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Goodbye Paris, Hello World (Our European Adventure: Day 10&11)

June 22nd, 2019:

It would take a long time for me to ever get used to sleeping in, yawning and looking out the window of my hotel room to see Paris, but with the warm welcome it had given us over the last two days, I looked out at the already sunny city, tipped my imaginary, bed head filled hat, and said good morning.

There were no concrete plans on the agenda today, just nine people ready to see the city and their iPhones ready to help them do it. So we set off from our hotel and walked down the streets of our new temporary neighborhood to O Coffee.

Since the group of us was so large and the restaurant was so small, we were met outside by the kind, Australian owner, who offered to take our order and prepare it for takeaway. We got five avocado toasts, four banana breads, a few coffees, a couple orange juices, and an apple juice, and then the owner threw in some madeleines for us to try. Everything was absolutely delicious and I could not recommend this place more.

As we ate, we came up with a plan:

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Starting at the Arc de Triomphe, we would walk down the Ave de Champs Elysees to do some shopping and sightseeing, and then follow the Seine River all the way up to Notre Dame. It was a three mile walk that we figured would be more like five when we added in browsing steps, but we were ready and the day was beautiful and so we finished our last bites of breakfast—and I spilled most of my apple juice—and then we were off.

The Arc de Triomphe is probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Built to honor the lives lost in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, it is imposingly stunning. It is also the center of one of the scariest intersections I’ve ever seen in my life.

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The Champs Elysees reminded me of Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Huge designer stores lined the street and they tempted you to come in and spend money you definitely didn’t have. At one point we walked into a Sephora that made me say, “I can’t believe we haven’t reached the back yet.” On top of that, the street was freckled with beautiful greenery, including this little patch that I actually volunteered to have my picture taken in.

The Grand Palais, while we didn’t go inside, was gorgeous and made me want to go to Rome, and the Petit Palais made us all laugh because the phrase “small palace” is one that both contradicts itself and doesn’t exist in our day-to-day vocabulary. If I ever make my way back to Paris, I will go inside these beautiful museums, but for this day, we fell in love just looking at them.

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The Pont des Artes, the “bridge of arts”, is most famously known for the love locks people used to clip to its chain link. In 2015, all of the locks were removed because they were too heavy for the bridge and were causing parts of it to crumble. This however, has not stopped people from clipping locks to other bridges. On our walk, we came across a bridge named the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, which has started to collect locks of its own.

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The Louvre was something my museum loving heart was over the moon to see in person. After seeing pictures of it and hearing references to it for my entire time as an undergraduate art student, actually finding myself in front of it’s famous pyramidal structure was pretty surreal. We didn’t go inside, but only because we decided to save that for the next morning when we could buy tickets in advanced and skip the lines. But since the courtyard was so pretty and the nearby restaurant, Le Café Marly, came so highly recommended, we decided to have lunch there.

I ordered what had become a favorite of mine in French cafes, a croque-madame, which is a fried ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top. I didn’t take a picture of any that I ate, but to give you an idea of this true gift to humankind, please look at this photo from this recipe on foodnetwork.com:

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IMG_7494Sainte Chapelle was one of the only places that we took the time to stand in line and go inside to see, and I’m so glad that we did. I had heard that it was a beautiful church, but nothing really prepared me for how beautiful. We walked around on the first floor thinking it was amazing, but when we climbed the stairs to the second floor the line of us gasped in a row like dominoes. I was speechless.

Notre Dame, while tragically having been damaged in a fire not long before we arrived, was still gorgeous. Even as someone who doesn’t know nearly enough about its history and the grandeur that it has held in the city for so many years, my heart ached looking at the large pieces that were missing and the construction that was going on trying to repair it.

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As a final stop to cap off our day, we walked to Berthillon ice cream. It came recommended from a friend of my aunt’s, but it was clear when we got there that this was no well-kept secret. Multiple shops holding the same name were open mere meters from each other, and all of them had lines out the door. I got one scoop of dark chocolate and one scoop of salted caramel (because #saltedcaramelforever), and while they were delicious, I was bummed by the shop’s “no free samples” policy and I still think about the fig ice cream I left behind. #I’llneverfig-etyou

Now, I understand this next part might bring shame/judgment/open mouth gapes but I’m here to say that we did it, we don’t regret it, and we would 100% do it again.

That night, after getting back to our hotel and showering, napping and freshening up, we went…back to McDonalds for dinner. I know, I know, we’re in Paris, what are we doing at McDonalds two nights in a row? And to that I say: LIVING.

I will tell you right now, Parisian McDonalds is better than American McDonalds and there is absolutely no way you can change my mind. After having an iconic egg mcmuffin the night before, my sister and I both ordered the goat cheese chicken wrap and then I ordered a Kit Kat McFlurry. I mean, how dare you, Paris. How absolutely dare you.

We then walked back to Eif and took a seat on the lawn to watch him sparkle. Because what else can you do when you’ve had a wonderful day besides end it with a dose of pure magic?

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June 23rd, 2019:

For our very last day in Paris, we woke up a little early and immediately made our way back into the city.

Since we hadn’t truly experienced a Parisian sidewalk café, we took a seat at Café de la Comedie and took in the beautiful morning. My sister and I ordered the breakfast special which was the equivalent of the petit dujour we had in Epernay and I was in absolute bliss.

From breakfast we walked over to the Louvre, where I’d purchased nine tickets online the night before. NOW, listen carefully here because apparently this is a mistake that people make all the time.

In buying nine tickets, I apparently flagged us as being a “group”—as a note, this label is given to any amount of people greater than six—and as a group we were apparently required to be assigned a guide and were supposed to meet said guide in the “group reception area”. So when we got in line and our tickets didn’t work, we were sent to this area where a man behind a desk told me there were no guides and it would be impossible to get one and I should not have bought “group tickets” if I did not want a guide. Oh, and also my tickets were non-refundable and that he couldn’t do anything to help.

First of all, no.

Second of all, if this happens all the time, don’t you think that’s an issue you should deal with, Louvre?

Third of all, we’re in Paris, I paid good money for these tickets and I WILL be going inside.

