Friday, September 23, 2016

I'm Guest Posting - 5 First Time Traveler Tips For Europe

Happy Friday Friends!

Popping in to say that I'm guesting posting over at The Wandering Weekenders!  Ashley and her hubby just got back from their very own European vacation and since I went on my trip 2 summers ago, she asked me to share some tips!

So I did just that!  Head over to her blog and you can read all about them!

Have a great weekend! Catch ya on Monday! :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What's Ha-"Pinning" - Bookshelf Styling

I've been in my apartment now for just about two months.  I did some fast and furious decor shopping when I first moved in but I haven't really done all that much since.  The last big items I bought for the apartment were the pillows for my couch.  I haven't really shopped for the apartment at all this month and now I'm in the mood!  Specifically I'm dying to improve the look of the bookshelf in my living room.  I have a few nicknacks on each shelf but when I look at it I don't feel like it's complete by any means.

In case you forgot here's what the bookshelf currently looks like:

It's just so blah to me.  And I want this bookshelf to really pop!  I've been scouring all my favorite stores for little nicknacks and books to fill it with but it's taking FOREVER! And I'm slightly irritated that I haven't found what I'm looking for immediately.  But I know that decorating takes some time and patience so I'm trying and will most likely be buying pieces little by little.  

Any who, I've been scouring Pinterest for some bookshelf styling inspiration.  And I thought it would be fun to share what I've found so far!  

I think in order to get my shelves to look like these I know what I need.  But my question is where the heck do I find all the cute stuff to do it, that doesn't cost me and arm and a leg!  

SO.....if you have any suggestions for my little ole bookshelf please share them!  I'm on the bookshelf styling struggle bus so any help would be appreciated! :)

Hope you have a great Wednesday friends! 

Linking up for:

Monday, September 19, 2016

A September Life Update

Hello and happy Monday friends!  I've been pretty silent in all forms of social media lately.  So today's post is brought to you by my need to give a life update.  I mentioned this on Instagram but I've just been having a hard time getting back into the swing of work and blog.   I'm exhausted when I come home from work in the evening and literally want to do nothing more than watch crap TV.  But like I said, I'm gonna work on it!

Alrighty, so what in the world has been going on with me during the month of September you ask?  Here's a little update:

-First of all I can hardly believe we are already in the 9th month of the year.  Like holy wow that came up quick.  Next thing you know I'll be showing off my Christmas decor and it'll be 2017!

-Work work and more work.  Between teaching and coaching my life is consumed by work.  During the week if I'm not at school, then I'm sleeping.

- Labor Day weekend was by far one of my favorite weekends of the entire year!  I went to Atlanta, Georgia and met one of my new nieces! I spent 4 days with them and smothered Brynn with all the cuddles I could.  We had a great time hanging out at Jordan and Brian's house and exploring their part of Atlanta.  I cannot wait to see them again in December at our home away from home!

- I've finally gotten to the point where I like living alone.  It took about a month and half for me to really adjust and decide I like it.  But I'm happy to report that it has happened!  More details on my thoughts on living alone are coming in a post all it's own later this week!

- I tried Sprinkles Cupcakes while in Atlanta for the first time and while it was definitely tasty, but I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about.  If you ask me Nothing Bundt Cakes is better.

- I've been trying to pick up some odds and ends for the apartment.  I feel like my bookcase needs some series love and I'm struggling with finding pieces I like.

- The trip to Disney that I was supposed to go on in October was cancelled, but I'll be going in December instead.  Which honestly has me even more excited, because hello...Christmas at Disney is the best time of the year.

- One of my favorite authors, Sarah J. Maas released the latest book in the Throne of Glass book. Empire of Storms and it was amazing.  I can't wait to write my review on it in October!

- This weekend was the perfect blend of relaxation and getting stuff done.  I love weekends like that! I met up with a friend, read a book, took some pictures for a friend,  and went to 3 of my favorites stores: Barnes & Noble, Home Goods, and Target.

- While taking the pictures, my friend Rebekah found the most adorable little spot for picture taking!  I cannot wait to go back to this area and take more pictures!

