Labor Day – Here I Come

This labor day, I am going to visit Bryan in upstate New York.  Packing will be pretty easy because Bryan is on night shifts for most of the weekend so we will just be lounging – and watching football.

Speaking of football,

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I am packing this outfit for the game.  I LOVE this tank – it’s super soft and comfy.  I purchased it here. And it’s currently on sale for 15 bucks! (also note that I did size up for a more laid back look).

Bryan and I also have a long run on Sunday, so I’m bringing my running tights from lulu and my absolute FAVORITE running socks made by thorlo.  They are life-savers.  I got my first pair during Nordstrom’s anniversary sale a couple of years ago, and now they are the only socks I wear to run.  In fact, at one point Bryan forgot his socks when he came to visit so he borrowed a pair of mine, and he liked them so much that he stole them! And they now live in upstate New York with him.

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Molly wanted to help me pack, so I promised her I would feature her in my blog for all her hard work:

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Since lounging is the name of the game (and after these past two weeks – I really need a good lounging sess), I am bringing these babies with me:

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For all those – like me – that need this weekend – enjoy your holiday!

You’re Like, Really Pretty

After my fiancé, Bryan, and I got engaged, our first “to do” on our massive wedding to do list was to ask our friends to be in our wedding.  After being in several weddings myself, I know how expensive it can get so I’m making sure that we spoil our bridesmaids/groomsmen.  And, step one of spoiling was to request they be in our wedding with bribes of candles, cigar boxes, and whiskey stones, among other things.

The Groomsmen Boxes

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For each groomsman, we ordered engraved cigar boxes with the groomsman’s last name, as well as the date of the wedding.  We opted not to engrave “groomsman” on the boxes so that the boxes would remain relevant and could be used beyond the year of the wedding.

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If you couldn’t tell by now, our colors are burgundy and blush so we filled the boxes with burgundy and blush crinkle paper to add filler.

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Also inside the box were the “goodies.”  For the guys, we got them engraved cigar cutters and engraved whiskey stones.  Our thought was that they could take the cigar boxes, cutters, and whiskey stones on the bachelor party, and Bryan will provide the cigars and whiskey.

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There’s a close up of the cigar cutter.

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The whiskey stones are from this company that donates 15% of its sales to research on curing testicular cancer.

The Bridesmaid’s Boxes

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We got these boxes off of Etsy, and they came with the most wonderful smelling, matching candles:

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Also inside the girls’ boxes were tiny “day of” kits by pinch provisions.

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Inside is everything you could ever need for anything that goes wrong on your wedding day from bandaids and Advil to extra wedding bands and earring backs- all inside a super cute mini bag.

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Packing Revisited – What Worked and What Didn’t

What Worked:

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I fell in love with this purse organizer during my trip. Usually during flights, I am constantly digging in my bag for a book, or cord, or glasses, but this trip – not so.  This little guy saved me from the frustration and stress of finding things while on the go.  I’m sure everyone can agree with me that the less stress during travel, the better.

I am so happy I bought this North Face Raincoat for the trip.  I sized up just in case I wanted to wear something bulky underneath, and I am so glad that I did.  During our hike up to the Old Man of Store, it starting pouring, but I was able to stash my camera under my rain jacket, which kept me and my camera totally dry.

My hiking boots were also a great success.  Despite the downpour, my feet stayed dry and warm. (My friend, who was wearing Sperry rain boots, was not as lucky).

What Did Not Work:

I was not so successful in my pants selection.  During our rainy hike, I wore jeans – a MAJOR failure.  When I was researching what to wear prior to going to Scotland, I found many people suggesting these types of pants, and I decided to go the cute route instead, disregarding their sound advice.  Well the cute route was not so cute after being soaked in the rain for an hour or so.  I suggest either biting the bullet and getting some rain-proof pants, or wear running tights – which I did on another downpour occasion and had a lot more luck.  I forgot that I was in Scotland, and the luck of the Irish did not apply.

 

Boxy Unboxing: “Life of the Party”

If you obsessively watch youtube makeup channels, you are familiar with the concept of “unboxing.”  Being a big fan myself, I thought I would share my unboxing of this month’s boxycharm.

