Favorite Purchases of 2019

It's the end of the year, which makes it a great time to look back and reflect!  I'll be doing this in a few posts, but I'm starting out with my favorite purchases of 2019.

This was definitely a year of "quality over quantity" in terms of buying things.  I tend to spend more money on travel and try to cut back on other areas in my life, so when I do make a purchase I try to make it thoughtfully and carefully.  Here are the major purchases that I made!

Dog Canopy
Starting with a fun one here- we got a canopy for the car for Selma this year.  We decided to lease a new car after having issues with cars that we've actually bought.  In order to keep it clean so we aren't charged with fees if we decide to turn it back it, we wanted to get a cover to protect the fabric seats from Selma's muddy paws.  This ended up being a fantastic purchase, because Selma actually seems to enjoy car rides now, and we don't have to worry about cleaning her off after a wet…

Highlights from Osaka

For our final major city of our whirlwind trip to Japan, we decided on Osaka (don't worry- there are two more day trips that we took so this isn't the last post!).  To me, this city felt the most familiar- it was a lot more laid back and lively than the other cities.  People were talking more in public, cars revved their engines on the roads, and you walked on the right side of the sidewalks instead of the left!  The city definitely had a more edgy and young feeling to it, and I really enjoyed it.  Here are some highlights!

Conrad Osaka Our final hotel was definitely the best- the location was ideal and seemed to be close to everything, the service was top notch, and we had a special lounge area for being Diamond Members which served a special breakfast and happy hour every day (saving us lots of money!).  The room was really beautiful too with a jaw-dropping view of the city.  The architecture and design of the building has also been showcased in magazines, and it's easy …

Two Days in Miyajima

When Dan and I were planning our trip to Japan, he had the genius idea to rotate between big cities and smaller villages.  While I didn't think much of this at the time, I think that became a saving grace and best part of our trip.  When we were about to leave Tokyo, I was starting to feel worn out by the crowds, always catching trains, and exploring SO much while feeling like there was still so much we were missing.  Hakone was the perfect antidote to that, with a relaxing and reinvigorating stay.

Similarly, while Kyoto was incredible and we had so much fun, I was definitely looking forward to a more laid back and relaxing next portion of our trip, which came in the form of Miyajima.  A little island in Hiroshima Bay, this area topped most of the lists of most beautiful places to visit in Japan.  It definitely lived up to the hype!  Read on for what we did in our 3 days and 2 nights.

Ryokan I mentioned in other posts that all of our hotels were paid for using points, and because …

December Goals

Happy last month of this decade!  Hard to believe, but let's try to make this one the best!  It was a very busy month for me with trips to Indianapolis, Portugal, Washington DC, and Carlisle, so let's take a look back at how I did on my goals from November, and make a few for December.

Finish two races Technically I did finish two races, but if you read my Indy recap you'll know that I didn't finish the race I wanted to.  The Pittsburgh 10 Miler was great and I had a really fun time running with friends, and I had a lot of leg issues during the Indy Marathon so I dropped to the half during the race. Still got my medals for finishing, but still dealing with a little pain weeks later.  
Deep clean I did clean my house pretty thoroughly, but not sure if it would be considered a "deep clean".  I made sure to go through each room and everything looks great (felt great to come home from that after my trip!) but could still clean a bit more in December.
Finish writi…

Hiroshima Highlights

Back again today with the next stop on our trip, which was Hiroshima!  This was a little different than other places we've visited, because this was just a stop to get to our next destination (Miyajima, coming in the next post).  Our train from Kyoto took us into Hiroshima, where we had to change to a local train to the Miyajimaguchi station and finally get a ferry over to the island.  But, since we were stopping in Hiroshima anyway, we spent a few hours exploring.

The good thing about most train stations we were in was that there were cubbies for your luggage so you could stow and walk around without lugging around a bunch of bags!  We took advantage of that, then set off for the city.

I had a vague idea of the significance of Hiroshima, but definitely learned a lot more while we were there.  This was the first city that was targeted by a nuclear weapon, back in 1945 during World War II.  You could still see remnants of the damage, most notably the Atomic Bomb Dome.  This was the…

3 Days in Kyoto - Experiences

Welcome back to part two of my Kyoto diaries!  Today I'll be sharing what we actually did (if you want to see a sampling of what and where we ate, see this post!).  We definitely packed in a lot in the three days that we were there, and some of our experiences are my favorites of any trip I've ever been on.  I would highly suggest putting Kyoto at the top of your travel wish list!

Hotel We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, which was another amazing hotel (like I mentioned before, we used all of the hotel points that we earned for the past few years, so it was definitely a splurge).  Every night, we were invited to see a maiko (apprentise geisha) perform and were served champagne.  It was a great way to relax after walking around all day, and the maiko were always so beautiful with their performances and just looked absolutely perfect.  After the performance, they would walk around and interact with the guests and take pictures.  The geisha lifestyle was always intriguing to …