-I also watched a little Netflix and got my DVR all ready for the big network premier week!  A ton of my favorite shows are coming back this week and I may not be able to catch them all in real time.  So thank god for DVR!


Whelp, there ya have it.  September has mostly been about work and I don't see it being any different as we wrap up the last two weeks of the month.

Have a great Monday friends! :)

Linking up with Biana for Weekending!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Your Next Favorite Book: August Reads

August wasn't my favorite reading month.  While I enjoyed the books I read I didn't devour any of them as has been the case with some of the books I read during the summer.  None the less I did find two that I thoroughly enjoyed!

I'm calling August the month of the Netgalley book.  Since three out of the four books I read in August were books I got from Netgalley.  If you're a reader and have never heard of Netgalley, I suggest you get on that train ASAP.  It's a website where you can request, yet to be released books in exchange for writing a review on them either on the website itself or on your blog.

Sadly you won't get every book that you request.  But I have gotten the majority of the books I've requested so I'm still a happy camper.  Anyway, definitely worth checking out if you love to read!

And now on to the goods!

Goodreads Synopsis:  The highly anticipated new standalone novel from Martin Cruz Smith, whom The Washington Post has declared “that uncommon phenomenon: a popular and well-regarded crime novelist who is also a writer of real distinction,” The Girl from Venice is a suspenseful World War II love story set against the beauty, mystery, and danger of occupied Venice.

Venice, 1945. The war may be waning, but the city known as La Serenissima is still occupied and the people of Italy fear the power of the Third Reich. One night, under a canopy of stars, a fisherman named Cenzo comes across a young woman’s body floating in the lagoon and soon discovers that she is still alive and in trouble.

Born to a wealthy Jewish family, Giulia is on the run from the SS. Cenzo chooses to protect Giulia rather than hand her over to the Nazis. This act of kindness leads them into the world of Partisans, random executions, the arts of forgery and high explosives, Mussolini’s broken promises, the black market and gold, and, everywhere, the enigmatic maze of the Venice Lagoon.

The Girl from Venice is a thriller, a mystery, and a retelling of Italian history that will take your breath away. Most of all it is a love story.

My thoughts:  This is one of the books I received from Netgalley.  And yes, it's another WWII book.  I just can't help myself y'all.  This one caught my eye because it's based in Venice and I've been to Venice, so I thought, "Sweet, I'll be able to recognize the places they're talking about."  Wrong.  It doesn't exactly take place in Venice but more so on one of the islands close to Venice.  But it was still a really fascinating read.  I haven't read much about WWII in Italy and how it affected the Italians.  (Well save for having seen Life is Beautiful, phenomenal movie btw.)  I wish we had been given more back story on Guilia.  Although I do realize the story was supposed to be centered around Cenzo and his family.  Still would have been nice to read more about her.  There were times when the dialogue got a little confusing.  It was super fast paced at times and was difficult to keep up with.

But again I liked learning a little bit more about what it was like in Italy in the last days of WWII.  The love story was just okay.  I would have been perfectly fine with the book had there been no love story at all.  

Anyway, it's worth a read if you're into WWII historical fiction! 

Goodreads Synopsis: When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

My thoughts:  This was another book I received from Netgalley.  This was a good one.  I really enjoyed The Dollhouse.   The transition between present day and the 1950s was ok, but I did find myself wishing the whole book was all focused in the 1950s.  I kept trying to picture myself in the book.  Which floor would I have lived on, if I had been a Barbizon girl in the 1950s.  What would my dream job be?  I'd love to say model but in reality I most likely would have been a secretary or something.  

Anyway, good read and I enjoyed it!  

Goodreads Synopsis: Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales' last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King. But the fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen becomes the target of assassination attempts and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan, her world threatens to tear itself apart.

Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.

My thoughts:  The cover and the synopsis had me really excited to read this.  But to be honest, I was bored for the majority of the book.  I love British history and have read books similar to this but it just didn't do anything for me.  I even found myself reading ahead to find out the end of the story because I just couldn't get into it.  Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset for this genre right then but meh, I've read better.   Oh and this was the final Netgalley book I received. 

