Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part Three

Hey friends! I am back with my third and final post for my Travel Journal on my trip to London. Click below for Part’s One and Two

Travel Journal: London – Part One (all about Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, as well as St. James Park and Hyde Park.)
Travel Journal: London – Part Two (all about many popular historic tourist attractions.)

Today, my post pulls together all of the remaining details and sites of our trip, and then at the end I am going to round up some of my observations and tips for traveling to London.

British Museum

The British Museum was actually our first stop on our first day because Brandi’s work hotel was right around the corner. It was a fun (and very touristy) way to kick off our trip! Most notably, the museum is home to the Rosetta Stone and an impressive Egyptian exhibit. This is going to sound a little silly, but Brandi and I commented multiple times on the age of some of things on display. It’s not that we haven’t been to museums before, but many of the items were dated back to 2000 BC, which is just fascinating to wrap your mind around.

Doctor Who and Harry Potter

One can’t visit London without indulging in a fandom or two. For me that is Doctor Who, and Brandi didn’t put up any complaints when I asked to go out of our way to find this Tardis that sits outside of the Earl’s Court Station.

I also randomly found this Dalek, and lots of other smaller Doctor Who collectors items in this children’s bookstore.

Now when it comes to Harry Potter, I have to throw out a disclaimer. I watched all of the movies in college and I didn’t read the books until AFTER college. Even though I was a HUGE bookworm as I kid I was just never interested in reading Harry Potter and I don’t think any of my close friends did either. Fast forward to college and I made friends who couldn’t handle the fact that it was missing from my life, so I finally jumped in. And of course I loved it and am now a forever fan, but since I didn’t grow up with it, I am not quite as attached as those, like Brandi, who literally grew up with it.

I visited the Platform 9 3/4 area and Harry Potter store at Kings Cross Station with Brandi, but I opted not to stand in the 1+ hour long line for the photo opp. Brandi has already visited once with her co-workers earlier in the week so we just shopped a little in the store.

This theatre was just a few blocks from Brandi’s work hotel, which was fun to walk by.

The Warner Brothers studio where the majority of the movies were filmed are actually 20 miles northwest of London. When we looked into tickets, they were all already booked for the days that I was going to be there, but Brandi was able to extend her trip an extra day to fit the tour in, so these are a few pictures from her. I’ve been to the main Warner Brothers Studios in California, so I was bummed I couldn’t join because I knew this experience would be pretty cool. But I am so glad that she was able to make it work.

Olympic Park

The hotel we stayed at after we moved from Brandi’s work hotel, was the Moxy London Stratford, out in the Stratford area, which is also home to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park! Our last afternoon we walked over to the park and took a short boat ride on river which was led by a tour guide. He shared all about how the area was built up for the Olympics, how things looked and functioned during the Games and then what things are used for now. Brandi and I are both big sports fans so we really enjoyed this!

This tower of sorts is the large sculpture in the UK, and actually is supposed to be a different representation of the five Olympic rings. You can take an elevator or the STAIRS to the top. And, its a little hard to see from this angle, but there is actually a tube slide that you can take to get down! Or you can repel down with climbing gear. We didn’t allot enough time for it, but had we known I definitely would have planned to do the slide!

Tea Time

A trip to England is also not complete without doing tea! Brandi did the full tea experience with her co-workers earlier in the week, but I was content with the place we found in Soho, Maison Bertaux. They have been baking daily on the premises since 1871 and I learned later that it is the oldest patisserie in London. It was so cute, and SO GOOD!

The Lion King

Brandi and I never actually chatted about seeing a show until I arrived, which is kind of funny, because I think we both agree that it was our favorite part of the trip! We agreed on The Lion King pretty easily, so on Friday close to midnight we jumped online to see what tickets we could find for Saturday. We wanted to a little bit more than the nosebleeds so when we found two seats that included champagne and ice cream, that were labeled in the purple section, as two Kansas State grads, OBVIOUSLY those were the seats for us, and we sleepily bought them without dwelling too much on the price. When we got to will call the next evening we found out that the tickets also included access to a fancy lounge before the show and during intermission! And after all of that, the show was absolutely AMAZING! I teared up multiple times.

If you are planning a trip to London, seeing a show is a must, and honestly I would encourage you to let that be your splurge and let yourself get the all-around theatre experience. Obviously, there are a lot of great shows, but we highly recommend The Lion King.

Other Sites Around London

I always really enjoy going to markets in the different cities and countries that I visit, and since Brandi had never been to anything like that, I really wanted to take her. I had a lot of people recommend the Camden Market in Camden Town, so that’s where we went, but honestly I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t bad, and it was an interesting part of London to see, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for and we really could have skipped it. We did though, get our second round of fish and chips in this cute pub, called the “Camden Eye,” that had seating on the second floor that allowed us to look out and enjoy some good people watching.

