Long Weekend Travels

I was so excited thinking about sharing this post because on the 10th of December, not only was I traveling, but it was also my 26th birthday. I spent the weekend in the one and only Las Vegas! Joe and I have both traveled there before, but we wanted to take a trip together, and after finding ridiculously cheap plane tickets, we made it happen!

We were also lucky to find great flight times, so we left around 7 AM on Saturday morning, which put us at our destination around 10 AM west coast time. The day we left was the first day DC had seen any snow, but we weren’t sad to leave it behind for a few days of sunshine! We stayed at the Aria Resort & Casino and it was beautiful!

We spent our first day eating lunch at the Aria Cafe and walking one end of The Strip. The Aria is near Monte Carlo, New York New York, and MGM, so we decided to see some sights right away. Also included was a trip to CVS to stock up on snacks. 🙂 I love New York New York so much that we headed back there for dinner and drinks. The city was all decorated for Christmas and it made everything more fun to see!

Las Vegas has a monorail, but we stayed on the other side of the street from where this is located, so we used the mini monorail that ran between Monte Carlo, Aria, The Shops by Crystal, and the Bellagio to get out of the cold after dinner! I planned on staying up until midnight East Coast time to celebrate my birthday because I didn’t think I could hang…but I was distracted by all there was to see in the Bellagio!

The Conservatory and Botanical Garden in the casino had a huge Christmas display that included a 42 foot tall Christmas tree and 28,000 poinsettias! Everything you saw was made from flowers, and of course they had a classic train set running around the bottom of the tree. The train had a camera on it so you could see yourself in other parts of the room as it drove around! We gambled a little bit on this night but didn’t walk away as big winners. 🙂

Sunday was my birthday, and I woke up to a nice delivery from my mom: chocolate covered strawberries and champagne! I woke up before the sun, and had a great view of the desert behind the hotel. I loved that our room faced away from The Strip and figured out that the HUGE mountains I was staring at were actually about 18 miles away. They seemed so grand and close! Joe decorated with a banner, heart shaped balloons, and those big paper circle lanterns. So sweet!

We spent the day doing all the best things — drinking champagne, eating at The Aria Buffet, taking advantage of the free hotel gym, and laying by the pool reading a book. 🙂 It was close to 70 degrees on this day, so although that would feel a little chilly on a summer vacation, I was more than happy to lay in the sun in December in that temperature. The Steelers played the Ravens on this night, so we ate a quick dinner and settled in to watch the game. I was convinced I was going to win on a slot machine called Fu Dao Le because everyone I was watching was winning, but I had no luck and ended up watching Joe play Craps for awhile!

Monday was a fun day because we decided to walk the opposite end of The Strip and see as much as possible. We missed the Bellagio water show, but were able to see Bally’s Casino, some shops outside, Caesar’s, and The Flamingo. The objective was to make it to The Venetian, but we got distracted playing Blackjack at a really cheap table in Margaritaville in The Flamingo. I can finally almost hold my own playing Blackjack after watching Joe play for a year, so that’s exciting. 🙂

Caesar’s was a fun stop because I have been to another Caesar’s casino in Atlantic City and while some things were the same, others were much more grand. We also had to check out the Sports Book at practically every place we stopped, and I thought their set up was the best. They had so many TVs and other statistics on the wall! I know next to nothing about betting on sports games but Joe had fun with this all weekend. 🙂

I was so excited to go back to MGM on this night because we had tickets to see a Cirque de Soleil show called Ka. Neither of us had ever seen a show in Vegas, so it was a new experience! When we were buying tickets online, we saw that some of the top level seats were similar in price to some in the third row…so of course I chose the third row. 🙂

The show is described as a story of coming of age through love, conflict, and the duality of Ka. I have to be honest, I had trouble following the storyline at some points because what was happening looked so cool! The stage could move 360 degrees, and there were also smaller platforms that the performers were on at some points. You could also see them behind the railings on either side of the stage from time to time. I was amazed at their flexibility and coordination!

And now I’ll leave you with some professional pictures we had taken at the Cirque show. A photographer stopped us on the way in, and I couldn’t say no. You can’t put a price on memories, right? 😉 This was such a fun trip, and kind of spur of the moment because we jumped on the cheap plane tickets as soon as we saw them. We had a great experience flying, at our hotel, and really wherever we went around town. But two fun facts about the way home:

  1. We were seated next to a very enthusiastic passenger who was certain he was sober enough for another drink. The flight attendants did not agree. There was some foot stomping and yelling on our neighbor’s part. #yep
  2. When we got to our car, the battery was dead, and it was 15 degrees. #winterisawesome

5 Tips For A Solo Road Trip

Have you ever gone on a solo road trip? It’s definitely different to drive many hours by yourself than when you have a friend or family member in the car to entertain you! I didn’t make my first long drive by myself until I was in college, and in those days, my mom told me to call her every hour on the hour to let her know where I was. 😉 As crazy as that sounds, it broke up the drive for me and gave me something to do and something to look forward to (besides my destination!).

