3 Summer Mocktails (or cocktails) for Each Time of Day

Lemon Berry Dreamsicle (Image Credit: Brailey Lisath)

Lemon Berry Dreamsicle (Image Credit: Brailey Lisath)

There is a lot to love about summer. The sun is finally out, you can enjoy an array of outdoor activities, and it’s the season for vacations. However, one of my favorite things about summer is that it’s also the season to get fancy with your drinks. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love a nice morning, afternoon AND evening pick-me-up? Here are three mocktails (or cocktails if you’re a bit more adventurous like me) to try this summer, and the time of day they are best received.
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Celebrity Instagram Accounts: Pet Edition 2

Whether people like to admit it or not, everyone is a little obsessed with a celebrity or two. But what could be better than famous people’s famous pets? Whether it’s the Obama’s dogs or Justin Bieber’s monkey, pets usually make the news. So here’s a peek at the pets you may not have seen yet.

Bella Thorne’s cat Lola

Ariana Grande’s dog Sirius Black

Miley Cyrus’ pig Bubba Sue

Taylor Swift’s cat Olivia

Cara Delevingne’s bunny Cecil

 

Were those not the cutest pets you’ve seen today? Sometimes I follow celebrities strictly to see their pets. So go follow them today to make your day a little brighter!

Italian Drunken Noodles (Image Credit: The Cozy Apron)

Italian Drunken Noodles Recipe by The Cozy Apron

Italian Drunken Noodles (Image Credit: The Cozy Apron)

Italian Drunken Noodles (Image Credit: The Cozy Apron)

If you have never tried Thai Pad Kee Mao, better known in the United States as “Drunken Noodles,” you have no idea what you have been missing. I’ve taken trains and subways, walked in the rain, and as a poor college student, scoured for loose change in my room to be able to pay just to get my hands on this dish. To say I like this spicy Thai chili and basil noodle dish, is a very large understatement and sitting here writing this article is making my contemplate scrapping what I’m doing to drive two towns over to get some Drunken Noodles right now. So when I saw Cozy Apron had an Italian Drunken Noodle Recipe, I had to check it out.

 

I admit, the idea of an Italian version of this very Thai dish had me a little skeptical at first, but even more curious. I love Italian food, but I wasn’t sure how it would translate to the Drunken Noodle experience. But after checking out the recipe, it really makes sense. The biggest switch up to the dish is the use of tomato based sauce in place of soy and fish sauce, but otherwise it’s a very similar Drunken Noodle experience. The Spicy Italian Sausage replaces the kick of Thai Chilis, and although it’s a different type of basil used here, it along with the use of the very same Thai noodles adds familiarity to the dish.
If you would like to mambo italiano your way into some Drunken Noodle, check out the Full Recipe over at Cozy Apron!

DIY Crepe Paper Flowers by Let’s Do Something Crafty

DIY Crepe Paper Flowers (Image Credit: Let's Do Something Crafty)

DIY Crepe Paper Flowers (Image Credit: Let’s Do Something Crafty)

Spring is in full bloom, but for those of us with allergies it can be hard to enjoy the beauty of flowers when it means sneezing, wheezing and itchy eyes are an added bonus. But rejoice, my flora deprived friends, we found a DIY that will let you add a touch of color to your home with some stems that won’t have you reaching for the tissues… but will have you reaching for the crepe paper!

Let’s Do Something Crafty has come up with an simple way to make your own bouquet of DIY Crepe Paper Flowers and it’s so easy that even the most Pinterest-failed among us can pull and poof it off! It’s also extremely inexpensive, requiring very few materials with the most important being crepe paper, and who doesn’t have an extra roll laying around from a party to practice with before committing to the DIY? So bring the colors of Spring inside without the risk of allergies by making yourself some of these crepe paper blossoms! Check out the Full DIY at Let’s Do Something Crafty.

