Prohibition Ends Here

I’ve wanted to go to a speakeasy bar (Number 144 on my list) for awhile.  I like the hint of secrecy and mystery behind it.  However, it seemed like a special occasion type of thing to do and the occasion didn’t present itself under February 2018.  A friend of ours was celebrating his birthday and guess where he was going?

Being let into the basement bar through a hidden door was exciting.  The bar itself was cozy, with lots of comfy seats, and it was very dark.  The limited number of people allowed inside at one time made for a more intimate experience.  One downside of our experience was the noisy group next to us, which made our conversation a little difficult, but I digress.

Overall, it was a fun experience and I would love to do it again.

 

-A

The Beauty of the Ozarks

Number 135 on my adventure list was to see the Shepherd of the Hills play in Branson, Missouri.  My parents took my brother and I to see this when we were little, but I don’t really remember it.  I have been wanting to see the play as an adult ever since I read the book a few years ago.

I have a beautiful old copy of The Shepherd of the Hills that my Grandpa JB let me have.  It belonged to his mom – her name is written in the front of the book.  Sadly, it sat on my shelf for several years before my dad convinced me to read it.  I am so glad I did because I ended up loving it.

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Shortly after I read it, I was talking to my Grandpa on the phone about the play in Branson.  He mentioned that it had shut down recently.  I was so disappointed!  I felt like I had missed my chance to go.  But then the play reopened.  Unfortunately, K and I got busy and didn’t end up making it to the play during the summer of 2016, so I decided to make it a priority for the next season.  And then it shut down, again!  I felt like I had really blown my chances to see it.  But luckily, it reopened, again.  We booked our tickets for a Saturday night show and planned a weekend getaway to Branson.

We stayed in a beautiful airbnb that had a stunning view of the Ozarks.  I could have spent a week here instead of just a couple days.

Get $40 off your first airbnb stay by signing up here!  

During the day on Saturday, we went to another place I have been wanting to go to – Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.  This place was amazing!  There are so many little waterfalls throughout the park.  The path is paved and flat, so it is an easy walk (6.5 miles).  The waterfall that is furthest from the park entrance is the most beautiful, so it is definitely worth it to walk to the end.  You can also rent bikes or take the tram tour if you prefer.  I would definitely go back here.

That night, we headed to the outdoor theater to see The Shepherd of the Hills.  We had good seats, the weather was perfect, and the actors all did a great job.  Of course, the book was better.  The play added more drama and comedy, which makes sense for theater.  What I was expecting to see, though, was an exact portrayal of what I read without all the entertainment add-ins.  All in all, it was still an enjoyable experience and I’m glad that I got to see it.  I only wish I could have told my Grandpa that I finally got to go.  He passed away about 10 months before we went.

After heading back to our airbnb, I sat out on the deck to enjoy the quiet and beauty of the Ozarks with a cup of hot chocolate.  I don’t think that this area gets enough credit – the Ozarks are truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.  But maybe I am a little biased, because for me, it feels a little bit like home.

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Have you been to Branson before?  What are your favorite things to do here?

-A

The City of Echoes

Part 3 of our Eurotrip was Rome.  Be sure to read about Part 1 (Germany) and Part 2 (Venice) if you missed them.

On Wednesday, March 22nd, we took a train from Venice to Rome.  The train ride was very scenic and it went by fast (about a 3.5 hour ride).  Once we arrived in Rome, we picked up our Romapass, which is a pretty good deal if you are planning to see several major sights in Rome.  Then we took the metro to our airbnb.  (Get $40 in travel credit when signing up here for Airbnb!)

Our host was there to greet us and give us a map of the neighborhood, which included her recommendations.  Our flat was actually amidst some ruins and only a short walk to the Colosseum.  As Giotto di Bondone said, “Rome is the city of echoes.”

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There was an amazing cafe near our airbnb that served delicious coffee and donuts, so we were able to start the next day off right.

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Then we walked to the Colosseum for a tour.  It was crowded (of course), but such an amazing sight.

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Next, we headed to the Roman Forum.  I was not expecting the Roman Forum to encompass such a huge area.  We actually spent several hours here.  Pretty incredible place!

We also got to see a cool view of the Colosseum.

