Currently [August]

I just realized it’s the last week of August.  I’m sorry what?  It feels like yesterday I was typing out how excited I was for Europe and school and now it’s almost September!?  Before you know it I’ll be putting up my Christmas tree and saying goodbye to my students for winter break!

For now though I thought I’d give you a tiny update on a few things.  SO here is what I am…..

Feeling…surprised and relieved.  I’m surprised because I have had such a successful first 3 days.  We had our first real history based lesson today and I was shocked because most of my students were actually participating in the lesson.  It was like pulling teeth getting my students to participate last year!  I’m feeling relieved because the first week of school is almost over!

Reading…All the Light We Cannot See.  I started the book while in Europe but haven’t had a single moment free to read nor have I felt like picking up a book and reading at all.  Which is strange for me because I can usually read anytime, anywhere.

Drinking…Dr. Pepper.  Even thought I should be drinking water.  I set a goal for myself to drink more water and I have failed miserably.  Any tips y’all have to help with drinking more water would be much appreciated! 

Watching…the latest episode of Real Housewives of Orange County, for the second time.  There really isn’t anything else on.  But I am SOOOO excited for all my fall shows to come back in a few weeks!

Thinking about…

Wearing…School volleyball shirt and yoga pants.  Said yoga pants have a nice big hole in the front now so they can no longer be worn out of the house.  But they are my most comfortable ones and so I still wear them out of the house.

Working on…Lessons for next week.  We’re going to be over our first two settlements, Jamestown and Plymouth.  Another of my goals this school year is to be prepared with all my lessons at least a week in advance.  I don’t want to be pulling together lessons the day of…wait what?  Sorry I mean the day before, because you know, teachers never do that.

Excited about…Ladies of London coming back to Bravo!!  Woo hoo! I absolutely LOVED the first season and cannot wait to see what my favorite American turned Brit Bravo-leberities have been up too.

Loving…these shoes, this sweater, and this quote….

What a nice thought! 🙂

Have a great Thursday!

Classroom Tour: Ms. Norris’ 8th Grade US History Class

And just like that, the first two days of school are officially over.  And I survived!  So far things are going pretty great.  So great in fact that I’m little worried that it’s all too good to be true.  But I’m gonna hold on to these first two days for as long as I can, because I know it’s just a matter of time before a few of these precious 8th graders of mine show me their true colors.  I’ll be ready for them when they do! 🙂

Ok so I’ve spent the last week and most of my bank account getting my classroom ready for that oh so exciting first day of school.  And 5 paper cuts, 2 trips to Hobby Lobby, 3 trips to Target, 4 boxes of supplies and materials, and 2 Saturday mornings later, it looks pretty dang good if you ask me!  And I am so excited to share it with you!

I went with the same theme as last year, because I still loved it.  Turquoise, black, gold, and leopard were my main colors/patterns.  I did add ones extra pattern this year and that was chevron and I’m obsessed.  I could spend hours in this room and be completely ok with it.

Here it is!

I have my desks set up like this for the first week of school.  I want to get a feel for all the kids personalities, makes notes on who they should not be sitting next too, figure out who needs to be up front, etc.  Monday morning they will walk in and it will be set up completely different and they will have new assigned seats.  Most likely they will be sitting in pairs. Plus some of these desks will be taken out because thankfully I don’t have more than 22 students in a class and I have 30 desks.  So hello extra floor space! 

I have a Smart Board!! These babies are the bomb dot com!  I’m obsessed with it and cannot wait to find out all the things it can do.  #technologynerd

One of my goals this year is to have my class run like a well oiled machine.  To accomplish this I’ve set my classes up with very specific procedures I want them to follow throughout the time they are in my class.  I did not do this last year and I think that if I did I wouldn’t have had as many issues as I did.  I’ve found that structure is the key to good classroom management.  The more structured you class is they less time students have to misbehave.

The desks are all labeled with numbers and either an A or B, on red, white, and blue stars (because ‘MERICA) to make it easier when I need the kids to work in groups or in pairs.  That way I don’t have to worry about assigning numbers and there being lots of confusion.  So far it’s worked great!

These little babies right here are my by far my favorite thing in the classroom!  Jenny made them for me with her sewing machine!  They add SO much to the room it’s insane!  And they help the portion of me that is type A, stay sane so I don’t have to see the clutter that is on the bookshelves.  Behind these curtains you will find the class crates for student to store their notebooks, resource material for the class, and extra supplies.
(Sidenote: Jenny just started a blog of her own. So go check out! Rants and Raves by Jenny.  She’s pretty funny!)

My desk area isn’t 100% complete yet.  I printed out a ton of Instagram pictures last weekend and intend to showcase them somewhere in this area.  But I’ve literally had zero time to think about that because I’ve had about 5,000 other things to do in the last two days.

Well there ya have it!  Ms. Norris’ 8th Grade Us History classroom.  What do ya think? Would you wanna be in my class?!  Fingers crossed you would! 🙂

Linking up with Jenn and Jess!

