The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!


A dream of mine came true earlier this week when I visited the newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood! Jonathan and I were in California to celebrate graduation parties, and I knew we had to go to Harry Potter world since it just opened in April. My sister, Katherine, joined Jonathan and I. We were full decked out in Harry Potter shirts we ordered especially for this trip. I’ve not had the chance to go to Orlando’s Harry Potter world, and I could hardly contain my excitement at the opportunity to go to the new park in Los Angeles! By the way, I’m a Harry Potter fan, if you can’t tell…

I have to admit that I had pretty high expectations – I couldn’t help myself! – but they were exceeded by this beautiful, magical place. The attention to detail is staggering. You are truly in the Harry Potter films as you walk through Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.

We had early admission, which was a fantastic idea. The Harry Potter section was practically empty. It was early, and still somewhat dark, but we were able to ride the famed 3D Forbidden Forest twice in a row with a 10 minute line! We then went directly on the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, which was my favorite! Flight of the Hippogriff (pictured below) had an awesome Buckbeak animatronic, and was placed in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch. Hagrid’s log cabin was also there, too!



Oh my gosh, doesn’t it look so real?! It’s amazing. After enjoying the rides, we started exploring the shops. Honeyduke’s especially hit the mark. I mean look at that! You can even see the look of delight on the woman in the picture below!


We bought Fizzing Whizabees and a Chocolate Frog, and we were impressed at the quality of the chocolate! Delicious! We also explored all the other shops, and it was all so much fun. A feast for the eyes!



My hair sort of bunched up weird in the above photo, but isn’t that astrological wallpaper awesome? In the midst of exploring, we also caught a couple shows – the dance performances of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang as well as the Hogwarts choir. We grabbed some refreshments, too, and pumpkin juice is delicious! A yummy cinnamon spice flavor, plus that adorable pumpkin cap! I only wish I could have brought some home with me.

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I insisted on having dinner at the Three Broomsticks. It was delicious, and the food looked exactly like the replicas they put out to help you order. Does that seriously ever happen? That sticky toffee pudding was also so good! Plus the Three Broomsticks looks exactly like it does in the films.


If only I could take the Hogwarts Express off to a real Wizarding education! Oh well, this is definitely the next best thing! I’ll treasure this experience for a long time to come, and I still have some Honeyduke’s chocolate to enjoy!


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Snowy Sequoia


Our first taste of winter this year happened in Sequoia National Park, which we visited on our Thanksgiving trip to California. It was stunningly beautiful and Jonathan’s first time to see the giant trees! We had an amazing time, enjoying the snowy weather!

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We stayed at the Wuksachi Lodge at Sequoia National Park so we could be based on the mountain during our brief stay. It looks almost like a gingerbread house covered with powdered sugar!


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We had to drive with chains, even with a jeep. It felt like driving around in a tank, but we felt super secure. We saw many other 4 wheel drives slipping and sliding on the steep roads. It was best not to risk it.



We played and hiked in the snow. It was pretty cold on a long hike we went on, so we really bundled up! I could hardly put my arms down. We hiked for about 3 hours round trip to Moro Rock, since the roads to it were closed. It was very cold, and it snowed heavily. We clipped the water bottles to my belt, and the water froze during the hike!


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Underwater Aruba



[Above: Jonathan and his best friend Sean snuba-ing at a sunken ship off the coast of Aruba. I seriously cannot get over these amazing photos. So beautiful, so many fish, and we were there!]

We just had a fantastic vacation with friends to Aruba! It was so wonderful to indulge in plenty of swimming in the gorgeous waters surrounding Aruba and the amazing pools at our condos, too! We swam and snorkeled, and Jonathan tried snuba. I love swimming and tried to spend as much time in the water as possible during our vacation. It was awesome to explore the underwater beauty of Aruba.



I love how free and at ease I appear in the photos above! I am so happy in the water!

We had brought our own snorkels and goggles with us, which was a great idea. It allowed us to just snorkel anytime we went to the beach. We also went on a snorkeling/snuba trip on a sailboat catamaran that took us around to great snorkeling spots that were farther out, including a ship sunk during World War II. It was the most amazing experience.

Isn’t it just so gorgeous?!





The first morning we were there, we went down to the beach with our snorkels and saw this enormous starfish! Just right at the beach! It was a great start to our vacation.


