U.S Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Baltimore, Maryland

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

The East Coast has always been one of my favorite places, mainly because I’m a huge history nerd. For this round of cities you should definitely visit, I’m talking about Baltimore, which I last visited when I was about 10 years old. Whew! Do I feel old? Yeah, maybe a little.

I’m really excited to talk about Baltimore because I have a gentleman friend from Maryland who gave me the deets from a native’s perspective. Ready to get knee-deep in pink plastic flamingos? Let’s go!

History

To start off, I think it’s important to mention that the state sport in Maryland is jousting. You read that right: jousting. Baltimore might not seem that old, but it’s been a city since 1729. Here are some of my favorite historical facts about Baltimore:

l A Mixed City: Baltimore used to be right up there with Ellis Island as the second-largest point of immigration in the U.S.

l The U.S. Flag: The original Star-Spangled Banner Flag was designed in Baltimore by Mary Pickersgill. Today, there’s a museum in the home where her family once lived, and I want to visit so badly. This is the flag that inspired our national anthem. Girl power!

l Cool People: Fredrick Douglass, Billie Holiday, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall all lived in this city, leaving amazing legacies in their wake. Babe Ruth was also born in Baltimore. There’s also a pretty cool museum in Baltimore that you can visit if you’re a baseball fanatic.

Cool Things to Do

While obviously having a pretty groovy background, Baltimore also has a pretty awesome scene right now. First off, I must tell y’all about a little friend, “Natty Boh,” who’s a big deal in Maryland. The National Bohemian brewery logo is the head of homie sir. Another logo you’ll see frequently in Baltimore is the “Utz girl,” a doll who represents a brand of chips I’ve never heard about (#westcoast). Anyway, Natty Boh is a big deal in Maryland. If you’re visiting, be sure to stop by the billboard that’s been up since 2007, where you can spot the huge logo in person.

If you want to party like a Baltimore native, you’ll want to head down to Ocean City. If you want to say you’re going to the beach like a native, try something along the lines of, “I’m going downy oshun.” Yep, that’s a thing. Don’t be surprised if you hear it. What is Ocean City? It’s basically miles of beach and a wooden boardwalk with your typical shops and restaurants.

Accommodations

Looking for a place to park your motor? Try staying in either an Airbnb or pop over to HotelPlanner Baltimore to find hotels like the Holiday Inn Express. This one is particularly awesome because it’s built in the Old Town National Bank, and the interior is to die for.

Wherever you stay, I hope you love every minute of your time in Baltimore. The friendly people and unique culture make Baltimore an absolute must stop on your next vacation. See you on the other coast!

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2017 #BagsOnAMission Ambassador | R. Riveter

(photo credit Laura Vien at rrivter.com)

Hey everyone!

I’m really excited because these past few weeks I’ve been super busy working on a bunch of really awesome projects. One of my newest projects is that I’m now a brand ambassador for R. Riveter, which is an amazing organization on a mission to bring employment, and a global community, to military spouses. Pretty sweet, huh?

While I’m not personally a military spouse, my family has three generations of men who have served, and I do think it’s really important to support U.S. made products.

(photo credit Laura Vien at rrivter.com)

Q: What is an ambassador?

Glad you asked! To be an ambassador means I am an advocate for brands that I care about. This means these are brands I support because they strongly align with what I value. I’ve talked about my ambassador program with Schwinn, and I’m so glad I now get to stand alongside another amazing brand on a mission.

Being an ambassador means that I get to talk about my experience with the brand, how I use their products and how much I love (because I really, truly do) the community they’ve built around their brand. I could not be more excited!

The first time I ever heard about this brand was when they appeared on Shark Tank, and I instantly fell in love with them. I remember messaging one of my friends immediately after I watched the show, and telling her all about this amazing brand. That was a few years ago, and I’ve loved following along on their journey ever since.

(photo credit Laura Vien at rrivter.com)

What this doesn’t mean: I get paid to promote their brand and to coerce others to buy it. I don’t receive any money for being an ambassador, or for you making a purchase through the use of my codes. 

This DOES means that I get to share special discount codes that get you awesome products at a great price, just ‘cus that’s the way they roll. This also means that I share what’s up with the brand and what’s new with them.