‘Kimmy Schmidt’ Star Tituss Burgess Releases Pinot Noir

(Image Credit: Netflix)

(Image Credit: Netflix)

Anyone who has watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt knows that pinot noir is not only a wine, but also a song, a music video, and a lifestyle. Kimmy Schmidt star Tituss Burgess took a cue from his character and released his own line of pinot noir! Pinot by Tituss is available now to buy in stores or have shipped straight to your home!

Keep calm and num num num. #PinotMakesThingsFun @pinotbytitussburgess #unbreakablekimmyschmidt

A photo posted by Tituss Burgess (@titusssawthis) on Mar 20, 2016 at 8:21am PDT

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Burgess announced the wine on his Instagram page and has since posted enough about it to make any wino think about trying it. I look forward to strutting around my house with a glass (or just the bottle) in hand singing “pinot noir, caviar, Myanmar, mid-sized car” as fiercely as Titus Andromedon himself.

The chic wine can only be purchased in a few stores, but can be bought online here. Shipping is not yet available to all 50 states, so make sure you check before ordering! Before entering the website it will ask you to confirm that you’re over 21 by clicking either “yassss” or “no.” The prices of the bottles vary based on how many bottles you plan on buying, but the more you buy the cheaper they are per bottle! Bottles go for $24.99 each, $23.49 each for three or more, and $19.99 each for six or more. There is a cost to ship as well so don’t be surprised if your order for one bottle comes close to 40 or 50 dollars.

My bottle is still in the mail, but if you’ve already gotten yours feel free to comment and let us know what you think!

Follow Tituss on Instagram: @titusssawthis

Follow Pinot by Tituss on Instagram: @pinotbytitussburgess

10 Ways Having a Dog is Like Having a Toddler

(Image Credit: jstaley4011)

(Image Credit: jstaley4011)

Well guys, I’m treading on delicate territory. I’m entering a knife fight with a plastic fork and hoping that somehow I come out on the other side with minimal damage to my well-being.

So let’s call it like it is: I’m comparing a dog, specifically my dog, to a child, and I know that’s a hot button topic. I’ve done my research, and I’ve read countless mom blogs chastising pet owners for taking the time to say having a dog is like having a toddler.

There’s a reason a lot of people say that getting a puppy is a gateway to having a real child. When you get a puppy, or even a high energy adult dog, you are suddenly taking responsibility for something other than yourself that needs you. Dogs require a good amount of supervision, a lot of puppy proofing and take tons of energy to wear out. You spend the first few months barely sleeping due to crate training (read: late night tantrums) and housebreaking.

That being said, why would we as a society see getting a dog as a gateway if there weren’t some similarities between having a child and having a dog? Well, in case you are one of those people who sees their furry friend as a furchild and really doesn’t care who knows it, here are 10 ways having a dog is like having a toddler:

 

Silence is not actually a good thing.

Having a high energy breed means I know if my dog has disappeared and is quiet, he’s probably eating something he shouldn’t be, getting into something, or making a huge mess. If I don’t keep an eye on my dog at all times, he could be under the sink chewing on a bottle of bleach because he likes to chew on plastic bottles (I don’t know; don’t ask me why) and is smart enough to open pantry doors with his nose. Or, he might get into the chocolate chip cookies that were left (sealed, I might add) on the counter because he thinks they smell good. Also, true story, one time my dog ate a Lego block because obviously that tastes delicious to a dog.

 

You cannot keep your house clean while the dog is around.

I’ve seen what toddlers can do to playrooms – I’ve babysat a few that rival my ability to explode my belongings everywhere. Dogs like to make a mess. You leave them alone for too long or even just walk away, they’ve pulled an entire roll of toilet paper out of the bathroom, shredded it to pieces and make it into an international delicacy. I’ve also witnessed my dog pull every toy out of his toy bin, scatter them across the floor and then proceed to play with a flip flop instead. Plus, the muddy paw prints, the slobber, the fur… why even bother sweeping, mopping and vacuuming?

