January 12, 2018

5 Places I'd Like to Travel in 2018

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that when The Pilot and I travel, it's rarely planned and it's almost always spontaneous. Nonetheless, I always have a running list of place I'd like to travel. For the last three years, I've posted a list of places I'd like to travel in the year ahead. Each year, I've maybe made it to one or two places but the year has always brought a lot more unexpected travel! Nonetheless, I still like making the list. So, without any definite travel plans as of now, here's a list of places I'd like to travel this year!

1. France - Unintentionally, The Pilot and I have found ourselves in Paris every other year since we started dating. We've been there together in 2012, 2014, and 2016 and have decided to make the biennial trip a tradition! In my five trips to France though, I've never been outside Paris. This time around, I'd really love to see more of the country and extend our trip to southern France!

2. Geneva - This has been on my list every year since I've written it. I did a study abroad trip to Geneva in college and went back a few times after but it's been almost 10 years since my last trip and I'd really love to go back and show The Pilot around.

3. Portugal - When I went to Lisbon 2 1/2 years ago, I fell in love in a way I never have before. Since that trip, I've had a hard time articulating just how that city made me feel. It was the first trip I took where I truly didn't want to come home. I'm dying to go back to Lisbon but also take a road trip and travel north!

4. Chile - We almost took a trip Chile last year before we remembered that the seasons are different! South America is the only continent I haven't traveled to (Antarctica doesn't count) and Santiago has been piquing my interest for a while now! 

5. Ottawa - The Pilot loves Canada. He does a lot of flying in and out of Canada and Ottawa has quickly become one of his favorite cities. I was planning to run the Ottawa Marathon last year but wasn't able to. I've never been to Ottawa but I'd love to visit it with him!

So that's my short list! Because of the way our vacation schedules work out, it's pretty rare for us to do much traveling in the first quarter of the year but I think we're both itching for a getaway so that might change! There are so many other places I'd like to travel to but I keep this list on the realistic side. It's a lot easier for us to travel to Europe on our limited vacation time than it is to go to say Chile or Thailand.

We may make it to all of these places this year, or we may not make it to any but, either way, I know this year is going to be another fun travel year and I can't wait to see where we end up!

What's on your 2018 travel list?

January 9, 2018

Beyond Words Book Club

Two years ago, I wrote a post about how to start a successful book club. Afterward, a lot of people reached out to me about wanting to be part of a book club and I reached out to my good friend, Carolann, about the idea of starting an online bloggers' book club and so, Beyond Words was born. We started the club on Goodreads where we all vote on which book we'll read each month.

Our little book club started off with some great momentum and we've read some of my favorite books over the last few years but one thing that I think is desperately missing is a good discussion.

So, Carolann and I are moving Beyond Words to Facebook. It's our hope, that the more user-friendly interface will enable more discussion and offer more options for members to recommend books, not just for the monthly polls but to each other!

If your New Year's Resolution is to read more, or you already read plenty but are looking for some good book discussions and recommendations, check out the brand new Beyond Words Facebook page!

For those of you who have been tried and true members, we'll keep the Goodreads page going at least for a little while just in case there are some of you who aren't on Facebook.

For those of you who are new and want to join us, here's how things work:
  1. We pick books 2 months in advance to allow plenty of time for library wait lists, busy schedules, and getting through everything else on your TBR list!
  2. Either Carolann or myself will put up a poll to vote on our next book club pick. We welcome suggestions at any time! You can post your suggests on the Facebook page, or send them to us through email, our blogs, or social media!
  3. The voting period is always open for one week, after which we'll announce the next read. 
  4. We host a link up on the last Friday of each month to share your review on that month's pick and/or share the other books you've been reading!
  5. Throughout the month, you can discuss the book on our Facebook page but no spoilers! The day of the link up, Carolann and I will open up a discussion post where you can leave comments and discuss with all the spoilers you want!
I hope this new interface makes it a little bit easier for everyone to join! Our January pick is "Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence" and the February poll is live today! Check it out, vote for a book, and come back here on Friday, January 25 for our first link up of the new year!

If you have any questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to reach out to myself or Carolann!

Happy Reading!

January 8, 2018

One Week in Seattle

In early November, I headed out to Seattle on a business trip. It was my second time in Seattle and I was excited to head back and see more of the city that I had low expectations for but really fell in love with!

My coworkers and I arrived late on a Tuesday night after about 6 hours of flight delays, rebooked flights, and changed airports! We were originally supposed to land later afternoon so I was bummed to lose a night in Seattle.

