Thursday, April 27, 2017

Philadelphia Travel Guide.





^^^These two photos were taken at midnight just as the big snowstorm was starting to roll in. That look on my face is pure joy as I walked around the street by myself watching the snowflakes fall. 

^^^ This was the morning after the snow storm as I walking to the Flower Show. People were few and far between and the snow was almost a foot deep! 
^^^ I am so in love with this flower exhibit 
 

^^^ one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings 
 

A little over a month ago, I got the chance to visit Philadelphia! I was so excited to visit the city, as it's been on my bucket list for a while and one of my best friends from high school goes to school at Bryn Mawr College, which is just a short train ride away from downtown Philly!

The original plan was to head to Philadelphia and meet up with my friend Azalia but it just so happened that the night of my arrival one of the biggest snow storms of the season occurred. The snowstorm caused flight cancellations across the country and my friend was stuck in San Diego for an extra day (she had been on Spring Break). So, I ended up being in a new city alone during a big snow storm for a few days. But that didn't stop me from exploring solo! And when my sweet friend finally did get back to Philly, we had so much fun together in her city. 

I almost immediately fell in love with Philadelphia. Truthfully, I didn't know much about what the city had to offer until I got there and it was the most pleasant surprise to find out just how cool and fun Philadelphia is! I think what I loved the most was the food...Pretty sure I didn't stop eating the entire time I was there. Philly is also a historically significant city that is was just nice getting to wander the streets, especially in Old City.

The first day I got to Philadelphia, I got off the bus, went to my hotel room, freshened up and walked straight to the Liberty Bell. I'll be damned if a predicted snowstorm was going to stop me from seeing the Liberty Bell! The crowds were minimal and the Bell was fascinating. And truthfully, a bit bigger than I expected. Starting my trip off at the Liberty Bell just felt so right and, because of the late hour of my arrival, I spent the rest of the evening walking around Old City. 

My hotel just so happened to be across the street from the One Liberty Observation Deck, so I decided to head up there late that night to get a good look at the city after dark. Because of the impending bad weather and the late hour, the Deck was practically empty so I spent quite a bit of time just sitting up there enjoying the view by myself. It was a really nice way to end my first day in Philly. 

As I'm writing this, I realize I have way more to say about Philly and what I did there than I originally thought. I was in the city for a little less than a week and, despite the snowy weather in the beginning, I was able to see, do and eat a lot and I pretty much loved it all. 

My second day in Philly was when the city basically shut down from the snow storm the night before. But I refused to stay in my hotel room by myself so I set off to do the only thing I knew for sure was open: The Philadelphia Flower Show. On the outside of the convention center it was a cold, dreary Philidelphia day and on the inside was a bright, beautiful spring day in Holland. It can not be overstated just how absolutely stunning the flower show exhibits were. I walked around in awe for a couple of hours just staring at the exhibits. This was definitely a highlight of my trip. I loved it.

By the next day, Azalia finally made it back to Philly and we got to explore quite a bit together. It snowed the entire day as we were walking around and it. was. magical. It was freezing cold, windy and I didn't have the right footwear, but it was still magical. As a native Texan, I soaked up all the snow and cold weather I could get while I was in Pennsylvania. While the snow was an annoyance for a lot of people, I couldn't have enjoyed it more.

I stayed with Azalia at Bryn Mawr and got to see the place she's been calling home for almost three years now. It was so nice to be able to see and experience the place my friend loves so much.  The next few days were spent back and forth in Philadelphia, seeing and eating everything in sight! I had so much fun with Azalia and feel so fortunate that I got to explore the city with her. Philidelphia is an amazing city and I can't wait to go back someday.

I titled this the Philadelphia Travel Guide and it hasn't been much of a guide thus far so here's a list of every place I visited in Philadelphia, including the eateries too. There's not a thing on this list I don't recommend if you ever get the chance to visit the City of Brotherly Love.

