March; Looking Back and Ahead

Happy April!

A week or two ago, I decided to start a new monthly theme highlighting the favorite or important moments from the previous month, but also a few notable things that I’m looking forward to in the new month. It’s pretty basic, really and not anything particularly special, but I think it’d be a fun way to remember the little/big things that happen each month. So here we are, starting with March!

Take it back now, y’all:

  • Ed Sheeran’s released a new album and IT IS AMAZING!! I was admittedly a little thrown off when I first heard the album; I wasn’t really sure what I had expected from him, especially after the success of his second album a few years ago, but after giving it a good listen (shout out to my long commute to work and Seattle traffic for giving me time to listen to an entire album), I was blown away. Needless to say, it’s been on repeat all month and will be for a while. And I got tickets to his concert in July, so I’m pretty stoked about that!
  • My sister came all the way from New York to visit me for a week! It was so good having her here with me. I knew she would love it, because really what’s not to love. We didn’t get to do too many things since I had surgery and she was here to take care of me during my time of incapacitation, but it made me incredibly happy to have someone from my family finally come and see what it’s like out here.
  • Speaking of surgery, I had sinus surgery last Monday to remove nasal polyps and fix my deviated septum. I’ve had issues with allergies and my sinuses for years, but recently they got so bad I could barely breathe, especially at night when I would be kept awake just coughing all night. It also made doing regular things like going for a run or laughing too much a bit of a hassle. The running part I didn’t mind so much since it gave me an excuse to avoid going on a run with Dalton, but it was pretty embarrassing when I would start coughing if I laughed too much. But after this surgery, I’m hoping most of those issues I had will be gone. I’m still currently in recovery and will be for a few weeks, but I feel rather hopeful. It’s been a long struggle.
  • Dalton passed the first phase of Ranger School this month! He’s 1/3 through at this point, though we find out this week if he passed the 2nd phase or not. We can only communicate through letters during this time, so that’s been a bit of a struggle, and my emotions have been all over the place, to say the least, but I know whatever I’m feeling, he’s going through much worse. I seriously cannot wait for it to be over.
  • I gave up shopping and drinking for wine because those are my biggest vices and for the most part it hasn’t been too bad! I will admit I kind of regretted giving up drinking when I realized how much I missed Dalton, but then again it was probably in my best interest that I did give it up.¬†(wow I sound like I have all kinds of issues). I don’t need wine to cope, but it sure is nice to have a glass after a stressful week at work. I’m looking forward to Easter Sunday in a few weeks ūüėõ

Looking Ahead:

  • I honestly cannot believe I’m even writing this right now, but one thing I’m looking forward to is being able to start working out again after getting the okay from my doctor. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I couldn’t do it at all. Now I don’t want to make it seem like I work out everyday, because I definitely do not, but I do a few times a week. I’d also like to test out my new and improved sinuses and see if I can actually run now. That might be pushing it, but I’ll report back at the end of the month!
  • Tulip Season has arrived! I will hopefully be going to Skagit Valley to see the tulip fields. It’s apparently a big deal around here, so I’m looking forward to that.
  • If Dalton passes the next two phases, I’ll be going down to Georgia for his graduation. I can’t tell you how anxious and excited and nervous I am all at once. Here’s hoping and praying he passes; I miss him so much.
  • I recently purchased a pile of books that I put in a corner and promptly forgot about. I have a bit more time on my hands lately, so my hope for April is to at least finish two books. That might be expecting too much of myself, especially given my reading track record lately, but we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, that’s all for now! I’m excited for April and have a feeling it’s going to fly by. Hopefully it’s a good one.

Mari Goes To…Part II

Last time around, I wrote about my experience in London (recap here).¬†This post is super long so apologies for rambling in advance! Also, it’s been almost a month since I got back from this trip so there are some details missing a lot has happened since then and it was¬†actually really difficult to remember everything that happened although it was all amazing.

After 3 amazing days in London, we traveled to Paris via bus and ferry. It was a long drive, but it gave me plenty of time to catch up on some sleep. We arrived to Paris, and it was cloudy and rainy. That night, we made our way up the Eiffel Tower, (we took the elevator because it was raining and we were too lazy to walk) and despite the ridiculous fog, we were still able to see the city in all its stunning nighttime glory. It was really quite breath-taking. There was also champagne toasting at the top of the tower, so that was pretty sweet.

