The other day a friend asked my husband how I can afford to drive a Lexus since I’m *just* a teacher (the friend was curious, not trying to be rude, and I welcome money talk!). Here’s how… I bought it used from a small town dealer we found on Craigslist which made it cheaper than said friend’s brand new “modest” car. I have a car payment but I can afford it comfortably (even though car payments suck) and that’s all there is to it.
My mind starts to wander when I see photos on Instagram of friends in Europe or Palm Springs. And you know what… I’ve been one of those people on Instagram posting pictures from my “lavish” vacations.
:: 1 :: Not really a tip but taking advantage of an opportunity – The past five summers we’ve gone to Idaho with On River Time (the nonprofit my husband Greg works for part-time). This is not a vacation, this is actual work so they pay for our flights – thus they pay for our return flight. We discovered that once we’re out west, one-way flights to other western places are pretty cheap and the west is a great place for a road trip. Where can you tack on a vacation to an obligation?
:: 2 :: Flight Alerts – six months out from any potential travel I set up alerts. I use Hopper, Google Flights, & Scott’s Cheap flights emails. There are more hardcore ways but I’m not willing to work that hard. Also, we recently got a Delta AmEx so we’ll be cashing in on our miles each year too.
:: 3 :: Pay as much as you can in advance (admission, event tickets, lodging, car rental) – This is more of a mental trick. If you pay for things in advance as you’re planning it doesn’t hurt as bad! You don’t feel all uptight once you’re on vacay about all the money you’re spending because you’ve already paid for most in the months leading up to it. Also I’ve found car rentals are actually cheaper the more advance you book them… mistakes have been made on my part.
:: 4 :: AirBnb y’all – A few months out I start looking for cool AirBnbs and using the save feature on the website. I have found the majority of the time they are cheaper and more convenient than hotels. We aim for $100 a night and have found some really great places to stay. We’ve only had one “meh” not great experience. But you know what is even cheaper… friends that live in cool places! We have done that a few times too. We’re great guests. Where do you live?
:: 5 :: Pick a meal a day – Since we stay at AirBnbs/friends’ places where we have access to at least a refrigerator (usually a full kitchen), we eat two meals a day at “home.” As soon as we get to a destination we go to the grocery store for coffee, yogurt, eggs, snacks, and frozen pizzas. That way we splurge a little at dinner and don’t feel bad about it. (Though when we went on our epic road trip last year we only ate out once! That trip was more about sightseeing than eating.)
:: 6 :: Live within your means the rest of the year – Greg and I are just not big spenders. Granted we don’t have children but we bought the cheapest house in the neighborhood, have only one car payment, we eat at home 90% of the time, workout at home, and I’m constantly turning lights off (I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes but it makes me feel better). We both work multiple “gigs” too. Oh and Greg’s motto is “they can’t put you in jail for student loan debt.” So there’s that.
Here’s the birth story to my first painting collection and Etsy shop:
Back in the beginning of May I had a streak of inspiration. An artist I follow on Instagram shared a series she started based on the desert. They were simple abstracted paintings of desert things and they really caught my attention. It got me thinking about composition and how to be better at it. As an art teacher it has been a hard concept to teach to middle schoolers. It’s difficult to explain why one arrangement of shapes looks better than another arrangement of shapes to thirteen year olds. Hell, you might be lost at the concept.
How I attempt to explain it is composition is just the arrangement of elements. Those elements are or some combination of shapes, colors, textures, and forms. For example, a banana, an orange, and an apple and where you place them on the table.
One day when I was watching students in ISS (in school suspension, yep, that’s right) I started sketching.
Prior to this sketching, I had taken a Skillshare class exploring the elements of art and illustration style. I didn’t expect that little class to be groundbreaking for me but I did realize I am drawn to combinations of warm and cool colors where one accentuates the other. Thus, my color palette for the series.
The shapes and colors together reminded me of summer. The first painting I made reminded me of a sunset at Big Sur which then reminded me of my trip last summer. So I titled it “Summer Forever Because Everything Else Sucks.” And put it on Etsy. If you would like to purchase any of these paintings (I would love you forever) they are $30 and that includes shipping!
After that one, I decided to do 10 in the series and give each a name that made me laugh or roll my eyes about summer.
Let’s Go On A Hike in the Desert But Not Too Far **SOLD**
I Buy Expensive Sunscreen **SOLD**
You know how sometimes it takes a minute to process what happened… well in my case it can take up to a year. This is all for posterity’s sake.