Needless to say, after walking up and down the stairs a few times and talking to four or five different people, we were eventually let inside. And was it worth it? YES.

I was floored by both the art and the museum itself. Once I was in and amongst the work, my frustration with the (clearly poorly designed) website and the (not nearly as helpful or sympathetic as they could have been) staff, melted away. I also got to say hi to Mo, though she seemed a little busy with some other fans at the time.

From the Louvre we headed to lunch at an Australian café called Café Oz and it was…well, a conundrum you might say. The menu was a hodgepodge of options including burgers, risotto, and chicken parmesan—all of which we ordered by the way—and they had a picture of the All Blacks (the New Zealand national rugby team) on the wall, which is practically a sin in an Australian themed bar. Like I said, a conundrum.

For our very last night in Paris and the very last day of our trip, we decided to go out in style. We had 8:00 p.m. reservations on a Seine River Cruise and we’d paid €5 extra for front row seats—which was totally worth it! For an hour and a half we glided along the river, seeing the sights from a whole new angle, and seeing the people of Paris enjoying their evening as much as we were.

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We saw friends chatting and laughing and comforting one another. We saw couples sharing snacks and smiling and staring off into the setting sun. We saw people walking and running and biking and salsa dancing. We’d all had a different day, and yet we were all here, in Paris, watching the same sunset, so that we could wake up again tomorrow and start over.

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As sad as we were for our trip to be over, we were happy to be going home. It was going to feel good to be back in our own world, in our own homes, in our own beds and get back on our own schedules. But as we watched the Eiffel Tower light up for the final time that night, I took note of all of the people around me. Maybe some of them would be leaving tomorrow too. Maybe others had only just got here. Maybe others just moved here and others still had lived here their whole lives.

No matter our stories, no matter our backgrounds or our likes or dislikes, we were together in that moment and we were sharing the awe of the Eiffel Tower. And even if none us would ever see each other again, there was still something special about that moment. It was our own little piece of history that we’d always share. Just like our trip will be something that the nine of us will always share. In the grand scheme of things, these 11 days will be a blip, but to us they will mean the world. And at the end of the day, it’s about remembering those moments because those moments are the world.

 

 

Salted Caramel & the Buck (Our European Adventure: Day 6&7)

June 18th, 2019:

So there we were, boarding a plane in Ireland. It would be a short flight. Like, 10 hours shorter than our flight to Ireland and I was determined to soak in every minute.

So naturally, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, we were in London.

My mom, sister and I had been to London before, but it was over 10 years ago and the only thing I remember is hiding in a red phone booth from the wind, and the time we all got separated on the tube and thought maybe we’d just be lost in London forever.

So while we weren’t a wealth of information on the city and its history, we did know how to handle the tube. We knew to move quickly and mind the gap, and we brought that wisdom to our group of nine as we boarded at Heathrow Airport.

For my dad and Uncle Bruce, the tube, while slightly overwhelming at first, was a welcome change to the high anxiety driving they’d been doing for the last five days. So when I showed them a screenshot of the directions to our hotel via maps and they realized they just had to sit back and relax, I think I visibly saw three or so years added back on to their life.

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Once we made it to our hotel, we checked our bags into the luggage room (because that is apparently a thing in hotels that I am just finding out about now?) and then headed to Nando’s.

If you are unfamiliar with Nando’s, it’s a South African restaurant chain (popular basically everywhere except the US) that specializes in Peri-Peri chicken. When we walked in, our waiter told us to pick our chicken, pick our spice level and pick our sides. Most of our group chose the Lemon & Herb spice level (I went with plain because #babytastebuds) and then our side selections included garlic bread, fries, roasted veggies and corn on the cob. It was all delicious and I miss it already. Unfortunately for my fellow US dwellers, as of now you can only find Nando’s in Chicago and DC. #nandNO.

Being a group on foot now, after finishing our lunch, we again pulled out our phones for directions, this time to some nearby landmarks. We were prepared to walk off our lunch—if only to earn an even bigger and better dinner.

Our first stop was Hyde Park.

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Having spent the last five days in Ireland, our awe-tolerance had gone up. We weren’t going to be impressed with just anything. But as we walked into Hyde Park, we couldn’t help but “wow” and “okay, beautiful” and “oh my gosh” our way through the expansive green gardens and scenic pathways.

At one point a man ran by us, seemingly on a casual afternoon run, and I audibly gasped, thinking, he gets to run through THIS every day? An average run for me consists of a high school, a Subway, and that one house with a really great tree.

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Nevertheless, we made our way through Hyde Park, stopping in at Kensington Palace, the Wellington Arch and Royal Albert Hall to take all the touristy pictures and make all the touristy comments. I apologize to anyone and everyone who might have overheard our terrible British accents. We were just trying to sound classy and charming and less, you know, DUDE than we do back home.

(Which you can tell we are nailing in this photo)

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Our ultimate destination of the day was Buckingham Palace, which we almost immediately started referring to as “the Buck.” I can’t tell you why, because I honestly don’t remember which one of us started saying it first. But I like to think it was our way of making the prospect of seeing such an iconic building more casual.

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Once we’d thoroughly exhausted our cameras in front of the Buck, we all suddenly became very aware at how tired we were. Unbeknownst to us and our touring ways, we’d walked a total of almost six miles and were desperately in need of a nap.

Vacation pro-tip: a perfect itinerary always leaves room for a nap.

So, we hopped back on the tube, officially checked into our hotel, and promptly crashed for about an hour.

Right around 7:00 p.m., we headed out in search of food and landed at Phoenix, where the food was delicious (I highly recommend the Chickpea burger!) and our drinks were even better (if you’re into sweet drinks, try a Strawberry Woo Woo—trust me.)

Afterward, we moseyed our way into Snowflake Luxury Gelato where we learned—and I can’t stress this enough—that Salted Caramel is the best and only flavor you should ever order, thank you and goodnight. (The thank you being for Snowflake Luxury Gelato for their gelato service, and the goodnight for every other gelato flavor because take a seat.)

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June 19th, 2019:

When planning our trip to Ireland, I spent a lot of time booking things in advanced. But when it came to London, our group decided to play a lot of things by ear. So as we ate breakfast at our hotel Wednesday morning, I was Googling possible plans for our day in between bites of a croissant and sips of a mimosa.

