Personal

January and New Beginnings!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I hope your holidays were filled with good times, good food, and lots of rest. I had my first year of divorced holidays and split households. We got through it and are making new traditions the best we can.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been EXHAUSTED lately. The end of the year is always crazy with work deadlines, too many social events, shopping for gifts, and poor eating habits. They finally took their toll and I basically crashed. Which brings me to how I came about my goals for the coming year. I prefer to call them GOALS rather than “resolutions“.

  • Stress Less – postponing grad school, getting enough sleep, doing more yoga, reining in my inner-workaholic
  • Save more – stop mindlessly spending on Amazon. Spend money on quality food and actual needed items
  • Paleo lifestyle at least 80% of the time. My health conditions require me to be on a Paleo diet, but I have done a terrible job of sticking to this consistently. 2018 is going to be different!!
  • Keep up with the blog more. I would love to be able to monetize the blog, but that can’t happen if I am only posting ever so often.
  • Manifest more often (see below)

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about The Secret very much on here before, but if you’ve never read the book or watched the “movie” for it JUMP on that! Essentially it is about The Law of Attraction and how what you put out into the universe you will reap. For instance if you say “ugh I’m so Fat” or “I never have money” then you never will as long as you think that way. Granted, some people just stop there and think you only need to THINK positively to make what you want come true, but in reality you also need to put in the actual work to achieve your goals in addition to the positive thinking. I will admit that I also can fall into the downward spiral of negative thinking and that definitely affects my life. I need to be more aware of my thoughts and feelings in 2018.

I haven’t done it yet, but I need to make my vision board for 2018. If you’ve never made a vision board, I highly recommend it. You don’t need to make one every year, but anytime things change or your goals shift you should re-do it. Look at it all of the time and keep these things in the forefront of your mind. They don’t have to be tangible things like a car or house, but it could be a promotion at your job or a new love interest in your life. If you’r interested in doing this just youtube a how-to if you want more guidance and there are tonnsssss of videos out there about vision boarding and The Secret or The Law of Attraction (check this one out from the guy who created Chicken Soup for the Soul). I can personally say from experience that this stuff works. It sounds CRAZY. but just give it a shot with no trepidation. If you do let me know! 🙂 Some of these things will take time to come about, you have to be patient. Just keep manifesting! 🙂

Here are a few of the images going on my 2018 Vision Board:

Comment below and let me know what you think or if you’ve already tried this before!

Happy Reading!

-Savvy

Travel

No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn

New York, NEW YORKKKK!

I have ALWAYS wanted to live in NYC even though I’ve only been a few times. When I was in college and working at the J. Crew call center I dreamed of working at 770 (the headquarters for J. Crew) and meeting Jenna Lyons and living a fabulous life. Life didn’t pan out that way (shocker) and instead I moved back to Dallas even though I applied for about 2500 jobs in NYC.

Fast forward, now I have a ton of friends from high school, college, and birthright that live in NYC so now I can just go visit them and experience all of the greatness that New York has to offer, without having to pay the taxes 😉 #winning

My sister and I were really wanting to go on a trip to NYC and it also happened to be one of our friend’s birthdays the weekend that we were interested in going. A college friend that lives close to the city also just had a baby and is moving out of the country so I wanted to see her before she moves away. There were just a lot of good reasons to go and I had the vacation time, so we decided to hit it upppp.

We left Dallas on a Friday afternoon and got in kinda late to a veryyyyy chilly New York. We dropped our stuff off at our AirBnB in LES (Lower East Side) and found a sushi place for a quick bite. The next day we went over to pick up my Cronut order (Julia gave me the insider tip to order ahead and not have to wait in line like a PEASANT). I had pre-ordered two cronuts two weeks in advance. The flavor for November was Banana Hazelnut, which to me didn’t sound suuuuper amazing, but lemme tell ya it was DELICIOUS. Believe the hype, get yourself a cronut from Dominique Ansel’s bakery next time you’re in town. You will not be disappointed!

After the cronuts we were in search of a warmer winter coat for Tara since homegirl only brought a light jacket to NYC when the temperature was going to be in the 40s…. We then made our way to get some knishes at Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery. Several of them were vegan so Tara went to town and even got a bagel to-go as a snick snack for later. We walked all over the city just exploring and made our way to the Chelsea Market to meet my friend Patty and her husband, Michael. I hadn’t seen Patty since I was in college so it was really nice to catch up and we served as a great distraction since they were on their way to a surprise party for Michael. After hanging out with them we got MORE sushi before heading back to the AirBnB.

 

 

Saturday night was our friend Natalie’s birthday. We hadn’t seen her since the summer on birthright and one of our other birthright friends, Ben, was also in town so we were pumped for our mini-reunion. Before the party we pre-gamed at Ben’s parent’s apartment on the Upper East Side and met his sister Alex who came along with us to the party. We had such a good time catching up, drinking, and dancing the night away. Tara and I got a little turned around at the end of the night and instead of just walking across the street to our AirBnB from the last club we went to, we got a cab to it and the guy never told us it was LITERALLY right across the street. He drove us around the block AND then charged us $10!… We figured it out the next morning. #fail 

The next day we met our other college friend, Brently, for brunch at this suuuuper nice vegan place near Chealsea. We then walked the High Line and saw tons of cool buildings while chatting. He had some stuff to do so Tara and I decided to walk around Central Park. She REALLY wanted to climb a rock and got her opportunity. We enjoyed people watching for a good portion of the afternoon and looked forward to the next day.

