NASA's Johnson Space Center | Houston, Texas

27 April 2016

There are several things Houston is famous for. Rodeos, JJ Watt, and Beyonce of course. But if you ask almost anyone in the world what Houston is MOST famous for, most likely the answer will be NASA

The Johnson Space Center is situation on the outskirts of Houston, sprawling over more than 1,600 acres. Founded in 1961, the Johnson Space Center has been the main NASA campus for over five decades. Growing up in Houston I had spent countless of hours at Space Center Houston (the visitor center for NASA's Johnson Space Center). I had even spent the night underneath a space shuttle replica during my Girl Scout days. 

t had been awhile since I had played "tourist" in Houston, so I was pleased to find that NASA was keeping Space Center Houston relevant and exciting as ever. It made me very proud to see the amazing work Houston is doing towards the International Space Station Program. Showing Jon around was fun and educational, a kind of trip we both love! We even had the pleasure of hearing a lecture by Kenneth Cameron, a astronaut who has logged over 561 hours in space!

[Kenneth Cameron, astronaut]

So here is how a trip to NASA works. The Johnson Space Center is still a functional field center for NASA, meaning most areas are off limits. But don't fret! There is still plenty to see and do!

Any trip to NASA begins at Space Center Houston, a interactive museum detailing the life of the the American space program. There are exhibits on every space mission, a life sized model of a space shuttle, and even a place to touch an actual moon rock (one of eight places in the world you can do so)! After exploring the museum, you move on to the best bit, the tour of the Space Center itself!

The tram tour of Johnson Space Center takes you on a guided journey through NASA. Your first stop is mission control. Yes, the ACTUAL mission control where the most famous line in Houston's history was heard: "Houston, we've hd a problem". Although mission control has since moved to the floor below (off limits for obvious reasons), you feel like you are in the presence of something great.

Next, the tour takes you to the Vehicle Mock Up Facility. This building is home to some of the world's most highly sophisticated machinery. It's essentially a giant workshop for NASA engineers and astronauts. The pieces of equipment housed here will blow your mind! 

Finally, the tram tour takes you to Rocket Park, a warehouse built around the most powerful rocket ever used by NASA: Saturn V. The rocket is 36 stories tall, but don't worry! It's laying on it's side so you can get a up close and personal look at this massive piece of space history. 




The Johnson Space Center is a facility that makes all Houstonians proud. Houston may not have many typical "touristy" attractions, but a visit to NASA should be on everyone's list!


2016 Reading Update | 1

22 April 2016

I know it's taken me four months to give you a reading update in 2016. Oops, my bad, don't hate me :) Last year, as you may or may not remember, I challenged myself to read 50 books. I was ecstatic when I finished my goal! 50 books is such a huge accomplishment, and while I would love to to that again this year, I decided to set myself a smaller goal in 2016. So, 2016! 40 books! Let's do this!

Here are the first 10 books I've read in 2016. What have you been reading?

A novel loosely based around the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, this book is perfect for a light summer read. Zelda Fitzgerald's reputation is as famous as the roaring 20s themselves. The Southern Belle who's fame and fortune was accompanied by heartbreak and tragedy. Fowler gives life to that reputation by creating a story around Zelda and her turbulent life married to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Overall the novel was  and entertaining and sad read.  

I'm not even sure why I picked this short story up. I had just finished 'Z', a fictionalized novel on the Fitzgeralds, and I was really itching to read something written by F Scott. Having only read 'The Great Gatsby' previously, I had high hopes for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. Boy was this whole story strange. Everyone knows the story, even if it is only the movie version, but I can honestly say without a doubt this one took me by surprise. Other than being well written, the story itself was hard to digest. It wasn't beautiful or sad, it was just weird.

THE WITCHES: SALEM, 1692 | Stacy Schiff
The hype surrounding 'The Witches: Salem, 1692' did in fact drawn me in. It is rare to find a complete history of such events, and Schiff's work was highly anticipated in both the academic and general community. I will admit, even as a historian I found myself having to put this book down for weeks at a time. There was so much to process that I found it almost exhausting. That being said, this was not a book I picked up for entertainment purposes. I wanted to study the complete history of the Salem Witch Trails and that is exactly what Schiff presented. One of the best histories I have read in a while. 

GIRLS WHO TRAVEL | Nicole Trilivas
If your a member of one of the many Facebook travel groups out there, you may have seen this title floating around. I was in the mood for some light material after reading a heavy history book, and 'Girls Who Travel' caught my eye. Set in London, an American girl finds adventure, boys, and fun. This whole book wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but perfect for some light reading to fill your time. 