Germany: From Cologne to Heidelberg

After two delightful days in Amsterdam, we all hoped on a private chartered bus and headed to Germany!  Thankfully there were only 20 people in our entire group so we could spread out and each have a whole row on the bus.  We drove for about three and half hours and found ourselves at our first stop, Cologne Germany.
Cologne is home to one of Europe’s great cathedrals, Cologne Cathedral.  The church itself is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.  It took over 600 years for this church to be built.  Construction began on the cathedral in 1248 and wasn’t full completed until 1880.  The entire time I was there I was thinking about the book The Pillars of the Earth, which is about the building of a cathedral that took just about as long to be built as Cologne Cathedral did.  It was a phenomenal read and I highly recommend it to everyone.  (Oh and it’s over 1,000 pages, so make sure you have plenty of time.)
And now I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Afte a light lunch and some shopping in Cologne, we were back on the bus and heading toward our River Cruise on the Rhine River.  The views were amazing, but if I’m honest, this was a bit of a disappointment for everyone.  The boat was not in the best shape, there were about 200 other people on board, the windows were dirty so it was hard to see through them and take clean pictures, and the “wine tasting” we were told we would have was just a voucher for a glass of wine.  There was no “tasting” involved.  We were also told the river would be lined with a bunch of castles and while there were a handful, it was pretty disappointing.

We then moved on to our hotel for the night, in Mannheim.  Sadly we didn’t have much time in Mannheim to see any of its sights (not even sure what there is in Mannheim actually) because we arrived later in the evening, checked into the hotel, and then headed to one of our included dinners.  Our hotel was adjacent to a park, that had gorgeous flowers and a very pretty fountain.  Plus our room had a balcony.  Only draw back to the hotel was that the air conditioning wasn’t the greatest.  But they did have a delicious breakfast (complete with chicken nuggets, weird) and comfy beds.  So overall it was pretty good.

The following day we made our way to Heidelberg for a morning guided tour and some exploring of the cute little university town.  Our tour guide was this delightful little German woman, named Bridgitte, who had no problem telling other tour groups to quiet down because HER group couldn’t hear her talking, nor did she have any problem telling US to be quiet if we were talking while she was talking.  (I have a feeling she may have been a teacher as some point).  She was hilarious and very knowledge about the whole city.

After our short bus tour around the city, we made our way to Heidelberg Castle for a guided tour with Bridgitte.  The castle was originally built in the 13th century and experiences various natural disasters (lightening bolt strikes) that caused it to be rebuilt and expanded several times throughout the 16th and 17th century.  We toured the outside of the castle and then made our way inside the castle.  The castle itself isn’t used for much these days save for tourists and the occasional opera or play inside the main courtyard.  The fact that people actually used to live here is just insane.  Just as I was after visiting Versailles I was in awe of the fact that these places were actually homes.  I just cannot imagine inviting friends over to “castle” for a visit.  Insane.

The final leg of our tour took us into the Church of the Holy Spirit, the most important church in the city.  It’s located in the center of the city right next to it’s main square.  What I found most interesting about the church was the fact that apparently in the 1700s the church was used as both a Protestant AND a Catholic church.  According to Bridigitte the towns people put up a partition and on one side a Catholic service would be held and on the other a Protestant service.  This is so neat to me because the Protestant Reformation began in Germany and the fact that the two were able to worship side by side is amazing.  Additionally, the partition was not officially taken down until the 1970s when it then became exclusively Protestant.  So crazy, huh! Gosh I love History! 🙂

After our tour was over we had some free time to explore the city on our own.  I found my parents some fantastic gifts (which they loved) and we had lunch at one of the towns brewery’s, Vetters Brauhaus.  I had a delicious Bavarian meatloaf (and no it’s not ANYTHING like the Southern meatloaf I’m sure you’re thinking of) and this delicious appetizer.  It’s a house made sourdough bread covered in Bavarian cheese.  So tasty.

After lunch we made our way back to bus to head to our next country.  Let me tell you, the German countryside is GORGEOUS!  I have to make it a point to go back to Germany and spend more time exploring that part of the country.  It was so picturesque and reminded me of Disney movies.

Overall I think I was the most disappointed with our time in Germany.  But only because I felt like we had to rushed through it.  Actually I don’t think disappointed is the correct word, I think a better one is “unfulfilled”.  I don’t feel like I got a good enough taste of Germany.  I wanted more.  So much more than what were able to get.  Clearly that means I have to make another trip to Germany, which is A-OK with me because the parts I did see I loved.  So I have a feeling I’ll love the rest of it even more.  
This has been so fun!  I am loving re-capping each country we visited and I hope y’all are too!  Come back next Tuesday because I’ll be talking about the most expensive, neutral country in the world…..Switzerland! 🙂
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All the Pretty Flowers

