California Adventures

I love California. I can say it definitively now although I always had a hunch I would enjoy it and I’ve technically only seen a small part of it. But still.

I was lucky enough to travel to Bakersfield with my grandma to visit my parents. It’s the first time I’ve seen them both since July, which is the longest I’ve ever gone without visiting with them. I’ve missed them a lot, so this was a treat.

It may have only been a four-day trip, but we made the absolute most of it, thanks to my parents being the best tour guides. In all, we traveled more than 1,500 miles, and we…

  • Traveled to Redondo Beach, where I got to put my toes in the sand and wade into the Pacific Ocean for the first time
  • Visited Griffith Observatory at night, where I saw the Hollywood sign, took in the views of LA at night, and got to see a breathtaking view of the moon (the GODDAMN moon, guys!)
  • Hiked around Lake Ming. It’s located in my parents’ town and is a beautiful place where my dad takes two of their dogs, Reilly and Lexy, to burn off some of their energy. So, we took two trips and it was just my dad and his three girls: me, Reilly, and Lexy!
  • Saw peacocks at Hart Park in Bakersfield. How is it possible that peacocks just hang out in the park? There were also dozens of kitties who were friends with the peacocks, which was extra cute.
  • Went shopping at Ross. My mom is the best because she fully understands and appreciates my obsession with Ross, which we don’t have on the East Coast. So, she took us shopping and I got plenty of new things that I can’t wait to wear and post about!
  • Ate delicious food. We tried Creamistry (where they make ice cream with liquid nitrogen); Blaze Pizza (where you can order delicious personalized pizzas); and In N Out (a staple that I’d been dying to try for years); and some Krispy Kreme; but nothing compared to my mom and dad’s home cooking!
  • Traveled to Las Vegas to see the Backstreet Boys. What an amazing concert! I’ve loved the Backstreet Boys since I was a kid and I hope I do forever. To me, there is nothing like being in the audience, singing along to my favorite songs, dancing with girls like me who grew up on their music. Where else can I show off the fact that I still remember the choreography from “Everybody”? I had so much fun and I loved going with my grandma and my mom like when I was younger. I think they enjoyed themselves, too, especially my grandma, who was excited to see her love, Brian. (Shout out to my dad for doing that eight-hour drive to Vegas and not even attending the show.)
  • Took my parents’ RV—with all four dogs—up to Port San Luis Boat Yard and Avila Beach. It was chilly, but so much fun. We saw seals and sea otters (real ones! in nature!) and visited with my mom’s cousin, Debbie, and her husband, who drove out to see us. The girls (Reilly and Lexy) got to play on the beach with other dogs, and the humans got to enjoy some delicious smoked chicken made by my dad and some incredible rice made by my mom.
  • Drove up to Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near Hearst Castle. It was amazing to see those seals up close and in their natural habitat. They were so cute! The drive up there was magnificent, too. We traveled through wine country and experienced views I couldn’t even dream up. It was the perfect way to end our trip.

Can’t wait to go back in May with my husband and do it all again!

xo.

 

Farewell, 2016; Hello, 2017

The world has dubbed 2016 difficult and I can’t disagree—Brexit, Donald Trump, celebrities I admire passing away. Personally, however, 2016 was a pretty good year. My husband and I tried to make the most of every moment in 2016.

Here’s some stuff I did.

In 2017, I hope to exercise more, travel a little, and live in moments of anticipation. A coworker said that she does her best to try to make the anticipation leading up to something she’s excited about last because the things we look forward to are over so soon. I loved that thought and, in 2017, I’ll try to live it.

To 2017!

xo.

Honeymooning in France, Spain, and Italy

How do you write about being lucky enough to live out a dream without sounding  cheesy? I don’t know. A little cheesy is good, though, and I’m okay with coming off a bit earnest when talking about this dream honeymoon that my husband and I were lucky enough to take.