Monday came and we had more food adventures to attend. First stop was Russ and Daughters for bagels, lox, and latkas. Then we trekked our way to Brooklyn for RAINBOW bagels from The Bagel Store and prime thrift store shopping. We took a mixture of cabs, Ubers, the subway, and our own two feet the entire trip. I was nervous about which subway stops to take, but my friend recommended using the Citymapper app to tell us EXACTLY which stops to take. It was awesome for subway stops, less awesome for walking directions, but we made it wherever we needed to go.

After Brooklyn we made our way back to Midtown to the Empire State Building! Our friend, Sahara, from high school works at a PR agency in the building and was able to get us the VIP tour past all of the lines FO FREEEEE! She really hooked it up and we were so happy to see her, even if for a short while.

After seeing the building and getting a drink with her, we headed to dinner with another college friend, Nathan! The three of us hung out a ton in college and it’s been several years since we have all been together at the same time. He filled us in on his life and job and his love for New York, all the while convincing me even more than it is my destiny to live there. He was battling a cold and had to work the next day so we didn’t stay out late, but I was really glad he took the time to see us.

The next day we were very sad as we prepared to leave and go back to our normal lives. We tried another vegan place down the street for breakfast and then found another donut place on our walk back. We headed out to the airport pretty early since we needed to vacate our AirBnB and just hung out in the American Airlines lounge for a few hours. They had a guacamole bar at this one and Tara was pretty pleased with the selection of vegan-friendly snacks. Our flight home was pretty chill and the next day we were back in the grind of normalcy. It was a short trip, but very fun and full of friends and food.

Here’s to hopefully visiting again in the near future!

-Savvy

Travel

Chicago for the Weekend

Chicago is a city with which I have an interesting past…. 

I’ve attempted to explore it multiple times always with my plans being foiled. If you’re a long time reader then you probably remember when I got stuck there for three days a few years ago on my way to Ireland. There are a handful of other times where I happened to skirt the city, never staying more than a few hours and NEVER exploring anything. Adventure in Chicago needed to happen and Julia was just the one to make that happen.

Julia and I met the summer before eleventh grade in high school. She was new to the school that I had been attending almost my whole academic career at that point and we were fast friends. She is originally from the Chicago area and attended a college not too far from the city (even though I tried to get her to join me at LU). She goes back periodically to visit friends and family and it was going to be on her birthday weekend so she invited me to go along.

We left Dallas on a Friday night and got into Chicago a little later than expected due to at delayed flight. After getting our super sweet rental car we headed to a suburb of the city where her Aunt and Uncle live with two of their three children. Their house was so cute and they also had a basement! Coming from states that can’t have basements (Texas and California) I ALWAYS forget that this is basically a staple of east coast and midwestern homes. I really wish my house had this feature, so I was pumped to stay down there. Since we got in so late we basically just went right to bed.

The next day we got up and went to Julia’s favorite apple orchard with her aunt and one cousin. I LOVE apple orchards and this one did not disappoint! They had plenty of apples ripe for the picking (and taking cute IG pics). After apples we made sure to indulge in some cider AND cider donuts. I made my own little tasting tray of hot and cold cider. Conclusion: both delicious. 🙂

After apples we headed back home with a 40 pound basket as well as some other little treats from their cash-only store at the orchard. We packed up our stuff, said goodbye to her family, and headed into the city! We had unknowingly booked the weekend of the Chicago Marathon so when I was looking for hotels the cheapest one was actually The Ritz Carlton. Julia and I were splitting it and it was only one night so we said #TreatYoSelf2017 and made that reservation.

The Ritz Carlton Chicago did not disappoint. The lobby smelled amazing, the staff was friendly and attentive, and the room was immaculate. They had robes and slippers for us, a huge bathtub along with a separate shower, a huge bed, and Netflix on TV. We could see Navy Pier from our window too which was really cool.

We checked in, hung out in the room for a little bit, then headed down to the lobby to get a snack before dinner. We had basically only eaten a lot of sugar that day so we shared some meatballs at the hotel bar. Julia doesn’t drink so she got a Cherry Coke and the bartender made sure to give her extra cherries. I got a Moscow Mule and wasn’t disappointed. We stayed there actually for quite some time since it was pouring outside and we weren’t meeting her friend for awhile.

We eventually started making our way towards Giordano’s and put our name on the list. The wait was rather lengthy so you are also able to order your pizza before you get seated which is super efficient. Her friend showed up and we had a very nice time chatting and after dinner he and Julia continued to show me the city. We were still calling this #TreatYoSelf2017 so after deep dish pizza (and salads!) we walked down the street to get ice cream at Ghirardelli’s.

We wanted to attempt to burn off dinner and the rain had subsided so we walked along the river and looked at all of the skyscrapers. I found it humerus that Trump tower had so many empty stores underneath it since no one wants to be associated with him even though that is prime retail space. I am fairly certain that I had a stress fracture in my foot from my solo hike in Dublin. It flared up so I was dragging along for a good chunk of the walk, but I still had a good time.

Eventually her friend had to leave so Julia and I went back to the room thinking we were going to stay up and watch Parks and Rec (in honor of #TreatYoSelf2017). I think I made it through one episode while Julia was getting ready for bed before I was totally knocked out. In my defense, it had been a very eventful day and was already fairly late. I usually wake up pretty early though and managed to take a lengthy bubble bath in the morning as well as get fully ready before Julia awoke.