We were staying south of the city, in Renton, which isn't too far from downtown. Our Airbnb was at the top of a hill with beautiful views of the water from almost everywhere in the house. 

We had a full view of meetings our first day there and had plans to head downtown afterward to Pike Place Market. The sun was starting to set as we were leaving the office and we made a stop at the Renton Municipal Airport, which had incredible views of the water, especially with the planes all coming into land!

We got to Pike Place just after dark. Most things were shutting down for the day but we popped into a few little shops and settled in for dinner at the Virginia Inn. We had a big crowd for dinner and the food was delicious! Almost everything on the menu was in season and there were delicious fall flavors in almost every dish!

I love traveling to the West Coast because you get reverse jet lag so I got up the next morning and tried to run but was having some knee pain so I went for a long walk instead. Fall was in full view just about everywhere in Seattle and there were so many different colors on all of the trees!

After another full day of meetings, we headed back to the city. It was my job to organize a fun outing for my team so we went to the Space Needle and then had drinks at a local brewpub.

We arrived at the Space Needle at about 5:30, just before sunset, which was perfect! I've been to the top of a lot of buildings but I have to say, the Space Needle is probably one of my favorites! Even though it was FREEZING (and insanely windy) up there, it was so amazing to see all of Seattle, to watch the sunset over the city, and see the lights come on and the city come to life at night. It was an awesome experience!

My favorite thing (aside from the fact that the interior of the Space Needle smelled like maple syrup and buttered popcorn) was the Virtual Reality feature where you can do a 360 VR bungee jump off the Space Needle or land a seaplane on Lake Union. That was cool!

Cold, and tired, we made our way to a local brewpub for dinner and a round of drinks at No Anchor. I have to say, I was pretty adventurous in my dining selections, opting for a shockingly pink beetroot gnocchi with a nice, dark Porter and Old Bay spiced chickpeas to finish it off. I was pretty happy with that!

The next morning, we woke up to snow! We had one more meeting to wrap up before all making our way back into Seattle. We ended up back in Pike Place and had lunch at the Steelhead Diner and then I made my way to Fremont to meet up with my friend Emily, who I was staying with for the night. Emily and her husband took me to dinner at Windy City, an amazing pizza place that serves Chicago style pizza. We ordered a white pie with Brussels sprouts and caramelized onions that may have been one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten. I can't remember if our waiter said the pizza had 1 or 3 pounds of cheese, but that's probably what made it so good!

On my last day in Seattle, Emily and I headed for a run together around Green Lake. This park is absolutely gorgeous and the fall leaves were some of the most impressive I've ever seen. We got in 8 miles before heading back to her place where I packed up, grabbed some breakfast, and headed to the airport - another excellent visit to Seattle in the books!

It was a great trip and I'm so glad I got to fit in so much to do on such a busy work trip!

Have you been to Seattle?

What should I do on my next trip there? 

January 3, 2018

Good Morning, Baltimore

When The Pilot and I moved to DC five years ago, almost to the day, I didn't think I would ever leave. We got engaged and married in DC, made lifelong friends, and really made DC our home.

I swore I would never leave DC unless it was to move overseas. Yet, we just bought a house in Baltimore.

I love DC. It's the first city I've lived in since I left London 10 years ago that truly felt like home. I never got tired of running on the National Mall or seeing the first pops of pink every Cherry Blossom season that rolled around. I love that I could go to museums and monuments for lunch. I love how much pride the city has, the DC flags on everything from bicycle helmets to keychain, and the fact that no matter how amazing my latest vacation, I always felt good coming home.

So why did we leave?

The long and short of it is that we couldn't afford to buy a house in DC. We were looking at condos for a while but with DC's housing market exponentially rising by the minute, it wasn't long before we were priced out of the condo market too. We had our eye on a 2-bedroom condo that was being built across the street from us but when it hit the market for $265,000 MORE than the highest number we thought it might be listed at, we knew our time in DC was up. 

I'm a city girl, always have been. I haven't owned a car for 8 years and don't plan on buying another one if I can avoid it. I would go stir crazy living in a place where I had to drive to the nearest park or coffee shop. We could have moved to the DC suburbs but I didn't like any of the areas we looked in that were actually metro accessible.

There are areas of DC that are still somewhat affordable but any house in those areas are going to need a lot of work. Plus, with my 4-mile commute already taking up to 90 minutes, we didn't want to move any further away from my office.

