Highlights of the Holidays

I am so grateful to have such a nice long holiday break! Although I work at a university, we don’t get all the same holiday breaks as students. However, we have time off from right before Christmas Eve through New Years and it is glorious. Pittsburgh had its first white Christmas in about five years, and I found a perfect balance of places to be and time to stay home and read. 🙂

– Celebrations –

This year, Joe and I drove back to Pittsburgh on our one year anniversary so we went straight to the restaurant where we went on our first date! I love Mexican food, so it fits that we first ate at Mad Mex together. December = my birthday, Christmas, and our anniversary, so we decided to exchange little gifts to commemorate the day.

We continued celebrating happy occasions when we spent time with Joe’s family the next day. His cousin is getting married in September, and since he lives in Florida, there’s rarely a time when the whole family is together. So, his parents hosted an engagement party for them while they were home for the holidays!


The happy couple, Brian and Lindsey, are in the middle. 🙂 Their announcement was just published in the newspaper this past week. So exciting!

– Heinz Hall –

Joe, his mom, and I met up with my mom and brothers to see Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical at Heinz Hall downtown.

love the Grinch, and this show was really well done! I think I was expecting to see the cartoon or the movie done in a live performance, and there was much more singing in this show, because you know…musical. 🙂 The Grinch was played by a really animated actor and Cindy Lou Who’s voice was amazing! Our favorite moment was probably when the Grinch came on stage waving a Terrible Towel. Only in Pittsburgh!

– Christmas Eve –

My brothers and I have a tradition of going out to brunch with my Dad on Christmas Eve. This is usually followed by a bit of last minute shopping, and this year was no exception! I just had a few gifts to pick up that I had ordered online and planned to pick up in the store, and my brothers found the most amazing suits to wear to Christmas Eve dinner. 🙂

That night, we went to Joe’s Dad’s house for dinner. We left for a second dinner and games at my uncle’s house, and then went back to Joe’s Dad’s for a Secret Santa gift exchange!

We played Minute to Win It style games at my uncle’s house, and they were hilarious! In the game above, you started with one stack of cups, and in 60 seconds you had to build a “tree” and then disassemble the cups back into your one stack. It got very competitive! We also used candy canes to pick up marshmallows to assemble as many snowmen as possible in one minute, and used a straw to move as many M&M’s as possible from one plate to another in one minute. My family has never done a Secret Santa, so it was fun to participate in Joe’s family’s tradition and see everyone open something they loved!

– Christmas Day –

Christmas Day brought snow! I helped my mom get brunch in the oven, and once my Dad arrived, we started opening our gifts to one another. My brothers and I are lucky to have parents who will still celebrate the holidays together for us. 🙂

On the topic of parents who are divorced…both my mom and my dad got Jake a leather Steelers notebook for school, and they had no idea. Haha! Great minds. 😉 I quite enjoyed watching the dogs open gifts. Colby loves to chew and shred the paper…he seems to really know what he’s doing. And Amigo…well, after a few prods at the paper, he just carried his gifts right over to my mom’s lap!

After brunch, I left for an afternoon with Joe’s Mom’s family where we did a Secret Santa gift exchange and broke out some more Minute to Win It style games. I was most excited to get back to my house for dinner so that Joe could open his gift from me…a new Xbox!

The Xbox was well received and I spent lots of time over break reading while all the guys I love enjoyed Joe’s newest gadget. 🙂 We ate dinner with my Mom’s family and watched the Steeler game. Then my Dad tried to teach me how to play poker, and I’m still sure I have no idea what I’m doing. Ha!

– Favorite Friends –

I keep in touch with my best friends from college via a group text message, and a few weeks before the holidays, my friend Lindsey stepped up and decided to plan a get together for us. We all met for dinner and drinks at Narcisi Winery, which is just north of Pittsburgh.

As you can imagine, we were not out walking around the vineyard on this night…I’m pretty sure it was about 5 degrees. 🙂 But we enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner and sipping on different bottles of wine. We talked for hours and it was so fun! Another reason to celebrate during this get together: Johna and Jeff, second from left in the group photo, got engaged on Christmas Eve! Yay!


Later in the week, I met up with my friend Randi for coffee. Randi and I went to elementary school together, but we reconnected in the last few years via our blogs and we could not be more alike. 🙂 We took over Starbucks for a few hours, exchanged Christmas gifts, and talked about everything under the sun. The best kind of time!