Since moving to the D.C. area, I’ve made my fair share of drives back home to Pittsburgh on my own. Most recently, I was on Spring Break and I drove from D.C. to Rochester, NY to visit one of my friends. This was a longer drive, and Siri had me taking the scenic route. Ha! I talked about my road trip essentials here, but today is all about what you need to do to survive a road trip by yourself!

Solo road trips

-ONE-

Overpack beverages and snacks.

Three water bottles and a cup of coffee. Does that seem like a bit of excess!? I do this for a few reasons: first, I can easily refill one of those bottles when I stop. Second, when I’m driving alone, I don’t particularly like to stop. When there are other people in the car who want to stop, I feel less guilty pulling over. Just me, and I want to power through! Finally, I am particular about how my water tastes and some water fountains are weird. 😉

If you are traveling a familiar route, you might know where you would like to stop for a meal, but you never know how busy that place is going to be. Mid road trip, I don’t want to wait very long when I stop, so it’s always a good idea to have “easy” food in the car. I like trail mix, Larabars, fruit, and veggies. While you’re packing snacks, you might as well choose some healthy options, because when you’re stuck in the car and it’s your only choice, you will probably eat it. 🙂

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-TWO-

Choose your entertainment.

Before I go on a long drive, I always update music playlists on my phone. Even one or two new songs makes me more excited. I also recently added a playlist from high school to my iPod and it’s SO much fun to listen to! Switch it up when you know you are going to be listening to music for a long while.

When the music starts to bore you, what are you going to do? Download podcasts before your drive so you have something on hand to listen to when your music starts to get old! I also recently started listening to audiobooks in the car and that has been the BEST distraction, even on random trips around town. Music, podcast, audiobook…I wouldn’t recommend just one. I would recommend you have them all up your sleeve, because you never know what kind of mood you might be in. 🙂

-THREE-

Plan to stop.

I mentioned that I don’t particularly like to stop when I’m driving by myself, but it is completely necessary. You need a mental break, and if you’re anything like my over-hydrated self, you’ll be searching for the next rest stop’s sign! I like to try to make it halfway (depending on how long the drive is) before I stop because I get a decent amount of driving in, it gives me something to look forward to, and it feels like the drive is “almost” over when I get back in the car. Plus, when you travel alone, someone is probably wondering where you are and if you are okay. Use this time to text or call your family/friends!

-FOUR-

Figure out who you can call.

When the music is stale, the podcast has ended, the audiobook won’t hold your attention, you’ve already made a stop, and you’re STILL not to your destination, who can you call? There are so many phones (and cars) that have hands-free calling now that most people should be able to safely make a call when driving. (Of course, safety should come first.) Depending on when you are driving, your best friend/mom/brother/sister/significant other might be at work or otherwise occupied and unable to talk. This is when you call and catch up with an old friend because you have the time and you NEED a distraction. 😉 On one of my most recent solo road trips, I traveled during the day on a Friday when essentially everyone I knew was at work or school. In that case, I made a few extra stops so I could play with my phone to take a brain break. Ha!

-FIVE-

Stay safe.

I have noticed so many people who are driving by themselves on the highway with a phone in their hand. If you are solo road-tripping and you are starting to lose your mind, eat a snack. Drink some water. Listen to music. Call someone. Listen to a podcast or audiobook. Repeat. Just don’t be irresponsible with your phone! We are so connected and it is so tempting to quickly respond to a text, but it is so not worth it! You want to arrive at your destination happily and safely.

Happy road tripping!

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Friends Forever

Think about this: the weirdest thing about getting older is that I (and you too!) can officially say I have been friends with someone for 20 years. Except I don’t know that it’s that weird because we love that we can finally say 20 YEARS!!! Haha

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Fun fact: Stef’s family is from Rochester, NY. In 1996, they moved in across the street from my family in Pittsburgh. Stef and I were attached at the hip from the very first day they moved in until the very last day they lived in that house two years later…and somehow we managed to stay friends all this time.

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I think that it is SO much easier to stay in contact with friends now. Social media practically does the work for us! Our long distance friendship started with snail mail and long distance phone calls on Sunday because it only cost a penny a minute. We also convinced our moms that we should visit each other EVERY summer, and they listened to us. So every summer I would spend a week in Rochester and Stef would spend a week in Pittsburgh. Except it was more like me in Rochester for 5 days and Stef in Pittsburgh for 9 days because I used to get crazy homesick and she would get SO mad at me. Hahaha

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Then came high school and crazy busy schedules. The visits may not have happened as much as we would have liked, but we had AIM, MySpace, text messages, and Facebook. We both made it to each other’s high school graduation parties and I think that’s when we really knew we’d be stuck with each other forever. 😉 This past weekend, I finally got back up to Rochester to visit her! In the past five years while we’ve been in college and figuring out the real world, we’ve visited a bunch of times, but she has either been in Pittsburgh or DC, so it was high time that I take myself back up to NY!