She got ready and we lamented the fact that we only stayed one night in this super nice hotel. We vowed to be back as well as visit other Ritz Carlton locations in the future to compare them. The hotel was nice enough to hold our luggage for us after we checked out while we continued our exploration of the city. Fortunately the rain was gone and the sun was out. Unfortunately… the weather turned from a slightly chilly autumn to a fairly toasty early fall. I was ill prepared for this, but we trekked on through the city!

We got breakfast/brunch at the Nutella Cafe and while there noticed that there was a Noodles and Co across the street! Unfortunately, Texas has not jumped on this midwestern treasure so Julia graciously said we could go there for a late lunch before heading to the airport. We got our breakfast and coffee then headed to The Bean for some pics and to see the Chicago location for Julia’s company. I also saw the Chicago location for mine in a fairly prime spot and gave relocating some consideration as well. 🙂

I love being in the city and while Dallas has been very good to me, I have been plagued with car problems for several years now and dream about living in a location with reliable public transportation.  Chicago is very clean, people still have that midwestern charm, there is tons to do, lots of great restaurants, and it’s not quite as expensive as New York. If I was to get transferred/find a new job in Chi town then I wouldn’t be too upset. #JustSaying

After The Bean we made our way to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris Wheel, get some souvineers, and see the water. I was very content to sit in the sunshine on these wooden lounge chairs near the water and just relax after walking so much, but alas, we were on a time schedule.

We made our way back to the car, picked up our luggage, and started heading to O’Hare. We returned the car, got through security fairly quickly, then made sure to pick up some Garrett’s Popcorn to bring back to our respective families. We got split up on the plane ride home and I got stuck in the front of coach so I didn’t have a tray table. FORTUNATLY I had my trusty neck pillow so I tried to check out for a little bit on that. When that failed I listened in on Julia’s conversation with her seat mate and read over the shoulder of the guy next to me on his iPad. He was not as fast as me and for whatever reason after EVERY page he would flip back like two or three pages then back to his previous spot before moving forward to the new page. It was driving me a little crazy, butttt I also was being a super creeper and co-reading a stranger’s book so obviously I can’t say anything like GET IT TOGETHER AND PAY ATTENTION!

We have an uneventful landing and just like that our weekend was over. I had taken that next day off in preparation for the Texas Star Fair, but it was also the day that all schools were scheduled to go so my mom and I made the trek to Waco for her first time at The Magnolia Silos. It was a nice day and nice way to end the weekend before having to go back to work and my continuing car issues.

Side note: if anyone wants to gift me a new car I would seriously be eternally grateful. My 2007 Rav 4 apparently hates me just about as much as I hate it and refuses to cooperate no matter how much money I throw at it. When your car has almost 200k miles on it and you don’t know how to fix anything it shows that you need to make a change in your life (and that doesn’t mean learning the fine art of auto mechanics).

Happy Reading!

-Savvy 

Travel

I Belize in a Thing Called Love: Part 2

Welcome back for Part 2 of my Belize adventure! For a Part 1 recap head here…..

The next day we packed up and started heading back to the capital to turn in our rental cars and so some people could get in some scuba diving before going home. Three people couldn’t stay the whole trip and about half the group was really into scuba diving so they broke off to go do that, but since we took care of the car situation we got to head to our next place early and get the first pick of the rooms. I had to pretend to be Danielle to turn in the rental cars since they were under her name, but she was off scuba diving. Thanks to my extensive theatre background it went off without a hitch 😉

The car rental people were nice enough to take us to the water taxi station where we got a QUICK breakfast and then headed to our next destination: Caye Caulker. The water taxi was about 45 minutes and very efficient. We got to the island and Blair let our new host know we were there. Caye Caulker is one island, but has two parts. There was a hurricane a long time ago that split off a little bit of the end which is where our house was located. Our new host, Cody, was coming to get us with a small boat to take us to our own dock. The boat was only big enough for two people and the luggage so Carly and Blair took the first ride while the rest of us headed to the bar.

We had some drinks and they gave us free shots before we had to make our way for our own boat ride. The new house was super awesome and the air conditioning worked very well. We had like a sea of hammocks on the first floor of the house. The second level had some rooms and the living room with the kitchen. The third floor had the rest of the rooms and bathrooms. The fourth floor was just a sun deck with some chairs, a hammock, and the best view of the whole island. Carly and I immediately made use of this for an impromptu photo shoot before the rest of the group joined us. 😉

We immediately change into our swim suits and head to the nearest beach: Koko Key. It’s a future site of a new resort so they’ve already fixed up the Beach section with inflatable water toys, an awesome bar, and an infinity pool. We spend essentially the entire afternoon here drinking, eating, and having a wonderful time.

After probably four or five hours, we notice the infinity pool and want to get in to take a picture. We gather all of the girls and get Hector to take our picture. We aren’t even in the pool two minutes before a member of staff comes rushing over YELLING at us to get out. Apparently this is a VIP section and you need a $35 wristband to enter. We hadn’t seen the signs (honestly) and immediately got out with our apologizes. The staff continues to yell and Hector interjects on our behalf. Blair is also super upset that someone yelled at us and tries to reason with the manager about the misunderstanding. The manager doesn’t care and charges us each $35 for the wrist bands that we never even use… We close out our tab and vow to not return. On our way back to the house we run into the rest of our group back from scuba diving. They are hungry so some still head to Koko Key despite our protests. The rest of us get Chinese food and hang out back at the house the rest of the night.

 

The next day most of the scuba crew goes back out for another day of diving. The rest of us head over to the main part of the island for breakfast and to explore. We decide to take up residence at The Lazy Lizard which is right on the split between the main part of the island and where our house is. There is this cool little section where you can wade and snorkel as well as sit on bar stools in the water. The few that have to leave early hang with me for the morning so they can get a little more beach time in before having to go back to reality.