Last summer I went to London and Paris with my longtime childhood friend, Hamp. Since Hamp is a weird combination of a geriatric and a toddler, he “let” me do all the planning. Which worked for both our lifestyles.
I made a detailed itinerary but here are spots of note we hit:
British Museum, Neal’s Yard/Seven Dials, St. Dunstan-in-the-East, Tower of London, Borough Market, St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Chapelle, Notre Dame, Cluny Museum, Eiffel Tower, The Lourve, Millennium Bridge, Notting Hill, Portobello Road Market, Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, Trafalgar Square, Sketch, Kensington Palace & Gardens, Westminister Abbey, Tower Bridge, Parliament of England, Stonehenge, Bath
If you would like the exact itinerary details it will cost you. I’m upping my fee from one ice cream cone to two. Thank you very much.
We almost missed our flight to London but we ran through the Charlotte airport like the scene from Home Alone and made it on to the plane with minutes to spare. What I didn’t research before going to London is that it was going to take 3 hours for us to go through customs once we got there. Luckily we made friends with some folks in line including Typhoid Dylan (we don’t know his real name but that’s his name in our hearts).
Anyway, here are some pictures pretty much in sequential order.
The young and the restless made it to London!
St. Dunstan-in-the-East is basically a secret garden that’s not so secret.
We walked across Tower Bridge.
Got lunch at a market… how very English of us!
We got up early and hopped on a train. It is true what they say… Paris is always a great idea.
I’ve been to Paris before but I think I’ll never tire of it.
St. Chapelle is undeniably beautiful, floor to ceiling.
Back in London and we took a walk around Notting Hill. How dreamy!
All the colors! Now I need a magenta door.
Like any vacation of mine, there was a lot of art and ice cream.
When you’re in England you might as well go see Stonehenge, right? ** If you go to Stonehenge, I highly recommend paying a little extra to go on the tour before or after the site is open to the public so that you can go all up in them! Totally worth it! **
On our trip to Stonehenge we also went to Bath (which was a gorgeous city) and the ancient town of Lacock (quintessentially English).
Back in London I tried to take the most London AF pictures ever.
One of my favorite exhibits I’ve ever seen was Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the V&A on our last day.
And no trip to London would be complete without high tea at Sketch.
That was the extremely condensed version of the trip. Overall, London is a great city to visit! It’s easy to get around and there’s so much to see. Believe it or not, I didn’t see everything. I’m ready for my return trip!
After our trip to Idaho and San Jose, we traveled up to San Francisco for a few days. San Francisco has been on my list since I saw Forest Gump in the Dothan movie theater.
Greg and I pretend to be outdoorsy from time to time so our first stop was to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito en route to Muir Woods. We ate a really unique/delicious salad and pizza at Bar Bocce (highly recommend this place for food and views!). Sausalito is picturesque. It’s hard to believe anyone lives there.
Next we headed to the main event… Muir Woods. I looked up a few different trails ahead of time. We settled on one that was about 2 miles long. We wanted to see the woods but not spend the entire day there. Muir Woods is a busy/touristy place. I recommend taking a trail that is at least 2 miles or longer to get away from most of the tourist traffic. Besides the traffic, Muir Woods is pretty incredible. It’s so quiet! It feels like you’re on set for Jurassic Park. Something about the light gives it another worldly feel… not to mention the trees are hundreds of years old and HUGE.
After Muir Woods we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge again back to SF. Before heading to our AirBnb we stopped at Palace of Fine Arts… I just like to see as much crap as I can. Palace of Fine Arts was neat. I wouldn’t say it’s a must see though.
Finding a place to stay in SF that wasn’t super expensive was difficult. We ended up booking this super cute AirBnb in the Mission District. If you’ve never stayed in an AirBnb there a few things to know: 1. Always read the listing carefully 2. There will be surprises 3. It’s not a hotel. With that being said we were pretty happy with our stay. When they said “Mission District” they really meant “closest to.” When they said “yogurt and granola” they meant “there’s some there but it’s been there over a year, check the dates!” What did not surprise or disappoint was the resident cat, Squirrelly Joe.
To end day one we went on a taco hop for dinner, watched street celebrations of the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA championship and finished it with ice cream at Humphry Slocombe (I got the “Secret Breakfast” flavor). We had the best homemade red mole sauce at El Metate that I’m still dreaming about!
