Before we got married, my husband and I talked about taking a honeymoon in Europe. He’d never been overseas and I had only been a couple places in my youth. We found it extremely difficult to manage all of the fine details: booking travel, finding hotels, selecting our to-do list, etc. etc. etc. Eventually we settled on staying domestic and we had a wonderful honeymoon in San Diego, Los Angeles, and the big island of Hawaii. It was nice to simply relax and enjoy that special time after the wedding rather than trying to see everything we could in Europe.

For the next two years, we were constantly reminded that we still had that itch to travel abroad. We saved up money and started planning, and finally, in September, my husband and I embarked on our first international trip together. Because we both have demanding full-time jobs, we decided that we’d rather have a tour company handle our trip. Leave it to the experts, we thought….

So we searched online for the right tour company for us, weighing cost and destinations available along with reviews of past tours, and ultimately settled on Go Ahead Tours. I am so glad we booked with them. They truly did take care of all of the details. Go Ahead Tours offers so many amazing locations, we found it hard to select just one! As we researched a couple of their many tour options, we set aside a few options – Southern Italy, Rome, Oktoberfest in Germany, and eventually landed on a tour of Ireland in late September.

The booking process was very easy. We selected our preferred dates, set our departure airport (BWI), specified how many people and how many beds were required, and finally picked a couple interesting excursions. We were even able to use a discount that saved us $1000! After booking, we were sent several informative emails and mailings, and by August, we felt like we were completely ready to go. They even mailed us a couple of travel bags for us to use on the trip in one package! Our cat, Penny, certainly enjoyed the cardboard box they arrived in:

Throughout the planning process and while we were on tour, Go Ahead Tours really went above and beyond. As I was worrying about what to pack, their customer service department was able to answer dress code questions as well as suggest weather appropriate attire for Ireland in the fall. While we were on the tour, our tour guide was absolutely amazing. She suggested all sorts of small trips to take, sites to see, and places to eat (and drink, it is Ireland after all!) and did a phenomenal job of making us feel 100% welcome in her homeland. Everyone on our tour of 17 was super nice as well, something that really added to the trip as a whole. (Side note: we were considered “the young couple” in our 30s, so most of the other tourists were a bit older – some in their early 70s but all great people and very interesting travel buddies.) We had a good mix of group time and free time, though the excursions did tend to take up some time that would otherwise be considered “free.”

If you are considering taking a trip with a tour group, I really can’t recommend Go Ahead Tours enough. In this post, I’ve included referral links if you are interested in signing up for an account and booking a tour! I’ll get a small thank you commission if you sign up and book with Go Ahead.

If you need a place to go, I definitely recommend Ireland! Here are just a few photos from our trip – almost all taken from my Samsung Galaxy Note5 – one’s from my iPhone 5S:

Sunset in Dublin, River Liffey

Sunset in Dublin, River Liffey

Fish and Chips with mushy peas at Christy's Bar, Blarney

Fish and Chips with mushy peas at Christy’s Bar, Blarney

Cafe on Inis Mor (Aran Islands)

Cafe on Inis Mor (Aran Islands)

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (iPhone 5S)

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle

Sights from the Ring of Kerry

Sights from the Ring of Kerry

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Happy travels to you! Please let me know if you have any questions or would like any more info in the comments below! If you’ve traveled with Go Ahead Tours, please let me know your impressions of the company as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you had asked me three years ago my impressions of Havertys Furniture, I would have said it was excellent, highly recommended. In my previous life (at my first condo), I purchased a bedroom set, a couch, and two upholstered ottomans and was really pleased with everything. My sister actually has the bedroom set and couch at her apartment outside of Boston, almost ten years after I bought them, and they are still in great condition.

Recently though, we’ve made a few purchases that are less than satisfactory. My husband and I spent months looking for his ideal leather recliner. It had to fit all of his requirements: comfortable, casual, durable, attractive, and within budget. Needless to say, this was difficult to find and we made several trips to a multitude of stores in search of this unicorn recliner. We were so excited when we found it at Havertys – the Payton recliner – and bought it without a second thought. Not one year later, the leather coloring on the back (where his head rests) has worn in a speckled pattern of a strange orangey-yellow color. How is this even possible? Was the leather badly dyed in the first place? If someone can help explain, please do!

