Category: Reviews

Tips for Travel Planning with TripAdvisor


Whenever I’m planning a trip, I make extensive use of to figure out which hotel I want to stay in, what interesting things I want to put on my to do list and how to handle some of the finer points of logistics of traveling.

For instance, when I planned my trip to Maui last year, I read many complimentary reviews and critical reviews of the property I was interested in staying at. TripAdvisor even has a way to filter out reviews for travelers who are similar to you.  I generally check out what Families have to say since that is who I am usually traveling with. A business traveler often has different needs — for instance, no requirements for a kid friendly pool or activities!  I also noticed that they have added “Time of Year” as a filter since that is also critical–high season travel will often be crowded and you want to know if the resort has sufficient amenities to accommodate all travelers!


Another great feature of TripAdvisor is the FORUMS! I love being able to ask other travelers questions and I’ve picked up some amazing tips here. For instance, one of the most memorable parts of my trip to Italy was visiting the Vatican. It was in the forums that I learned about the Scavi tour, a little known underground tour of the Vatican catacombs. This was an amazing experience and one that I would have never read about in a guidebook.

I’ve also been able to ask on the forums about how train strikes work in Europe. Again, on our trip to Italy, train personnel were scheduled to strike on a particular day. We were scheduled to travel to Switzerland on that day and I was wondering if the train would make it to Switzerland or if it would stop at the specified time, or if they would stop at the closest station and walk off the job. The wonderful contributors on the forums assured me that my train would make it to Switzerland and it did!

I always try to write up a review of the hotel I stayed in — particularly if I’m able to help out another traveler. I just feel like its a great way to pay it back to the community that helped make my trip a success!

AdoramaPix Photo Book Review and Giveaway!

I love making photo books and I have made books from several different companies now: Shutterfly (review here), MyPublisher, MixBook and now AdoramaPix!  Wow, the AdoramaPix one really blows me away in terms of the quality of the finished product.  I recently made an order with AdoramaPix so I wanted to review the ordering process and the finished product.  This review is rather detailed and lengthy, so I’ll just cut to the chase right here: the book turned out BEAUTIFULLY and the photos are really the showcase of the book.  The book is truly a beautiful keepsake!

Now, read on for all the details about the book and our very first GIVEAWAY!

Customizable Features

Here are some of the key customizable features that stood out to me:

  • Seamless, layflat pages are standard for every book — this is NOT an upgrade, unlike at other companies
  • Pages are made of high quality photo paper
  • Several different cover choices (photo, fabric, die-cut, faux leather and genuine leather)
  • Several different paper texture choices: luster, glossy, silk, linen, pebble or deep matte
  • Several different book orientations and sizes: portrait, landscape, panoramic and many sizes from smaller sizes like 6×4.5 to large 12×12 books.

What is also great is the pricing is transparent: you can see right on this page how much your book is going to cost, based on the options you’ve chosen.  I really appreciate when companies are upfront about the cost, rather than hiding it until the end.

AdoramaPix Photobook Customize Your Book
AdoramaPix Photobook Customize Your Book

Book Design Options

Once you have selected the basic features of your book (size, cover, type of paper), there are tons of templates to build your book with.  They are sorted by theme, such as wedding, family, children, travel, etc.  It is fairly easy to change the theme if you’re not satisfied with how it looks.  If you want to build from a blank canvas, that is also an option.  If you are a pro, you can build your book via some other design tool and upload a PDF file.  Basically, you have a ton of options to choose from!

AdoramaPix Photobook - Choose a Template
AdoramaPix Photobook – Choose a Template

Importing Photos to AdoramaPix

AdoramaPix supports a ton of different methods to get your photos to them: Upload directly from your computer (including exporting from Lightroom), or importing from your Flickr, Facebook, Smugmug or Instagram account.

AdoramaPix - Photo Uploader
AdoramaPix – Photo Uploader

After you pick your parameters for your book, you enter the Design wizard.  You choose the photos you want to add to this project, then drag and drop to the various templates.  You can choose new layouts, add pages, add stickers/embellishments/backgrounds.  It’s all very easy to do.

Ordering Process

It is super easy to add extra books or order extra sizes of the same book.  You can also optionally add a gift/presentation box.  Everything arrived super fast in a well protected mailer.  If there is one thing that really bugs me, is when companies skimp on the shipping container and the merchandise arrives damaged!  My AdoramaPix book arrived wrapped in an inner cardboard mailer, then that was wrapped in an outer cardboard mailer.  No corners were harmed while shipping!  Yay!

