January 31, 2018

January 2018 Recap

It seems that January has been a long month for everyone. I had the week between Christmas and New Year's off and ended up spending the entire week retiling our laundry room and painting the parts of the wall that the previous owners never painted. To say I'm ready for a vacation would be an understatement.

We still haven't finished unpacking, something that I've definitely neglected, and I really want to finish this weekend. Originally, I wanted to finish unpacking by the end of the month but now I'm just hoping for the weekend! I've been planning to post a house tour but until yesterday, I couldn't find my DSLR!

Looking back on this month, it's been really good. I love that our home is ours! I can't wait to start hanging things on the wall and finish unpacking and really start to make it feel like home. Annoying DIY projects and all, I love being a homeowner.

The first weekend of the month, The Pilot and I flew down to Texas to visit my family. My sister has a new baby and we hadn't been able to get down to see her between all of our fall travel, closing on the house, and the holidays. She's the sweetest baby and I loved spending time with my family! I hadn't been to Texas for almost a year and definitely won't let that much time pass before my next trip!

I also did my fourth annual 30-Day Yoga Challenge with Yoga with Adriene. This year's challenge was amazing and I felt like it was tailormade for me. I almost made it the entire 30 days and then, last Friday, on Day 25, I completely forgot to get on my mat! I wasn't even particularly busy but when my head hit the pillow that night, I realized I had missed out. I feel like I normally would have been really bent out of shape about this but if I've learned anything from this challenge (and I've learned a lot), it's to let go. I really loved this practice series and am looking forward to continuing yoga at home next month, but I also want to try to make it to the studio 2-3 times each week both for longer practices and to get out into Baltimore and meet people!

I shared the books I've read this month, most of which I enjoyed. Right now, I'm reading two books (which I never do unless they're different genres, which these are) - "The Japanese Lover" and "Fantasyland."

Yesterday, I wrote about my blog plans this year. This month, I've written more posts than I have since January of last year! I've already planned out my posts for next month and I'm excited to share some exciting stuff!

In February, The Pilot and I will both celebrate our birthdays (one week apart!). We're taking a mini vacation (no idea where yet!) and I'll hopefully have finished unpacking and decorating! We're waiting until the weather gets nicer to have a housewarming but I'd like to get most of the work done to get that ready next month! One thing I'm hoping will help is Apartment Therapy's The January Cure. I've done this before and I feel like it'll be a great way to help us finish settling in!

How did your January shape up?
What are your plans and goals for February?

January 30, 2018

2018 State of the Blog

This March will be my 8th year of blogging at Planes, Trains, and Running Shoes (formerly 25 Before 25). In that time, I've lived in Boston, New York, DC, and now, Baltimore.

I've blogged about running, traveling, life, big changes, hopes, dreams, fears, and everything in between. While I've been really inconsistent with posting over the last two years, I'm really trying to change that. I love this space for everything it is - from the wildly embarrassing posts I wrote as a 22-year-old that I'm so tempted to delete to the training plans I've logged, the recipes I've shared, and all of the excitement some of you have shared through my biggest life moments. 

I've met some of my very best friends through this blog, friends who I truly couldn't imagine my life without. 

As I've been trying to write more posts and be more consistent, I've trying to figure out what I really want to be writing about. I'm not a 20-something blogger anymore and as hard as it is for me to say, running isn't everything for me right now the way that it was when I first started this blog. I still have dreams of running a sub-4 marathon and I know that one day, I will but this blog is so much more than just running. 

When I started this blog, I did it out of boredom and, some of my earlier posts definitely reflect that, but as I've continued blogging, I've done it for two primary reasons: 1) this amazing community and 2) because I genuinely love sharing my travel stories, my race recaps, and a lot of the details about my life!

But there is so much from this blog that's missing! I lived in DC for five years and never wrote any kind of post about my favorite things to do there, places to go, or things to see. It's one of the top tourist destinations in America and I never really shared anything about my slice of home, except for a few "This is what I did this weekend" posts! Even though I'm living in Baltimore now, I'm still working in DC a few days each week so I plan to change that, while also sharing all about Baltimore as I'm discovering it! I want my travel posts - whether they're about DC, Baltimore, or my latest international adventure - to be useful! I absolutely love when I get emails or comments asking me about a place I've been or telling me that my post inspired someone to book a trip somewhere!

This is why I've continued blogging. And in that time, I've started reading really different types of blogs. I adore home design blogs and cooking blogs, I love reading career and finance advice, all of the things that are relevant to my life right now!

