Friday, December 12, 2014

Plug and Feather Watches

I'm always excited when I get an inside scoop on a new product and when it's still in the making it's even better!  Recently I was contacted by Plug and Feather about their new Kickstarter campaign to help fund their own factory.  If you don't know, Kickstarter is a wonderful website that helps people crowdfund their projects.  Currently, Plug and Feather are running their Kickstarter until January 2nd to get their watches onto the market.
The handmade watches are truly incredible, made with gorgeous stones set into the face of each watch.  Don't let their beauty fool you, these faces are quite rugged; the face "resists compression (crushing), tension (pulling apart) and torsion (bending)".   Seriously though, these are works of art you can wear all day.

My personal favorite is the Carnelian face.
The best part is, you can share this with your friends!  It's petty, but sometimes I don't like sharing new fashions I find because I don't want people looking exactly like me.  Plug and Feather totally avoids this. "In fact, every watch face has been milled from a different sliver of stone giving it a set of marbling and coloring that is entirely unique to that very piece. No two watches are exactly the same."
Crazy right?
They also come with leather bands (totally my preference)

Impressed?  I certainly was!  Hop over to their website and their Kickstarter.  Seriously, the watches are only $99 through the Kickstarter (much less than that Michael Kors one I know you've been eyeing.)  
While the watches won't ship until ~April, they would make fantastic Christmas presents, and what better Christmas present to the guys over at Plug and Feather than helping them make their company a reality.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Theory of Everything

Whew, glad to be done with the semester!  Finishing up a ton of projects kept me quite occupied, but I'm back!
The holiday season is my absolute favorite time of year.  If I had my way, there would be lights and tress and Christmas music all year round.  I won't bore you with what I've been up to lately (it's been kind of busy), but I will tell you I did take time to go see a movie with Doug over Thanksgiving.  I don't actually go see movies in theaters often; maybe once or twice a year, but this was totally worth the $12.  I'd been looking forward to seeing "The Theory of Everything"  since I saw the trailer over the summer.

Even that trailer made me cry, so I knew I had to see it.  Besides, I absolutely loved Eddie Redmayne in Les Miserables, so I was excited to see him play Stephen Hawking.  Before the film released I read up a lot on the production and how the actors felt about it (yes, I am that big a nerd).
Eddie Redmayne met Prof. Hawking a couple of times, studied what muscles went when and how he talked before he lost his voice (this interview from Buzzfeed is amazing).
The thing that stood out to me though, was that Stephen Hawking's voice is copyrighted, and the producers actually couldn't use his exact voice in the film.  However, when Prof. Hawking saw the film and all the work that had been done, he decided it was good enough that he would let them use his voice.  This was amazing to me and I knew that if Stephen Hawking would let them use his voice, it must be an amazing film.

I was not disappointed.

"The Theory of Everything" did a remarkable job portraying the life of one of the world's greatest minds before, during, and after the onset of his ALS.  The emotional challenges Jane and Stephen faced building their family and living their lives with and in spite of ALS was incredible.  I won't spoil the film, you really should see it, but it has opened my eyes to what we are capable as humans.

The film isn't playing in a ton of theaters, but if you have the chance you should really go see it, it is definitely worth it, and bring some tissues because you will go on an emotional rollercoaster.
"There should be no boundaries to human endeavor.  However bad life may seem, while there is life, there is hope." -Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NEW STORE! Bottom of the Top is on Etsy

Told you I've been up to big things!  Today is the official launch of my Etsy store
As I've mentioned a few times, I'm really into crocheting.  Like, I spend an obscene amount of time crocheting.  I now have more afghan blankets than I can deal with, so it is my pleasure to sell them to you!
Each blanket will sell for around $30 with custom orders at $50.  These sales help keep Bottom of the Top in business and allow me to continue doing what I love.
Be prepared for various Bottom of the Top merch, as well as things I'm crafting in my spare time.
This fun blanket is for sale right now!