 

Playtime is all the time.

You know how in Frozen they say “The sky’s awake, so I’m awake, so now it’s time to play?” Well, from the moment the sun rises until the moment they go to bed at night, it’s playtime. It’s finding new ways to keep them entertained, to put a new twist on an old classic, like fetch or monkey in the middle. Too much downtime means you’ve got a full grown dog in your lap pulling your socks off and jumping on your stomach.

 

You no longer have personal space.

Dogs love affection, much like toddlers, so cuddle time is all the time too. Between play sessions, you get those moments that make your heart melt. They lay their head on your lap, they fall asleep and snuggle close. It’s a rare moment, but it makes you happy to know something out there depends on you – even if it’s just for a pillow.

 

You never leave the house without your dog “diaper” bag.

And no, I’m not talking about what you use to clean up their bathroom messes with. Whenever we take our dog with us anywhere we pack a doggy bag. We have water, treats, a favorite toy or two, poop bags and a towel (in case he gets into mud or something). We never leave the house when our dog is with us without it. When we are going to visit family, that bag increases to dog food, dog crate, blankets, dog bed, dog bone, and anything else he might need between now and the time we come back. He ends up having just as much luggage as we do, sometimes more.

 

Potty training is often a tedious process.

When you first get a puppy, housebreaking is a serious thing. You are up every two hours to let them out to avoid accidents, and once you’re up you’re out every hour or so. Sometimes they have accidents, and you have to carry them outside while they’re still peeing all over the place. There are lots of treats involved, an occasional bribe; but once they get it you realize they really get it and you just feel like you’ve conquered the world.

 

Doggy daycare is like a mini vacation.

You know how sometimes your kids have sleepovers at their friend’s house, have a babysitter over, or visit the grandparents for the night or weekend? Well, doggy daycare is kind of like that. It’s a place where they run out all their energy and then come home either really exhausted (or more hyped up if you’re unfortunate). For those few hours though, it’s the best you time you’ll ever have. Dogs, while easier to care for than a toddler, still require a good amount of time and energy throughout the day, and you don’t realize just how much time and energy until you’ve spent three hours on the sofa and not once had to yell, “WHAT IS IN YOUR MOUTH?! HOW DID YOU GET THAT! SPIT IT OUT, NOW!”

 

Doctor’s visits are usually expensive and a huge hassle.

Just like not every kid hates the doctor, not every dog does either; but most animals don’t exactly enjoy going to the doctor – my dog included. My 85 pound German Shepherd doesn’t like to be restrained, so you can imagine doing anything means you’ve got a whining, barking, bucking bronco you’re trying to hold down to get a temperature from or administer a vaccine to. Then you get the bill and you wonder how you’re not the one screaming on the table and accidentally punching nurses in the face.

 

You will do ridiculous things to see make them happy, just to see them happy.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crawled around on the floor, jumped around like a monkey or made silly noises to get my dog happy and excited. Dogs love to play, and they love to be happy, so when you can figure out how to make the dog run for joy or cry with excitement (like my dog does when we get to the dog park) it’s just a great feeling. Playing hide and seek with your dog is fun, peek-a-boo with your dog is fun and wrestling (safely of course) is also fun.

 

Your life suddenly revolves around them.

There is a great quote that I’ve seen that reads, “To you they are only part of your life, but to them you are their whole life.” When you get a dog, you make a promise to do everything you can for them to make sure they live a wonderful, stress free life. You give them food when they are hungry, water when they are thirsty; you buy them toys and treats and take them almost everywhere you go. You teach them basic manners, like not to jump on guests and to lay down when asked, and drive them to obedience school to further their education. You care for them when they are sick, worry when they get hurt and cry when you are posed with difficult decisions regarding their health and wellbeing. They make you laugh, they make you frustrated, they teach you about yourself and they remind you what’s important in life.