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IMG_4174Next, we walked up to Palatine Hill.  It was beautiful.

That night, we went by the Trevi Fountain and then met up with my parents (who were doing a Rick Steve’s Italy Tour) for dinner.  It was really nice to see them and discuss our travels thus far.

On Friday, we went to the Vatican.  I got to cross #88 off my adventure list – see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City.  However, this was not my favorite part of the trip.  It was very crowded, especially in the Sistine Chapel.  We were also tired from all the walking we did the previous day at the Roman Forum.

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We had planned to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, but the line to get in was incredibly long so we didn’t even try.  We enjoyed the view from the outside, and then headed back to Rome.


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Next, we headed to the Pantheon.  It was crowded, but still very cool to see.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Rome on our own.

We went inside some beautiful churches that we stumbled upon during our wandering.

We had dinner with my parents again that night.  Delicious food, amazing wine, and wonderful company.

K and I took a daytrip to Pompeii on Saturday.  We took an early morning bus which dropped us off right at Pompeii.  We decided not to buy a return ticket yet since we didn’t know how long we wanted to spend at Pompeii.  We figured that once we got there, we could find a bus station and buy a return ticket.  Unfortunately, we walked and walked and could not find a bus station anywhere.

Luckily, I had printed off alternate directions to the train station, so we decided we would just sort that out when the time came.  So we walked back and headed into Pompeii.

It was incredible.  I had not expected that Pompeii would be so spread out.  You can walk through the entire city – it was pretty amazing.  Since the area is so big, even if there are a lot of people there, it doesn’t feel crowded.  There were parts of Pompeii that we explored that made us feel like we were the only people there.

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We followed this little walkway and we weren’t sure where we were going to end up…

After spending most of the day here, we were exhausted.  We followed my directions to the train station and took a train to Naples.  From there, we were able to get a train back to Rome.  We were pretty relieved once we were on the last train – my directions panned out!

Sunday was our last day in Rome.  We met up with my dad for coffee, and then wandered around the city, ending back up at the Trevi Fountain.  My mom joined us for lunch before we parted ways for a few hours.

K and I went to Circus Maximus that afternoon, which was the ancient Roman chariot racing stadium.  It was the perfect place to relax with a cold drink on a sunny afternoon.  We also went by the Colosseum one last time.

We met up with my parents for our final dinner in Italy, where we reminisced our adventures, savored our pasta, and sipped some amazing Italian wine, but not for the last time.  We will be back.

On Monday, K and I planned to grab coffee and breakfast from our favorite cafe near our flat.  Alas, it was not open yet.  So we headed to the airport for our first flight, which was to Amsterdam.  We had a short layover and I bought some delicious waffle candy.  So good!

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Then we boarded our flight back to the United States.  Goodbye, Europe.  We will meet again someday!  Until then, I will be dreaming of la dolce vita we lived while here.

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-A

La Dolce Vita

Part two of our Eurotrip was Italia.  If you missed Part One (Germany), read about that here.

After departing Germany on the morning of March 20th, 2017, we had a short flight to Venice.  From the airport, we took a water taxi to Venice.

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View from the water taxi

Luckily, the aunt of our airbnb host met us at the water taxi drop-off in Venice.  I don’t think we could have found our way without her guiding us!  She led us through several narrow, unmarked, winding passageways before we reached our temporary home away from home.

Our Venice flat was amazing.  It was beautiful inside, along with a stunning view of the city from the balcony.  There was a delicious gelato shop right by our place, which was very convenient.  There was also a bakery nearby that served yummy croissants.  The flat was a close walk to most of the major sights, but was on a quiet street so it was very peaceful.  The location really couldn’t have been better.  I wish we could have spent a month here.  If you haven’t used airbnb before, I highly recommend you check it out!  You can get $40 in travel credit if you sign up here!

 

After we got all settled into our place, we headed out to see the town and find some lunch.

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We carried our pocket phrasebook with us and attempted to speak (albeit very poorly) Italian everywhere that we went.  Almost everyone we encountered did speak English, but we felt that it was important to try to speak their native language in their country.

We spent the day exploring, including going to St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge.  Both were a bit crowded, but definitely must sees.

 

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Literally everywhere in Venice is beautiful.

