On The Bookshelf | 2016 Part IV

28 December 2016

Like last year, my one and only New Years Resolution for 2016 was book related. In 2015 I challenged myself to 50 books, to which I met with somewhat ease. I lowered the count to 40 this year, knowing full well that 50 would be way too many for my growing schedule. My life slowly got busier and busier, and reading no longer became a realistic priority. By the time I got home from work I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open for a page or two. I found this years reading challenge to be exceptional difficult, which is why I could only finish 34 out of my original 40 books goal. 

Other than time, my biggest problem this year was finding books that I actually wanted to read. I found myself in bookstores for hours this year, often walking out without purchasing anything at all. All the classics I wanted to read I read last year, and this year just didn't seem like a great year for books to begin with. I'm a little disappointed, however 34 books is still a pretty awesome accomplishment! So lets wrap up the last 2016 reading update with the final four books on my list!

Cities I've Never Lived In: Stories | Sara Majka
A series of stories of being alone, and getting to know others. This book left me confused and dazed. It was hard to figure out how each chapter related to the story as a whole. I felt I was jumping into a new plot with new characters every couple of pages. But throughout these misguided stories you develop a bond with the narrator that leaves you feeling like a friend.

The Bookshop on the Corner | Jenny Colgan
Nina is a young librarian who finds herself without a job. Determined to make something great out of her life, she sets out on a mission to create her own traveling bookstore. Humor, romance, and a love for books, this book was a cute read from start to finish. 

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House | Kate Anderson Bower
The most famous residence in the world can not run on its own. It takes a team of highly skilled and highly secretive people to keep the White House running smoothly. Not only are the staff there to serve, they are there to protect, to honor, and to care for the first family. I could not put this book down! I was devouring these first hand accounts of White House staffers. What they know and what they've seen not only makes me respect the few who get to work in the house, but also provides me with a more humanized version of the first families past and present. 

Scrappy Little Nobody | Anna Kendrick
I rarely read autobiographies. The last one I truly enjoyed was Amy Poehler's Yes, Please and that was years ago. I was dying to read Anna Kendrick's book for a few reasons, but the most important was because she has always been a celebrity I felt I could relate to. Scrappy Little Nobody is witty, weird, insightful, and even a little dirty. She's the kind of girl who likes to rebel, but is too scared to break any rules. She makes her career from stage to screen seem completely normal. I can respect any girl who locks herself in a hotel room after getting paranoid at a Twilight wrap party.

What were some of your favorite books of 2016??

Christmas on the Island | Galveston, Texas

21 December 2016

Oh, Christmas in Texas. Where do I even begin? The weather has been warm and muggy, making it nearly impossible to find anyone in the Christmas spirit. Christmas, it seemed, was going to come and go without anyone batting an eye!

That was until I got a wonderful email from my friends at the Galveston Visitors Bureau. Over the summer they invited me to spend a day at some of their best summer attractions. Galveston is a city I know very well but I was still surprised at all the things I hadn't seen! So for this holiday season I was eager to learn all about the Christmas happenings on the island.

I started my day off with a trip to Moody Mansion. Located just a few blocks down from another impressive mansion, Bishop's Palace, Moody Mansion has an entirely different story. 

The Moody name is a familiar one in Galveston. When William Lewis Moody moved his family to Galveston in 1866 he had no idea he would be starting a dynasty. The Moody's quickly became a prominent family in Galveston society, business, and trade. Today you can see remittences of the Moody name plastered across the city. Their family home is just a small reminder of how well off the family had become. One of the most beautiful homes on the island, Moody Mansion was bought by the Moody family in 1900, just months after the deadliest hurricane in United States history. From there, the Moody family help rebuild Galveston through many business endeavors. William Lewis Moody even bought the Hilton hotel chain at one point, helping Conrad Hilton get out of his finical troubles as a result of the Great Depression. 

That evening when the sun went down we headed across the island to Moody Gardens. Moody Gardens, named for the same family who made Galveston their home in the late 1800s, is an education center and tourist attraction. Seen on the Galveston skyline for miles, Moody Gardens is famous for it's 3 tall pyramids. Inside each pyramid you can find an aquarium, a rainforest, and a science exhibition. For Christmas however, Moody Gardens puts on a Festival of Lights that stretches all across the vast grounds. Similar to the Houston Zoo Lights, the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights is a self guided walking tour of lights and Christmas festivities. 

The idea of Christmas usually involves snow or any form of 'winter'. Here in Texas, we have to make do with what we have. Christmas on Galveston Island may not be the traditional sense of Christmas, but it's the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit when that cold weather is seriously lacking. 


Ruins, ATVs, and Underwater Caves | Adventuras Mayas

08 December 2016

I am an active adventurer. On any given trip I have this impulsive need to get out and do things. My family however is all for luxurious naps on the beach and pina coladas by the pool. While I can't complain about a relaxing vacation, I was thrilled when everyone agreed to a day of ruins, ATVs, and underwater caves!

We chose the tour Adventure Mayas. They conveniently picked us up at the hotel and guided us around our various activities. It was the perfect day full of the best to see in Playa del Carmen. I even broke out the GoPro for the trip! There are SO many things to do in Playa del Carmen and the surrounding areas. From history to active adventures, there is something for everyone. 

