Country Number Two: Paris, France

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Bonjour soeurs!

I’m currently sitting in my hotel in Amsterdam. Yeah, I said hotel, not hostel. Molly’s mom and sister are here so we’re being treated to some luxuries not given in hostels, but anyway, this is about France.

France was actually really fun. We met up with our friend from Uni there, Emily (pictured above), and she knew all about the things to do around Paris and had an actual typed up itinerary, so we let her be our tour guide through the beautiful city. Emily is also from the US, she lives in New Orleans, but she’s a French major so not only did we have a tour guide, we had a tour guide that other French people didn’t hate and who could help us order in restaurants.

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Once getting to France we quickly made our way from the airport to our hostel. This was surprisingly easy and not nearly as stressful as trying to find the hostel in Spain. We looked up directions from the hostel which told us how to get there and I would highly recommend doing that. The hostel knows what they’re talking about, us as foreigners, do not. Once getting to our hostel we were told that we had actually been upgraded from a ten person mixed dorm to a four person dorm which was just a good omen for the whole trip.

Our first stop was to the Eiffel Tower, because of course it was. It was really weird seeing this famous landmark just because I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to. It’s something I always kind of thought about, but never considered an actual possibility. Plus, it was a surreal experience when Molly asked what I wanted to do and I was able to say, “uhm, let’s go see the Eiffel Tower.” Because that’s not a big deal or anything.

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Our next big stop was the Louvre. Fun fact, the Louvre is open and free to enter on Wednesday and Friday nights from 6:00 – 9:30, so that’s when we went. Seeing the Mona Lisa was kind of strange as well. You can see we took the obligatory selfie with her and that the painting itself is actually really small. Not to mention it’s covered with a bullet proof case and in a temperature controlled area. Obviously, the Louvre is insanely impressive and I’m really glad we went. It’s huge. I think if you spent a minute looking at each piece it would take over a year. That’s what Emily told us and she knows French, so I believe her.

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Our second day of Paris included a lot of walking, but also a lot of beautiful sights. We walked down the Champs-Élysées continuing past the Louvre and a walk from there to the Notre Dame. On the way we passed the lock bridge, which is actually boarded up right now because all of the locks are so heavy that it’s starting to make the bridge collapse. They are apparently going to tear it down and put up one you can’t put locks on, but it was still cool while we were there. The fact it was boarded up made me feel less bitter as well.

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There’s a picture of Notre Dam and also how we ended the day, with cheap champagne in front of a sparkling Eiffel Tower. It was a really amazing experience, sitting there with terrible champagne and macaroons, pretending to be fancy with our plastic cups. I remember saying “You guys, I’m really scared life doesn’t get any better than this.”

IMG_3608DSC_0035 DSC_0042 DSC_0051DSC_0067 Our third day in Paris Emily went to Versaille and Molly and I were left to roam the streets alone. I attempted to plan out a fun day for us including the Tuileries Garden, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, the Latin Quarter, the Pantheon, and Rue Mouffetard. It was a fun day, but a lot of things didn’t work out quite the way they were supposed to. We did stop in a small shop in the Latin Quarter and I got the best crepe I’ve ever had which was smothered in Nutella.

Later that night we met up with Emily again to go to the Catacombs, which is what the pictures above are from. They were really interesting although slightly errie. I had to not think about it too hard to enjoy it, but I’m glad I went. It was definitely something new and something you won’t see anywhere else. Later that night we also got to meet up with our other friend, Erin, which was really fun. Meeting people in Paris is just the best place to meet up with someone.

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Our last day in Paris was started in Montmatre. We came up the Metro to climb the stairs up to the Sacre-Coeur which provided us with a fantastic skyline of Paris. The Sacre-Coeur was actually a really interesting cathedral just because it looked a bit different than other ones I’ve been to recently. Emily and I took to calling in the church mosque because that’s what it looks like and I literally can’t remember the names of anything in Paris let alone pronounce them correctly. The rest of the day was spent shopping the really cute streets and boutiques of Montmatre, which feels a bit different from the rest of Paris in the fact that it’s all small streets and smaller stores rather than the Louie Vuitton and Burberry that make up the bigger streets.

