12 Trips 12 Months: February

I know it’s almost half way into March, and I really slacked on posting my February 12 Trips in 12 Months post. However, better late than never!

February Trip to Universal Studios Florida!

I previously posted specifically about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which you can see at Nerd Tours Tuesday: Hogwarts Edition.

We spent a day each in Universal Studios, and in Island of Adventures. It was a blast! I am not going to write to much because pictures are more fun! Enjoy!

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Island of Adventures!

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The Delorean!

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The Monster Cafe is a lot of fun! The food is good, and great prices for a theme park, the portions are huge! And they play old Monster movies in the background!

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Who wouldn’t want to be a Minion!

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The Harry Potter portions of both parks were still my favorite! Guess I am just a nerd at heart!

-Elle

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#30by30 Number 17: French Macaroons

#30by30 Number 17: Try a new recipe every month.

March: French Macaroons with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

#30by30 French Macaroons

#30by30 French Macaroons

For a while now these have been on my list to attempt to make. I used this recipe from Fine Cooking with the Vanilla Buttercream frosting. Many consider Vanilla boring. I think of it as delicious! Vanilla is actually one of my favorite things.

The cookies came out pretty good, the filling is a little sweet, and the cookies super delicate, I have to pay more precise attention next time I make these. (And I will make them again, I may even venture into other flavors!)

I call this one a success! Now to enjoy them and figure out what to make next month!

-Elle

Tracking my Travel

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I always wanted to have a way to show where I have been. One of the ways I do this is that I always purchase a Christmas ornament (or something I can turn into an ornament) from every place that I have been. However, I still wanted something that I could show year round, without having random souvenirs cluttering the house.

I know there are a bunch of websites and apps and things that you can use to track where you’ve been and where you want to go. I wanted something more tangible that I could show off, a map that I could physically hang and stick a pin in.

I ordered a 24×36 Bulletin Board, a silver and black map of the world from Amazon and because I’m a little particular I ordered map tacks through Etsy. You can easily get them at Amazon and in multi-color packs, but I found a seller on Etsy that I could choose three colors for a set.

I chose my colors based on my favorites and what I wanted each to represent.

Purple: Places I’ve been.

Blue: Places I want to go.

Green: Places I want to return too.

I had to trim down the map to fit the board, and plan to paint the edge of the bulletin board once I commit to the color I want.

I also plan to add a quote to the corner, I just haven’t found the right one. Any suggestions?

Overall though I love this piece and it now hangs over my bed, and I cannot wait to switch out pins to mark the new places I have been!

-Elle

Asking Better Questions.

I love traveling and learning and finding out information. Books have always helped me to discover new things and find new adventures to embark on. For me, people are another story. I love getting to know people and connecting with them but I struggle to actually make it to that point. Meeting people tends to be difficult, I can formulate the perfect introduction in my head and how to get to know a new person but when it comes to the art of actually speaking…well that’s where my problem comes in. My words get stuck and never seem to come out in the correct order.

I think that in our technology driven world, where we are always on the go and glued to our phones/tablets/devices we forget to really notice the people around us anymore. Sure we say hello and ask how they are doing, but do we really mean it or say it out of habit because it is what we are supposed to do. I know I am a culprit of it, but I also know that I will pass people in the halls at work who will ask me how I am doing yet continue walking before you can even answer.

I don’t want to get so focused on posting on social media, or too involved in my work and forget to genuinely connect with people. I want to learn to ask better questions that will actually tell me who a person is, what they are dealing with and why they choose to do the things they do. I want to listen to stories about life and process and how they got where they are today.

I’m over relationships being based upon what I’ve seen on Facebook and Instagram. It’s time to step back and really get to know people again. It’s a step out of my comfort zone, I’m never really the one to speak up, and I struggle with what to say and keep a conversation going. However, I think it’s time I quit making excuses and just do it.

-Elle

#30by30

30by30

Over the last few years I have seen a few friends commit to creating and accomplishing a 30 by 30 list, and throughout the last few months I have been compiling my list and things I wanted to accomplish by the time I turned 30. I admit that my list is slightly on the selfish side but I have also chosen many things that are going to be a challenge for me. So as of today I have exactly one year until I turn 30 and I decided that was the perfect time to share my list.