I always like to buy paintings or other forms of art in the countries that I visit so we did some quick research and headed down to the Spitalfields Market, which was more of the artisan market I was looking for.

The first day that I arrived, I had the afternoon to explore on my own while Brandi was wrapping up her work responsibilities. As I walked through the Covent Garden area I discovered that London, or at least that area, is home to an endless amount of old bookstores, which are my favorite! I just couldn’t believe that there were that many. In many alleyways, and on the main street, there would be multiple stores in a row. And they all seemed to have a little bit of a different focus and range from first editions to new releases.

After an exhausting couple of days, we wrapped up the trip with good old pizza and beer.

Last Thoughts, Tips for Traveling to London, Etc.

  1. Brandi and I are both Type A and super planners… but for this trip we didn’t actually do a lot of planning ahead of time for this trip other than what was necessary. I am not saying that this is best way to do this trip but it worked for us. We did some exploring on Pinterest, asked friends for recommendations and  discussed what were a few things that each of us of interested in. But for the most part we were both content with exploring and seeing where that took us. After our first full day we had a much better idea of how we wanted to spend the rest of our time and planned that out.
  2. London can be expensive and you can spend a lot of time just getting from one place to another. I don’t say all of that to deter people from visiting, but it is important to factor in. We decided to stay further out from central London and got a great rate at the Moxy London Stratford, and then took the Underground in everyday, which was about a 20 to 30 minute ride to wherever we were going. We did  A LOT of walking, which we were personally OK with and had planned on. When it came to spending, there were a lot of extra tours that we could have spent money on, but luckily we were on the same page about what things we were OK with skipping and what we wanted to spend more on.
  3. Speaking of the Underground (London’s subway system) I would recommend buying a Visitor Oyster Card IN ADVANCE. Ordering it online, pre-selecting a balance and having it mailed to you before your trip saves you a bit of money and once you are there, Oyster cards have a daily cap in Zones 1 and 2 (central London and more), meaning once you reach a certain amount, it doesn’t charge you any more that day. Learn more HERE.
  4. Overall for getting around I would recommend downloading two apps. First, “Tube Map – London Underground,” the official app for the Underground. I spent sometime studying the map to better aquaint myself and that was really helpful. The app will give you up to date train schedules and you can map out your trip right in the app. I would also recommend “Citymapper.” I discovered this right before our trip but it actually works for any city you are in! It’s basically a one-stop shop for all things transportation and commuting, including walking. I’d explain more, but its best if you just check it out yourself! Its already become my main app back in DC.
  5. As far as money goes, I just always find it easier in other countries to convert my U.S. dollars to the local currency. With that said, I do have a credit card that doesn’t charge extra fees for international transactions, and I felt completely comfortable using it there the few times that it was necessary.
  6. I didn’t really talk much about food because I never really saw London as a “foodie” destination, so that was never a focus for us. (Note… neither of us like Indian food so that was never something we sought out.) Of course, we got fish and chips a couple of times, and then I’d definitely recommend planning on doing tea.
  7. Two FYIs… first, Heathrow Airport is 30 miles or so out from central London. I had a direct flight both ways and Brandi was traveling with colleagues, so Heathrow was still the choice for us, but I would just take that into consideration and maybe look at Gatwick as well. Second, not all of the Underground stations are handicap accessible, which means if you are using it as your main mode of transportation, be prepared to haul your suitcase up and down the stairs.
  8. Overall the locals were really friendly, and as two 20-something women practicing common sense, I don’t think we ever felt unsafe.

There is so much more I could share, but for the sake of length I am going to stop there. If you are planning a trip to London though, definitely let me know if you have any questions!

Lastly, thank you Brandi for letting me tag along and making this such a fun girls weekend! I loved going on this adventure with you (even though we never saw ANY corgis) and am so thankful for your friendship 🙂

*****

And just for fun here are some of my other Travel Journal posts:

Estes Park, Colorado

Thailand and the Philippines

Tumon Bay, Guam

New York City – Girls Weekend

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Antigua, Guatemala

Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part Two

I’m back with Part Two today of my travel journal for my trip to London with my friend Brandi.

If you missed Part One and all of the background on the trip you can read it HERE! In it I shared all about Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, as well as St. James Park and Hyde Park.

As I mentioned in part one, I am splitting up my blog posts for this trip based on highlights, so I can average out the amount of pictures in each post as much as possible.

Today’s post features a lot of popular historic tourist attractions. I’m definitely a history junkie, and thought it was so cool to see so many iconic sites that I learned about as a student growing up.

Trafalgar Square

So even though I just said I was a history junkie, I am also a Doctor Who fan, and I’ll admit the only reason I knew what Trafalgar Square was because of that show. There are actually a lot of real-life locations throughout London that are featured in Doctor Who, but for whatever reason this was one of the main ones that I remembered the scenes from.