Nothing like starting off a day of vacation with a phone interview! We also had to return our rental car. Driving in SF is an experience… one that I would not like to have again. With the dreadful tasks out of the way, we headed to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Art Museums are weirdly (?) comforting to me and I really enjoyed the SFMOMA. It has a diverse collection of fun/entertaining art for everyone. It wasn’t so woo-woo-out-there like some modern art can be. I would highly suggest checking it out. One of my favorites was Warhol’s Dolly’s, of course.
We did some walking and headed toward Ghirardelli Square/Fisherman’s Wharf because you haven’t been to SF if you don’t. Along the way we stopped and got a donut at Bob’s Donuts and then I stopped in the precious shop of an illustrator/stationer I follow on Instagram (@paristosf), Ferme à Papier. I bought a few cards because how could I not.
I’m not one for staying on the beaten path but we went to Musée Mécanique in Fisherman’s Wharf. It was actually pretty neat and comical. My favorite “game” was the Opium Den where you put in your quarter and skeletons start coming out of the walls and doorways of the puppet living scene. It was so wacky.
We continued our walking tour to Chinatown and stopped in the famed City Lights Bookstore for a browse.
Finally, we decided to have a traditional SF dinner of oysters and po’ boys at Hog Island Oyster Co. In standard Vacation-Mollie style we finished off the evening with ice cream and picking up a bottle of wine before heading back to our temporary home.
This day we decided to explore the Mission District. To start, we ate at Tartine Bakery which definitely lived up to all the hype. We got an open faced sandwich thing and a lemon tart. This is also where we had the best coffee of the trip. Definitely go to Tartine!
I love art and Greg loves history so we went to the Mission San Francisco de Asís. It’s the oldest building in SF and has survived fires and earthquakes. It also has a pretty little cemetery.
We hung out in the park for a while watching everyone’s dogs play and a hippy girl with her butt hanging out walk a white fluffy kitten on a leash. Some guy brought his parrot to fly around and buzz everyone and that’s when we tapped out.
We had lunch at a really cute Cuban place called Media Noche. I got the ceviche which was perfectly refreshing and Greg got the Cuban sandwich. Their bathroom has shiny pink banana wallpaper which was a plus for me.
There was more ice cream.
Later we met up with Greg’s friend Jack (who we stayed with in San Jose) for dinner. We went to the Lyon Street steps for some views before walking to Hong Kong Loung II for dim sum. The dim sum was delicious.
Because we can’t stop the party, we went bar hopping. Most notably was the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar inside the Fairmont Hotel (which is beautiful itself). Let’s just say I was excited, Greg and Jack were… less than excited. It’s super kitschy and the drinks are not great and expensive but it’s a definite experience! We finished the night at a little hole in the wall and called it day.
Our flight was at noon so we wanted to get in a good breakfast before we left. We went to Mission Beach Cafe as soon as they opened at 9. I got the pancakes with bourbon syrup and they hit the spot. The story of the rest of the day was flight delays and getting home at 2am. Oh we did sit by Lou Holtz. Nonetheless, we had a great trip!
*** Tips and Thoughts ***
- Here’s the google map I made with a bunch of places that were recommended to me, we visited, or I researched. I have it organized and color coded. I even plotted where there are some murals (art walls) to see.
- SF is definitely walkable. I wouldn’t recommend driving. We either walked or took Lyft everywhere. We didn’t use the public transportation because I didn’t look into how to do it. Bikes are also an option.
- There is a big homeless population in SF which was kind of shocking to me. More so than NYC.
- Greg doesn’t normally wear his sweaters on his shoulders like that… he was tired of carrying them.
Once again Greg and I were lucky enough to make the trek out to Idaho with On River Time (the nonprofit Greg works for). This was our third year together (Greg went one year by himself). Yet again, we parlayed it into a mini/cheap vacation. Check out last year’s post here and 2015 here.
We had a great time with the kids. I even got to go out and fish this year. I was not excited about it at first because tbh I knew I was going to have to wear a hat but then I caught one! And then I caught more! Despite the hat, I had fun fishing. Oh and in that first picture I didn’t know how to hold a fish for the camera… no one told me! All fingers with a little bit of fish *eye roll*.
Usually the kids get to visit Yellowstone but this year we switched it up and went to the Grand Tetons. We had an awesome guide named Sarah who picked up a lot of random animal poop all in the name of nature and learning. She took us on a hike and to see a beaver dam. She was awesome. She was totally nerding out on nature and that’s exactly the type of guide you want.