 

For dinner that first night, we had some delicious pasta at a quaint little spot.  Our server brought us free digestifs after dinner.  It was limoncello – I loved it!

After diner, we walked around Venice and ended up back at the Rialto Bridge and then at St. Mark’s Square.  It was cool to see both places illuminated in the dark, and there were way less people.

 

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The next day, we headed to St. Mark’s Square to see the inside of the basilica.  We arrived right as it opened, so we only had to wait a minute or two in line.  It was pretty incredible to see all the detail that went into the design.  (No photos were allowed inside the church.)

We also did a tour of Doge’s Palace.  We rented audioguides and then explored on our own.  It’s a beautiful place – each room is more elaborate than the next.

 

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This day also happened to be our 2-year wedding anniversary.  What better place to celebrate than in Venice?  Our celebration included a gondola ride.  It may be touristy and expensive, but it was worth every penny.  Gliding through the canals, with beautiful old buildings and unique bridges everywhere, an Italian tenor singing softly in the distance – it’s pretty perfect.

 

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For dinner we went to an amazing Italian place that K found.  I think our server appreciated us trying to speak Italian because he brought us free aperitifs.  The aperitif was quite bitter, but I drank it anyway.  When in Venice!

 

After dinner and drinks, we headed out and decided to try to get lost in the winding streets.  We bought some wine from a little store and then meandered through the narrow walkways, sipping as we walked, enjoying the magic that is Venice.

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The next morning, we packed our backpacks, stopped for one last croissant and coffee, and then headed to the train station to catch a high speed ride.  Until next time, Venice…

Next stop, Roma!

-A

Castles in Europe

Before I start blogging about this year, I want to share my adventures from last year.

It was a pretty big travel year for me.  I have been dreaming about going to Europe for years, specifically to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.  Last March, we made those dreams come true and I was able to cross #1 off my bucket list – tour castles in Europe.

And as always, along the way, we had many other adventures that weren’t on my list. I’ll start with Germany.  I did organize a fairly detailed itinerary for our trip to make things easier for us since we were traveling alone and don’t speak the language.  We also booked our airbnbs for all three cities (Munich, Venice, and Rome) before we left the States.  However, other than specific dates for each city, the rest of the itinerary was fairly flexible.

We started off our Eurotrip by flying into Munich on March 18, 2017 and arriving in the morning.  From the airport, we took a train to central station in Munich.  We had some difficulty figuring out how to buy a train ticket and then how to validate it, but luckily a local helped us out.

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We couldn’t check into our airbnb until later that afternoon, so we stored our hiking packs at the central train station.  They have lockable boxes you can rent for pretty cheap.

Then we took a train and bus to Dachau Concentration Camp.  On the train, we met a very nice man from Australia who was also heading to Dachau.  I was relieved that the directions I found online of which train and bus to take from Munich to Dachau were accurate.

Dachau Concentration Camp was surreal.  K referred to it as a “sobering experience”.  The museum was very informative and interesting from a historical perspective, but it was of course very sad.  Apart from the museum, you are free to wander around the camp.  We spent several hours here – there is a lot to see.  The weather was cold and rainy – luckily we brought some warm hats!

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After we got back to Munich, we grabbed our bags and then headed off to find some lunch.  Unfortunately, we walked for ages and couldn’t find a single place to eat.  By this time, I also really needed to find a toilet, which proved to be more elusive than a restaurant.  This was a low point of our trip.  We were cold, wet, jet-lagged, hungry, in desperate need of a bathroom, and in a country where we don’t speak the language.  By some stroke of luck, we finally stumbled upon an Italian place as we headed back in the direction of the train station.  Although we would be in Italy in a few days, we decided to stop here anyway because it was warm, it was food, and there was a bathroom.  After a few minutes, our stress faded away.  I think the drinks helped with that.

We checked into our airbnb flat after lunch, which happened to be right next to the Italian restaurant.  Our home for the next couple days was very nice and close to the train station.

That night, we went to a beer hall that K read about online, called Augustiner.  This place was my favorite thing about Munich.  When we arrived, it was all community seating at big long tables.  We found what looked like the only empty spots, two seats next to each other across from a couple older gentleman.  It turns out that they were from Sweden, but they spoke German too and some English.  It was definitely a humbling experience for me to see that most people we encountered in Europe spoke more than one language.  I don’t think that we do a very good job of that in America.

