My Travel Bucket List

I love traveling for so many reasons. Learning about other places and cultures is so exciting for me. And I believe that half the fun of traveling is the journey itself — there’s always such a thrill in waking up early to catch that flight, or that bus, or that train.

I caught the travel bug early in life and am fortunate to have gone to some really amazing places. But there are still so many cities and countries I hope to visit before I’m too old to travel, so here they are:

Paris, France

Paris has always been the pinnacle of travel destinations in my mind. I’m a romantic at heart, and I’ve always been allured, charmed, and fascinated by the idea of the city. I read books about Paris; I collect pictures of Paris on my Pinterest; my favorite Disney/Pixar movie takes place in Paris. My entire name is French! And no wonder — my parents honeymooned in France. It would be so special to go to Paris with them and have them show me the places they walked long before I came along.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Continuing on the French vibe, New Orleans is a city I’ve always been curious about. Music is a major part of my life, so going to the “birth place of jazz” is something I’d very much enjoy. My high school’s music department went to NOLA over one of their vacation weeks, and it looked like such a blast. From what I’ve seen through posts and photos, NOLA looks like a colorful, fun, and beautiful place.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been wanting to travel to Amsterdam ever since I read and saw The Fault In Our Stars my freshman year of high school. It’s such a gorgeous city, and I long to walk down the canals and go in the shops. I’ve watched people vlog about it and get so excited as they talk about how amazing it is.

Yosemite National Park, Wyoming

Almost as much as I love music, I love nature. I want to travel to and hike around Yosemite because after now living predominantly in the city for a while, I crave experiences in nature. The natural world is gorgeous, humbling, and I think everyone needs a reminder once in a while of everything this planet has blessed us with.

San Francisco, California

I’ve been to San Diego and Los Angeles, but not San Francisco. I would so love to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and dip my toes in the water. I remember loving so much about California and it would be awesome to go back.

Waco, Texas

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I love Fixer Upper, and watching this show incessantly over this past summer has definitely put Waco on the map for me! I’ve never been to Texas before, so this would be an awesome way to spend some time there. I would visit the Silos, eat at Magnolia Table, and drop by the original Magnolia shop that Joanna opened. Who knows — if I’m lucky, maybe they’ll pop by too!

London, England

Taking pictures in the red phone booths at Epcot is fun and all, but I can’t help but want to do the real thing. London is such a cool city from what I’ve seen, and I would want to experience it all: the double decker busses, Big Ben, the London Eye…and breathing the same air as Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and the rest of the monarchy would have me fangirling pretty hard as well.

Ireland

Every time I look down at the constellation of freckles on my arms, or see a wisp of fiery red in my hair, I get an inkling to want to see the land of my ancestors. My maternal great grandparents immigrated to the United States from Ireland. My best friend studied abroad in Ireland this past summer, and when she returned she shared so much of the country’s beauty with me: the rolling emerald hills, the fiddle music billowing out of pub windows, and lots of sheep. It would be so amazing to go there with my entire family and learn more about where we come from.

Greece/The Greek Islands

Literally just because I want to reenact the Mama Mia choreography there.

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Why You Should Join Your College’s Orientation Program

The week I moved in to Emerson College, I sat next to my room mate in one of the most gorgeous theaters I had ever seen. All of the students involved in my school’s Orientation Program, called Orientation Leaders, had just finished a massive dance number. They put their hands in the air and screamed, “Welcome to Emerson!”

When the house lights came up and we filed up the aisles, I turned to my room mate and said, with complete conviction, “I’m going to be one of them someday.”

As my freshman year unfolded, that spark inside me dimmed as I focused my life around becoming a Resident Assistant for the next year. But it never truly went out. And as it happened, God had a plan in store that wouldn’t yet make my tuition cheaper, but would make my life so much richer.

When I received word that I had been chosen to be an Orientation Leader, that spark turned into a fire. I am passionate about this campus and the students that live here, and I could think of no greater joy than to welcome in a new class and share that passion with them.