For instance, right now the brand is teaming up with the Red Cross and donating 100% of proceeds from these awesome key fobs to help with those affected by Hurricane Harvey—awesome, right?! Get yours (they’re only $10!) HERE.
It’s pretty awesome if you think about it—you get the inside scoop via me. And you get to hear stories about women empowering other women to succeed. Everyone wins!

Here’s more about the R. Riveter brand:

These products really are amazing, and I can’t wait to share more about them with all of you. Keep a lookout for special codes if you have your eye on one of their gorgeous bags.

If you use the code ‘RREMILEEM’ you can get 15% off any bags in their signature collection!

U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Bernalillo, New Mexico

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

Usually I’m not a fan of heat. There’s a reason I’ve been to 42 states, leaving the eight states with some of the highest temperatures in the nation for last. Since it’s my goal to go to all 50 states, I’ll admit that I’ve been scoping some spots to see while I’m there. During this series I’ve talked about Richmond, Virginia and today, for that Southwest vibe, I’m highlighting the little town of Southwestern spice: Bernalillo, New Mexico, which is located just outside of Albuquerque.

History

Kiva Painting. Image via Wikimedia via Unknown

This little part of New Mexico has a history that dates back 1,000 years. It’s known as the historical center of the state of New Mexico, possibly because most of this state is a desert, so there isn’t much competition. Over the years, the town has hosted archeological digs that produced kiva murals, some which are considered to be the best examples of Pre-Columbian art ever to be found in North America.

During the 16th century, conquistadors scoured what is now New Mexico for the Seven Cities of Gold, which straight up sounds like something from “Indiana Jones.” The Coronado Monument commemorates the journey of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, who camped near Bernalillo during his expedition to find the golden cities. The good news is that he made some great maps during his trip. The bad is that he was almost killed for failing to bring back gold. Oops.

Cool Things to Do

Since it’s a small town, you might not think that Bernalillo has a whole lot to offer. However, you might be surprised at how many quirky tricks it has up its sleeve. Try out the following fun stops when you’re in town.

Ghost Stories

I’m the type of person who can’t handle visiting any kind of scary place. But I do love myths, legends, and scary stories, as long as they’re told with the lights turned on. Bernalillo has quite a list of scary stories, most focused on the Santa Ana Star Casino. The workers there have claimed everything from hearing children laugh to feeling a presence in the room with them. Rumor has it that there was once a graveyard located where the casino is now standing. For a comprehensive list of haunted locations in this area, you can check out hauntedplaces.org.

Commune With Nature

Seattleites love nature more than life, so Bernalillo is a great spot for us to venture. Since Bernalillo is about 15 minutes outside of Albuquerque, it’s far enough away from the city that you can easily access the Rio Grande and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Bernalillo, try finding a rustic place to stay. If you’re more in the hotel mood, pop over to HotelPlanner Bernalillo to find amazing spots for cheaper than you might think.

Wherever you choose to stay, hopefully I’ll see you out amongst the cacti. I’ll be the one hugging an ice block.

10 Ways I Save Money and Travel More

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Saving money has always been a hobby for me. It really does feel more like a game, at this point. How much can I save? How far can I stretch one amount? This is not because I have to, but because I love being able to do twice as much with what I have. Not only do I think that it’s fun, but I also think it’s important to be a good steward of your money, in general. During the holidays this can get a bit tricky, but here are some of my ideas for saving a little extra cash so you can travel more!

1. Popping Tags


I have a degree in fashion design. That being said, I love expensive clothing (or well made clothing, which is usually very expensive). I love well made fibers and fabrics and leather boots are my weakness. I know that clothes are important to my psyche, so I make room for them in my budget. But there’s a catch. First off, if I want to go shopping for clothes, I have to sell clothes to Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads. This way I’m not only buying new clothes at a discount price, but I’m also cleaning out my closet and using credit to reduce how much I’m spending even more. There are also apps that do this, so don’t panic if you don’t have a store near you. The best part of this system is that I end up paying 1/10 of the price for designer clothing.