Speckled wearing on the back of the Payton Recliner by Havertys

Speckled wearing on the back of the Payton Recliner by Havertys

Fortunately, we’d bought the extended protection for this particular piece (we are protective of our leather!) so it was replaced recently, but this definitely soured our opinion of the chair and Havertys craftmanship. I will say that the customer service team did a good job of handling the return though the delivery team was over two hours late with NO notice and no apology – grrr…

However, our bad experience with the recliner pales in comparison to that of a trunk/coffee table I’d bought a few months ago. The Scottsdale Cocktail Table was really pretty online and in person. It served a dual purpose – storing items we didn’t use often like extra pillows and throw blankets, and came in a nice brown distressed finish. Imagine our surprise when it was delivered and after opening and closing a few times, the hinges looked like this:

Havertys Scottsdale Cocktail Table - Hinge Damage

Havertys Scottsdale Cocktail Table – Hinge Damage

We immediately returned it, and questioned the description from the Havertys website that this was “hardwood” construction. We understood that the oak veneer would be applied, but assumed (wrongly) that the construction would be made of some sort of actual wood, since the website specifies Asian Hardwoods, whatever that is. This was clearly made of MDF – not even plywood! To charge this much money for something that is made from these subpar materials, and to call them “hardwoods” on the website is shady to say the least.

To be fair, I’ve also purchased two items from Havertys that I really like – the Cleo Accent Chest (no longer available) and the Charleston sectional (also no longer available). These two items have held up well and look nice in our new house.

However, after seeing the quality and workmanship of the cocktail table and leather recliner, I can’t in good conscience recommend Havertys anymore. If you do buy from there, be sure to check – and double check – materials and read all reviews before making your purchase!

What are your thoughts of Havertys? Have you had the same problems I have, or have a better experience to share? Let me know in the comments!

It’s one of my favorite times of the year – March Madness! It’s not just about basketball either (PS: Go Terps!) – there is an amazing sale going on right now on 60 pieces of gorgeous Amrita Singh jewelry! To celebrate spring, for the next 48 hours, tons of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings are on sale for just $15 with code MAD15! Here are a few of my favorites:

Amrita Singh Emmi Bangle, regularly $50

Amrita Singh Curved Leaf Drop Earring, regularly $30

Amrita Singh Noho Necklace, regularly $50

Amrita Singh Sylvana Waterfall Bracelet, regularly $50

Amrita Singh Fleur Pendant, regularly $50 – I have this necklace and love it!

Check out all of the March Madness sale items here and be sure to use your cash back sites when you shop! Ebates currently offers 5% cash back on all purchases at Amrita Singh… that’s free money, honey!

Let me know if you end up purchasing anything! Enjoy the madness!

When you think of Black Friday, what crosses your mind? Crowds, frustration, riots over flat screen TVs? Black Friday has kind of a bad rap, when you think about it. However, opportunity is ripe for retailers to make Thanksgiving weekend shopping more fun and engaging.

Macy's Black Friday PromotionOne retailer that’s trying to drive more customer engagement is Macy’s. The department store is planning to launch an interactive consumer experience for Black Friday 2014, which will allow people shopping in-store to scan different QR codes for a chance to win cash. Using the Macy’s mobile app, customers scanning the QR codes will be automatically entered the giveaway during doorbuster hours, beginning at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day through 1 pm on November 28, and on Saturday, November 29, from 7 am to 1 pm.

Martine Reardon, Macy’s CMO, explains the program, saying: “As customers navigate their shopping route throughout the store, they will be able to score digital gift codes offering instant wins via Macy’s mobile app. This element of surprise along with a playful new commercial featuring our official holiday ambassador, SpongeBob SquarePants, is certain to add a new element of fun to our customers’ shopping experience on Black Friday this year.”

Throughout the weekend, Macy’s will give away $1 million in cash! Make sure you have the Macy’s app installed on your phone though – that’s the only way you can enter to win!

What do you think of this promotion? Will you be scanning QR codes with your Macy’s app this Black Friday?

When it comes to my hair, I’ve found one thing to be true – it’s a problem. It’s a bit greasy at the roots and gets very dry on the ends, and there’s a lot of frizz in between. It’s pretty frustrating, and I’ve been searching for that “secret sauce” that will help it look moderately decent when it air dries, since I don’t always have a lot of time to mess with it in the morning.