Throughout the year I will continue to post updates about where I am at on my list, and you will also be able to go to my #30by30 page to see updates.

I will also add as a disclaimer, that although I plan to complete this list, some items are open to flexibility due to schedules and finances, but I aim to complete each one, and if one is not possible the list will be updated with something in exchange.

Alright, that’s enough of me babbling, here is my list in no particular order…

1. Read the Bible from cover to cover.

For how much I read and I’ve tried numerous Bible Reading plans there’s just something daunting about trying to get through Leviticus and Numbers, the New Testament I can handle, but some of those Old Testament books are a struggle. However, this year I am committed to finishing!

2. Volunteer 100 hours outside the church.

Last year I was volunteering regularly with Habitat for Humanity, when I picked up a second job to pay down some debt I ended up giving up a lot of my free time. This year I want to get back into doing something that I love. I added the stipulation of outside the church because I work for my church and still serve at my church regularly, I love it and it is nothing against my church but I need to push myself a little more, and I would like to meet some different people along the way.

3. Pay off credit card and at least one student loan.

No explanation necessary. I am tired of debt.

4. Take a row class at the boat house.

I’ve always thought about taking a class doing something that sounded fun and different but have always backed away because I didn’t want to do it alone, or I wasn’t sure I could keep up. I’ve always had some interest in learning to row and than I found out our local boat house has a month long introductory course. I like that it’s only a month long, because if I find I don’t like it as much as I think I will it’s ok to try something new and I wouldn’t be committed to anything long term. However, if I love it I could always advance!

5. Lose Weight.

I need to get in shape. I have an amount in mind that I won’t be revealing because some people have discouraged me by saying it’s to much. I will say this about my goal though, it’s a healthy weight, I will not be crash dieting or doing anything insane, I am just choosing smaller portions, healthier options and exercise. The number may seem high but that is only because my body type is great at hiding how much I actually weigh.

6. Learn to play an instrument.

I’ve always wanted to learn an instrument. I’ve never played anything before, unless you count my brief time attempting to learn guitar. What instrument? I don’t know. Any suggestions?

7. Double Savings Account.

Exactly what it says.

8. Read 100 Books of various genres.

I read a lot. However, I tend to get stuck in the same 2-3 genres, this year I want to expand on the books I read. You can keep up with the books I am reading at 100 Books.

9. Intentional Friendships/Relationships

This year I am committing to being more intentional about my relationships, instead of talking about meeting up for coffee I am going to schedule time. I am going to make sure to stay in better contact with friends, and reach out to good friends that I haven’t talked to as much as I would like.

10. Finish London/Wales Book

I’ve been working on a scrapbook from my trip last October and it still isn’t done. Time to change that.

11. Redefining Me

This is going to be a new year, the best year yet. I am updating my wardrobe and just overall making changes to my everyday.

12. Write a book

It doesn’t have to be amazing, or even mediocre but I’ve always thought about writing a book some day.

13. Finish Quilt

I started a summer quilt this past fall, and I will admit it hasn’t made much progress since Christmas. I would like to have this done by Spring…or before the time it’s to hot to use my quilt lined with fleece.

14. Tithe

In the past I have allowed my finances to dictate my tithing, this year that is going to change and I am going to be making sure I am tithing regularly.

15. Run Lights during an evening service of Youth America

I’ve run lights for Youth America a few times just not an evening service, last year I had an opportunity and I was completely overwhelmed and things just didn’t go as planned. This summer I am determined to run lights during an evening service. What is Youth America? Check it out at YouthAmerica.org

16. Blog twice a week

You’ve probably noticed my blogging game has been a bit sporadic. This year I commit to blogging two times a week, the only time I am giving myself a pass is when I am away.

17. Try a new recipe every month

I want to try out a new recipe once a month.

18. Fear less. Love More.

This is kinda my mantra for the year. I want to say yes more, to take more risks. I want to be me around everyone and not be concerned of what they may think. I want people to see me for me.

19. 12 Trips in 12 Months

I  am committing to taking a trip every month. Financially this would be impossible but I am including things that are local, restaurants I’ve never tried, festivals throughout the state! You can keep track of the places I’ve been at #12Trips12Months

20. Learn to whistle

Because, why not?