Boxycharm is – in my opinion – THE best makeup subscription box out there.  I’ve tried sephora play, birchbox, and ipsy, but Boxycharm was the only one where I was consistently happy with what I got every month.  Additionally, the products in Boxycharm are FULL SIZE – unlike the other subscription boxes where you get maybe three or four applications out of something.  So even though it is more expensive ($20/month), I think it is worth it.  So without further ado, let’s unbox!

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The first item is the Laura Lee Los Angeles: Party Animal Eyeshadow Palette.  The insert in the box exclaims, “Dare to be the life of the party with Laura Lee Los Angeles Party Animal Palette.  These six stunning shades create bold, colorful looks leaving you ready for a night of fun!”

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This palette retails for $19.00 (i.e. the price of the entire box).  I’m a HUGE fan of Laura Lee’s youtube channel – she’s hilarious and very genuine. She just recently launched her brand – her first palette was called the Cat’s Pajamas.  But, this is the first time I have tried her products.

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Another thing I love about Boxycharm is that this is not a palette that I would have bought myself.  It is pretty wild, and I tend to stick to neutrals.  So this forces me out of my comfort zone.

Next in the box was House of Lashing: Lashes.  I love House of Lashing eye-lashes.  They last through so many uses, and I never have a problem getting them on/off.

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According to the insert, you can “Add length and dimension to your makeup look with your new favorite lashes. Cruelty-free, high quality and long lasting, these lashes provide up to 15 wears and will be the talk of every party!”  These retail from $9.00-$12.00.  So already, assuming these were the $9.00 lashes, you have spent $20 for $28 worth of products – with four products still to go.  It’s amazing.

Smashbox: Lipstick.

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Okay.  So I am really not sure how I feel about this product.  Like I said above, I do need to get pushed outside of my comfort zone, but this may be a little too far outside for me.  The insert says, “Create bold, beautiful looks with your new Smashbox lip product. This pigment-loaded color glides on in just one swipe, getting you out the door and into the party quicker!”  This retails for $21.00-$24.00.

Wander: Baggage Claim Gold Eye Masks

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I have VERY – let me repeat, VERY – dry skin.  And VERY dark circles.  My real life job is a bit of a monster.  So I was very happy when I found these in my box.  The insert explains, “After a night of partying, [insert here for those of you with jobs like mine – “after a night of working”] who doesn’t love a good eye mask?  These gold foil under eye masks brighten, hydrate and reduce the appearance of dark circles.  The hyaluronic acid diminishes the appearance of wrinkles, while aloe leaf extract and lavender oil cool and soothe your under eye area.”  These retail for $13.00.

Bang Beauty: Chocolate Eyeliner

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I was excited for this eyeliner because it isn’t black.  I have so many different types of black eyeliner, that I should be good for at least ten years.  And for those of you not yet ready to commit to colorful eyeliner, this is a good “test the waters” color.  It retails for $22, and the insert says, “Use it as an eyeliner, eyeshadow base, or even to touch-up your brows, this creamy, chocolate toned pomade is the ultimate triple threat.”

Finally, the last thing in the box – Adesse: Sweet Almond Cuticle Oil.

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“Treat yourself, your nails and your cuticles after a night out.  This lightweight, non-greasy oil is formulated with vitamin E, shea, sweet almond and jojoba oils that are blended together to create a luxurious treatment that softens the cuticles, moisturizes and hydrates the nails.”  This retails for $18.00.

 

I’ve Got Whiskey On The Mind

“Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey.”

One of the best parts of the trip:  the whiskey.

We visited three distilleries and a cooperage (where the barrels are made).  This was my second whiskey tour (I did the bourbon trail with my fiancé a couple of years ago).  So I was already semi-familiar with the distillation process.  For those who aren’t, I’ve tried to sum it up in a diagram – Distillation Process.

Our first stop was Glenlivet, or “Valley of the Smooth Flowing One.”

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Glenlivet officially began distilling in 1824 (although it had long been distilling whiskey illegally prior to that date).  Whiskey distilling started in the Speyside region with tenement farmers, farmers who did not own the land, but instead worked it and paid a percentage of their income to the individual who did own the land.  Many times, the percentage was rather high, and the farmers started to distill whiskey to make some extra cash – free of taxes.  Additionally, due to its remote location in the Highlands, it was easy for farmers to hide their illicit behavior from the customs office.

In 1824, however, legislation was passed to allow whiskey distillation, and George Smith, the founder of Glenlivet, was the first in the Glenlivet parish to get his distiller’s license.  For this, he was harassed by his neighboring distillers and was forced to carry a pair of pistols for the rest of his life.