AdoramaPix Photobook - Outer Protective Mailer
AdoramaPix Photobook – Outer Protective Mailer
AdoramaPix Photobook - Inner Mailer
AdoramaPix Photobook – Inner Mailer

A High Quality Finished Product

I was seriously wow-ed by the book I received.  It really is in a different league than what I’ve ordered from Shutterfly.  Yes, it is more expensive, but it really is a HUGE difference in what you get.  I think the added expense is absolutely worth it.

The cover and all the pages have a beautiful gentle sheen to them, courtesy of the luster finish that I chose.

AdoramaPix Photobook Cover
AdoramaPix Photobook Cover
AdoramaPix Photobook - Layflat Pages
AdoramaPix Photobook – Layflat Pages

The pages are thick and luxurious and showcase the photos beautifully.  The colors are vibrant and true to calibration.

One thing to note is that I *love* that there is no AdoramaPix logo.  Other companies add a logo to the last page and it really bothers me.

Comparing AdoramaPix photobooks to others

I would say what impressed me most about the AdoramaPix photobook was the finished product.  As I have mentioned several times in the review, it really is MUCH higher quality than any other book I’ve ordered in the past.  However, it certainly is more expensive.  My book was a 24 page 10×12.5″ photo hardcover book and it came out to $70 (shipping was free).  I am able to order 20 page 8×8 Shutterfly books (which retail for $29.99) typically at a 40% discount + $8 shipping– so about $26.

The design and book building process were fairly similar to the other companies I’ve tried. I would say the templates that AdoramaPix provides are not as “scrapbooky” as some of the other companies — there aren’t as many cute embellishments to pick from.  However, I was still able to create a beautiful book and there are a variety of backgrounds and templates to choose from.  It all depends on what kind of look and feel you’re going for in your book.


AdoramaPix has graciously provided a 20 page 10×10 hardcover photobook for me to give away to one lucky reader!  AdoramaPix will provide a credit for the book, but you’ll need to pay for shipping and any additional pages. Please enter by commenting below with what kind of photobook you will make! For two additional entries, follow AdoramaPix on Facebook and Twitter and leave separate comments saying you’ve done both.  Contest ends midnight PST on Wednesday, October 14th.  I will contact the winners on Thursday October 15th and you have 48 hours to confirm that you’ve accepted the prize!

Thank you to AdoramaPix for providing a credit for the photobook I made and for the contest give away. All opinions are mine.

This giveaway is open to anyone 18 or older. This giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S. Void where prohibited. Entries must be received by Wednesday, October 14, 2015, at 11:59pm PT and any entries not in accordance with the rules will be disqualified at our sole discretion and at the discretion of the sponsor. Winning entry will be chosen using After compiling the results, I will announce the winner thereafter and will email the winner. The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will redraw another entry. Winner will work with AdoramaPix to redeem the prize. Cannot be combined with other promotions. Winner will be responsible for shipping costs. Winner will be solely responsible for any taxes due on the product or prize including but not limited to sales tax, tariffs, duties and fees as well as any income tax obligations if any. Disclosure: AdoramaPix is sponsoring the prize for this giveaway. 



Leggings Review – Hue Leggings vs. Zella Live In Leggings

All 3 pairs of leggings are part of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale which ends TOMORROW NIGHT!  Get your orders in now because prices go up Monday, August 3rd!

I am about 5 or 10 years behind the times but I have finally embraced wearing leggings and skinny jeans!  Haha!  🙂  I have always thought that they make me look shorter and squatter than when wearing bootcut or flared pants, but I have now changed my opinion.

I decided to check out 3 pairs of univerally praised leggings: the Hue Ultra Wide Waistband leggings, Hue Super Smooth Denim Leggings and the Zella Live In leggings.

I loved both the Hue Ultra Wide Waistband and the Zella Live In leggings.  Was not a fan of the Hue denim leggings.

Hue Ultra Wide Waistband Leggings

The Hue Ultra Wide Waistband leggings were so comfy.  I tried on the XS and they were a little long for me (I’m 5’1) but the waistband and legs fit well (I typically wear 24 or 25 in jeans). I will need to get them hemmed since I don’t like the scrunched look at the bottom.  The leggings were a nice matte fabric and most importantly, not sheer!

The rise was mid-rise for me.  I measured them to be a 9″ rise in the center.

Zella Live In Leggings

I had tried the Zella Live In capri length a few years ago and I own several pairs for lounging around the house and working out.  I decided to get a pair of the full length for winter time.

These are also very matte and not sheer at all.  I tried on the XXS and the XS and I preferred the fit of the XS.  The XXS was just a little too snug and felt a little like compression socks!  Haha!  I measured the difference between the XXS and the XS while laying the 2 pairs flat, and in the legs, they are about 1 cm smaller throughout the leg.  The waist and length were exactly the same.