– New Years Eve –

This is what I like to call reality vs. Instagram. 🙂

The evening started at the casino where my mom walked away a winner! It ended at home playing Scrabble and hanging out with Joe, my brothers, and their friends. A great evening, especially since it felt like negative degrees outside in Pittsburgh AND in Times Square. I was happy to be hanging out by a fire!

I had so much fun celebrating the holidays with Joe and his family for the first time, and I loved having lots of time to see my mom since she is a teacher and gets lots of holiday time off too. 🙂 Of course there were other things that filled my days like lunch out with siblings, chiropractor appointments, a trip to the movies, and Sunday breakfasts at my aunt’s house…overall, a great time at home for the holidays. ❤


Although Thanksgiving is very much its own holiday with its own traditions, you can’t help but admit that it kicks off the Christmas season, right?! I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper, but I enjoy spending the days after Thanksgiving decorating for Christmas, listening to festive music, and starting marathons of my favorite Christmas movies. And although Christmas is right around the corner, I want to recap the fun that was Thanksgiving!

I always get anxious and excited on a week that I know I’m going home to Pittsburgh because I just want to be there already. This year, my youngest brother Jake flew to D.C. on the Friday before Thanksgiving and stayed with me until it was time to head back home for the holiday. Having him here made me feel like the holiday had already begun because I had someone from my family with me! We watched football games, played games like Jenga and Chinese Checkers, and ate out for as many meals out as possible. Let’s just say the pancakes I made on Saturday morning were a little undercooked. #oops


We went hiking at Great Falls Park on the Billy Goat Trail, took advantage of every sale at the Leesburg Outlets, and went bowling at what I’m pretty sure is Arlington’s oldest bowling alley. The cool, newly updated bowling alley/restaurant/bar in Georgetown was fully booked and although our night of bowling was much cheaper than that would have been downtown, it was pretty insane how dated everything was where we ended up!


 Jake was my lunch date on Monday and Tuesday, which made for fun work days. 🙂 He made the most of the work days by hopping on a City Bike and riding around town. He visited the National Mall and the Museum of American History. His favorite adventure, if you asked him, would probably be leaving the history museum and walking across town to where I was going to pick him up. This sounds easy, but his phone died and directions from random passersby left him walking around for about 45 minutes. Ha! Tuesday evening after work, Jake and I started the long drive home.


It really does not take that long to get from D.C. to Pittsburgh, but there are never good stories about traffic around the holiday weekend, so we were happy to get out of town as early as possible. We left at about 3 PM, made it to Bethesda to get Joe at 4 PM, and had to take a bunch of side routes through northern Maryland because of accidents on the highway. I was coming down with a cold and felt pretty terrible, so it was nice to have Jake and Joe in the car to share the driving with. 🙂

On Wednesday, I had to work from home for part of the day, but I had these two to hang out with while I typed away on my computer. Then it was hair appointment, doctor’s appointment, and Panera for lunch!


I got to spend all night with both of my brothers and then I convinced myself to go out in public on Thanksgiving Eve. The restaurant/bar was crowded but I got to see some old friends, I snagged a bar stool to sit on all night, and it was an all-around win!

Thanksgiving morning = informal Turkey Trot around my neighborhood with Joe and my dogs. It was chilly but bright and sunny, so we decided to adventure over to my aunt’s house since she doesn’t live too far away. She lives on several acres of land so the dogs had a blast running around her yard. And then we got home and Colby showed off his new tricks of bringing in the newspaper. 🙂

It was a busy and full day of Thanksgiving meals. We started at my aunt’s house, where we ate “dinner” at 1 PM and celebrated my cousin’s 26th birthday. Below are some of the only photos I took all day!

Then we headed to Joe’s Grandma’s house for dessert and the beginning of Christmas decorating. She pulled out her tree and we swapped names for Secret Santa! We ended the evening with dinner at Joe’s Dad’s house and more Secret Santa name swapping. I was ready to crash in bed by 8:30 PM, but I am so thankful that our families are so close by and we can see all of them in one day!