Meanwhile, stay tuned because I have one more trick up my sleeve I'm working on!
Stay lovely ;)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reach for the Stars

Recently my brother and I had an amazing opportunity to go to the MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium.  Basically that's a long way to say the Aero Astro department turned 100 so they threw a nerd party.  John really wants to go into aero-astro, so I got him a ticket for his birthday.
It really was an amazing day, starting early in the morning learning about current research at the institute, moving on to a Q&A panel with alums in the NASA astronaut core, culminating in a Q&A with Elon Musk (founder and CEO of SpaceX).
Not gonna lie, we nearly pooped ourselves when we got the tickets (both of us are huge nerds if you can't tell)

I'll start with what we were most excited about; the Elon Musk talk.  Well, it was underwhelming.  I mean, the man is brilliant.  He knows A LOT about rocketry and how to grow a business.  However, dude has such a one track mind.  If you weren't asking about colonizing Mars then he did not want to talk about it.  Also, he didn't seem so much interested in colonizing Mars as much as sending people there and making sure the rocket makes it back to Earth.  I'm not kidding.  He literally said "well the people can hop off on Mars, that's their choice.  I just want my rocket back; it's expensive."
So yeah.  That was Elon....
The most amazing part was the astronaut panel.  I sat in awe of the ten alumni who have literally become heros.  Seriously, what kid didn't want to be an astronaut when they were little, and what adult doesn't still look up to them?

On top of that, I felt incredibly proud of my school.  On that stage was only a third of the astronauts that MIT has produced with Buzz Aldrin among them.  How crazy is that?!
On top of all of that, John and I actually got to meet Cady Coleman!

Cady Coleman is an MIT Chemistry alum, and has been with NASA since 1992 and has logged over 160 days in space including being part of Expeditions 26/27 to the International Space Station.  It was truly awe inspiring and inspirational to speak with her.
The thing that completely floored me was how down to Earth (no pun intended) she was.  I was stuttering and blushing just to be able to say hi to her, and when I told her she was a hero to me, she said something that really made my week.
She told me to be proud of myself and my own accomplishments.  This really struck me and I've thought about it every day since.  An astronaut told me that I do things worth being proud of!  She was right.  Everyday we do little things that advance ourselves and bring us closer to who we grow to be.  There are no goals that are simply end point, otherwise life would either be incredibly short or incredibly empty.  All of the sudden I felt like I could look to Cady as a peer and our time at MIT gave us a common accomplishment. 
Seeing life as a series of accomplishments has allowed me to remain more positive and aspire to be someone with unique goals.  It's hard to describe, but I've felt somewhat renewed by Cady's words.
I'm still a little star-struck by the fact that I actually met an astronaut and saw one of the leading technological businessmen of our time.  Really an amazing weekend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What's in My Backpack?

Personally, I love when people do these kinds of posts.  I'm kind of a stalker at heart so I love to see what other people are carrying with them.  Also, you never knock what you need until someone else shows you haha
My backpack is kind of like Mary Poppins' bag.  Well that's what I prefer to say.  Doug prefers to say that I'm a garbage hoarder.  So I cleaned out all the candy wrappers and old receipts, and I'd like to show you what I schlep around everyday.

These are the necessities. I never go to class without these in my bag (along with my class notes)
Tide Stick: I'm kind of messy (ok, really messy) so this is definitely a must for me everywhere I go.  Especially now that I have white pants. 
Pens, pencils, highlighter, eraser: Kind of obvious, but I have a set of these that never leave my backpack so that I never forget them.  The big eraser is a huge must, especially for exams.  You'll be surprised how many mistakes you can make in a day.
Planner: Ok so I'm old school.  I really like actually writing things down, including meetings, due dates and even just little notes to myself.  This Lilly Pulitzer planner is really a lifesaver.
Chapstick, hand lotion, and hand sanitizer:  These are the types of things that when you need them, you need them.  I actually keep like 3 sticks of Burts Bees in my bag because I use it ALL THE TiME.
Granola Bar: I get hangry on a dime.  This is on my person always.  You never want to see me hangry.
Mini Emergency Kit and Contacts Case:  Surprise! The little pink elephant is actually a contact lens case with a little bottle of lens solution in it.  It's really nice for days you know you'll be on campus forever.  Sometimes I don't get home until 11pm, so being able to take out my contacts is really nice.  I also made my own little minimergency kit.  It's filled with little necessities.  I'll post more on that later.
Wallet:  Self explanatory.  Always keep money and an ID on your person.  You never know what the day will bring.
Headphones:  Sometimes tuning out the world is nice.  It's really good to be able to just sit and listen to whatever song is stuck in your head.