SIGHTS:

  • One Liberty Observation Deck >>> I enjoyed the view at night but I have a feeling it's even better during the day. 
  • The United States Mint  >>> I loved this! It's a completely free and fascinating self-guided tour through the facility with easy to follow explanations of the coin making process.
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art (the Rocky Steps!) >>> An absolutely amazing museum with amazing views of the city on the outside. So even if you can't make it inside, definitely make time to walk around the museum grounds. 
  • The Philadelphia Flower Show at the Convention Center >>> S T U N N I N G 
  • Liberty Bell >>> A must-do! 
  • Independence Hall >>> Probably one of the most important historical landmarks in the States, if not the most important one. Obviously a must-do as well. 
  • Betsy Ross' House >>> For a small fee, you can walk around the inside of the house which is recreated to look like it did in the 1700s. 
  • Elfreth's Alley >>> A really cute street that is considered the old residential street in the country! Great for some photos. 
  • African American Museum >>> They had some really great exhibits when I visited and I suspect that's always the case. 
  • Reading Terminal Market >>> I could have spent an entire day in this place trying all the food. Lots of great places to eat lunch, grab a snack or sweet treat. I would try to hit this place at an off time though, I went on a Friday afternoon and it was crazy packed. 
  • South Street and Philadelphia Magic Gardens >>> A super artsy part of town with some fun shops and great food. Unfortunately, the outside portion of the Magic Gardens was closed because of the snow but they opened up the basement for visitors to walk through and it was really cool! I can't wait to go back and explore the entire place though. It looks amazing. 
  • The Benjamin Franklin Museum >>> If you love Benjamin Franklin, this is the place for you! It's super informative and a great way to learn about such an interesting and important man. Plus the first ever Post Office is right out front! 
  • The first Post Office >>> If you mail anything from this post office, they'll hand-cancel it with an exclusive postmark! 

EATS:

  • Bud & Marilyn's >>> If you ever go to Philly, you MUST eat there and get the crispy cheese curds as an appetizer and grasshopper cake for dessert. They were so good! The Nashville hot buns were pretty delicious too! 
  • Green Eggs Cafe >>> I discovered this place on my last day and it's my biggest regret that I didn't get to eat here more than once! I had a special St. Patrick's Day themed French Toast (made with challah bread!) but everything on the menu sounded (and looked!) delicious. 
  • Davio's >>> This place was located in my hotel and it was the only restaurant open within walking distance the day after the storm. It's a little on the pricier side but it was so good! The creme brulee for dessert was top notch. 
  • Common Wealth >>> Azalia and I stopped in here for lunch and liked it a lot! The perfect place for warming up and chit-chatting. The soups were good too! 
  • Jim's Steaks >>> This is where I tried my first real Philly Cheesesteak and I was not disappointed one bit! 
  • Dim Sum Garden >>> This is another place I could have easily ordered 20 different things off the menu. I ordered the pan fried pork soup dumplings and sesame chicken and both were delicious! 
  • Chestnut Street Philly Bagels >>> I didn't have to travel to the NYC to get a rainbow bagel! And I can't imagine the bagel tasting any better in New York. The rainbow bagel with cake batter cream cheese is a MUST. The cream cheese was my favorite part, so good!! 
SWEETS:

  • Franklin Fountain >>> An old-timey ice cream parlor and soda fountain with lots of homemade ice cream flavors. Delish! 
  • Shane Confectionary >>> Right next door to Franklin Fountain is this delicious candy store filled with delectable chocolates and sweet candies. 
  • Big Gay Ice Cream >>> If you only go to one ice cream place in Philly, go here! The dipped cones are absolutely delicious. Get them to combine their American Globs Cone + Salty Pimp if you want something ridiculously delicious. 
  • Bassetts Ice Cream >>> This place is inside Reading Terminal Market and is absolutely delicious. Bassetts is where I got the sprinkle covered ice cream cone pictured above. 
  • Old City Coffee Cafe >>> Not really a sweet place, but definitely a good place to warm up and grab a cup of coffee or, in my case, hot chocolate!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A lil' 101 in 1001 Update.