It felt like Thanksgiving lasted a whole lot longer than one day thanks to Jake’s visit to D.C. at the beginning of the week. Thanksgiving 2017 was definitely one of my favorites. 🙂

A Weekend In My Life: Workin’ It Wednesday

One of my favorite posts on this blog to look back on is one of the most recent (even though that was more than a year ago!) because it tells all about a day in my life. I love rereading that post because it takes me back to that time in my life. I have yet to do another day in the life post, but I should because no two days are ever the same and I have a new job now! That post is in the making…but for now, I’ll share a recent weekend in my life and link up with Erika and Shay. Fair warning: I extended my weekend into Monday because I had family in town, and also ate out for almost every meal which is very atypical!

– Friday –

My Fridays begin at 5 PM, and I usually like to have dinner plans. Waking up early for work makes it hard for me to want to be out super late! Plus I like enjoying the morning on Saturday. On this particular Friday, Joe and I were talking about going for a run on a new-to-him trail. He just moved to D.C. so pretty much everywhere we run is new to him! At the last minute, I had a change of heart and told him we should run to Shake Shack…because what’s better than running and dinner all in one?! From Arlington, you can run across the Key Bridge and through Georgetown down a nice little path before you have to hit the streets again.

By mile 3.5, I think Joe regretted his decision to run to dinner. But we made it and the fries and lemonade were SO worth it. Joe had the Chick’N Shack, and I had the ‘Shroom Burger…the cashier made sure to tell me it was a vegetarian burger. I knew that, but I guess some people who order get confused by the name! After dinner, we walked half a mile to Farragut Square. All summer, different outdoor areas host free movies on Friday and Saturday evenings. The only flaw in our plan to run to dinner was that we didn’t bring blankets or anything to sit on at the park!

I can never say no to Melissa McCarthy, so our film for the evening was a good one — Ghostbusters! I have already seen this in theaters, but it was so fun to be outside surrounded by a bunch of other people just enjoying summer. It was also fun to see people walking through the park who were unaware of what was going on…one guy on the phone said, “Hold on…I’m walking in front of a movie screen right now!” Another guy biked past with three boxes of pizza on the back of his bike! Ha! After about an hour, our legs were itchy from sweating while running and sitting with all the bugs in the grass, so we ducked over to a park bench and it was perfect! Once the movie was over, we took the Metro back to Arlington and called it a night.

– Saturday –

Saturday morning was for lounging around. I probably should have been running, but I ran a lot of miles last week, so I figure it worked out just fine. By lunch time, I was ready to get moving for the day, so Joe and I ate at Silver Diner. This is not your average diner — they are all about fresh, locally sourced food. They have delicious breakfast, but I was feeling the chopped Cobb salad on this day…I love the tangy ranch dressing, avocado, and the fact that it is chopped…duh. 🙂

My friend Sarah invited me to go to Stone Tower Winery with some friends, so I went on over to her house to get ready to go. Most wineries are about 45 minutes to an hour from Arlington, so we all piled in her friend Amy’s car and headed out. Side note: Amy drives my dream car. A white, four door Jeep Wrangler with a hard top. #bestillmyheart

On the drive out, Amy had the best idea…

Stop and eat some Chic-Fil-A. I can never say no to their chicken nuggets or their lemonade! Are you sensing a theme here? Lemonade is where it’s at all summer long for me. We also got these perfect cow hats to be put to use on Tuesday, which was Chic-Fil-A day. Who wouldn’t dress up like a cow to get a free entree?! Although I do have to be honest, on Tuesday I was cooking buffalo chicken dip to take to small group. Whoops!


Stone Tower was absolutely beautiful. I have heard great things about the views at this winery, and I was seriously impressed! You pull up a long, windy drive to get to the property, and first enter a large barn where the wine tastings take place. There’s an outdoor area for families and dogs nearby, and then across the way is their event space, and another outdoor space for those 21 and above. We first did a wine tasting — for the flavors, yes, but also so we could spend more time in that barn!

The worker talking with us was so knowledgeable, and spoke about some of her other favorite wines and let us try those as well. The tasting menu includes 3 whites and 3 reds…I liked the very first white, Wild Boar Sauvignon Blanc, and the very last red, Estate Wind Swept Hill. And then I ordered a glass of rosé to enjoy outside, because of course I did.


We had the best time sitting on the outdoor couches and talking about everything under the sun. A perfect girls’ day!


After we made the drive home, I took a nap and ate a late dinner at Rockland’s BBQ since it’s about ten steps from my apartment. I don’t usually eat out during the week, nor do I usually eat every meal out on the weekend, so you’re looking at a very unusual time for sure. 🙂 The best item on the menu (in my opinion) at this restaurant is Rockland’s Pearl. It’s a bowl of mac and cheese, baked beans, chopped pork, and Rockland’s barbecue sauce. I’m sure the description doesn’t do it justice, so you should try it if you’re ever in the area!