“Okay,” I said, holding my phone up to our group like it was a tri-fold presentation in a high school science class. “Picture this.

I then took them on a hypothetical journey of our possible day, complete with dramatic hand motions and an aptly timed announcer voice. When I received an overall enthusiastic nod of approval, we all stood up, got in a circle and did a youth soccer hands in! cheer to send us off.

Okay, so we didn’t do that last part, but honestly, we should have.

Being tube regulars now (or, you know three timers) we walked to our nearby station as casually as if it were the frozen yogurt place down the street from our house.

“Where are we headed first?” my dad asked.

“Harrods.”

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The department store giant that is Harrods was something that I’d only ever heard about and never thought I’d actually see. But now, having been there and spent a hefty amount of time walking around/getting lost inside the seemingly endless collection of shops, I understand why it’s a “you have to see it to believe it” type of places.

There was whiskey literally more expensive than my entire livelihood. There was champagne that shot confetti when you opened it. There were jackets and scarves and gloves so soft that I almost got emotional. But perhaps the most fascinating thing we found among the twists and turning of the Harrods hallways were these displays that allowed you to squeeze a rubber handle you might find on a perfume bottle and lower your nose to the mouth of what looked like a trumpet so you could smell whatever was displayed under the glass dome. My favorite was “leather glove.”

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From Harrods we took the tube the Piccadilly Circus, which is like the London equivalent of Time Square. People moved in seemingly every direction and cars and double decker buses drove in what I can only describe as complete chaos. We stared up at tall marquees and listened to a street performer sing Ed Sheeran and trick naïve tourists into thinking that Beyoncé was arriving shortly to perform “Perfect” alongside him.

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For lunch we ate at St. James Tavern, and then we got back on the move, navigating our way through the misty London day to Westminster Abbey. On our way there, as we were passing through Parliament Square, we noticed a long line of taxis, none of which were moving. Then, when the man in the first taxi started to move, every single taxi to follow began honking. Turns out, there was a full-blown taxi protest happening in front of Parliament. We would later learn (from our own taxi driver) it was in response to the rise of Uber and the damage it was doing to their business, and while I can’t make any comments on this since I don’t really have the grounds to, I can say that the protest itself was pretty badass.

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For our last site of the day, we got off the tube at Tower Hill to see the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. We also had plans of seeing the Crown Jewels, but discovered the exhibit had closed a mere 15 minutes before we arrived. By that time however, nothing could get us down, because the sun had come out and was glistening off the River Thames, making our afternoon in the city absolutely beautiful.

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That night, we walked to Santorini—the Greek restaurant near our hotel, not the city 2,000 miles away—and if there was ever a time to say I miss a specific food, I can truly and honestly say I will dream about their fried feta rolls for the rest of my life. Cue that middle graduation song that makes everyone cry.

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Knowing it was our last night in London, we decided to go HARD…

…so we went back to the same gelato place because #saltedcaramelforever.

We then finished the night with a few drinks at the Beachcomber. And as we made our final walk back to our hotel, I was happy to commit all of the sites and sounds from the last two days to memory. In fact, as I glanced up and down the streets of what had become our temporary neighborhood, I imagined what it would be like to call this place home.

It’s a weird feeling to imagine yourself living and growing in a different city, different country, different continent than your own, but there’s something about falling in love with a new place that makes you think it might be possible. That’s not to say I got home and repacked my bags or start international job-hunting, but it was a good reminder of just how big our world is. There is so much to see, to learn and to experience. And in those new discoveries we find new pieces of ourselves. So should you ever get the chance to travel, be it one hour from your house or thousands of miles, go. See more. Do more. And learn. Always learn.

Castles, Cliffs, and a Horse Named Peppy (Our European Adventure: Day 2&3)

Friday June 14th, 2019:

Upon meeting our Airbnb host Carmel the evening before, she gave us a rundown of the house she’d so graciously rented to us for the next two nights. She also gave us a guidebook of the area and pointed out some of her favorite things that we might want to add to our itinerary.

Waking the next morning, feeling only slightly disoriented by the fact that we were on vacation in Europe and not at home getting ready for work, our group made breakfast in the kitchen. Carmel provided us with a wide variety of snacks, including waffles (that weren’t frozen?), fresh fruit, and something called “breakfast pudding” that none of us were brave enough to take out of the refrigerator.

Our first stop of the morning was Belvedere House Gardens & Park—a Mullingar locale that none of us had heard of but came highly recommended by Carmel.

The morning offered slightly cloudy skies and a chill in the air none of us were quite ready for, but we bundled up and headed out, my dad and Uncle Bruce taking the wheel and bravely setting off the on “wrong” side of road once again.

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Being a Friday morning, Belvedere House was not overly crowded, and we were able to saunter and explore at our own pace, flipping the hoods of our raincoats off and on as the rain came in spurts.

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We took a tour of the house, marveling at its architecture and grandeur, walked the grounds, and strolled through the fairy garden.

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Overall it was a very charming and welcome start to our day, and the perfect pit stop en route to the day’s main attraction: the Cliffs of Moher.

You know, these old things.

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We spent a good two hours here, blessed with a sunny sky and only periodic gusts of high wind that made my dad close his eyes and ask us to please stand at least 4 miles from the edge.

Among the many (hundreds?) (thousands?) of pictures we took, my sister and I made sure to get another hair by the Cliffs shot, paying homage to those we took a few years ago.

And I got to recreate one my of my favorite shots from our trip—this time with my brother in tow.

Quick sidenote: Can we talk about how tiny my hands look compared to his?

From the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to Galway, my cousin Taryn’s favorite city from her stay in Ireland, and she took us to her favorite pizza place (Mizzoni’s) and her favorite bar (The Skeff).

As we hung out and listened to live music from Vicaria Band, my sister and I introduced the gang to our favorite Irish born drink: Jameson and ginger ale, which aided in our table’s karaoke performances of Britney Spears, Tina Turner and Darius Rucker (among others).