What do you keep?  Want to stalk me more?  Let me know :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My 101 in 1001 Checkup

It's almost been a year since I originally listed my 101 goals for 1001 days.  Now making a list s one thing, but actually following it is another.  This is my sad attempt to check up on myself and see my progress.  If you haven't made one of these I highly recommend it.  It's an amazing way to see what you want from your life long term.
2. Get a dog
3. Drink a craft beer from each of the 50 states (track my progress here)
4. Graduate ChemE
5. Run a 5k (4/19/14)
6. Pay for an entire vacation myself (08/14)
7. Throw a party that doesn't include canned beer or cheap liquor
8.  Only order GrubHub once a semester (1/3)
9. Finish one crochet blanket a semester (1/3)
10. Throw a porcelain dish or raw egg against a wall (I've wanted to do this since I was a kid)
11.  Get hair and makeup professionally done (didn't even do this for prom)
12. Finish Dante's Divine Comedy
13. Visit Smalley cousins (09/14)
14. Visit France and use my minor
15. Get blog business cards (08/14)
16. Watch the sunrise at Boston Harbor before I move
17.  Save more paycheck money than I spend in a year
18. Finish MIT without losing my ID card again
19. Buy a pair of Louboutin's
20. Only watch 2 TV shows at a time (right now 2 Broke Girls and Once Upon a Time)
21. Watch all Harry Potter or LotR movies in one sitting with Anna
22. Learn to drive stick shift
23. Go to fancy brunch with my MIT friends
24. Dance with a stranger (real dance, not grinding.  I want Disney style)
25. Shoot a 25 in Skeet
26. Beat dad at sporting clays
27. Eat breakfast every day for a school week (0/5)
28. Have no underwear/ socks with holes in them
29. Do not buy stupid stuff for a month
30. Buy Girl Scout cookies and give them to someone as a surprise when they seem sad
31. Finish mom's picture frame thing above the piano
32. Get a real job (not funded by a university)
33. Don't complain about ChemE for an entire week (0/7)
34. Stop making fun of courses 7, 8 flex, 9, 15, and 21GS when stressed
35.  Only watch a movie at most once a day
36. Post a YouTube video once a month (0/35) This failed hard
37. Buy someone a drink
38. Get grownup furniture
39. Make a cookbook of all Gramma's and Habibi's recipes
40. Understand how to pay taxes/ do I need to pay taxes?
41. Completely reorganize my room and keep it that way
42. Visit Anna for a long weekend at her school
43. Eat a meal at a restaurant entirely based on the server's suggestions
44. Go on a brewery tour (06/14)45. Go to New Orleans (06/14)
46. Get CPR certified
47. Set off real fireworks
48.  Visit Habibi and Jidu alone
49.  Take John to a Chili Peppers concert
50. Do something willingly that freaks me out
51. Sign a lease/ buy a house with Doug
52.  Go salsa dancing (i know how!)
53. Get a massage with mom
54. Write a blog post for each thing on the list (0/101)
55. Finish a game of Monopoly without making John cry (Anna can make him cry)
56. Watch all of AFI's 100 movies for 100 years (38/100 Track my progress here!)
57. Take Mackenzie to Maine
58. Wake up early enough to do my makeup AND comb my hair
59.  Drink an appropriate amount of water every day for a week (and not all at the end of the day when I realise I forgot to drink water) (7/7)
60. Get a tattoo after my last ChemE class
61. Save all my change and at the end of the 1001 days buy something in coins
62. Win Bar trivia
63. Drive 30 minutes without swearing at other drivers out loud (1/17/14)
64. Make better Arabic food (even though it's better than mom's)
65. Go to a party where I can wear a long gown
66. Tell a lie to a child that they won't find out isn't true until they're older (my dad did this to me all the time) (has to be funny)
67. Assume a fake identity for a night and tell everyone my "life story"
68. Get Bottom of the Top sponsored
69. tee hee
70. Do all of my PSets for one class
71. Go through finals without eating Biscoff or Nutella
72. Learn to ice skate
73. Learn how to sail
74. Do one pullup
75. Clean off desk enough to put fresh flowers on it
76. Fix a computer problem without Doug's help
77. Get engaged
78.  Write a handwritten note to Anna once a month (0/35)
79. Schedule a dentist appointment by myself
80. Plan a wedding
81. Be Amish for a day (no electronics)
82. Reconnect with someone from high school
83. Get married
84. Do Santa-Con
85. Go to a live comedy show
86. See a live Jack Russel race
87. Buy a piece of real art and hang it up
88. Ride a horse
89.  See B. B. King
90. Run a blog giveaway
91. Do a McDonalds crawl on Rt90 from Boston to Syracuse
92. Pee off the Mass Ave bridge
93. Get my own shotgun
94.  Get fitted for a bra and tame the beasts (1-26-14)
95. Clean out my old room at my parents' house
96. Make moonshine (that won't make me blind)
97. Go for a ride along on a drug bust
98. Go to Rocky Horror Picture Show in full costume
99. Go camping (not at a music festival)
100. See the pandas at the National Zoo
101. Do a photo scavenger hunt in Boston