One of my very favorite parts of Amsterdam was the Bloemenmarkt or Flower Market in close proximity to the Amstel River.  It’s located right next to Rembrandt Square and was a convenient five minute walk from our hotel, the Eden Rembrandt Hotel. Sadly we missed seeing it the first day we were in town, the market’s hours are from 9am to 7pm every day. So the next day we made it a point to head there after we biked to the Van Gogh Museum and before we headed to the Anne Frank House.  
The market itself is a row of tents where flower venders set up all of their bulbs (of pretty much any flower you could think of), real flowers in gorgeous bouquets, souvenirs, and even fake flower arrangements.  If you plan to purchase an of the bulbs and you’re traveling back to the US and Canada, you must purchase the specially marked pre-packaged bulbs that specifically say are for transport to the US and Canada.  You will not be able to come through customs with bulbs that are not packaged properly and have the proper inspection stickers.  I didn’t buy an of the tulip bulbs myself but Jenny did and she had no problems getting them through customs.  Just be sure to buy the correctly marked ones and you’re golden.  
Directly across from the market are tons of other little specialty shops, such as “coffeeshops”, christmas themed shops, and pannekoeken restaurants.  We ate at the cutest little pannekoeken restaurant right across for the market and sadly I cannot remember the name of it and neither can Jenny.  I think it was called The Old Dutch Pancake House, but that could be wrong. If you don’t know what pannekoeken is just think of a crepe just slightly thicker.  It was delicious! 🙂
And now to let the flowers speak for themselves! 🙂
Disclaimer:  I had no clue that “no picture” sign was there until after I got home from the trip and was going through the pictures.  All of these flowers were in the very first stall we went into and I was clicking away for quite a while and none of the employees said anything to me.  So either they really didn’t care that much OR they just didn’t see me.  I’m gonna go with they didn’t see me.  Either way, I took the pictures and am glad I did.  Because now I can share them with y’all! 🙂

I wanted to buy every single fresh flower they had.  But sadly I could not.  But if I lived in Amsterdam the Flower Market would be getting my business, EVERY WEEK!
Happy Thursday! 🙂

Windmills, Bicycles, and Red Lights, Oh My!

The third leg of our trip took us to the city of Amsterdam.  And before I go into details I just want to say that I loved, loved, LOVED Amsterdam!  It was by far my favorite city (other than London of course) for so many reasons.  
We arrived in Amsterdam after our high speed train ride from Paris.  Most of the train ride was spent napping because we had gotten in late the night before but I did wake up long enough to see a bit of Belgium.  We travelled through a few cities in Belgium before we got to Amsterdam.  I can’t quite remember what time we got into the city, but I believe it was around 10:30am or so.  
As soon as we arrived we knew this city was going to be completely different than Paris.  And it was!  First of all the smell in the train station was delightful, a mix of freshly baked bread and other foods.  Whereas the train station in Paris smelled like urine and body oder.  And the weather was AH-MAZING from the moment we stepped outside to the moment we got on the bus to head to Germany.
We immediately started our tour of the city after hopping onto our chartered bus.  Our local tour guide met us at the train station and off we went.  The countryside was gorgeous.  Especially once we turned off the highway and started making our way to the city itself.  Here was our first views:

We got a nice little surprise once we were on our way.  Our tour director told us our first stop would be at an authentic cheese and clog making farm!  It was SO neat!  I highly recommend getting out of the city if you’re ever in Amsterdam and checking out one of these farms.

We got a little tour of the farm.  First we had a small cheese making demonstration and mini-tasting.  Then we were taken into another room for a clog making demonstration.  The cheese was DE-LICIOUS and the man who gave us the clog making demonstration was completely personable and so funny.

I ended up buying my parents some of the cheese and my best friend Monica’s little girl Charley her very own pair of clogs.  Monica’s husband’s family is from Holland and so I knew they would make the perfect gift for my first niece! 🙂

See for yourself how adorable this little farm is:

AH! So cute!  
Our next stop was an active windmill for a quick photo op.  Apparently you can buy one of these windmills for as low as 1 Euro, the catch is you have be willing to completely restore the windmill to its original state and be willing to get it running properly again.  Which could take millions of Euros to do.  She also said that family actually live inside the windmill.  

We then had another guided bus tour of the rest of the city.  I could not get over how clean and neat everything was inside the city.  I also learned that the Netherlands (aka Holland) has a royal family!  I had no clue this was the case.  We passed by all of the major sites and were given a very nice little lesson on the history of the city itself, as well as the country.

After the tour ended we were dropped off at our hotel, which was in the Rembrandt Square area of the city.  This turned out to be a perfect location because it was within walking distance of a ton of the places we wanted to visit and had plenty of places to eat and explore around it.  And that is exactly what we set out to do once we were all settled into our hotel, the Eden Hotel Amsterdam, we set off to eat dinner first and then do a little exploring!

Heads up: This was NOT a “coffeeshop”.  If you want coffee in Amsterdam you go to a koffee shop, not a “coffeeshop”.  If you want a little canibus, weed, marijuana, or however you choose to call it, you go to a “coffeeshop.”  It can be very misleading until you’re standing right outside and you breath in nice and deep.  That’s when you KNOW you will not be serve coffee if you go in there.  And there were at least 2 or 3 on more major streets!  So weird.