The drive back to Mullingar, while a little long and dark, again provided us a place to call home and the group of us sat around the living room, sipping on nightcaps and laughing our way through the memories of the day. This was our last night in Mullingar, but Carmel and Fintan promised to send us off with a bang, and at 9:00 a.m. the next morning, that bang arrived in style.

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Saturday June 15th, 2019:

BANG.

Okay, so it wasn’t really a bang. It was more of a knock. Two or three of them. And then a call into the house: “Peppy and I are ready for ya!”

As you might (never) have guessed, Peppy was a horse, and Fintan ushered us outside to meet him, and take us on ride in the Peppy-drawn carriage.

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Pro tip: if you are ever given the opportunity to go on a carriage ride through the Irish countryside, say yes. There is truly no better way to start your morning.

After each family got a ride, we loaded back into our cars, waved goodbye to Carmel and Fintan (and Peppy) and got on the road to Cork.

Just under three hours later, we pulled into the parking lot at Blarney Castle.

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Now, Blarney Castle was a favorite from our last trip, mostly because of how beautiful both the castle and the grounds are, but also because of the undeniably funand for some, understandably terrifyingprospect of kissing the Blarney Stone to receive the “gift of the gab”. For a full recap of what that means, you can check out this post, but to keep it brief: you lie on the ground, have an Irish man help you more or less hang off a ledge at the top of the castle, and then kiss a thousand year old rock.

Legend says that after you kiss the rock you will be blessed with eloquent speaking abilities, though for anyone afraid of either heights or, more commonly I assume, being held over a ledge one hundred feet in the air, the sheer anticipation of kissing the rock can bring out profanity as eloquent as anything I’ve ever heard.

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To come down from the excitement/danger/fun/terror (depending on the person) we walked around the grounds, once again surprised by how beautiful everything is, though slowly getting used to the fact that Ireland is simply, consistently, even reliably beautiful. (Hear that, Irish tourism department? Reliably Beautiful. Call me.)

Our hotel for the night was the River Lee in Cork. While it was tough finding accommodations that fit a group of nine, or even a family of more than three, the River Lee was beautiful and we settled in nicely to three rooms, each with three single beds. (I found a great deal on Orbitz.com!)

We also enjoyed—once could argue too much—the hotel restaurant, where we spent a large chunk of time eating and eating and drinking and eating before heading out in search of one (or three) Irish pubs, where we spent the rest of the night drinking and drinking and laughing and dancing and singing our hearts out.

One request, Ireland pubs: play more Whitney Houston.

Other than that, you’re perfect.

Uh, Hey, We’re in Ireland! (Our European Adventure: Day 1)

June 13th, 2019:

So there we were. Overstuffed backpacks making our shoulders ache, wheeled suitcases constantly hitting bumps and threatening to topple over, and ankles far too bare for the unexpected wind that welcomed us into the Dublin morning. After 13 hours of travel, my family had landed in Ireland and were making our way to our European rental car, which promised a complete shattering of muscle memory.

Our plan was to make our way around Ireland in four days, and had decided to forego a bus and a designated schedule in favor of a terrifying adventure on the wrong side of the rode, a passionate new dedication and reliance on the design of Apple Maps, and the freedom to stop for pee breaks whenever we wanted. The pro and con list really could have been a novel in itself.

So there we were, in our just big enough car for a family of five with five suitcases, five backpacks and a lot of emotional baggage provoked by sleep deprivation. But alas, my dad started the car—from passenger seat, so it seemed—and we skittered into the streets of Dublin, each of us wondering if this was such a good idea.

Now, for any of you who have read my blog before, you might know that my sister and I went to Ireland a few years ago. And if pictures from that trip are any indication, we were disgusted to be back. I mean, imagine having to look at this for a SECOND time.

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Aside from simply wanting to visit this friendly, welcoming and beautiful country again, our main reason for making Ireland our first destination was to show my mom, dad, and brother the country that had stolen our hearts. We wanted them to see what our (pristinely executed) slideshow from three years ago couldn’t. And although we showed them ridiculously unmoving, definitely not borderline spiritual photos like this:

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…they still agreed to come along.

Our first stop after landing was the Guinness Storehouse, (pro tip: buy your tickets online in advanced to save money, skip the line and get a free pint!) where my sister, Natalee, and I had previously become “certified Guinness pourers.” We were excited for our family to achieve this status so we could finally stop looking down on them.

Our reservation was for 4:30 p.m., and although we landed late and took a few (or six) wrong turns trying to navigate our way through the city streets, we were still running a little early by the time we parked in a nearby parking structure and made our way to the front door. So to kill time we headed to Harkin’s, a pub in walking distance from the Storehouse, and dove headfirst into some burgers, beers, and Irish coffees.

As we ate, we met up with the other half of our adventure crew: the Stevens. My cousin Taryn had just finished up a three-week study abroad stint in Ireland and was the catalyst for our entire vacation/hijacking of her family’s vacation. What started as a “wouldn’t it be crazy to meet you in Ireland?” was suddenly a very real, “uh, hey, we’re in IRELAND!”

Once we finished our meal, we made our first walk as the newly imposing yet undeniably fabulous group of nine. We took our tour of the Storehouse, were all successfully certified (and recertified) and shared our first (and free!) pints of Guinness.

To my absolute unsurprise I still hated it.

Back at our car, we were met with our first dose of pure luck and (undoubtedly) heaven sent Irish hospitality. Being from Southern California, you’d think we’d be better equipped at reading street signs and might notice that our parking structure closed at 7:00 p.m. To our great fortune however, even though it was nearing 8:00 p.m., a security guard just so happened so be walking by and was able to unlock the gate, saving us a €100 retrieval fee, and a whole lot of over exhausted family angst. Slainte, you broad, Irish angel.

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In the planning of this trip, we had a lot of conversations as to how we wanted to get around Ireland, where we wanted to stay, etc. My sister and I had previously taken a clockwise route around the country, making pit stops in five main cities (Dublin, Cork, Gallway, Londonderry and Belfast) and so initially I assumed we’d do the same thing. However, in looking up lodging, I found that that route was going to be pricey. So, instead we opted to pick a city in the middle of the country to act as our home base—at least for the first couple days.

