Venus Trapped in Mars Sports and Lifestyle Blog Dallas

29 May 2015

Oh How I Wish You Could See What I See

I share a lot on this blog. I share struggles and insecurities, I share my weekends and my life. I want to show you everything I see. Oddly enough though, you've never seen my boyfriend. You have no idea what his name is. You know a crazy, insane amount about someone I refer to as Chalupa Batman for goodness sake!

Even crazier, if I had to guess, you probably feel like you know him. I hope you feel that way, I mean, I talk about him way too much on here. I told you that he is a fixer and that I'm pretty sure he knows now that it would be in his best interest to clearly define a bet

One thing that I mentioned briefly in a post a few months ago is a tradition that we have that is quite possibly my favorite thing in the history of ever. We always kiss twice. We were hanging out one day, and he kissed me and I joked... "Nooooo I want another one! I could never just have one of those! They are like potato chips!" So from there on out, we always kiss twice. Maybe it is for good luck, or maybe it is just because, well, kissing is fun... but either way! I think it is a pretty cute superstition to have.  

I cannot believe that the universe brought me a man who makes me laugh so hard. A man who likes to do all the same things I like to do. Who loves the same sports teams I do (** highly important, I am actively working on deepening his love for the Vols, but I assure you that he feels some type of way). A man who will try anything and makes me feel brave enough to try anything too. A man who makes me feel beautiful and confident in my own skin. A man who is so proud of me no matter what, and who makes me feel totally unstoppable with him by my side. 

I look at him and I am astounded by the things he has accomplished. I'm so impressed and inspired by the sacrifices he's made, and the accomplishments he's achieved up to this point. I love to watch the way he cherishes his family and friends, his kindness to total strangers, the pride he puts into every last thing he does, but especially in our relationship. Every time I see his face, my eyes smile from my cheeks (line credit: Ed Sheeran). I seriously cannot fathom how it manages to get better every single day. I thought I was going to burst open with happiness when we first dropped L Bombs... but looking back, that was nothing compared to how I feel now. 

I didn't know that feeling this way about another human being was possible. Sure, I believed in love.... but what I have with CB?? I can't say that I believed that existed. My eyes are tearing up while I type this post because I'm simply not sure what I did to deserve something so special, something so rare, something so life changing and something so beautiful. 

Tomorrow will be one year since we started dating. I love you.


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27 May 2015

How To Put Together A Successful Giveaway + $150 Nordstrom Giveaway

Every month, I put together my ESPN 2 Sponsor's group guest post, and set up a group giveaway. Giveaways get a a much higher amount of page views than an average post, so more often than not, I'll combine the two -- the group guest post and the giveaway -- so that my ESPN2 sponsor guest post will benefit from that higher traffic.

Here are some other tips I've found successful along the way.

How I Organize a Group Guest Post

1. Google Docs
Once you make an original google doc for your sponsors who will participate in a group giveaway, you can simply reuse it every single month. With a full time job, blog and side design business, my email is difficult enough to keep up with. I use google docs to keep up with everything from blog template installations to sponsor and giveaway information. Here is a link to my google doc form for the group guest post.

2. Ask Your Sponsors for Their Top 2 Favorite Posts
Let them show off their best, most popular work for your readers to first see. Personally, I would prefer to send potential new readers to my best posts, than to take a chance that a new reader lands on a sponsored post or something that may not convey what my blog is really about.

3. Setup a Graphic
Put some effort in for your sponsors. Don't just copy and paste a blurb and some links. Make it look pretty, they'll get more clicks that way and maybe sponsor you again.

4. Ask questions that allow their personality to shine through
I'm the WORST at comping up with a good "tell me about your blog" blurb. I usually end up talking about sports too much, even though my blog is much broader than that. Although I think a blurb about their blog is effective to use in a group guest post, include another question or task that lets your readers really get a better idea of who this blogger is.

::: Some examples of questions I've used in the past :::

What are the top 5 favorite cities you've ever visited? // example

What are 5 things you would do on a weekend with no plans? // example

Hey that's a cute kid! Include a picture of you as a kid for us. // example

What GIF most accurately describes you and your blog? // example

What is your favorite pin you've pinned recently? // example



How I Organize a Group Giveaway

1. Don't let everyone contribute their own prize
When I first started blogging, everyone was doing this for their group giveaway. You'd have a giveaway that included 4 different blogger's ad space, random assortments of lipsticks, nail polishes and other odds and ends. I didn't see a big enough incentive for people to enter, and personally found it a little bizarre, so I never ran one like that. Just collect money for a cash prize or gift certificate. It is more effective, and paying your winner their prize is a heck of a lot smoother.