My hair however, suffered deeply. It started off straight when we got there…but ended up in a big poof at the end of the evening. You could literally see the progression of my hair in the pictures, as it just grew in frizziness. It was so embarrassing, but after a while, I really didn’t care. I was in Paris, a city I had dreamed of seeing for so long!

The next day we¬†started our exploration of the city at the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile. Going up those stairs was quite the journey and I felt like I was going to have an asthma attack once we got to the top, but again, the view was pretty amazing and made it worth it in the end. I guess the same can be said of any view really, but it kind of took me by surprise just how different Paris looked at night and during the day. I liked both views, but personally I think it was so much more exhilarating at night.

From there, we strolled through¬†Champs-Elysees and did some shopping, mostly window shopping though if we’re being honest here. We were on our way to Musee du Louvre and were taken completely by surprise by just how many gypsies¬†and scammers were around this area. Fortunately our tour guide had warned us about this, so we were able to avoid getting scammed, but they were¬†super pushy and annoying, which kind of took away from Paris’ charm. Also thanks to our tour guide, we knew of a secret entrance into the Louvre, so we were able to avoid waiting in long lines and went right in to the museum. That was pretty great.

As a part of our tour, we had a free tour of a French perfumery. I didn’t really care to go the perfumery, but figured what the heck it’s free, I might as well…and man, am I so glad I decided to go. The perfumery, Fragonard, was beyond what I imagined it would be. We got a brief history and tour of the perfumes, and were shown samples of each perfume available for purchase. I didn’t go to Paris with the intention of buying perfume, but somehow I ended up with enough perfume to last me the next 10 years and I have no regrets because I smell amazing all the time now.

That night, we¬†made our way back to our hotel, got dressed up and went out for dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge. I’d heard that the show wasn’t that great and that the whole thing wasn’t worth it, so I wasn’t expecting much but I¬†had¬†to go because hello, I was in Paris and Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies in the world, so of course I had to go. But anyway, despite what people had said about the show, I actually really enjoyed it. The performances were amazing, dinner was great, and the wine was so good, our table kept asking for more. I’m pretty sure the waiter was judging us, but whatever, we had a blast.

The next day, Thursday, we got back on the bus and drove up to the Palace of Versailles. I couldn’t believe how extravagant it all was! It was absolutely beautiful and I felt really lucky to be able to experience it firsthand after reading and studying so much about it.¬†However, I made the mistake of wearing a dress that day because I thought the weather would be nicer (and also because I had packed 5 dresses but didn’t have the chance to wear any except one the night of the Moulin Rouge and I refused to let those dresses go to waste), but it was¬†cold, rainy and super windy, so my legs were frozen and it was a flowy dress so I had to keep pulling it down to keep from flashing all the tourists in Versailles¬†(way to go, Mari), so that was fun. We did find a cute little crepe place though, so we were able to eat delicious crepes while we waited for the rest of our group. That made up for the cold rain.

The rest of the trip is kind of¬†a blur. On our last night together in Paris as a group, we had a Parisian dinner in Montmartre, and I tried snails for the first and last time. I only did it so that I could say I had snails while in Paris. Suffice to say it was a once in a lifetime thing and I won’t be eating snails again. I did try duck for the first time though, and I enjoyed it, so there’s that.

Some from our group left the next day, and saying goodbye to the people who had become like family in those 10 short days was a lot harder than I ever thought it would be. But alas, it was time to go our separate ways.

I stayed in Paris with a few other people for two more nights, and during those days, we went to the Catacombs (creepy as all heck but also pretty cool at the same time), I had lunch¬†with an old friend who interned at the magazine during my first year, and I bought 70 euros worth of chocolate from a chocolate boutique in Montmartre for everyone back home. I also bought a super cute pair of ankle booties that I’m totally in love with and want to wear with everything but I also don’t want to wear them because I don’t want to ruin them, it was that kind of purchase. We stopped at Laduree for macaroons, and man were those macaroons delicious! Oh and we had dinner at Angelina’s, a restaurant¬†known¬†for its hot chocolate. We waited in line for 20 minutes, and it was 8 euros for a cup of the famous hot chocolate, but you know, when in Rome and all. The hot chocolate was pretty good though, so it was worth it for a once in a lifetime thing.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Paris. It wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, maybe because I was expecting it to be more glitzy and glamorous and romantic, but it was a great experience. My favorite part about it was the architecture and history of the city. That was something I definitely appreciated quite a bit. I ended up shopping more than I thought I had planned but I like looking back at my purchases now and thinking, I bought that in Paris, how cool is that?!¬†I don’t have any plans to go back to Paris any time soon, maybe only for a day or two for some more shopping and macaroons.

