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Birthday goodies!

Happy birthday girl.

That’s right, I celebrated a birthday earlier this month. While I don’t like to make a big scene about my birthday, I was really excited to be surrounded by cakes, balloons, and I even got sung to, twice! Lucky, lucky girl right here.

I usually spend my birthday with reflection heavy on the brain, but this year, I lounged by the pool and sipped on a peach + wine slushee (get the recipe here). And honestly, I got some pretty cool gifts! I know, I know, that’s not what birthdays are about, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites in case you’re looking to shop for someone on your list.

Laura Geller Summer Goddess Collection – I have gotten a few Laura Geller samples in my monthly Birchbox and continue to be impressed with the quality of this makeup. So, I was pretty amped to get this four-piece collection of full-size products! It comes with Spackle Tinted Make-Up Primer in Champagne (sheer soft gold), Baked Body Frosting Face & Body Glow in Tahitian Glow (mรฉlange of swirled tan, cream and pearly pink), Dramalash Maximum Volumizing Mascara in Black, and Fifty Kisses Lip Locking Liquid Color in Beige Bite (rich nude).

So far, I’ve used the bronzer and the lip color – both I love. The bronzer is the perfect mix of color and highlighter, and even helps to cover redness. The lip color is good for every day, and stays on ALL day with a matte finish. I love it! You can purchase this collection at Ulta.

Q&A a Day 5-Year Journal – This was such a surprise gift, and kind of just what I needed without really knowing it! I’ve always had trouble keeping up with a diary, or a journal, but I’ve read so much recently about the benefits of doing so. This journal is good for five years, and provides a simple question for you to answer each day. This means you can keep a record of your years, but with less of a hassle – I love it! I started writing in it a week ago, and I’m excited to keep it going and then look back at my entries. You can get this journal on Amazon.

Rhinestone Trinket Box – Earlier this year, I met my mom and best friend in Vegas. For my birthday, my mom surprised me with a small, sparkly trinket box in the shape of a fortune cookie, which she bought in Vegas (this isn’t the exact one, but it’s really close). It’s gold, which goes with pretty much everything I own, not to mention that I love keeping my fortunes – especially if they have my lucky numbers on them.

Girl and Dragon Malbec – As a wine lover, any occasion for gifts brings an opportunity for wine. I will always drink wine, and if you’re ever in questions as to what to get me, it’s wine. I will never get enough and I’m always look to taste something new. So, I was pumped when I got a bottle of Girl and Dragon Malbec, which had a cool label (because of course), and later, I found out they’ve won loads of awards. I drank it with homemade vegetarian lo mein and it was scrumptious. You can purchase a bottle on their website.

“The Year of Voting Dangerously” by Maureen Dowd – I don’t often ask for books or buy books because I borrow so many from the library. But this book in particular, has been on my list, and isn’t available at the library. Here’s the description from Amazon:ย Trapped between two candidates with the highest recorded unfavorables, Americans are plunged into The Year of Voting Dangerously. In this perilous and shocking campaign season, The New York Times columnist traces the psychologies and pathologies in one of the nastiest and most significant battles of the sexes ever. Dowd has covered Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton since the ’90s. She was with the real estate mogul when he shyly approached his first Presidential rope line in 1999, and she won a Pulitzer prize that same year for her penetrating columns on the Clinton impeachment follies. Like her bestsellers, Bushworld and Are Men Necessary?, THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY will feature Dowd’s trademark cocktail of wry humor and acerbic analysis in dispatches from the political madhouse. If America is on the escalator to hell, then THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY is the perfect guide for this surreal, insane ride. …And now I can officially add it to my reading list!

Miss Spa facial masks – Much like wine, face masks are another thing I can’t get enough of. If you’re ever wondering what I’m up to, the chances are very likely that I’m sitting in my bed, watching trashy TV, with some sort of clay, sheet, or bee venom mask on my face in hopes I’ll wakeup with radiant skin. Don’t stop believin’! When I was gifted a STACK of Miss Spa facial masks of different varieties, I was excited to add them to my stash. You can get them on Amazon.