So, as I'm looking ahead to celebrating 8 years of blogging, I'm planning to take my blog into my 30th year and start writing more about the things that are actually relevant to my life. It's been 6 weeks since we moved into our Baltimore home and we've barely started exploring but I love it! I want to share Baltimore with you. and DC! I want to share what I actually do for a living and why, even though I fell into it by accident, I love it. I want to share our home and what it looks like as we're starting to make it feel more like home every day. I want to share advice about the worst job interview I ever had (and how to avoid making that mistake) and how we were actually able to afford a home, and what we did to do so! I want to share all of the recipes I have brewing in my head. I want to share the struggles I've had this last year in the hopes that anyone going through what I have knows that they aren't alone.

I still plan to be a "lifestyle blogger" but I want to be more intentional about what I'm sharing and why I'm sharing it. Too often, I've written blog posts for the sole purpose of posting. I still have every intention of Planes, Trains, and Running Shoes being an outlet for me to share about my life, but I also want it to be a resource for those who are looking for a new travel destination, a new book to read or want to start running. And I want a lot of that to be driven by the very people who have continued reading this blog whether I've posted every day or haven't posted in a month.

So I'm asking all of you - what would you like to see more of? What brings you back to the blogs you read each day?

Over the next few weeks, I'll be working on new, more intentional content, planning some fun trips, and thinking about what I want to share about DC and Baltimore! I'll also be working on a new blog design! I can't wait for it to unfold and I hope you'll follow along!

January 26, 2018

Beyond Words: January Books

Last year, I set a goal to read 52 books and was 10 books shy of that. I had a difficult year last year but I also read a lot of books that I really didn't like that put me in more than a few reading ruts. I'm hoping this year is different and so far, I think I'm off to an OK start! 

I've scaled back my goal this year to 48 books, still ambitious, but I also think reasonable. Since I still haven't unpacked my books (I don't want to talk about it), I decided to start the year by reading books on my Kindle that I've never gotten around to. I definitely prefer reading books to reading on my Kindle but there are always such great deals for e-reads, that I ended up buying a bunch of books and then never reading them.

So, with the exception of this month's book club, here's everything I've read this month:

"The Miniaturist" by Jessie Burton - The subtitle of this book should have been "And they all lived unhappily ever after." I learned while working on this post, that it may or may not be historical fiction. The book takes place in Amsterdam during the 18th century.The main character, a young bride by the name of Petronella Brandt, was, in fact, a real person who was given a dollhouse by her husband, the much older Johannes Brandt. In the novel, Petronella hires an unknown "miniaturist" to commission pieces for the house but the pieces tell a story that's too close for comfort and Petronella becomes fearful that she and her new family are being watched. I enjoyed reading this book but I found the end to be very disturbing and it kind of colored my opinion on the novel. BBC recently adapted it into a miniseries but I think I'll skip it. Three stars.

"Broken Harbor" by Tana French - What it is it about Tana Frenchs's books that get me? I can't put them down. They're quick reads and I keep finding myself turning to them realizing that I've now read almost all of the books in her Dublin Murder Squad series. Each of the books is about the detectives trying to solve the murder. This book though got to me. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days afterward and when I was home alone in this house, I jumped 25 feet at every sound. A family of four - two parents and their young children was found in their suburban Dublin home. The mother was found just barely alive but her husband and two children were all killed. What doesn't make sense though is that when the detectives arrive, there are holes all over the house with baby monitors pointing into the holes, and it doesn't look like these were created overnight. On the one hand, this book has everything a good murder mystery should have. While I often find her stories somewhat predictable, I still enjoy reading them to the end. I will say though that each of her books has a subplot - something tying the detectives to the murder, in this case, it was the neighborhood where the murder took place, and the subplot unravels slowly but by the end, never actually has anything to do with the murder and seems extraneous. Three stars.

"You Learn by Living" by Eleanor Roosevelt - I don't really want to review this book. I tend to be drawn to longer books (avg. 400 pages) and I picked this up, thinking I would fly through it because it was only about 200. It took me almost a week to finish this because I just didn't want to keep reading it. For a public figure who was so well loved and had so many brilliant ideas, her book was painful to read. I understand this book was written in 1960 and that times have changed drastically since then. Believe me, I understand how much things have changed but even for 1960, this book oozed privilege and was so patronizing. Her life motto seemed to be to never let anything bother you and that if you do, you're exhibiting some sort of weakness. I really didn't like this book. Three stars.

This was the Beyond Words Book Club book and I loved it! I read it in two days! Reading this book felt like a really good book club. "Dear Fahrenheit 451" is a librarian's love letters and breakup letters to the books in her life. Some of the books are being redistributed from the library shelves and she writes letters to them. The second half of the book is a series of lists of book recommendations for every occasion, like: "Excuses to Tell Your Friends So You Can Stay Home with Your Books," "Books about Librarians," "Books that Lead to More Books," and books that are worth reading despite their terrible covers. 