But interacting with new students is only a small part of why being an Orientation Leader is the one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

I’ll be the first to tell you that Emerson is not like other schools. It’s not perfect, by any stretch, but I believe with all my heart that Emerson is populated by a group of the most kind, inclusive, creative, passionate, and driven people on this planet. The group of Orientation Leaders that I was lucky to be a part of are the epitome of this.

I was welcomed with open arms into this Orientation community. I was encouraged, included, loved beyond measure, and still am. And have I had fun (so. much. dancing.)! I have made friends that will stick by my side for the rest of our time at Emerson — and hopefully for a lifetime.

Last night, I stood onstage in one of the most gorgeous theaters I’ve ever seen. We had just finished that massive dance number. We put our hands in the air and screamed, “Welcome to Emerson!” As the house lights came up and all the new students filed up the aisles, I hoped that at least one of them saw what I did all those months ago.

Maybe I will become an RA next year. Maybe not. Whatever my future at Emerson holds, as long as I have these people beside me, things will keep getting better.

 

 

 

Book Review: “Paris by the Book” by Liam Callanan

Leah Eady lost her husband. At least, that’s what she tells the authorities, people who ask, and above all, herself.

Before disappearing, Robert was an amazing father to their two daughters, a writer, and promised Leah he would one day take her to Paris, France. Every now and then he would vanish to go write somewhere, but he would always leave a note, and he would always return. This time, he did neither. But not long after, they find a clue: an unfinished manuscript about an eerily similar family who moves to Paris and owns a bookstore.

Leah and her daughters move to France and take up residence and, you guessed it, take ownership of a bookstore there. Leah is living her dream, and some of Robert’s favorite children’s stories–like Madeleine and The Red Balloon–lead the family around Paris to some of its most historic landmarks. But is Robert there too?

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I adored this novel. First, I have always wanted to visit Paris, and after closing the book I felt like I had been there. His descriptions of these places are detailed and vivid, and if I ever do make it there, this book will be as much a part of my itinerary planning as any guidebook.

The writing gripped me throughout the entire story. There was never a dull moment, and the narrative of the main character, Leah, allowed me to empathize deeply with her. I forgot that Leah was a fictional character; it truly felt like she was the one sitting down and telling me this story. Callanan is able to squish many different themes–including grief, mother-daughter relationships, the importance of change, and finding inner strength–into one book without it being overwhelming or cheesy or forcing the novel to lose its momentum.

This is the type of book that keeps you thinking about the characters whenever you’re not reading. I recommend this book to anyone who loves Paris (or the idea of it), and anyone who enjoys a true, honest-to-life love story.

Portsmouth

Portsmouth is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is small and quaint and a place that I have gone with both friends and family. When my parents and I went last week, it was a sweltering day, but we were able to keep cool by ducking in and out of shops.

Downtown Portsmouth’s streets are lined with all sorts of boutiques, from clothing to food to stationery. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes.

As you cross the bridge into Portsmouth, if you roll down your window you can smell the salty air of the coast. I feel like it’s a getaway without having to go very far. To me, Portsmouth is a place of simplicity, emphasizing the small joys in life.

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The best place that we stumbled upon was called Book and Bar. It’s a book store with a coffee bar in it. While I know that’s not a new concept, the way the shop was set up made for a very comfortable atmosphere. It almost looked like a library. Bookshelves lined the walls and the room was littered with comfy couches, chairs, and tables. The coffee bar was in the center of the room. They serve sandwiches and other lunch items as well.

We didn’t end up eating there, but instead walked to a tugboat dock and ate at a restaurant right on the water.

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I look forward to returning to Portsmouth someday soon!

Book Review: “The Magnolia Story” by Chip & Joanna Gaines (with Mark Dagostino)

Before I begin this review I am going to acknowledge my obvious bias: I love Chip and Joanna and everything about them.

This was the first book I checked out with my town library card. As soon as I saw it I was so excited! After spending a copious amount of time watching Fixer Upper when I came home from college, I was endlessly curious about how they met, got their start flipping houses, and were chosen for a show. All of those questions are answered with grace, humility, and humor in this memoir.