The whole trip we were just so excited about how beautifully clear the water is and how it’s such a lovely turquoise color. You can see right to the bottom, even to 5 or 6 feet deep. The water wasn’t exactly warm, but very refreshing, and very easy to get used to.

On the day we flew home, we had one last trip to the beach. Little fish were nibbling our toes, the water was so lovely, and it just felt surreal knowing we would soon be home!

Goodbye, Aruba! It was amazing!


Happy Independence Day!


We had a fantastic 4th of July! We had friends come on over for brisket bbq and fireworks. Lots and lots of fireworks. Jonathan definitely has a thing for fireworks, and he purchased two cartloads of fireworks. I still can’t believe we went through all of them (though it did take five hours, seriously). Last year, actually, our neighbors told us that it seemed like World War III was going on in our backyard! I made a strawberry and blueberry shortcake to help us celebrate patriotically. I also read the Declaration of Independence again (I have a pocket Constitution with the Declaration – very handy). We decided to cater (okay, I decided, since I wasn’t up to cooking that much; the shortcake was enough), and the whole hangout went so smoothly. Plus it was tons of fun! Happy Independence Day!


It was hot and humid, and it actually rained when we ate, so we ate inside, but other than that, we were outside throwing firecrackers and more! We had pretty lights strung up and plenty of citronella torches. Our patio is quite different from when we first moved in, with the paving stones and picnic table and hammock, etc.

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As it got dark, we started firing off fireworks! The guys could hardly wait. The sun had barely set before they were setting everything up, starting with sparklers.

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As I said, it was humid (I don’t even notice the humidity anymore, truly), but my camera did. It fogged up for several minutes when I took it outside, but I decided to shoot anyways. I was amazed by how beautiful the foggy camera shots of the fireworks were! The first photo was not fogged, but these next two are. Isn’t that so lovely?  The bursts of fireworks are just iridescent with color and light. I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July, too! The Declaration of Independence is so incredible, and I am proud to be part of a country that expressed itself so eloquently and nobly for the cause of democracy and independence. It changed the world, and still is.

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A Downton Abbey Valentine’s Tea


My wonderful sister Jackie gave me a Downton Abbey inspired cookbook for Christmas, and I knew I just had to have a quintessential English tea party! The recipes were so delicious, and although I’m not sure how quintessentially English my tea party turned out to be, it was lots of fun. The scones, in particular, with the cream and jam? YUM. So good.

The Menu:

Croissant chicken salad sandwiches

Smoked salmon sandwiches

Cucumber sandwiches

Scones with jam and cream

Oh, and berries!

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I played episodes of Downton Abbey in the background, but we mostly enjoyed our tea outside. It did feel a bit like the English countryside (or at least what I imagine the English countryside to be like) because our grass is so long. Wildflowers have bloomed all over our lawn, and I haven’t had the heart to let Jonathan mow them!

All in all it was a great way to celebrate Valentine’s day!



Starting 2015 With A Bang!

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Happy New Year! We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a bang! We fired off fireworks for hours with friends and family! It was a great way to end the old year and ring in the new.

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2014 has been so so good to us. Sure, there were some hardships, but I still can’t believe how fortunate we are. There was so much to celebrate!



[Above] We are getting so much use out of our new fire pit!

So long, 2014! It was a beautiful year.

A few wants for 2015:

I want to spend more time cooking and less time house-cleaning. More fun and more tolerance for clutter! I want to try gardening and to not give up when it’s probably not going to go so well! (I surmise that I have a black thumb.) I want to carve out a little more time to blog on both my blogs. I want to learn photography. I want to document our lives better! I want to keep in touch better – more phone calls, more Facebook messages, and more letters. It’s never too late to reach out!

I want to get better at my job and take every opportunity for more training and involvement. I want to keep learning economics – holding on to what I do know and learning more of what I don’t.

I want to read more! I usually get nervous about reading, because I get SO INTO books that I can’t manage to do anything else – but I’m going to do it anyway this year, starting with my books I got for Christmas! I also want to put a bit more effort into fashion and make-up. I’ve been getting lazy and letting that sort of thing slide for the past year. I seem to walk this line of being interested in fashion and also not caring enough – there are bigger issues. But I think it would do me some good to actually wear some lipstick, paint my nails more often (I used to), and to have some fun with fashion.

But most of all, I want to be myself – fearlessly – this year. I have been succeeding at this for a few years now; with each passing year, I am more comfortably myself. I am going to be me no matter how odd I may seem to others!