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We ended our last night at Montparnasse tower. 56 floors up on the roof terrace we were given a 360 view of Paris at night. The city was lit up a beautiful before us. We watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle and ran around pointing out monuments and things we recognized. It was a fantastic way to end our trip to the famous city. Now for a Christmas in Amsterdam and canals on canals on canals.

Honey Lavender Coffee Creamer

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ae1/69902393/files/2014/12/img_2088.jpg I don’t know what I would do without my morning cup of coffee. I usually preset my machine on mornings when I have to work and I get really excited for it while I’m grinding the beans at night. My alarm goes off in the morning and my coffee starts brewing as I get ready with my eyes on the prize.

I know Alyssa loves her honey lavender lattes, so I thought I would try to make something similar in order to make my morning cuppa a little sweeter. This creamer is subtle but delicious. Adjust your amounts to fit your flavor preference and look forward to your morning coffee a little more.

Honey Lavender Coffee Creamer

Ingredients

  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups milk, half & half, heavy cream, or some combination of those 3. (I used 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream)
  • 3 tsp dried lavender
  • 1TBSP Honey

How To Make It

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  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Slowly bring it to a simmer over medium heat stirring occasionally just until the milk starts to froth.
  3. Once you see little bubbles start to form, cover and remove from the heat. Let everything cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
  4. Taste your mixture. If you want it a little stronger, repeat these steps one more time.
  5. Pour your creamer into a strainer held over a large bowl with a spout, or a funnel into your creamer container.
  6. Pour into a cup of coffee and enjoy!

Barcelona, Spain: The Beginning of our Journey

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HOLA HERMANAS

I’m currently sitting in my surprisingly nice hostel in Barcelona, Spain! It’s our last day here in this beautiful city and it has been a fun and exhausting visit. We’re currently at the Black Swan Hostel which I highly recommend to anyone coming to visit. Even though we’re in a ten person, female dorm, the hostel has been a really good place to both rest and make inexpensive food. Not to mention they made us cheap homemade paella, so good, and have many activities which are free including walking tours and pub crawls.

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Speaking of Walking tours, today we went on one that showed us the three different Gaudi buildings throughout the city. Our guide was super knowledgeable about everything Gaudi and I now too, feel somewhat knowledgeable about the artist/architect. Fun fact, because the city declared his building more “works of arts” than actual buildings, he was able to bypass restrictions on elements like the height and volume of buildings and would boast about how he was so good the system just didn’t apply to him.

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While we’re on the topic of Gaudi, Molly and I also visited La Sagrada Familia which was wow. A must visit upon coming to Barcelona. We literally just walked around the inside for over an hour just amazed. The colors from the stain glass windows are incredible and the tall ceilings and columns and walls and everything. I never knew I could love architecture so much. It was something I’m so glad I saw.

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Last thing Gaudi related was the Park Guell. Although Molly and I didn’t actually pay to go inside, we did climb to the very top of the park which provided us with this fantastic view of the city. We also poked around the free areas soaking up all of the art we could while staring at the city laid out before us. An amazing city to be honest.

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We also did some non-Gaudi related things like taking a walking tour of the Gothic district. This part of town is full of history and amazing sights to behold. This is the main Cathedral, free to go inside and gawk at. Amazing. This part of town is also home to parts of the Roman wall which have still survived, the art school Picasso went to, a square dedicated to George Orwell, and many more significant things that occupied our time.

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And of course, you can’t come to Barcelona with out visiting the beach. What a better way to reboot than kicking it next to the Mediterranean Sea? Barcelona was everything I wanted and more. We had so much fun in this city and it’ll be kind of sad moving on to the next one tomorrow. But, I mean, the next one is Paris, so not too sad.

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It’s Beginning to Look Like Holiday Spirit

DSC_0201Ah man, look at me being terrible at posting on time again. Well, better late than never?

Anywhos, it’s the last week of classes here and I’m dealing with packing and trying to complete some essays before I leave for my month long, graceful, tumble around Europe. At this moment I’m a bit sick, which is a little terrifying, but I’m keeping my head up that I’ll be mostly better by this weekend. This upcoming Monday will be my first day in Barcelona so I don’t know how well posting on this blog will go, but I’ll do my best.