Anyway, I actually came to the square twice, first when I was just wondering around on my first day in London while Brandi was finishing up her work engagements, and then again with her on our first full day. It such a great hub for people watching!

The building featured above is the National Gallery, which has portraits and other pieces of art.

Street acts always creep me out, and this one did too, but I was also fascinated. What is their secret?! Is that an actual person standing on a platform that is anchored through the sleeve? Or is it a remote control of some sort?

House of Parliament, “Big Ben” and Westminster Abbey

Trafalgar Square, House of Parliament, “Big Ben” and Westminster Abbey were all a part of our first day, which I talked about in Part One. We put in 13 miles that day!

Parliament and “Big Ben” were unfortunately being worked on so they were under a lot of scaffolding. I’ll be honest though, I really thought that “Big Ben” (whose name is actually the Elizabeth Tower) was smaller than what I had imagined based on pictures and TV. Still impressive though!

London 2018 House of Parliament

London Big Ben 2018

I love seeing the different architecture of cathedrals and churches, and Westminster Abbey was beautiful. We opted not to do the tour just based on the lines and cost, but it was probably the one thing that I wished we would have planned better for ahead of time to do.

Tower of London

The Tower of London was one of the main highlights of the trip for me. I’ve always vaguely known what it was, but knew very little of its history. First and foremost, we were there to see the Crown Jewels (#basicwhitegirl), but the rest of it was really interesting too and we could have spent way more time there than we did. But back to the jewels… this is where most of the Crown Jewels stay (and are guarded) when they are not being used. The exhibit, where we weren’t allowed to take photos, did a really thorough job of sharing the history of all the pieces and coronations in general. Brandi and I chatted about the fact that since the last coronation was in 1953, it will be really interesting to see both the differences and similarities of a modern. We also pointed out that our generation is unique in the fact that we’ll live through two.

Two travel notes here, the Tower of London does require a ticket, and it wasn’t cheap, but I would still definitely recommend it Like I said, we went through some of the other exhibits, but we could have more time. There are also guided tours you can join, but we bought a guide book that was really thorough and something I wanted to keep afterward. My other note is that there are a few really great shops here. On this trip I really wasn’t in the market for a lot of cheap souvenirs or gifts, which is what we saw in most of the other shops we stopped in around London. But the shops at the Tower of London were much more unique, including the official Historic Royal Palaces shop. Growing up, I collected tea sets that my grandparents usually gave me for my birthday or Christmas, so I was really happy to get a tea cup and saucer that is a copy of a set that the Queen uses.

Tower Bridge

Right next to the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, which we took a walk across. We spent the whole weekend calling it the London Bridge, which I guess is a common mistake. I read somewhere that it lifts for water traffic an average of 1,000 times a year, and only does so with 24 hours notice.

During on of Brandi‘s work dinners, she was up in The Shard, which is pictured in a few pictures below, and got to take in this great view!

London Eye and a few other sites

The famous “Eye” from the Westminster Bridge.

The pointy building above is “The Shard.” I always think its really cool to see the contract between historic and modern architecture in the same place.

The Wellington Arch sits on the corner of Hyde Park and Green Park, along the route from Buckingham Palace to Kensington Palace.

Also near the Wellington Arch is this World War II memorial above and an Australian War Memorial pictured below. The Australian one was being repaired, but was really unique and apparently normally has water running over it.

Admiralty Arch which marks the beginning of “The Mall” which is the road way that leads up to Buckingham Palace.

This building is for the Queen’s Horse Guards, and the open area is where the ceremonial parade takes place. This is also where beach volleyball was played during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

We also opted not to do the tour for the Churchill War Rooms, but I was interested to see it proximity to Buckingham Palace.

Alright, that’s it for today’s post. My third and final post will be in the next few days, and in addition to sharing about the rest of our trip, I’ll also be sharing any final observations and tips about traveling to London.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part One

Hey friends! Last week was a bit of a blur after an 8-hour flight on Monday and then jumping into a busy work week. But after a relaxing weekend I am ready to start sharing all about my trip to London!

So back in January, my friend Brandi told me that she was going to London on a work trip, and I somewhat jokingly suggested that we make a girls weekend out of it. I can’t remember the exact conversation, but a few days later we both asked each other how serious the other one was, and both answered with a resounding VERY SERIOUS. I’ve traveled with friends domestically a little, and only in the last few years have I started traveling more internationally in general, but this trip was a whole new experience.

More and more, I see how important adult friendships are, but also how hard they can be to cultivate and maintain. This was a one of a kind opportunity to really focus on a friendship I value so much, and while I don’t get to see her nearly enough these days, I am so grateful that we went on this adventure together.