We actually never found out the names of the gentlemen we sat with at Augustiner, but they were very nice.  It was pretty loud in the beer hall.  Their English was limited and our German was reliant on a pocket translation guide, with our Swedish being non-existent.  But despite language barriers, we had a fun night with those guys, who we affectionately referred to as Pieter and Marten from that night on.  The food was amazing and the beer at Augustiner was actually the first beer that I have ever liked.

As we were leaving, we met a really funny (and very intoxicated) English man who had us rolling with laughter.  All in all, it was a great night.

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Unfortunately, K woke up sick the next day with a bit of a travel bug.  This was the day we planned to take a train to Neuschwanstein Castle, and it was the only day we would be able to go as we were leaving Munich the following day.  I offered to go on my own while K rested at our flat, but despite being sick, he did not want to spend our last full day in Munich in bed.

We grabbed croissants and coffee for breakfast at the train station.  The train took about 2 hours and then there was a short bus ride to Hohenschwangau, the small town where the castle is.  The view on the train was very scenic.  Also, I just love trains.

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We booked our tickets for both castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) in advance before our trip, but were able to upgrade to an earlier tour time once we arrived.  We toured Hohenschwangau Castle first, and then stopped for a quick lunch.  I had a delicious schnitzel sandwich and poor K, still sick, nibbled on a pretzel.

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We had a little bit of time in between the castle tours, so we went for a walk around the area.  There was a beautiful lake nearby.

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Can you imagine waking up to this view every day?!

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The lake water was so beautiful!

Finally, we made the trek up to Neuschwanstein.  I was pretty much bursting with excitement.  My ultimate travel goal was actually happening!  The sound is pretty soft on this video, but you can see the excitement on my face!

No photos were allowed inside the castle, but if you are ever in Munich, I would highly recommend that you take the day trip to Hohenschwangau.  The castles are amazing and the scenery in the area is absolutely beautiful.  This place was everything I hoped it would be and more.

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We were pretty tired by the time we got back to Munich and K was still feeling pretty bad, so we grabbed some food from the train station and took it back to our flat.  If he would have been feeling better, it would have been fun to have one last night out in Munich, but we decided to stay in so he could rest up for the rest of our trip.

The next morning, we took a bus to the airport.  We had some trouble finding the bus stop, and actually ended up running to make it on time.  Nothing like jogging with a heavy pack on your back in the early hours of the morning!

Once we got to the airport, our troubles were not over.  I had some difficulty getting through security because apparently I had too many liquids in my bag.  It was a little nerve-wracking to have problems at a foreign airport.  The security officer actually pulled my liquids out one by one to examine them, but most of them he referred to as “medicine”, such as my contact solution (“medicine for the eyes”), so these were excluded from the limit.  I ended up having to throw out one small container of dry shampoo that was almost empty anyway.

We departed Munich at 8:20 am on March 20th, 2017.  It was a quick trip, but we were able to see a lot in a couple days.

Next stop, Italia, but I’ll save that post for another day.

-A

Whatever Sparks Joy

In January, I stumbled upon an audiobook of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” while searching for de-cluttering videos.  Once I started listening, I couldn’t stop.  I knew this experience needed to make it on my adventure list.  So here it is – Number 139 – Simplify My Life using the Konmari Method.  After I finished the book, I started my own tidying journey.

The Konmari Method divides tidying into several categories.  Rather than organizing one room at a time, you organize by type of item.  This does require a little more effort up front to sort everything, but it is an effective way to get the job done.  How many times have you started an organizing project only to never finish it, or to have the space become cluttered again within a few weeks or months?  If you complete Konmari from start to finish, this won’t happen.  It’s been about 3 months since I finished the last category, and my home is still organized and tidy.  It really works.

Category 1: Clothing

The first category is meant to be the easiest, to help give you a jump-start and more of an idea of what “sparks joy”, which is Kondo’s criteria for whether something stays or goes.  The process of tidying up according to the Konmari Method is simple.  You pick up each item and if it sparks joy, you keep it.  If it doesn’t, you thank the item and discard it.

