Holiday Cards with Basic Invite

Holiday Cards with Basic Invite

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Today marks the start of my Thanksgiving Break from school, with this comes some much needed time to relax and finally get into the holiday spirit!  This time of year it always seems like the holidays sneak up on you before you know it.  Most of the time that's okay, but some things you have to do ahead of time; in this case I'm talking about holiday cards!  Sending out Christmas cards has always been a tradition in my family and even when I was little I loved to open up the cards we received.  This year I'm finally sending out my own cards for the first time!  

I think sending out holiday cards is a fantastic way to stay connected with family and friends, because sure they see your Facebook posts but how often do you actually print a photo or write a letter anymore?  Probably not often, and holiday cards capture both of those aspects.  Not to mention they are so easy to create and customize!!

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Basic Invite offers more than 500 creative holiday cards to choose from (including holiday party invitations!), along with over 180 different color options and over 40 envelope colors to completely personalize your design.  I love all of this because even though you can customize basically everything, it's still so simple to make your Christmas cards online!!  They even can send you a custom sample of your design so you can make sure everything is perfect, which is incredible.  If you think it isn't already easy enough, they also have an Address Capturing Service so you don't have to ask everyone, because let's be honest who keeps track of everyone's addresses?  

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I know I cannot wait to find my perfect card for this year, I'm thinking something red with silver foil and a photo from my white coat ceremony!  Go find your dream card and right now you can use the code "holi30" to get 30% off!  Seems like a good sign to get a head start on the holiday to-do list.  

Let me know what designs you go with!!
XOXO, Cierra

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Pumpkin Muffins

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In the spirit of not just fall, but also the most pumpkin-filled time of the year, I made these super yummy and simple muffins!  They are so delicious and literally take two ingredients, I'm not kidding, only two.  Oh, there is one other thing I should add...they're also only 2 Weight Watchers points (aka they're not bad for you!!!), in case you thought just having two ingredients wasn't tempting enough!  

Bowl (okay yes I'm using a salad bowl, it's just too dang cute not to always use, I love the Mud Pie sets and am working on my collection :) )

So, let's get started.  I feel like you're still doubting the whole two ingredients thing, so here's your proof.  One can of pumpkin and one box of yellow cake mix is all it takes.  If you want to sweeten it up you can add chocolate chips, but otherwise that's all!  Of course you do still need a good sized bowl to mix it in, a spoon, a cupcake pan, and some cupcake liners (the foil ones work best).  


You just dump the pumpkin and cake mix together into the bowl and mix until it's relatively smooth.  It takes about 2-3 minutes.  


Then evenly distribute the batter into the liners in the pan and bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes (or until they're golden brown on top & a toothpick comes out clean).  


Voila, that's it!  They are super moist so be careful sealing them up into bags, they can mold quickly.  Otherwise, if they're able to breath they'll last about a week!  Enjoy :)

XOXO, Cierra  
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We're Getting Spooky this Month!

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     This month I could barely wait to decorate for Halloween!  I've picked up so many fun things over the past few years so I really love putting it all together.  While I do love decorating for Halloween, I don't like things to get too scary because I am a huge bit of a wimp haha, so most of my decorations are cute or funny, rather than scary or gory.  Including my themed t-shirts, like this witchy wine one!  


The only exception to this non-scary rule is my newest addition, a giant spider my mom found for me.  Fortunately, the little guy just fit in so well I couldn't say no.


I mean just look at the furry thing!  I was looking for something to fill that space anyway, maybe he'll stay up year round.  



As for the rest of my apartment, I just added some things here and there where I had space.  The tassel garland and mini pumpkins (black & white ones, pastel ones) spruced up the TV area, along with my awesome letter board featuring a ghost design I found on Pinterest.  I also love to add real pumpkins because who can resist buying them when you see them set out around grocery stores and shops!  I added them this year to the coffee table bowl.  


The bar cart has candy, of course!  Along with my favorite sassy napkins from the Target dollar section and an assortment of skulls.  This eat, drink & be scary sign (similar) was originally supposed to go on my front door, but since I was gifted a beautiful fall wreath this year it made it's way here!  


Speaking of the wreath, here it is!  I haven't ever had a wreath before, now I think I'll need one for every holiday.  I also scored this doormat for under $10!!  Definitely stocked up on ones for Thanksgiving & Christmas too because you literally cannot beat that price for how cute they are.  