I think I'm doing pretty well for having 3 years to get this done!  How about you?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Take a Sick Day

Let's face it, sometimes your day just sucks and you have to say screw it and stay home.  I got hit with a monster cold this week and after a few days of pushing through it I stopped and asked myself "why they hell am I making myself so miserable?"  The answer was "for no good reason" and I decided to take a break and stay in bed all day today.  I must have needed it because I slept until 4pm!
So while I was originally deciding to do a "what's in my bag?" post, that clearly never happened.  So here are some of my essentials to getting through the plague.

Warm Throw Blanket:  Heat is your best friend when you're sick.  While you may be sweating, be sure to keep bundled!  Your body heats up to basically cook the virus out of your system, so keeping warm will speed this.

Lemon Tea:   As with the blanket, warm tea will help heat you up.  It also has an added bonus of soothing a sore throat.  My go to is Bigelow's I Love Lemon tea with 100% of your Vit. C.  2 Cups of this a day and you'll be better in no time!

Moisturizer:  Your skin really takes a beating when you're sick.  Wiping your nose all day can do a number on the area around it.  In addition to that, just being sick can alter your skins oil content.  Take care of it with my favourite, Burts Bees Moisturizer

Strong Meds:  While I hate to be the one pushing drugs (ok maybe not :P) this stuff is amazing.  Sudafed 12 Hour with Pain and Pressure relief is the real deal.  You have to get it behind the counter (but you don't need a script, they just want to check if you're cooking meth), so I normally keep it on hand because who wants to go out when they're sick?  They have a decent amount of naproxen, which is like ibuprofen, so it keeps your fever down and relieves your sinuses.  Only downside is that for your sinuses to feel better, the mucus has to go somewhere (read: out your nose) so be ready with tissues!

These have been helping me and I hope they help you!  Let's get through fall with no more diseases!

Friday, September 26, 2014

You're never alone

This has been a hard week for the MIT community.  Two days ago one of my neighbors died in her room and it seemed like MIT came to a standstill.  I didn't know her at all, but I could sense how the institute was tipped on its head.
I'm not writing to break news or tell you about it, I just want to address the topic for students everywhere that you are never alone.
There's a strange stigma attached to be sad and being depressed.  It's isolating and the feeling that you're a freak for you emotions can drive you further into your own mind.  The first leap to telling someone how you feel is terrifying, especially for students, and even more so for "elite" students.  Here I think people are so used to being "perfect" that any deviation from perfection is terrifying.
We are human.
Guys, we're a squishy sack of chemicals.  We make mistakes, we mess up and sometimes our chemicals get out of whack.  
This is when you need help.  It's not your fault; you're not crazy, you're sick.  It's no more your fault than getting the flu.
I don't even hide the fact here that I get super stressed out.  I used hide it and it was the worst thing I ever did to myself.  The feelings feed themselves and you retract deeper and deeper into yourself until every day is miserable.  I let my illness compound and never got help.  Like avoiding the doctor when you have strep, it only makes it worse.
Seek your friends, seek your family, go for a walk or hug someone.
If you tell people about your anxieties you'll be surprised to find that the vast majority of people feel like you do, especially in academia.
So please, reach out to people, especially in times of sadness like these.  You can even anonymously message me; I've been in dark places and I know how it feels.
 Just know that you are never alone. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