2. Discount Tickets

I grew up doing theater and I’ve always loved the stage (whether I’m on it or not). That being said, paying to see theatrical performances can feel like cutting a hole in your bank account and watching it drain. But I NEED theater, so I’ve found a few ways around the system. I usually go to previews or first performances (which can be based off of a “donate what you can” system) or I buy my tickets through GoldStar which is a discount site for just about everything in your area. I’ve literally paid $6 for a performance, before. Some aren’t quite that discounted but it does save a whole ton of money, especially for date nights.


3. Volunteer

I am hugely into volunteering. I grew up volunteering basically every weekend and I think it’s so important to give back to causes that you’re passionate about. For me, this includes some local venues that promote the arts. In exchange for volunteering I get free access to the performances and I’ve even been able to catch one by the amazing spoken word artist and poet, Sarah Kay.


4. Buy And Cook In Bulk

I have a bit of a dietary advantage because I’m allergic to pretty much everything expensive (cheese, dairy, alcohol) but I still keep an eye on how much I spend on food. Not only do I make massive meals which I then store so I can eat them in the future, but I also buy in season (fresh food that are usually on sale). This is a great technique for people not onboard with a Top Ramen diet.

I’m also very pro stats and analytics, so I love drawing up lists of what I’m going to buy and then trying to keep it all within budget. You might not be so nerdy. But here’s one small tip: Do not go in the store without a list – and stick to it. You’ll be surprised how much money it saves you.


5. Monthly Phone Plan vs Contract

I decided a few years ago to go off of a contract and grab a “pay as you go plan” for my phone. Why? Because it’s really important for me to be flexible about where I live and what I’m paying for. If I end up moving back to Europe, I don’t want to be tied to a three year plan. This also saves me a lot of money since Verizon offers plans for as little as $40 for 3gb of data and unlimited texting/call.

6. Phoning A Friend 

I’ve had my iPhone for three years, and while it’s not cutting edge, it’s also not cutting into my savings with a $700 bill. I do like technology, but I’m not onboard the get further in debt to get a phone the size of your face train. My phone is just now starting to show signs of wear/needing to be replaced, but even in replacing it there are ways to save money! For instance, I’m going to be buying a refurbished phone rather than shelling out for a brand new phone. You might be surprised how much you can save! Check out some buy options HERE, if you’re not crazy happy about searching Craigslist.


7. Breaking Up With Netflix

Here’s the controversial one. I don’t have Netflix. I know: how do I survive? But I manage it with only having to occasionally explain that I don’t have it, to people who refer to shows/movies based off of them “being on Netflix.” To clarify, I also don’t have Hulu. These services just aren’t something that I need in order to be happy. A lesson that I didn’t learn until I lived in France and couldn’t afford them. Even now that I can, I just don’t need the temptation. I do have access to PBS because I donate to them monthly. Supporting public programing is really important…and I love documentaries.

 

8. Negotiate EVERYTHING

I save $240 a year on my wifi bill because I negotiated it down with my provider. Why? Because prices are arbitrary and companies would rather be getting some money from you, than for you to go to a competitor because of $10/month. The moral of this story? Ask! If you’re paying bills you can always call and ask if there’s any way they can decrease the bill. The key here is to be really nice. Customer service people get yelled at 60% of their day ( #unofficialstat) for things they have no control over. Show them some kindness and you’ll go far.

 

9. Invest In Things That Last

Okay so this goes back to the same idea as saving money on clothes. Something I never realized (being raised in the consumer capital of the world: the U.S.) was that if you buy a good pair of shoes then you can literally wear them for YEARS. Well, I apply this principle to everything I buy. If there’s a sturdier option, I go for that one. It might be a few more dollars initially, but if you don’t ever have to buy that thing, again, then it’s so worth it. Example: buy glass, not plastic, to save food in.

 

10. Make It Myself

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Here’s another thing I learned whilst being hopelessly broke in France: there are a lot of things that are pretty easy to make. While I realize not everyone is crafty, there’s always the option of hopping on Pintrest if there’s something you love, but can’t swing budget-wise. Chances are, there’s a tutorial (let’s be honest, Pintrest has everything). Especially if you found it in a store that rhymes with Shmanthropology, look it up on Pintrest – you can probably save 60% just making it yourself. Check out my crafting Pintrest board for more fun ideas!