 

When you are making decisions, you suddenly have to include what to do with your dog because you can’t just leave on vacation without making plans on who will watch them, where they will stay and what that person needs to know about your dog; because sometimes, parents and furparents alike need some time away from their children and pets. You are no longer just looking out for you, you are looking out for someone who, for a good part of their life, will need you and depend on you for many things. Despite all the other similarities, whether you see them or not, that dog – that furchild – needs you.

 

If someone loves a dog like one of their family, it doesn’t matter that they have four legs and fur, they will love that dog like a child, and treat it like their very own, birth-given human. And honestly, who are we to try and deny them that right? Sometimes people just have really big hearts, capable of loving all things, not just humans, with a maternal and paternal love.

 

 

TDQ’s Guide to Easy Spring Cleaning

(Image Credit: Konstantin Yuganov)

(Image Credit: Konstantin Yuganov)

It’s almost time to put away your long underwear, ladies and gents. In just a few short weeks, spring will have sprung! Bring in the warm weather the right way and give yourself a fresh start to the new season by doing some spring cleaning. Trust me, I know, cleaning is just not all that fun. Your clothes are strewn in an organized mess and you’ve gotten used to that stack of magazines next to your bed, right? As much as you might like to tell yourself that, just trust me that it will feel amazing to have a squeaky clean place once that sunshine is peeking through your windows and catching every little dust particle in sight. Here’s your guide to spring cleaning the easy way!

 

Step 1: Tackle the clutter

It’s way too hard to actually get things clean when surfaces are covered with all your stuff. First things first, pick up whatever is in your way. Put away all those clothes, organize your jewelry, and clean off every countertop so that you can see the surfaces for quite possibly the first time in months.

 

Step 2: Sweep away dirt

Once you’ve cleared a sufficient space, it’s time to get scrubbing. First, get rid of any dirt, dust, and rock salt that probably has collected on your floor. You can also tackle dusting off surfaces and getting into the crevices of windows. This part can get pretty gross, but it will be well worth it once your space is sparkling clean again.

 

Step 3: Re-vamp your wardrobe…

This is the fun part! When you’re all done with the actual cleaning process, it’s time to get everything ready for spring. Get back into those clothes you so carefully put away and force yourself to get rid of anything from your winter wardrobe that you didn’t touch all season and anything from last spring that you won’t be wearing this year. I know it can be hard to part with those clothes that you thought about wearing a few times, but it will feel great to just do it.

 

Step 4: …and your surroundings

This step definitely is not necessary, but if you want to get more in the spring mood, switch out a few items in your house. Get rid of those heavy blankets and pine scented candles and add in some bright accent pillows and fresher scents in their place. It isn’t a big change, but it will feel like a totally new environment.

 

Let us know if you think there’s anything essential that needs to be done to get your place spring ready. Good luck on your spring cleaning endeavors, readers!

An Open Letter to Homegoods

(Image Credit: zhu difeng)

(Image Credit: zhu difeng)

Dear Homegoods,

I hate you.

I’m kidding; I can’t hate you. I love you.

I love you almost as much as I love Target. You’re a really close second. You might even jump into first soon because every time I visit you, I find something else that I just NEED to own.

Browsing your aisles I automatically develop a case of ADD. Oh frames! Oh dish towels for all of the holidays! Oh baskets! Oh garlic infused olive oil! Oh a spoonula! It’s ridiculous, but it’s also amazing. Because I can’t always help myself.

And even more so now that I have a child, your kids’ department slays me. So. Many. Cute. Things. Last time I went just to pick up something for our bathroom and I left with a puzzle, a toy basket and a book for my son. Nicely done, Homegoods, nicely done.

On top of that, I noticed a cute collection of tiny chairs. Because all babies need tiny chairs. I surprisingly refrained from purchasing one on the spot, most likely because my wallet was already crying. Instead, I mentioned it to my mom and how my son probably needed one. So naturally, this happened:

Homegoods

And it’s the most adorable thing ever. So thank you Homegoods, for keeping things adorable in the Bannan household.