After our Idaho adventure we hopped on a plane to San Jose where we spent a few days with Greg’s college buddy, Jack. He and his girlfriend, Char were our gracious hosts. Really, they were great and it’s awesome to have friends in appealing locales (anyone live in Hawaii? Costa Rica? France?).
As we were leaving a couple came to take their wedding pictures and I cannot think of a better place. There are so many colors in cliffs and then the water and then the beach, oh my. I would love to see their photos.
On our way back to San Jose, we stopped in Monterey (Big Little Lies!) for lunch and picked up local sea bass to cook for dinner. It was pretty much the idyllic day with perfect weather and good company.
The next day we went on a five mile hike in the San Jose valley. As we were hiking the view continually changed. The terrain is just so different than Alabama. It felt other worldly at times. And at times it felt like we were in Italy. Everything is golden and green and so much texture.
When we got back from our hike we had the ultimate Silicon Valley experience… we went to LinkedIn. Jack has been working there for the past year as a coder (whatever that means, idk). He gave us a little tour around the building he works in (because LinkedIn has multiple buildings). Everything was Marvel themed. They have espresso machines, sparkling juice machines, snacks, and fridges packed on every level. Like, no wonder everyone wants to work in tech. It was really neat to see and despite what you might think they don’t have cubicles per se and there is a lot of natural light.
We went to a near by town where popped into a local bookstore and then to a beer garden. We had a low key dinner back in San Jose. The next morning we left for San Francisco!… Stay tuned for that post.
Happy Lunar New Year! And also it’s my 32nd birthday. I honestly don’t know how I got this old. But since this is my blog and I do what I want around here I thought I would share some random things about myself in my honor. We’re all allowed to be a little narcissistic on our birthday, right?
Here are 32 things you may or may not know about me:
- I wouldn’t be caught dead in the color yellow (unless I’m strangled with caution tape).
- I listen to podcasts every morning while getting ready for work.
- I’m obsessed with true crime. I’m really sad I didn’t come up with the podcast My Favorite Murder.
- My favorite shows as a kid were Rescue 9-1-1 and Unsolved Mysteries (I heard there’s a reboot!).
- I’m an ice cream fanatic from way back.
- I survived an ostrich attack. Ask me about it.
- I can talk endlessly about dogs, names, and dreams.
- My nails are painted 95% of the time.
- I had an imaginary friend named Krisen (Kristen without the T) that lived down a hilly road.
- I waved at Hilary Duff, Kelly Clarkson, and Justin Guarini in a hotel lobby in Los Angeles.
- My grandmother took me to a taping of the Price Is Right for my high school graduation.
- I HATE bananas but love banana bread.
- ENFP though I’m really like an extroverted introvert.
- The Wizard of Oz is my all time favorite movie.
- I would pretend to be a spy (remember, true crime) and my spy name was Mary J. Blige (same initials!).
- R.L. Stine was my childhood hero. (I may have written some fan fiction in 1995.)
- My first airplane ride was to Key West in 6th grade. I cried before we got on the plane.
- My first CD was No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom.
- My first real concert was George Jones.
- I won a class spelling bee on the word “basin.” I then lost the grade bee on “cabbage.”
- In high school, I got a B in typing because I “talked too much.”
- My mother had a conference with my teacher in 5th grade because I “talked too much.”
- I have a weird aversion to the color purple unless it’s nail polish.
- I’m named after my great great grandmother (Molly) and my grandmother (Helen Joy).
- The first celebrity to appear in one of my dreams was Sean “Puffy” Combs. He gave me a car.
- I’m currently trying to quit my sugar addiction – just trying to eat less than usual.
- When people “nick” themselves in razor commercials it turns my stomach.
- I was the star of a play one time. Literally. I played a star named Twinkle.
- I was terrified of the Easter Bunny as a kid.
- I won a pull up contest in 8th grade. I did 20 legit, no kipping pull ups in a row.
- My current favorite snack is homemade popcorn with butter, rosemary, and sea salt (with a glass of red wine).
- I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
In a less vain post, I wrote about my 30th year here for my 31st birthday.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, disheartened, stressed, challenged, disappointed, restless, anxious, sad, overworked, under appreciated, tired, tried, beat up, and down right depressed… remember that you can do hard things. YOU GOT THIS.
(I should know… I teach middle schoolers all day!)
To remind you, I made an iPhone wallpaper >>> You Got This Wallpaper <<< just give it a click
Part 1 of NYC in 2 Seasons here.