Naturally, to match my sassy napkins I had to have sassy dish towels.  Target never disappoints when I need to find some.



I also became a person I never thought I would when I was decorating, someone who changes out their pillows.  I've always been so confused by people who do this; where do their other pillows go?  How do they afford so many pillows?  Why even bother??  Well, to start I found these burnt orange velvet beauties for $24 total at HomeGoods!  For the part about where the old ones go, I have a bin of extra bedding for guests that I added them to, nothing too complicated there.  And lastly, why bother??  Because it's so fun and makes you feel so mature when you can switch from your summer pillows to fall pillows, I swear try it.  

How are you celebrating for the upcoming holiday in your home??  
  XOXO, Cierra
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New Apartment Reveal

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     Two weeks ago I made my big move for school and was so excited to start putting together my new apartment!  Unfortunately, August in Arizona is really not the time you want to be moving furniture up a set of outdoor stairs.  None the less with the help of my parents and some friends we got everything into my apartment within a few hours.  Then came the fun part of unpacking and organizing.  This actually seemed like more work than actually moving the stuff!  

     Now that I've finally settled in, I decided it's time to show off the final product!!  I still have some frames to hang, but I haven't decided where yet so the walls are a little bare.  Other than that, everything is complete!  

 Lamp | Side Table (similar) | Milk Can (similar) | Coffee Table | Art (similar) | Gray Pillow (similar)
Blue Pillow (similar) | Fur Throw | Knit Throw | Pink Throw | Couch  
  Bar Stools | Coasters | Llama Print from Peru (similar)

     This is my living room, and definitely my favorite area!  I love how much light sliding glass door to the patio lets in.   I lounge on the couch a ton while I'm studying because there's so much room to put my laptop, iPad, and snacks around me!  I went with a big piece of art over the couch rather than a gallery wall to give the area a more mature look.  The coffee table and TV stand are both from IKEA, and thankfully my mom put it together so I wouldn't have to, but they weren't terribly difficult once you understand how to start.  I love the box cubbies under the TV because they hide my wifi box and wires, while still displaying my personal items since I don't really have any shelves.  I haven't got around to fully decorating the bar cart yet, but soon it'll be fall themed 

 
 Chair Set | Rug | Poof | Floral Pillow (similar) | Navy Pillows (similar) | Plate (similar)

     Next is my patio!  This was a deal-breaker when I was looking for apartments, I knew I wanted some sort of outdoor area of my own and I got super lucky because this patio is huge!!  I've spent some time reading out here and it is so relaxing.  We shopped for the furniture during the Memorial Day sales and I highly recommend waiting to purchase outdoor furniture until it's on sale because otherwise it's so expensive.  Definitely look this weekend if you're in the market because the Labor Day sales seem to be equivalent to the Memorial Day sales.  Plus, lots of things are on sale for the end of summer.  I bought the chair set and pillows first, then based my colors off those browns and blues, which ended up being perfect because I absolutely loved the rug when I first saw it.
   
  Trash Can | Wine Rack (similar) | Hand Towels | Cow Print 
Rooster (similar)
     


     Right next to my living room, is the kitchen.  I'm trying to make myself cook more now that I'm on a really strict budget, so far I usually just go with Costco raviolli, salads, or frozen meats my mom makes for me haha.  Luckily, even though I haven't made anything extravagant yet, my kitchen is fully stocked and has plenty of space for when I do.  My favorite parts are the rooster (necessary in every kitchen to bring good luck) and the cupcake baking books I picked up in Spain that are next to the canisters.  Since I am still in school, I replaced my dining room with an office area to study and added bar stools to create a little breakfast bar.  

Desk (similar) | Desk Chair | Gray Basket | Folder Organizer (similar) | Backpack | Lamp 
Bulletin Board (similar) | Digital Frame  

     My desk area is basically the same as it was last year, except now I don't have to keep my makeup on it since I have my own bathroom!  That made is so I could put the printer on one side and still have my computer on the other side.  I condensed all my supplies into the gray crate and keep any files I need in the folders next to it.  I think having a desk area is really important, especially while I"m still in school, to help get work done and minimize distractions.  I decorate my bulletin board with lots of pictures of my friends and family and souvenirs from places I've been to help keep me motivated while I'm working on things.    