ANYWAY… Brandi arrived a few days early on Monday for work, and I took a direct (hallelujah) red-eye flight on Wednesday night, which put me in London at 10:30 Thursday morning. After I got to Brandi‘s work hotel (which we were staying in the first night) and said hi during her lunch break, I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around and exploring on my own. Now I’ve changed my mind about five times, as to how I wanted to organize my blog posts for this trip. It’s always easiest to do the chronologically, but on this trip there were some stops where I took A LOT of pictures and others where I took maybe one or two. On the other hand, because the number of pictures varies so much I also struggled with doing individual posts based on one or two highlights at a time. So I think I am going to split everything up into three posts that hopefully average out in length, and attempt to group things together by highlight as much as I can. On the third and final post I’ll round up any last thoughts and tips I have for traveling to London!

Buckingham Palace

Our first full day ( Friday), was by far our longest and most tiring. But based on where everything we wanted to see was located, it made the most sense to pile it all into one long trek. We started out walking from our first hotel, which was in the Covent Garden area and walked to Trafalgar Square, the House of Parliament (and Big Ben!), Westminster Abbey and past the Churchill War Rooms. I’ll be sharing all about those in tomorrow’s post though 🙂

The next part of our trek was through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.

I was somewhat surprised that it wasn’t busier, but happy that we had plenty of time and room to take it all in.

I hate to admit this, but I had slight lapse in memory, and while we were walking by Westminster Abbey (where Will and Kate got married), I kept looking for the Queen’s Balcony where the royal family always famously stands and waves to the public after weddings and other special occasions. When we got the the palace, I realized my error.

St. James Park, Hyde Park and the Princess Diana Memorial

St. James Park is the park that leads up to Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park leads up to Kensington Palace. Since I took a lot of similar pictures throughout both, it made sense to just group them together. St. James Park is by far smaller than Hyde Park, but both are beautiful and so well-curated. Both had great walkways, restrooms, paddle boats for the ponds, cafes and more. Like I said above, it makes sense just to do the whole thing at once, but I will say, Hyde Park was much bigger than we were anticipating. Altogether, we put in 13 miles that day!

I also didn’t know that the Queen or the English in general (?) had such a fondness for birds or water fowl. But both parks were full of them, including the pelicans below that have lived in St. James Park for a long time.

This used to be the official Bird Keeper’s cottage. Now I think it is used for a number of other things, but they were putting in a new garden in the front yard when we were there.

As the third generation in a family of florists, I am usually pretty good at identifying flowers. This unique one stumped me though, much to Brandi‘s amusement. I later learned from my Mom that it is known as an “Imperialist” or “Crown Imperial,” which is very fitting that it is in the Queen’s park.

In Hyde Park, we saw the memorial fountain for Princess Diana, and were really impressed. That might be a bit odd to say, but I live in a city full of memorials and this one was just so different and I loved its simplicity (please no one take that disrespectfully). If you can’t tell from the video below, it is one large circle and the water it pumped up at the top of the hill and comes down both sides. The stone is carved in different ways to change the flow of the water at different points.

Kensington Palace

We finally made it through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace, which is home to a number of the Royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) and Prince Harry.

We considered doing the tour, as part of it is open to the public, but we were pretty tired at this point and still had to go back and get our luggage at the hotel and go to our new hotel, which was a bit further out from the center of London.

OK! That’s it for today! I’ll be sharing more throughout the week!

Family, Washington D.C.

Mom and Dad Visit DC

Hey friends! I’ve been a little MIA lately, but March was a bit of a monster, and there were many times where I opted to go to bed earlier instead of staying up to blog 🙂

But the month also rounded out in the best kind of way — with a visit from my parents from Oregon.

This was my Dad’s first time visiting DC, and my Mom’s second. Though her first visit was centered around helping me move apartments so she didn’t get to experience or see much. I have been looking forward to them visiting for a long time, so I had a pretty packed schedule planned for them. It was actually kind of unique… I’m the oldest child, so I don’t really know that I’ve spent this much quality time with them together just one-on-one since I was little. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either way, because that’s probably pretty normal, but it just stood out to me. I am really close with my parents, so living so far away from them for almost 10 years now is much harder than I think most people think it is for me. I was so excited to finally share my current home and life with them!

I picked them up late from the airport on a Wednesday night, and then turned around and hit the ground running by making Mom take a Pure Barre class with me at 7 AM. But she was a trooper! We picked up Dad, who was at a diner nearby working on his laptop, got ourselves ready for the day and then swung by my office so they could see it and meet a few people.

Our first stop after we trekked into DC was actually probably my favorite of the whole visit. My Dad is a mason, so I did a little research on things to do in the area related to that, since freemasonry is such a huge part of U.S. history. We went to the House of the Temple, which is headquarters for the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction (there are three types or branches of masons I learned).  I had no idea this beautiful building was in DC and considering there are few things that I haven’t already done here, it was fun to experience something new with my parents — especially something that is so important to my Dad. I’ll admit, I still don’t understand a lot about freemasonry, but I did learn quite a bit, AND GUYS… I was beside myself over their library!