Which is how we wound up at the gate of this Airbnb in Mullingar.

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photo credit: Airbnb (check out the profile and rates for this place here. It’s way more affordable than it looks!)

Though it was a bit of a trek, the hosts, Carmel and Fintan, were incredibly charming and made us feel so at home that we were able to unload, unpack and crash—hard.

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As I lay there in the moments before falling asleep, with the Irish countryside sitting right outside my window, the trip became both real and completely unfathomable all at the same time. I knew we’d made it, to both this country, this house and this adventure, but I also wondered if I’d wake up the next morning and it would all be a dream.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

The Last Thing on My Phone (Part 2)

By now you probably know that I am a very curious person who loves gathering information. You also probably know that I’m a little nosey—because what curious person isn’t? So when I found this series on YouTube, I could hardly resist.

It’s been almost a year since we did our first deep dive into our phones, so I figured it was about time we checked back in.

Here were the results:

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1) What is the last photo you took?

Rachel: Mine is of this color coordinated clothing rack:IMG_5236

Natalee: Mine is of this creature on my plant. Look at this creepy crawly:

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Me: Mine is of this clock from our friend Taylor’s house. I just really liked it…

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2) What is the last thing you Googled?

Natalee: “Hitchhiker’s to the galaxy plot.” I need to know it for work so I cheated.

Rachel: “Aladdin.” I was looking at showtimes.

*collective pause to discuss the new Aladdin movie*

Kim: “Rompers for men.” I couldn’t remember what they were called. (They are called “Romp-hims” by the way.)

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3) What is your last text?

Rachel: Oh, this was funny. It was texted to me to describe the way I talk about things. It says, “I didn’t hate it, so there’s that. ‘The Rachel Liner Story.'”

Natalee: It was to the family group chat talking about all the things we are looking forward to on our trip and I said, “Amen to all of that!”

Kim: Mine is also about our trip. I said to dad, “Beer is on the agenda!”

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4) How many alarms do you have set?

Rachel: I only have three but I just reset them.

Me: Oh, I have a lot. I think even more than last time. I have eight.

Natalee: I have six. They range from 5:45 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. Not sure what that 6:20 p.m. one is from but I’m guessing it was probably a nap.

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5) What are your most frequently used emojis?

Rachel: These are my top used: heavy-black-heart_2764face-throwing-a-kiss_1f618thumbs-up-sign_emoji-modifier-fitzpatrick-type-1-2_1f44d-1f3fb_1f3fbsmiling-face-with-smiling-eyes_1f60a but I also really love this one: woman-shrugging-type-3_1f937-1f3fc-200d-2640-fe0f

Me: thumbs-up-sign_1f44dheavy-black-heart_2764face-with-tears-of-joy_1f602smiling-face-with-heart-shaped-eyes_1f60dsmiling-face-with-smiling-eyes_1f60a Yeah, that’s me in a nutshell.

Natalee: face-with-tears-of-joy_1f602white-smiling-face_263ayellow-heart_1f49bflushed-face_1f633woman-facepalming-type-3_1f926-1f3fc-200d-2640-fe0f This is my favorite though: face-with-rolling-eyes_1f644 It’s the best one ever made.

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6) What is your last voicemail?

Me: Mine is from [my best friend] Allison. She was just calling to chat but spent a good portion of the message complimenting my voice on the voicemail so that was sweet.

Natalee: See if you can guess mine.

*plays message*

“Hey noodlepop!—

Me: —Kristine [Natalee’s best friend.] Not a lot of other people -are out there calling you noodlepop. (For reference, Kristine calls me “Kim-age” so it’s safe to say her nicknames are supreme.)

Rachel: Oh wait, I have a really good one. It’s from this guy offering to lower the payment on my student loans. I mean, what kind of scam does Jonathan think I’m gonna fall for?

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7) What is the last selfie you took?

Me: The last picture I took with me actually holding the phone and volunteering for my photo to be taken was this one of Mel and I. Aren’t we pretty?

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Natalee: Mine is with Amanda. We were a little day drunk and so we thought, “hey, let’s day a picture of us being day drunk” and, well, we look pretty day drunk.

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Rachel: I’m not really in this one but I did take it and it’s when Dylan and I were with the rhinos.

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8) What is the last app you downloaded?

Natalee: Mine is a little basic, but it’s Instastories because for a minute there I was considering making my Instagram stories a little fancier but I haven’t used it yet.

Rachel: The McDonald’s app. I got it to try and collect on those chicken nuggets we won at the Dodger game [at every home game fans in attendance win free chicken nuggets if the Dodgers score six runs or more] Also pro-tip, I don’t think you even have to be at the game to get those nuggets. They just show up in the app… It’s a big deal and no one’s talking about.

Me: Happify. I downloaded it yesterday because I saw it mentioned in an article online, but I don’t really know what it does yet.

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9) What is the last podcast you listened to?

Rachel: Blackout. It’s with Rami Malek. I’ve only listened to the first couple but it’s pretty good.

Natalee: SLP’s Wine and Cheese. It’s where I listen to SLP’s (speech language pathologist—my sister’s future job title) talk about their caseload and drink wine at the end of a long week.

Me: Case Closed. It’s that podcast about solved murder cases that I got into. The second season has been way better than the first. The first season was just about a bad criminal. I mean, if you’re going to murder someone and try to cover it up, at least do a good job.

Rachel: Amen.

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10) What is the last note you made?

Natalee: “Angelina’s across from the Louvre known for drinking chocolate.” It’s a suggestion I got from a friend about something we should do while we’re in Paris.

Me: Mine is a suggested packing list for dad—with witty commentary.

Rachel: Mine was my target list and the best part about looking at it again right now is that I totally forgot I bought these chai teas, but they are definitely in the fridge downstairs and I’m very excited about it.

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So in case you’re ever wondering if these posts are important, or if you’re curious about taking a little dive into your own phone, remember, there might be a chai tea in your fridge that you totally forgot about, so take the dive. It’s worth it.

2019 Goals Check-In

Hey y’all, happy June!

I’m really at a loss for words that we’re halfway through the year already—but then again, it seems like New Year’s Day was approximately 600 years ago.