21. Be more decisive

I’m not necessarily a people-pleaser but I am a peace-maker (it’s a middle child thing) so I want everyone to enjoy what is they are doing. I want to be more decisive in choosing the things I like to do, and not always negotiating.

22. Contacts

This one really has no real rationale except I’ve been thinking about getting contacts for years, and maybe if I put it on this list I will actually do it.

23. New York

No specifics for this yet,I have a friend in New York who I have attempted to make plans to visit every time I have been home the last few years. I am planning to make it work this year.

24. Declutter

Over the last five years I’ve managed to gain a lot of stuff. I really want to just simplify my life and declutter in every aspect.

25. Be More Positive

Sometimes I get sucked into negativity and this year I am going to be more positive, and be more aware of where/when I am negative and work on counteracting that.

26. Make a decision on where to live/work/move

I am giving myself a year to either commit to where I am living now, finding a real career or if I am going to move on to some place else.

27. Have a Small Group

I’ve considered leading a small group for years now, it may be time to make the jump.

28. Travel

Because it is a part of me, and will always make it onto any list of things I want to accomplish.

29. Slide the City

Because this looks awesome. Slide the City.

This one may change because the date hasn’t been announced yet.

30. 30th Birthday Trip

Because I will be 30. And another excuse to travel…not that I need one.

-Elle

NerdTours Tuesday: Hogwarts Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a NerdTours Tuesday! But the wait was worth it, since it meant I was able to go to Hogwarts!

For every Harry Potter fan Universal in Florida is the place to go for all things Harry Potter related. Both Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventures have Harry Potter lands within the parks. In my humble opinion you should start at Universal Studios where Diagon Alley is, make sure to buy a pass to both parks so that you can board the Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure where Hogsmeade and Hogwarts are located. (You can go whichever way you choose, I just think it would be cool to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts over to Diagon Alley would be awesome!)

From Universal Studios as you head towards Diagon Alley the first glimpse you are entering into the world of Harry Potter is 13 Grimmauld Place. (If you are with non-readers who only watched the movies you may have to explain the relevance of what this place is)

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Next Stop Diagon Alley! Where you are instantly transported into the world of Harry Potter! There is so much happening it is hard to take in all at once! Swing by Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour for some ice cream! Don’t forget to check out Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and Quality Quidditch Supplies!

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Don’t forget to get some Butterbeer! I really enjoyed the frozen Butterbeer! Delicious! We also were brave enough to try the Fishy Green Ale, which was interesting but I would still stick to the Butterbeer!

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Next stop Gringots! Where you will go on a wild ride trying to escape from the vaults! At every turn there is something new to see! Even standing in the line for the ride is an adventure.

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After grabbing some food, and wandering through more shops you can head over to Platform 9 3/4 and board the Hogwarts Express!

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Next stop Hogsmeade!

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From Hogsmeade you can see the village along with more shops, street vendors but most importantly you can see Hogwarts! As you head into the castle you can will see the mirror of erised, where they keep track of points and many more items as you head towards the ride. This ride is amazing and has managed to incorporate things from every book!

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After the ride we stopped at the Three Broomsticks for lunch (and more Butterbeer!)

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Than we spent a good chunk of time wandering around Honeydukes! So much candy!

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We also found Hagrid’s hut while in line for Flight of the Hippogriff! If you pay attention you will even see Buckbeak!

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All in all the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a total blast and I wish I had been able to spend more time there! Can’t wait to go back!

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-Elle

12 Trips in 12 Months

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I have decided to accept the challenge of 12 Trips in 12 months from TRVL 101. Now this may sound crazy and impossible but as I thought about it I realized that traveling didn’t mean I had to leave the country, or even the state. There are tons of places in my own neighborhood I have yet to visit. So whether it is traveling across the country to visit a friend or across the street to trying a new restaurant I’ve committed that each month I will go somewhere new.

Things I’ve considered are restaurants I’ve always wanted to try, local festivals and events, there are some larger trips that will be mixed in but since I am not independently wealthy I decided to find some alternatives to just big trips (However, if you would like to donate a million or two I wouldn’t say no).