Goodreads Synopsis: Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

My thoughts:  I know I know.  Yet ANOTHER WWII book.  I told you it's my favorite.  This was probably my favorite of the four.  I loved the detail and the way the story was told from 4 different perspectives.  I loved that it was told from the perspective of teenagers, rather than adults.  I cannot imagine having to go through the horrors of war at a time when you're supposed to be learning about life and love.  The children and teenagers who lived through WWII lost their innocence in a way no one should.  And this book does a great job of showing us that.  This was another topic from WWII that I was previously in the dark about.  I had never heard about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gusloff, nor had I learned much about WWII in Baltic region.  So this was an eye opening book in more ways than one. 

Even though I loved the book as a whole, I will say I was a tad disappointed with then end.  I felt like is had and abrupt ending and I wanted more.  Much much more.  Still 100% worth the read though.  I give it 5 stars!


That's a wrap for August friends.  The Dollhouse and Salt to the Sea are definitely worth your time.  The other two you can take or leave.

Have a great Tuesday!  Linking up for:

Life According to Steph

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Washington DC Day 4: The White House

Our 4th day in our nations capitol was the day that I think we had all been looking forward to the most.  This was the day we were going to tour the White House.  Our tour was scheduled for 1:00 so we decided to hit up one of the Smithsonian Museums first thing in the morning.  It wasn't tough to decide which museum we went to, since three of us in my family are history majors.

We had quite a surprise when we should up at the Museum of American History at 9:25, expecting a 9:30 am open time, and found out that they didn't open until 10:00. So we had the immense pleasure of literally being the very first ones in line and thus the first ones in the museum.  Not that that made much difference once we started looking around! 

This museum was so massive that I'm surprised we made it though as much as we did in such a short period of time.  We made it through the majority of the museum in about 2 and half hours.  My Mom said we spent way too much time looking at the machinery and inventions room.

My favorite part of the museum was the section dedicated to each of the Wars the US has fought in.  Every war from the American Revolution to the Was in Iraq was represented with some really neat artifacts.

Like this one!  This one of George Washington's actual military uniforms! So freakin cool is that?!  (I totally showed this to my students on the first day of school.  Some were impressed, others not so much)  The had personal items, clothing, weapons and letters from several historical figures.  As a history major I was in heaven.

There was a whole exhibit dedicated to the Presidents and the First Ladies.  Sadly I kept forgetting to take pictures because I was so busy reading and soaking everything in.  In the First Ladies exhibit they showcased the inauguration dresses worn by several of the First Ladies.  This was particularly fascinating because it basically gave you a history of fashion in the US.  They also displayed every china pattern selected by each First Lady, as well as, some of their personal items.

The President's exhibit had similar things.  Personal items owned by each of the President's and their families were scattered around the exhibit.  I did remember to snap a picture of Abe Lincoln's top hat.    It's kept in a very low lit area to help preserve it.

After our two hour stroll through the Museum of American History it was time to head over the our designated meeting spot for the tour of the White House.

When I told people we would be getting to go into the White House, the first thing they asked was, "Wow, how did you do that? Do you know someone?"  The answer is no! To get into the public rooms of the White House, you don't have to know anyone.  All I had to do was fill out a request form. 

Here's a little breakdown.  Back in February when I submitted my request to tour the Capitol building through my Congressman, I signed us up to get a tour of the White House.  After I filled the initial form, I was emailed back by the Congressman's office and asked to fill out a second form that would then be submitted to the White House on our behalf by Congressman McCaul's office.  The form was a basic security form.  I had to give names, birthdays, and social security numbers so we could have background checks done.  In March I received another email directly from the White House asking me resubmit the security part because they would be handling requests from then on.  SO if you are traveling to DC in the future and you want to request a tour of the White House, you now go through the White House Visitors Center for requests and not through your Congressman's office.