Homegoods, your cute things are my everything. And my house is slowly being converted into your showroom. Keep up the good work. And the good prices. You’ve got a happy customer over here.

Take all of my money.
Katelin

Top 5 Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavors

(Image Credit: Stephanie Frey)

(Image Credit: Stephanie Frey)

As evidenced by my QIOTW post on the ice cream pint lock, I take my ice cream pretty seriously. No one knows ice cream better than Ben & Jerry, and you’d be hard pressed to find a greater variety of unique flavors than Ben & Jerry’s classic pints. I put together a list of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors of past and present; I hope you appreciate how hungry I’m about to make myself.

 

Milk & Cookies

This is a classic, and it’s one I can pretty much always count on being in the freezer at any grocery store I visit. Rather than the usual cookies & cream, this mixture maintains a vanilla ice cream base and mixes chocolate sandwich cookie chunks with chocolate chip cookie chunks, giving Milk & Cookies a unique flavor and tons of texture. Ben & Jerry aren’t ones to skimp on the mix-ins, and this flavor is no exception.

 

Voluntiramisu

This flavor was a Target exclusive that was available for several years but, sadly, was retired in favor of new Target exclusives. Voluntiramisu featured a smooth espresso-flavored ice cream base with a cocoa ribbon and generous chunks of ladyfingers. It had just the right amount of espresso flavor without being overpowering, and felt indulgent without being one of Ben & Jerry’s over-the-top mixtures of rich mix-ins.

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Thanks to the seasonal pumpkin-flavored everything trend, this flavor is a bit easier to come by every fall. Pumpkin can be a tricky flavor to capture in ice cream, but Ben & Jerry totally nailed it, and the graham cracker ribbon puts it over the top. I dare you to try to take just one bite of this one.

 

Spectacular Speculoos

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Ben & Jerry’s, so I’m not a huge fan of the new core flavors. However, Spectacular Speculoos is the one that managed to win me over. Rather than mixing the goodies in with the ice cream, this flavor has a Speculoos cookie “core” surrounded by caramel vanilla ice cream. It’s amazingly decadent and I don’t recommend picking up a pint of this flavor unless you’re prepared to eat it in one sitting.

 

Cake My Day

This flavor is a new limited batch for 2016, and I was itching to get my hands on it so much I swiped the last two pints from the freezer at Target last weekend. Cake batter ice cream mixed with vanilla cake pieces and buttercream & raspberry swirl…it’s the perfect mix of rich but refreshing. Ben & Jerry haven’t done too much exploring in the realm of cake batter and cake pieces, but this flavor makes me wish for a cake-based flavor in their regular offerings!

 

Obviously best ice cream flavors can be a hotly-debated topic since everyone’s tastes are different, so I’m curious: what are your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors? Let us know in the comments!

What’s the Big Deal About…Chipotle?

(Image Credit: Chipotle)

(Image Credit: Chipotle)

Chipotle has been getting a lot of heat recently due to E. Coli outbreaks stemming from a few of their locations, but the company has been trying hard to earn the trust of its loyal customers back. For a lucky few, this even meant free burritos if they texted the word “raincheck” on the same day that the brand temporarily shut down to hold national meetings regarding food safety. Despite the recent blips, Chipotle still has the hearts of many. So, what is the big deal about Chipotle, anyway?

Fast but fresh

Fast food restaurants have a bad rap. Most ingredients are frozen, meals are rarely made to order, and have been sitting under heat lamps for sometimes hours by the time your meal is in front of you. Chipotle does it a little differently; you watch them assemble your meal right in front of you and add in the ingredients as you list them off. This way, there’s no mystery as to how long your food has been sitting around and what really went into it.

