of chard}. It was hilarious to look over and see most of the people with their napkins on their heads for protection. LUCKILY it didn’t last real long. So we survived. Phew!

They gave out awards, which MEGS WAS A ROCK STAR and got one of the top awards! I was so proud to be her “date!” After awards, they had a DJ and dance–and let me tell you this–the group of ladies from Nationwide in San Antonio KNEW HOW TO GET DOWN. They knew basically every dance from every music video….ever. I was incredibly impressed with this considering I never really watch music videos, let alone watch them enough to know the dances {except Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” dance–obviously I know the hand move part from that…and I rocked that right along with them} But everyone dance and sang, and the DJ was totally into it. SUCH A BLAST!

Lady Friends!

Lady Friends!

A special request for a 2-Step

A special request for a 2-Step

Dancing

And last, but not least--someone tell me how you have more fun than these guys?

And last, but not least–someone tell me how you have more fun than these guys?

I really wish I would have taken more dancing pictures and crowd pictures as more and more people joined in. But I was having too much fun! We were super sad to see the night end. When we got back to our room, we had to pack our bags and head to bed since we had to be up to catch a shuttle at 7 am the next morning. BOOOOOOO for vacation ending.

We got home without any trouble, and as bummed as I was to leave the sunshine, I was pretty excited to get home to G and of course Dory. How could I not miss this cutie?!?

DoryDog

I cannot wait to go back to Austin sometime and take G with me, as I know he would love it as much as I did. A HUGE thank you to my friend Megs for asking me to go with her….what a memorable vaca and I can’t wait to do it again someday!

Any suggestions for our next vacation!?!? I’m ready to start saving and planning!!!

 

 

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Tasty Tuesday — Easy Pot Luck Recipe

G & I had a pot luck tonight, and after being out of town for the weekend, {not to mention being super busy at work}, I had to come up with a fast, easy, and obviously delicious side dish or salad to share. I thought about trying a fruit salad, baked beans, or even cheesy potatoes in the crock pot, but I found this little gem and decided it would be perfect for my pot luck dish. I wanted something light and springy, since pot lucks tend to be fully of heavy, fatty foods, and I made a perfect choice because others ended up covering the beans and potatoes.

My Mexicorn Salad is super easy and uses ingredients that I either had at home, or could easily pick up during my lunch break.

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I also put some avocado in there at the last minute, and of course salt and pepper. I can also think of about a million other things you “could” put in your salad, depending on what you have an how you want to eat it.

Basically, I love any recipe in which I get to use one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, too–the Vidalia Chop Wizard! This bad boy was a wedding gift from one of my besties, Tiffany, and I am obsessed with it! I used my trusty chop wizard it to chop up the onion, green pepper, and red pepper.

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While we’re on that subject, though, does anyone have an easy way to clean these?? If you recall, I learned how to clean one of my other fav kitchen gadgets here, and while I thought it was a revolutionary tip, others of you {kindly} let me know you had been doing it like that for years. So please share if you’ve got a way to make clean up a breeze with this bad boy, too, and once again change my life!

So back to my salad–I just mixed all the veggies together, sliced up some cilantro, and tossed in some store bought Italian dressing–then popped it in the fridge for an hour, and wah-lahhh…..time for a pot luck!

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It went over very well at the pot luck, traveled easily, and I will totally be making this again throughout the summer. Other things you might consider putting in the salad are:

  • Bacon or bacon bits {obviously, because you can put bacon in anything}
  • Black or Pinto Beans
  • Avocado
  • Salsa {and serve with tortilla chips}
  • Jalapenos
  • Cherry Tomatoes

And basically anything else! I think it would also be good in Ranch dressing instead of Italian, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say for sure. And you could also serve the corn salad over a bed of lettuce if you wanted to make it more of a meal salad rather than a side dish.

Here’s the full recipe!

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 (15-1/4-ounce) cans whole-kernel corn, drained (could also use fresh corn)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup Italian dressing
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Any of the other optional add ins listed above
What To Do:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well.
  2. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

See! Really easy and really, really yummy. Mix and match it up to suit your family’s tastes and Enjoy!!

Any other Mexicorn Salad lovers out there? Or am I missing another perfect Pot Luck recipe that I must try next time?

We Kept Austin Weird…And Then Some!