STATION ELEVEN | Emily St. John Mandel
I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get into the theme of this book. I'm all about apocalyptic plots on the screen, but reading the summary had me second guessing this choice.  It did take me a few chapters to understand Emily St. John Mandel's writing style, but by chapter four I was hooked. The parallels between the world before and the world after were so beautiful created that the entire story itself becomes enticing. I would highly recommend this book to, anyone really!

ME BEFORE YOU | Jojo Moyes
Yes, I know. I'm JUST now reading this. As I have stated before, I am a firm believer in reading a book before seeing the movie. As soon as the first trailer was released I immediately grabbed this book and began reading. I read it in a single day! The was not the most well written novel, nor the hardest read. However, I still found myself extremely emotionally attached to Louisa and her quest to make the people around her happy. It was an absolutely heart wrenching story of the most unusual friendship, and to this day the plot still sticks with me. 

I found myself rather disappointed with this pick. I was lead to believe this book would be discussing Anne Boleyn's upbringing and how she was shaped into the woman we all know. Although Bordo touched on Boleyn's upbringing, the majority of the novel was centered around the years of Henry VIII. Understandable as there is not much research on the childhood of Anne Boleyn, but slightly misleading. Nevertheless I was touched with Bordo's personal connection with the protagonist. 

WHAT SHE KNEW | Gilly Macmillan
MANY people recommended this book to me, solely because it takes place in Bristol, England. I LOVED reading a book with a familiar setting. I knew the streets and buildings Macmillan described, making this terrifying tale feel realistic. When a young boy goes missing, everyone close to him becomes a suspect. Even the people who love him the most. Although not my favorite thriller, it can compete easily with the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. 

My least favorite Harry Potter can still be better than most books I read. Need I say more?

I love the journalistic voice of Krakauer's books. His research into true and unbelievable topics is always fascinating.  This one was no exception. My knowledge of American cults was limited to what I saw on TV. However, this book truly terrified me. I really had no idea the extensiveness of cult communities right in my own backyard. 

Jacoby's Restaurant & Mercantile | Austin, Texas

19 April 2016

Need I say more?

If brunching was an Olympic sport, I'd be a gold medalist. Well, maybe not gold but definitely silver. Brunch happens to be my favorite past time, and why shouldn't it be? Food + friends + alcohol before 11am? Yes to all of the above. 

Since I have spent a fair bit of time in Austin over the last couple of weeks I felt it was only right to find the perfect Austin Brunch spot. Thanks to Elle and her amazing new local knowledge, we found ourselves at Jacoby's Restaurant & Mercantile on a beautiful (but slightly cloudy) morning. 

First things first. Parking is complimentary. Which is HELLA amazing in a city like Austin. We were able to pull up easily and one of the attendants quickly came and took care of things from there. We were seated outside (most of the seating is outside) where we were greeted with an amazing view of the Colorado River. 

The menu is small, but every dish is handcrafted to perfection. I opted for the special, Lump Crab Benedict. Elle went for two sides, fried chicken and grits. My taste buds were in Southern comfort food heaven. Although neither of us went for a dish with beef, I was impressed to learn that all of their beef is bred, born, raised, and processed by the Jacoby family themselves.

After our plates were cleared and stomachs full, we strolled around the property. The back garden was lined with antique chairs over looking the river. Perfect for any happy hour meet up in my opinion. Edison lights decorated the entire restaurant, and tiny flower pots were settled on top of every flat surface. We even met the pet bunnies, Cinnamon and Sugar. 

Austin is no stranger to trendy and delicious places to eat. However, I found Jacboy's to be my favorite during my past few trips. The presentation did not overshadow the food, nor vice versa. They complimented each other in a way that is hard to find in todays society of trendy eateries.


A Little Trip to Austin Texas

13 April 2016

I've been in Austin, Texas quite a bit recently. Between work and visiting friends I spent the majority of this past week in the capitol of Texas. Austin and I have never been strangers. I have family in Austin and have spent countless weekends/holidays visiting. However, it has been YEARS since I really visited the city like a tourist. Enter What the Elle.

You remember Elle right? Fellow Texan who moved to Bristol and instantly became my bffl? Yeah, that girl. In case you missed it, we went on some pretty amazing adventures in England, which you can read about here and here and here. Well she's back in Texas and so our Texas adventures begin! As Elle lives in Austin now, the city was perfect for our first stateside escapade. 

We started the weekend with food, of course, followed by shopping, walking, and more eating. Austin is a city that oozes character. Around every corner is something exciting and weird. As the saying goes, the Austinites succeed at keeping Austin weird. 

How many shots does it take to get a not so awkward picture of me? Four apparently. 

There is so much to do in Austin especially when the sun is out! After walking up and down South Congress, we decided to explore Austin's beautiful green spaces. 

What is your favorite state capitol?