– Sunday –

This day started bright and early at church. I love my church and it will be one of the places I miss most if I ever move away from D.C. I have always served in children’s ministry, so I’ve been praying about working somewhere else in the church.

On this day,  I was shadowing those who work on the hospitality team. They serve coffee and donuts, welcome people in, pass out the weekly bulletin, take the offering, and just generally give everyone a happy face to find if they need something during service. I helped pass out programs, give directions, and take the offering. The 10:30 AM service is very low maintenance because you don’t have to set up or clean up since there are services before and after, so once I shadowed for a bit, I headed into church to hear the message for the week.

Since I entered a bit late, I sat by myself, and that was just fine since I was catching up on what was going on. 🙂 To be honest, I felt like I missed the most important parts at the beginning, so I listened to the podcast of the entire service again on Tuesday!


After church, Joe and I headed to a nearby cafe to sit outside and wait for my mom and my aunt to arrive in town! I called my little brother, who had just gotten his college schedule via email, and Joe looked up stocks or some other very interesting thing like that. 😉


Somehow, the GPS directed my mom and Aunt Sheila to the middle of nowhere Maryland instead of Capitol Hill. They found us eventually and we had lunch at Ted’s Bulletin! I love their homemade pop-tarts and just the general feel of the restaurant. It’s very old fashioned and there is always a black and white television show playing on nearby projectors. After lunch, we were ready to walk around and headed over to Eastern Market. During the summer, they have even more vendors than they do during the winter! We spent some time looking at local art and jewelry made by the most creative people.


I had to show them Capitol Hill Books, which is a used bookstore in an old row house that has absolutely everything. The owner has non-fiction downstairs, fiction upstairs, and other genre titles on shelves…but beyond that, you have to do some serious searching! I love the prices here because they are always at least 50% off. His prices are written right inside the cover, so they’re easy to find! I found a hardback copy of Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult for $12! And I also picked up Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (for $7!), because I have heard great things about both the book and the movie.

The heat was really getting to us by this point, so we headed back home! My Aunt Sheila is visiting my family in Pittsburgh and has never been to my place in D.C., so it was fun to show her around my favorite parts of town. We lounged on the balcony for a few hours, then grilled burgers and corn on the cob for dinner at Joe’s apartment. I have grills at my apartment, but they look like they belong on a campsite so I’m not a big fan. 😉 We fell asleep early because I had to work for part of the day on Monday.

– Monday –

I took a half day so that I could spend time with my mom and aunt before they left town. It was a quick trip for them, but Pittsburgh is only about 3.5 hours away. They had plans to visit Lakeshore Learning because my mom is a kindergarten teacher who absolutely loves her job so shopping for school stuff midsummer is her favorite task. 🙂 I rode the metro to work and then started my walk across the bridge…


…and ran into a whole group of tourists at 7:xx AM. WHY were they up this early and where were they going?! I can promise there are no interesting sights right on the edge of the Key Bridge. Ha!


Monday was a busy morning with two video calls, catching up on emails, and starting other tasks for the week. The most exciting thing to happen: my iPad and wireless headphones came in! I used some professional development funds to purchase these items, and I also signed up for an online class that starts in August, so I am excited to use my iPad for this. I have the 10.5 inch iPad Pro and it honestly feels thinner than my iPhone 7! The headphones are i.am+ Buttons by Apple and I LOVE them because they came with approximately 293480 ear buds to size them to your ear and they don’t fall out. Ear buds with those rubber pieces on the end will never stay in my ear, so I am happy!

At lunch time, I left for the day and walked my mom and aunt around Georgetown’s campus (I work here if you are a new reader!). We visited the school store and bought lots of things we don’t need. 🙂 Then we ate lunch on M Street at Clyde’s. A little salad/sandwich/soup lunch followed by cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake, because you just have to. I honestly never tried a cupcake here until I started working at the university even though I come to this part of town all the time! I enjoy their competitor Baked and Wired more…the cupcakes are bigger. 😉

Then it was a quick drive around town to see some last nights, including what’s down at National Harbor. I love their waterfront and we quickly sought shade because it was so hot on this day! We took turns posing with their many statues, got iced tea at Starbucks, and walked along the water before finding a candy shop and calling it a day. They left around 5 PM and my weekend was officially over!