  Cupcake Towel | Apron | Hamper | Sock Sign (similar)
          
     My apartment came with a washer and dryer in the unit, thankfully! It's right off my kitchen in a little room.  I wanted to make the most of this space so I keep my hamper in here and decided to hang my hats on the wall to keep them in pristine condition.  I just used a Command Hook for each one.  I also did a DIY for the sock sign since the one I bought didn't have anywhere to put the missing socks, though they do sell ones with strings already.  I hung some twine from two nails and put five clothing pins on it for any solo socks that come along.   

I'm so excited to spend the next four years here and so thankful it all came together so quickly!
XOXO, Cierra  




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Summer Reading List

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     Happy National Book Lover's Day!!  This is a legitimate holiday, I checked, and what better excuse is there to share what I've been reading!  This summer since I didn't have any classes to take I decided to focus on reading as many books as I could.  I never gave myself a lot of time to read during school because I always felt guilty that I should be studying or reading a book related to my classes, and honestly sometimes I just didn't feel like making time for it.  So dedicating time to read the past two months was huge for me!  I've always loved reading and this summer has brought back that love.



     I made a list and strategically chose books I wouldn't be likely to let myself read once my classes started again.  I started with Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella.  I really didn't love this one to start, it was hard to get into, but once I got to about halfway I was hooked!  It follows a young lawyer who's life is suddenly turned upside down by one little mistake.  I'll admit I wasn't a huge fan of the ending, I felt like it just dropped off and could have explained more of what the future held for the characters, but even with that I would still definitely recommend it!  



     Next I read Can You Keep a Secret? also by Sophie Kinsella.  I liked this one right out of the gate!  It's main character is a young woman navigating the business world, who happens to meet a man on a plane and divulge all her deepest secrets to him, little does she know what will follow due to this.  Kinsella has a way to tell stories that are so relatable, yet feel like a fairy tale.  This was a super quick read and perfect for a vacation!  



    I was stuck on these chick-lit books that reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada in the beginning, so naturally I went to the queen author herself; Lauren Weisberger.  She not only wrote the Devil Wears Prada, she also wrote a lesser known gem called Chasing Harry Winston.  I was slightly concerned this book might be aimed at a little older age group since I'm not in the market to be married right now, but luckily it didn't feel that way at all!  It follows three close friends and their experiences with men and each other, they take trips, get into trouble & do things basically every woman has done.  

     After this came Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.  This was another book I didn't get into immediately, but in the end I did really enjoy it.  It follows a couple through life and marriage, with all the positives and negatives that entails.  This was more mature than the books I normally read, but the story really drew me in and I found myself missing the characters when I wasn't reading it.  There are some graphic scenes so take that warning however you choose, but if you can handle those I think you'll find other great parts as well.   

    The next book I chose was slightly darker, but came with a recommendation from a friend.  Girl Walks Out of a Bar by Lisa F. Smith is a memoir of the life of a lawyer who is also secretly an alcoholic and abuses drugs.  The beginning of the book was the best part in my opinion because you hear about all the insane things she did and get to wonder how no one noticed, how she survived, and how she keeps going.  The middle and end start to lull but are necessary to tie up the story.  Even if you don't drink this book is still fine for you because most people really can't relate to the level she's on the majority of the book, whether they drink or not.   

     My final finished book thus far was The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.  I was SO excited for this one.  I wanted to read it so bad and my mom gave it to me as a gift.  It took me forever to get through and I literally had to force myself to finish it.  I thought it would be more of a travel book about the places he goes to and a general look at how to be happy, but it covered a lot more philosophical and psychological topics than I would've liked.  I did learn a few things I didn't know while following his journey and there were parts I enjoyed, but in all it was a long read and I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would.   


Bag (similar) | Scarf (similar) | Sunscreen (reef safe!!) | Sunnies (similar) | Towel (similar)

Now that I've finished these I am currently halfway through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows.  I was drawn to it initially since it was set just after WWII and I like reading about the time period, but once I found out it was being made into a movie I knew I had to read it.  The verdict isn't fully in yet, but so far I would say it is exceeding my expectations.  This is especially true since I didn't like the way it was written through correspondence letters between the characters to start and wanted to stop reading it.  Eventually the letters do grow on you, but check back for my next reading list post for a full review as well as some of the others I'll be crossing off my list! 