Just over a year ago (oh my, it's already been a year?!), I created a list of 101 things I wanted to try to accomplish in 1001 days. The list was full of lots of trivial things, some valuable things but mainly just some fun experiences and goals. I still have quite a bit of time left before my 1001 days are up but I thought I'd check in to see how I'm doing thus far.

Out of the 101 things on my list, I've completely crossed off 18, which means that I'm just under 20% done! Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I'm also in the process of completing another 18 (many of the things on my list require me reading/watching/doing things more than once).

At this point right now, I would say the majority of my list is still very much attainable. There are some items on my list that I'm starting to question though, namely skydiving. Why I ever put skydiving on my list, I do not know. I must have been feeling very adventurous in that one very specific moment when I wrote skydiving down as number 97 on my list.

For a full breakdown of the list (and a few additional comments), keep scrolling. If you'd like to read my original 101 in 1001 post, you can do so here. And you can always find the continually updated version of the list at the top of my blog under '101 in 1001' page, next to the 'About' page.

Italicized items are in progress
Strikethrough items are completed 
  1. Read five biographies 
  2. Visit three national parks 
  3. Unplug completely for 24 hours once a month 
  4. Host a brunch
  5. Take a cooking class
  6. Visit a flea market
  7. Do at least 5 do-it-yourself projects 
  8. Write ten handwritten letters
  9. Visit five museums >>> Between my visits to Paris, London, and Philadelphia, I think I could cross this item off but I wasn't keeping track. And I want to visit some Houston and San Antonio museums before completely marking it off. 
  10. Read 40 books 
  11. Travel to five new places >>> I'm headed to Mexico City for the first time next week! 
  12. Leave a 100% tip
  13. Have a picnic at the park
  14. Attend 15 live music shows >>> My favorite concert thus far has probably been Jason Isbell; I was front row and the performance was incredible.
  15. Take a trip with my girlfriends 
  16. Cook 15 new meals 
  17. Find the perfect LBD
  18. Watch ten "classic" movies
  19. Attend a ballet performance
  20. Run a 5K 
  21. Vote in a presidential election >>> I'm #StillWithHer
  22. Interview my grandparents 
  23. Get lost in a new city
  24. Find the best BBQ in the great state of Texas
  25. Make my bed every day for six months 
  26. Go on a real vacation 
  27. Watch all of the Best Picture nominees from the Oscars 
  28. Brush up on the geography of the world 
  29. Go stargazing >>> Thank you West Texas skies
  30. Attend a professional sporting event 
  31. Learn to ski 
  32. Go hiking six times 
  33. Run a 10K
  34. Frame a wall-worthy map and start marking the places I've been >>> I am definitely doing this in my new apartment.
  35. Workout at least twice a week for six months 
  36. Take a trip alone >>> I sort of had a solo trip to Philadelphia for a few days but I was meeting a friend so I didn't think it was fair to count it. 
  37. Graduate college
  38. Learn to french braid my own hair 
  39. Take a trip with someone on a whim 
  40. Try five new restaurants in Austin
  41. Try five new restaurants in Houston 
  42. Take a self-defense class 
  43. Learn to meditate >>> I actually took a class on Mindfulness my last semester in college and we did short meditation practices at the beginning and end of every lecture. I definitely learned a lot but still need to apply it and practice it in my everyday life. 
  44. Do a 30-day ab challenge >>> Ugh...
  45. Wake up at 7am {or earlier} every day for a week 
  46. Go paddle boarding
  47. Step foot on the Four Corners 
  48. Go ziplining 
  49. Learn two new songs on the guitar
  50. Attend four plays or musicals 
  51. Learn how to do a proper push >>> Truly sad
  52. Adopt a puppy  >>> I might need to change this to 'Adopt a kitten'
  53. Watch the sunrise and sunset of the same day 
  54. Stop biting my nails >>> I have not even attempted to do this in the slightest and it's a problem 
  55. Get a big girl job >>> Ms. French, your 3rd-grade math teacher! 
  56. Go horseback riding 
  57. Take tennis lessons
  58. Keep my nails painted for at least three months in a row >>> I think I lasted a month on the first try? 
  59. Try a new cuisine
  60. Make homemade poptarts 
  61. Take at least three consecutive conscious breaths every day 
  62. Give up Netflix, Hulu and all other video streaming sites for three months >>> I should have been more realistic and said three weeks, not three months...
  63. Go on the Port of Houston Ship Channel tour 
  64. Go two-stepping
  65. Visit Marfa, Texas >>> If you ever go to Marfa, try Food Shark. It's delish!
  66. Attend three different UT sporting events 
  67. Go to the Texas State Fair
  68. Have a movie theater marathon 
  69. Donate blood again 
  70. Vote in a non-presidential election 
  71. Spend an afternoon at a botanical garden
  72. Change up my hair >>> I became a blonde for about eight months and loved it, though I wasn't too sad to see it go. 
  73. See a movie at a drive-in 
  74. Start a blog series
  75. Attend a live-taping of a television show 
  76. Do a 30-day squat challenge >>> ha ha ha haaaaa
  77. Get a massage 
  78. Go to a pumpkin patch >>> You can see the photos from this magical day here
  79. Volunteer more 
  80. Learn the basics of photoshop >>> I had Adobe for a while and still never learned. For shame. 
  81. Organize my photos >>> Desperately needs to happen
  82. Read the New York Times every day for three months 
  83. Watch 20 movies off my must-watch list
  84. Try a new food once a month for six months 
  85. Visit the Stockyards in Fort Worth
  86. Improve my posture
  87. Fast for a day 
  88. Develop a better skin care routine
  89. Float a river
  90. See Kacey Musgraves live >>> I saw her twice last year, met her once and am seeing her again this week! This was a much easier item to cross off my list than I ever expected it to be. 
  91. Visit the caverns in Texas
  92. Discover and listen to a new artist once a month 
  93. Attend a roller derby
  94. Learn to love my hair >>> I just got a haircut last week and I don't think I've ever loved my hair as much as I do right now. I might have to change this item to completed...
  95. Don't eat out for a week for three months
  96. Get an internship  >>> I loved my time interning at a nonprofit last semester in Austin.
  97. Go skydiving >>> again...WHY?
  98. Take a ballroom dance class 
  99. Go a week {or two} without sugar
  100. Start doing yoga
  101. Inspire someone else to make their own list 
Start Date: March 8, 2016
End Date: December 4, 2018