Christmas Vacation

Well last Monday at this time, I was driving to New York City. Since I am going back to work today after a nice long break, let’s review all the fun. 🙂

The day after Christmas, my mom, my brothers and I packed up for a few days in Hershey, PA and New York City. Hershey is perfectly halfway in between Pittsburgh and NYC and it is such a fun little town! Since we were only there for one night, we visited Chocolate World and drove through the Sweet Lights display of Christmas lights.

Do you see the castle on the left?! It is made entirely out of Hershey’s chocolate! The “bricks” are made out of the cookies and creme Hershey’s bar. You can totally tell now that I told you that, right?! 🙂


The next day, we woke up bright and early to drive to NYC. I annoyed Jake and took selfies of us in the car. I was also the one in the driver’s seat on the way into NYC and as we were going through the toll on the highway before the Lincoln Tunnel, I saw the gas light in my mom’s car was on. And it didn’t say 30 miles until empty…instead, the GPS popped up with a warning that said “nearby gas stations”. Hahaha! It was a close one. 😉


Can we all take a moment to make fun of my brothers and their excessive number of shoes?! I packed one pair of black over-the-knee boots and my running shoes…they brought three different colored pairs of Timberlands plus other shoes. Ha!


We stayed in South Times Square in the Garment District. After we unpacked, we went to eat a late lunch at Heartland Brewery which is also right across the street from my future place of employment. Aka The New York Times. #inmydreams

Lunch is when we also started messing around with the selfie stick! Jake got one for my mom for Christmas, knowing that we would be going on a trip right away. We had so much fun with it all weekend!


We started walking up towards Times Square and kind of walked right through it until we saw Bryant Park! This is one of my favorite pictures that I took while we were there. I’ve actually never seen or known where Bryant Park was located before, even though we always stay near Times Square. It’s funny how you can discover “new” places every time you visit!


We were also trying to get a taxi or an Uber at this point because we were headed to Brooklyn for the New York Islanders hockey game. Unfortunately, Uber was taking forever and the one taxi driver we talked to (who was off duty) told us there was so much traffic that taking a taxi would be way too expensive. So that meant taking the subway for the low, low cost of $2.75 a person…and praying we didn’t get lost. I was terrified because of my experiences with Kristen in October, but we actually didn’t get lost once! I will say that one time when the train announced where we were I yelled and made my family run off because I thought we were going the wrong way. No fear, we were actually going the right way. They loved standing in the station and waiting for the next train. 😉 That experience let us see the world’s largest rat climbing all over the tracks. Yikes!


My brothers have both gotten really into hockey this past year and Alex got tickets to see the Pittsburgh Penguins for Christmas! Still, we thought it would be fun to see a game while we were in the city. Ironically, the Islanders were the opposing team when Alex went to the Pens game this past weekend! So it was like he was checking out the competition a week early. Ha! They lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs terribly, but we had a lot of fun!


I really wanted to go to Serendipity for hot chocolate after the game, so we took the subway a few extra stops to the neighborhood where that restaurant is located. Travel tip #1: we didn’t make reservations (because I honestly didn’t even think of that) and when we got there at 10 PM, the wait was two and a half hours! Luckily, there is a Dylan’s Candy Store on the corner of that block, so we decided to go there to satisfy our sweet tooth instead. Travel tip #2: Dylan’s Candy Store closes at 9 PM on Sunday evenings. Ha!


We decided to walk back to Times Square (think 42nd street) from our failed Serendipity and Dylan’s attempt (think 59th street). My brothers were all about this walk for approximately five blocks and then they were OVER it. Somehow, I became official direction giver and no one liked my directions plus Siri was getting on my nerves so this was a very interesting walk. 😉


I tried to appreciate the scenery as much as possible! How pretty are those lights on the trees?!


The next morning, we discovered the 22nd floor of our hotel was the roof, complete with outdoor seating and Bose speakers hidden in the plants. I kid you not. But it was freezing up here so I snapped this picture and ran back inside!