Becca and I decide to explore a little bit and I find a little stand on the beach that has massages. Obviously a massage on the beach is a dream so I indulge and it’s amazing as I hoped. I head back to group and get some snacks at the bar. We meet some interesting people and have a great time watching other bar goers jump off this tall platform into the ocean. I jumped in earlier and it was super fun, but you basically are jumping into open water and my fear of sharks takes over so I only do that a few times before I’ve thoroughly freaked myself out and can no longer continue.

 

Eventually the scuba people catch up with us and share what they have seen that day. I hear about more sharks and feel very confident in my decision to avoid scuba diving for the rest of my life. We consider snorkeling for another day and continue to enjoy the afternoon. We have lunch at this amazing place with like every seafood option you can imagine. Drinks included it ended up being like $15 a person… crazy right?? So delicious.

Becca and I spotted an ice cream place earlier so we grab Ben and indulge before meeting back up with the group. We stay at The Lazy Lizard the rest of the day and then head back to the house. We have this app on the tv called Kodi that basically can stream any movie ever so we pick something, play Cards Against Humanity, and eat dinner. Now that three of our people are gone I get a whole room to myself for the rest of the trip! We turn in and look forward to another day in paradise.

The next day is more of the same. Becca and I discover this amazing iced coffee place and we get Fry Jack from another vendor. Both are delicious, per usual. Today is snorkel day and I am told that we might spot manatees! Unfortunately it is manatee mating season so we try, but no luck. I do get to see a few little baby sea horses and these huge fish that scare me.

We get to the first snorkel site and it’s really cool to see the coral and fish. There also happen to be two sharks in a little coral cave so as soon as I discover this is swim as fast as my little fins will let me to safety.

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The next stop is specifically for sharks and sting rays. I choose to sit this one out and observe from above the water. The boat guide keeps trying to get me into the water, but I will not be swayed by peer pressure. Everyone I think also gets a little freaked out by the sheer amount of sharks and we don’t stay at this stop very long (to my relief). The next stop is just more coral and fish which is nice and calming. A few people have brought their Go-Pro cameras we got tons of good videos and pictures from the day. We also saw an Eel swimming around which was exciting since I’ve only ever seen one just chilling in a cave.

We head back to shore and grab some lunch at the cafe where Becca and I have been getting our iced coffees. After lunch we head back to hang out at the house and get ready for the night. We go to a seafood place for dinner and the ocean nearly takes my phone as captive. Fortunately I have the iPhone 7 Plus which is waterprooffffff. Saved my life!! We continue to dinner and the rest of our evening. Dinner is delicious and I got octopus! We then head out to the bars for some drinks and karaoke. We get there before karaoke is in full swing so my song is quickly picked and I get Hector to help me sing “I Love Rock and Roll” a la Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Becca puts her song in, but it doesn’t get picked until we are about to leave. I help her sing the Shaggy classic “It Wasn’t Me”.

 

The next bar is playing a really good mix of top 40 hits and I am having a great time dancing with my friends. We go outside to catch our breath and then Cody suggests we go to this other bar. We follow the DJ to the other bar and stay there max 20 minutes before we start to see the storms rolling in. We quickly head back to the boat and make it home in time before he rain hits.

The next day the wind has changed so the bugs are out in full force. We try to avoid them at The Lazy Lizard and then after a great day there we head home to hang at the house. The house also has a saltwater pool that we get in to avoid the bugs. Most of the group decides to make our own music videos while the rest of the group cooks this amazing seafood feast for us. It’s a great night and a perfect end to our trip.

The next day rudely comes in the form of a monsoon where I even question our ability to get off of the island. We manage to get everyone to the dock for the water taxi on time and we say our goodbyes to Cody. After our water taxi ride we get breakfast at the station and then head towards the airport.

Several people are flying to other places or on different airlines so we say our goodbyes and make our respective pilgrimages. We get through security at Houston fairly quickly mainly because most of us have Global Entry (again this is amazing and if you travel internationally semi regularly it’s a great investment).

We make another Bucc-ee’s stop on our way back up to Dallas and arrive without an issue. I end up having some car problems shortly after coming back to Dallas thus prompting me to consider just staying on vacation permanently.

Conclusion: Belize is an awesome tropical destination that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. The people are great, the food is tasty, the alcohol flows freely. Get yourself there and don’t look back!

Happy Reading!

-Savannah 

Travel

You’d Better Belize It! Part 1

Where to even begin??

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Let me just say that when the group first told me that we had picked Belize as our yearly travel destination I was VERY unsure. I hadn’t heard too many things about it and my desire to go to Central/South America over Asia or Europe was low. However I decided to “lean in” and book my ticket moments after seeing the flight deal information. $300 round trip the day that United has a major debacle?? Awesome. 🙂

We booked the trip in early April, but didn’t actually go until the end of September (narrowly missing rainy season). Months of excitement from the group worked its way to me to pump me up for this new adventure. I had ample time to research everything about this little known (to me) country.

Some quick stats about Belize: 

  • Most people speak English, Spanish, or an Indian dialect.
  • They use the American Dollar as well as the Belizean Dollar interchangeably. The American dollar is worth two Belizean.
  • Most places prefer cash to cards
  • There are A LOT of bugs in the jungle as well as near the ocean
  • People are super friendly!!
  • The food is incredibly tasty!!!!!!!!

