Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Good to Be Home

We've been back for a full weekend and it feels good. I've been able to catch up on some things around the house, while fighting through my jet lag (I've been hitting a wall and fighting off naps around 4:30pm everyday). The trip was absolutely amazing (I'm still pinching myself to know that it was real), but it is nice to be home. Nothing really compares to the comfort of my own bed, especially because most European Queens are just two Twins pushed together (and guess who ends up in the crack down the middle?!). I am excited to share trip details and pictures with you soon!

Not only have we had some great at-home hang-out time, but we made it home just in time for the start of the Olympics! I LOVE the Olympics and can spend hours a day watching familiar (and obscure) sports on multiple channels. I cannot get enough of it. A part of me wishes I could take another week off of work just so I can watch even more, but that would be unreasonable. Awesome, but unreasonable.

Do you watch the Olympics? What's your favorite sport? 
Friday, July 27, 2012

We're Home!

We've made it home. We are tired, excited to be in our own beds, and could not be more excited to see our pup, Zoey! We have missed her SOOOO much, but feel grateful for our trip. It was an amazing time and I CANNOT wait to share the pictures with you. My plan for this weekend is to catch up on some sleep and (hopefully) not wake up before 6am each day (dang you, jetlag!). Have a great weekend friends and I'll see you back on Monday!
Thursday, July 26, 2012

No Spending Challenge // Repost

Although Robbie and I have been saving for our trip for over a year, it is still going to bruise our wallet. That's why returning home will be the perfect opportunity to play a money-saving game like the No Spending Challenge. I'd love for some friends to join me!

I am the kind of person who can become completely fixated on a topic. For example, I actually watched 13 episodes of Friday Night Lights in one day (it was a sick day and don't judge me until you've seen it), and I have stayed up into the wee hours of the night cleaning my bathroom. Sometimes this personality quirk can be fun, such as when I became friends with the waitress at a nearby sushi bar because I eat there so often, but it can also lead to unnecessary worry if I become fixated on a negative topic. This can be especially true when it comes to money.

Worrying about money is stressful. As an adult, it is something we all face and have different ways of approaching. In order to relieve some of the stress, I participate in fun, money saving games. My friend Sarah introduced me to one game a couple of years ago, and I try to take part in it a couple of times a year. It is known as the No Spending Challenge and you have to go an entire week without spending a single penny!

It is definitely a challenge, so here are the rules:
  1. Do your best to prepare beforehand (i.e. pay bills ahead of time that may be due during the week, buy the groceries you will need before the challenge begins, fill your gas tank, etc.)
  2. You can redeem previously purchased gift certificates, but you cannot purchase gift certificates in preparation (use what you already have available)
  3. You cannot fill your car with gas; if you start to run low, get creative with public transportation
  4. You can pay co-pays for already scheduled doctors appointments or emergencies
  5. You may not have someone else buy things for you (i.e. sending a hubby or roommate to the store for milk)
  6. The point of the week is to be resourceful with what you already have, so get creative!
My initial thought when Sarah described this was, "You're out of your mind"! There is no way I would be able to go an entire week without spending any money. Unfortunately, this was the case the first time I attempted the challenge. I can't remember what I bought, I just remember I failed. Since then, I have tried again and succeeded, so I know you can do the same.

Here is a bit of what I've learned along the way:

I spend small amounts of money throughout the week.
Whether I’m buying a hot chocolate from Starbucks or a quick bite to eat at lunch, little bits of money have a tendency to fly out of my wallet everyday.

When I’m not spending money I can’t help but think of money.
Once the week started, I couldn’t help but think of all the items I wanted to buy, ranging from home goods to clothing to mouthwash. It was as though the purchases I had been putting off were being pushed to the forefront of my thoughts.

I have too much food in my pantry.
Not once have I gone hungry during the No Spending Week. This is because I have a stockpile of basics in my pantry that I normally push aside while I'm "looking for something to eat."

I can get by with much less than expected.
When I only allowed myself the bare minimum, I continued to live the same quality life I had before. It definitely put necessity into perspective.

Along with getting by with less than expected, I learned some valuable lessons in moderation. I found myself being much more intentional with my limited resources. I thought really hard about when I wanted to use the left over gift certificates I had, if I wanted to use them at all.