Our mission on Monday morning was to shop on Canal Street in Chinatown. I remember going here in high school when I visited with the chorus and band, but I have never been back to shop there with my family. My brothers LOVED bargaining with the workers there. And you couldn’t walk ten feet without someone asking you, “Hand bags? Michael Kors? Louis Vuitton? We have it all! I’ll show you!” I bought a pair of sunglasses from a suitcase on the sidewalk…I will let you decide if they are real Ray Bans or not. 😉 I swear the worker said they were $25 so I said $20 because I was walking around with a $20 bill in my pocket anyway. He agreed, I paid, and my brother and I walked away. Alex later told me that the worker initially said $35!!! I kind of felt bad because I didn’t mean to jump all the way down to $20, but I really thought I was just saving $5, not $15!

We ate lunch in Little Italy and picked up two cannoli’s from a street stand! I got hazelnut and my mom got chocolate, but we weren’t huge fans of either. They were SO sweet! We intended to eat lunch at Sofia’s, but they weren’t open for lunch, so we chose a restaurant across the street because the owner was standing on the sidewalk and he was very convincing! I wish I could tell you the name, but I honestly don’t remember…I just know it was across from Sofia’s. It was delicious though! There was a 45 minute wait for a table by the time we left (and we went in and sat right down!) so either the owner got a lot of business by talking to tourists on the sidewalk or it’s a really popular place. 😉

Monday was a marathon day…I will tell you all about the Brooklyn Bridge, shopping at Macy’s and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in another post!

Happy Monday!








Wildwood 2015 [Part 2]

Thursdays are for Thinking Out Loud and today I’m thinking about how much my family and I look forward to our beach vacation every summer, yet we go to the same beach and do many of the same activities. It’s just our happy place so we love being there and we LOVE telling “remember when” stories since we have so many memories there! Have any of you ever been to Wildwood, New Jersey?


Link up with us here!


This beach town is actually called The Wildwoods because there are three different “neighborhoods”: Wildwood Crest, Wildwood, and North Wildwood. The Boardwalk runs from the end of Wildwood Crest all the way through Wildwood and right into the beginning of North Wildwood. That’s how my family gives directions. What part of the Boardwalk is this particular place located at? 😉 For a long time, my family and I stayed right at the edge of Wildwood Crest and Wildwood. That’s how we found our favorite bike shop and became good friends with the owner! Now, we stay in North Wildwood, which is just the other end of the Boardwalk. The walk from the edge of the sand to the ocean in Wildwood Crest is LONG…like one mile of walking in the sand before you hit water. I am not joking!


See what I mean?!

The walk in North Wildwood is MUCH shorter and we found a condo down in that area that we love, so it works for us! Or are we just lazy?! You can decide. 🙂


Cross the dune in North Wildwood and the water is a short ways away!

Not only does my family love to vacation in Wildwood, we also love to vacation the same way. When you think of vacation, don’t you think of throwing your schedule out the window? Me too! But we have our own little beach schedule that looks something like this:

7:30 AM: Run on the beach (this is an activity that ONLY I participate in hahaha)


9:30 AM: Ride bikes on the Boardwalk.




11:30 AM: Make lunch at our condo and get ready for the beach.


We dropped one bottle of hot sauce and two different gallons of milk on this vacation! This was our attempt to save the second gallon of milk. 🙂 #coffeepottotherescue

Noon – ??? Swim, boogie board, walk, and lay out at the beach.


??? – 4 PM: Pool time at the condo. Whoever wants to stay at the beach stays at the beach…whoever wants to lay in the shade and cool off heads back to the pool!


5:30 PM: Go out to dinner



7 PM: Home from dinner and time for the Boardwalk. With 3 piers full of amusement park rides and games, lots of stores, and tons of places to get ice cream, we never tire of the Boardwalk!

11 PM: Jake’s curfew. My brothers hang out on the rooftop deck and sometimes I do too…but usually I am getting ready for bed so I make my wake up call the next morning to run. 😉

There is a little bit of happiness and a sense of calm that you get from doing the same thing every day…but we DO like to mix it up on our vacations. We usually do one “different” thing every day. One of our activities this year was Raging Waters Water Park one afternoon.


We love this waterpark. I floated in the lazy river for two hours so here are some throwback pics. 🙂

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All about the action shots! And look how little Alex and Jake are!

Instead of going out to dinner one night, we ordered pizza, Italian hoagies, and salads to go and we drove to Sunset Beach in Cape May, NJ. It’s only a short drive away!


I promise you won’t see a more breathtaking sunset than at this particular beach! It’s a little different because it’s all rocky instead of all sandy…


…and you can’t help but snap a million photos!