Although it is already February, I will make a post from my January trip later this week!

Can’t wait to see where this challenge will take me!

Join me! And let me know what places you are planning to explore!

-Elle

“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”

I have this thing about shoes. I hate replacing them. I wear them as long as possible. To the point that they are falling apart and dead. When I came home from college for a visit I use to have to hide my shoes or my Mom would find a way to make them disappear. Need proof? Here’s what my last three years of shoes have looked like.

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My shoes are loved. They are filled with stories. My latest pair (the top picture) are past the point of wearable, and although it should be easy going into a shoes store and buying a new pair, it’s not. (It took me around 6 shopping trips to finally suck it up and purchase the polka-dot pair). When I think of everywhere those shoes have taken me, the stories that fill them, I’m not ready to part with them. I’m not a super sentimental person, but there’s just something about my shoes, where they’ve been and where they are going that makes me not want to give them up.

My last pair survived 5 weeks of Youth America Summer Camp, a week of Kids Camp and a week of Foster Kids Camp. They traveled to the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania this summer and walked through downtown Boston and historic Salem. They spent a week in Disney World making memories with family. Flew across the ocean and landed in Cardiff, Wales stepping through time and visiting castles. They boarded a train and walked all over the city of London, took a cruise down the Thames, wandered from Baker Street to Platform 9 3/4. They returned to the states and survived Leadership Conference and Christmas Spectacular.

These shoes have been a lot of places this year. They’ve made some memories. They are filled with stories, choices made, took a left instead of a right.

I guess it’s time for a new pair though. A new year, a new set of stories and memories to create. A new adventure. New Changes. Maybe this time it will be a right instead of a left. You never know what stories await you just around the corner. And as the 11th Doctor once said “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”

-Elle

Two Roads Diverged…

I didn’t plan to be writing so much about seasons. It’s not necessarily because of the new year that I’ve been thinking about the future so much, it may be part of it, but looking at this coming year I see deadlines, end dates, contracts up, leases needing renewed or preparations to make to move on. I’ve been in the same state for almost 5 years. It’s not that I am restless, I love where I am, I love Oklahoma but there is still that part of me that wonders if this is where I should be?

Moving on doesn’t scare me, and honestly if it wasn’t so difficult to get a Visa to live in the UK I would probably be making preparations by now.

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I’m always up for a change of pace, to see somewhere new. Staying…that’s another story. Staying means looking at the past 5 years and answering the questions of why I am not where I want to be. Why I haven’t developed deeper friendships, figured out a career, why I’m not as financially stable as I would like to be. Staying means answering those questions. Leaving means a chance to start over, a new beginning, new friendships, new relationships. New adventures to find.

I haven’t decided what I want to do, if I moved I have no idea where it would even be too. I have no idea what to pursue as my next job choice, I would prefer to find something closer to a career, something that I would enjoy and love. Maybe something with social media? Something that would allow me to travel would be ideal.

Right now I have nothing keeping me from staying, but I also have nothing that is keeping me from going either. Nothing is holding me back…well nothing except for making the decision of what to do next.

So now time to start considering where the next 6 months will lead me too…

-Elle

London Calling.

I’m a planner. I’ve always been a planner. I’ve always planned about the next trip I would take. The next place I would visit. That was until Wales, after I returned from my trip from Wales I lost my desire to travel. I loved my trip to Wales, but afterwards I realized maybe I wasn’t the type to be able to travel by themselves. I had this vision of being the type of person who could go someplace new and have this amazing, life changing adventure. What can I say, I’m a dreamer.

I thought I would be taking a break from my next international trips and than Friday night I saw the newest Night at the Museum. And in case you weren’t aware, it takes place in London. Watching the movie as they flew over London and passed the streets and places I could name because I had seen them made me realize that I wanted to go back. That I need to go back.

Over the next 6 months my lease and job contract end, and if I could find a way I would make the jump and move to London, or any other part of Great Britain (a cottage in the English country side would be ideal).

Who knows where I will be in 6 months, it may be London or Florida or Antarctica or it may still be Oklahoma, but I am ready to travel again, ready to see the world. Now where to first?

-Elle