Alrighty so the next morning we got up bright and early and set off for our one and only completely free day on the tour.  We did not have anything scheduled or planned with the group this day so we were free to explore the city at our leisure.  And boy did we!!

The first thing we did was rent ourselves some bicycles for getting around the city.  This made traveling around so much easier.  TRAVEL TIP: Whenever it is you’re in Amsterdam, do yourself a favor and rent yourself a bike!  It will literally cut your travel time in half and give you so much more time to explore the city than walking would.  There are a ton of bicycle renting places around (some will even give you a guided tour of the city, a few of the people in our group did this).  And we were lucky enough to have a rental place right next door to our hotel.

We had to put down a 50 Euro deposit and then we ended up paying 13.50 Euro for the whole day.  We has the bikes from about 9am until 5:45pm.  Jenny led the way because her phone had the GPS and because she’s the more experienced rider.  It had literally been like 15 years since I had been on a bike.  I had a few rough moments throughout the day but I’m pleased to report I did not fall once! 🙂

Our first stop of the day was going to be the Van Gogh Muesum and to get there we had to ride through the Rijksmuseum, and the I AMSTERDAM sign.  So obviously we had to stop for a photo op.  Since we were out there so early we didn’t have as many people to deal with as we would have later in the day, which was nice.

TRAVEL TIP:  Get up early and start exploring.  Things are way less crowded and it’s easier to get your bearings and the hang of things if there are less people to worry about.

When we got to the Van Gogh Museum we waited in line for about 15 minutes (the perk of getting there just after it opened) to buy our tickets.   You can buy your tickets in advance if you want too but we did not on this one because we had already bought tickets to the Anne Frank Hues in advance.    We wandered around the museum for about and hour and half and by the time we left the line was wrapped around another building.  See another perk of getting there early.

Following that we rode back over toward our hotel to explore the flower market.   It was probably one of my favorite things in the city and that is why I am dedicating a whole post to it.  I got some amazing picture of the flowers and they deserve their own post! 🙂  I did give you a little taste below though.

We then made our way to the other side of the city to the Anne Frank House.  On the way we stopped by the Royal Palace, where I took another jumping picture with this guy.

We had about an hour or so before our “fast pass” time to the Anne Frank house so we just wandered the area and took in all the gorgeous sights the city had to offer.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Our “fast pass” time was for 4:00pm at the Anne Frank Huis.  And I am so glad I thought to get tickets in advance because the line was at least 5 hours long by the time we were heading over there.  Some others in our groups waited for about 4 hours.  So if the Anne Frank Huis is on your to-see list in Amsterdam (which is should be) buy your tickets in advance.  
We literally walked right into the house and started touring.  The tour itself is completely self given and self paced.  But they provide a moving and very beautiful exhibit that makes needing an actual guide completely unnecessary.  
This was by far one of my favorite museums EVER.  It was a little surreal being a space where actual people had to hide from the Nazi’s persecution during WWII.  There were several times as we were moving throughout the attic that I got chills reading through the placards and listening to the voice overs they provide.  They museum has done a phenomenal job with the tribute to the Frank family and I am so glad to have been given the opportunity to see it first hand. 

Sadly this is where my pictures stop.  After the Anne Frank Huis we took the bikes back to the shop, grabbed ourselves some french fries and mayo, explored Rembrandt Square and then headed our for a guided walking tour of the Red Light District! 
I decided not to bring my Canon while in the district.  Which was quite the experience.  I have never seen so much flesh out in the open in my life (except for maybe during Halloween in college) nor heard so many crazy stories as I did from our tour guide.  We got to see a tad bit of action while strolling through the alleyways of the Red Light District.  Be warned you are NOT allowed to take photos of the prostitutes or they WILL get very angry and violent with you.  Also, did you know they have to pay taxes? Cuz they do.  OH and there are live sex shows in theaters that can be found along the main street too.  Weird and gross.  The best moment was when this old man on a bicycle comes riding through our group and yells, “THIS IS FUCKING AMSTERDAM!  AND I’M BRITISH! OH AND SORRY FOR THE FRENCH.”  It.was.hilarious.  And the perfect ending to our day and a half in one of my new favorite cities.
I cannot wait to go back to this amazing city one day.  And I will be back.  I want to see it during the spring time when all the tulips are in bloom, I want to see more of the countryside and finally I want to explore more of the city itself.  I feel like we got a pretty good appetizer of Amsterdam but I want the main course AND dessert! 🙂
Come back next Tuesday, when I’ll be sharing our time in Germany!
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Your Next Favorite Book: Big Little Lies

Today I bring you a review of my favorite book from the summer!  I have read two of Liane Moriarty’s other books, The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot (click the titles to read the reviews) and really enjoyed both of them.  But I LOVED Big Little Lies.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

My thoughts:

This was my third book to “read” via audiobook (according to my roommate, I shouldn’t say I “read” it because I didn’t actually read it I listened to it) this summer and I cannot say enough good things about it.  I loved the characters.  I thought all three of the main female characters personalities and stories blended together perfectly.  They each had such different backgrounds and character traits that  I felt like I knew them by the time I was finished reading them.  And I wanted to be friends with them too.  Plus the woman who did the reading of the book was fantastic.  She changed the tone of her voice for each woman and so it made it easy to follow along when the chapter switched from woman to woman.