Seriously, friends. If you need a new job, go apply to be in sales at Nationwide RIGHT NOW! My amazing GF Megs won an incentive trip through her job at Nationwide and was kind enough to take me as her +1. Boy did I luck out! We traveled a day early to Austin so we could spend a full day and night checking out the city with some of her work peeps. {Check out my travel shenanigans here.} I cannot tell you enough about how fun these cats she works with were, though. Megs is lucky to work with such a nice and fun bunch of people–and I was lucky to spend a long weekend and my first trip to Texas with them all!!

When we got to Austin we walked around 6th Street and immediate chose The Jackalope for our first beer and lunch. I had a Jalapeno Honey Bacon Burger, and it was freakin’ delish. Plus, we learned that in Texas you drink Lone Star Beers and there was a GIANT JACKALOPE THAT YOU COULD RIDE at the entrance. Enough said!

Megs riding the Jackalope!

Megs riding the Jackalope!

From there we pretty much bar hopped and walked around 6th Street and the Industrial District. {Waterloo Records was a pretty sweet spot, and we even got ice cream at Texas’ own Amy’s Ice Cream} Oh, and we took this awesome group photo. Yah…it was a pretty good day!

Austin Group

That night we got dressed up and we to an AMAZING dinner at La Condesa…a restaurant that I recommend 200%. It was AH-MAZ-ING. The ONLY thing I negative I can say was that I didn’t really think the marg I had there was the best. But the food more than made up for it. Plus we started with this rock star guac and salsas mix. You really cannot go wrong with this appetizer. Get to Austin, and eat there NOW!!

Salsa

I looked for more pics from our night in Austin–dancing to live music, drinking, laughing–but I guess I was having too much fun to document it. Oh well….lets just say it was a blast! There were roof top patios on many of the bars and the Iowas were lovin’ it in the Texas heat! My only negative comment I could say about 6th Street was that pretty much every bathroom I went into made me want to gag, and several of the bars reeked of vom. BUT we were definitely in a “college town” area and we weren’t going to fancy places, so I shouldn’t really complain. I’ve seen Iowa City bars look worse on a football Saturday!!!

Early the next morning we got up and walked to the capital to do some site seeing and I played photographer for Megan’s fashion blog. I wore my adorable new dress my mom had given me from Loft that she’d picked up while working her one weekend day a month job {helllloooo employee discount!}.

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Then we walked, and walked, and walked looking for a little coffee shop to eat some brunch, but when we got to where we thought we were going, we were disappointed to know it had closed. Ugh, so we went into this little dive bar looking place to ask where we should go. They convinced us to stay, and we sat at the bar chatting with the manager while we waited for our lunch. Turns out, the Texas Chili Parlor is actually a kind of famous place. Watch this video to see it featured on the Travel Channel!

TX Chili Parlor

It was too hot out for chili, but we were sure glad we literally stumbled into the restaurant, because the food was great, the beer was cold, and turns out we hit a landmark without even trying! AND I was able to get my dad and G a sweet souvenir t-shirt there, which I really think they’ll like {sorry for the spoiler, Dad!} We crammed a LOT into our short 24 hours in Austin, but I think we did a great job seeing as much as possible and getting {a piece of} the full experience. And I am DEFINITELY making a trip back sometime. G would love it there, and I’m sure there’s plenty more to see! The weather is pretty much to die for, too–at least this time of year.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the rest of our weekend at the incredible Horseshoe Bay resort and how much Nationwide hooked us up. I’ll also share the story of Megan meeting her dream man while we were getting our nails done at the salon!

Oh, and before I go I wanted to give a shout out to one of my favorite bloggers —Sheaffer over at Pinterest Told Me To–because she JUST HIT 1 million views on her blog {ummm, I was REALLY PUMPED when I hit 1 THOUSAND views}, AND she was really sweet to comment on my blog about what to wear in Texas. Her advice about the cardigans came in handy and was spot on, and it was just awesome to hear from someone I think is pretty cool!  So congrats on your milestone, Sheaffer!! Can’t wait to see where you’ll go from here!!

Howdy Y’all!!

And we’re off!!!

I finally arrived at Megan’s house last night around 10:30 after a series of minor snafus.

1) I thought I lost my ID. I was on the road…5 mins from home luckily…. and thought I should double check I had it. I didn’t. In a fury of panic, I turned around. After ripping my room and purse apart, I remembered I had needed it at the gym on Monday and there it was…in my gym bag.