So we turned to Baltimore. 35 miles outside of DC and easily accessible by the MARC train, my commute from Baltimore to DC wouldn't be much different than it already was.

I've joked to friends that buying this house was both the smartest and dumbest decision we've ever made. On the one hand, it's an investment. We're no longer throwing money into rent each month. On the other hand, we don't know anything about Baltimore and we bought the first and only house we looked at (assured by friends in Baltimore on a number of different counts that this house was a smart move).

For a long time after our offer was accepted, I worried whether we were making the right decision but as we've started settling in, I know we absolutely did. I've loved making our house our home despite what was a hellish moving experience that involved snow, an entire room worth of stuff left behind, and having to replace the washing machine within days of moving in (which led to us replacing the laundry room floor less than 2 weeks after moving in).

We have barely gone out to explore Baltimore and but so far, it's already starting to feel like home and I know that this decision was the right one. 

I'll still be working in DC one or two days every week, which I think I need. While I know that we made the right decision, it wasn't an easy one to make and in a lot of ways, I feel like DC let me down, not only on the housing front. We aren't the first people we know to make this move because DC and we've already met two people here who have made the same move. The sad thing is that DC isn't doing anything to keep the city affordable for families. 

At first, we said that in a few years, we might make the move back to DC but as we're settling in, Baltimore is already starting to feel like home. 

I can't wait for the weather to warm up so we can frequent Camden Yards, go crabbing on the Harbor, drink Natty Bohs on our patio, and make ourselves at home. I've always said that DC is the greatest city in America but Baltimore actually has that title!

One thing I regret about my time in DC is not blogging about all of my best-kept secrets, frequent haunts, and favorite spots. While I'll still be in DC part-time, I definitely plan to blog more about both of these cities that are home!

January 2, 2018

How I'm Resolving to Be More Mindful in 2018

2017. What a year. 2017 bent me and broke me in so many ways and I am so ready to move past the hurt, grief, and fear and welcome in 2018 with open arms and an open heart. I know that midnight on New Year's won't magically make anything better and, while almost everything that happened last year was out of my hands, I'm concentrating on doing more in 2018 to take care of myself. 

I think a big reason 2017 was so hard was because I didn't have anything to fall back on when life came crashing down.

This year, I want to focus on being more mindful and intentional. I was hurt by a lot of people in 2017 and spent a lot of time dwelling on that. I wish I could say I'm ready to forgive and forget but I'm not at that point yet. I am at the point, though where I'm ready to let go and move on. I've never really set New Year's resolutions, I've always set goals but this year, I'm actually resolving to do things to live more mindfully this year.

For the third year straight, I'm doing Yoga with Adriene's 30 Day Yoga Challenge. Yesterday, I watched the "Orientation" video and I feel like this challenge was created specifically for me. 

I really want to grow my yoga practice this year. The 30 Day Challenge has always been a good start but I don't ever keep up with a regular practice beyond that. Usually, by April, I'm practicing once or twice a month as opposed to 3-4 days each week. 

I also want to start a meditation practice. I've downloaded Headspace but rarely make time for it. I want to change that this year and take the time to spend 10 minutes every day just breathing and taking a moment to myself to look inward. 

I want to spend less time on my phone and more time outside. It might be 5 degrees in Baltimore right now but grief locked me in last year and I'm ashamed to say that there were entire weeks when I didn't even leave our apartment. I wish I could say I'm exaggerating because this was terrible for me, physically, but especially mentally!

This year, I want to blog more. The last two years I've let work completely overtake my life and I've stopped reading blogs and posting and baking regularly and doing a lot of the things I love. Working from home 3-4 days every week has its benefits but it also means I have a tendency to let work overflow into my entire day. My new home office is on the 1st floor of our house whereas the rest of our living space is upstairs. I'm hoping this physical separation will help me shut down by 5:00 every day. I have so many half-written blog posts that I've put together over the last year and fun ideas for my blog I really want to make this space a priority, especially now that we're underway on projects for the house!

For the first time since I can remember, running isn't going to be a priority for me this year. I'm not planning any races or PR goals. This year, I want to run just to run. I've had a lot of running injuries over the years that started to creep up again last year and I want to take some time off from hard running to reset so that I can keep running well into my 30s and beyond.

As for travel, well, aside from family, this has always been my first priority in life! I know that another trip to Paris is on the horizon but aside from that, we'll see where the wind takes us!

What are you resolving in 2018?
Are you planning any fun trips this year?
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