I apologize in advance if you get motion sick during my video. I promise I'm trying to get better at this GoPro-ing!

Bath & the English Southwest | A Weekend Travel Guide

01 December 2016

Beautiful, romantic, charming. A visit to Bath, England is as extraordinary as turning the first page of a Jane Austen novel. Settled into the rolling English countryside, Bath is frozen in a time more magical than our own.

Today, I want to share with you a quick guide for three action packed days in one of England's most magical places: Bath and the English Southwest. 

Grab breakfast and head to Paddington Station. From there, catch a train from London to Bath Spa (approx. 1 hour and 30 minutes). Bath is a city like no other. Take time to check into your lodging before heading into town for a little sightseeing!

Boston Tea Party may sound like a funny name for a café, but it is one of the most beloved restaurants in the Southwest! Grab lunch at the location on Alfred Street. While BTP has a spectacular lunch, their breakfast is what they are known for (and is served all day)!

A few blocks east is the Royal Crescent, a series of townhomes built in the mid to late 18th century. Most are still privately owned, however plaques commemorating notable individuals can be found outside some of these homes.

Use the rest of the afternoon to explore Bath. The city of Bath became a World Heritage Site in 1987, and rightly so. Its beautiful Georgian architecture mixed with ancient Roman infrastructure is breathtaking. If you want to spend the extra money, visit the Roman Baths or take a peek inside Bath Abbey. If you are looking for the best free way to see the city, take the hike up to Alexandra Park for the best views Bath has to offer.

Bath may be a touristy city, but the locals know a thing or two about hidden secrets. Tucked away on a quiet residential street you’ll find Woods Restaurant, a classic choice for the locals. After you've had a delicious meal, make sure to charge all cameras and grab a bottled water or two before tomorrow!


Morning & Afternoon
Rise and shine! Get ready for an amazing adventure through the Cotswolds! Grab quick pastry from one of the many cafes in the area and head to the Best Western Abbey Hotel to begin your Mad Max Tour! From there you’ll be transported to some of England’s most amazing places such as Castle Combe, Lacock Village, Avebury Stone Circle, and Stonehenge! This is an all day tour and includes a stop in Lacock so you can grab a delicious pub lunch. Don’t forget that the price of admission into Stonehenge, as well as the pub lunch, are NOT included in the tour cost.

Take the evening to relax. Grab a casual dinner from The Raven, a family owned pub with some exceptional pies (the meat kind). If you are into books, browse around Topping & Company Booksellers after your meal. Open late, this quaint bookshop is filled to the brim with classics you are bound to love. 

Hop on a train from Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads (approx. 15 minutes). Bristol may be a city you have only heard of in passing, but its rich history mixed with modern culture has made it a place like no other. Take the number 8 bus to Clifton for an awe-inspiring view of Bristol’s most famous landmark, the CliftonSuspension Bridge. Browse around CliftonVillage to get a sense of Bristol’s pride in local produce and products.

Cake for lunch? Well why not! Slowly begin walking downhill towards the City Centre and Park Street, passing the University of Bristol, this author's alma mater, along the way. Winston Churchill was the university's most famous chancellor! When you’ve reached the bottom of Park Street, pop into the Tea Birds for the most delicious, and most reasonably priced, afternoon tea in Bristol.

Just across the way are College Green and Bristol Cathedral. At almost 900 years old, Bristol Cathedral has been a staple on the Bristol skyline for centuries. Admission is free so spend some time learning about the Cathedral’s history.

Next stop is Bristol’s famous harbour! Walk through Millennium Square and take a Bristol Ferry to the ss Great Britain. The largest ship of its time, the ss Great Britain is a truly remarkable example of Victorian engineering. You can explore 3 decks, read all about the ship’s history, and (if you are brave enough) climb the rigging during the summer months! Tell the front desk staff I say hello; I was lucky enough to be a member of the crew for over a year!

Bristol is famous for its rolling hills. Take cross-harbour ferry directly to the other side and head back up Park Street. Make a left on Charlotte Street and walk until you reach the park called Brandon Hill. Grab a seat near Cabot Tower for a truly remarkable sunset. You may even spy a hot air balloon or two.

Evening | Late Night
After a day of exploring Bristol, enjoy the foodie scene and nightlife this city has to offer.

Have a delicious meal of tapas and wine at El Puerto near Queen’s Square.

For a pint or two afterwards, venture to King’s Street for an array of traditional pubs that date back to the 17th century:

- The King William Ale House for a pint and some conversation.
- The Llandoger Trow for some debatable literary history.
- The Old Duke for amazing blues, jazz, and a little bit of dancing.

Take a taxi, the 8 or 9 buses, or even walk back to Bristol Temple Meads. The last train to Bath Spa leaves just after 11pm.


You may have fallen in love with the sights, the culture, and maybe even the food. Alas, it is time to pack up and head back home! Garb a quick breakfast at The Cosy Club near Bath Spa station and catch a train back to London Paddington. Remember, the journey takes an hour and a half, so plan accordingly!

I hope you enjoyed this quick and easy guide! The English Southwest is one of my favorite places in the world and I was lucky enough to call it home for two years. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!