George Smith’s son had been studying the law when his father died.  He gave up his law career to move home and run the family business.  His law degree informed how he ran the business.  For instance, it was under his leadership that Glenlivet fought a protracted legal battle over the Glenlivet trade mark, giving Glenlivet the right to be called “THE” Glenlivet.  For those of us who are Ohio State fans, you know how important the “THE” can be.

Next was Glenfiddich, or “Valley of the Deer.”

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“Few men have built their own distillery with their own bare hands. But that’s exactly how William Grant started writing our story.”

During the summer of 1886, William Grant and his children built, by hand, what was to become the Glenfiddich Distillery.  Unlike many other distilleries, Glenfiddich actually has its own cooperage on site.  The triangular shape of Glenfiddich bottles was instituted in 1961.  And in 1963, Glenfiddich was the first Scottish Whiskey to be actively promoted outside Scotland.

Before visiting our last distillery for the day, The Macallan, we stopped at Speyside cooperage.

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Speyside cooperage was founded in 1947 by the Taylor family.  It is the largest independent cooperage in the United Kingdom.  It also has branches in Alloa, Kentucky, and Ohio because much of the wood it uses to make barrels actually comes from former bourbon barrels.  Under United States law, bourbon may only be aged in virgin barrels; thus, after one use, the barrel cannot be used again – at least not to make bourbon.  So many bourbon distilleries will sell their barrels on to other whiskey distilleries.

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But, like Bourbon, oak is the only wood that can be used as casks because oak prevents seepage of the whiskey while still allowing the whiskey to “breathe.”  The ability to breathe also produces what is known as the “angels’ share,” i.e. the whiskey that evaporates.

The coopers at Speyside still use all the traditional methods and tools to make the casks.

Finally, we went to The Macallan, which just opened its new distillery this summer.  It was breathtaking in a very modern sense.

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The original name of the area was “Maghellan”, comprised of two Gaelic words: “magh”, meaning fertile ground and “Ellan”, from the Monk St. Fillan.

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The Macallan was founded by Alexander Reid in 1824 on a plateau above the river Spey in north-east Scotland.  In fact, to ensure that the river Spey continued to provide The Macallan Distillery with pure water for its whiskey, the Distillery bought up much of the land that surrounds the river.  Unlike Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, Macallan does not use a Scottish cooperage; instead, they import their barrels from a cooperage in Spain.

Ultimately, my favorite was Glenlivet.  Although I have to admit, my forever favorite will always be Jameson.  And not just because it’s one of my cats’ names.

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Jameson and Guinness

A Reprieve From Scotland: The Man Booker Dozen

Putting a pause in my Scotland Posts (I promise, I only have a couple more of those), the Man Booker Long List (or “Man Booker Dozen”) was announced last week.  The Man Booker prize is given to the “best novel,” written in English and published in the U.K. (a semi recent change of the Rules – previously, the authors had to be from the commonwealth) of the year.

I try to read the winner each year, but this year, I have decided to attempt to read the long-list before the short list is released on September 20th.  As I went to Amazon to order the books, however, some of them have yet to be released, at least in the U.S.  So my goal has been made easier (thank goodness, as I have a small pile of books sitting on my bedside table, and that pile has been slowly growing).

According to the Man Booker website, this year’s longlist include several dystopian books, giving this year’s list a theme of “a world on the brink.”  Additionally, many explore social class, gender, and family.

And so, without more, the “Man Booker Dozen” are:

Belinda Bauer (UK), Snap (Bantam Press): a crime novel about a mother going missing, and the aftermath of her disappearance on the family.

Anna Burns (UK), Milkman (Faber & Faber) (preorder only in the US): a novel that explores the consequences of corrupt political life on one’s domestic/family life.

Nick Drnaso (USA), Sabrina (Granta Books): the first ever graphic novel to be on the long list.  Another disappearance story line, but it is interwoven with how the 24-hour news cycle impacts our lives (a theme also explored by the 2003 Man Booker winner – Vernon God Little, and now, in my opinion, more relevant than ever).

Esi Edugyan (Canada), Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail) (preorder only in the US): a historical novel following an escaped slave on his road to freedom.

Guy Gunaratne (UK), In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press): a novel following friends and their interaction with urban life, focusing on the lives of the marginalized and oppressed.