West Point

If you've never been near the West Point Military Academy, I feel bad for you.
Back when I was on my high school's science team we used to have competitions on their campus and let me say I have never seen a more beautiful place.  Normally the campus is completely closed off to civilians (it's a functioning military base) so once I graduated I said a teary goodbye to one of my favourite places in the country.
Two weeks ago I was incredibly privileged to go back for an Army football game.  My cousin recently married a West Point grad, and since I wasn't able to make the wedding I jumped at the chance to meet my new cousin and their daughter, as well as go back to West Point.

It. was. a. blast!
First off I went straight to the statue of Eisenhower to recreate some pictures:
Doug and me in high school

My little cousin Emma and me
I'm a huge sucker for doing the same picture with different people.  To me it's the best kind of tradition.
My new cousin gave me a tour of campus and I even got to see some obstacle courses (sorry no pictures!)  We hung around all day for parades

a football game

and some quality cousin bonding time
Edward and Megan are selfie pros
New cider buddy!
This little girl loves her selfies
I think Emma may grow up to be me.  She is a Let It Go singing selfie taking Iron Man fan that does not stop talking.  Somehow she'd sucker me into carrying her on my back with a sunburn and she'd sit on my lap while we ate.  I have to update my resume with new certifications because apparently I'm like the pink power ranger because I "have brown hair and am awesome"!
This really meant a lot to me because I'm 16 years older than Emma, and Megan is 16 years older than I am.  Growing up with an older cousin was awesome!  She would take me to movies, buy me candy and make grown up jokes in front of me.  Whenever I hung out with Megan and her sisters, I felt like the coolest person in the world.  I can't wait to take Emma out, buy her dinner and candy, tell her dirty jokes and make fun of our parents like I used to with Megan.  If I can be even a fraction as cool to Emma as Megan was to me I would be so, so happy.  This little girl really touched my heart in a way only your family can.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The rest of my trip

As promised, I won't ramble about the rest of my trip.  Here are some pictures so you don't have to try to facebook stalk me for them ;)

Shakespeare's house in Stratford-Upon-Avon


Lake Windermere in the Lake District

Wild Swans at Lake Windermere

View from Edinburgh Castle

Oldest Building in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Dreams can come true

outside Edinburgh

Made a trip to the holy land ;P

Learned how to properly pour Guinness

My masterpiece

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

WWII Bunker under Cardiff Castle

Library in Cardiff Castle


Royal Guard at Windsor

So I tried to pick and choose a "best of" so you guys are bombarded with my pictures, but I hope you enjoyed them!  I had an immense amount of fun and I can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Own Vacation

So I went on and on about planning my trip and never actually said what I did.
Well, everything.
Doug and I spent 2 weeks in the UK and only stayed one night in each city with the exceptions of London, Edinburgh, and Dublin.  It. was. exhausting.  I'm never doing a 2 week vacation ever again.  From now on 1 week max.  I got homesick and tired which was miserable.  Additionally since we weren't really stopping, we never took a day to just relax and sleep in.  It was always go go go go on to the next sight and next city.
But it was amazing.
We started in London and the first day after our overnight flight we decided not to sleep, but just push through the day.
I had been up over 24hrs at this point
Being exhausted, we tried to only do things that required walking, which did work out.  We went to Buckingham Palace and then walked over to Big Ben and Parliament.
Big Ben is gorgeous, just absolutely amazing.  Picture never do it justice and I could have stared at the clock tower all day.