This book was full of one-liners and laugh out loud moments. And I was so happy to finally find someone else who didn't like Lord of the Rings! Favorite quotes? "When I read lighter fiction, I like it to take place in England, because it's much more enjoyable when you read it to yourself in a British accent" or this one about a book she didn't like, "We should have parted ways...but I had a weird thing about staying loyal to you until the end. And like all relationships that last longer than they should, I let my anger boil over. I still couldn't connect with your main character, and on top of that, I was pissed about the other books I could have been reading...So this is it. I'm putting you in a Little Free Library."

I hadn't read a lot of the books that Annie wrote about, but I got so many great recommendations from this book! If you're looking for a quick, easy read with a lot of book recommendations, I highly recommend this. 

What have you read this month? Any new favorites?
If you haven't joined our Book Club this month, you can still join for February!
Our next book will be "Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein. 
We'll be linking up on Friday, February 23.
Happy Reading!

January 22, 2018

The Harry Potter Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

I have to admit that I didn't really know anything about the Harry Potter Studio Tour before we went to London. It was on my list of things to do but only if we got around to it. I didn't really know what to expect at the tour...props, costumes, what else could there be?

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The Harry Potter Studio Tour is one of my favorite things I've ever done. It might be better than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

The Studio is in Watford (Radio Watford! 10 points if you know that reference!) which is a short train ride from central London if you take the right train! From Euston Station, the train only takes 20 minutes but if you do what we did and accidentally get on the overground instead of the train, it takes an hour.

When you arrive, it's a relatively inconspicuous building. A few of the chess pieces from The Sorcerer's Stone are outside but aside from that, it doesn't look like much.

Once you go inside, it looks like a movie theater. There's the gift shop and a cafe. The tickets are for timed entry and we got there around 4pm. When it was our turn, we headed into a standing room only theater to watch a short film about the Harry Potter phenomenon before heading into another, larger studio to watch another film about the Studio. 

I hadn't realized before that point that almost all eight films were filmed in the very studio that we were standing in! I thought most of it was filmed on location with a few exceptions, and I certainly never knew that they preserved the set well past the filming of the eighth movie! 

When the second film ends, the screen rises and suddenly, the entrance to the Great Hall appears before your eyes.

And when the doors open, you're at Hogwarts.

It was magic.

You can visit all of the House Tables and even see the professors' costumes at the head of the Great Hall!

Once you leave the Great Hall, you walk into the studio where entire scenes from the films unfold! There are costumes and props everywhere and it's impossible to focus because you just want to see all of it immediately! The Pilot and I were in opposite directions, constantly shouting, "Look at this!" to each other.

You can visit your favorite classrooms and offices...

Sherbet Lemon!

There's the Forbidden Forest (follow the spiders!)...

And so many props and accessories from the films!

Once you leave Kings Cross, you get to a cafe area where you can fill your heart's desire with butterbeer! I had a regular butterbeer and The Pilot had the butterbeer ice cream (highly recommend!). Then, you go outside into the studio backlot.

Once you get back into the studio, there are even more props and costumes but more importantly, there is the full-size Hogwarts where all of the exterior shots were filmed!

I think I've shared more than enough pictures...and I haven't even posted half of the ones I took! You get the idea - this place is magic. You literally dive right into the set of the Harry Potter films and it is perfection! They did such a nice job with the studio and I'm so happy that they've made this available! I would absolutely go back, after all, they redecorate the Great Hall to reflect the seasons!

One tip before you go, tickets sell out months in advance. I waited until we got to London and found out almost all of the tickets for the rest of 2017 had sold out. I refreshed the page several times before finally snagging tickets just a few days away but I wouldn't rely on that option! To play it safe: Buy your tickets when you book your flights!

Is the Harry Potter Studio Tour on your London list?

January 19, 2018

A London Travel Diary: Part II

Having lived in London, I've done a fair bit of what there is to do there. The Pilot, on the other hand, has only been to London twice (once for less than 24 hours!) and hasn't gotten up to as much! Our next few days in London, we spent playing tourist!

Our first stop the next morning was a few steps away from our Airbnb - Kensington Palace. When I lived in London, I lived a stone's throw from the palace and, maybe because of that, I have a soft spot for it. For a palace, it's relatively unassuming (as far as palaces go!) but inside, it's beautiful!

When we left, we strolled around my old neighborhood and grabbed a quick snack before making our way to Dalloway Terrace for afternoon tea. 

There are so many places to go for tea in London but we chose Dalloway Terrace because Candice Brown, winner of the 2016 season of the Great British Bake Off designed the menu! The food was phenomenal and the tea was perfect! We upgraded to the champagne service because, why not?

I really wanted to take The Pilot to Camden Market, so we made our way there and did a lot more shopping! Camden Market seems to have lost some of its punk edginess in the last 10 years but it's still a fun place to visit!