We all met early one Saturday morning to caravan down to the Houston International airport to fly out. I got to ride with Travis, Danielle, and her boyfriend Blake. We of course had to make a Buc-ee’s stop because what Texas road trip is complete without one?

We get to the airport, get through security, and then Ben and I try to get into the United Lounge with everyone else but our attempt is foiled. We instead head down the way to another restaurant where we had some drinks and food to pass the time. I updated Ben’s online dating profile and he watched the A&M game with another diner who was rooting for the rival team.

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We made our way to the plane and friends just in time to board the plane. A very short two hours later we land in Belize City and meet up with the rest of our group. We get our rental cars situated and head out to our first location. I love Air Bnb so when Blair announced we were doing Belize I came across this super awesome nature resort and sent him the info. He agreed that it not only was cool, but it was a super great deal too and booked it for all of us. We spent the first half of our trip being so chill, listening to monkey noises, and eating the most delicious food I’ve ever had. We were the only ones staying at this nature resort save for this one other guy and his wife for part of our stay. The resort only recently had listen themselves on Air Bnb so we had really gotten there at a great time.

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The first night we really just got there, figured out the room situation, and ate dinner. My roommate for our little cabin was Rachel since we were the only single girls in the group. Couldn’t have asked for a better roommate! We cranked our air conditioning, read our books, and had a very chill time. Each cabin had a hammock so we would all jump around to other cabins to hang out, swing, and chat. There were some dogs and horses on the property too that we hung out with and named.

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The next day we awoke for THE BEST COFFEE and breakfast before heading out to go Zip Lining and Cave Tubing in the jungle! That was Carly’s one request when we booked the trip and it was such a fun suggestion. I had never done zip lining for more than one run at my childhood summer camp so this was awesome to be able to just zip through the forest so high off of the ground. Some had fears, but we worked through them and had a great time. After the zip lining we traded our cables for tubes and made our way to the water. Our guides were awesome and hilarious as they led us through the river and into the caves. We had little head lamps that also would blink like you were at a rave. The tubing was so soothing and I was so relaxed I almost fell asleep on the tour.

After the tour we climbed back into the van and picked up some snacks since it was still going to be awhile before dinner. After getting back to the cabins we all just took a very long nap and then had another delicious meal prepared by our new favorite person, Marcilena. Originally we were only going to eat like two meals at the resort and find food elsewhere. After scoping out our options we asked if instead she could just cook for us the rest of the time and fortunately she agreed. It was consistently amazing and we were a very happy group.

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The next day we got coffee, but before breakfast we went on a short nature walk through the jungle that was across the street from the resort. Our guide showed us how you can use different plants from the jungle to heal a variety of medical conditions or illnesses. We got to finally see a few monkeys and I even got to feed one!

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After the monkeys we went back to the resort for breakfast and to get ready for our trek out to the Mayan Ruins. Hector almost got left at the resort, but fortunately Rachel remembered him and we all made it there without a hitch. I got to sit shotgun in the car so I asked our guide a million different questions and also tried to get him to let me drive. #nodice.

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The Mayan ruins were much cooler than I thought they were going to be. There were hardly any other tourists there so we basically had the place to ourselves. I also got to hold three baby crocodiles that some random guys were showing tourists. I also saw part of a tarantula which was freaky! I wouldn’t say that I’m scared of spiders, but I totally would never want one crawling all over me especially one that huge.

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After the ruins we got to visit a “winery“. Belize grows currants as well as cashews so the locals have started making wine out of them. It was super cheap so I bought a little bottle of each, but I wouldn’t say that I am a fan. I don’t like cashews anyway so it just tastes exactly how you think cashew wine would sound.

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We headed back to the resort to hang out, have dinner, then hang out and drink. We watched Ben and Travis dance to throwback rap and we tried to make Melissa twerk. Some ants crashed the party and we were momentarily distracted by treating our bites but it was still a great night.

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That wraps up Part 1 of the adventure. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Happy Reading!

Savvy

Uncategorized

Rollin’ on the River

Now that I finally have my suuuuuuper long Israel post out of the way (BLESS YOU if you read that entire thing!) I can focus on the rest of my summer and fall 🙂

My friends and I have been meaning for years to do a float trip and we finally convinced our other friend Ben to plan it! A date was decided months prior, Ben made the accommodation arrangements, and we brought the sunscreen.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of floating: you basically find a suitable river, sit in an inner-tube, float to a (hopefully) designated spot, and basically just relax for a few hours with some cold drinks, your friends, and some good music if anyone decides to bring a waterproof speaker. There are tons of places across America where you can do this, but it’s super popular in Texas, especially on the Brazos River.

We all met up on a Friday afternoon, caravanned down to New Braunfels, Texas, and basically had a super chill, fun-filled weekend. We hung out and drank Friday night when we got there. Slept in, got a few hours on the river, and went home the next day. We also visited Gruene (grounded Green), Texas where they have tons of puns, cute shops, and tasty food. Gruene Hall is one of the oldest country music venues in Texas so we obviously had to visit for a photo op.

Happy Reading!

-Savvy

Travel

My Birthright Trip to Israel: Adventure of a Lifetime!

Where to even begin??? 

This summer my sister and I were lucky enough to be accepted on a Taglit Birthright trip to Israel for 10 days. It is open for young adults 18-26 with at least one Jewish parent to go on a free trip to Israel. We picked to go with the LA group (since we are originally from CA and there are no groups that leave from TX). There are many different themes for the trips such a culinary, LGBTQ, outdoor adventure, and yoga, but we chose to go with Israel with Israelis. The entire 10 days we had current IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers with us as well as former IDF soldiers and one security guard. Our Israelis were amazing and became like family to all of us over the course of the trip. Having them as guides through their own cities enriched the experience in a significant way that we would never have been able to attain on our own. They, along with our guide, Yossi, and our trip leaders, Natalie and Amy, truly made the trip an experience of a lifetime.