Right around the time the sun is about to disappear below the water, Sunset Beach starts a short ceremony. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, a different veteran is honored every night by flying an American Flag and playing TAPS, the National Anthem, and God Bless America.


We obviously need some photography tips. 🙂 #brightness

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I made Jake recreate this picture. 2012 on the left, 2015 on the right!

Then, one morning while we were biking, we rode off the Boardwalk and went on an adventure in Wildwood Crest.


First, we stopped for breakfast at a little corner store called Rita’s Deli and Bakery. After breakfast sandwiches and my first coffee in six whole days (!!!), we went to Lakeview Docks to do some crabbing. Yep, crabbing. Instead of fishing, we were out to catch crabs. 🙂 We used to go here pretty often when we were younger, but we haven’t been back in years. It was so fun! It was also really cool to watch others fishing, riding jet skis, and kayaking around while we were on the dock.

First, this nice lady chopped up a dead fish for us for bait…


…then we nominated Alex’s girlfriend, Taylor, to hook those nasty pieces of fish into our crab cages. No thank you!!!


He took a picture of her while she hooked all of our bait into the cages. What a supportive guy. Hahaha


In return, Taylor caught the first crab…


…and I caught a whole lotta seaweed. 🙂


The funniest moments were watching Alex throw his cage into the water. He was terrified the entire time because he thought when he threw his cage into the water, it would pull him off the dock and he hates heights! Jake ended up losing his bait but Jake’s friend caught a few crabs. I think the 3 McGraw children were the only ones who didn’t catch much! My mom tried her luck too, but she was better at being official photographer. 🙂


Friday night was super exciting because there was a fireworks show on the Boardwalk by the Big Ferris Wheel! At the end of our vacation, we usually go to Atlantic City for the weekend, so we miss the fireworks! But this year, we went to Atlantic City first, so we got to see the display. It was like 12 minutes long and they played music during it which was so cool! Cliche songs like Katy Perry’s Firework, but still fun to listen to. 🙂

Other highlights:


Jake finally convinced my mom that he should be allowed to get his ears pierced. Did you notice any pictures in this post where he was wearing earrings?!


We got to see double rainbows on two different evenings even though it never stormed! I think it stormed one night while we were sleeping and it might have spit a few drops while we were at dinner one night, but it was HOT and SUNNY all day long!



We ate our favorite sugary snacks…like Johnson’s caramel popcorn, Polish water ice, Ken and Mary’s ice cream, and Kohr Brother’s frozen custard (pictured above). Mom got vanilla and orange so it’s like a Creamsicle and I got peanut butter and chocolate! I really wanted to try caramel and coffee, but I didn’t eat ice cream enough nights. Ha!


I found my favorite Boardwalk game…Fascination. It’s only 20 cents a game and it’s just like Bingo! You have to roll a little ball and when it drops down in one of the holes, the corresponding circle on the board lights up. You want to get five in a row…but for this particular round, we were playing “coverall” so that’s why all my lights are lit up. I was the first person to light up all my lights so I won!


Rich! Filthy rich! Which is more than I can say for my luck at the casino in Atlantic City. 😉 The guy who owns this arcade used to have an arcade that was JUST Fascination machines. He is like an emcee the entire time you are playing, giving a play by play of the game. There was music and cotton candy and popcorn. I know what I just described sounds like a dream;) but it was so fun! His parents were so supportive of him, but since they have passed away, he can’t go back to that arcade. So he has moved some machines into another arcade that he owns and he hopes that one day in the future, he can open another arcade just for Fascination. He is kind of well known for his arcade games…so well known that he was on the TV show Hoarders! He’s a pretty cool guy…check out his story here!

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I collected treasures.


I ate the most delicious macaroni and cheese.


I tanned myself like it was my job (and felt completely good about it because I use sunscreen and typically only lay out for this one week of vacation).


I offended all my Pittsburgh friends by enjoying an iced coffee from WaWa. 😉 Are you #TeamSheetz or #TeamWawa?!


Aaaaaaand I made fun of my brothers because my drive home to DC was 3 hours and their drive home to Pittsburgh was 6.5 hours. 🙂

Besides spending a lot of time in CVS for over the counter medications (Jake’s sore throat, Alex’s sunburn, and my tongue infection that made my tongue feel like it was burned for several days in a row), we had an AMAZING vacation! We made so many good memories and I am already counting down the days until next summer. A week just isn’t long enough…we’re talking about a month next July. 😉 #teacherperks

– Where is your favorite place to vacation?!