Perhaps these awesome gifts I got can serve up some ideas for someone in your life, or heck, maybe you just need to treat yoself. Cheers!

Vegas recap.

Howdy! I’m still very much in recovery mode after a fun-filled trip to Las Vegas over a long weekend. I am tired, and completely off-schedule given the time difference, and in general I feel like I need to do a juice cleanse and/or eat a bunch of acai bowls until I feel clean again.

But of course, life doesn’t stop, work is nuts, my apartment is in shambles, and my calendar is full. Whew!

However, I was so excited to take a look at ALL the pictures I took (it’s a lot, just look at my Instagram @OrangeJulius7), and definitely wanted to post my favorites here – in no particular order.

I landed in Vegas late Thursday night, checked into the Palms, and promptly made myself a drink and hit the slots – losing $20 nearly immediately.

On Friday, it was a little chilly outside so we skipped on the pool and ventured to The Strip to partake in street drinking, gambling, sight-seeing (particularly the fountain at the Bellagio), and overeating at Wahlburgers.

Friday night was the Backstreet Boys concert at the Axis near/in Planet Hollywood, which was difficult AF to find. But, the hunt for the venue was worth it, because BSB pretty much made all of my boy band dreams come true. They played ALL of their hits, danced a lot (they even did the same dance from some of their music videos), and even wore glittery suit jackets for a few songs – and I about lost it. It was fantastic!

After the concert, I was on a mission to find two “secret” gems in Vegas – the Moet champagne vending machine and the unmarked pizza spot. We found them both, met a few cool people along the way, and saw some great views of the city. And, that pizza was some of the best I’ve ever had.

View from the Palms pool + lounge.

On Saturday, we hit the Palms pool (which was laced with security), shelled out the cash for a giant Palms Punch (nearly $50 for a souvenir cup filled with rum and champagne), and relaxed until it was time to get ready for the John Mayer concert. We even enjoyed a yummy dinner outdoors along the strip, before screaming our faces off at Mayer’s last show before meeting up with Dead & Co.

He mixed things up, singing several songs from “Room for Squares”, and of course, several from “The Search for Everything” – but I think he shocked everyone when he brought out the John Mayer Trio for a few songs.

After the concert, we noticed the roller coaster at New York, New York was eerily close to the T-Mobile arena, so we rode that… which was pretty terrifying, and thankfully was a drunk decision.

On Sunday, we had another day of adventure, hitting Linq for the delicious, huge plates at Hash House a-go-go (I got the Indiana pork tenderloin). Then, we checked out the Linq promenade for the Sprinkles cupcake ATM (I got the chocolate marshmallow), and to check out the High Roller.

Then we caught a ride to Fremont Street – Vegas’ original strip – where there are lights covering the street, live music, and several old casinos (some even spit quarters). To close the night we headed back to the strip for a nice dinner at Hexx – a bottle of wine, impressive charcuterie, shrimp pasta, and a sunset view of the Bellagio.

On Monday morning, we headed out for one last adventure: the Neon Museum. Neon signs are a signature of Las Vegas and have been since it was born, but many casinos change their names or simply lease their signs, so many of these signs end up in a “Boneyard”, which is what we got to tour. It was dozens upon dozens of neon bones, complete with a tour guide who told us all sorts of great history, and we even talked about the history of fonts and how neon is made. It was fantastic!

I flew home to Austin Monday afternoon, and although I felt my body was ready to get back to my usual life, I was sad to leave. That was my second time in Vegas, and both times I’ve just had SO much fun. I always feel like I need to make massive life changes once a vacation is over. I sure was sad driving the country roads home – with no neon or flashing lights to guide me.

But, who knows what’s in store for me over the next few months! I know I’m going to try and keep things exciting. I hope you enjoy my pictures ๐Ÿ™‚

The history of Las Vegas.

Viva Las Vegas!

Tonight, I’m hopping on a flight to Las Vegas, ready to spend most of my dollars on drinks and slot machines, wear some of my tackiest clothes (a cactus bodysuit is packed), and eat sinfully delicious food until my stomach hurts.

It will be my second time in Vegas, a place I’ve come to associate with good times. But how did Vegas, as we know it, come to be? I looked up a little info.

Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911, and its first claim to fame was its railroads. At the time, gambling was illegal, that is until 1931 when casinos began to takeover Fremont Street (the city’s only paved road), joined by showgirls.

In just 10 years, “The Strip” was born, and served as a second home to casinos and huge, glittery signs running off hydropower. By 1966, small casinos turned into massive ones that took their design cues from escapes around the globe – Paris, Rome, Egypt, and New York.

I remember years ago, before I’d ever been to Vegas, a family member went for a work conference. Upon his return he said he didn’t like it – “It’s just excess in every single way.”

And that’s exactly why I love it! Want a casino? How about one that’s 171,000 square feet, like at the MGM? It’s the biggest casino in the world.

During my last trip to Vegas, we stayed at the MGM hotel & casino, not knowing how historically huge it is, and I was stunned every time I went downstairs. You could actually never leave if you wanted to – or you COULD leave and step outside to see the lights, huge fountains, ceiling-high strands of crystals, a near-replica of the Eiffel Tower – it’s all so much to take it, but it’s a treat for the senses!

This time, we’re staying at the The Palms and I’m just SO excited! The Palms is owned by a very famous Vegas family, the Maloofs – which may sound familiar to you if you’ve watched “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”, as Adrienne Maloof is one of the heirs to the throne.

The Palms was, at one time, home to the only Playboy club in the world. It has since closed, but it was quite iconic with crystal chandeliers, magazine covers throughout, and Roberto Cavallie bunny costumes.

The Palms is also home to a few famous suites, including the Hardwood Suite, which runs a cold $25,000 per night. Here’s the scoop from CNN Money:ย You don’t have to be a professional basketball player to enjoy the hardwood suite at the Palms, although if you are, then this is the room for you. In addition to the half basketball court, electronic scoreboard and extra-long beds, there’s also a locker room that can be stocked upon request with basketball jerseys and or cheerleading outfits — heck, you can even get your own cheerleaders if that’s what you want. As a general rule, most special requests will be gladly filled by the hotel staff. The two-story suite, which has a full bar as well as plenty of room for a DJ booth, is as well suited to partying as it is to playing games; in fact Russell Simmons and Paris Hilton have both hosted lavish affairs here.

If you’re a fan of MTV’s “Real World”, you may remember the cast of “Real World Las Vegas” resided at the Palms, and their suite still stands as the “Real World Suite”, minus all the cameras. It’s 3,000 square feet and even houses the original “confessional” room if that’s what you’re into ($10,000 per night).

…So, there’s that. I’m ready. It’s been a minute since I’ve had a vacation and I’m looking forward to a long weekend of glitter and adventure!

Countdown to Vegas, baby!

The famous scene from “Ocean’s Eleven” in front of the Bellagio Hotel & Casino.

In just a few weeks, I’m heading to Vegas for an extended weekend of sun, relaxation, and well, lots of massive drinks. Because, Vegas! I have been to Vegas before, but it was several years ago, and I’m excited to revisit some of my favorite spots (the Paris Hotel & Casino, and Hash House A-Go-Go), while trying some new spots (fishbowls at the Sugar Factory and the Neon Graveyard Museum).

In order to make the most out of my fun-filled days out West, I’m planning a few things in advance, packing strategically, staying on my diet, and hyping myself up. So, I’ve put together a list of my favorite movies that feature Sin City in all its glittery glory.

Ocean’s Elevenย 

George Clooney + Brad Pitt… Yes! 2001 really served it to us in this action-packed movie that involves 11 dudes ready to take down Vegas, by robbing three casinos at the same time. You go boys! And it makes visiting the Bellagio fountains that much more iconic.

Swingers

When I suffered my very first breakup, my dad introduced me to the 1996 cult classic, “Swingers”. I’m so glad he did, because I can’t get enough of Trent and Mike and their ways with the ladies, especially once they hit the Vegas strip. Everything is “Money, baby”, and frankly, this movie is one of my all-time favorites.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

No self-respecting writer can turn his or her back on Hunter S. Thompson and his beloved book-turned-movie, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. When a unique journalist (played by Johnny Depp) and his lawyer head to Vegas, deciphering reality from illusion becomes the challenge. It’s a must-see.