Pre-road trip, I took myself on a 3 mile run to start the day. I ran into this creepy dog statue and saw some budding trees. #hallelujahitsspring

I left a little later than I would have liked because that’s how I roll, and I ran into three traffic jams on the way out of DC. #normal I always get really angry when I’m stuck in traffic because of an accident, but then I get mad at myself for being mad because really, I should be hoping everyone is okay! I justify my anger by saying I’m really only mad at the cars who drive slowly past the accident and stare at everything to see what happened. Ha!

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I took the scenic route because it was an hour shorter than my other two options, and my drive was filled with open roads, mountains, motels, and rivers. As soon as I crossed the state line into New York, it started to snow and hail. I almost turned around. Hahaha! After all, this was the start of my Spring Break! 😉

Traveling with me looks a lot like empty water bottles and random snacks on the floor. I had yogurt (because the big container was almost gone and I didn’t want to throw it out), carrots and celery with ranch, trail mix, and Shakeology. As soon as I got to Stef’s house, which was around 6 PM, we headed straight to dinner. She had just finished work, I had sworn myself off of trail mix, and we were both starving. We met up with her parents at Blu Wolf and ordered the most delicious turkey burgers! Her dad dared to be different and ordered chicken and waffles. Have you ever tried that dish? I always want to and then I end up with something tried and true!

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Later that night, I got to meet some of her friends from work. Someone had just gotten a selfie stick, and as the only person in the room who has used a selfie stick before, it was my job to teach everyone what to do. 🙂

Then of course we faceswapped because this is 2016 and how can you not do such a thing? My face does NOT look good on her head. It’s too big or something! Hahaha

After dinner in the Park Ave area of Rochester, we headed downtown to hear her friend’s band play at Dino, a barbecue restaurant. It was fun to see different parts of the city because I haven’t been there in so long and the last time I visited, she still lived with her parents in the suburbs. The band is called Teagan and the Tweeds and they are pretty well known in the area, apparently! They’ve been playing together for ten years and they played the perfect mix of original tunes and oldies but goodies that we all know. We ended our evening with our favorite twins, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. We will never grow out of their movies. 😉

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On Saturday morning, we lounged around eating breakfast and watching another MK&A movie before hitting the mall. We always shop when we are together. 🙂 I think we were at the mall for like five hours, so we definitely made a dent in our wallets! I was having no luck finding anything I liked and then I spotted these snakeskin pants. My initial thought was that they would be perfect dress pants for work, since they’re the right material and they’re high waisted (aka appropriate). Then I found this black crop top on sale and Stef told me I HAD to try it on because it would make such a cute outfit. My face should explain to you how I feel about crop tops. Hahaha

But apparently I don’t dislike crop tops enough to not purchase one, because I ended up wearing that exact outfit to meet some of Stef’s college friends that evening. We had Moscow Mules at a cocktail lounge in another part of downtown called South Wedge. Our group was definitely the youngest bunch in there by at least ten years, but one of her friends was so excited to take us to Cheshire that we had to give it a chance! It’s above a wine bar, so it’s kind of hard to find because you have to go IN the wine bar to get to the cocktail lounge. That was kind of cool because it felt like a hidden gem! My takeaways: it was SUPER dark in there and the drinks were small and expensive. #cheapskate

Our day on Sunday revolved completely around food. We had brunch plans at Trata where I had the most delicious omelette with cajun sausage, corn, pepperjack cheese, and red peppers. Fun fact about NY State: they don’t serve alcohol on Sunday until after 12 noon. We were STARVING when we woke up on this morning, so after wasting as much time as humanly possible at her house, she and I and her roommate decided we were just GOING and maybe we would eat for a long time and have time to order a mimosa. Well, we got there at 10:30, ordered our food, inhaled it, and then promptly decided we all needed a nap. No mimosas for us. 😉

We watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding and a few episodes of Friends while everyone lounged around for the afternoon…then it was off to her parents’ house in the suburbs for dinner! This was bittersweet because they just sold their house so this was the last time I would see it before they move! Stef’s brother was also at dinner which was so fun because we always reminisce about being kids…and of course her parents broke out the childhood photos as they are in the middle of packing up their house and there are pictures galore!

I left the frigid north behind and headed back to Pittsburgh for the rest of my Spring Break on Monday morning. I was greeted by two overly excited dogs who only sat still for that photo because I was holding treats in my other hand. 😉

How do you Spring Break?
Do you travel or are you a staycation-er?