What's at the top of your reading list right now?
XOXO, Cierra        
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2 Days in Hong Kong

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     This post is all about my first time in Asia, Hong Kong to be specific!  Technically we spent 4 days in Hong Kong, but since we flew in so late the first day and flew out in the morning of the fourth day they don't really count.  This is honestly a city I never thought I would see because it was so far and I just didn't really think of China as the top of my travelling list.  Since we had to have a layover there anyway, we figured we should see it in case we didn't make it back to the area.  This was such a great decision because it changed my whole perception on Asia.  In two short days we saw an area we had no idea about and as it turned out; Hong Kong is not an intimidating place, it's quite easy to navigate and really a fun place to wander around!


The harbor view from our room at the Conrad Hilton

     On day one we set out to see the Tian Tan Buddha statue on Lantau Island.  While it may have been easier to hire a tour, we like to do things on our own so that we can make our own time frame and get sidetracked if we want to.  With that in mind, we Googled for a while and discovered we could take the metro the majority of the way and then take the cable cars up the mountain.  We were staying at the Conrad Hilton so the closest metro station was Admiralty.  We went there (about a 10 minute walk) and bought passes to Tung Chung Station.  We used the customer service booth to purchase our passes because we had larger bills than the machines would take.  



     Once in Admiralty Station I was shocked to see there were so many shops and restaurants, it was nothing like the subways I have seen before.  We boarded a train to Central Station because that's where the lines change.  We then got on a train to Tung Chung Station.  This is also how you would get to Hong Kong Disneyland we soon learned, it's the stop right before Tung Chung Station.  This was so easy to figure out, even considering we don't regularly use metros.  It also was very cost effective because it was about $50 HKD round trip per person from Admiralty to Tung Chung.  I would say in all the trip took about 45 minutes-1 hour.  

     Once we arrived at Tung Chung Station we walked out and straight across the open area, there were plenty of signs to follow, to the Ngong Ping Cable Cars.  We read this was the most scenic way to see Hong Kong, while getting to the Buddha statue.  The tickets were $210 HKD per person for a round trip standard cabin, there was no way either of us was getting into the crystal cabin that featured a glass floor!!  The line was minimal and we were actually in a car with only two other people.  




     The views were truly amazing!  Even me, who hates heights, was okay on it.  You got to see the whole skyline of apartments that were next to the water, the airport, the mountain area of Lantau, and a view of the Buddha.  It was absolutely worth it and the cabin was comfortable.  The Buddha looked huge even from the cable cars.

     We got off and started towards the statue, first buying some ice cream of course.  Side note: the limited edition Haagen Dazs Lavender & Blueberry flavor is delicious!!  The area did have a lot of tourists, but it didn't feel packed.  The only time I really felt frustrated was when I wanted a picture without people in it, but honestly if you're patient and can wait a few minutes it's possible.  I think this was the lesson Buddha had for me while I was there because as soon as I started to be patient and not annoyed by the people, I was able to take some great photos without any tourists in them!  Once we had spent the time we wanted to walking around, we got back on the cable cars and did the exact reverse route on the metro to get back to our hotel.  A note about the metro passes: once you've arrived to your last station and are leaving, you don't scan your pass anymore, instead you insert it into a blue card slot on the turn-styles.     


Romper (similar) | Sandals (similar) | Dress (similar)



A cow from the monastery on the grounds of the Buddha statue 

     Going to the Tian Tan Buddha statue did take most of the day, but it was completely worth it.  It is incredible to see in person and the whole area is beautiful.  It is a different side to Hong Kong's bustling city.  The only thing I would change is to spend some time seeing the fishing villages on Lantau while we were there.     
     
     On our second day we decided to stay in the city and venture to the Sheung Wan Market area.  This was also easily accessed through the metro fortunately!  We took the metro from Admiralty to Sheung Wan for $9 HKD round trip per person.  We used the machines to buy our tickets this time since we had smaller bills now and it was very simple.  You just click the area on the map you want to go to and it gives you the price and you insert your money, then a pass comes out in the bottom.  