After the House of the Temple, we headed toward the National Mall to see the Monuments. We made the full trek from the Washington Monument, down past WWII and Vietnam, to the Lincoln and from the Korean and FDR, and around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson. Yes, my feet were basically goners by the end of day one.

(Nevada is my Dad’s home state.)

We wrapped up the day by finishing the short walk down to the new Wharf area and had dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar, which is their newest location.

On Friday, day two, we officially made our picture stop at the White House, though we walked passed it several times during their visit. My Dad’s younger brother, who passed a few years ago, and was in the Army EOD, had spent some time protecting the White House that we didn’t know much about, so my Dad walked up and asked two of the on-duty Secret Service, a few questions about what my uncle’s role and experience would have involved.

Next, we headed to the nearby Renwick Gallery, which is an art museum that features temporary exhibits and is a part of the Smithsonian system. That day was actually the opening day for its newest exhibit, “The Art of Burning Man.” I mentioned above that Nevada is my Dad’s home state, but the other part of that is that he actually grew up on the edge of the Black Rock Desert, near where Burning Man is held every year. Growing up, my sister, cousins and I spent part of our summers visiting our grandparents there (who have since moved). To be honest, we probably have a bit of a different opinion on the event, but nonetheless the artwork it inspires is stunning, and its more amazing to think that all of these pieces have previously been built out on that desert, and in many cases, at a larger scale.

These ones changed colors and also expanded and contracted.

This is all carved wood.

Next, we went up on the Hill and visited the Library of Congress, before making our way to Congressman Walden’s office (my parent’s home district) for a Capitol tour. Walden’s Chief of Staff is also from my hometown and when to high school with my Mom, so they enjoyed catching up a bit.

For an early dinner we head to The Carving Room, which was featured on one of my Dad’s favorite shows, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. We wrapped up the day by stopping at the National Portrait Gallery for the last 45 minutes it was open. We chose to walk through the U.S. Presidents exhibit.

On Saturday, the third day, we headed out to my favorite tourist stop in the area: Mount Vernon! I’m actually kind of sad, because I’m running out of expected visitors to take here. Not that I can’t go on my own or with other locals, which I did for the 4th of July last year, but it is just not the same. At heart, George was a farmer first, and has always been my favorite president, so I genuinely love sharing his home and life with my guests. #nerdalert

It needs to be noted here (at the request of my Dad) that he is smiling. Everyone always gives him a hard time that he doesn’t smile that much, but that behind him is the OUTHOUSE and he just thought that it was “so cool” and needed his picture with it. #facepalm

We spent a good chunk of the day at Mount Vernon, so to wrap up we visited the Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima), walked across the river from Arlington into Georgetown for dinner at Pizzeria Paradiso (I’d never been — SO GOOD!) and then went back to my neighborhood to watch the NCAA Final Four at a sports bar.

On Sunday, the fourth and final day, we started out with breakfast at the famous Old Ebbitt Grill and then peeked into the Trump International Hotel (it is really pretty inside and out).

Next, we spent a good chunk of the day at my favorite museum, the Newseum. It is one of the few non-Smithsonian museums here and one of the few that you have to pay for. I actually love it so much I became a member, which gets me in free, discounts and invites to special events. I’ve been there a few times for multiple hours and still have never made it all the way through. It is a bit spendy in a city with so many free options, but I HIGHLY recommend it.

Our last stop of the day was to Arlington National Cemetery. I’ve now visited here at least once during every season (which isn’t hard, I live 2-3 miles away), and I can attest that they are all pretty, but I think spring might be my favorite. We made sure to catch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also saw the end of the day flag lowering.

We wrapped up with a great dinner at Circa and then home early because they had an early flight home the next morning and I had to return back to a busy work week.

Thanks for visiting me Mom and Dad! I loved our one-on-one time and getting to share my current home with you.

I love you.

Mandy.

Love Letters

Love Letter: To My Planner

I laughed when I first thought about writing this post because it seemed a bit silly. And while it might indeed be, it was on my mind enough to go ahead with it. I should start out by saying that I am 100% Type A and super organized, which basically means that my planner is an extension of my body, probably even more so than my phone, which gets used for everything else. But I just can’t bring myself to adapt my planning, schedule and note-taking to the digital world. Anyone who is Type A and super organized will shamelessly shake their head in agreement over this post, and anyone who is not, go ahead and get your head scratching and laughs in 🙂

So, late in 2017, I was facing a dilemma when it came to deciding what to do for a planner in 2018. I usually buy the next year’s planner in August, because HELLO, planning never stops! I received my leather Franklin Covey for my high school graduation and every year I choose a new Franklin Covey filler for the inside. But in the last year or so I started to feel like those fillers didn’t fit my style or needs anymore. (Overall, not criticizing Franklin Covey. They have great products and even greater professional development tools!) So I started shopping around for some new, and chose to jump over to the Erin Condren brand and picked the LifePlanner.