Hour By Hour Weekend [March]

Did you have a good weekend? Oh, you did? Me too! 🙂

This was the perfect weekend for Astleigh over at Hill Collection to bring back her Hour by Hour linkup. I knew it would be out of the ordinary and fun to document! Originally, my mom was going to come to town and spectate the Rock ‘N Roll DC race. I was planning to run the half marathon and then we were going to head out of town for the night to go to a concert. There are a long list of reasons why I didn’t run this weekend, but I still went to the expo with my friends and had a ball. 🙂

Friday

2:00 PM

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My second graders are working on huge posters for Science Week this week at school. On Thursday, they partnered up, chose a topic, and started sketching their ideas. On Friday, they were to start working on their tri-fold boards. Thank the dear Lord my mom arrived on this day to volunteer in my classroom! I almost lost my mind with the number of markers and pencils and upset children in the room haha!

6:00 PM

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We decided to head out of town a day early to go to Atlantic City, New Jersey. The sunset views that you see while driving are never as pretty in photo form! Can you spot the Washington Monument? #pinksky

7:00 PM

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Who needs dinner when you have trail mix? Especially dried pineapple. #crack

9:30 PM

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Taking pictures as if I’ve never been here before! (Spoiler: I have…every Memorial Day Weekend for many, many summers!)

10:30 PM

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You’re wrong if you say there’s anything better than a hotel bed. Just wrong. 🙂

Saturday

9:00 AM

Room service for breakfast. 🙂 I, of course, was most excited about my baby bottle of Heinz ketchup. There is no other ketchup worth eating. I had an egg white omelette with peppers, onions, and cheese! We also wanted to try the oatmeal and fruit. The oatmeal was thick, filling, and delicious.

10:00 AM

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I made the world’s worst cup of coffee ever to help get me through “wanding” my hair. I love the look but my hair is thick, so my arm is still adjusting to being held up that long haha!

11:00 AM

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Out and about in the casino! We like to stay at Bally’s, which is right on the boardwalk. Any vacation is made better when the ocean is right in eye’s view. 🙂

12:00 PM

The new Britney Spears slot machines are SO fun! I only play penny machines and I start by putting a small amount into the machine because I honestly would rather buy something with my money than gamble with it, BUT this game was worth it! I loved hearing it sing to me. Occasionally, the song “3” would start playing and then you would win 3 times whatever amount popped up on the screen. It also sang “You Drive Me Crazy” when you won free games and one of the extra bonuses was picking little potion jars, so of course it would sing “Toxic”. 🙂

1:00 PM

We headed out to the Boardwalk to walk around and noticed that EVERYONE was dressed in green. I knew that the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade was this past weekend, but I made no connection to the fact that most everyone would be celebrating since the holiday is on Thursday this week! In Atlantic City, everyone was outside waiting for the 1 o’clock parade. My mom and I found a great spot to watch from the side and I took a picture with a random monkey. Then we noticed the skywalk from Caesar’s Shops to Caesar’s Casino and figured that view might be more fun. 🙂 It was definitely soundproof way up there though!

2:00 PM

Ditched the Boardwalk for the Tanger Outlets and stopped in for a quick lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s. I’m always a fan of a salad bar. Their tortilla soup was definitely not what I was expecting, but it was spicy and delicious! We also shared their crab cakes and I have no idea what that bright orange sauce it, but it paired well with the dish.

3:00 PM

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Give me all the brightly colored pants! And all the sales. I got two sweaters and the navy floral pants on the right for $48. 🙂

4:00 PM

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Back to Bally’s! We made a quick stop at Rite Aid because I have a head cold that won’t go away, but I was ready to try my luck with the puppies. They were cute, but it wasn’t a winning machine!

5:00 PM

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One of my favorite past times is forcing a pack of Shakeology to fit into a water bottle. #saidnooneever We can call this one a win, because I only spilled a bit of powder ONCE and the rest made it into the bottle. Then I read my book and relaxed on my comfy hotel bed. 🙂

6:00 PM

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We took a taxi to the Borgata Casino and asked a random guy to take our picture because we kept taking selfies that looked identical! Instead of saying, “Sure, I’ll take your picture!”, he said, “You know that every time I do this I take like 7 pictures. Ready, here we go…” The best of his 7 came out like this. Ha!

7:00 PM

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Omg garlic butter sauce. Omg cheesy breadstick. Omg burned tongue.

8:30 PM

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In our seats at The Music Box Theater. This picture is deceiving, but I was trying to cut off the blonde girl’s head in front of me, and that part was successful. 🙂 Anyways, this place only seats 900 people so we were actually quite close to the stage and not hanging off the ceiling. My mom and my aunt love Donny Osmond and while I can’t say I share their adoration, I’ve seen him in concert two or three times now and he does put on a great show!