2. I never like to put my own personal links before I list everyone else's
When hosting a giveaway, put other's links before your own. I think it looks really bad when you open start to enter a group giveaway and the host's links are all listed first. The primary purpose of hosting a giveaway is to promote your sponsors. 

3. Don't "Collect Any Info From Visitors to Verify This Entry"
You'll see a box checked when making your Rafflecopter giveaway that says "Collect Any Info From Visitors to Verify This Entry".... uncheck that.  When you pick a winner, it will give you their full name and email address, and tell you what entry won them the giveaway. Go by that information and verify that they completed the entry. In two years, I have yet to have a single problem verifying using this process. Your entries will increase when you don't make your readers jump through hoops to enter.

4. There is no need to make people comment
I used to do this for every giveaway, and ask a silly, pointless question like "What's your favorite color?!" If that giveaway had 100 entries, that would be 100 emails in my inbox with one word answers like, "pink." COOL. You're not gaining exposure from blog comments, and it was annoying for my readers and annoying for me.

5. The Bloglovin Like/Save button is your best friend****
I have a full post on the bloglovin save/like button here. One of your first entries should be for readers to "like this post via bloglovin." When your post hits a certain amount of likes, it appears on the popular page and you have access to THOUSANDS of people you normally wouldn't reach.

6. Suggest but don't require everyone share it on their blog
Man I hate it when people tell me I HAVE to share a giveaway on my blog. I'd have probably shared it anyway, but when you tell me that it is mandatory I get peeved. Just request that your sponsors post the giveaway at the end of one of their regularly scheduled blog posts, but that it is certainly not mandatory. From past experience, this works just fine and your sponsors will more than likely post it!
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Now, let's put it all to work! 

Meet my friends this month, Alanna and Rachel, and then check out this month's $150 giveaway to Nordstrom! 


Alanna & Company

::: Start Here ::: 15 Signs You're Going Through A Quarter Life Crisis // Why I Love DC
::: Get Social ::: Twitter // Insta // Facebook

What Are The Top 5 Cities Alanna Has Visited?

1. Nashville
I just visited and it's amazing. The weather is awesome (except if you have allergies, beware!), they have amazing restaurants which are somehow at the same time really affordable, and let's be real, the music scene!!
 
2. San Francisco
I actually didn't really like it the first time I went there, but I've been there a lot for work and it's really starting to grow on me. Tons of touristy areas but so many more places for me to visit.
 
3. New Orleans
There's a special place in my heart for New Orleans. I went to Mardi Gras the first year that I went there and there's nothing quite like it. It's also an amazing, completely unique culture that I love. And hello, you can get po' boys!
4. Vancouver
The natural beauty is amazing plus there's tons of outdoor activities to do. Also, great food. Are you sensing a trend here?
 
5. Cabo
Hands down my best vacation was in Cabo. I know a lot of people are scared to travel to Mexico but don't be for Cabo. It's safe to totally walk around the city, like 99.9% of the people speak English, and the water is perfect. You can even meet Paco the sea lion! Put it on your list for your next resort vacation!







 Small Towns and City Lights

::: Start Here ::: London Adventures: Part One // 24 Hours in Brussels
::: Get Social ::: Twitter // Insta // Facebook // Bloglovin

What Are The Top 5 Cities Rachel Has Visited?

1. London, England: 
The #1 place on my bucket list for years, and post-trip, my favorite destination I've ever visited. So much history, the accents, the decorations (at Christmastime). It was just perfect!

2. Brussels, Belgium: 
The beer, the waffles, the chocolate! Need I say more?

3. New York, New York: 
I used to live just outside of NYC, so I frequented NYC (and still do) a lot. There's so much to see/do!

4. Napa Valley: 
Wine, cheese, and views you seriously cannot beat.

5. Maui, Hawaii: 
So much adventure here! The beaches are beautiful and it's just so relaxing - and exciting at the same time.