     The Sheung Wan area was really great to go to because it not only has the Sheung Wan Market, it also has the Cat Street Market, the Western Market, the Graham Street Market, and Hollywood Road all within walking distance.  We started at the Sheung Wan Market, which is actually in what looks like an office building.  It has multiple levels; the bottom is fish and poultry, the 2nd is veggies, fruits, and other meats, and the 3rd is a food court area.  I really enjoyed seeing it, though some people may want to skip the meat and fish areas because they do have very strong smells.  Everything looked so fresh and there were a lot of people shopping for things.  



Dress | Bag (aka the best travel purse ever!)

    The next place we went to was Hollywood Road.  On the way there we stopped at Oddies Foodies to try one of the famous eggette sundaes, it was worth every bite.  I got the Night Wolf, which featured chocolate and vanilla gelato, passion fruit panna cotta, brownie chocolate chip eggettes, and crunchy flakes (YUM, right??).  Hollywood Road has lots of different shops and restaurants, but we decided to skip that and go to the Graham Street Market.  This market was also mostly produce, but located on a sidewalk area.  




    After looking at the produce we headed back towards the metro station to see the Cat Street Market.  This market was fun because it had a lot of trinkets to look at, from hair sticks to bronze mementos.  This would be the place I would recommend to pick up your souvenirs!  



    Our last stop was at the Western Market.  This was indoors, a great relief since it was a little warm that day!  The building itself was beautiful to see, but aside from that there was only a few stores and a few restaurants inside.  If it's out of your way, I would say it's okay to not see it.  



    The Western Market is about a 6 minute walk from the Sheung Wan Station so we headed there and back to the hotel.  We stopped by the Pacific Place Shopping Center since it was right next to Admiralty Station.  It is filled with basically every high end designer to exist; from Hermes to Dior to Chanel, it had them all.  It was fun to window shop, but we didn't buy anything except some French macaroons.  It was very convenient though because there is a direct entrance to the Conrad Hilton from the Pacific Place Center.     

     Once we were back in our room it was still early afternoon, so we decided last minute to book an evening harbor cruise on one of the traditional Chinese junk boats.  They looked so beautiful, we just couldn't resist!  There was availability for the 5:30pm cruise for $220 HKD per person so we did that.  We chose to depart from Central Pier 9.  On the website it notes that any cruises leaving at a time ending in 45 (3:45 for example) would drop you off at a different location than where you embarked, a spot across the harbor to be exact, so keep that in mind if you book one!  Central Pier 9 was only a 25-30 minute walk from the Conrad Hilton, the other option Tsim Sha Tsui Pier 1 is directly across the harbor and would've required a taxi or to take the metro.  I figured this all out using Google Maps, so it's easy to check but be sure you do!  


Tamar Park on the Harbor, between our hotel and the pier.  It was so beautiful and had lots of people. 


    The junk boat looked like it was right out a movie, with big red sails and old looking wood accents, and lounge seats on the top deck.  We were the first group picked up so the boat was completely empty and we got to choose a comfy seat.  Next we went across the harbor to pick up the 5:45pm group, they got seats mostly on the lower deck area.  Then we spent a little over 45 minutes going around Victoria Harbour, the skylines were amazing and it was very nice to be on the water.  Our cruise included one drink and they were very willing to take photos for us.  It was a really nice way to end the day.   







    We originally were picked up from the airport in a hotel car, but on our trip back to the airport we decided to use the Airport Express because it was supposed to be much faster and cheaper.  We found out there was a free shuttle to Hong Kong Station just outside the top level of the Pacific Place Center, it stopped at most hotels in the area.  At Hong Kong Station we bought passes for the Airport Express for $215 HKD each.  We even had the option to check our bags at airport kiosks before we got to the airport.  The ride from Hong Kong Station to the airport was about 35 minutes, much quicker than the 45 minutes it took our car the first time.  I highly, highly, highly suggest doing the airport express to Hong Kong Station and then taking a car from there when you arrive to save some money, and to do the same when you leave!  It really is the most efficient option and even with luggage it's totally doable.                    
     I feel like we got to see so many sides of Hong Kong in such a short period of time.  I don't think there was anything I wanted to see that we didn't.  Overall, I expected to not like Hong Kong because it seems so packed with people and like they wouldn't be nice.  Our experience was completely different; people were very helpful, all the signs were in Chinese & English, and the city itself never made me feel scared.  I never thought I would even go to Asia, now I would love to go back and see more areas and I will be highly recommending Hong Kong to everyone!  


XOXO, Cierra
        
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