So.

That’s where I’m at with 2019.

But I set some excited goals for this year and I thought it was about time I checked in with where I’m at.

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1) Journal daily

Progress: 44% (161 days/365)

I have really loved this goal thus far. Journaling is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do but never took the time to start. Now that I have however, I wonder where I used put all those thoughts at the end of the day. If you’re someone who has trouble falling asleep at night, or who tends to bottle things up inside, I highly recommend giving journaling a try. I personally like ruled Moleskine notebooks, but if you are someone who likes prompts to get you started, I’d recommend looking up “guided journals”. There are a bunch available on Amazon.

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2) Take a cooking class

Progress: 0%

This is on my to-do list to research. Anyone have any recommendations for classes in the LA area?

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3) Cook my way through a cookbook

Progress: 19% (19 recipes/103)

I chose Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings: Hungry for More as my designated cookbook for this goal and I am SO happy I did. Every single thing I’ve made so far (which I mention here and here) has been absolutely delicious. Highly recommend! (you can grab the cookbook here)

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4) Try the best drink from every state

Progress: 2.00% (1 drink/50)

Yeah so I’ve tried a whopping ONE drink from this list, mostly because I almost always order the same drink whenever I go to a bar, but also because I’m not sure how many of these drinks are actually served in standard bars and I’m embarrassed to ask. For the most part I think I will have to buy the ingredients and make them at home, so I will have to enlist the help of my mixology experienced (or just curious and adventurous) friends.

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5) Watch a sunset and a sunrise at the beach

Progress: 0%

I’ve been waiting on the summer weather for this one and it looks like it’s finally starting to arrive! So in the next few months you can find me on the beach, I’ll be the one doused in sunscreen and wondering when it’s okay to put on my jacket.

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6) Volunteer (at least) 5 times

Progress: 60% (3/5)

I really tried to get on this one early this year because I want to actually lean in to that at least for once. As of now I’ve volunteered with Food Forward three times, both picking and gleaning fruits and vegetables from local farmer’s markets, and in doing so I’ve been a part of collecting and donating almost 4,000 pounds of fresh produce that was donated to hunger relief agencies. Isn’t that amazing?!

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7) See 3 WRLA’s

Progress: 33%

While on a recent trip to visit family in Arkansas, my mom, sister and I took a side trip to Berryville to see the World’s Largest Razorback. It’s about as epically weird and wonderful as you can imagine and I’m so happy my family supports this quest of mine.

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8) Pay off 1 of my 2 remaining student loans

Progress: 90%

This month I will make my final payment on my second to last loan! That’s right baby! I will officially be down to ONE. STUDENT. LOAN. Ayyyyyyy! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, y’all.

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9) Amazon Wish List splurge

Progress: 0%

I have this one listed at 0% done, though I could probably put it at around 80% because I have an entire Amazon wish list dedicated to this cause. All I need to do now is add those bad boys to my cart and order them with that sweet sweet Prime shipping. Stay tuned.

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10) Stomp grapes and make wine

Progress: 100% (ish)

This is one of those goals that I thought sounded like a fun, quirky and unique idea at first, but now has me kind of wavering, and wondering, do I really want to do that? Until I decide, I’m marking it as complete because I did go wine tasting for the first time this past weekend and that’s in the wine goal family (which is a thing?) so….

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11) Make my family tree

Progress: 25%

I officially have an account on Ancestry.com and have begun my hunting, but I have a BAF (you know, a BIG ASS FAMILY) and so it’s going to take a little while.

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12) Hike the Narrows

Progress: 100% (ish)

Yeah so I’m just breaking all the rules this year but I’m kind of into it. I gave this one an “ish” because a few years back I made “Project Lightbulb” (which was the name I gave to a family trip to Iceland) one of my goals for the year but we weren’t able to complete it. This year however, we gathered our savings, did all the research and are taking (in literally two days) a trip to Europe. Sure, that’s still not Iceland, and sure, it’s also not the Narrows, but it’s still a family bucket list vacation and I’ll take a box check where I can get one.

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13) Do (at least one) unassisted pull-up

Progress: she’s working on it

I have no way to really track a percentage of progress on this one but I am working on it little by little. A couple weeks ago I went rock climbing with my family and it was the first time I noticed I was actually getting stronger. If I remember it correctly, I believe at one point I turned to our guide, flexed my arms and said, “I have medium guns right now, not the big ones just yet.” So I guess that’s my progress: medium guns.

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14) Get 100 rejections

Progress: 3% (3/100)

This one has been a big struggle for me actually. Blame it on the journaling or the full calendar or the final season of Game of Thrones, but my mind has been all over the place and I’ve had trouble finding the time/effort to write, meaning I’ve had almost nothing to submit, and thus nothing to get rejected. It is my goal however, to rope this in for the second half of the year.

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15) Learn Spanish

Progress: 20%

Surprise! This goal wasn’t even on my original list. (I told you I was breaking all the rules this year.) Goal #15 used to be “learn a song on my ukulele” but again, after some contemplation, I realized that maybe I don’t even want to do that. And you know what, y’all, there is no reason to pursue a goal that you don’t even want to accomplish. So I dumped it. Tossed it to the side like every single mushroom any restaurant has dared put on my plate. Then I downloaded Duolingo and I started learning Spanish, and I’m having a great time! I mean, lo estoy pasando muy bien!

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16) Finish my museum goal

Progress: 50% (10 museums/20)

For Mother’s Day my sister and I took our mom to the Huntington Library for some tea (which I highly recommend, by the way!) and a walk around the gardens. About midway through our stroll through the one of the exhibits in the library, I remembered that it was on my list of museums and I took a few seconds to jump up and down excitedly. This is the only progress I’ve made on this carry over goal from last year, but it put me at the 50% mark so I’m calling it a win.

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17) Run a Marathon done! read about it here

Progress: 100%

To be honest I’m still in shock that I can write completed next to this goal, but it gives me such a big boost of pride that I think I’ll say it louder for the people in the back: COMPLETED, BABY. You can read all about it here.