When my husband and I first started dating, we spent a lot of time making heart eyes at each other and asking each other questions. We were just teenagers and figuring out life and the transition from teenager to adult and the world felt wide open. What do you want to do with your life? Do you ever want a dog? Where do you want to live? What’s your dream vacation?

We quickly settled on two dream vacations: Disney World and a trip to Europe. We didn’t knock our Disney World trip off our list until a few years ago and we hoped to take a Mediterranean cruise when we turned 25. That didn’t exactly pan out (it was a bit more expensive than we anticipated, we had a dog to care for, and rent was expensive!).

But our honeymoon gave us the perfect opportunity to go for it.

So, a little more than a year after we got married, we found ourselves boarding a plan to Rome, Italy, to embark on a seven-day Western Mediterranean cruise, which would visit Italy, Spain, and France. (We decided to embrace Oct. 13—Treat Yo’self Day—and stay an extra night in Rome, too.)

It was the trip of a lifetime.

Day 1: Civitavecchia

Once we found out that Norwegian Cruise Line offered a western Mediterranean trip, there was no question in our minds; we would take the trip with NCL. We’ve done two other NCL cruises (including one in December 2015 with family) and loved each one.

We booked a flight out of JFK, had a layover in Dublin, Ireland (we really wish we could have seen more than the airport), and landed in Rome. From there, we took an NCL bus to Civitavecchia, where our cruise ship—the Norwegian Epic—was waiting for us.

Day 2: Pisa and Montecarlo, Italy

Our first stop was in Livorno, Italy. We had booked a few excursions through NCL to really make the most of our trip and the first took us to Pisa and then Montecarlo. Called “Pisa and a Taste of Tuscany,” the day took us to two cities where we…

  • Admired the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Campanile, and the Camposanto Monumentale (our tour guide, Lily, was lovely)
  • Ate gelato and bruschetta and drank chianti in the Miracle Square
  • Visited a winery called the Fattoria il Poggio
  • Drank six types of wine, while dining on an incredible lunch of pappardelle pasta; bruschetta with olives, peppers, prosciutto, and olive oil; and sampled some dessert wine and biscotti

Day 3: Cannes, France

We didn’t book excursions for our two stops in France and I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone with anxiety issues, I was nervous we’d made a mistake and we would really struggle to make the most of our days.

Not so. Canne was beautiful.

  • We watched the sun rise over Cannes, France, just before leaving the ship.
  • We walked the Cannes boardwalk and spotted the place where they hold the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Spent time at a café on the water, where we ate an omelette and a Nutella crepe (I kept thinking, “I’m eating a CREPE in FRANCE!”
  • Spent time on one of the beaches across from Boulevard de la Croisette enjoying beautiful weather and the French Riviera (I totally walked down the beach and stuck my toes in the water just so I can now say that my toes have been in the French Riviera)

When we returned to the ship, Bill and I attended Cirque Dreams, an incredible acrobatic show that also included a delicious three-course dinner.

Day 4: Marseille, France

In a surprise to no one, Marseille was also beautiful, although I still don’t know how to pronounce it.

Things we did:

  • Visited the marina, where we started to realize that ferris wheels in Europe are kind of A Thing (and a beautiful one at that)
  • Bought a scarf. It was a chilly morning by the water and we were too far from the ship for me to go back and change, so I was desperate to buy a scarf. We wandered into a little shop where an adorable elderly French man sold me a pink scarf. We struggled to communicate—me knowing very little French, and he knowing very little English—but it ended up being a really friendly, sweet interaction. He even cut the tags off for me so I could wear the scarf out of the store. It was a tiny, somewhat inconsequential moment, but it is one of my favorites from the trip.
  • Explored the city a little, just wandering around some side streets. Bill was fascinated by all the graffiti, so he was grabbing photos where he could. (You can see his graffiti photos here.)
  • Ate a baguette and some macaroons along Rue a la Republic

Back on the ship, we ate a fancy dinner at the Manhattan and attended the Burn the Floor dance show.