Monday, April 17, 2017

The Next Chapter.

A little over a year ago, I published my first real blog post on here about a day trip I took with my best friend to San Antonio. Little did I know that the following year, I would become a resident of that wonderful city!

At the start of last year, I really didn't know what my plan was going to be post-grad. I was feeling kind of lost in my degree path, recovering from a little heartbreak and overwhelmed with just the idea of graduating and leaving college. Then during one of my weekly Communication Council meetings, a woman came to talk to us about Teach for America.

Now let me just preface this by saying that I am typically not impressed nor swayed by recruiters of anything. I think the last time I really got swept away by a recruiter was in 5th grade when the Coast Guard landed a helicopter in our schoolyard. Anyways, as I was sitting in this meeting listening to this woman discuss Teach for America and her experience as a corps member, I couldn't help but connect to everything she was saying.

When she talked about the opportunities, the commitment, and the mission of TFA, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. I even remember turning to my friend and quietly saying that this was something I could see myself doing.

Fast forward a bit, I applied to Teach for America to become a Fall 2017 Corps Member and I was ACCEPTED! I was (and still am!) over-the-moon excited about the opportunity to be in the classroom teaching this upcoming fall.

I was placed to teach in San Antonio and I could not be more excited to live there soon. I loved living in Austin but, truth be told, I never saw myself living there past college. I also really enjoyed my summers working in Houston but wanted to experience another place before deciding whether or not move back there permanently.