In December I went back to NYC with my friend Whitney to celebrate her birthday. It was her first time and I’m always down for a trip to New York. I was excited because I had never been during Christmas and I knew it was going to be magical.
Well, things didn’t start off so magical. I bought a new iPhone a couple days before specifically at this time so I could use it while we were there. On the first plane ride I discover that it was defected and the CAMERA DID NOT WORK. The front facing camera worked so… I could only take selfies. I tried not to see this as a bad omen but I’m afraid it set the tone. Things got worse.
We landed in Charlotte (at 12:30pm) and had about an hour before our final flight to Newark. Long story short, our flight was delayed. We somehow missed out delayed flight, was on standby for three flights when we finally got on a plane at 10:30pm to… wait for it… PHILADELPHIA. That’s right. The only plane we could get on that would get us anywhere close to NYC was to Philly. We stayed the night at a Microtel which had a heater that sounded like a plane was taking off in her room every five minutes ALL NIGHT LONG.
We finally made it to NYC the next day around 1pm. We had to take an Uber to downtown Philly to get on a train to Trenton, New Jersey to get on the NJ transit to take us to Newark Airport where Whitney’s baggage was (don’t check a bag for a weekend trip!). From there we got another Uber to our Airbnb (which was awesome btw).
Here’s what we did in our limited amount of time: (and here’s the detailed color coded Google Map I made)
Sites: Washington Square Park, 9/11 Memorial, Oculus, The Met, 5th Avenue Window Displays, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Chicago The Musical
Places: Harlem, Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, Lower East Side, Manhattan
We tried to make the most of our time despite snow and super cold temperatures (for two southerners). On the morning we were leaving, I go to check us in on our flights and our connecting flight from Chicago had be CANCELLED. All flights to Birmingham, Atlanta, Nashville, and Huntsville were full. After an hour and a half on the phone we were booked on a flight to Memphis where Greg had to drive 3.5 hours to pick us up. What a trip, am I right?!?
I freakishly remember most of my dreams. It’s been something I’ve noticed about myself since I was a little kid. I once read that if you start to remember your dreams you’re more likely to remember them more often… sounds ridiculous but I think it works. Some people write them down but I like to tell them detail by boring/vague./confusing detail to people. *Pro tip: No one really cares about your dreams anyway…*
With that being said… here’s my dream! JK! Nope, not kidding. Here’s my dream:
The other night I had a dream with a giant white swan in it. The swan made a nest and laid 71 eggs. In the dream I was trying to speculate at how many of the eggs would hatch. Random detail but the eggs were scattered around and were different sizes/shapes.
Usually, I’m not one to place meaning to dreams because I think dreams are (usually) random compilations of your life but in sci-fi mode. But…something about the swan man. So I looked it up.
Swans in dreams symbolize:
- Time of reflection to nurture new ideas and bring them forth
- Wealth and Happiness
- New pleasures and prosperity
- Satisfied with one’s personal life
After I had this swan dream I noticed swans appearing throughout the day. I saw or read something about a swan on the internet/Instagram. They were mentioned in a podcast. I turned on a paused episode of Gilmore Girls and the first sentence they spoke was something about a swan! Coincidences be crazy!
2017 is now the year of the swan!
Have you had any prophetic dreams? I WOULD SERIOUSLY LOVE TO KNOW. EMAIL ME/COMMENT/USE TELEPATHY.
*Billy Madison… remember? #90skid
In July, Greg and I decided we hadn’t traveled enough this summer (ha!) so we loaded up the car and drove 14 hours north to Brooklyn. Luckily, we always have a place to stay with his brother and sister-in-law – thanks Scott and Meredith!
The first two days we were there it was PERFECT weather. I wore jeans and a tank top and never sweated. Things then took a dramatic turn to HEAT and HUMIDITY.
Despite the weather conspiring against us we go out there and suffered I mean… had fun.
Sites: 9/11 Memorial, Washington Square Park, The Whitney, The Met, Chelsea Market, random art galleries, Prospect Park, Strand Bookstore, DUMBO, Transit Museum, Oculus, random pent house open house (G’s SIL had artwork in it)
Those are the exact places I could remember the names. We ate a super authentic ramen place in Chinatown that was a real experience. We went to a whiskey tasting and a chocolate tasting in Red Hook. And in between everything we had a lot of coffee, pizza, and bagels.
Now the pictures:
And if you made it all the way to here, bless you! You get a badge too! Stay tuned for part 2…