But I kept returning back to the thought that I was a little nostalgic and sad to be retiring my planner that had been my sidekick for 8 years. I remember being SO EXCITED when I received it and couldn’t wait to put all of my first semester of college classes in. It also came from someone who was my favorite teacher, mentor and a family friend. Many of the pages came with quotes at the top, but Sam (Mr. Herringshaw) had went through and added more quotes and little notes of encouragement. It can be hard sometimes, even for me, to describe what certain people have meant to me through different seasons of life, but Sam was a true champion for me and played a big role in who I became as a student, a professional and a person. Those handwritten editions to the planner were such an encouragement to me during my first year in college (and being so far away from home) and when the year ended I snipped a few out and still keep them in the planner today.

Eight years is a long time, and this planner has seen so many things happen in my life, all while helping keep my sanity in check (for the most part).

So dear planner, this love letter is for you.

You saw me through 4 years of college at Kansas State University. Four years that were filled to the brim with classes, homework and tests, club meetings, two internships, an on-campus job, Saturday football games and probably way to many social events. I was a BUSY student and pretty early on I established that if it wasn’t in the planner then it didn’t exist and wasn’t happening. One of my favorite rituals every semester was to sit down at the end of the first week and fill out all of my new classes, due dates and upcoming events. It was always the first and only time those pages were neat and tidy because after a few days all of the notes, rescheduling and doodling would ensue, and I would eventually give up trying to color coordinate everything with my color pencils. But during those four years, you helped me develop skills in time management, organization and making priorities that I now use everyday.

Almost since day one, the plastic zipper pouch held my favorite picture of my family from when I was a little girl and an index cardwith my favorite quote on it. I kept them there because I was sure to see them multiple times a day, especially on the hard ones.

You saw me through my interview for my first job, which happened during finals week of my fall semester, and arguably one of the busiest weeks of my life to date. But I got the job, and how I used my planner started to change. Instead of classes, I kept social media content plans, meeting times, future tips and reminders and  important phone numbers and notes.

In 2014, I was in two weddings on back-to-back weekends, and you kept it all together for me from the all of the pre-wedding events and up to the big days.

In 2015, I found out about a new job across the country in Washington D.C. on January 9. On February 9, I accepted that  job, and on March 9 I spent my first day in my new office. You can bet you were along for that ride. Even in college, I don’t think I ever had that many lists and to-do’s to keep track of.

Your pages have been filled with travel schedules, grocery lists, birthdays, blog ideas, conferences, vacations, celebrations, apartment hunting notes and doctor appointments.

I shared my goals with you, whether they were day-by-day boxes to check off or big dreams that I wanted to write down and hold myself accountable to.

One of Sam’s own sayings that he wrote that first year, that has always stuck with me is:

Opportunity knocks; that doesn’t mean you have to knock the door off the hinges.” – Sam Herringshaw

I consider myself an ambitious person most of the time, but I think that point of view is a bit humbling and a good reminder about staying grounded and being intentional with your time and pursuits. And kind of perfect to go along with a planner, am I right?

So thanks, old friend. I am moving on, but don’t fret, you now have a permanent spot on my kitchen counter and will still be in charge of keeping my life organized in other ways.

Love, Amanda

And here’s to new beginnings! This post is not sponsored, but I do have a referral code if you are interested in getting something from Erin Condren yourself. They have lots of fun things besides planners!

Year in Review

2017 – A Year in Review

Let me annoy you by being cliche and stating that “I can’t believe 2017 went by so quickly.” 🙂

But really, 2017 felt like a WHIRLWIND for me.  Personally, my year was filled with good health (well, for the most part), great adventures and even greater people. I worked through the hard knocks and challenges, and feel content that I was able to grow through most of those experiences. Looking at the world around me, it would be wrong to ignore that 2017 was certainly a hard year, but I choose to believe that this world is full of good people who aim to make 2018 better.

Looking back, I’d probably summarize 2017 as bittersweet. It’s a strange feeling to recognize being both happy and sad, and even more strange to be relatively OK with it. I met someone that became really special to me, and I did not expect that I would end 2017 not knowing if that person would be in my life going into the new year. At first I struggled with writing a year in review at all, or including him in it, but this blog is first and foremost my journal and scrapbook, and cherry picking memories is not my style. And regardless if our time is done,  those memories are still very special to me.