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a Rafflecopter giveaway


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26 May 2015

Top 10 Of The Best Games for Game Night

To kick off the Memorial Day weekend, CB and I had some friends over to my apartment for a game night. I spent the week coming up with the best games and ideas for an adult game night. Getting together with friends to play games is my favorite, well, as long as I win that is. As you know though, there is one thing I like more than winning, and that's my boyfriend pizza

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and TONY’S® Pizza, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #BigPizzeriaTaste http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV





A game night is not officially a game night until someone brings out the pizzas. That afternoon, I went to Walmart and picked up TONY’S® Pizza for everyone, both pepperoni and cheese. Since they are 30% larger, I knew I would avoid the dreaded Pizzafinitophobia....
You can never be too careful, I suffer a deep, deep fear of Pizzafinitophobia. If you have similar fears, might I recommend this digital coupon to save $.75 off any two Tony’s Pizzas (14.14 oz. or larger), which is available at Walmart until 6/30/15 while supplies last. I'd bring a friend with you, have them bring the coupon too, and grab 2 more pizzas. Or heck, bring 8 friends.... just a suggestion.








I'd like to say that I enjoy playing many different games during game nights because I like to pack as much fun as possible into one evening, but I actually like to play many different games because I will insist we play something new once I start losing. This, my friends, is what I like to call strategery. 

Here are my favorite game night games that you should always have on hand when having friends over. A few are so easy that they can even be downloaded right to your smart phone! 




     
1. Heads Up! (for mobile)
It's the game The New York Times called a "Sensation," and Cosmopolitan said "will be the best dollar you've spent." Heads Up! is the fun and hilarious game from Ellen DeGeneres that she plays on her show, and you can play with your friends! From naming celebrities, to singing, to silly accents -- guess the word on the card that’s on your head from your friends' clues before the timer runs out!

2. Evil Apples (for mobile)
Evil Apples is a filthy & hilarious card game inspired by the popular party game Cards Against Humanity. You have a question card and an answer card like Cards Against Humanity, but it is all done right on your phone! 

3. Paranoia (no accessories needed)
You whisper a question in the person's ear to your left, the answer of which has to be somebody playing the game. For example, “Who has the best butt in the room?". You then respond your answer to the question, out loud to the group. If someone wants to know what the question was, they have to take a drink, or eat a slice of pizza in 30 seconds... whatever you choose!

4. Left Right Center (physical game) 
This game is good for any age. We once played it with CB's nephew who is 5, yet it's still fun for adults. This game can last all night long, but if you are the last man standing, you win the big pot of cash (or skittles, or peanuts, or chips... whatever you want to play with).

5. Scattergories (physical game)
This might be my favorite game of all time. You team up in this fast-paced game and rack your brain for items that fit the category. Can you think of articles of clothing, things you fold, or things at the beach that start with S? You score points when you come up with things that no one else does. But you've only got seconds to come up with them! The more creative your answers, the more points you score!

6. Cornhole (physical game)
If the weather is nice, head outside for game night. We played about 3 hours of cornhole over the weekend, alternating teams each time. You toss beanbags at the cornhole board, with your goal of making it on the board or in the hole. It gets tricky though, because your team has to finish at 21. You can't go over 21 points, go over and you get knocked back down to just 13 points. 

7. Spin My Party (mobile game)
At each turn, the players must spin the wheel and get a challenge to perform. If they do it, they earn the points at stake. Whoever reaches the game ending score first, wins. You even get to make your own prize wheels and create the challenges! 

8. Spoons (no accessories needed)
This game is played by sitting in a circle with one less spoon in the middle than there are participants (kind of like musical chairs). Each player starts with 4 cards in their hands. The goal is to get 4 of the same rank. As a deck of cards is passed around the circle one card at a time, your goal is to find a desired card and then discreetly exchange it for one you want to discard from your hand. Once you get 4 cards of the same rank, discreetly get a spoon from the middle. When other players notice that a spoon is missing from the the middle, they all must attempt to grab a spoon as quickly as possible in order to not be the only one left without one.

9. Camera Hot Potato (mobile game)
Set the self-timer on a camera or cell phone and the game begins. Each player must hold the camera at arm's length and point it at themselves very briefly (like a selfie), before passing it on to their left. Keep going, until eventually the camera goes off with a flash of light, and much laughter. Check out the shot before starting again. The photos you get will be very amusing. Great for Facebook and sharing

10. Cards Against Humanity (physical game)
I'm sure you know about this one, but I couldn't not put it on the list! Best adult game night game out there. Invest in the expansion packs, you won't regret it. 