Day 5: Barcelona, Spain

I knew Bill and I would love Spain. It felt so dreamy and like there was so much more we needed to explore.

We took an excursion that took us on a combined bus and walking tour throughout downtown Barcelona, where we…

  • Saw buildings designed Gaudí
  • Visited St. Familia Basilica (which was incredible in person)
  • Admired the Plaza de España and Plaza Catalanya
  • Wandered around Poble Espanyol (Spanish village), an open-air museum that shows replicas of monuments and landmarks from all around Spain. We loved seeing a little of everything all at once!
  • While in the Spanish Village, we tried some to-die-for chocolate truffles at La Casa De Chocolate
  • And we enjoyed sangria while watching flamenco dancers (!!!)
  • After the show, we grabbed lunch of a potato omelet, bruschetta with tomato, and paella

Back on the ship, we had another meal at the Manhattan where I ate the best steak ever. Our waiter, Milosz, brought us so much wine that we ended up a little drunk. Milosz stabbed Bill’s dessert with a spoon (a very weird thing to describe but so hilarious and weird in the moment) and we ended up leaving him an $11 tip made out of American money and euros.

Day 6: At Sea

After a few days of adventure, a day at sea made us feel a little bit antsy. It was on this day (and this day only) that we really felt how many people were on the boat. We spent the day reading, lounging in the sun, drinking, and eating. Obviously.

Day 7: Naples, Italy

Naples was the one day of the trip where the weather was so-so. But this was our last excursion so we made the most of it! We took a walking tour throughout Naples, where we:

  • Saw some of the history landmarks, including Castel Nuovo, Piazza Plebiscito, Fontana del Carciofo, and Teatro di San Carlo, as well as a great shopping district
  • Went to Bourbon Tunnel, where we were guided through a labyrinth of tunnels to learn about the history of Naples and its “underground city.” It was an informative, fascinating—if at times chilling—tour. The tunnels, designed by Ferdinand II of Bourbon and his architect approx. 150 years ago were used as bomb shelters used during WWII. Those stories were haunting. But the best surprise was the buried vintage cars and motorbikes in the depths of the caves.
  • Ate at Pizzeria Napoli in Bocca, where we enjoyed wine and Naples-style pizza, which was one of the best (and biggest, as we were each given our OWN entire pizza) meals we ate

Day 8: Rome, Italy

The end of the cruise came suddenly. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we dreaded leaving. I was a bit nervous about venturing through Rome all on our own, too.

But it turned out better than I could have ever imagined. NCL helped us arrange a car from the port to our hotel, Hotel Lancelot, in the heart of Rome. I cannot recommend Hotel Lancelot enough. The hotel was beautiful—a perfect mix of historical and modern. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, but we were awfully early, too. So, the hotel staff, who were incredibly kind, helpful, and accommodating through our entire trip, invited us to have some breakfast and to use the Wifi (which we hadn’t had access to in a week).

The breakfast was simple, but one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Maybe it was because I was in Rome and high off of a magical trip; maybe I was just really hungry. Whatever it was, the coffee was the best I had ever tasted. I drank it black, which I never do, and enjoyed the most buttery, delicate croissant of my life.

After breakfast, we decided not to waste any time and to explore a bit, even if it meant carrying our heavy backpacks. Our hotel was within walking distance of the Colosseum, so we went there first. It was humbling to see in person.

We ventured to the Farnese Gardens and the Parco Del Colle Oppio before heading back to the hotel. With our room ready, we headed upstairs to see the room on the sixth floor. It was great—but it was the terrace that took it over the top.

We had booked our room that promised a “view of the Colosseum.” I imagined we’d maybe see the Colosseum if we squinted a bit through the window. Instead, we had a stunning terrace with greenery and a table and chairs, and—yes—an idyllic view of the Colosseum. I couldn’t get over it.