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The book opens with the story of HGTV camera crews coming to their house to film them in order to pitch the show to the home improvement network. They then go back to each other’s beginnings and the story continues from there. While the story is mostly told by Joanna, Chip has plenty to say too, whether he’s telling his side of the story or inserting his witty comments into Joanna’s narrative. Don’t worry, you can always tell who’s talking!

The book also includes some pages of photos, from their first dates to flipping houses.

I’m not going to spoil anything, but their story is amazing. I was blown away and inspired by the way they live their life and their dedication to their faith. Chip especially gave me new insights on life. I have to return the book soon, but I am eventually going to buy myself a copy so that I can open it whenever I need encouragement in life. Reading this also cemented Waco, Texas as one of my bucket list destinations!

This book is essential for any Chip and Joanna fan!

What to get on a coffee date (when caffeine bothers you)

I remember the days of my youth when I blissfully strolled into Starbucks and ordered my favorite drink: a chai tea latte. After roughly two years of this, at the turn of 2018 the Starbucks chai began to wreak havoc on my stomach. It wasn’t long before anything with caffeine in it–including green tea lattes and certain hot chocolates–resulted in very unpleasant consequences.

Being a lover of warm drinks and coffee shops themselves, I was crushed. But my caffeine-free quest has led me to discover that most coffee shops provide more options for people like myself than I initially thought.

Starbucks actually has a solid amount of options for warm, non-caffeinated drinks. As most coffee shops do, they have a pretty wide assortment of hot herbal teas (which can also be iced). Additionally, their steamers are perfect for a snowy or rainy day. Basically a steamer is steamed milk with flavored dolce pumped into it. My favorite is the cinnamon dolce–it’s warm and soothing with that slight spicy kick of cinnamon that makes me feel like I’m cozied up to a fire. Another option is the vanilla dolce steamer. The only way I can describe its taste is that of a warm milkshake. But not warm in a bad way; I mean it literally tastes like the warm version of a milkshake. Just try it.

The coffee chain also offers smoothies and pressed juices for warmer days, along with steamed apple juice.

On the topic of apple drinks, there’s a coffee shop near my campus that serves apple cider! So that’s also an option if you’re looking for something lighter than steamed milk.

But if you are caffeine-free crusader like myself, I would caution you not to abandon the idea of indulging in your favorite coffee and tea drinks too quickly. There are multiple coffee shops that I’ve tried where I can have chai tea without it bothering me. I can’t explain why sometimes it bothers me and sometimes it doesn’t. Keep trying and see what places work for you–it may just be luck of the draw!

Disclaimer: This is in no way sponsored by Starbucks, nor am I a nutritionist/dietician. I am only sharing my experiences and personal opinions. 

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Making moves

I write this from my old desk, but in my new bedroom overlooking my new yard and the new barn in that new yard.

No, I didn’t move to a farm; quite the opposite, in fact. The barn in question was used by the previous owners to house an antique car. It now houses a practice room for my dad’s band on the bottom floor and a practice dojo, also for my dad, on the top (though I hope to carve out a corner for myself somewhere in there. Yoga studio, perhaps?).

Moving was an emotional experience for me. I left the only house that I have known my whole life. It was a beautiful house with a sprawling front yard in a quiet neighborhood. It was the house I came back to at the end of every school day until after I graduated. While it made perfect sense for my family to downsize, it was hard for me to accept the change.

However, little by little this new house has started to feel like home. Although it’s hard to be farther away from my childhood friends, I’m closer to my cousins and grandparents, and not to mention civilization. My old house, while beautifully located, was at least thirty minutes away from everything and anything. Simply put, I lived in the woods. Now, I’m lucky to live on a fairly quiet street, but also to be five minutes from anything I could need: grocery, retail, restaurants, you name it. Thankfully we are still in the same state, and given my location it will be much easier to take some awesome day trips this summer. Plus, I was able to get a retail job that comes with a ten minute commute!

Naturally, one of the first things I did after settling into my new house for the summer was go and get my library card. My new town has a gorgeous library adjacent to a park. I know that I’m going to spend the majority of my summer there.

And in regard to the picture: the day I came home from college for the summer, we went out to dinner near our house. When we got out of the car, we saw a rainbow shining over iHop, and I don’t think that’s any kind of coincidence.