2) I thought I lost my debit card. Turns out it was in my pocket..where I put it after gassing up just an hour before. Seriously, I’m not sure if I have adult ADHD or if I’m just scattered or what….but I thing G was a little worried for me.

3) I literally packed in an hour after work, so I packed wayy too much and am probably missing something key….I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of this.

After catching up, we finally fell asleep around midnight, only to get up at 3 to get ready and to the airport for our 6 AM flight. We left behind the cold rain and icky chance of snow…trading in for a high of 71 today and in the 80s the rest of the weekend! Whooo hoooo vacation!!!!!!!

We just arrived to Dallas and will catch our connecting flight soon. We are traveling with a group from Megan’s work…and it seems like it will be a fun group and there will def be lots of laughing this weekend! {I’ve heard those Nationwide kids know how to have a good time!!}

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Megs and Nat at DFW...Austin watch out!

So we will be in Austin by 10. It’s our first time….any must sees??? I am not sure what to expect. Really my only experience of Texas is having watched every single episode of Friday Night Lights….most of them twice. I hope I see Tammy and Coach Taylor while I’m in town!!! 🙂

Den Mom for a Night

When G & I moved to Cedar Rapids, I decided to look for a way to keep me busy and make a little extra “fun” money. {AKA money I could spend on myself without feeling guilty} I heard about a website called care.com where you could sign up to get notifications about babysitting jobs. The first job I took was a last minute job….a lady in a bind needing a sitter for the evening for her son. He was an adorable 6 year old who said “easy peasy” every other sentence. They also had THREE HUGE DOGS. The dogs didn’t really bother me, but they were barkers which was intense. I’m not sure if they didn’t like me or what but I only babysat there the once.

The next family I met has the cutest kids ever. They were 3 years and 9 months when I first met them…and personalities that are just so much fun to be around. I have been watching those cuties off and on for over a year now and the parents have even become good friends. I definitely hit the jackpot with them.

And tonight I’m at the 3rd family I found on Care.com. He’s an adorable 3rd grade boy who is full of energy and keeps me on my toes. Tonight I had the task of taking him to his Cub Scouts meeting while his parents went to a work dinner. His mom asked me to stay for the meeting to make sure he would behave…so I took along my library book {I’m reading The Next Best Thing, by Jennifer Weiner} and a bottle of nail polish to do my nails before my trip on Thursday [I’ll spill more on that later]. I pulled up a chair in the corner and after standing for the flag ceremony, got to work on my coral nails.

I have lots of observations after my first Cub Scouts meeting. First of all one 8 year old is exhausting, but 10 8 year olds is another level. {shout out to all my teacher friends–I don’t know how you do it}.  Next, all the pack dads had very little hair. Not sure if that’s a coincidence or requirement (or result)…but it was just something I observed. Third, the pack dads were so incredibly flustered. It seemed as though their wives probably signed them up for it so they could have a book club/wine night with the other moms. One dad kept telling me that the other parents backed out on him so he was all alone and had his hands full. I think he was trying to get me to help with the “walking sticks” they were making. Um, no thanks…it wasn’t even the kid I was there for’s group!!

So I went about doing my nails. A mom was helping so I thought I was in the clear, but he kept looking at me, trying to ask for my help. He must have sensed my amazing crafting skills. Finally, right as I finished my final thumb nail, the cubs started to turn. They were hungry for their snacks. He looked at me with panic and asked me if I would please pass out the snacks and juice boxes. He looked so scared and desperate. There was no way I could say no.

They stormed at me, wanting their fruit roll ups and Capri Suns. I tried desperately to open them without having my nails touch the unopened package. It was a flurry for only a moment, and they were done. Scared I look down and was amazed to only find one ruined nail. But still annoyed I ruined a nail at all and didn’t even get offered a snack if my own!

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At the end, they all played basketball where one kid, who was so tall he must have been held back three or four years, dominated the others who looked like they hadn’t played a time in their life. Seriously….it looked like a crowd even I could have competed against. But not the tall kid, he would have stuffed me and laughed in my face just like he did to the rest of them. (His dad.did tell him at one point to stop shooting!)

All and all it was an interesting experience. I kept trying to picture G as a Den Dad….and I wasn’t seeing it. It did make me laugh out loud though picturing him in a scout leader shirt telling a nerdy kid to sit down and work on his walking stick.