I also really enjoyed the way the author set the story up.  When you start the book, it is set in the present day where the major event takes place.  You are then taken back so the story can be told from the perspective of each of the three main female characters leading up to the big event.  Then, in between chapters you get to hear tiny little snipits of the present day from the minor characters in the book.  I hope that makes sense.  Because as you read it, it makes perfect sense and really adds to the way the story is told.

I will say that I did figure out the big twist fairly early on as I was “reading” (ie. listening) to the book. But it didn’t take away from the book once I got to the end.  I was actually really excited about the fact that I had been right all along.  There were times that I wished I was actually reading it because it’s difficult to listen to a book when you’re at home.  So it took me about 2 weeks to finally finish it.  I started it in the car on my way home from El Paso at the end of June, listened to a little here and there in the car as I ran errands for Europe, and the finished it up on the bus rides we had from Amsterdam to Venice.

SO…read it.  You will love it or at least really like it.  🙂

What’s Ha-"Pinning" [Vol: 2]: The Sisterhood of the World – Blogger Award

Last week I got the nicest little surprise via Twitter.  Christine over at A Keane Sense of Adventure had nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World- Blogger Award!

If you haven’t ever read Christine’s blog she is a fellow Texan (and Houstonian) who documents her travels and love of photography on her little space of the internet.  Her travel posts and photography tips are what keeps me coming back to her blog daily.  For example she just recently posted a little how-to on night photography.  Something that I will definitely be returning to in the near future.  Go check out her blog if you haven’t yet! 🙂

Christine has given me and the other nominees a series of travel themed questions to answer.  So let’s get to it!

[one] What is the story behind your blog name?

I started my blog in the fall of 2010.  I knew that I would be graduating in the Spring and I was hoping to move to Florida.  I wanted to have a place where I chronicled my last little bit of college and my journey to Florida.  It has turned into so much more than I could have ever wanted since then.  It really has been a place to write down all the “places I will go”.  Especially now that I think I’m wanting to delve into the travel aspect of blogging.  Plus, I love the Dr. Sues book, “Oh the Places You Will Go.”

[two] If you had to give up your current passport and get another country’s passport, which country would you pick?

Oh this is a tough one, especially since I just fell in love with two new countries.  But I’m gonna have to go with the obvious answer.  Definitely the UK, I love the UK.  I’ve now been there twice and absolutely love London.  I think my next international trip is going to be a tour of just the UK.

[three] Where was the best meal you have ever had?

This is the hardest question EVER because I’ve had a ton of great meals.  But to be honest all the best meals I’m thinking of have been things my mom has made at home.  For example she makes this lemon lightly fried fish that is to die for.  So yeah….I’m gonna go with mom’s home cooking on this one.

[four] Is there any travel “advice” you totally hate or don’t believe in?

You know, there isn’t.  I just recently have really gotten into the whole “travel” thing.  And all the advice I’ve gotten so far has been pretty accurate.  I’m sure the more I travel (which I’m hoping is a ton in the months/years to come) I’ll have a few that I’m like, “yeah that doesn’t work.” But for now I’ve loved all the advice I’ve gotten!

[five] Where is the most underrated place you have been to?

So I don’t know if the place I’m thinking of is really considered “underrated” but it’s definitely not a place that a ton of people know about.  One day, while I was living in Florida, my friend Suzanne and I decided to take out a map of Florida, close our eyes, and drive to wherever my finger landed.  IT landed on a place just off the coast down up St. Petersburg called, Anna Maria Island.  It was the best day ever! We went to the beach, had lunch, wandered the boardwalk area, had ice cream, and just generally enjoyed the little island.

[six] What is the one “unnecessary” item you always pack?
If this question was specific to my latest trip I would have said my hair dryer.  I brought it but 1. couldn’t use it because it wasn’t duel voltage and 2. all the hotels we stayed in had hair dryers.  And if I had left it at home I would have had more room in my bag for souvenirs!

[seven] What city/country is at the top of your bucket list?

After having watched the last two episodes of The Real Housewives of Orange County I would say Tahiti!  They just spend a few days on the island of Mooreah.  It is GORGEOUS!  I’m pretty sure I just found my new honeymoon destination.

[eight] What is the most spontaneous thing you have ever done?

This one took me about 10 minutes to think of and then I realized I have never done anything majorly spontaneous.  How boring.  I’m such a planner. I guess that has just been added to my bucket list, “Do something spontaneous.”

[nine] What is your favorite road trip song?