10:30 PM

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Donny performed his encore song, Crazy Horses! He was SO interactive with the audience the entire time. There were many people called up to stage and others who were given random backstage passes. We, of course, stuck around after the show to try to get ourselves some backstage passes, but no luck! Then my mother almost got us killed when we were getting on the Jitney (one of Atlantic City’s busses) because she cut off a huge group of people who had been waiting for the bus longer than us. In the end, we all got on the bus, but the one lady was MAD and of course my mom talked to her and told her to calm down. The other woman yelled back. I played with my phone. Hahaha

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Sunday

10:00 AM

Oops! Time change made us sleep late. Breakfast at The Corner Cafe!

11:00 AM

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Back to Britney for one last chance at luck! She wasn’t having it so I played Wheel of Fortune, a Gremlins game, the Ellen Degeneres game, and then this Quick Hit game. Ellen ran me down to $9 so this really was a last ditch attempt and I won $80 so I was quite pleased with myself. 🙂

12:00 PM

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On the road back to DC. I look back at this picture with anger because it was after the Delaware Memorial Bridge that we ran into a whole ton of traffic that we never quite recovered from. A little fog and rain will make people drive like idiots, I tell ya. 😉

1:00 PM

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Hangry and trying to remain a pleasant co-pilot by eating a tostada salad from Baja Fresh!

2:00 PM

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Ignoring the upcoming tollbooths and being a terrible copilot by taking random pictures out the car window. Ha! Sorry, mom. She eventually found the $4 she needed. 😉

3:00 PM

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Quite the beautiful day for a drive, yes???

4:00 PM

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Home, goodbyes exchanged, workout clothes on, Beachbody OnDemand fired up. I decided to preview the new 22 Minute Hard Corps because hello, 22 minutes. I should know by now these trainers don’t mess around, but I really wasn’t expecting to need a shower after this workout. Hahaha

The rest of my evening consisted of three loads of laundry, watching Fixer Upper and Grey’s Anatomy, figuring out how to eat healthy this week without making a trip to the grocery store (lol), and writing this blog post. 🙂

Tourist Tuesday

So I might have mentioned that I went to New York City with my family. No? You don’t remember talking me talking about that? Well, you can read about it here and here. 😉 I feel like I have done so many recaps of this trip, but I have so much to say!

Today I’m talking about two of the “tourist-y” things that we did while we were in the city. After we ate dinner, we liked to have a plan for the evening. Simply walking around did not seem to appease my brothers as they liked to have an end destination in mind, so we ended up at two different locations right near each other on two different evenings.

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

I SWEAR I have suggested this museum every single time we have gone to NYC in the last four years and no one has taken me up on it until this past year! In fact, my mom suggested it as if it was some kind of new and amazing thing. I was quite offended. 😉 I vividly remember her telling me it would be “boring” in the past, yet once she decided to go, she was all in!

First of all, I had no idea that Madame Tussaud was actually a real person who had a traveling exhibition similar to the museums almost 200 years ago. All I knew is that I was going to a museum with wax figures of celebrities that look seriously life-like! Upon walking in and starting up the steps, you see the musician Pink floating in the air, similar to her performance at the Grammy’s a few years ago!

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We waited in a bit of a line for the elevator, which takes you several floors up to the top of the museum, and you work your way down. I snapped pictures in the meantime!

L – R, top to bottom
Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Kelly Ripa, Morgan Freeman 

Morgan Freeman and Anderson Cooper looked EXACTLY like they look in real life. Some looked almost perfect, but you could just tell that something, somehow, was off. Like Kelly Ripa…I LOVE her, but I knew she was a wax figure. 😉 It was strange to see celebrities with sunglasses vs. celebrities with just their regular face. When you could see their eyes, it made them so much more life-like!

L – R, top to bottom
Kim Kardashian West, Robert Pattinson, Jimmy Kimmel, The Kennedys, Benjamin Franklin

The coolest people to see “in person” were the more historical well-known Americans. The Kennedys, The Reagans, Abe Lincoln…it was kind of weird to see those faces because they aren’t in our news as much as the other more current celebrities! Of course, there was a line to see The Obamas. My brothers and I all took a picture at The White House podium as if we were giving a press conference, too! The funniest picture is definitely one of Alex scratching Lenny Kravitz’s head. We had so much fun being ridiculous here!

Let’s take a moment for The Spice Girls…because they are my favorite. Do you see the woman with the camera on the left? In the museum, she is in front of The Spice Girls, so it looks like she is taking a picture of them. And she is wax. And I stood behind her for a few minutes before I realized she was fake. Hahaha!

The museum takes an official picture of you and your family/friends while you are there that you are able to purchase at the gift store on the way out, but we didn’t purchase ours because we took too many other good pictures ourselves! This was one of my favorite places to go. You can’t NOT have fun here!