Don't give up.
If you slip up and make a purchase mid-week, don't get discouraged! We all make mistakes, so just pick up right where you left off. Your week doesn't need to start over, but you don't need to beat yourself up over it either.
Although the week is challenging (it is in the name after all), it can be really fun; especially if you rope a friend into doing it with you! Get creative and don't forget to have fun!

Have you participated in a No Spending Challenge? If so, do you have any tips and tricks? Are there any money saving games you like to play?
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Back To The Future

Photographer Irina Werning is a self-described "nosey" photographer who loves old photos. In 2010 he invited people to re-enact their old photos, wearing similar clothing, in the same location, even making the same facial expression. I love the resemblances in the pictures. I realize they are the same people, but I'm fascinated imaging how people will look as they grow older. I also love how committed participants were to the project; the really went for it. I wouldn't even know where to find the same clothes I had as a child if I wanted to. Luckily, there were no bath time photos included!

Have you ever re-enacted childhood photos?
(See the full project here)
Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Final Stop: Positano, Italy

We've reached our final destination: Positano, Italy! It's hard to believe that we're almost at the end of our trip, it's gone by so quickly. When we first decided that we would be backpacking, we all agreed to splurge on a nice coastal hotel before heading home. Robbie found a great place called La Tavolozza Residence, and it comes recommended from some of our friends who have stayed here.

We are planning on relaxing the next few days. Walking around this small hill town, eating local fare, and soaking up the Italian sun. I'm hoping to get a nap or two in before we head back to our usual routines. I'm sad to see our trip come to an end, but I am excited to share our experiences with all of our friends and family.

Have you visited Positano? Where did you stay?
Friday, July 20, 2012


Robbie and I absolutely LOVE Rome; it is one of our favorite cities. The people are friendly, the food is amazing, and there is such a surreal feeling being surrounded by so much history. We are so excited to share our love for this place with some of our best friends. We probably won't remember the great little restaurant we found last time, or where to get the best gelato in the city, but we do remember how alive the city feels as you explore it's cobblestone streets. I'm really excited to be staying in an apartment so that we can really feel like locals.

Robbie found an amazing place on Airbnb and swooped it up before it could be taken by anyone else. It has incredible views and beautiful decor. I already know that we aren't going to have enough time here, but I'm going to do the best I can to make the most of what we do have. I just hope I have the stamina to make it through the HOT afternoons.

(Photos from the Airbnb accommodations we will be using during our stay)
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Travel Playlist // Repost

Although we are doing most of our traveling through Europe via train, having calming music can make all the difference in the world. That's why I've decided to re-post the Airport Playlist that Robbie created. It's the perfect background to a potentially stressful situation. Enjoy!

Waiting for a flight at an airport can be stressful. Tension can be caused by a number of different factors, including the anxiety of making sure you don't miss your flight, a discomfort of actually being in the air, or worrying about being unavailable for several hours at a time. Whatever the reason may be, airports can be a stressful place for many. Whether I'm traveling for vacation or visiting friends, I find myself in airports a few times a year. Luckily, I'm married to a man that has a knack for making playlists that fit a mood perfectly. Recently, I asked Robbie to create a calm playlist that can help me relax as I'm waiting to head to my next adventure. He has nailed it again. Here is my new airport playlist:

Death Cab for Cutie: Brothers On a Hotel Bed
Kanye West: Street Lights
Gregory Alan Isakov: Big Black Car..
The National: Start a War
Cat Power: The Greatest
Sufjan Stevens: Casmir Pulaski Day
Antony and the Johnsons: Another World
David Bazan: Won't Let Go
Fleetwood Mac: Songbird
Jimmy Eat World: For Me This Is Heaven
Page France: Jesus
Bon Iver: Beth/Rest

What are your songs or albums while traveling?
All songs and albums can be found at your local record store. 
(Photo: weheartit)
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Quick Hello From Florence

I don't have much time to write, but we have made it to Florence. I hope to walk along the water, watch the sunset, and have some gelato. I'm also looking forward to perusing their famous marketplace, although I don't love bartering down prices. People always tell me that that is the nature of the game, but I would prefer to avoid it altogether.