Fair prices

One of the redeeming qualities of fast food chains is that they’re typically inexpensive, and Chipotle definitely fits that bill. Although it’s true that you’re not going to find an extensive dollar menu or two-for-$2 deals, the prices are more than fair for what you get. I can say with certainty that I’ve never left dissatisfied.

You have control over your meal

There’s a basic menu to guide you, but beyond that, what goes into your meal is up to you. This means you control how mild or spicy your salsa is, what kind of veggies are mixed in, and how healthy (or unhealthy) it all turns out to be. Plus, there are tons of options, so you can switch up your order and try something new every time you go.

Fresh ingredients

Chipotle’s website boasts that their ingredients are farm sourced, non-GMO, and all around fresh. This isn’t something you’re going to find at many self-proclaimed fast food joints. Having the peace of mind that the vegetables you’re eating are farm fresh and the chicken isn’t total mystery meat is pretty comforting.

Their guacamole recipe is online

Yes, we all know the guac costs a little extra, but did you know Chipotle posts their recipe online? Now you’ll never have to serve up some mediocre dip at your parties again. I’d say that’s reason enough to love a restaurant.

So, what do you think the big deal is about Chipotle? Leave a comment below and let us know why you love it!

How to Deal with Difficult Roommates

(Image Credit: Wave Break Media)

(Image Credit: Wave Break Media)

Roommates are always a kind of scary prospect most of us face in life. Maybe you’ve never had roommates or have had bad experiences in the past, but moving into a new place is a fresh start with different people. Here are a few pieces of advice to follow when you begin your new journey as a great roommate.

Come up with some rules

When you first move in, have a meeting with your roommate(s) and set some ground rules. Establish that you don’t want to take the trash out every day and you’d like a rotation or something that helps you all work together. If you want to come up with a chore chart, bring it up and see how the other person feels about it. Don’t do too much, though; no one wants a lazy, messy roommate, but no one wants an overbearing one either.

Don’t be afraid to confront them

If they’re not keeping up their end of the agreement, don’t be scared to talk to them. If you’re nervous to speak to them in person, texting or posting notes somewhere is an alternative. But confronting them is absolutely necessary. If you try to ignore the issue and hope it solves itself, you’ll end up angry and resenting the other person. Communication is key to successful living conditions!

Get management involved

If your new roommate is just absolutely crazy or dirty or anything in between and you’ve tried communicating the issues, your next option is to get the staff of the apartment/dorm involved. Go to the office and ask to speak to the manager or someone that can help you. Explain the situation and see what options they can give you. If anything, they can move you to a different room or help you sublease your apartment to someone else.

When you’re faced with completely new people, things can be great or insane. It just depends on the person. So be forgiving and patient as you and your new roommate(s) get to know each other’s habits and preferences. But if your living situation is causing you a ridiculous amount of stress, confront the issue and do whatever you can to solve it. Be a great roommate, but don’t be a doormat! Now go forth into your new living arrangements and may the odds be forever in your favor.

5 Pizza Inspired Accessories for The Pie-Lover in Your Life

(Image Credit: Dolls Kill)

(Image Credit: Dolls Kill)

How awesome is pizza? So awesome, right? Well, as much as you may love it, there’s always someone in your life that loves it even more. Like, two to three times a day kind of love. So why not get them awesome for their birthday or even Valentine’s Day! It’s coming up soon! Here are a few ideas to get you started on the right pizza-centered track.

Pizza Necklace

What’s a better way to express their love for pizza than wearing it around their neck and keeping it close to their heart?

 

Pizza Sleeping Bag

It’s pretty pricey, but how awesome would it be to bring this awesome sleeping bag on camping trips or sleepovers? Pretty dang awesome is the answer.

 

Pastel Pizza Earrings

Is there a pizza lover in your life that’s pretty girly and likes cutesy things? Then these earrings are perfect for them! From far away, they barely even look like pizza!