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

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Jake loves all things historical and fact-based, but he is just as intrigued by random oddities, so this place was right up his alley.

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We were welcomed by the tallest man in the world, who beats both of my 6’5″ brothers by just a few feet. 😉

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There are two floors to this place, and I didn’t take many pictures because I was either reading the facts that went along with each exhibit or I was interacting with it! I was surprised to find a lot that we could do while we saw these random things. The best was a tunnel with flashing lights called “The Black Hole”. The object was to walk across the bridge (which was moving) while walking through the tunnel. It was trippy!

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Jake walked through with Alex and then ran back to find me and my mom. He made me hold his hand the second time, which he will never admit…but look! I have proof! 🙂

A glass floor with sailboat models below, a mind game that made it look like Jake lost his legs, a two headed cow, and a train made solely of tooth picks. Yes, that huge train is made out of JUST toothpicks!

I had my fortune told by Zoltar (any other Tom Hanks “Big” fans out there?!), my mom and I found each other in a mirror box, and I climbed the Empire State Building. You’re so convinced, right?! 😉

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We, of course, bought the classic picture. 🙂

Both Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s are right on 42nd Street in Times Square, so if you travel with people who are looking for an end destination while you walk around, I would highly recommend either of these places!

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Linking up with Stephanie for TWOsday!

Christmas Vacation: Part II

We did lots of classic “New York” things while we were in the city, but we also indulged in some tourist spots like Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Today I’m going to share two classic New York things you must do if you ever visit!

Brooklyn Bridge

 I mentioned yesterday that we shopped in Chinatown and dined in Little Italy, but then I convinced everyone that we should go see the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, really, I put everyone on the subway in that direction. 😉 My mom wanted to go too, but my brothers were getting tired at this point!

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We walked up the stairs of the subway and saw this cute little park area. This is one of the reasons I love being in a city…tall, historic buildings with some hidden peaceful greens in the middle.

There were SO many people headed across the bridge. One lane for pedestrians, one lane for bikers…and everyone going across and back. There were also little stands of NYC souvenirs, but the funniest item for sale were selfie sticks. Everyone needs one, apparently!

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We made good use of ours…

…and the views were spectacular! Check out that light post with all the locks on it. Just like the Lock Bridge in Europe! #kinda

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If you ever visit the Brooklyn Bridge, I definitely recommend just going for it and really walking all the way across into Brooklyn! There’s a subway stop not too far away from the other end, plus when you get towards the middle, the crowds thin and you can really appreciate the bridge and the scenery. I know it sounds crazy to appreciate a bridge, but if my brothers found enjoyment in this, you definitely will too. 🙂

Bryant Park

Okay, so I’ve been to the city at least once a year for the past few years, but I have never made it to Bryant Park! With its close proximity to Times Square, I just don’t know how that is possible, but when you are riding the subway and being driven around in taxis, it’s possible to miss some hidden gems. 🙂

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My favorite part of Bryant Park were all of the holiday shops! Each one was so unique, selling a variety of items from handmade jewelry to makeup bags to kids games to chocolate. In the above picture, you can see the green and white awning that tops the carousel. My mom and I just had to go watch the little ones riding around. Such fun!

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See…my favorite view. Little shops, a little bit of nature, and the beautiful tall buildings in the background.

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Perhaps the most fun thing I saw were the ping pong tables, all occupied with excited players! Apparently, there is also putting, chess, pétanque (a French ball game I believe is similar to the Italian game Bocce), and an art cart. You simply cannot get bored on this little stretch of land in Midtown. 🙂

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Visiting right after the holidays allows you to see all the beautiful decorations. How awesome is that Christmas tree?! The ornaments were as big as my head…truly.

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And if I could’ve convinced my brothers (and Jake would’ve been an easy sell), we would’ve stood in the lengthy line to ice skate. It was only $15 and the line really wasn’t too bad! At this point, the boys had taken our shopping bags and headed back to the hotel with visions of comfy hotel beds dancing in their heads. Ha! Listen, we walked A LOT on this trip.  Plus our hotel served a complimentary dinner and happy hour each evening, so you can’t really blame them. And don’t worry, my mom and I made it back to relax and have dinner, too!

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Linking up with Stephanie!

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?! 🙂

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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. 😉

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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. 😉

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

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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!

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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!

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Memorial Day 2015

Every year for Memorial Day Weekend, my family goes two separate ways: my dad and my brothers go to Indianapolis to visit our family and go to the Indy 500 and my mom and I have a girls weekend. For the past seven years (ah!) we have gone to Atlantic City. AC was one of my grandparents’ favorite places and you just can’t go wrong with the beach!

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We all left on Friday morning. Our favorite place to stay is Bally’s Casino. I was perfectly happy with my window seat and ocean view. 🙂 This year, my aunt and my friend Julianne joined us. After unpacking and walking on the Boardwalk a bit, we walked down to the beach. Because the first time you feel the sand and see the ocean after a long winter is the best feeling!