Once I re-submitted all the required information, I got another email in response saying that we would not hear where we had been granted the tour until about a week or two before out trip.  And that is exactly what happened.  I received our the confirmation email one week before we were set to head to DC.  Then almost immediately after receiving the email I got a call from Congressman McCaul's office saying that they never got people from my district get confirmations for White House tours and that if there was anything they could do, to please not hesitate to call!  Pretty cool huh!  I thought so! :)

The check in spot for the tour was right outside a park (sorry can't remember which one) adjacent to the White House.  We were given a list of do and don't beforehand.  For example, no bags are allowed inside the White House.  Mom and I were able to bring in a wristlet but that was it.  No cameras with removable lenses, so my fancy camera had to be left at the hotel.  We were able to bring in cell phones though, so all the pictures you're about to see were taken with my iPhone.  

We went through 4 security check points:  two ID checks, one bomb-dog-smelling- check, and a metal detector.  We also had a bit of an extended wait because some girl passed out while she was waiting in line and an ambulance had to be called. Thankfully it wasn't super hot that day and there was a nice breeze so that wait wasn't too terrible.  Before we knew it, WE WERE IN!!

I've rambled on for a while now, so I'm just going to let the pictures speak for themselves!  The tour is 100% self guided.  There are secret service agents spread out along the tour route and they were super knowledgable and willing to answer any questions.   Since the tour was self guided though, we were able to take as along as we wanted once we were inside. 

Our first view when we walked in.  This is the First Ladies garden.

The Ballroom

This is the famous painting of George Washington that was saved by First Lady Dolly Madison, just before the British entered Washington DC and burned the original White House to ground during the War of 1812.

View of the North lawn from The Green Room.  That little black dot to the left is the First Dog! Sadly we did not get a glimpse of the rest of the First Family.

The Green room

The Blue Room.  Here is where you can find the huge Blue Room Christmas Tree every year!

(Sidenote: My mom was super irritated that the carpets were rolled up like this.  She pointed out that in Windsor Castle they let you walk on the rugs, so why can't the White House. Lol)

The Red Room

The State Dining Room

View from the South entrance into the Blue Room.  Across the hall and to the right are the stairs to the family residence. 

Family shot in front of the South entrance to the White House! 

Getting to go into the White House was definitely a major highlight of our trip.  According to the Congressional intern who gave us our tour of the Capitol, about 95% of the people who put in requests to get a tour of the White House get denied.  So we were super lucky to have been selected to go in.  And I know it is something that our family will never forget.  I'm so glad I got to experience it with my family.  Hopefully I'll be able to do it again with my own children one day! :)

I have to throw in this last picture.  As we were walking off the grounds of the White House and around to the front, I ran into this group of guys.  They were so excited to be in Washington DC, they decided to dress in their best for their visit.  The hilarious part?  These guys aren't even from the US! In the pictures we have two Aussies and two New Zealanders!  So obviously I had to snap a picture with them! :)  GOD BLESS AMERICA! 

Following the tour we headed out to Georgetown to look around and have a late lunch.  We had dinner reservations that night for the Old Ebbitt Grill so we didn't want to have a super heavy lunch.  My cousin had given us a few must eat at restaurants and the one she raved about the most was Luke's Lobster Rolls.  So we piled into an Uber and headed to Georgetown.

We decided to split two rolls between the four of us and shared their Clam cChowder and Lobster Bisque.  It was the BEST meal EVER.  Our food literally disappeared within about 10 minutes and we immediately started talking about coming back for lunch one more time before we left.

After lunch we wandered around Georgetown for a bit and then decided to head back to the hotel to rest and relax before out dinner reservations at the Old Ebbitt Grill.  This restaurant is seeped in Washington history and is located just around the corner from the White House.  It's the oldest saloon in Washington D.C. and its patrons include Presidents, Congressman, Senators, and judges.  We had drinks, oysters, entrees, and even dessert!  My mom definitely had the best meal, she had their salmon and it was perfection.  Overall it was a delightful meal and experience.  Definitely put on your list of restaurants if only because of it's history!

And that friends wraps up day 4!  I am so glad we got to tour the White House.  If you go through all of that, I applaud you! What I love is that now, I can say that I've been in the official residence of both the Queen of England (I went to Windsor Castle in 2004) and the President of the United States.  Not too shabby if you ask me! :)

I've got one more post and then our DC trip will be completely recapped!

Linking up for Wanderlust Wednesday and with Jenn and Jess for What's Ha-"Pinning"!

Have a great Wednesday!