My favorite road trip song is “Life in the Fast Lane,” by the Eagles.  I don’t have any music on my phone and I don’t have an iPod anymore so if I want to listen to music in the car it’s either the radio OR my very small collection of CDs.  And I have a “classic rock” CD and this song is on it.  Love it.  Side story: In January of 2010 a group of girl friends and I drove from Phoenix to Disneyland and our road trip song was Ke$ha’s, “Tik Tok”, so I love listening to that song on road trips as well.

[ten] Where are you going to next?

My next trip will be a weekend trip to New Orleans for my friend Kelly’s bachelorette party in September! We’re gonna spend the day exploring the city and the night celebrating her last few months as a single lady on Bourbon street.  And then it’s off to Ohio for my friend Jordan’s wedding!


That was fun! And man some of those questions were hard! Took me while to come up with answers to some of them.  Thank you again so much for nominating me for this award Christina.  I just love the blogging community and am so glad I’ve kept up with it for the last 5 years (minus my small hiatus in 2013.)

I’m nominating a few ladies who’s blogs have become a daily read for me! 🙂

Jenn from Going the Distance
Christina from The New Mrs
Sarah from Of Golden Roses
Jenni from The Beautiful Fool

So I’m super boring and am having the hardest time coming up with new questions for y’all to answer.  Therefore you get the same questions as I got! 🙂  Plus I liked these questions.  They made me think and hopefully they make you think too!

1. What is the story behind your blog name?
2. If you had to give up your current passport and get another country’s passport, which country would you pick?
3. Where was the best meal you have ever had?
4. Is there any travel “advice” you totally hate or don’t believe in?
5. Where is the most underrated place you have been to?
6. What is the one “unnecessary” item you always pack?
7. What city/country is at the top of your bucket list?
8. What is the most spontaneous thing you have ever done?
9. What is your favorite road trip song?
10. Where are you going to next?

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Have a great Wednesday!

Oh and if you hop over to Jenni’s blog at The Beautiful Fool, I’m giving my best advice for college freshmen! 🙂

European Adventure: Bonjour Paris!

The next leg of our European Adventure took us to the city of love or is it lights or is it both?  I can’t remember, but up next we went to Paris!  
I was really excited to see Paris, because it was the first place we were going that I had never been before.  And we were getting there via the EuroStar.  The first of 3 train rides we would take on the trip.  
Our train left Kings Cross Station (I’m a little giddy just typing that. Thank you Harry Potter) at around 10:25am and we arrived in Paris at around 2:35pm.  
Travel note: If you’re ever going to be taking the EuroStar make sure you get to the train station at least 2 our before your scheduled departure time because since your going to another country you have to go through security and customs again.  (Which I loved because it meant I got another stamp in my passport).  But sometimes those lines can be long.  
One we arrived in Paris we were told a few things.  First keep our carry ones and purses close because the train station was packed with pickpockets (or gypsies as our tour director called them) and two don’t sign any of the “petition” that women and children are trying to get you to sign.  It’s a scam.  So packed with those two warnings we made our way of the train to wait for out luggage.  We waited for the luggage and the bus that would take us to our hotel for about 35-40 minutes and then we were on our way!  
We got to our hotel at around 3:30 and after a minor lost luggage scare (thankfully not mine, Jenny’s, which she handled with amazing calm.  I would have been panicking) we were on our way to the Metro to pick up our tickets to our first stop in Paris……the Louvre!  
Our hotel was called the Pullman Montparnasse.  In the Montparnasse area of Paris.  
This is where our time in Paris starts to take a slightly negative turn.  At least for me for about 15 minutes.  So we walked to the Metro, where we purchased 20 tickets for the 3 of us.  Thankfully the 20 tickets would be the perfect amount of tickets to buy for all 3 of us to get around Paris the 2 days we were there.  Total it came to about 30 Euro, so we spent about 10 Euro each on Metro tickets.
The rest of the people in our group was heading straight to the Louvre.  We on the other hand had to find the tourist shop where we could pick up the tickets I had purchased for us in advance.  Now everything I read said to buy tickets to the Louvre in advance otherwise you’d be waiting in the longest line in the world.  So I did.  What I did not realize is that we would not get to start exploring Paris until 4:00.  
SO…to make a long story short, by the time we got to the place we needed to pick up our tickets it was already 5:00pm.  And guess what time the Louvre stops letting people in.  Yep, that’s right 5:00. (Correction, they close at 5:30 but stop letting guests in at 5:00) So we missed the Louvre.  I did not take the news lightly.  I got very upset while we were in the shop and as soon as we stepped out of the shop immediately started crying.  It was just so frustrating!  I thought I had been doing the right thing by getting our tickets in advance but that wasn’t the case and I felt bad because not only were we NOT going to get to see the Mona Lisa but we were out 15 bucks! 
I was in no position to make any decisions by that point (I trying to pull myself together and failing miserably) so the others decided we should stop for some lunch and make a game plane there.  This was our restaurant.  I seriously couldn’t seem to get it together when we sat down.  I ordered some wine and just sat there moodily.  Tears kept filling my eyes every time I thought about it.  Until finally my friend Katie said I just needed to let it out and cry.  I put on my sunglasses let myself have a good cry and then I was able to pull myself together and help make a game plan.
After that minor crisis, we ultimately decided we would still make our way over to the Louvre to see the pyramid and the Louvre itself and then just see where the afternoon took us from there.   The walk to the Louvre turned out to be absolutely delightful and the even just getting to see the outside buildings was a treat.  I mean look at these buildings!!