This is going to be a longgg post so bear with me. I am going to try to summarize as best I can but it was a JAM PACKED 10 days. There is a lot to tell!

Pre-Trip (Wednesday)

I had the day off from work and had to finish packing up my house because it had already sold and was closing RIGHT when I got back from Israel. Got my hair done (#travelbun) and then Tara and I flew to LA to meet our group. Our trip was going from LA to Toronto to Tel Aviv (I realize starting in LA was going in the wrong direction, I couldn’t help it!) We chilled in the American Airlines lounge in DFW for awhile and they had an open bar 🙂 Our flight to LA was a little delayed, but that was cool since it meant less wait time in LAX.

We finally got to the Air Canada desk in LAX and were the second group to arrive at check in. We waited for a few more hours for people to arrive and then we made the mass exodus to our gate.

The six hour flight to Toronto went well and I slept most of the time. We had about a two hour layover in Toronto to get snacks and stretch our legs before the 10 hour flight to Tel Aviv. Tara and I didn’t get to sit next to each other on either flight, but we both slept a good portion of the time and have movies to watch so we were ok. I like meeting new people, but once you’ve already been on two other fairly significant flights, the third one becomes a struggle. I’m very glad I slept though because apparently almost everyone around me was throwing up for most of the flight. I don’t handle throwing up well for either myself or others (reason #1 I should have never declared myself a nursing major) so sleeping through most of that was probably the best thing that could have happened.

Day One (Thursday)

We finally landed in Tel Aviv, went through a veryyyy long security line, collected our luggage, and met Yossi, our guide, and our Israelis! They greeted us with mini-falafel sandwiches and a group dance.

We then boarded a bus for a 2 hour ride north to the Sea of Galilee in the Golan Heights where we would stay for the next three days in our Kibbutz. Upon arrival we were given our room assignments and I was nervous because Tara and I were not rooming together. It wasn’t a big deal though since both of my new roommates were really cool (shoutout to Ali and Zoe!) and were also closer to my age. I had waited quite awhile to go on this trip since I wanted to go with Tara and both of our schedules for the last few years have been super crazy. I was about to age of the program so I was one of the oldest on the trip at 26.

We ended the first day by hanging out at the Kibbutz and enjoying the beautiful sunset over the Sea of Galilee. We were warned not to go down into the water since there is a very strong undercurrent. While we were there two people (not in our group) actually died from drowning in the sea! It looks calm above, but is very dangerous below the surface.

Day Two (Friday)

The next morning we ate what would become our normal breakfast buffet of salad, pastries, homemade bread, and fruit. Almost everywhere we stayed had a similar spread, but it was delicious at every single stop.

After breakfast we went on a water hike through the Zavitan stream. Yossi tried to tell me there was a shark in the water, but I was not fooled. It was extremely cold and an interesting start to the trip.

We then were told that we were going to see the boarder of Syria and then have another water adventure. Kind of the downside of not being the only Birthright trip is that you do actives in a very weird order. There are specific sites that Shorashim and Taglit want you to see, but you have to compete with other Birthright groups for the same locations so everyone sees the same things, but usually in a different order. It’s nice because then there aren’t 20 groups in the same place at the same time, but it’s weird because then you sometimes see things in a very strange order. It was weird to us that we couldn’t do the two water activities back-to-back, but there was a method to the madness.

The Syrian border was very surreal. We in America hear all of the time about the fighting that is constantly happening over in the Middle East and I actually got to experience it. Even though we were still in Israel, we could see and hear guns and bombs going off in a boarder city not that far away. While we were there we were told not to be concerned about the bombs hitting us since the Syrians were just fighting with each other. We later found out that about 45 minutes after we left a stray Syrian bomb fell on the Israel side of the boarder and we would have had to evacuate! It was not meant for Israel, but things like that happen often. There is always a military presence to keep watch over the fighting and ensure that it doesn’t get too close to Israel. The watch point we visited was an old IDF bunker on top of Mount Bental, complete with coffee shop.

After our sobering experience on the boarder, we went on a rafting ride down the Jordan River. It was very similar to going floating down the Brazos in Texas, but instead of hearing Spanish I heard Arabic and Hebrew.

It was a very fun afternoon and great start to Shabbat. I grew up mainly only celebrating random Jewish holidays, but never going through real Shabbat or attending Synagog. While on the trip we experienced two Shabbats and I plan to take some of those traditions into my own every day life.

Day Three (Saturday)

Shabbat starts at sundown on Friday night and ends at sundown on Saturday night. During Shabbos you are not supposed to use technology (if you’re really strict) and basically just rest and spend time with your family. We all hung out at the Kibbutz, listen to Yossi give some lectures on Jewish Identity, and some people made a slip-in-slide out of trash bags. My sister led a good portion of the group in yoga and everyone really seemed to enjoy the experience.

We visited the graves of some of Israel’s most famous poets since it was only a short walk away from our Kibbutz. Our Israelis (with soloist, Ann) sang us a lovely song and we learned the national anthem that one of the poets buried there wrote. We went back to the Kibbutz to end Shabbat with a ceremony called Havdallah

Day Four (Sunday)

We had breakfast, packed up our stuff, and drove to Tel Aviv! We got to pick where we all wanted to go for lunch so I went with Ann and a group of others to Aroma, which is basically the Starbucks of Israel (but with really good food). I got my first Israeli Iced Coffee and it has changed my life. Basically anytime I saw an Aroma after that I had to stop in for a coffee. Amazing.