And of course, I want to be a better wife, sister, and daughter. ♥

I wonder what 2015 has in store! Happy New Year!

[Below] Our kitties aren’t afraid of fireworks! Isn’t that odd? They wanted to watch all the excitement.



California Christmas


My husband and I spent Christmas in California this year with my family! It was the most wonderful trip, full of fun and Christmas cheer! My sisters had the house bursting with Christmas treasures and treats. It was so nice to be back in California!

[Below] Sisters reunited!


We flew into sunny San Diego and stayed a few days at my aunt’s and grandma’s home in Coronado. We explored the bay via harbor cruise and climbed all over the ships and submarines at the maritime museum. It was so nice getting to walk along the beach and put our toes in the sand, too!

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While in San Diego, my dad took Jonathan and I to the Pointsettia Bowl. We had a blast. It was such an exciting game with a nerve-wracking win for Navy!

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[Above] There was a fantastic fireworks show at halftime! The Navy football team celebrating with their band!

The next day we headed a few hours north to my parents’ house, stopping to visit relatives along the way. My sisters had headed back earlier, and they had festooned the house to the rafters with Christmas trinkets and one very adorable kitten – a Christmas present for my youngest sister!

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Christmas Eve was a lovely mass followed by a feast of clams and crab legs! Christmas morning was bright and sunny with gift giving and eating chocolates and my mom’s soufflé. I got my favorite – books!!! Later, we had dinner with my grandparents. Isn’t it just the loveliest and coziest home? Everything was a blur of fun and family! I can’t believe how fortunate we are. What a Christmas!

[Below] Can you spot the sweet little kitten?

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[Above] Hustle bustle and serve dinner beautifully! My sisters had adorable figurines for each person’s place setting at Christmas Eve dinner, and Christmas breakfast and dinner. They also baked all those delectable cookies.

I know it’s a lot of pictures, but I actually feel like there aren’t enough! There were so many walks and hugs and celebrating that was so special. I have been away from California for a year, and being back in my childhood home was just so heartfelt. My family was so eager to treat us to such wonderful outings. It was such a lovely, lovely time. I will treasure this Christmas for a very long time to come! ♥

Merry Christmas! Joy to the world!

Formula 1 Race



The first weekend of November, we went to the Formula 1 race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin! Jonathan has been a F1 fan for some time, and he converted me at the 2013 race which we also went to. It’s just so exciting! We looked forward to this for months. We do the full, three-day track experience: practice, qualifying, and the race!

November was an incredibly busy month full of travel for us, so I haven’t posted these photos yet. It was fun, and we were able to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen in awhile! I took a lot of husband-and-wife selfies this weekend. As you can see.


[Above] Day 1 excitement! Practice laps for the teams.

[Below] Day 2 yay, clouds and cool breezes! Qualifying laps for the teams.



[Below] Day 3 oh my goodness, I didn’t even know you could sunburn your lips! Race day with a win for Hamilton!



Who doesn’t think sunscreen is necessary in November? Me. I tried to cover myself up with my hat, sunglasses, and a sweater I wrapped around my neck like a scarf. We both came home with a bit too much sun (my lips hurt so bad we had to stop for aloe vera on the way home!). But before we could get home we had crazy traffic getting out of the race. Three hours to go five miles took a lot of the fun out of the day.


All in all, it was fun, but I think we’ll pass next year and watch it from home. The memory of the hot sunburns and traffic is outweighing the fun of the race for now. But that could wear off in time for the race next year!


A quick tribute to my favorite sunglasses pictured in this post: I’m sorry that I left you in a TJ Maxx shopping cart… May you find someone to wear you that enjoys your perfection as much as I did…

Blast from the Past: Boardgames and Beer Bonanza

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2013-12-28 19.48.19Boardgames! Jonathan and I love boardgames. Even better is having all your best buds/groomsmen over for awesome board-games and beer.

This round of boardgames and beer happened last holiday season. We’re going to be away for Christmas this year, so we might not get the chance to have all the guys over for another round, so I’d thought I’d share our fun time from last year. I have all the great photos, so why not?

It was a great night. We were all up ’til 3 in the morning playing.

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It was so much fun. Hopefully, we’ll be breaking out the boardgames again soon. Jonathan has had this new boardgame for a while now without playing it, so we definitely need to figure it out and play it.

Here’s to more boardgames and beer and late nights! And holiday cheer!


Aww these pictures make me think of our sweet little apartment.