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When we add that all together, my total progress is about 40%, which I’m proud of! Not only because I’m on track (for once) but because this is the first year I’ve made adjustments to my goals when I realized my interest in accomplishing them had changed.

For the last few years I’ve felt locked into the goals I set at the beginning of the year, sometimes to the point of hating certain goals, which made accomplishing them far less exciting. It became more about getting it over with, which is not what a goal should be. So I’m proud of myself for loosening the reins a bit and remembering that the whole point of setting these goals is to try new things and explore new challenges—it’s brought the fun back into it for me, and it makes me excited for the rest of this year and the ones to come.

If you set goals this year, I hope things are going well for you, and if you didn’t, it’s never too late to start! 🙂

To My Fellow Tough Eggs

Often when I meet someone new, or when I see someone for the first time in a long time, or sometimes for no reason at all, I feel very shy and quiet and unable to start, continue, or enjoy a conversation.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, demanding, THIS IS ON YOU, and making myself believe that whenever a conversation goes stale, or when someone opts to sit or stand with someone else, or when the stranger I meet at the supermarket doesn’t immediately fall in love with me like the movies told me they would, it’s because I’m boring or unlikeable or pathetic—or a healthy combination of all three.

Anyone else with me on this?

Anyone else wish they had that magic they see in other people? That ability to talk about anything and everything to anyone and everyone. That something that draws people to them without even meaning to. That ease.

I do.

And while I think it’s something I’ll always strive for, and as much as I believe that you can challenge yourself and grow and acclimate and learn, there comes a point when we have to realize that we are not required to be that kind of person.

We don’t have to be the person that knows exactly what to say all the time. We don’t have to talk to anyone and everyone about anything and everything. Some of us are simply tougher eggs to crack and you have to give us a little more time.

So, to my fellow tough eggs, let me just say that I am with you. You are not alone in feeling like you should do more, be more. You are not the only one sitting there internally screaming, “SAY SOMETHING.” You are not boring or uninteresting or pathetic. You just need time. And anyone worth having in your life will give you that time. So be patient with yourself.

5 More Things I Do Incorrectly

Coming up on a year ago now I posted this blog, listing 10 things that I do (at least seemingly) incorrectly. Since then, I have (not surprisingly) discovered a few more things that I do, if we want to put it nicer this time, differently.

Anyone with me out there?

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1) Chewing Gum

One of the best features a stick of gum can have is long lasting flavor, right? Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that why there are undoubtedly people who are working as gum scientists, trying to make the dream of the everlasting gobstopper come true? Well if it is and if there are, it’s a wasted effort on me. I’d say on average, the max time I chew gum is about 10 minutes. If I chew it longer, it’s either because I’m on a plane and I’m trying to make my ears pop, or I’m falling asleep at my desk or in the waiting room at the DMV and I’m desperately trying to keep myself awake by chewing—which only works moderately well, by the way. For the most part, I really don’t like gum. It’s weird and I hate the sound it makes when you chew it and after I’ve used it to freshen my breath, I’m done with it and want to spit it out as fast as possible.

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2) Make Pancakes

I’m sorry but I simply don’t have the patience for flipping. The mixing and the whisking and the ladling onto the griddle? Great. But the waiting for the top to bubble or the edges to brown or the pancake gods to send a sign, only to flip the pancake over and have it either still completely raw or burned to a crisp? THE WORST.

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3) Posing for Pictures

What do I do with my arms? Or my legs for the matter? Why does my face keep doing that? And why does one of my eyebrows jump higher than the other one when I smile too big? Wait, why are we taking more than one photo? I only had the one pose in mind and it was mediocre at best. How does everyone else have backup poses?! Annnnd great, I look like a moron.

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4) Hitting Snooze

This one is phrased wrong in that I’m actually superb at hitting snooze. I could have a graduate degree in snoozing. It’s not hitting snooze that I’m bad at. And even though I’d like to get up on time and not have to run around my house like a crazy person for once, and even though I’ve read all the articles on how bad pressing snooze it for you, I CAN’T STOP. This past week I’ve made an effort to only press snooze twice (per day) and I’ve considered that a success.

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5) Taking Pills

I really truly thought at some point I would graduate into a full blown adult that could swallow pills without any issue, but no. I still to this day have to cut pills in half and take them with Gatorade or juice or pudding and I still sometimes have to throw them away and start over. Thank heaven for gummy vitamins.

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So there they are, red strikes on my life report card. I’d like to think that admitting them gives me a green check in the bigger picture, but I’m not sure if life runs on the same grading scale as a kindergarten class.

Just please, give me a gold star and let me be on my way.

My Google Search History (Part 4)

So you know how I have that tendency to keep Internet windows open? Well I have officially reached a new level of insane. When I scrolled through and looked this past week, I had over 80 windows open. EIGHTY.

I must be stopped.

OR

I must continue. Because continuing means more of these posts, which, while giving you mild concern for my attachment to internet windows, also provide you with at least mildly interesting facts you might not have otherwise learned, right?

Maybe?

I don’t know.

All I know is that I’m probably going to keep doing it, and I hope you’ll mildly benefit in the process. So, diving right in, over the past few months, my Google search history can be broken down into four main categories:

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1) Recipes

Because I’m always propping my phone at perilous angles while I cook.

Here are some of the recipes I’ve recently Googled:

  1. Italian Spaghetti Squash
  2. Persimmon Pudding Cake
  3. Jalapeno-Goat Cheese Grilled Stuffed Mini Peppers
  4. Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese
  5. Quinoa Enchilada Stuffed Delicata Squash
  6. Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Red Onions with Feta

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2) Questions About Food

Because while food is delicious, it’s also…kind of mysterious?

Here are some of the questions I’ve Googled, the answers (if you’re wondering) are in italics.