I was shocked by how much clothing I had.  Yikes.  When you put every item into one giant pile, it really puts things into perspective.  I was able to check this category off in one day.

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Look how much I got rid of!  Three bags and one shoe organizer filled with shoes (cat not included).

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And here’s my closet and dresser drawers now…

Category 2: Books

I had A LOT of books.  I refer to the downstairs living area as the “library”.  Since moving into this house, I felt that I needed to fill the shelves with books.  To be honest, though, some of these books I knew I would never actually read.  I wanted to want to read them, but during Konmari I realized that there were some I just wasn’t ever going to pick up.

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I thought it would be hard to get rid my books – I have been collecting them for years!  But it actually felt very freeing to let go.  I was able to thank each item and pass it on to Goodwill where hopefully it will spark joy for someone else.

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Bye bye books

After finishing this category, I was left with the books that truly spark joy – my favorites that can be enjoyed again and again.  I also kept the books that I know I want to read, and then after I do I will either keep them if they still spark joy, or donate them.  The Konmari Method does not mean that you get rid of everything you own or things that you truly love.

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Went from three book shelves full of books to one

Category 3: Papers

I dreaded this category.  Papers, how boring!  But, it had to be done so I could move on to the next category.  I doggedly collected every paper I could find…bills, receipts, bank statements, warranties, manuals, etc.

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Almost all the papers.

I thought the collecting and sorting process would take longer than it actually did.  The Konmari method for paper is pretty simple – you get to throw away/shred almost everything.  You only keep what is truly essential.

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Shred and trash pile.

Whenever I need a document now, I know exactly where to find it.  There has not been anything that I have gotten rid of that I needed later on or wished I still had.

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I love the 3 folder system Marie Kondo has for organizing papers going forward.  One folder for “Needs Attention”, like bills or invitations.  One folder for “Save for Now”, for things you need in the near future and that you can then discard.  And one folder for “File”, for papers that you want to put away in your long-term file folders.

Category 4: Komono (Miscellaneous)

This one took the longest, because it is sub-divided into lots of smaller categories (DVDs, electronics, kitchen, office, cleaning, decor, personal care, etc).  It was during this category that I was able to really start seeing some differences in our home.  I tried to complete one category (or at least start it) each day when I got home from work.  Here are a few of the bigger komono categories I tackled.

Personal Care

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A good portion of it went to the trash.  Lots of expired items or just things I never use.

Kitchen

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From this…

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…to this.

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Trash and recycling now fit neatly under the sink, out of sight, which frees up more space in our kitchen.

Category 5: Sentimental Items

The last category was the hardest, of course.  If you know me at all, you know I am an extremely sentimental person.  I hang onto things.  Some may say I am a packrat.  Notes from a friend in high school?  You bet I still had some.  A picture my first grade boyfriend drew for me?  Yep, had that too.  My planners from every year of college?  Check.  An 8×10 group picture of me with the mean girls who bullied me at camp when I was a kid?  Still had that, too.  I had SO MUCH STUFF, and some of it didn’t even hold a positive memory for me.

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Sentimental stuff before tidying.  The trunk on the right was also full of more sentimental stuff.

An important lesson from Konmari is that you don’t need the physical item to have the memory.  There were so many things that I was able to finally let go of, and it felt good. Yes, I trashed the old planners because do I really need to know what I did or what projects I had due on October 20th, 2012?  No, obviously not.  And you bet I ripped up that group photo from camp…it was about time.  There were other things, like some letters or cards, that I chose to take a picture of before I discarded them.  Digital photos are a great way to reduce physical clutter while still hanging onto the item in some way.

I may have kept more sentimental items than Marie Kondo would have, but as they still “spark joy” for me, I am happy with my decision.  I kept my dolls from when I was a kid, and now they are packed away with a few other beloved toys in a wooden chest downstairs.  Someday I hope they will have a second life when my kids play with them.

I found that I was unable to part with nearly anything given to me by my Grandpa JB, even just old birthday cards in his handwriting, but I am okay with that right now.  The loss is still too fresh and I’m not ready to let go of those things.

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Childhood toys and some sentimental items of my grandpa’s

In addition to having some special items in this chest, I also have a shelf upstairs in my office for my photo/memory albums.