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The pictures you’re seeing are from the city center of Nottingham where they have a Christmas market set up. Apparently they have Christmas markets all over Europe. The best ones are in Germany and Austria, but I’ll just have to settle for the few we stumble upon while traveling and this one, about twenty minutes away from me. The holidays are making me both really sad and happy. Sad because I will not be with family this year, but happy because I’ll be in Amsterdam instead. Not to mention Christmas in general makes me happy (it helps you guys sent me presents to open on actual Christmas day).

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The holiday season also gave the hall an excuse to have our Christmas formal, which is why we all look so dapper in these photos. I’m really going to miss all of these kids while I travel. I’m really glad I come back for two weeks to take finals because it would have been a rough couple of days if I had to say a permanent goodbye.

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There are a lot of opportunities to get into the holiday spirit. A bunch of girls from Linfield all volunteered with helping to make holiday decorations for a party and spending the afternoon drinking Starbucks Christmas drinks while cutting out paper snowflakes and not so carefully applying glitter to everything was the perfect way to bring myself some holiday cheer.

Okay, now I should really stop avoiding other responsibilities. This Shakespeare Histories essay is not, unfortunately, going to write itself. Hopefully next will be a post from Barcelona where it will not be quite as cold.

Friendsgiving

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Last weekend, I came up with another excuse to gorge myself with way too much food yet again. I had a few friends over and we had a little “friendsgiving” a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving because we all have totally crazy schedules. I don’t have many pictures because my friends are shy and I didn’t want to force them into this awkward “take pictures for the internet!” type of thing. Plus, I live in the moment and totally forgot to take pictures of everything.

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Our menu consisted of classic Thanksgiving fare with a twist as 1/3 of us were vegetarian. Everyone was in charge of different aspects. I made the main course, appetizers, and dessert. And I made some apple cider just for funsies. I made some individual pot pies, 4 chicken, and 2 tofu for the main course. I even came up with this cute idea of using pie crust letters to show which pies were vegetarian. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture. I should also note that I used Ina Garten’s chicken pot pie recipe, which states that it makes 4 servings. It probably makes a little closer to 400 servings. I have no idea who could eat that much pot pie, but my friends went home with enough leftovers to make about 4 more pies each. Oh, Ina.

When you have pie for dinner, you can’t have pie for dessert too, which left me a little stumped. Pie is the go-to Thanksgiving dessert. Plus, I was a little overwhelmed with the pot pies and didn’t really have time to create a fancy dessert. Bennett came up with the great idea to make a little s’mores bar with sterno candles and tons of fancy chocolates. I highly recommend it. He also bought those flowers without so much as a hint from me. He’s got this hosting thing down pat.

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My most proud moment is probably this centerpiece I made. It’s a miniaturized version of this tutorial with some glasses with salt and tea lights and scattered metallic pom poms. I kind of love my paper hollies.

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We even got Kirby in the Christmas spirit with the sweater Lacey got him. I kept it on him until everyone got to see him, but his fur coupled with the sweater made for a very hot dog. Too bad you look so cute in that sweater, dude, because you will have to wear it again.

All in all, it was a rather successful even. We all ate until we hurt, and we had a ton of fun. The food was good, and so was the chatting, and I didn’t get too stressed out while preparing. Success!

Macrame Wall Hanging How-to, and Cats. So.

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Two exciting things to report:

I made a macrame wall hanging that I am actually proud to display
and
I got a kitty!

Let’s talk macrame first. I’ve been wanting to create a macrame wall hanging for a couple months now, to hang over our bed in our apartment. I bought some stuff for it while I was still at Lee’s parents’ house, but it’s sort of an involved craft and I make a mess/take up a lot of room while I do it. So I had to wait to be in my own space first.

What I bought:

100 yards of cotton piping, 1/4″ (I started out with only 50 yards, but quickly realized that wouldn’t be enough)
A three(ish) foot wooden dowel (home depot, most art stores carry these)
Tape
Scissors

The total cost was about $40, which is a lot, but these puppies can sell for up to a grand if they’re done really well and they’re as big as the one I made. If you make a smaller one, I’m sure 60 yards would be plenty, especially if you used a smaller size of rope or a different kind. A lot of people use plastic rope, which you can find at Home Depot. I found my rope at a little yarn shop close to my work, but I know they also have it at places like Hobby Lobby.