 

Pizza Scarf
With winter fully upon us, what better way to keep warm than this adorable scarf? It even comes in a cute pizza box!

 

Pizza shirt

Do you have a pizza loving not-so-friendly friend that needs a gift this year? This shirt is sure to make them smile at least a little!

 

Well, there you have it. Just a few ideas to get you started as you search the internet for seemingly never ending pizza accessories. Good luck in your shopping and may the Pizza Gods smile down upon you!

My First Time Moving to a New City (and Then Moving Back Home)

(Image Credit: milangonda)

(Image Credit: milangonda)

Out of excitement and the need to ensure that it was actually happening, I packed my bags a month early. I was moving to Oxford, England after a lifetime of he-said-she-said over frozen yogurt in sunny, suburban California. Steeped in four generations of local history, my big dreams transcended the railroad town limits.

Don’t get me wrong; I have traveled all over the U.S. I have seen a polar vortex in NYC, jazz musicians on every street corner orchestrating a choreographed New Orleans dance, bikini-clad bodies sweating on the January beaches in San Diego, the Vegas strip (I didn’t say I remembered it, but yes, I saw it). I have seen a lot of my country, and I love it for all its complexities—the contradictions Walt Whitman explores in “Song of Myself” ring true when you subject yourself to the cultures available in the home of the free, land of the brave.

Still, I wanted more. What a greedy girl, I know. I wanted more travel, more experiences, more exposure to varieties not available in my home.

Packed and ready to hit the skies, I wanted to make a change and to change. I had never been outside of the country before, so here we go… Here is my journey as it unfolded:

Challenge one: getting there.

Unable to sleep on the plane, I arrived, haggard, tired, hungry, and smelling like 100 different kinds of foul. To the bottomless pit of wretched airplane food-induced farts of a man sitting next to me, you are the stuff of nightmares and my nose hair has yet to grow back. I walked up to the currency exchange with my neck kinked and my head throbbing. After losing $40 in the currency exchange from my $100, I went to collect my baggage.

Challenge two: getting to my new home.

I waited four hours—FOUR HOURS—for my luggage, which turns out was lost. LOST?! What do you mean lost?! I had no phone (I had shut it off and decided to go the route of using wifi to FaceTime friends and family), which became a scary reality at this point. Sooo… No calling for help. No spare clothes. No understanding of the bus system. I looked at the airline woman, eyes thickly webbed with deep pink lines signaling exhaustion, as she calmly explained my luggage was lost… Oh, hell no.

I cried because that is obviously the most logical and proactive thing to do, but after five minutes of sobbing, I pulled myself together enough to ask for a phone to call my destination. Just then, the airline man from behind the scenes ran out yelling, “There’re here! They were logged under the wrong load. I found them!”

A quarter relieved, a quarter exhausted, a quarter delusional, a quarter intoxicated by the surrounding force of British accents, and 100% ready to settle into my temporary life, I set out for the bus stop in the pitch dark, freezing cold London air that feels nothing like my California Januaries.

The Bald Eagle has Landed

My American ass landed in Oxford at 8 p.m. The only lighting streamed from a building a block away, but look, there is a strange man about 20 years of age walking out towards me. I gulped loud, swallowed my pride (and all of the nightmare stories of European abductions I had been fed before I left), and I asked if he knew where my flat was located. I’m not normally insane, but I needed help. Januaries in England are COLD for a California girl, and a night wandering the street did not appeal to me, oddly enough.

He looked confused when I gave him the address, but he eventually said he knew where to go and even offered to drag one of my heavy luggage cases along. How nice! Just don’t kidnap me, sir. I took self-defense classes for these kind of situations, and I don’t want to have to use my mad skills.

Well, surprise, surprise, I made it out alive. He walked me to my door and said a nervous good-bye with an awkward, “I’ll see you later” which of course never happened.