Post Konmari

Since finishing Konmari, I have added some things to my home that belonged to my grandpa.  My family has been cleaning out his house over the past few months, and there were several items that sparked joy for me.  But that is one great thing about Konmari.  It is not a limiting or punishing form of de-cluttering.  You don’t have to get rid of a certain number of things, or never get anything new.  You keep what brings you joy, and pass on what doesn’t.  It’s that simple.

It took about 2 months to completely finish the Konmari process, and it truly was life-changing, for several reasons.

  1. I feel at peace in my home.  The items that I have in my house have meaning and they “spark joy” for me, as Marie Kondo says.  Special treasures now have places of honor where I can enjoy them every day, instead of being hidden away in boxes or closets.

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    Quilts from my Grandma C are now displayed in an old trunk from my Grandpa JB.  The beautiful dresser also belonged to my Grandpa JB.

  2. I know where to find everything.  The Konmari Method states that all things in a category should be stored together.  All your shoes are in one place, all your electronics in one place, all your clothes in one place, etc.  Before Konmari, it sometimes took me forever to locate a missing item.  It could literally be anywhere in my house.  But now, I know exactly where to look, because everything has a place.

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    Need a bag?  Check in the travel closet!

  3. It is easier to clean.  With less clutter, of course it makes it easier to clean.  However, life does happen and the house still gets messy sometimes.  What is great about completing the Konmari process, though, is that it doesn’t take long at all to tidy up.  Once again, there is less stuff to move around, and since everything has a specific place to go, it is easy to just put that item where it belongs.  I don’t have to move things from one pile to another, or think about where I am going to store something.

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    Looks neat and tidy….that’s because it is!

  4. I appreciate what I have more.  By only keeping the things that I love, I now have a deeper appreciation for what is in my house.  Less stuff means that I can see what I have more clearly, which means that I use things I love more frequently.  And that makes me happy.

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    China cabinet from my Grandpa JB, filled with treasures that spark joy.

Have you ever heard of Konmari or thought about trying it?  What items do you need to get rid of?  What items in your home truly spark joy for you?

-A

Behind the Waterfall

Number 116 on my adventure list was to go swimming next to a waterfall.  I have always loved waterfalls (but really, who doesn’t?)  When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Behind the Waterfall.  I won’t spoil it for you, but there is something magical hidden behind the falls in this film.  When I think of waterfalls now, I still think of magic.  That’s probably why this one ended up on my list.

Living in the midwest, I don’t get the chance to see very many waterfalls.  But in January, I found myself at this enchanting little spot in New Zealand.

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This swimming hole is on my brother-in-law and his fiance’s property.  The privacy and seclusion of this spot just adds to the charm.

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Although the water was a little cold, and I was a little afraid of potential eels lurking about, it was definitely worth it to jump in.  This was one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen.

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Also works as a water slide

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Top of the falls

GOPR0572.jpgWe didn’t find anything mysterious behind the waterfall.

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But there’s always next time.

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-A

7 Tips for a Short Stay in Vegas

 

Four best friends in Vegas…

No, I’m not talking about The Hangover.  In November, I traveled to Las Vegas with my husband and our two friends.  We didn’t steal a tiger or throw a mattress off the roof, but we did have a great time.

We played the slots.  And some of us won.  And then we all lost.

We played Blackjack.  And some of us won.  And then we all lost.

We ate at a classic Vegas buffet.  And some of us ate too much.  Okay, we all ate too much.

If you’re planning a trip (and you should), here are my recommendations:

  1. Stay in a central location on the Strip (or on Fremont street).  We rented an awesome condo on the Strip through Airbnb.  Our place was walking distance to almost everything.  The condo also had the added benefits of providing coffee (much needed after a late night) and a spa pool (great for relaxing after a long day of walking).  Have you tried Airbnb before?  We love using it.  We have gotten to stay at some great places for a cheaper price than a hotel, but with more space, a kitchen, and a local’s recommendations for things to do in the area.  Sign up here and get $40 off your first trip.  Just make sure the host you choose has positive reviews from other people, first.  🙂