Wish me luck!
(Photo: All Things Europe)
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Packing for Europe

I don't think that I'm an excessive packer by any means. Robbie is actually worse than me, depending on the bag. He is a self-proclaimed "bag filler", which means he packs to the size bag he is using. No matter what. If we're going away on a quick weekend trip, he'll fill an entire duffle bag. When we went to Europe last time, he backed his bag so full, I had to carry things for him!

Although I think fondly of my packing skills, the thought of only bringing a few items for 3 and a half weeks was a bit daunting. I didn't think I would be able to do it, but guess what? I did! I managed to get away with:
  • 5 shirts + 2 tank tops
  • 2 pairs of pants + 2 pairs of shorts + 1 long skirt (for cathedrals) 
  • 2 light dresses
  • 2 cardigans
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 belts
  • Misc undergarments 
I tried to pack within a simple color scheme (blue + white), but made sure to include a couple of vibrant pieces to mix things up a bit.

I have to say, I'm really proud of myself. It wasn't easy to pack so light, I kept wanting to "throw in" pieces right before we left. One thing that made it really easy to stay on track: packing cubes. Rick Steves recommends separating types of clothes into the cubes so that they are easier to find in your pack (disclaimer: Robbie actually found the recommendation, not me :).

Overall, the color scheme and cube combo were the keys to my success. The color combo made it so that I could pack fewer items, but still have plenty of outfits, while the cubes restricted the amount of items I could pack purely based on space. This is a system that I will definitely be using for future trips!
Monday, July 16, 2012

The Romance of Venice

Today we venture into Venice, Italy. Venice is an amazingly romantic city with beautiful scenery and jovial people. The sun glistens off the water just right and the sound of water softly breaking against the buildings is perfect. Last time Robbie and I were in Venice we celebrated our third wedding anniversary (talk about spoiled) and totally splurged on a meal right along the canal. To be honest, we don't remember the meal being that great, but the atmosphere was incredible. Here is an excerpt from our last trip to Venezia...

Day 9 - July 9, 2009
I love Venice from the water; it is such a beautiful place. I love watching the sun glisten on the surface of the water. It seems so whimsical and romantic. I love the smell of the water and the breeze on my face. I am going to miss this. 

This time around, we probably won't eat right on the water, unless we pack a picnic. We'd rather spend our money on an amazing meal and enjoy the environment by walking along the water. I'm so excited to snap pictures of the colorful houses and live like a local.

Do you have any recommendations for Venice? Any tourist traps to avoid?
(Photos from the Airbnb accommodations we will be using during our stay)
Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th!

It's Friday the 13th! I know I've mentioned it before, but I just love when these days come around (bonus: it's the second one this year). I'm excited to see how a different culture embraces the day. Are Austrians superstitious? Will they joke around with it? Is it celebrated as a holiday? Probably not! 

Do you have any special Friday the 13th plan? 
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ian!

Ian is one of our best friends. He is easy going, fun loving, and always ready for the next adventure. He is extremely dedicated to his friends and family and shares a vulnerability with others that is admirable. I love that he helps me to feel calm in crazy situations and is always there to laugh at my jokes (no matter how terrible they may be).

Ian, I am so excited that we get to celebrate your birthday with you. I hope you enjoy what we have planned for you (enjoying a beer on the patio of an outdoor cafe), as well as the treats your mom sent along (she's always thinking of you :).
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Urban Backpacking

Here's a secret: I've never gone backpacking. I've been camping and I've walked a heck of a lot of places, but I've never been responsible for carrying all of my essentials on my back. This little fact intimidated me a bit when we decided to backpack through Europe. I was worried I wouldn't be able to handle it and that my sore muscles would slow me down (we still need to see how I'm going to do).

That's when I decided to train! I packed my backpack with weights, books, notebooks, anything that would fit to add pounds and set out on the streets of San Jose. I already walk during lunch several days a week, so throwing my backpack on was super easy. I was surprised by how many stares I've gotten from people who look utterly confused, and I'm pretty sure someone thought I was homeless when I was walking Zoey around my neighborhood. Even though people were acting like they've never seen a backpack before, I don't care! It's funny to see their reactions and I enjoy extending vacation prep into multiple areas of life. I want to make it last as long as possible, so a few jokes about how I look isn't going to stop me!
Monday, July 9, 2012

Well, Hello Prague!