After a restless, cold night of sleep without proper bedding or any understanding of how to use the heater in my flat, I woke famished. Underneath those dark circles was an eager smile. I met the biting air with enthusiasm, and after five steps… Nope. Nopenopenope… I all but ran back to my room for five more layers. THERE, I thought. Now, I’m ready.

Leather gloves shielding my fingertips as they slid across the chilly, stone church walls—Feet still rocking my oxblood cowboy boots as I trekked all over town (because they’re cute and I didn’t care if I looked ridiculous)—Hair tucked under a beanie and into a wool scarf that wrapped tightly around my neck… I strolled through those streets and avenues every day, so much so that the stone statues became my friends, watching over me as I stumbled home from pubs and waiting with me at the bus stop.

Half of the time I had no idea which stone statue was what saint, so I named them all myself. There was the Patron Saint of too Much Pub Food who stood alongside the Patron Saint of too Much Cider, both centrally located in town, surrounded by their buddies on the neighboring stone slab. There was also the Patron Saint of American Humor, a fat baby with a disproportionately huge head. Then there was the Patron Saint of Bus Stops because we were always running after a bus… Oh yeah, and the Patron Saint of Mexican Food because my California-grown taste buds were in heaven when I found a local burrito spot—ahhh, jalapenos.

Thanks to them, I collected four months’ worth of late nights and hearty laughs in Oxford and throughout my travels in Europe, as they always watched over all of my adventures.

I also met these incredible people—these brilliant, beautiful, funny-as-hell, crazy-awesome people who quickly became some of my most treasured friends because of our interests and shared experiences in travel and displacement. I sat beside book-reading folks on the bus and had intellectually stimulating conversations with strangers and new friends alike. The mind expands in the company of greatness. You can almost feel yourself grow and that is a pretty cool thing, ya know?

You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the Thoreau out of the American, as I thought: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

I loved every minute of my experience, but all things must come to a close, and as my journey home drew near, I prepped with angst and delight.

I’m Going, Going Back, Back to Cali, Cali

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss my travels throughout Europe. I love Oxford, my City of Dreaming Spires, but the trek home was much welcomed. I missed my bed, my dog, my books, my library, my routine—I now miss the spontaneity of my travels, but the grass is always greener, right?

The readjustment period was just as hard. I literally got the flu the week I returned home (in June), which I like to think was my body’s way of saying I never would have gotten sick had I not come home, though it was probably just getting used to U.S. germs again.

That first night I slept more soundly than I had in all four and a half months I spent abroad. I collapsed into myself, finally feeling the weight of my journey.

I gradually moved into a routine. Spending time with friends and family helped to ground me, though there is always this thing—this stamp on my life that is a composite of all that I collected in my passport. It marks the page in my life’s passport signaling my openness to travel, welcoming all that is new and diverse within my railroad town foundation. It marks where I have been and where I am going.

Featured Recipe: Mini Cherry Pies by Adventuress

(Image Credit: adventuressheart)

(Image Credit: adventuressheart)

After seeing Adventuress’ recipe for Mini Cherry Pies, I wanted to declare them the official dessert for Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. And here’s why:

If orange is the new black, then pie is the new cake.

These little pies are made in a cupcake pan, but defy the conventional cupcake and create a hybrid – the cup-pie.

Just as their name suggests, they are absolutely adorable and look delicious! And, let’s be real, guys… Everyone has looked at a freshly baked pie and wanted to dig their fork right into the center of it, not stopping until all that’s left is the tin it was made in. Of course, few of us have actually done this (stop looking at me), but we have all wanted to at some point or another.

Well, with Adventuress’ recipe, you finally can – and with zero regret! (And with far less bloat, too.)

So next time you’re watching Piper Chapman (although you’re really watching because you love Taystee), get into the Orange is the New Black mindset with these Mini Cherry Pies! Let’s make this a thing.

Please check out the full recipe to learn how to make these awesome little treats or just to gawk at the pictures.