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    The view from our room

  2. Try to see as many of the unique casinos as you can.  Even if you’re not a gambler, the architecture of the the buildings is worth seeing.  The Luxor, Excalibur, and The Paris were a few of my favorites.
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    The Paris

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    Excalibur

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    The Cosmo

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    The Luxor

  3. Make sure you check out Fremont Street.  It’s a different vibe from the Strip.  I would love to spend more time here on our next trip.IMG_3316.jpg
  4. Go to a lunch buffet.  It’s cheaper than dinner, but still has amazing food.  We went to The Golden Nugget – so good. IMG_3318.jpg
  5. Go see the sign.  You know the one.  The iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  It’s touristy, packed with people, parking is terrible, but seeing the sign in person is worth it.  We did have to drive here from the Strip (but you could take an Uber or taxi if you don’t want to rent a car.)  15232299_10208394089912120_1892026850154465942_n.jpg
  6. If you have time, get away from the city and check out the Hoover Dam.  Truly an amazing sight. IMG_5517.jpg IMG_3336.jpg
  7. If you have lots of time (or in our case-one day), drive to the Grand Canyon.  You can make the trip in a day, which is what we did, but I wouldn’t recommend that.  It’s a long drive (~4 hours each way).  It would be better to stay the night (or a few nights) near the canyon (maybe in Flagstaff), so that you have more time to enjoy the park.  Oh, and make sure you check the weather before you go.  Because apparently, it does snow in Arizona in November.  IMG_5526.jpgIMG_3422.jpgIMG_3426.jpg

Las Vegas is an unforgettable experience.  Brightly decorated buildings as far as you can see; aggressive street solicitors loudly slapping cards at you; peppy slot machine music echoing through your head (even after you leave); the flicker of excitement running through your body as you push “spin again”; cloudy rooms full of smoke, hope, regret.  There’s no place quite like Vegas.

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Have you been?  Would you like to go?

-A

 

 

Sugar and Spice

Number 121 on my adventure list – get a cartilage ear piercing – has been something I have wanted to do for awhile.  My only piercings thus far have been the basic ear lobe piercings that I had done in high school.  I think my inspiration for another ear piercing initially came from Anna Kendrick in the movie Pitch Perfect.

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Anna Kendrick – she is beautiful.

My best friend and I have been talking for the past year about her getting a new tattoo and me getting my cartilage pierced.  We finally made it happen a few weeks ago.

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Feeling nervous pre-piercing

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BF taking the pain like a champ.

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Post best friend permanent accessory bonding time

Now, about the pain.  The piercing itself didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would.  It was the days after when I had to clean it that the pain was the worst.  I also didn’t think about how I would only be able to sleep on one side at night.  That part wasn’t fun.  However, it’s now the end of week 3, and overall it feels pretty good and is healing nicely.

I think my new piercing adds the little bit of spice I was looking for.IMG_4658 (1)

I’ll leave you with this.

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-A

 

The People’s Parks

I love state parks, and really, what’s not to love?  They’re beautiful, free, a great excuse to get some exercise and fresh air, and a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Growing up, I remember visiting several state parks with my family, my favorite being Ha Ha Tonka State Park.  Shortly after K and I started dating, we took a road trip to this park.  It was just as great as I remember!

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Another park that I went to as a child (but don’t really remember) and later returned to as an adult is Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park.  This is hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Missouri.

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These family trips likely inspired Number 126 on my adventure list – visit 5 state parks that I haven’t been to before within one year.  This summer, I have visited two (new to me) state parks in Missouri.

Watkins Mill State Park (June 2016).  This was a nice park with lots of space.  We enjoyed a long walk on the paved trail.  There was a lake beach, but the posted sign said it was not currently safe for swimming due to bacteria levels.  We also visited the Watkins Mill Historic Site which was part of the park.

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And people are still swimming…

Lewis and Clark State Park (July 2016).  It was a small park, but the overlook of the lake was worth the trip.  Lots of wildlife around the water.  It was interesting that Lewis and Clark were in this exact area on July 4th and that was the same day that we visited.

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I have plans to visit several other parks this summer/fall, including Taum Sauk Mountain State ParkElephant Rocks State ParkGrand Gulf State Park, and Palisades State Park.

What’s your favorite state or national park?

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-A