After spending too little time in Berlin (I feel like this is going to be a common theme: not enough time in these amazing cities), we've made our way to Prague. Rick Steves describes it as "the best Art Nuevo in Europe". It is a bustling city that consists of four towns: Castle Town (where the King lived), Little Town (where the nobles lived), Old Town (with the historical market), and New Town (which now holds the main market). I would like to take a New Prague Tour as soon as possible, so that we can get a feel of the city from a local guide. Based on my research, here are some of the highlights I would like to make sure we check out:
  • The Jewish Quarter: it is the oldest Jewish community in Eastern Europe, which was completed segregated/ walled off until 100 years ago
  • Castle Town: Full of castle, cathedrals, and offices; the president still rules from here
  • Charles Bridge: a lovely stroll that connects Castle Town to Old Town
Have you been to Prague? What must-see recommendations? 
(Photos from the Airbnb accommodations we will be using during our stay)
Friday, July 6, 2012

Guten Tag, Berlin

Tonight we depart from Malmo and take an overnight train to Berlin. Berlin is the city that I know the least about. Robbie has been the most excited about visiting Berlin, so  I left the researching up to him. I'm not totally sure what to expect from the people to food to weather. I have always wanted to visit a beer garden, and I definitely want to see the world's largest mural on what remains of the Berlin Wall. Other than that, I'm open!

Do you have any recommendations on Berlin? Anything that I have to see in the next couple of days?
(Photos of the Airbnb accommodations we will be using during our stay)
Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dishcrawl San Jose

Last Wednesday my good friend, Sarah, and I attended the vegetarian Dishcrawl in Downtown San Jose. Dishcrawl is similar to a pub crawl, except it focuses on food instead of alcohol. We met at a starting location and began the testing right away! Food is such a great equalizer and ice breaker. Sarah and I didn't know anyone else before the event, but were able to make strike up conversations easily.

From here, we walked to three more establishments. Each offering different textures and flavors, while all focusing on vegetarianism. My favorite stop of the night was with SV Local Market (#2). SV Local Market isn't a formal establishment, rather it's an online Farmer's Market. Paige (the owner) created SV Local Market to bridge a gap between CSA's and the people who feel overwhelmed by them. For dinner, she presented an entire meal created with local ingredients; cheese from local goats, honey from a local bee keeper, and fruity beverages from local trees.

Overall, it was a GREAT night; Sarah and I loved it. It was so fun to walk around downtown and try places we'd never been before.

Locations included: Good Karma / SV Local Market / Fahrenheit / Whipps
Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, Grandma + America!

My grandmother is one of the sweetest people I know. She has a deep love for her family and her faith. She has taught her children and grandchildren to work hard and appreciate the gifts we are given. She has been such an amazing example of love for my family and I am so thankful that I have been able to have her be a part of my life.

Gmama - I hope you enjoy your day. Surround yourself with love and know that the beautiful fireworks displays are all for you! 
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We've Made It to Malmo!

Hello friends! After a LONG travel day, Robbie and I have made it to Malmo, Sweden (it's after 7pm, local time)! We actually flew into Copenhagen, Denmark because it is a much larger airport and it is only a 15 minute train ride to Malmo. We met up with our friend Ian at the airport, and are all navigating the train system together. Ali and Elijah will be picking us up at the station in Malmo and taking us back to her parents house.

Ali and Elijah have been to Malmo before, so they're excited to show us around. They already have a few favorite spots in mind, so we will be able to get a jump-start on exploring. I'm hoping to get a good nights sleep tonight, so that I can beat jet lag from the start (fingers crossed). I'm not sure what our plan is for tomorrow though; we'll probably walk around, take in some sites, and eat delicious food. Oh man, I can't believe we're already here!!!

Have you been to Malmo before? Any must "sees" I need to know about?
Monday, July 2, 2012

Goodbye Friends!

Today Robbie and I are boarding a plane headed for Europe (yikes)! I can't believe the trip is already here; I've been anticipating this day for months! I'll be posting as we arrive to our next destinations so that you can keep up with our itinerary (plus, it'll help the moms know where we are :).

Since the idea of creating four weeks of posts was super intimidating, I've decided to re-post some of my favorite posts. You many not have seen them before, so be sure to check in regularly.


p.s. There are probably going to be a LOT of exclamation points in my updates. Please know that I am very excited about this trip, so these are genuine. :)
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