The Louvre itself was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century.  Then it was turned into the gorgeous structure we see today and used as Royal Palace for The Sun King, Louis XIV in the mid 1600s.  Eventually the Sun King would abandoned the palace (and all the work he put into it) for his new palace and permanent residence just a couple miles from the city in Versailles.  During the French Revolution the Louvre was almost torn down but was eventually turned into a museum by the Convention Nationale.  
And that is your history lesson for the day! 🙂

We then began to just wander and take pictures. We walked through the Jardin de Tuileries, we walked through the Place de la Concorde (sight of the guillotine during the Revolution, our guide said the streets would be covered in blood for days), and made our way to the Champs-Élysées.

We walked and walked and walked and I wore the WRONG SHOES!!  I knew I was wearing the shittiest shoes in the world that day, but hey they went with my outfit. So I didn’t complain once that my feet were really hurting.  At least I didn’t until Jenny noticed that I was walking like a little old man and basically hobbling my way down the street.  And I wouldn’t have complained at all but Jenny kept looking at me with such…sympathy and saying things like, “Oh my god, you look like you’re in SO much pain.”  
The plan had been to walk all the way down to the Arch de Triomphe, but we had paused outside of Louis Vuitton and I suggested we skip the rest of the walk and just jump on the Metro and head to the Eiffel Tower.  Thankfully the girls agreed with me, so off we went. 
Here’s the evidence of my stupidity. (Don’t worry, I didn’t wear the shoes the rest of the trip.  I learned my lesson)

We spent the rest of the evening at the Eiffel Tower.  We briefly stood in line to go up to the top.  But it was already 9:30pm by this time and they stopped selling tickets to go up to the top at 10:30 and the line was at least an hour long.  Instead, we wandered around the structure, grabbed ourselves a VERY tasty nutella crepe and parked ourselves just in front of it on the riverbank and watched it come to life at night.  

The following morning we began day 2 with a guided bus tour of all of Paris. We went from arrondissement to arrondissement taking in all the famous sights of city.  Our local tour guide was SO incredibly knowledgeable about the entire city that we had a very nice little overview of the history of Paris.  For example did you know that Paris was originally settled on an island?  There are bridges just like this one connecting the originally island to the rest of the city.  So neat!

We drove past the Palais Garnier (the opera house The Phantom of the Opera is based on), down the Champs-Élysées ( the French flags are lining the way in preparation for the end of the Tour de France), and over to Les Invalides, the military museum and home of the tomb of Napoleon.  After a quick stop and photo op in front of Les Invalides, we headed to the Eiffel Tower for a day time photo op!

I think out of the 2,000 pictures I took on this trip, out ones in front of the Eiffel Tower are some of my favorites.  We had so much fun posing in front of the tower and it was a gorgeous day.  Which made for GORGEOUS pictures! 🙂

After the photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower the group that had signed up for the excursion to Versailles jumped back on the bus and headed out to the sumptuous palace.

I absolutely ADORED our afternoon at Versailles.  I could easily have spent the entire day out at the palace.  After a tasty lunch at a restaurant close to the palace (where I was stung by a bee for the first time in my entire life) we met our guide for a private tour of the palace.  Thank goodness we had signed up for the excursion because just like every other major attraction the line to simply buy tickets at Versailles was at least a 4 hour wait.

Travel Tip: If you’re not traveling with a tour group, BUY ALL TICKETS IN ADVANCE!

The palace chateau was built by the Sun King, Louis XIV in 1682.  It became the official residence of the royal family until 1789 when they were forced back to Paris at the start of the Revolution.  The last royal couple to live in at Versailles were the famous Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  Sadly since most of the tour was of the palace itself we did not get the opportunity to explore any of the gardens of the palace.  That’s why I say you really need a full day to get the most out of your trip to Versailles.

We got to see all the major highlights of the palace.  Both the King and Queen’s private apartments (I was most excited to see the Queen’s apartments) and of course the Hall of Mirrors.

After Versailles we were dropped over by Notre Dame Cathedral, sadly I did not see Quisemodo, nor did I get to go up to the bell tower and sing The Bells of Notre Dame.  It doesn’t cost anything to actually go inside the cathedral, but once again the line was crazy long so we took a few photos and moved on.  The cathedral was stunning though and the next time in Paris I may make the time to go inside.

Our last stop of the evening before we headed back to the hotel was of course another nutella crepe.  It was still extremely tasty but not as tasty as the crepe we had at the Eiffel Tower the night before.