Phew! Fun, right!? Here’s the great part – even if you only follow one or two of these, you can save a little more and put that money toward travel. Want more ideas? Check back for part two (because I have that many ways I save money) next week!

Did I miss something? Comment below with your money saving ideas!

Adventures at 7,800 ft: Ouray, Colorado

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This past summer was crazy busy, and even though I went on quite a few adventures, it was hard to find the time to put together blog posts. Which is so sad, and terrible. Buuuuuut that’s the way the cookie crumbled. Now, three months later, I have a little bit more time to put together some pics of my adventures!

One of the big trips that we took, this past summer, was to Colorado. We started off by flying from Seattle to Denver, and then popped down (or was it up?) to Ouray, Colorado.

The best way to describe Ouray is to think of an old 1950s western movie, somehow time capsuled. Like John Wayne actually filmed a western in Ouray. No joke.

One of the best parts of this little town was that they had a vintage photo-shoot place where we got to take old western style photos. Needless to say, I’m not allowed to post any of those photos because soooooooomeone would be embarrassed (#rude).

I did, however think I would include some of my other photos from the trip, because it was an absolutely beautiful trip that included Jeep 4-wheeling, great meals and s’mores every night.

 

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Our thoughts: “Imagine coming up to this when you’re driving a covered wagon?”
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There were these little cabins all over, that were left from the old miners. It’s crazy how everyone just up and left.
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Jeep! I love how smooth this road looks. DON’T BE DECEIVED! Half of the driving was over piled of rocks and boulders.
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The wildflowers in the mountains were so beautiful! It was like walking through the book Heidi. I have a whole book full of pressed flowers, now. 🙂
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Me and him. ❤
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Hundred year old buildings. This one used to be a barn for horses.
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That old western vibe.

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While starting off at 7,000 ft (which was crazy) – we actually drove (four-wheeled) up the mountains to 13,000 ft, to Imogene Pass!!
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I LOVE FLOWERS

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That moment when you just want to start singing songs from The Sound of Music.

Bathtub Gin & Co.

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2205 2ND AVENUE SEATTLE, WA 98121

If you know me, you’ll know that I love going to a speakeasy more than anything. Last night I got to go to a new one situated right in between downtown Seattle and Belltown, and it was so lovely I thought I would share. If you’re looking for a dim-lit laid back atmosphere for after work Friday wind-down I would definitely suggest grabbing drinks at this little spot (and I DO mean little – maximum occupancy is 39 people). Situated in a rustic vintage building with decor to match, the creative drink concoctions and beautiful interior really make it a must visit spot.

Ordered: Alice, Wonderland (of course) – A gin mint mixture beautifully topped with flowers

Where:2205 2nd Ave, Seattle, Washington 98121

Went: Friday, September 4th at 5:30m (it filled up pretty quick after we got there)

Wifi: No

Reservation Needed: No, but get there early for the best spots – expect to walk down an alley to find this spot.

July Fourth Has Never Felt Better

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The fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday, and it probably always will be. The food, the fireworks and the awesome people I get to spend time around every July 4th just always leaves me with some of the best memories.
This 4th of July is especially special for me, this year, because I didn’t think I would be back in the country for it. BUUUUUUT plans change and I am SO glad/happy/excited to be back in the US, right now! After living abroad for almost a year I can honestly say that I feel more patriotic right now than I’ve probably felt in my life. God bless America. We sure as hell have problems, but it’s good to be back home.

Here’s what I was up to the last few years of 4th of July:
2014: I was pulling an all-nighter so I could hop on a plane to San Francisco!

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2013: I went to an anarchist Fourth of July party. We listened to Sweet Home Alabama on blast and ate large quantities of McDonalds.

944230_10200994565719752_1273157039_n2012: I got hired as the nanny of five kids and added them to my family circle over the next 2.5 years. 580286_10201497951504082_1878624338_n

2011: I was living on the beaches of Southern California and wishing for Seattle rain…or just fully clothed people.

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2010: Fresh out of college, I decided to change the spelling of my name and all of my friends lost their minds about it.