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I’ll admit it, the book (“Busting Vegas”) was better, but the movie adaptation was on-point. The movie tells the true story of six MIT students who learned how to count cards, and took millions of dollars from the Vegas casinos. It’s a thriller, that’s for sure, and Kevin Spacey is perfection.

I had a 1590 on my SAT. I got a 44 on my MCATs. And I have a 4.0 GPA from MIT. I thought I had my life mapped out. But then I remembered what my Nonlinear Equations professor once told me, always account for variable change.

The Hangoverย 

In 2009, we were blessed with the start of “The Hangover” trilogy. Although the entire franchise puts me in giggles, the first one is my favorite. This movie is what Vegas is all about: Wolf packs, strippers, cocaine, and partying so hard that you lose your memory, and the bachelor. Think: “Dude, Where’s My Car?” only in Vegas, with a bottomless budget. It’s hilariously fantastic, and I love going to Cesar’s Palace to look for a payphone ๐Ÿ˜‰

…So, don’t be shocked if you see me Tweeting (@OrangeJulius7) about these movies in the coming weeks. What movies about Vegas do you like to watch?

Backstreet’s back… ALRIGHT!

The Backstreet Boys are back…in Vegas!

For whatever reason, I decided to watch this season of “The Bachelor” (totally blaming all of the marbles Nick Viall keeps in his mouth), and so far, the best episode has been when the ladies on a group date were invited to dance and perform with The Backstreet Boys!

Nick is so lucky none of the women decided to ditch him and scoot over to one of the BSB fellows – I sure would have.

Anyway, several months ago, this iconic boy band announced they had earned a residency in Las Vegas – basically the pinnacle of existence for any artist – and they were promoting their said residency in that episode of “The Bachelor”. And it worked; because I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I probably needed to get my booty to The Strip and sing throwback jams with Nick and A.J.

So, I am. I’ve got my trip booked for next month and let me tell y’all: I CANNOT WAIT.

Hanson was the first band I really drooled over, but I don’t consider them as a part of that 90’s boy band era we all loved so much. Boy bands are classified with the over-coordinated dance moves, the strict harmonies, pristine lyrics, and that cheesy low-voiced talking at the beginning of the ballads.

And, well, we can’t forget the fact that boy bands have their molds within the group. There’s your heartthrob (Nick), the bad boy (AJ), the old soul (Kevin), the nice guy (Howie), and the charity case (Brian). Sorry, Brian, love you!

Together they sold millions of albums, survived and sued the evil Lou Perlman, and then went on to make millions of dollars, and score a residency long past their time in the spotlight. Go boys!

I’ve seen the Backstreet Boys twice in concert, and I remember specifically that after seeing them for the first time, my heart felt so broken the next day because I knew we were no longer in the same city. I know, LAME.

But, I loved their music, and cannot even attempt to guess how many hours I’ve spent listening to and singing along with their albums. Since I got my tickets for the Vegas show, I’ve been searching my ole stacks of CDs (yes, I still have them) and remembering all of the old tunes I loved so much. You’d be surprised just how many I still know the words to – and have already been blaring them in my Jeep on my way to the office #NoShame.

Some of my favorites include “Get Another Boyfriend”, “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”, and who doesn’t love “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” …but my all-time favorite song has got to be “As Long As You Love Me” (siiiiggggh).

While we’re on the subject, “As Long As You Love Me” was released in 1997 – when I was in 7th grade. The music video is classic 90’s; complete with Howie on a flip phone thinking he’s super fly.

But Nick, my first love, with the bowl cut and the sweeping arm gestures. GET IT. And let’s be real, the chair dance was, and still is, everything. So slick.

Best line: “I don’t care what is written in your hist-or-yyyy, as long as you’re here with me.” STRAIGHT GOLD.

Since those days, I believe all of the guys have gotten married, overcome personal challenges, and now, it seems like they can finally have a little fun, while making loads of cash. And if I haven’t said it enough, I am so excited!

Dear Nick and AJ, I’ll see y’all in Vegas!