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We ate dinner at The Rainforest Cafe and my mom and aunt headed to the casinos shortly after! Julianne and I aren’t high rollers yet (#collegekidproblems) so we walked the Boardwalk and checked out all the little shops. It was warm this weekend but pretty windy so we were kind of cold after awhile! Luckily we made our way to Margaritaville for drinks and found a window seat so we could see the beautiful outside without feeling the wind. 😉 We saw fireworks over the beach in celebration of Memorial Day and seriously contemplated getting our palms read, but ended up meeting my mom at Bally’s Beach Bar to people watch and hang out instead!

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My family’s favorite thing to do on vacation is wake up in the morning and ride bikes on the Boardwalk. It’s just so relaxing and fun! Memorial Day Weekend is the first weekend for a lot of things at the shore, bikes included, so I was so happy to be there for the “first ride” of the season. 🙂 In Atlantic City, I like to ride on the Boardwalk towards Ventnor (the next town over) because the sights change from tall hotels and casinos to beach houses that I will one day own. Ha! We made our way all the way to the Ventnor City Pier and took lots of touristy pictures before heading back. It was pretty windy on Saturday too, so we spent the day tanning on the pool deck/roof of our hotel. I actually got some serious sun on my chest and back!

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Tan lines look so good, right? 🙂

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My aunt loves to visit the casinos off the Boardwalk over on the Marina, so on Saturday night we had dinner and gambled at the Borgata Casino. I spent a little bit of money each night on the slot machines but it wasn’t enough to win big…just enough to keep me playing for a little bit, which I guess is okay! Only 1/4 of us were lucky winners this weekend, but one is better than none!

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There’s a part of Bally’s Casino called Wild Wild West and it sounds just like its name. Very outdoorsy and country in the form of a casino and bar! Julianne and I got these adorable mason jar drinks on Saturday night after our time over at Borgata. Wild Wild West is fun because there is a dance floor and people actually get really into it! We had so much fun. 🙂

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And because I’m me, I like to balance my mason jar fruity drinks with Shakeology. Travel blender for $14.99 at Target, I love you.

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On Sunday morning, we went shopping at the Tanger Outlets. We found lots of good deals because of the holiday weekend, but sadly, this little elephant romper thing didn’t make the cut. 😉

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It was supposed to be warmer and less windy on Sunday, so we put our brave faces on and went to the beach. Mind you, it was about 70 degrees this entire weekend, but the wind KILLED and made it feel so much colder at times! My mom said if you looked left and right while we were at the beach, the number of people playing, taking pictures, laying out, and even swimming (!!!) made it seem like it was 90 degrees and HOT outside but that was not the case. The wind struck again and I took to laying on my towel in the sand because the ground was warm. Hahaha

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We took some cliche beach pictures and headed back up the pool. First stop: one of the many hot tubs. I seriously laid on the beach with my towel around my shoulders! Ha! We found lounge chairs in the sun next to the pool…but it should be noted we were inside. The pool at Bally’s is inside, but the ceiling is all windows, so it technically felt like we were laying in the sun. 😉

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The cutest new bakery called Boardwalk Cupcakes opened in Bally’s and they make SO many flavors of cupcakes, but we decided to purchase this six pack: Chocolate Mudslide, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Margarita, Creamsicle, Pina Colada, and Jack and Coke. They were glazed and infused with alcohol. Because why not. Hahaha

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The cupcakes themselves were delicious…the frosting on top and the icing in the center definitely let you know you were tasting some kind of alcohol! I liked the Pina Colada and Mudslide cupcakes the best. Of course we only took a bite of a few of them because we had to do a taste test! They were also very sweet so I cannot imagine eating an entire one myself!

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I love The Pier Shops at Caesar’s because I love to shop BUT on the third floor, they have huge Adirondack chairs sitting along the wall of windows that look out on this beautiful view. 🙂

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Monday morning included more bike riding, iced coffee drinking, omelette eating, shopping, and finally packing up to come home to Pittsburgh. It was such a fun weekend away with some of my favorite girls! Of course, the reason for Memorial Day goes much beyond the eating and drinking and traveling with friends and family. We’re meant to remember those who have fallen serving our country…and I am so grateful and appreciative of the sacrifices our armed forces have made for me and you. We are truly blessed!