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22 May 2015

That Don't Play Here

 Shirt Can Be Found HERE

Since we are a depressing 4 months removed from college football, and another 4 months until the drought ends, I thought I would use today as an important reminder of how worth it it is to patiently sit and wait for game day. As you know, I graduated from the best university in the world, The University of Tennessee. No really, factually, it is the best university in the history of ever. I read that on the internet and you can't put anything on the internet that isn't true. 

I have an insane amount of pride for my school, and it is only intensified by living so far away from it. My poor boyfriend has to put up with me stopping to scream, "GO BIG ORANGE" to any stranger that is wearing Tennessee paraphernalia. 

We were at the amusement park in Missouri when I spotted a young man wearing a Tennessee Football shirt and I darted over to him as fast as I could to scream "GO VOLS!!" Actually, the way real Vols fans pronounce it is more like "GO VAAAAWWWLLS!" I think I scared the crap out of him, but he managed to still muster up a, "yeah!" back at me. 

Anytime I see a car with a Tennessee sticker on it, I honk and wave like a 13 year old girl who just spotted Taylor Swift in the car next to them. I will scream, "T T T T" even when I'm in the car by myself. Spotting a Tennessee Power T on someone's car in Dallas is comparable to the excitement I felt as a kid on Christmas morning. Am I a little crazy? Yeahhhh.... actually no I'm not. This is totally normal super fan behavior, IMO. 

My point here? I love Tennessee. So when I saw this video I knew I had to dedicate a Fan Friday post to it. 

And do me a favor this week, will you guys? Please, if you see a Tennessee Power T, just scream T T T in your car for me? That isn't too much to ask right? 

GO BIG ORANGE!



Venus Trapped in Mars


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21 May 2015

That Time I Found $10

A couple of days ago I was walking my dogs, the usual occurrence that happens twice daily, but sometimes not until 10am on Saturdays if Friday night lasted until after midnight. On the occasional weekend morning, my boyfriend will wake up without saying a word, get out of bed and take them on a walk for me. If you are a single dog mom that lives in a 3rd floor apartment without a back yard, then you will know that is, without a sliver of a doubt, the most romantic thing a boyfriend can do for his girlfriend. Forget flowers or chocolates or surprise bottles of wine, if a boy is willing to walk two dogs that were not originally adopted by him, that's romance. That's love. Surprise wine is also love though, just so we aren't leaving that out. 
So like I was saying, I was walking the dogs on Tuesday afternoon. There are two very slender, long patches of grass designated solely for dog poop next to my building. Every hooman that lives in the building is fully aware that stepping anywhere in either row of grass can be lethal. I'm walking Gee and Veenie along, watching their bum holes, hoping for poop on the horizon (if you're a dog parent then you're lying if you say you don't do this too), when I spot a crumpled up $10 bill in the grass. 
To say I felt psychotic over the series of thoughts that would follow is an understatement.  
My first thought was obviously to pick it up. 
Before I picked the money up, I spotted a man and his dog out of the corner of my eye. He was closer to me than he should have been, abusing the unspoken, yet implied, "allow 30 feet of space between the dogs you're walking and someone else's dogs." The man was lingering in the no-zone, 25ish feet away. 
I instantly decided that he was conducting a social psychological experiment to see how many people would pick up the 10 bill. If I picked up that $10, my picture would surely be found in a University of Texas at Dallas study, showcasing the link between those that picked up the $10, and long-term emotional damage from the verbal abuse of a summer camp counselor or something.  
 
I briskly walked in the other direction, acting as if I had never even seen the money. 
When that man and his dog headed back inside without taking my picture on a disposable flip phone or scribbling any notes, I walked the dogs back toward the money. 
I paced the same 5 feet back and forth, essentially standing guard over the money. Thoughts continued...
What if that show What Would You Do Is Taping Me? I'll be forever on television, portrayed as the greedy, desperate girl that couldn't just leave the $10 in the grass for the original owner to come back and retrieve. The girl that didn't even try to put posters up, "FOUND $10. No tags. Call 555-555-5555 to claim." 
No one is looking, just pick it up. I could get Chipotle WITH guacamole!!!

Then I got bit by a mosquito. I smacked my ankle and took that as a sign to leave it. 
I'll leave it for one of the homeless guys that always begs for money. 

But what if some random girl walking her dogs takes it for herself, the homeless guys won't get the $10.

I'll just pick it up and save it for one of the homeless guys that asks me for money. They'll be so happy. 