Next, we went on the Jack the Ripper tour. I had done one of these with some friends while I was living in London and loved it but the one we went on this time around was pretty disappointing. It was freezing and the tour lasted way longer than it should have. I wish I could remember the one I went on the first time but it was 10 years ago!  By the time we finally finished, we were desperate to warm up! We swung into The Alice, a nearby pub that had a great selection of craft beers and tried to thaw ourselves out.

The next morning, I woke up before The Pilot and went for a run in Hyde Park. I didn't  really start running until after I left London but I remember going for a run in Hyde Park a few times just to try to get in some kind of a workout. It was nice to get back to the park and revisit some of my earliest running days!

Of course, no trip to Hyde Park would be complete without a visit to Peter Pan!

When I finished my run, we made our way to Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament and wandered around Green Park. 

After that, we went up to Baker Street to pay a visit to 221B! We didn't actually go inside the Sherlock Holmes Museum as there was a line outside (next time!) but I wanted to scope it out and visit the museum shop. 

From Baker Street, we took a train to Watford for the Harry Potter Studio Tour! I have so many thoughts about the tour and it definitely deserves its own post! It was seriously incredible but for now, I'll leave you with just a few pictures until next week! 

I can't wait to share all of the details about the tour! I laughed, I cried...it was seriously one of the best experiences I've ever had. I thought the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was cool but this was incredible. 

We got back to London (after buying so many Harry Potter things!) and had a fantastic dinner at Jamie's Italian in Piccadilly. 

Friday was our last day in London but luckily, we weren't flying out until the evening. We did some last minute shopping, stopped for brunch at 140 Portobello, and wandered around Portobello Market and Notting Hill. 

And with that, it was time to wrap up our trip and head back home! This was such a great trip to London! I wish we could have stayed longer (it's never enough) but I'm so glad we went back and I really hope we can make our way over again this year!

January 18, 2018

A London Travel Diary: Part 1

The minute our plane touched down in London this past November, I was home. London is not only my favorite city but it's my favorite place on earth. I can't believe I let five years go by without a proper trip to London and that definitely won't happen again. We're already planning a trip back later this year.

As with almost all of our trips, this one was pretty last minute. We flew out the day after I got home from Seattle. We booked an Airbnb in Notting Hill and landed bright and early on a Monday morning. Heathrow is always a bit of a disaster when it comes to clearing Customs so by the time we got out of the airport and made it to Central London, we only had about 90 minutes to kill before we had to check in, so we popped over to Granger & Co for breakfast. We had eaten at one of Bill Granger's restaurants in Sydney and loved the food! I don't know how it's possible that he makes such good eggs but seriously, his restaurants have the best scrambled eggs you'll ever eat!

We checked into our place, took a quick nap, and freshened up before heading out for the day. I never shop back home but when I'm in London, I always start my trip with shopping! Some of my favorite pieces are from my last trip to London (yes, five years ago!). We started at Primark (and splurged on their new Harry Potter collection!) on Tottenham Court Road and then made our way down Regent and Street. 

For dinner, we went to Wagamama and ate so much food! I know Wagamama is a chain but when I was living in London, there was one right in the High Street that my friends and I used to go to. Wagamama is full of memories and damn good food and I wouldn't skip it!

After dinner, we walked down Carnaby Street and eventually made our way to Piccadilly Circus. We did some shopping at Lily White's, Waterstones (book), Fortnum & Mason, and Hatchard's (more books) before calling it a night and heading back to Notting Hill for a round of pints at the neighborhood pub, the Prince Alfred

The next morning, we woke up to a fairly typical rainy fall morning in London. 

Our first stop was the Tower of London. I had visited the Tower on my first trip to London (when I was 16!) and had just finished my first Phillipa Gregory book (and didn't really know anything about British history) but The Pilot had never been and I really wanted to go back!

From there, we decided to check out the newly opened Sky Garden. While it was really cool up there, I don't recommend going on a rainy day. The whole point of the Sky Garden is the view and, with rain and low visibility, it wasn't really worth the trip. It's free so it wasn't a total disappointment but I would try to plan for a better day!

We left the Sky Garden and made our way to Borough Market to wander around. 

Borough Market is definitely better on designated market days but it's also super crowded. It wasn't a market day so there weren't as many stalls open but I love wandering around this market! It's one of my favorites!

Next, we made our way the Strand and bought some tea at Twinings. We had banoffee crepes at Creme de la Crepe in Covent Garden and listened to live music. We stopped at yet another bookstore, Foyle's (we, ok fine, I bought SO many books on this trip!) and then we bought tickets for the West End production of An American in Paris (which, I didn't actually like). After the show, we had a late night dinner at Byron

It was the perfect start to our London trip and I couldn't understand why we had let five years pass between visits. We've both traveled a lot and while I have a lot of favorite places, London will always be "my place." I love going back and pining for the city that always feels like home the second I land!

Stay tuned for with more details our trip!

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