Ready for lunch, we asked the hotel staff for a map. Instead of just giving us a map, the gentleman behind the counter (whose name we regrettably never even learned!) offered to recommend a few places to eat. Then, after learning the length of our stay (just the night), he asked if he could recommend us a must-see walking tour. He highlighted the route on the map and told us when to begin our two- to three-hour walk so that we would end up in the Piazza del Popolo to watch the sun set.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel for a bit before setting out on our trek at 4 p.m., per the recommendation. The walk took us to see some of the most incredible sites in Rome: Roman Forum, Piazza Venezia, Altare della Patria, Campidoglio, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, Villa Medici, and the Piazza del Popolo. And, yes, we made it to the Piazza del Popolo in time to watch the sunset.

For dinner, we grabbed a pizza, some cannolis, and ate in bed at the hotel. The next morning, we watched the sunrise and ate some breakfast, savoring our last moments in Rome.

It was everything.

xo.

One Year in Our First Home

Somehow, it’s already been a year since my husband and I purchased our first home. We loved it as soon as we saw it because it felt so cozy. It was the living room we loved best—it had a chimney (which, truth be told, we have yet to use) and it was huge, which is great because that’s where we’d be spending a good chunk of our time. But, we liked the layout of the entire house, and the fact that it was so close to work and in a good neighborhood.

We’ve done a lot of work to the house since we first bought it. It was exciting to know we could personalize it exactly to our tastes (a freedom we definitely didn’t have in our apartments), but it’s also taken a lot of time and effort (and, let’s be real, money).

We painted every room, rearranged appliances, and spent the last year finding exactly the right furniture to give us the look we wanted.

We’re still not quite done—we have big dreams of redoing the kitchen and maybe even the bathroom some day, plus smaller to-dos, like creating a gallery wall up the stairs and organizing our sun room (not pictured below)—but we’re happy and proud of what we’ve accomplished.

This is our home.

xo.

So Long, Summer 2016

This might have been my favorite summer yet. After a difficult summer last year (we lost out on a home just one day shy of closing on us, leaving us without a place to live), Bill and I were determined to make the most of the season this year. I think we accomplished that.

Putting these pictures together helped me remember and appreciate the great life that I’m lucky to have, which I don’t do often enough.

Here’s to a lovely fall.

Weekend Getaway in Vermont

Sometimes you just need a weekend away. My husband and I decided to sneak off to Vermont for the first time in either of our adult lives.

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Waterbury, Vt. It was one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed in. (We were amazed that the complimentary toiletries were Paul Mitchell!)

The drive from Springfield, Mass., to Waterbury, Vt., was beautiful—rolling hills, lush greenery. I can only imagine how stunning it must be in the fall (we can’t wait to go back and find out).

We left for Waterbury on Saturday morning and stopped for breakfast in a small town in Vermont named Putney at the Putney Diner. Bill wanted some classic diner food, and this was the first stop that popped up. We weren’t disappointed; the food was delicious and it had the perfect diner atmosphere we’d been looking for.

Once in Waterbury, we made all of the big tourist stops across two days (Saturday and Sunday), hitting up Ben & Jerry’s; Cabot Creamery; Lake Champlain Chocolates; and Green Mountain Coffee.

We also stopped at:

  • Smugglers Notch Distillery—Bill loved their bourbon.
  • Prohibition Pig—This came highly recommended, but we felt it was slightly lacking. The food was all a little bland, the duck fat fries (which reviews raved about) were just OK, and our service was subpar. Bill said the beer (the house IPA) was good. The panko fried pimento cheese balls were amazing, though!
  • Cold Hollow Cider Mill—The views here were beautiful, and the cider was delicious.
  • Craft Beer Cellar—Bill was in heaven picking our craft beers to try.
  • Stowe Street Emporium—I loved this place! Their wares were so cute. I ended up buying a beautiful solar system print, a Jane Austen figurine, and some grilled cheese socks (for Bill).
  • Bridgeside Books—I can’t lie; this might’ve been my favorite non-food stop. The way the bookstore was set up was beautiful, and I wanted to buy literally everything. It also helped that they had an incredible Harry Potter display the minute we walked in.
  • The Reservoir—The food here was delicious, and they also offered local craft beers. Bill tried the Fiddlehead IPA, which he enjoyed more than the Prohibition Pig house IPA. For food, we tried tacos, which were amazing, as well as an ice cream sandwich!