Tomorrow night I’m off to Des Moines to see my bestie Megan and we take off at 6 am on Thursday for a fun filled long weekend in Texas!!! I’m sure we will have some great stories from our trip!

Sunshine & Spring

{Finally!!} It actually hit 60 degrees today in Cedar Rapids. The sun was bright and shining today, and you could just feel that people were in a better mood. That’s why I love spring in the Midwest. If you get a 60 degree day in Florida or Arizona, people are wearing fleece and Uggs. In Iowa–a 60 degree day in March means flip flops and capris.

Now, I’m not someone who will wear sandals or shorts in March, but I love being outside when it finally gets warm after a long, cold winter. Last night I played outside with Dory Dog for a little bit, and tonight G & I decided to hit up the driving range. We hurried home from work, loaded up our dusty clubs, and went to the driving range near our house. Of course, everything was brown, and our ears got pretty chilly, but it was a gorgeous night to be out on the range. We had barely gotten started when a couple lanes away, an older guy started talking to G. He opened with, “You don’t play much, do you?” Ouch.

G tried to keep his answers short, but the guy continued. “Do you train with the Pro out here?” “No.” “Oh, well come over here, I’ll give you some pointers.” This in general made me giggle because I could tell G was not interested in this guy’s pointers. I couldn’t hear everything the guy was saying, but I did notice he talked about the shaft A LOT, and kept pulling all kinds of different “training sticks” out of his bag to show G.  I also heard several times about this guy’s coach from Australia {although he also said he’d only had 2 lessons so far….}.   When I started hearing him talking about his body as a parachute and then told G “to pretend he’s a big gorilla, with his gorilla arms out so you can pull the armpit hair”, I had to start laughing and thought for a second we might be on a hidden camera TV show. G said later he wished he would have had a video camera to post it on YouTube….this guy was something else. He was talking so long that I had time to go through my first bucket AND GET ANOTHER. {Good thing for 1/2 price refills} So, I had a great time…..G got some “pointers”….and we got our first real dose of fresh spring air. Can’t wait to get out there again, and hopefully {once it’s perfected}, G will teach me the “gorilla arms method” of golf.

Lots of divots on that brown grass....{but not all mine!} I have ome work to do!

Lots of divots on that brown grass….{but not all mine!} I have some work to do!

Golf bag as the sun sets

Golf bag as the sun sets

Closing time. See you again soon Meadowridge!

Closing time. See you again soon Meadowridge!

Last weekend was Easter and a big weekend for the Ivory family. I have been attending weekly classes since last September to become Catholic, and finally at Easter I was confirmed and had my first communion. G’s parents and grandma came for the [two hour] Easter Vigil mass. It was a beautiful mass and I’m so happy to have my classes completed. It will be nice to have my Tuesday nights back!! Thanks to my in-laws for coming and to my hubby for being an awesome sponsor!

G & I before dinner and Easter Vigil mass

G & I before dinner and Easter Vigil mass

G & N and Grandma Marlene

Mr & Mrs. and Grandma Marlene after Easter Vigil

Sunday morning I made breakfast for everyone before they headed home. I made a ham & cheese quiche, fruit salad, bacon pancakes, and delicious Lemon Blueberry Muffins. Making them from scratch was trickier than the boxed kind I’m used to, but so worth it. And the recipe was easy to follow….try them out! I think everyone enjoyed my breakfast, but I was so busy getting everything made I forgot to take pictures!

Last but not least, I just want to thank everyone who has already contributed to our Honor Flight Fundraiser. Your generosity has been so appreciated! Our copy of the documentary arrived, and I’m more than willing to pass it around–so just let me know if you’re interested in borrowing. A close friend wrote in a note to me with his donation, “Those who served in WWII are the ‘greatest generation’ and we must honor them before it’s too late.” Such a true statement and I hope you’ll join me in supporting this wonderful organization. If you haven’t donated yet–it’ not too late! Any donation big or small is appreciated–and you can make a donation to our fundraiser by clicking here. We are really looking forward to going to the welcome home ceremony at the Eastern Iowa Airport in a couple weeks, and hope to make our donation before the first trip of the year.

Hoping for a big Iowa comeback tonight in the NIT championship game….but with 10 minutes left and down by 15 points, it’ not looking so good unfortunately. Needing a miracle at this point….! Go Hawks Go!