The Zella leggings are a lower rise than the Hue leggings.  I measured them to be a 7″ rise in the center. The fabric is slightly thicker weight than the Hue leggings.  Like the Hue leggings, these will need to be hemmed.

I think the Zella leggings could be worn outside of being active, but the inside seam is a little more of a prominent flat lock seam than the Hue leggings.

Hue Denim Leggings

I tried the Hue denim leggings on in the store.  These ran really small!  I tried an XS and couldn’t get them on my legs at all and sized up to S for a comfortable fit.  However, the main reason I didn’t like them was the fit was very saggy in the crotch area. I wonder if this is because I had to size up?  In any case, I wasn’t a big fan of the fit.


2015 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Picks, Reviews and my Haul!

Early Access for the 2015 Nordstrom Anniversary started, which means yours truly was up late shopping in the wee hours of this morning and out the door fairly early this morning.

I was a little disappointed with handbags this year. I didn’t see anything that I could really see myself using.  The only bag that I thought was cute was the Patricia Nash Bronte fringe bucket bag — except I really can’t stand how unorganized everything gets so I passed.

Patricia Nash - Bronte Fringe Bucket bag
Patricia Nash – Bronte Fringe Bucket bag

Some of the Michael Kors bags were cute, but I am not really in the market for any non-cross bags right now.

MICHAEL Michael Kors
MICHAEL Michael Kors
MZ Wallace
MZ Wallace

The Ted Baker shopper on the right was cute, but again — not really what I need right now.

Kate Spade
Kate Spade and Ted Baker

I was really excited to finally find a pair of boots! I’ve been looking since the Fall and I wasn’t able to find anything with a shaft height that looked good on my short legs.  I saw these Naturalizer Jennings boots in store and loved them.  The shoe tent was craaaaaazy crowded and we actually thought there was a line to get in!

Naturalizer Jennings Tall Boot
Naturalizer Jennings Tall Boot
Cole Haan Tali Bow Wedge Pump
Cole Haan Tali Bow Wedge Pump
AGL Link Ballet Flat - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
AGL Link Ballet Flat
Vince Camuto Pazell Boot and Naturalizer Jennings Boot

Clothing was kind of a bust for me too.  I ordered a few more of the Halogen U-Neck t-shirts that I love.  I got some last year and they’ve held up well for me.  (I wash on delicate cycle and hang dry.)

Halogen U-Neck Tshirt - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Halogen U-Neck Tshirt

I only found 1 sweater that I thought was cute, which was a super soft Bobeau open cardi.  I tried on this one and the super popular Barefoot Dreams cardi and the Bobeau one was better on my petite frame. BTW – the Bobeau comes in a few colors, but DO NOT order the “burgundy”. It is a really awful shade of orangey red.  The Barefoot Dreams cardigan sold out last year, so I would highly recommend ordering sooner rather than later if you’re interested in it!  The material is SUPER SOFT!  I just think it was a little too long for me. I wish I was taller!!!  My friend is a little taller than me and got it and it looks great on her!

Bobeau Open Cardi - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Bobeau Open Cardi

Barefoot Dreams Cardigan - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Barefoot Dreams Cardigan

In the lingerie/lounge wear tent I found some SUPER soft modal pajamas by PJ Salvage. I have seen this brand at Nordstrom before but I had never tried anything until today. I loved their silky soft material and I picked up this tank top and I’m seriously considering if I should order the pajama set as well.

PJ Salvage Crochet Back Tank Top - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
PJ Salvage Crochet Back Tank Top

PJ Salvage Pajamas - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
PJ Salvage Pajamas also available in Plus size
PJ Salvage Pajamas - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
PJ Salvage Pajamas – Super silky and soft and the colors were so vibrant!


Finally, I have to mention the amazingly soft throws I found in the home department. I honestly don’t know if I can pick a favorite!  I already own 2 from last year… so perhaps I should just complete the set and buy one of each? 🙂

On the more luxe side, Giraffe at Home and Barefoot Dreams both make wonderfully soft throws, but they are slightly different.  Giraffe at Home is more of a faux fur and the Barefoot Dreams is more of a chenille.  Both are super duper soft!  I bought the Giraffe at Home one last year and everyone loves to cuddle up with it.

Giraffe at Home Throw - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Giraffe at Home Throw

Barefoot Dreams Cozy Chic Throw - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Barefoot Dreams Cozy Chic Throw

Both of those throws are rather pricey, but these two are much more wallet friendly and just as soft. The Kennebunk is a steal at $25.90!  The Nordstrom at Home throw is also super soft and very similar to the Giraffe At Home throw, and is priced at only $31.90.