Happy-4th-of-July

 

———–HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!! —————

Why Netflix And I Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

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Can I just say: I love being back in the U.S. Will I always live here? Probably not. But at the moment I am having a pretty splendiferous time of it. Coming back to Seattle was not an easy decision. There were a handful of people who thought I should stay in Paris, and others who thought I was crazy for choosing to move back from Europe at all.

But in the true middle finger to the world approach I adopted from my time in France, I could care less what their opinions are.

Because, when it comes down to it, this is my life. My decisions. And I’m the only one calling the shots on which direction I go. I would definitely encourage those who feel like Paris is the Mecca for happiness to move there themselves. (It was not, and never could possibly be, for me.)

ANYWAY…Being back in the good ‘ole US of A has been so much more of an adjustment than I ever thought it would be. It’s funny, but you don’t really even realize how many things you get used to when you’re living in another country. Like bananas.

French bananas DO NOT taste the same as the ones we get here (or fruit in general). And at first that really bothered me. But over the course of 10 months I guess I got used to it, and I wasn’t even aware of the fact…until I got back to the now watery tasting ones in Seattle.

Beyond the fruit revelations, I’ve also experienced so many levels of culture shock from being back. And as weird as it sounds, one of the hardest things I’ve encountered is keeping up with English/English speakers!

While obviously I haven’t forgotten how to speak English, I do have quite a bit of difficulty (still, after 3 weeks!) of finding the correct words for sentences, or speaking conversationally. There are a couple of reasons that I think are to blame for this. On the one hand, I obviously didn’t speak English in France, unless I was with one of my friends or the family I lived with. But on the other hand, I just didn’t really speak that much in general! Now looking back on the past year, I’m realizing just how incredibly silent I became. It feels so odd to be able to express myself without checking my vocabulary for the simplest form of a word and I keep having these moments when I think “Wow! I can read/respond without thinking to that!”

Is forgetting you’re fluent in a language standard after living in a country where it isn’t primarily spoken? Maybe it’s just me.

While I was living in France, I also didn’t have a phone for pretty much the entirety of my time there, so having the ability to call/text/use my smartphone outside of a Wifi zone is the oddest feeling. To be absolutely honest, I still kind of get freaked out when I get a text or phone call.

And despite the general joy of being back in my hometown, there are some things that will NOT be being reintroduced into my life, one of which will be Netflix/Hulu. Both of these sites were absolute addictions prior to my moving…and I guess that makes sense – I love movies, and I always have. BUT the mindlessness and the numbing effect that comes as a package deal is not okay.

In fact, that is one of the biggest things I’m observing and trying to keep from slipping into while in the U.S. Numb distractions.

I never noticed before how much over stimulation there is in the United States. Let’s all take a step back for a second and observe a few: There are more TV shows than we could ever hope to watch (but you’re expected to keep up with all of them), there are more activities than you’ll ever have time to do (how do you not run, do yoga, rock climb and go on a 10 mile hike EVERY DAY!?), more food options than you could possibly choose from, and more technological (sorry, mom) shit than you could ever possibly need. For instance, my iPhone 4s is like six generations behind, and I’ve only been gone for a year!?

Clarification: it still works fine. It still calls, texts, connects to Wifi and my data plan and takes decent photos, and yet…since I’ve been here all I’ve heard about is the latest smartphones and people calling generations that came out two months ago ‘ancient.’

The craziest part is that in spite of all of these 5 million things to keep us occupied, every person I’ve talked to since I’ve been here hates their job, and is constantly trying to escape through said distractions. And don’t even get me started on how messed up the whole, by age 22 most of us are in more debt than we’ll be able to pay off for 20 years, thing.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting. Like I said, there are so many amazing things I love about the United States, also. But one of the biggest things I’ve had to start doing since being here is simply saying no. NO NO NO NO NO. I don’t want to engage in this frothing at the mouth competition to impress people I don’t like in order to create a life where I’m constantly plugging in to something to forget I hate it. NO!

Because if there’s one thing I DID learn about living in Europe, it’s that my true friends love me when I have absolutely nothing to give, nothing to share, no way to repay and nothing to contribute. I am loved as I am. I don’t need to impress anyone, and I don’t need to be running around trying to keep up with whatever the next trend to hit the streets is.

