Travel

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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[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.

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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?!

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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.

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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!

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Blast from the Past: The week Jonathan was in France, and Elizabeth had jet lag.

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Jonathan works for a French company, and for a week in May, he had to go to the company headquarters. It was an awesome opportunity but bad timing for me because I had just started a new job, so there wasn’t any way I could go! Oh well, c’est la vie.

Jonathan had a wonderful trip exploring France and Belgium. He took gorgeous pictures. So gorgeous that I plan on blowing up some prints and framing them for our home! Despite taking tons of pictures, Jonathan hasn’t posted them anywhere and doesn’t plan to! The pictures are so lovely, and his trip so nice, that I have to share at least some of them for him. Boy oh boy I wish I could have gone.

I stayed home for the week, working and just being by myself. And suffering from insomnia.

Now, Jonathan and I had been in a long-distance relationship for six years before we were married. Although sad, it was all we knew, and we were used to it. But now that we’re married and together all the time – it’s awful to be apart. Awful.

As in so awful I couldn’t sleep for a week while he was gone.

Jonathan fared better, but soaking wet, in beautiful Paris.

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The company’s headquarters is in the north of France in a tiny village about an hour away from Lille. After flying into Paris (and spending the weekend there), Jonathan traveled north. [Below, Lille]

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This ain’t Houston; everybody’s outside!

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Finally – someone to take a picture of Jonathan! On his last weekend, Jonathan went into Belgium to visit Bruges. [Below, Bruges]

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Jonathan had a wonderful time, and it was such a beautiful trip. I wish we could have been together for it, but I now that we were both happy to be back together again after it ended! We missed each other too much! And I could finally sleep soundly again. Even though Jonathan was the one traveling – I had to be the one with the jet lag! Next time one of us goes abroad, we better go together! ♥

 

California Christmas

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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!

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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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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: Double Date

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Back in January, we went up to Fort Worth to spend a weekend with one of my wonderful college friends who was visiting her boyfriend (now fiancé). We caught the tail-end of her trip, and it was great to spend some time with her! It can be so hard to meet up with college friends once you’re scattered across the country.

So, we had a double date for the ages!

Meet Lauren and Jaime!

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Why hello, Lauren and Jaime.

We had a great time at the Flying Saucer for dinner and drinks! My handsome husband.

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Mmmm pizza… and I’m not sure what I’m looking at in this photo. Just getting in my lovely profile…

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Fort Worth is really lovely at night. It is all lit up. Everything glows, even the fountains!

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And some moonlight dancing.

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A fantastic night, overall, with the pictures to prove it! It was such a wonderful reunion with friends!

Actually, these are just a few pictures from that fun weekend. I’ll share more another time. Cheers!

 

Blast from the Past: The Alamo and More

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So, these pictures were taken that one time back in March when we were freezing in San Antonio with my fam bam! Everyone (except Katherine, who was studying abroad in London) came to Texas for spring break. I should have posted these soon after… but didn’t. But here they are now!

It rained and hovered around 35 degrees F, but we watched all the reenactments at the Alamo. (No pictures of the reenactments, because it was raining; we didn’t want to risk the camera). We just happened to be there during the anniversary of the battle. It was great! It was also one of the first years the Alamo battle highlighted and commended the Mexican forces; we appreciated that.

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The next day, it was less cold, but still dreary, and we headed over to this beautiful, old mission in San Antonio.

[Below] Taking a picture of Mom taking a picture. Silly husband. Cool shot.

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[Above] Beautiful Jackie.

[Below] Love Mom’s pop of bright blue clothing. So bright and cheerful when the rest of us all wore faded greens, grays, and browns! We blend in like camouflage.

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It was so nice seeing all the family again. And it’s so nice to finally put these pictures up and reminisce. They’ve been on my mind! And so has cooler weather. I’m looking forward to getting out all the coats and scarves again. I’ve already started wearing my boots, even though it really isn’t cold enough yet!

[Below] Portrait of Mom and Dad. Portrait of beautiful Mary berry.

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Good times!