We hurried to our hotel, which was in South Harrow (aka the hood) and immediately fell asleep.  We woke up bright and earlier and headed straight to the Tower of London.  We took a tour of the tower and saw the Crown Jewels, which was really neat.  However waiting in lines at the Tower took FOREVER and ate up most of our day.  Since it was too late to do any other tours, we walked along the Thames and saw the outside of the Globe Theatre.
It was a nice day and we had fun walking and joking while we saw some sights from the outside.
This is not London Bridge
By the end of the day we were completely exhausted again, so we went to sleep fairly early.  The next day we dedicated to the British Museum and Westminster Abbey.  This was by far our favourite day in London.  If you'd like to see most of the world's treasures, you only need to go to London.  I nicknamed the museum the "how Britain ransacked their colonies and some others" museum.  I almost cried when I actually got to see the Rosetta Stone in real life, it really was that amazing.  We walked through the other exhibits and took some time to sit near the Elgin Marbles (aka things the Brits stole from Greece.)
It was truly awe inspiring.  I've always been a fan of Greek art (I studied Classics for 5 years), but I'm always blown away by its beauty.  I think we spent almost an hour just looking at the sculptures.
By the time we were both satisfied with the museum, we had just enough time to run over to Westminster Abbey and make the last tour of the day.  I was so glad we made it because Westminster Abbey is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  Unfortunately I don't have an pictures because they don't let you take them inside, but trust me, definitely worth the visit and the little bit extra for the tour.  The tour takes you into some of the back parts of the Abbey and you can see some really beautiful tombs.
That's the coolest part, the tombs.  It sounds weird, but it was really neat to see the number, variety and notoriety of the people interred there.  You'd be walking and the guide would be like, "oh yeah, 5 paces ago you just walked over Winston Churchill" or Isaac Newton, or Laurence Olivier.  It was wild.  Doug and I were beside ourselves being at the resting place of so many great individuals.  After the tour we wandered around a bit ourselves and just stood in awe at the people who had the honor of being interred in the Abbey.  It was really quite incredible and I highly recommend you go if you have the chance.

Ok I realize I may have bored you, so I'll cut this one off.  The plan is another full post on our time in Edinburgh, then pictures from the trip.

Look forward to telling you more!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Getting a schedule

I feel like I've finally settled back into MIT, which is good and I can finally relax.  Surprisingly my classes haven't been bothering me.  Being a senior you'd think I'd be even more stressed out but I'm not.  For the first time in three years, I feel prepared.  I feel prepared for my classes, prepared to find a job, and prepared to graduate.  This new feeling of readiness has inspired a new level of confidence in me which I'm definitely tapping into.
I've begun to go on trips, stay out with friends, and just generally enjoy my time here in Boston.  This does have some downsides, the one being that with all my new found time I've actually been struggling to get into a routine.  After a few weeks though I think I'm settling down.
Which brings me to Bottom of the Top's new schedule!  I'll be writing more posts and scheduling them for Tuesdays and Thursdays and I promise I'll keep them going.
I realize I still haven't finished talking about my trip, and I've actually gone on a couple more since the semester started.
Overall though, being a senior is wonderful.  I finally have time to leave campus (which I do pretty much every weekend now) and I actually go to bed late!  It's so exciting to not be a grandma and go to sleep at 10pm every night (it's way past my bedtime as I write this at 11pm).
I have a good feeling about the things to come.  This semester is starting off well and I can't wait to see what's coming.

Friday, September 5, 2014

TED Talks: Never Stop Learning

Every morning I get up kind of early for a college student, a full 2 hours before I have class.  I love mornings and time to myself.  A new thing I've been doing is every morning I watch a TED Talk.  They're really fascinating for me and the people they invite are incredible at what they do.  I've also recently decided that with graduation just around the corner, I'm not going to stop learning when I leave school.  
In fact, leaving school is a great opportunity to learn more beyond the realm of ChemE.  TED Talks are a great platform to dive into other topics of study that you wouldn't normally even know existed.  But even TED Talks can be a little daunting to get into if you start by looking at the thousands of videos on their Youtube page.
Well I like TED videos so much, I've decided to do the work for you!  I'm doing the work of finding the cool talks, the ones that are so applicable or really out there.
Visit my TED Playlist to check out what I've been watching lately!  Hopefully it'll inspire you to get into them as well.
Here are a couple of my recent favorites:

How Body Language Affects Us

Are Athletes Getting Better Over Time?