Can’t wait to explore Vermont some more in the fall.

xo.

Celebrating One Year of Marriage

When I was a teenager, I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever be in a relationship. I didn’t think I was lovable. I never believed someone would be able to see me—to look at me, flaws and all, and tell me they loved me.

And yet, here I am. Ten years with an incredible man, one year married. I’d consider myself pretty lucky.

Bill and I decided to celebrate our anniversary at the same beach where we got married last year. It was a perfectly blissful three days full of sandy beaches and adventures and sunshine and delicious seafood and ice cream, OBVIOUSLY.

We visited Hole in the Wall Beach; Rocky Neck State Park; McCook’s Point; antique shops; Old Mysticke Village; Gillette Castle. We tried lobster for the first time. We had fun doing whatever we wanted and relaxing (even though we missed our dog, Obi, who joined us at Wickham Park in Manchester, Conn., after we picked him up from Grandma’s).

And, now I’m plotting ways to spend every day at the beach. Let me know if you have any suggestions for how to make that happen.

xo.

Five Amazing Days at Disney (and Universal Studios)

Hello, best vacation ever.

Last week, Bill and I spent five days at Disney World, staying at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort in Orlando, Fla. And, we couldn’t stop in Orlando without also visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Because obviously.

We left on Saturday evening.

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The day we left, I literally bought an app called RealBokeh so I could add Mickey Mouse bokeh to photos as I saw fit. I’m a fiend. (And, I was just really, really excited.)

Never in a million years did I think we’d be able to afford to stay at an actual Disney resort. But some of their hotels are surprisingly affordable. We stayed at the All-Star Music Resort and loved it.

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Each building had a different musical theme, like calypso, rock’n’roll, jazz, and country. We got Broadway.

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The resort itself was lovely. Well-kept, surprisingly serene, with plenty of amenities (including two pools, a laundry service, a food court, an on-site Disney store, and complimentary transportation to/from the parks, as well as to/from the airport).

I was obsessed with the little details, like the Mickey-shaped cap on the shampoo bottles!

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Beautiful, right?

Day 1 – Animal Kingdom

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I’ll admit I’ve never been a huge fan of Animal Kingdom. I liked it well enough, but I’d always heard it called a “half-day” park—AKA it’s the kind of Disney park without much to do in it. Bill had had a similar experience.

This time around, though, we loved it.

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We got to the Kilimanjaro Safari first thing, using our first-ever Fastpass. Uhh, I’m literally never going on another Disney ride unless I have a Fastpass? Those things are amazing and we didn’t have to wait for more than five minutes to get on a ride.

I knew I wanted to get onto the safari early. I had done some reading and learned that it’s best to go on the ride in the morning when the animals are active. Previously, I’d gone on the safari in the afternoon and it was tough to catch a glimpse of the animals who might have already been seeking refuge from the sun.

We did not run into that problem this time around.

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EEEEEEEE, look at those cutie pie elephants!

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The safari was hands down my favorite part about the day. We did some walking tours, too, stopped in plenty of gift shops, and swung by the petting area, which I had no idea existed until this very trip. I ended up petting a bearded dragon. No big deal.

We also ate a Mickey-shaped pretzel. Why does Mickey-shaped food taste better?

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As well as some samosas and falafel.