Because when it comes down to it, these are distractions from what I really want to do with my life. These are things that kept me, for many years, from really pursuing things I was passionate about. They are pop up signs, advertisements and shiny gadgets that will not make me happy. And while each, in itself, is not necessarily harmful, the amassed collection is turning us into a nation of ravenous hoarders (of wealth, of technology, of perfectly filtered Instagram photos), blind to how blessed we already are.

White House Travel Blogger Summit

“It is crucial for our country’s next generation to travel, live, work, intern or volunteer abroad in order to gain the skills needed to understand and operate within the global, political and economic landscape of the 21st century.”

-Evan Ryan (Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs)

STREAM LIVE NOW: CLICK HERE

The Holy Trinity

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Church.

Like any given Sunday in the life of moi, this morning I went to church. Being a Christian, and it being Sunday, that fact is a fairly unexciting statistic. But, what made today different, was that “going to church” meant going into a gigantic medieval style stone structure filled marble carved statues (we’re talking 8-10 feet high, including a skeleton reaper which is #hellapunk) in a small French town. Oh, and that it was Catholic. Which I am not.

Now you may think there would be some cultural differences for an American Protestant girl who ducked her way into a party where no one speaks her exact verbal or spiritual language, and you would be right. But overall I felt incredibly refreshed by the experience. The reason I was there in the first place was because it’s the only church within 30 miles of where I live. Not gonna lie – the lack of options is kind of a bummer.

The church service was as traditional and conservative as you could probably find anywhere, complete with a pipe organ and higher than usual pitched singing. It reminded me of church coronations/marriage scenes from Elizabeth or Ever After. But, overall I loved the service. It was pieced together with biblical scriptures and interval hymns (In French, of course, which was amazing) and I loved that it constantly engaged those who were there to worship.

Afterward, I stopped by the flower shop across the street and bought a little purple flower bush to bring some life to my room. It worked. I’m so much happier seeing my little plant ward every time I walk in the door. It really is just the best for someone, like me, who is obsessed with the natural world.

The final excitement for the day happened when I logged in to my favorite websites, Hulu and Netflix, to relax for the evening. Then, to my utter astonishment, from BOTH websites, I was told that they did not work within the country I was operating. As in – there was NO Netflix, Hulu or Pandora in THIS WHOLE COUNTRY. Try to grasp my horror. It was quite severe and really couldn’t have been worse. I’m not ashamed to say it, I adore all of these websites, and being able to relax and watch a movie is essential to bringing together my feeling of home.

I’m starting to realize more than ever that, sometimes it’s the littlest things that make home feels like home. Like Netflix. Or a random little shrub in your room.

I am sorry to sound like a spoiled American brat, but when I first found out I would have no access to Netflix, Hulu or Pandora I was pretty seriously considering booking it out of France…ok, so I wasn’t, but I was pretty upset. I don’t have many of my movies with me here in France, so it’s really important to have these resources. Would I die without them, no. Would I be a lot less happy about life? Yes. LUCKILY, I have amazing friends who let me in on the secret of Chromzising websites and making them work with Hola. I couldn’t be more happy.

Today has been a full and relaxing day, overall. I actually had the guts to tell my host family I didn’t want to go with them, the kids and their grandparents to the park, a decision which needed to be made since it’s my day off and they keep trying to “include me” on these days – which is nice…but I’ll be with the kids this week 7am-7pm every day (school doesn’t start until next week) so I think I’ll have quite enough kid time for the week without going out on my day off. Instead I stayed home and wrote letters to any and everyone I could think of. I ran out of postcards, but I plan on getting more on my next trip outside this petit-chateau.

Also, if you’ve asked me to send you a letter/postcard please please be patient. I’m mailing out the first bunch today, but there are still some people I’ve missed that will have to go out the next time I have the courage to go into the post office and ask for stamps.

Oh, yeah…I have a sauna in my bathroom. As in, the bathroom is only for me and there's a sauna in it. Awesome.
Oh, yeah…I have a sauna in my bathroom. As in, the bathroom is only for me and there’s a sauna in it. Awesome.