Daisy Johnson (UK), Everything Under (Jonathan Cape): the story of an absentee mother trying to re-connect with her daughter and of the language they had invented together before the mother left.

Rachel Kushner (USA), The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape): a novel about incarceration in America.  This novel explores the criminal justice system, as well as gender, class, and the failure of the American Dream.

Sophie Mackintosh (Wales, UK), The Water Cure (Hamish Hamilton): likened to the Handmaiden’s Tale, this novel explores the story of a mother and three girls who are kept on an island by the father – until one day the father leaves, and the women are left to survive on their own.

Michael Ondaatje (Canada), Warlight (Jonathan Cape): Ondaatje was just awarded the Golden Man Booker Prize for his novel The English Patient (which has also been turned into an academy award wining film, by the same name; starring Ralph Fiennes, may be better known as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films).  This novel, however, follows two children after the end of World War II and their mysterious caretaker.

Richard Powers (USA), The Overstory (Willian Heinemann)The Overstory is a story of the environment.  Following nine very different individuals, the novel eventually brings them together as each tries to save the final few trees left in the world.  This novel explores global warming, and its effects on all classes, genders, and races.

Robin Robertson (Scotland, UK), The Long Take (Picador)The Long Take is actually a novel in verse form.  It follows a man suffering from PTSD, and his attempt to cope with live after war.

Sally Rooney (Ireland), Normal People (Faber & Faber) (preorder only in the US): this novel looks at the intersection between classes through the lens of children.  A young middle class girl befriends her parents’ house cleaner’s son.  The story watches them grow up in two distinct social circles while trying to maintain their connection.

Donal Ryan (Ireland), From a Low and Quiet Sea (Doubleday Ireland): Separated into four parts – the first three sections tell the story of three men.  The first, a man deciding whether to flee Syria with his family.  The second, a brokenhearted bus-driver in Ireland. And, lastly, a manipulator searching for forgiveness.  The final sections brings all three together in their search for home and acceptance.

This year’s judges include: Kwame Anthony Appiah (Chair); Val McDermid; Leo Robson; Jacqueline Rose; and Leanne Shapton.

I am still waiting on a couple of the books to get to my house, but, as some of them have arrived, let the reading begin!

From Ladies of the Lake To Loch Storr Monsters

“The Trossachs are often visited by persons of taste, who are desirous of seeing nature in her rudest and most unpolished state.” – Callander parish minister Dr. Robertson (1791).

The next stop on our visit was The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland’s first National Park, established in 2002. (Loch is Scotland’s word for lake.)  The Trossachs has inspired many a poem, including several by William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, Samuel Coleridge, and Sir Walter Scott.  In fact, Sir Walter Scott’s best selling work, Lady of the Lake, is set in and around Loch Katrine.  Loch Katrine also appears in Jules Verne’s The Underground City.

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The Trossachs is home to allegedly one of the most haunted places in Scotland – the Drover’s Inn.

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If you are into ghosts, click here to read about all the ghost sightings that have been reported (be wary of the video though – it has a trick at the end).  My mom – a major ghost/supernatural believer and avid ghost/bigfoot show watcher – wanted us to do a EVP session (still not sure what that means), but instead of riling the ghosts, we simply had a beer and made sure to be on our way long before nightfall.

Also along our driving tour, we stopped to see the Glencoe Valley, home to mountains known as the “Three Sisters.”

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Afterwards, we stopped at Glenfinnan.  Glenfinnan is known for two very different teenagers: Harry Potter and the Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Well known now as the home to the viaduct that appears in the Harry Potter movies (see picture below), Glenfinnan has a tragic past.  It was here that the Bonnie Prince Charlie first raised his father’s standard.  The monument you see in the pictures below is a memorial for the Highlanders that lost their lives because they supported the Bonnie Prince.  If you are at all interested in the Prince’s claim to the British throne, click here.

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Finally, we visited the Isle of Skye.  Unfortunately, we had terrible weather – at one point, I truly thought I might be blown off the side of a mountain.  So my pictures aren’t what they could have been – as I was trying to protect my camera from the rain – but even in the rain, Scotland is hauntingly beautiful.

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At the end of our climb, my best friend – who is my forever travel partner – claimed she had a “loch” in her boot, thereby proclaiming the creation of Loch Storr, and after spending hours in the downpour and wind, we were its monsters.