Road Trip Essentials

Finally going home for Spring Break! 🙂

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The drive from Pittsburgh to D.C. or vice versa is ridiculously easy and because it’s ridiculously easy, it’s also ridiculously boring. Or maybe I just think that because I’ve done it 107 times;) That is a slight exaggeration, but I spent a lot of weekends this fall in my car and so I’ve been staying put for longer periods of time these days. The trip is only about four hours, but the mountains of Maryland and Pennsylvania can only be so interesting before you start to lose it! Luckily, about two hours into the trip, I am able to stop in Breezewood, PA where I usually get coffee or food, fill up my gas tank, play with my phone, and then get back to driving. Traffic going home is never bad but traffic coming back is horrendous. As it usually is in this area. Once you are about 30 minutes away from my apartment you hit the bumper-to-bumper loveliness. At all hours of the day. Believe me, I have tried to arrive at many different times.

Since I drive by myself, I have to try to keep myself entertained and alert. When you’re traveling with friends, driving is obviously much more fun! At any rate, here are my road trip rituals for the drive to and from school.

1. Beverages.

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You might think I am crazy for listing drinks first…but listen, I drink a ton of water, and running out of water while I’m on the road is no fun. Most of my water bottles are 32 ounces (because I’m a freak like that) and I try to drink one water bottle during each half of the trip. This way, I know that I’m hydrated, and it makes me stop and take a break half way through the trip because I have to go to the bathroom. Reasons why I have three water bottles instead of one that I refill: the water fountain at the place that I stop tastes disgusting. I actually bought a water bottle there once because I couldn’t stand the taste of the water fountain. #watersnob Also…caffeine is necessary for all road trips, especially solo road trips. 😉

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Two completely different coffee cups…Starbucks or Dunkin??? What team are you???

2. Comfy clothes.

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I usually leave early in the morning (around 7 AM) so I can get to wherever I’m going in a decent amount of time and still have most of the day to get things done or make plans with family and friends. I’m a morning workout person, but if I’m getting up to drive, I just get dressed in my workout clothes. Then I am comfy while I drive and I am ready to workout whenever I get to my destination. 🙂

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I also do not recommend white comfy clothes. I only made this mistake once, but as you can see, it was fatal. Hahaha
I made chocolate Shakeology before I left Maryland and before I started drinking it a few hours later, I just shook the cup again to get the drink moving. When I popped the lid open, it showed me who was boss.

3. Easy breakfast/snacks

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You can’t go wrong with overnight oats when you know you are going to be running out the door! Here, the almond butter jar was basically empty, so I added almond milk, oats, and cinnamon and let it sit in the fridge overnight. When I woke up, I grabbed the whole container and a banana and had a perfect breakfast ready to take with me!

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Shakeology is also perfect for breakfast. Easy to make and it tastes good! On a regular day, I like to drink it a little thicker so it’s like ice cream;) But on the road, it’s often my breakfast! As far as snacks go, I need something that I will eat and it will be gone. No grapes or popcorn or carrot sticks or anything that there is a bunch of because I will in fact eat it all mindlessly while I drive. Granted, most people don’t have entire bags of grapes or carrot sticks on their passenger seat, but when leftover groceries travel with me, I have learned to put them far away from where I can reach them. #somuchselfcontrol

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You know my love of peanut butter and jelly knows no bounds. I love Lara Bars because they are made with a handful of ingredients (REAL FOOD!) so this flavor is a nice healthy replacement for my PB&J obsession. 🙂

4. A full gas tank.

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This should probably be a little higher up on my list but I loathe the gas station. If someone else (like my Dad or brothers) is in the car with me when I get to the gas station, you can bet your fine self I am not getting out of the car. #diva I can make it all the way home on one tank of gas, but one time I decided to leave without a full tank (hey, it was 1/2 full…) and then I didn’t get gas halfway through my trip. Stupid, stupid, stupid. My gas light came on right as I passed a sign announcing the next rest stop was closed due to construction. This was the same night my Shakeology exploded. Great times! Needless to say, I am a freak about filling up my gas tank now. I even get gas halfway just in case. Two times at the gas station in the same day. Go me.

5. New-to-me entertainment.

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If I’m in the middle of listening to a podcast, I make sure to download the latest episode before I leave (using wifi instead of data and all that responsible cell phone stuff). 😉 I also LOVE to add new music to my library or add old playlists to my library just to mix it up. I listen to my music LOUD for the beginning and the end of my trip…it’s my “yay, I’m leaving!” or “yay, I’m almost there!” celebration. But somewhere in the middle, the music starts to annoy me and I find myself hitting next after the first ten seconds of every song. That’s when my podcasts save my life. I’m toying around with the idea of listening to books on tape, but then I think of my 52 book challenge for the year and feel like audio books are cheating! I’m still deciding. For my drive today, I added some T-Pain, John Newman, and Nicki Minaj music to my playlists. Some songs are new, some songs are just new to me, and some are throwbacks.

If you’re on Spring Break this week, happy relaxing Tuesday!
And if you’re stuck in the real world, happy Tuesday to you, too…now, go get a cup of coffee.

– Team Starbucks or Team Dunkin?

– Do you listen to audio books?

– What are your must-haves on the road?