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Day 2 – Disney Springs and Hollywood Studios

It was on this trip that I learned Downtown Disney has been rebranded to be Disney Springs. Mostly the same shops; different name. We had fun in the Disney merchandise store, which is supposed to be the biggest one around (it was a madhouse, though). We also stopped by the Lego store (also crazy!) and Goofy’s Candy Company (which had yummy treats).

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Then we went to Hollywood Studios, which we were super excited about because of the new Star Wars additions (especially the late-night fireworks set to Star Wars music).

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Hollywood Studios did not disappoint. Disney has been working to revamp the park, which in recent years had probably begun to feel a bit stale. Some of the updates they’ve made include substituting their American Idol experience for a new Frozen sing-a-long and changing the Art of Animation area (which previously showed a film about animation featuring Mu-Shu, the dragon from Mulan) to an immersive Star Wars experience—with STORM TROOPERS and Jawas, as well as memorabilia from the Star Wars films. The Star Wars ride has also been updated to include an appearance by the beautiful John Boyega. Sigh.

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And, of course, you can get some incredible lightsabers. Like this one.

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It was amazing. We also stuck around for the Fantasmic! evening show, which was a first for us. I’ll admit I even got a little emotional during the show. Something about it was so magical.

And, of course, we had to stay for the new Star Wars fireworks show—which was incredible. Set to Star Wars music, there was nothing about it I didn’t love.

Day 3 – Epcot

Epcot was going to be a big day for us. We knew this going in. One of Bill’s goals was to “eat and drink” his way through Epcot, an idea he and his dad came up with when Bill was a little kid. This time around, he wanted to see if he could make it happen.

I loved the idea so I threw in my full support. Also, I love food, so it was kind of a no-brainer.

I’m happy to report that HE DID IT. HE FUCKING DID IT. He ate and drank his way through all 11 countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada.

Not pictured are the sushi/sake from Japan; kabab/white sangria from Morocco; and salmon cake/beer from the UK because I was starting to feel a little sick from all the food and sun. But I made a comeback and we finished strong.

This photo about sums up the day.

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Bonus: it also happened to be the 2016 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, so it was beautiful.

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Bonus bonus: I just loved this photo I took of a building in China.

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Day 4 – Magic Kingdom

It’s the mother of all Disney parks, right? The park.

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So excited! We loved exploring all of the areas, including the little circus section (which I had no clue existed). Plus, we had some yummy food on this day, too. What can I say? We like to eat.

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Nutella, strawberry, and banana waffle from Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square

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Pot roast macaroni and cheese (highly recommended) from the Friar’s Nook in Fantasyland

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And a Mickey-shaped ice cream (vanilla with milk chocolate shell), which you can get basically anywhere  It’s irresistibly cute and delicious.

Day 5 – Universal Studios

On this day, we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Because that’s where I want to live.

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Can I move to Diagon Alley yet?

All in all: a perfect vacation. Beautiful weather, a playful resort, and so much fun every single day. I’m happy. And I’m already trying to figure out a way to go back.

2015 in Review and 2016 Resolutions

I usually get to the end of the year and think of all the ways it was rude to me. But this year, I’m thinking of all the ways life was good to me.

In 2015, I…

 

Love Thy Selfie 2015

And a few of my favorite selfies of 2015!

In 2016, I vow…

…Not to take myself too seriously. Honestly, I’m not as big on resolutions as my dog is.

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New year, new me!

Instead, here are a few (vague) things I’d like to work toward in 2016.

  • Read 25 books
  • Get (more) active
  • Take a more photos (and work in a few outfits of the day!)
  • Budget my money!!!
  • Focus on gaining experiences instead of things
  • Travel

What about you? Was 2015 good to you? And what are you hoping to do in 2016?

10 Days in Paradise

It’s not every day you get to go on an island vacation in December. Bill and I were lucky enough to spend some time with my parents, my brother, and his girlfriend on a 10-day cruise, which stopped in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Tortola.

Turns out I’m all about wearing a bathing suit in December. Here’s a look back on our trip.