Another guy came out to walk his dog, and, after quickly determining he was a psychology student at Baylor, I scurried inside with one dog who had pooped and one who hadn't, abandoning the wadded up $10 bill. 
I checked the next morning, vowing to pick it up if it was there, and it was of course gone. I felt crazy. Like a crazy person. 
I told CB I had found $10 and you know what he said? He said, "Oh sweet! We can get Chipotle.
I then explained my full thought process and why we wouldn't be having Chipotle. He listened, agreed that I was indeed crazy. But the sweet man that he is told me he loved me for my crazy. 
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20 May 2015

Things To Do in the Ozarks Mountains, Table Rock Lake and Branson, Missouri

As you probably know by now, last week I went on a vacation with CB and his family to the Ozark Mountains, Table Rock Lake and Branson, Missouri. There were an abundance of things to do in the Ozarks and in Branson, both for a family vacationing with kids or for those looking for a romantic relaxing couples vacation. I've got a lot of pictures, so here are my favorite views, scenery and attractions from the week! Oh, and after writing this post, I feel the need to add that this is in no way a sponsored post, but if they would like to send me back please email me at your earliest convenience. 

1. Visit A Winery
Our first day was literally, but thank goodness not figuratively, a wash. The rain poured without ceasing, on what became an 8 hour drive from Dallas. Wanting to maximize every second of our trip, CB and I decided we would spend the afternoon doing what we (I) do best, drinking wine! We took a tour of the indoor Stone Hill Winery in Branson, Missouri. Our tour guide boasted over the winery's many awards, and I see why, Their dry wines they offered were without a doubt some of the best wines I've ever had. We took home a bottle of the Norton and the Hermannsberger










2. Fly fish
I went fishing with CB and his brother three of the days we were there. I had never been fly fishing before, but if someone else does all the work and sets up the pole, then takes the fish off the hook for you, I highly recommend it. We fly fished at Roaring River State Park a couple of times (shown below), and CB and his brother also fly fished on Lake Taneycomo






3. Rent a boat and cruise Table Rock Lake
Lucky enough to wake up Tuesday morning to beautiful sunshine, we enjoyed a full day of floating down Table Rock Lake on the pontoon. Don't you worry, I played bartender and embraced my official roll as the boat's Bloody Mary maker. 








I promise I took more pictures than just of my full serving of fruits, vegetables and vodka, but CB is in them all. Whomp Whomp. 

4. Bike Through Dogwood Canyon
We brought our own bikes with us on the trip, so we saved a few bucks off admission for the bike tour through Dogwood Canyon. I probably would have paid double, it was just that beautiful. I for sure recommend biking, six roundtrip miles could get tiring if you're walking! You can bring your own bike, rent a bike on site, rent a segway, walk or take a bus tour. Caution: Photos of CB's backside ahead....


















5. Take a Golf Cart Ride Through The Lost Canyon Cave
And in the most insanely beautiful Wednesday anyone has ever had, we left Dogwood Canyon and headed straight for the Lost Canyon Cave at Top of the Rock. For the best $25 you'll ever spend (plus the cost of beer at their bar, the "Bat Cave"), you get to ride a golf cart through this jaw dropping scenery....














The photographer in me was going a little bonkers with ridiculous delight...




6. Have a Cocktail or Glass of Wine at Top of the Rock
Just when you think you've seen the most beautiful parts of Top of the Rock, you can take a quick shuttle over to their main grounds. There you'll find the Ozarks Natural History Museum, or if you're more like me, you'll find the Buffalo Bar and Wine Cellar. No matter what you're scouting out though, your eyeballs will say "This is the greatest day of our livesssssssss!







 This guyyyyyyy...... 










 7. Let Your Inner Kid Come Out and Play at Silver Dollar City
We spent Thursday riding roller coasters at Branson's awesome amusement park, Silver Dollar City. CB and I both said we thought we were too old to be riding roller coasters, so I decided to tone my maturity level down a few notches, or years in this case.  








 8. Stop the Car
Be prepared to stop the car at a moment's notice. There are incredible scenic overlooks throughout the Ozarks! 




 9. Just Stay Home
Or you could just stay at home. Not a bad idea when your home for the week is a Chalet on Table Rock Lake. BRB... going to move into that little cove with the waterfall in the swimming pool. 








 
Whew
That was a lot of pictures, but I just couldn't leave any out!! 
Can you blame me??! 


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