Kennebunk Home Plush Throw - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Kennebunk Home Plush Throw

Nordstrom At Home Stripe Plush Throw - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Nordstrom At Home Stripe Plush Throw
Giraffe at Home Throw - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Giraffe at Home Throw


Barefoot Dreams cozy throw - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
A stack of warm hugs aka the Barefoot Dreams cozy throw


Kennebunk Home plush throw - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
A total steal of an item – Kennebunk Home plush throw


Nordstrom At Home Throw - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Nordstrom At Home Throw – The green and grey were my favorite colors

What were your favorite items from the sale?

Review of the Pottery Barn Daily System

April 2017 Update: From the comments, there have been TONS of issues with the whiteboard calendar bubbling. Since I don’t have this piece, I haven’t experienced it myself. If any of you readers would like to submit a photo so I can post it here, please send it in. I can be reached at shoppingismyworkout @ gmail dot com.  Thanks 🙂

Ok so in my last post, I detailed how I fell in love with the Pottery Barn Daily System and how it took a month for it to all arrive at my doorstep!

Pottery Barn Daily System Review
Pottery Barn Daily System

Now onto a review of the daily system itself!

First off, I love how there are so many components for various purposes.  I love that you can build something totally custom to what your needs are.

Second, I think it is generally well made.  The pieces feel solid and the paint is well done.  I’m happy with how it looks on the wall, but getting it mounted was another saga.

I had my husband help me with the whole process and we both got really frustrated with how difficult it was to mount and with how long it ended up taking.

First, we pasted the paper template to the wall where we wanted the display rod to go.  I love that Pottery Barn includes mounting templates!  (They also include them with the Gallery Wall frames which were IMMENSELY helpful!)

We made sure that the template was level, then we figured out whether or not we need to use the drywall anchors or not.  It turns out we were not going to be able to use any studs so we had to screw in the anchors first.  Next we screwed in the screws for the display rod.

Pottery Barn Daily System Mounting Bar
Pottery Barn Daily System 24″ Display Rod

We slid the linen pinboard into the rod to check it out and we came upon problem #1: the pinboard was not even CLOSE to being flush with the wall.  The display bar was ever so slightly angled and this was causing the pinboard to “kick out” about a 1/2″.  We loosened the display bar slightly and got the pinboard to hang a bit better.  You can see below, we never actually got it fully 100% flush with the wall, but its close enough.

Pottery Barn Daily System
Pottery Barn Daily System – not 100% flush with the wall

The next problem I noticed was that the pinboard was crooked–really, really crooked.  We were so confused because we had made sure that the anchors were all going into the wall in a straight line.  We checked and rechecked and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the mounting bar.  I had a mini level (like this one) that came with a photo frame so we used that to check that the display bar was perfect.  Then we started checking the pinboard for clues.  Turns out that the pinboard’s hooks were problematic.

Pottery Barn Daily System - Pinboard
Pottery Barn Daily System – Pinboard

As you can see, the pinboard hangs on the display bar via those two hooks.  The hooks slide into the cylindrical space on the display bar.

Pottery Barn Daily System - Hinge
Pottery Barn Daily System – Display Hook

Unfortunately, pinboard’s hooks were not mounted evenly.  Fortunately though, they were screwed in and not hammered in, so they were relatively easy to adjust.  My husband made a few adjustments and we were able to make it so that the pinboard was less crooked.  Ultimately, there wasn’t enough “give” in the positioning to make it perfect but it is fairly close now.

Once we got the pinboard up, the lower letter bin and organizer were much easier.  I made the mistake of ordering 2 separate 12″ bars. I really should have ordered a single 24″ bar, but oh well, it is fine. I couldn’t figure out how to snap the “joining” piece onto the 2 half sized bars so we left that out.

Pottery Barn Daily System
Pottery Barn Daily System – Hurray! We finished!

Ultimately, the daily system ended up being ever so slightly crooked.  The pinboard hangs slightly to the left due to the unbalanced hooks.  It was a 1/4″ difference before we adjusted everything and now its closer to 1/8″.

Because the pinboard is not straight, the lower level did not align with the bottom of the pinboard.  We ended up “cheating” everything over slightly so it aligned.  If you look really closely, the components are not 100% lined up with the display bars.  We tried to make it look as straight as possible because just outside of the photo above is the end of the wall, making it really obvious that it ever so slightly crooked.

Overall, I’m fairly happy with the purchase, but I don’t know if I’d risk the marital strife and stress again!  I am a bit OCD about having everything line up and be square and it bugs me a little that it isn’t.  Hopefully once we use it for awhile I won’t notice anymore 🙂

Let me know if you have any questions about the Pottery Barn Daily System.  I’d be happy to answer!  Btw – I noticed that the daily system is on sale for 20% off and free shipping now!  Woohoo!