The first macrame I did was made of really thick yarn, and while I really like the texture, it was a bit too stretchy and the hanging narrowed at the bottom. I also used the square knot for that one, so I wanted to change it up for this hanging. I used an alternative method of the square knot, which uses a loop and looks slightly different.

Make sure all your individual strands of rope are twice as long as you want them to be when you cut them, because you will fold them in half when you attach them to the dowel. Fold in half, then wrap around the dowel by pulling the two ends through the loop you have created. It will look like this:

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As you can see, I did not remember to make my rope twice as long as I wanted it to be. I think if I had, each piece would have been about 12 feet long, maybe a little longer. I had to tape them together at the ends and try and camouflage it into the knot on the dowel. It worked pretty well. Also make sure to tape the tips of your rope, so they don’t fray.

Now for the fun part, knotting!

Each knot takes four strands of rope. You will be working with the two outside strands of each knot. In each row, you will alternate which four strands you are working with. You’ll grab the last two strands from the knot on the left, and the first two from the knot on the right in the row above.

To start, separate the two outer strands of the four from the two in the middle. These are the two you will be working with for each knot. Create a “C” over the two center strands with the rightmost strand.

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Then (this is sort of hard to explain), using your pointer finger and thumb on your left hand, reach through the loop you just created, under the two strands in the middle, to the base of the loop. Grab both side and pull through to the other side, so they wrap around the two strands in the middle and create two smaller loops inside the big one on the other side. You will be grabbing from underneath on the right, and bringing them through to the left. It will look like this:

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Now, take the leftmost strand and string it through the two loops you have created, like this:

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Pull through until it is taut. You will now have two loose ends. Pull these, along with the loop on the bottom right side of the knot, until the knot sort of twists and straightens out to look like this:

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And there is your knot! I usually have to reorganize the middle strands so they aren’t all twisted up; you want them to stay straight.

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So, go ahead and repeat this until you run out of strands. Make sure you alternate between each row of knots. In the end, I was pretty happy with mine. It came out like this:

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I had to take a straight iron to the rope that was left hanging at the bottom. It honestly made the piece look a thousand times better. I also added an angled edge to each side to make it look a little more interesting.

In my next piece, I would love to incorporate a different color, or attach some yarn somehow to make a chevron pattern. I’ll keep you guys posted! And both of you, let me know if you want one. I might ask for a little help paying for the materials, but I can’t have a hundred of them around my apartment and I love making them!

Now, on to the interesting part: my kitty!

His name is Kristoff, or as we call him, Kristofferson (after the cousin in Fantastic Mr. Fox). He’s a rescue kitty. He’s still super shy, his current kitty cold probably has a little to do with that. But if you put him down somewhere he will curl up and fall right to sleep, be it your lap or a bed you make for him full of comfy pillows and blankets in your dresser drawer. He is too cute to handle. His tail curls around his little paws every time he sits down. He loves to snuggle. We are so very happy to have him in our home.

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A Mini Adventure: Southwell

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I forgot to post. Sorry that I forgot to post and then continued not to post til today, but also not that sorry because it’s really pretty hit or miss as far as your posting goes Alyssa. But anyways, here’s a quick little blog about mine and Molly’s mini adventure to Southwell.

Southwell is just kind of a random town that’s about an hour and a half by bus from my University. Molly and I like to try and get out and do stuff on days that we don’t have class and find that we don’t have too much work and Southwell was an easy destination to get to seeing as we could use our bus passes to get there making the trip about three or four pounds all together. And that was spent on tea, because I mean, you have to have your afternoon tea.

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The attraction of Southwell comes from two things, their minister and a workhouse that’s near by. The minister was, in fact, beautiful and we’ll talk about the workhouse later. But this is where we sat and ate lunch, just looking at a cool building and laughing and having fun. We spent probably a good half hour attempting to take jumping pictures in the garden next to the minister, but were unsuccessful in all attempts.