– Are you a beach person?

Wildwood 2015


I just spent the last 8 days at the beach so it’s time for a little recap. 🙂


My road trip essentials include a pillow, a book, and something to eat…


…and of course taking Snapchats to document the ride with my brother peeking out of the background. Jake has his learner’s permit right now and will be able to get his license in September, so of course he had to get some highway driving in for practice…he really is a good driver so it wasn’t scary at all. Ha!


We started our vacation in Atlantic City, NJ. We love to stay at Bally’s Casino and after some confusion at the check-in desk, we were upgraded to fancier rooms, which was a bonus. 🙂 My getting ready essentials…something to eat (or in this case drink) again. Do we see a theme here?! Even though Atlantic City is best known for its casinos, we stay in a casino hotel right on the Boardwalk which looks over the beach. So for those under 21, there is plenty to do: shop, eat, beach, ride bikes, etc. We started our evening by walking to dinner at Landshark Bar and Grill on the Boardwalk!


I was already in picture snapping mode on the way there. This is Alex and his girlfriend. 🙂 My mom and I ate at this restaurant when we were in town for Memorial Day Weekend and we loved the food and the atmosphere! You can eat inside or outside and there is a beach bar with live music and outdoor games like cornhole (bean bag toss? What do you call it?) and volleyball. This particular night, we ate indoors because after hearing there was a 45 minute wait, we were shockingly able to sit down immediately. I think having a bigger party (6 people) worked to our advantage!


When we first sat down, we were by a huge speaker and I felt like that could be a bad idea. I made my family move down three tables and thank goodness we did because that speaker provided entertainment in the form of karaoke! Think little girls singing “Fight Song” and older guys singing “Gangnam Style” and “Baby Got Back”. Hahaha!

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Of course I had to try a Landshark beer…and I was pleasantly surprised! I don’t like “heavy” beers at all and this one was light and refreshing! We all shared chips, queso, and salsa as an appetizer and then I ordered Fire Pit (barbecue & garlic) chicken and a Caesar salad.


We didn’t hang out at the Beach Bar much, but we did snap a quick picture! And then it was time for some shopping with my youngest brother and his friend…who is also named Jake. Jake and Jake. Could that be any more confusing?! Luckily, most of Jake’s friend call their friend Jake “Ferg” which is part of his last name. So as weird as I felt about saying “Ferg” every time I had to address the boy, it worked! Haha! They were on a mission to hit the True Religion store. I shopped in the boutique next door but they browsed and browsed and browsed in True Religion so I ended up trying on some clothes there, too. I bought nothing; they both bought a pair of pants.


I love this mall! It’s right on the Boardwalk and the second floor is so pretty. 🙂


I went into Starbucks in the mall to get a drink, and when I looked out the windows, this is what I saw. I wish I could go to this Starbucks every day!

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After trying my luck in the casino with my mom, I hit the hay…a long day of travel and a voucher for 22 cents will do that to you. 😉


I went running the next morning and then met up with my family for breakfast. We decided to hang at the pool and lay out on the roof for the day because Jake and my Mom had spent the more at Shore Express…yes, you can go to the doctor at the beach haha! Jake had some virus that felt like strep throat but wasn’t actually strep throat…we could tell he was so tired, but he rallied and kept up with us through it all!

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Jake mustered up enough energy to want to go to the beach, so he, his friend, Alex, and Taylor all went to jump in the waves while my mom and I watched from the roof. 🙂 The sun came out from behind the clouds and we remedied the extra heat by ordering some yummy frozen drinks! Pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris for all…or just me and my mom. Because everyone else is 20 years old or younger;)


We had packed separate bags for Atlantic City since we were only going to be there for one night, so once the sun wore us out, we hopped in our cars and headed to Wildwood! We checked into our condo and ate dinner at one of our favorite restaurants across the street called Adam’s. The menu is the perfect mix of seafood and Italian food, so because I’m still learning to like seafood, I ordered eggplant parmesan…my favorite. 🙂 And our favorite after dinner activity…walking the Boardwalk. The Wildwood Boardwalk has tons of stores, 3 piers of amusement park rides, and lots of little shops to get dessert. 🙂


I feel long winded, so I’ll share a few more snapshots of the beach on Thursday! Thanks for reading 🙂