London however, I hope to go back there soon. There’s a lot of history in England that I’m intrigued by and I would love to be able to explore the city and country even more.

I’m so grateful I was able to go on this trip. It¬†was quite the experience, and the memories will last me a lifetime. So will all those bottles of perfume ūüėČ

Sparkling Eiffel Tower!
Sparkling Eiffel Tower!
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Creepy faces at the Catacombs
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Palace of Versailles
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Macaroons for days!!
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I’ll never get over how big my hair got…so embarrassing
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Arc de Triomphe
I got a French manicure in Paris because of course!
I got a French manicure in Paris because of course!

Small Moments: Purchases

As noted here, I’ve been trying to get my budget under control. With this goal and my weekly budget restrictions in mind, I make sure everything that I buy now will be worth it. I research, compare, and if I need a little extra cash for it, I save some money from the week before to make up for it. All this prepping has helped me make two purchases within the last month that I am¬†really satisfied with.

1) John Frieda JF2 Salon Shine Hair Dryer

About a year ago, I stopped straightening¬†my hair with the wet flat iron and learned how to use a blow dryer. I’m still not a pro and have to turn to my trusty CHI flat iron the next day to do fix the frizz situation, but I was just using an old blow dryer I found in the bathroom cabinet. I also started getting lazy and going to a DryBar to get my hair done each week, and needless to say, this was not helping my budgeting efforts at all. After a few days of comparing and hesitating, I decided to purchase this blow dryer. I was leaning toward a more expensive, fancy blow dryer, but I’m so glad I didn’t go with one of those, as the reviews with this one and the fancy ones were pretty much the same. This blow dryer is not perfect, but even for a beginner like me, it works really well.

2) Naked2 Basics Eye Shadow Palette

My next favorite purchase was this eye shadow palette. I’ve wanted a Naked palette for a while now, but hesitated against buying it because of the price, and I really didn’t need another palette with multiple colors since I already have others that I don’t use enough as it is. However, this palette is¬†perfection.¬†I use it almost every day now. The colors are nice and neutral, yet can be used to make more dramatic, smoky looks, making it the perfect combination for traveling. With all the traveling I’ve done and will be doing in the future, it doesn’t get any better than that. It is beautiful, and I am totally in love with it.

The best thing about these purchases though: they were both less than $30. It may seem trivial, but making purchases that I feel so good about such as these give me a sense of accomplishment, and remind me that I don’t have to spend $100+ on something just for it to be good quality. Good things come in small packages (or in this case, prices), too! So these are my small moments for this week. I know I’ll have both of these purchases for a while and will get the most out of them both, so that makes it all the better.

Small Moments: Traveling

November¬†is the month when every one starts preparing for Thanksgiving and thinking about all the things they’re grateful for (naturally). As I was sitting in the train earlier this week, I realized that I have a lot to be thankful for, and decided that the best way to acknowledge that appreciation would be to write it down. So with that in mind, I will be¬†writing a new series each week called¬†Small Moments,¬†which will highlight certain things I appreciate from that week.

For my first post, I am grateful for the opportunities my job offers me to travel. I spent the last two weekends traveling to Dallas, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee. It was my first time visiting both states, but I had a great time. One of the things I mostly wanted to do while I was in each state was eat BBQ, and compare the ribs. The verdict: while I liked the ribs in Texas, the ribs in Memphis were¬†amazing.¬†Like I’m still thinking about those ribs a week later. And the biscuits and gravy. Man, I had that for breakfast every day while I was there. It was so good..and now I’m hungry.

It was also nice to see how different people down south are, especially in Memphis. I honestly felt like a super important person because everyone at the hotel and at restaurants were so polite. As a bonus, the Mississippi River was right across from my hotel, so that was cool, too! I guess you could say that while I enjoyed Dallas, Memphis was my favorite city to visit out of the two. You can find some pictures of my trips here on Instagram!

I feel very fortunate that I can travel for work. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of being able to do, and now I’m doing it! Next week I’m going to Michigan, but that’s on a personal trip. It’s not every day your oldest niece turns 5! ūüôā