DSC_0209This is the workhouse. I kind of forgot what a workhouse was until we got there and read signs with people saying things like “I had no other choice to come here, it’s like a prison, I’m going to die here,” and other fun things like that. In case you’re like me and totally forgot what a workhouse is, think Oliver Twist. The signs said it wasn’t quite as bad as that portrayal, but I mean, that is where Oliver Twist lived before he went to go thieving or however that novel ends. Anyways, the workhouse was a kind of museum where you could walk around the whole area, but you had to go through a gift shop first, so Molly and I headed right in and just started touring. We did find out later that we were supposed to actually buy tickets to go in and look around, but we failed to do so and never actually did and no one asked for our tickets… so you know.

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There’s Molly, standing in a tunnel under the workhouse, not giving two shits that we are essentially criminals and accidentally stole from a museum. I know, such rebels. Anyways, that was just a random mini adventure I had in the beautiful country of England. I’ll try to actually remember to post on time next week, here’s hoping your weeks are both good and that your days are superb as well.

Much love sisters!

Micro Kitchen Meets Big Personalities

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Lee playing his nerdy computer games pre-wifi days.

I have a terrible habit of only posting every other week, I’m sorry! Hopefully I’ll have something cooler to post next week. Work has been nuts; we’re launching a brand new, completely, 100% different website on Monday, and I’m in charge of posting all the new content to the blog (or “journal,” as we’re calling it). 40 posts and counting. Hopefully I am near the end. I’ll think I’m done and then my boss will think of something new for me to post (which literally just happened as I am typing this). It’s always in a series of 10 or so. It’s mostly copying and pasting, but it’s a lot of work. And it’s on a new platform, so we’re all learning as we go, which makes it a little stressful. But it’s kind of fun. It’s at least a little creative, because I get to play with the layout.

I’m also lacking motivation to do actual work today because more than half of the office took today as a vacation day. Seven people usually occupy the room my desk is in, and there are only three of us here today. The chicks. One of them is my closest friend in the office, so a lot of post-Thanksgiving gossiping happened this morning.

So, anyway, I’m living with a tiny, tiny kitchen. So far, it’s not  a huge problem. The worst part is just the feeling of being cramped – I’m cooking stuff on the stove and my elbow bumps the wall, or I’m trying to get something out of one cupboard and I can’t open another. It’s not a big deal, though, because all the portions I cook are pretty small since it’s just the two of us. And I make very basic meals since I’m not a great cook. Tacos, pasta dishes, salads, casseroles, nothing too fancy. No steaks or chicken and dumplings or fancy stews. Not yet, anyway.

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As you can see, I got my over-the-sink cutting board!! I LOVE it. And I felt so grown up buying it…and I feel so grown up owning it! It’s a wonderful, hefty chunk of wood. Every cutting board I’ve owned has been a flimsy piece of crap plastic slab or something. It creates a lot of counter space, just enough extra room that I can mix things, cook things on the stove, and chop things all at the same time. And what’s great is that it doesn’t quite cover the whole sink, so I can still drop ends of veggies or dirty spoons into the sink while it’s there. I really can’t recommend something like this enough. I got mine at IKEA, and get this: it was TEN BUCKS. Ten! Get yours here:

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30087148/

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One thing that Lee and I CANNOT agree on is where to hang that damn hand towel to the left of the oven. I like it there. Our oven handle doesn’t come out far enough from the oven for us to slip a towel back there, so we have to hang it on a cabinet knob (we’re too cheap to go buy, like…a command hook…and too lazy). He puts it on the handle of the cabinet above the sink, so it’s just dangling in our faces while we do dishes. It irritates me…so much…fl-flame-flames…on the sides of my face…b-burning…

But he lets me put my mugs right there, on top of the oven, since the cabinet we put our other mugs in is too high for me to reach. That’s another problem with tiny kitchens: storage space. I honestly didn’t think this would be much of a problem; it seemed like we had a lot of room. We don’t. It gets used up really, really fast. We’re making do, though. We keep minimal food in the apartment in the way of snacks, just essentials for cooking, and most of our stuff goes in the fridge, because we figure that healthy stuff is the stuff that spoils. So we utilize what we have.

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This little portal has changed since I took this photo – as you can see, Jos, we are using the french press you gave me for my birthday. Lee was NOT convinced the first time we used it (this may have been the first time, I think he was cooking me breakfast on our first Saturday at the apartment), but he won’t use anything else now. This morning, while he was driving me to a doctor’s appointment before work (such a nice guy), he was drinking some french press coffee and just said, “you know what? I’m sold on the french press. I love it.” And so do I! It’s so much easier than coffee from a coffee maker, and it tastes a thousand times better.