Around mid-December, I was sitting at CVS waiting to get my flu shot and was flipping through a GQ magazine and stopped at an interview with Senator John McCain. Regardless of whether you agree with his politics or not, in my mind its pretty hard to not acknowledge or respect that he has seen a fair amount of adversity in his lifetime. With that in mind, the very last statement really struck me:

No matter what 2017 held or what is yet to come in 2018, I hope that we can all benefit from walking through life with that attitude. I know I am going to try.

Now let’s look back at my busy year…

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In 2017, I traveled to 2 countries and 6 states (and two of them twice!)…

In February, I went on a trip of a lifetime to Bangkok, Thailand, and Manila, Philippines. The first half of my trip was a work trip to accompany three U.S. wheat farmers on a board team experience. The second half of the trip was spent on vacation in Bangkok and Phuket with my grandparents and Great Aunt Diane.  Find all of my posts about the trip HERE.

That trip won the year when it came to travel, but it wasn’t my only one. In April, Sam and I went down to Blacksburg to visit my friend Chelsea for the Virginia Tech spring game. In May, I went to Estes Park, Colorado for my work World Staff Conference. I invited my Mom to join me for the week and we spent a few extra days hiking and enjoying quick visits with friends. In June, I traveled to Manhattan, Kansas for the National Festival of Bread and squeezed in some friend time again. At the beginning of July, I made the short drive over to Annapolis, Maryland (for the first time!) for my work summer board meeting. Sam joined me a day before the meeting and we explored the downtown area. At the end of July, I attended the Agriculture Media Summit in Snowbird, Utah. In August, I went home to Oregon and finally took my best friend Megan with me to show her where I grew up. Next, I traveled to Kansas City, Missouri in November for the AFA Alliance Forum and the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s Trade Talk event. In between the two events, I spent a few days down in Wichita, Kansas to visit Megan. Finally, I rounded out the year in December with a trip home to Oregon for Christmas.

In 2017, I continued to work in a job that gives me purpose…

In March, I celebrated two years with U.S. Wheat Associates and was promoted to Assistant Director of Communications in July. My goal has always been to work in a job I love, that challenges me and pushes me to become a better communicator, and to use those skills working for farmers. Thankfully, all of that continues to ring true for me.

In 2017, my family welcomed Sawyer June…

After 23 years, my sister and I finally have an Ego cousin! Sawyer June joined our family on July 13 and its safe to say that she has stole the spotlight. Shortly, after she was born I wrote her this love letter. Oh, and #sorrynosorry that she has taken over my Instagram…

In 2017, my Grammy and Grampy visited me in Washington, D.C…

In October, my grandparents came for four days to visit me and experience Washington, D.C. They were actually the ones who helped move from Kansas to D.C. almost three years ago now (what!?) but we didn’t have the time for any site-seeing. I have a really special relationship with my grandparents so I was so excited to finally share my current home with them.

In 2017, I learned that adult friendships are hard, but so very important…

I think that one of the hardest things about being a 20-something is friendship. Everyone’s lives are so busy and usually full of change, and while I think that is awesome, it tends to take a toll. It is hard to be there for that college friend who now lives across the country instead of down the hallway, and while you might have so many great memories with childhood friends, it can be hard to connect with them when you are no longer in the same stage of life. And then there is the challenge of attempting to make new adult friends, which I swear is equal to the ups and downs of dating 🙂 But I’ve learned this year especially, that friendship requires a whole lot of grace. Some people are in your life for only a season, and that’s OK. And some people are in for the long haul, but sometimes they’ll have more to give and sometimes they’ll need more from you. I am thankful for both types of friends in 2017, who filled my days with fun memories and were supportive, sometimes when I least expected it.

In 2017, I filled my days with celebrations, new experiences, things that I love and both big and small moments worth remembering…

Peace out 2017, here’s to believing the best is yet to come in 2018.

P.S. Because I always include music at the end of my Year in Review posts… and because my love for Ed Sheeran knows no limits 🙂

Family, Washington D.C.

My Favorite Traveling Duo Visit D.C.

Today I am backtracking to a couple of weeks ago to when my grandparents made the trek out to visit me here in  Washington DC! If you know me, or have been reading along here long enough, then these two should be far from strangers. They dropped everything, (seriously they switched their flight to cut a vacation short) to fly to Kansas to help me move here about 2.5 years ago, when I decided to uproot my life in a manner of weeks. I call them my favorite traveling duo because they are either always on a trip somewhere or planning out their next one (more like multiple at a time.)

Earlier this year they met up with me Thailand for a vacation after I finished up with a work trip there, and it is hands down one of my favorite memories and experiences to date. If you are thinking that traveling with grandparents is boring or slow, trust me, that couldn’t be further from the truth with these two. They have SO MUCH ENERGY and a natural curiosity for adventure. Without a doubt, I was always the most worn out person at the end of everyday.