Our last night in Paris we met up with a high school friend of Jenny’s who has been living in Paris the last few years.  It was great getting to see Paris at night by a someone who actually lives there.  She even showed us her apartment, tiniest thing apartment I’ve ever been in by the way and we got to see how the locals do things which was amazing.  The place we had dinner was over by Les Invalides.  It was a huge park directly in front of it and there were tons of people lounging on blankets with bottles of wine and food just enjoying the night with friends.

I really wish we had more parks in Texas like this.  Parisian (and all Europeans for that matter) really take the time to enjoy each other and the cities they live in.  Life is more fast paced in the States and in Europe it’s much more leisurely, I guess is the word.

If I’m honest though, I didn’t fall in love with Paris.  I really enjoyed my time there but it didn’t strike me the way I know it strikes some people.  I will most definitely go back to the city of love or light (still not sure which it is or if it’s both) because I need to see the Louvre and the gardens at Versailles and Disneyland Paris of course.  But it’s not at the top of my “return to” list.


And that my friends was Paris.  Tune in next week to find our all about Amsterdam!  My personal favorite from the trip! 🙂
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Tea Time: The Orangery at Kensington Palace

One thing I knew I did not want to miss out on, while in London was going to afternoon tea at one of London’s many tea rooms.  As you may know, if you read this post, one of my favorite things in the whole world is going to afternoon with my girlfriends.  There is just something so special, old fashion and ladylike about sitting with a group of ladies enjoying a pot of tea and some savories and sweets.  
Once it was decided we would spend our free afternoon having tea, we just needed to figure out which reputable tea room we would go to.  
One of my favorite bloggers, Lauren from Aspiring Kennedy, has a series that she calls To A Tea.  Basically she visits tons of different tea rooms in London and then reviews them on her blog.  Lauren is a fellow Texan, has the cutest little family ever, and is living life in Notting Hill.  Plus she is a fabulous writer, so I knew her series would be the perfect search engine for where we wanted to have tea.  
After a little research we settled on The Orangery at Kensington Palace.  And it did NOT disappoint! 
Why The Orangery?  Well first and foremost Kensington Palace is the home of Will and Kate. So obviously that was a major draw, second in all of the pictures Lauren has posted about it it the food looked amazing, and third WILL AND KATE LIVE THERE isn’t that reason enough?!  It is also where Princess Diana lived before she passed and where Queen Victoria lived when she was still Princess Victoria the heir to the British throne. 
Now I do have to say that the actual tea room is in a building all it’s own right next to Kensington Palace, which was a slight disappointment because I thought it was literally inside of the palace.  Nonetheless it was an absolute dream inside.  But I’ll let pictures speak for themselves.
(Sorry about the weird quality of the pictures.  I got better with my camera as we went on)

I had made us reservations in advance so we didn’t have to wait at all.  You can make reservations at their website.

We each ordered the basic afternoon tea and had our own pot of tea.  The china is absolutely gorgeous and you can even purchase it in the Palace gift shop.  It is unique to the palace itself.

The actual tea service consisted of:  A delicious array of tea sandwiches, including a very tasty chicken curry wrap.  Two different scones: white raisen and plain with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  And deserts of lemon and chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, and a small piece of traditional Victoria sponge cake.  It was Queen Victoria’s favorite cake for tea and since she lived in Kensington Palace before she became Queen it’s only fitting that we be served a piece!

It really was an absolutely perfect afternoon.  I would recommend afternoon tea at The Orangery to anyone who wanted to experience a tradition English tea while in London.  You will love it! 🙂
I cannot wait to go back to England and try more tea rooms around the city! 

What’s Ha-Pinning?

When I heard that Jenn from Going the Distance was going to be hosting a new weekly link up involving Pinterest I knew I had to partake.  I LOVE browsing Pinterest, especially when I have something specific I need help with or when I’m bored.  More so it’s the latter.  But Pinterest really is the best when you have something specific you need help with or are looking for.

So that is exactly what I plan to share for the very first, What’s Ha-Pinning!

Tips for Packing for Europe:

I used these three pins several times when I was planning my outfits for Europe.  I was the most organized I’ve EVER been for a trip, on this trip.  And I loved it.  I think I’ll use the same packing method I used for Europe for all my future trips.

                                      (via)                                                                               (via)

Photography Tips

As soon as I bought my DLSR camera. (BEST PURCHASE EVER by the way). Pinterest was the first place I went to for tips.  I knew I wanted to really learn how to use the camera so I would have amazing pictures for my trip.  I practiced a ton before going on the trip but to be honest it wasn’t until I was actually there and using the camera all day for 14 days that I really got into the swing of using it and all it’s settings.  In fact you’ll notice that while my pictures in London are good, they get better and better as the trip goes on.  And I have Pinterest to thank for all I learned!

Here are some of the pins I used:

                                             (via)                                                                        (via)

                                    (via)                                                                          (via)

And here’s some of the funny Somecards (these things usually have me laughing for at least 10 minutes after I read them) just because.


Haha. Hilarious.
Alrighty friends, that’s all she wrote for now.  Have a great Wednesday! 🙂