I can't wait to hear what you think!  Share your favorites with me as well

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Planning my first vacation

Like I said yesterday, to celebrate our last summer with no responsibilities Doug and I took a vacation to the UK and Ireland.  It was really exciting for me because I never got to travel as a kid.  I also paid for the entirety of it with my own money, which was a really satisfying feeling.  Not to mention it was on my 101 in 1001.
Planning this was kind of stressful, because we didn't have a plan.  I'm one of those people who needs to plan everything to the detail in order to move ahead with something, but for this we decided to just wing it.  We flew into London on August 10, and out of London August 24.  Between those days we had nearly no plans. 
Right now I'll give you the lowdown on how we structured our trip.

Before we left: We did plan a few things, just to make sure our trip went smoothly.  We bought a guide book for every area we visited, so one for the UK and one for Ireland.  These were probably the best thing we did.  We went with guides by the Lonely Planet (Doug had had luck with them before).  They were awesome!  They had tear out maps of the major cities, great suggestions on tourist activities and all of the prices and hours of operation listed.  We carried them around with us during the day and they were priceless.  I can't see traveling without them now.
Worth it's weight in gold

We also got BritRail passes.  This is essential to order ahead of time, because you can only have them shipped to a non-UK address.  As a non-resident, you can get a unlimited ride 15-day pass for around $500.  It sounds like a lot, but it's well worth it if you'll be traveling every day.  We did about 1 city per day, so we definitely got our money's worth on this.  It's also nice to not worry about buying tickets and making your train on time (we had a few close calls).  The rail system in the UK is wonderful.  The trains covered by the pass really go everywhere and they are so comfortable and convenient (It only takes 6 hours to get from London to Edinburgh).  If you're in the country for more than a weekend, definitely think about the pass.  The national rail also has an app so you can plan your trip and see when the next train is arriving.

The last thing we did before we left was get plane tickets.  After tracking the prices for months (literally months. crazy right?) they dipped below our budget cap in March.  The best way we could think to get the tickets was to set a bar for what we were willing to pay (for us it was $850 each) and then as soon as it hits that, just buy it.  After a but of research we found that usually trans-atlantic flights are cheapest around 6 months ahead of time.  Kayak actually has a nifty setting where you can put in a price alert for a max price and when it goes below that, they tell you.  We ordered our tickets directly from Aer Lingus, but it was nice to have Kayak help us.

Believe it or not, that's all we did before we left.  It drove me nuts, but it's true!  Look at me being all spontaneous, like a crazy person.

Ok this post got long, I'll put deets on my time in the UK in the next post.  Cheers!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back in Black (ok not really)

It is so good to be home!  I realized I was being a huge flake this summer and decided to stop kidding myself with the blog and just take a break.  It was beginning to feel like a chore and I didn't have much to write about.  That's all in the past baby and I'm back for the year!
What a summer what a summer...  I was an RA in my non-air conditioned dorm (but hey, free living!)  It wasn't that bad, but I was pretty much just working in my lab all day and sitting and sweating all night.
Me in lab
Then I was actually out of the country for a while!  It's really exciting for me because when I was a kid we didn't have much spare cash to take 3 kids on vacation and board a dog for a week.  To celebrate our last free summer, Doug and I decided to go to the United Kingdom for 2 weeks.  It was quite the whirlwind.  As you can imagine though, not too much time with access to the internet for blogging.
I'm back from the land of tea and scones
I swear though, if I ever see a meat pie and potatoes again it'll be too soon.  We ate in pubs every night for 2 straight weeks.  I'll tell you more about that tomorrow though.  I really want to do justice to my trip in a longer post. 

So yeah, for those of you still hanging around my site, thanks for the patience!  I'm back for the foreseeable future, so get ready!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pip pip cheerio tea time!

Whaaaat?  In case you can't tell from the crazy stereotype title, I'm off to London in a few days!  With uncertain futures and a lifetime of savings to blow, we decided to take the plunge and go on vacation.  I've always wanted to travel since we didn't much when I was growing up.  We figured, why not start with our cousins across the pond?  We'll be off on Sunday and I'm not sure what my blogging situation will be so bear with me.
I'll be sure to post lots of pictures on my Facebook and Instagram so keep up with our trip there!
I'm sorry the posts have been sporadic, I'm in the middle of moving (again!) and actually had some drama with being in a car accident (I'm ok).  So between all that it's been hard to motivate myself to write posts.
For now enjoy this picture of my baby Chippy, and look forward to more from me soon!
"Hey girl?  Can I have a treat?"