ANYWAY. The portal currently houses those two little cacti (his is the single one, called Diglet, and mine is the three little guys, called Dugtrio – ten points if you get the reference), the cowboy boot shot glasses Lee got at Fifthmas last December, a glass skull full of our laundry change, a little hedgehog Christmas ornament, and a ceramic reindeer that mysteriously showed up in my car when I got back from mom’s last weekend. Wonder how that got there…

So that’s my micro kitchen as of right now. We had a little set of pots hanging on a rack above the sink, but Lee’s massive swimmer arms flailed a bit too aggressively and he knocked them off the wall, so there’s a hole on one side now. He gets to fix that. Also, look at this:

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This is how Lee thinks you should hang curtains. He gets to fix that too.

The Easiest (and Cheapest) DIY Wreath Ever

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I like wreaths, but I don’t like wreath making. And I really don’t like spending a bunch of money on a wreath either. I decided I needed one, though, so after a little research for inspiration online, I got to work creating a wreath that fits my simple Christmas decorating personality and my thin wallet.

You literally need 4 things to create this wreath:

  • Dollar Store Christmas Garland
  • Bottle Brush Trees
  • Hot Glue
  • Ribbon

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All I did was take my garland and wrap it into about a 14 inch circle and wind it around itself. You can hot glue the ends together if you’re worried, but the wire works really well.

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Figure out your arrangement for the bottle brush trees by laying everything on the ground. When you find what you like, just hot glue those guys straight onto the wreath.

Add a ribbon to the top to hide your wreath hanger.

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You’re all done!

I do feel like it needs something. I think that something might be flocking, but I’m a little to frugal to purchase something so frivolous. I do have some leftover pinecones, though, do you think those would look good on the bottom?

Some Things I’ll Miss About England

DSC_0010Hello sisters.

So I know I still have a considerable amount of time abroad, but the the facts are, I only have three weeks of school left until I leave for break and even though after break I return for another two weeks, I’m already feeling nostalgic for a place I’m still living. The thing is, the idea of leaving this new place where I’ve discovered so many things and met so many people is wrenching my heart. Going to Uni here has been like starting over and in an effort to avoid thinking about the upcoming holidays where I won’t be with my family, I thought I’d list some of my favorite things about the place I live.

1. England is beautiful. The picture above is from Wollaton and Deer Park. I have found that Wollaton is the exact perfect way to take a study break. Sometimes, I’ll load my phone up with a new podcast or good music and just take a walk around the lake. There are always families walking around or people cycling and I find it a great way to clear my head and breathe in some fresh air. The fact is, England is beautiful. It’s like they try especially hard to make everything aesthetically pleasing and I love it.

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2. The City Center. Nottingham is not exactly England’s shining jewel, but the city center has always surprised me with the amount of things to do and the amount of weird adventures I’ve had. Whether it’s going out to clubs where everyone dances embarrassingly and I have yet to see any true grinding, or just randomly going into town one day and finding a vintage fair, Nottingham makes me happy. The other evening, after 80’s night at a dance club, me and a friend ran through town attempting to get McDonald’s before our bus was due to arrive. We made it, but only by sprinting with burgers and fries in our hands and mouths and almost choking from laughing.

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3. Traveling. The picture above is from a random two day trip I took with my friend Molly to Cambridge. The town was having a little carnival type deal for Guy Fawkes night where the fireworks were actually pretty impressive. The fact is, I took a random trip to a completely new city in the middle of the week and just took time to explore. I don’t do that at home, no one really does. I know it’s harder to do in the states than it is here, but I’m going to miss it when I return. I’ll be flat broke from all of the traveling, but it’s oh so worth it.

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4. The people. This one is going to hurt. The people in my hall are becoming some of my favorite humans. It’s going to hurt like a bitch leaving them.

Anyways, there’s a quick, more optimistic comment on how my life has been going lately. I have some footage from other, more recent travels, I just need to get my shiz together and actually edit it all. But this is all I can manage at the moment, I have to go read some criticism on Death of a Salesman now. Byeeee.