Other than the move, this was my Grammy’s first visit to DC and my Grampy’s second (he came in the early 2000’s for work). My pictures from their visit are sort of random… I only carried around my nice camera to Mount Vernon (because I was hoping to catch the fall colors but it was still a bit early) and because I’ve taken and posted lots of pictures of the DC area before, I more just focused on my time and experience with them. However, I laugh now because looking at the pictures that I do have, it looks like I took on the role of the parent. Every so often I’d say, “here, let me take your guys’ picture,” so most of what I have is just the two of them.

They flew in late on a Thursday afternoon and I met up with them at the hotel after I got off of work. They were able to get a hotel just two blocks from the White House, which is pretty centrally located to everything, so I ended up staying with them throughout the trip. We had a quick dinner and then we went on a night walk to the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial.

On Friday, we had a Capitol tour scheduled at 2pm, so we started out the day at the popular Old Ebbitt Grill and then walked along to the Mall to the U.S. Botanical Gardens, which sits just below the West Lawn of the Capitol. I knew from when I brought my mom here that my grandparents would also need ample to walk through. (Fun fact: My family’s flower shop, which my Grammy started, is celebrating 30 years this year!) Afterward we stopped for a quick break at a nearby pub to kill some time before our appointment. I scheduled our tour through Congressman Walden’s office, which is my home district in Oregon. Our tour was probably one of the better ones that I have been on at the Capitol (please don’t ask me how many times I’ve done one) and I know that was one of the highlights of their trip. At the end, we were also able to catch up with Walden’s Chief of Staff, who is from our hometown and actually graduated high school with my mom.  After wandering about the Capitol a bit more, we quickly went over to the Library of Congress nearby to check it out for the last 30 minutes it was open. The Library is actually one of the few places in DC that I have never been too yet… and now I am kicking myself for taking so long! For dinner I took them to my FAVORITE restaurant in DC, Cafe Berlin. Afterward we walked back down to the West Lawn of the Capitol to see it at night and then I insisted that we take an Uber back to the hotel because my feet were DONE.


At the Library of Congress.

On Saturday, we got up a bit earlier to go get my car in Arlington and head out to Mount Vernon. You should all know that this is my FAVORITE tourist place to visit in the area and I never get tired of taking people there. We did the typical house tour and then I also signed us up for the extra “Gardens and Groves” tour. If you ever visit Mount Vernon I would really recommend adding on this tour. It was only an extra $6 (approx.) per person, and SO worth it. It was a little over an hour and a half, but it really gave us a different in depth perspective of the history, past just the gardening. We spent a large part of our day here, before returning back to DC. Once back in the District we visited Eastern Market and Capitol Hill Books (I was so excited to take my Grammy here!) and enjoyed some gelato while we waited for the K-State football game to start at our designated bar nearby. The game was a bit of a heartbreaker and left us exhausted by going into double overtime, but regardless, I always love when I get the chance to watch a game with my Grampy. (And kudos to Grammy for hanging in there past midnight with us!)

At Mount Vernon.

On Sunday, we slept in a bit and woke up to an expected day of rain, so we headed over to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History for a few hours. The rain started to lift so we took the chance to walk to the rest of the memorials, including the Vietnam War, Lincoln, Korean War, Roosevelt, MLK and Jefferson.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Vietnam War Memorial, because we took the time to look up a few names of their classmates and a relative of my great uncle Joe (their brother-in-law). I’ve been past the wall a few times, but this was the first time I had names to lookup and find, which made it a bit more real to me.

If you’ve been to DC then you know the walk I just laid out for you is a bit of a trek so once again I insisted that we Uber to our Italian dinner in Chinatown.

At the Lincoln Memorial.
In the President’s exhibit at the National Museum of American History.

Our final full day was Monday and also the day I forgot to take any pictures. It was still a bit overcast and raining, but we headed across the river to visit Arlington National Cemetery for most of the day. I have been to the cemetery many times, but it never ceases to amaze me just how big it is. Afterward we headed back into DC and over to the National Gallery of Art, which was my Grammy’s last request to fit in on this trip. We rounded out the day with a great dinner at Founding Farmers, where we were joined by a certain guy named Sam… which up to that point I’m pretty sure my family really thought I might be making him up 🙂

On Tuesday, I had to head back to work, but their flight wasn’t until the late afternoon, so they spent the morning at the Holocaust Museum and then visited me at work for a quick lunch before heading home.

I am so happy that I finally got to share my home with them, and now that they’ve been here once, we already have much of the itinerary for next time all planned out after they realized just how much there is to see and do. I certainly don’t take for granted that we have such a great relationship and the chance to experience so many things together… even if my Grampy does drive me near crazy with all of his constant questions about every single building and random fact that I couldn’t possible know 🙂

Thank you so much for visiting!