  • How long are chips good after their expiration date?
    • 2-3 months.
  • Is there gluten in tortilla chips?
    • If they are made from corn tortillas, no. 
  • Iron rich foods to add to your diet?
  • Do you refrigerate brussel sprouts?
    • Yes, in the vegetable drawer. 
  • How long are chopped onions good in the refrigerator?
    • 7 to 10 days.
  • When are peaches in season?
    • May – late September.
  • What is a good snack to have before bed?
    • According to this article, some good options are a cup of almond milk, seasonal fresh fruit, dark chocolate covered popcorn, whole wheat bread with peanut butter, greek yogurt or cottage cheese. 
  • What foods trigger breakouts?
  • How can you tell if your eggs are bad?
    • This article gives this suggestion for a Fresh Egg Water Test: “Fill a bowl with water, and carefully place an egg on top. If the egg sinks like a stone, laying down on its side — it’s still very fresh! If it sinks but doesn’t lay flat — and instead it kind of stands up, wobbling — your egg is OK and probably just right for hard-boiling. If the egg floats on the top, that’s an indication that your egg is possibly past its prime.” 

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3) General Questions

I feel like these need at least a little explanation.

  • How often should you water a succulent?
    • Why I Googled this: I was gifted a succulent and I was afraid I was going to kill it. (Which I eventually did.)
    • The answer: At least once a week.
  • Can pets get altitude sickness?
    • Why I Googled this: We took our dogs to the mountains and our huskie did not fare well, especially for the first few days. Poor baby.
    • The answer: Yes, here are the symptoms and what to do. 
  • How long can you use toothpaste after the expiration date?
    • Why I Googled this: I found a little tube of travel toothpaste under my sink and I was wondering if it was safe to pack or if I’d start my vacation by rotting my teeth.
    • The answer: 12 to 18 months.
  • Can you dye your hair with easter egg dye?
    • Why I Googled this: I mean, it was Easter, we were dying eggs, our creative juices were flowing and we were wondering if we’d discovered a life hack.
    • The short answer: No.
  • How do you take care of a Tamagotchi?
    • Why I Googled this: One night my roommate came home with a shopping bag and asked us to close our eyes and hold out our hands. She then placed a Tamagotchi in my “adult” hands and I squealed in excitement.
    • The answer: This is the article I read, also I just heard there is now a Tamagotchi app—if you’re looking to adopt a virtual child.
  • What does Gayla Peevey look like?
    • Why I Googled this: It was Christmas time and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” came on the radio and, you know, I was just curious what the singer looked like. She looks like this:

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4) Rihanna

Someone on Twitter recommended typing “Rihanna” + your birthday into Google images to see what outfit she has worn in the past on that particular day and it did not disappoint. Here is the top result for my birthday (September 5th):

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And so concludes another deep dive into my search history. I’ve once again closed all of my windows, giving my phone some room to breathe…for a little while at least.


 

You can read the part 3 of this series here. 

March/April Favorites

Y’all, my senses are overwhelmed.

I’ve found so many good things lately!

So much so that I don’t even have time for one of these strange/slightly awkward/overall pointless introductions.

Although I guess I just did one.

Tricked you.

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Podcasts

As you might suspect, My Dad Wrote a Porno is somewhat of a scandalous podcast, but it is absolutely hilarious. It follows a man—alongside his two friends—reading his dad’s erotic novel aloud. It is as funny as it is mortifying and the secondhand cringe is real, but if you are looking for something to listen to that will make you laugh out loud, I highly recommend this one. (find it here)

On an ENTIRELY different level. Homecoming is a fiction podcast that was recently made into a series on Amazon Prime. It follows the story of a woman who has lost her memory, but seems to have ties to a very private/sketchy organization known as “Homecoming”. I was hooked through both seasons and can’t wait for the next one. (find it here)

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Books

I could probably just list “Mitch Albom” as one of my favorites for the past few months because I’ve been reading his books like crazy, but The Next Person You Meet in Heaven was especially good because it continued on the story of The Five People You Meet in Heaven which I’ve loved for a long time. As with most of his books, it’s a quick but powerful read and I absolutely loved it. (find it here)

Salt to the Sea was the second book I read from Ruta Sepetys (the first being Between the Shades of Grey) and I was once again taken by her ability to make historical fiction so captivating, heartbreaking and moving. (find it here)

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Movies

Set in the 1970’s, following the movement of Martin Luther King Jr., The Best of Enemies is such a good and important story to be told, and I’m so glad it is being told now, in a time when so many people are divided.

Breakthrough is an absolutely wild story of a boy who falls through an iced over lake and is pronounced dead, only to have him spontaneously generate a pulse after his mother arrives at the hospital and prays over him. It is true account of a real life miracle and it was absolutely moving. (find it in theaters now!)

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TV Shows

Game of Thrones. OBVIOUSLY. (find it on HBO)

I feel like On My Block doesn’t get as much recognition as it should, but I’ve loved both of the first two seasons and hope it continues to generate attention and appreciation for the genuine, funny and real life stories it tells in every episode. (find it on Netflix)

Whether or not you know the story behind The Act, you need to watch it. (find it on Hulu)

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Music

As always, I’m just going to list what I’ve been listening to, but let the iTunes writers describe it to you because they have fun adjectives and big words.

Maren Morris, GIRL: “Her free spirited sophomore effort continues to push the limits of contemporary country-pop, infusing it with energy and texture from hip hop, R&B and psychedelic rock.”

Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO: “a melancholy investigation of all the dark and mysterious places that linger in the back of our minds.”

Gone West, Tides-EP: This country band is still kind of under the radar so they don’t have a fancy write up on iTunes, but I genuinely love this EP and highly recommend it if you are looking for an easy listen.

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Skin Food

My skin has been having a bit of a hissy fit lately and so I’ve gone into full mother-of-a-screaming-toddler-in-a-mall mode, desperately trying to find something, anything to calm it down. With some research, I came across these two products, both of which have very high reviews. As of today, I’m about a week into using both and I have definitely seen improvements. Both products promise the long lasting benefits, so it is still a wait and see type of game, but I do feel like a bit more of an adult having a more defined nightly skin routine. (find the Rosehip Oil here, and Keeva Organic Face Cream here)

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Fig Jam

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To finish us off for today, I’d like to bring up one of the more obscure loves of my life: fig jam! This elusive little guy is hard to find, so hard that I only got my hands on two jars because my aunt snagged them for me at her local health food store. But trust me when I say that it is worth it because it is delicious. (my aunt found it at Sprouts 🙂

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Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know! My Amazon cart is always open…

See my previous favorites post here.