San Antonio is the perfect placement, as it's not too far away from my sweet nephew Hank and I still get to live in the Hill Country. Not only that but it might be one of the best-kept secrets in Texas that San Antonio is a really cool place to live with lots of culture, history and delicious food.

I was very fortunate and got to interview with some schools in San Antonio early this year and I already signed a contract to teach 3rd-grade math at a school downtown. I also kind of unexpectedly signed a lease for my first apartment this past week, which is extremely exciting and nerve racking. I'm moving to San Antonio earlier than I expected to but I just loved the apartment so much I couldn't pass it up! The neighborhood is great too--lots of places to eat, see live music and enjoy the city.

This next chapter of my life will undoubtedly be full of new experiences, lots of challenges (big and small), and many, many failures (and hopefully many successes too!). I am scared and excited and nervous and anxious. But my biggest hope is that I am able to do right by my students and show them that they are loved, supported and capable of doing anything because I know they will be.

Last year at this time, I had no idea what the next year of my life would look like and I was terrified. Now, I can't wait to see what happens next. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

That West Texas Sky.


^^^I honestly don't think I'll ever get over how blue and bright and big 
the skies were on this day
^^^those long drives out West were really exhausting for me ;) 
^^^there ain't nothin' like a West Texas sunset


Hey, hi, hello! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Well, let’s just pretend it’s only been a hot minute and fall right back into it, shall we? 

About two years ago, I came home from work to find a 1984 VW camper van parked in my parent’s driveway. I didn’t believe my parents when they first told me that the van was theirs, as they had literally not told anyone about the purchase beforehand. 

The van, or ‘Woody’, as my dad has so affectionally named it, is my parent’s favorite project. They’ve gone on several little trips with it and are constantly making small adjustments and improvements on it. I had yet to go on a trip with them in their dearly beloved ‘Woody’ and I had been wanting to go back to Big Bend National Park, so we thought we’d finally all take a trip together out West. 

Many a spring break vacations were spent at Big Bend, as we visited almost annually growing up. I love the park for a multitude of reasons but namely because of the skies. It is true that everything is bigger in Texas and in West Texas, it’s even truer. I swear the farther West you get, the bigger the sky gets. It’s absolutely incredible. 

We were fortunate on this trip to have many sunny bright blue skies during the day. And at night the skies were even more stunning. The stars shined bright and we laid out on the ground searching for new constellations on more than one occasion. 

The hiking at Big Bend is quite spectacular as well. There are hikes for the experienced and inexperienced and are all worthwhile. Boquillas Canyon, Santa Elena Canyon, and the Balanced Rock trail are just a few of our favorite hikes that we got to tackle on this trip, all of which came with beautiful views and an out-of-breath Hannah. We stuck to the trails we all knew and loved (and missed), and it was like walking down memory lane. Very little about Big Bend has changed since my last visit and I think that’s part of what makes that place so special (and why I love it so much). 

While we were out West, we made a few additional stops before heading home. Our first out-of-Big-Bend stop is always our favorite ghost town, Terlingua, which is home to eclectic gift shops, an eerie graveyard, and award-winning Chili. 

We also made it out to the Fort Davis Mountains, where we went to the McDonald Observatory for a Star Party. If you are ever in West Texas and can make it out to a Star Party, don’t walk but RUN to it! The observatory had multiple telescopes out, all focused on something different and spectacular in the sky. We saw Jupiter and several of its moons, Orion’s Nebula, craters on the Moon and, my personal favorite, an up close look at M3, a globular cluster of stars. It was breathtaking.

Our last stop before heading home was the Balmorhea State Park, which is just slightly north of Fort Davis. This park is home to the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool. The water is crystal-clear and perfectly cool and relaxing and I loved it. Highly recommend, especially when you need a break from desert heat!


All in all, it was a fantastic trip. I loved being out West and seeing everything I had missed since my last visit almost ten years ago. Big Bend and the West Texas skies will forever hold a special place in my heart and I hope it doesn’t take me another ten years to go back.