I’ve tried mousses and gels, but the best solution seems to be a nice thick, creamy leave-in conditioner. I have tried a bunch of them, and most do a pretty decent job. However, when I was recently contacted by Beauty Without Cruelty and asked if I’d like to try their leave-in treatment, I was excited. I’m a big fan of the brand for their stance on safe ingredients with no animal testing, and I have had good experience with their shampoo in the past. After a few uses, I think it’s definitely something that can help fight frizz when I opt to let my hair air dry. It weighs down the frizz without losing the volume. The trick is being able to apply it to the ends and not too close to the scalp (avoiding that greasy look).

Usually my hair is not photo-ready after air drying. (My Snapchat friends know this!) Today, I was feeling good enough about it to snap a hair selfie at work!

BWC Leave In - Air Dried

BWC Leave In – Air Dried

This is the section of my hair that always, always, always frizzes. As you can tell, it’s holding together pretty well in loose rings. That is very rare for me, so I’m pretty pleased overall.

For under $10 (at Drugstore.com – don’t forget to use BigCrumbs if you make a purchase!), I think this leave-in conditioner is a good option for those of us with problem hair. I’ve spent considerably more on high-end products with mixed results, so I’m excited that this worked out as well as it did.

Have you tried BWC’s Leave-In Conditioner? What are your thoughts?

FTC Disclaimer: I was provided with the Beauty Without Cruelty Leave-In Conditioner free of charge. I wrote this review based on my own experience with the product and I was not compensated in any way besides the free product. All opinions are my own!

DSC_0079

photo via Builders Design

We’re in the process of furnishing a new home, so let me assure you, Labor Day could not come at a better time! I’ve been scouring newspapers and the internet to find the best deals on everything from flooring to furniture to curtains – everything a new home could need.

Here’s a list of some great deals for Labor Day:

  • Grills and Patio Furniture – since summer is coming to a close, many retailers will be offloading outdoor cooking accessories and furniture. Just yesterday I saw a beautiful chair at Home Depot marked down to $300 from $799! Lowe’s is offering up to 75% off some furniture as well!
  • Mattresses Sears is currently running a sale of 60% off all mattresses, Sleepy’s is offering up to half off, and many other retailers will follow suit. As luck would have it, we’re in the market for a brand new set, but if you’ve been looking to upgrade, now is a great time to do so.
  • Cars – I’m not personally in the market for a new car (still absolutely adore my Kia Optima!) but if you are, now is a great time to check out your local dealership. I recently saw a commercial that Chevrolet is offering 0% financing for 6 years for qualified buyers. Pretty amazing.
  • Furniture – I don’t know if it’s just locally here in Maryland, but I’ve seen a TON of ads for furniture clearances. We’re planning to check out Marlo, Gavigan’s, IKEA, Overstock.com, and a bunch more.
  • Summer Clothing – I’m currently on a spending hiatus, but now is a great time to stock up on summer clothing. I’ve seen sales from all the big retailers, so be sure to check around online for coupon codes before you shop. My favorite place for codes is RetailMeNot.

Don’t forget if you shop online, use Cash Back sites to get the best bang for your buck. My personal favorite is BigCrumbs – sign up and refer your friends to get the best benefit! Here’s a great resource for why you should join BigCrumbs today!

What other sales have jumped out at you? Where are you planning to shop this Labor Day weekend? Please share in the comments!

Shoppers – here’s a great way to get some Amazon bucks and flex your creative muscles on Instagram! I recently received an email regarding a context being sponsored by the Slice app – all you need to do is share your most creative bubble photos on Instagram for a chance to win a $500 Amazon gift card! The contest is free to participate and will be open until August 1, 2014.

More info below:

The #Bubblegram giveaway celebrates the bubble-rific SLICE & DICE feature in the new redesigned app – it’s a fun, interactive display of the individual user’s spending data broken down by retailer and purchase type, as seen by year, month, week and day.

To enter: 

  • Follow @HelloSlice on Instagram
  • Post your best, most creative bubble photos on Instagram, tagging #Bubblegram and @HelloSlice 
  • Winner will be selected by Slice and awarded a $500 Amazon gift card!
  • Winner will be notified the week of August 4 and posted on the Slice Blog. Best photos will be featured on Slice’s Facebook and Twitter cover photos!
  • Eligibility: Must be 18 years of age or older, resident of the US

Good luck! We’ll be sure to follow along with the amazing #Bubblegram entries! (And don’t forget to follow @ShopHappens on Instagram while you’re at it!)

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