Then we went to Independence Hall which is where David Ben-Gurion declared Israel an Independent Jewish State in a 30 minute ceremony. The curator of the hall was extremely well-spoken and knowledgeable which only added to our excitement of finally being in air-conditioning.

After the talk we went to the Taglit Birthright Entrepreneurship Center right next to the Stock Exchange. Israel’s nickname is the “Start-Up Nation” and there is a huge emphasis on technology and innovation. We listened to a young entrepreneur tell us about his fitness product that he is launching to major retailers and were able to ask him questions about his journey. Before the tour was over we got hang out in this room that showed some of the major advancements Israelis have made in the fields of technology with apps, water purifying inventions, and virtual reality. I learned that my favorite navigation app, Waze, is actually an Israeli invention!

Tel Aviv is home to Jerusalem Beach as well as a bunch of jellyfish. We made our way there next and were delighted to get the opportunity to swim in the warm, Mediterranean Sea. Most left the water not long after getting in due to the jellyfish stings. I was zapped a few times, but there were also little fish that liked to take nibbles on my legs so I was never sure if was being stung or bitten. I wish we could have stayed longer, but time was precious and we had a lot more to do that day.

We checked into our hotel, were assigned new roommates (shoutout to Danielle and Stephanie!), and got ready for dinner. Our restaurant, Dr. Shakshuka, was an experience. Shakshuka is a tomato dish with baked eggs; you eat it with bread and it is glorious. We sat outside (still very hot even at dark) at these communal tables and ate family-style with our new family.

After dinner we finally got to have a night out! Most of us made our way to a random bar, danced a little, drank a little, and had a group toast with Arak, this Lebanese liquor that taste like licorice/anise. The group mainly split up after that and I found myself with a group of the recent UC Davis grads going to a Hookah bar. It was right down the street from our hotel so we hung there for awhile and eventually most of the group caught up with us and we had to head back to the hotel. We continued the party back at the hotel and then I stayed up with my roommates having Girl Talk. It was a blast 🙂

Shorashim has gotten very strict over the past few years about drinking and going out, but several people had siblings/friends/cousins who had gone on the trip back in the day and had a crazyyyy time. Even with the “strict” rules, we still managed to have a good time; it was basically a party wherever we went. Our group got along so well, especially compared to the other groups that were there at the same time as us. I am so happy we picked the LA group instead of my first choice, New York. This would be a very different blog post if that happened.

Day Five (Monday)

The next morning came very early. The motto of the trip quickly became “Sleep when you’re dead”. We ate our usual breakfast in the hotel and then were split into two groups for tours of Tel Aviv. Tara got into the Graffiti Tour and I was assigned the Market Tour. We were very pleased with these decisions and made sure to fill each other in afterwards.

Markets in the Middle East are still very much a part of everyday life. They are also called “shuks” and sell literally anything you could ever want from fresh vegetables and fruit to tchotchkes to fake Kylie Jenner Lip Kits! I could spend all day in these markets and still never see everything.

You also get to do one of my favorite activities: Haggling! Not sure if I am the best at it, but it’s seriously so much fun. I was on the lookout for souvenirs since we actually didn’t have that much time to shop at any of our stops thus far. (At the end of the trip I managed to lose a bunch of stuff I bought, unfortunately). During the tour we talked our tour guide into stopped at THE BEST HUMMUS PLACE EVER! I took literally the best picture of this hummus (see below) and it was actually reblogged by a bunch of Israeli Instagram accounts, including the restaurant’s and the Official Shorashim account!

We were walking around the Shuk and I could have sworn the temperature was 115 degrees, but when I checked my phone said it was only 86…. THAT IS HOW HUMID IT IS. Britney Spears was there at the same time that we were and the newspaper said “Heat Me Baby”. Unfortunately we did not run into her, but we were very hopeful.

After our tours we accidentally ran into the Mayor of Tel Aviv! His office is right next to Rabin Square, which is also where an assassination had taken place in the 80’s.

Our activity was to go up to people and ask if they remembered what happened, what changed after the assassination, and how they feel about politics now. Not going to lie, I was not really feeling this activity. It was veryyy hot. I was wearing a Maxi-dress since we needed to dress modestly for the activities later in the day and I made the dumb decision to wear that allll day instead of just throwing it on later for a little bit. After the activity we got lunch and hung out at the Shuk for awhile before meeting back up with the group and heading to Jerusalem.

Our many bus rides mainly served us as extra nap time. There are way too many pictures of me circulating around napping while wearing my travel pillow. Also: that travel pillow is the real MVP. It was a total game changer in the nap arena. If you are going on a trip like this do yourself a favor and #treatyoself to this pillow. I got mine at Target and it is grey, comes with a carrying case, and can double as a real pillow if you are lying on the group. It has these little clips on either side that clip together and then you can tighten it so it stays on when you’re resting your head. I think it was about $40, which seems like a lot for what it is, but trust me it’s so worth it.

Once in Jerusalem we visited the Jewish quarter and finally got to go to the Western Wall. Literally everyday, multiple times a day, there was something that just made me go WOW and this was no exception. All my life hearing about this region, the history, the people, the conflicts, it all cumulated to this point.

Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling of being at the Wall. We learned that we were going to return at the end of the trip for Shabbat at the Wall! This day though, while crowded, was way less intense then Shabbat at the end of the trip. I was very over walking by the point (skirts, thick thighs, and hot weather do NOT mix. TMI?) so fortunately we were checking into our hotel/Kibbutz. It was not the original one were supposed to be in, but this was easily the nicest place we stayed the entire trip (also had the best food). I did not want to leave. Also: the only hotel with a hair dryer so guess who took advantage of that! 😉

That night we had a chat from a professor on a little bit of the history of the conflicts that are still happening today and then we regrouped afterwards to prepare for our visit to Yad Veshem, the Holocaust museum.

Day Six

We woke up, ate the best breakfast, and packed our stuff. We immediately went to Yad Veshem. Yossi told us that whenever a foreign dignitary visits Israel they immediately visit here first. When we got there the museum was preparing for the Indian Prime Minister to arrive so we took a different path than normal. We saw a specific memorial to the children lost in the Holocaust and it was super trippy. Our tour guide was very long winded so we all eventually just toured on our own through the museum (I might have been really tired and fell asleep whenever I sat down in any given exhibit, my bad).

This was a very large museum compared to the one in Dallas that I am used to, but the one in DC is also awesome and I think I enjoyed that one more. I ran into another Liberty grad in the museum, but I figured out that we weren’t at school at the same time. Still, really cool that we are all over the world! Yad Veshem had a lot of interesting things that I had not yet seen before in any of the other Holocaust museums I had visited in the past. I am hoping to return another time when I am not so tired and have a better guide. In the gift shop Adi showed me a book her grandfather had written!  She said it was his life story about living in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. It will soon be translated into English and it is called “Denouncing and Rescue; Dutch Society and the Holocaust“.

We then drove south to Sderot and visited a playground in a bomb shelter that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) built. They showed us a video about how when a bomb is coming near the city an alarm goes off and everyone has 15 SECONDS to get into a bomb shelter. It’s now a law in Israel that every single home has a bomb shelter. In other cities they may have longer to get into the shelter, but instead of 15 seconds maybe one minute. The video depicted a children’s birthday party being interrupted by the alarm and everyone having to scramble into the bomb shelter.

The director of the playground said that there have not been bombs for the past few months, but to live constantly in fear that you could get bombed at any time is incredibly scary. The playground is built so that anything is easy to jump off of so when the alarm sounds the kids can quickly get into the bomb shelter. We were able to play with some of the kids and hang out in the air conditioning for a little bit before heading to our next Kibbutz.

We got to the next Kibbutz and were assigned new roommates again. Tara and I finally got to room together along with Rachel. We got dinner and then Yossi taught us some traditional Israeli dances! It was extremely hot in our little meeting room, but we all had a blast learning the dances and putting our own twist on them. That night coincided with the 4th of July so after the dances the Kibbutz opened up their bar and almost everyone went down to party and celebrate. I unfortunately was not feeling well and was greatly in need of some alone time so I just went back to my room. I love being with other people, but sometimes I just need to be alone and recharge. I apparently missed quite a night so that is my main regret of the trip (besides losing like half of my souvenirs!

Day Seven (Wednesday)

We ate breakfast and started hiking in the Negev Desert. Every two seconds the leaders were reminding us to “Mickey Mickey!”. It’s a drinking game that Israeli’s play, but instead of alcohol we had water. Staying hydrated is crucial in Israel since the climate is so hot and humid.

After the hike we went to David Ben-Gurion and his wife’s graves. He could have been buried in another cemetery that we visited later, but he wanted to be different and be buried in the desert. Yossi told us that Ben-Gurion was really into headstands so we had our resident yogi, Tara, demonstrate a headstand.

There was a snake sighting at the graves, which was scary, but what was more exciting were the Ibex goats that we saw! They were super cute and skittish. We were all obsessed with them.

We got on the bus and headed deeper into the desert to the Bedouin tents where we would spend the night. We all shared a huge tent where we dropped our stuff and then finally got to go ride the camels! #humpday

I had been wayyy too excited about riding the camels ever since I first saw the itinerary before the trip started. Tara pulled the vegan card and refused to ride the camel so I shared Clarissa the Camel with Sarah.

I wish we could have ridden longer, but my 15 minutes with Clarissa were magical and will always be remembered fondly. After the camel rides we had a traditional tea and coffee ceremony with a real Bedouin. The IDF do not let them roam freely anymore so this campsite was more of a re-creation of one meant for visitors.

Some may have been upset that this was not the “real deal“, but this was about as close as you could get since the real thing no longer exists. My opinion was that this was a FREE trip and we should be grateful for the opportunity to be here so they can take me wherever they want to go.  I still had a great time and enjoyed seeing all of the other Birthright groups that were there at the same time. A few tents away was a musical group trip from Argentina. They played music allllll night, but were amazing so I didn’t care that I only got three hours of sleep.

Day Eight (Thursday)

We awoke before dawn to pack up and go hike Masada. There really wasn’t breakfast so Tara and I ate some snacks that we had brought along just in case. Tara, as previously mentioned, is a vegan and we were nervous about not having enough food options for her before we left so she bought a ton of snacks. However, Israel is suuuuuuper into veganism so finding something for her was never a challenge.

Masada is the ancient fortress of King Herod and is quite a hike! There are several ways to reach the top, but all of them are challenging (except the gondola that I found out about after the hike…). We hiked up before the sun had fully risen and were greeted with the most amazing view.

I also appreciated that we were there before the heat hit full impact. We hung out on the top for awhile, saw where the inhabitants used to collect the water, and then several people in our group put on a little play directed by Yossi. After the play we finally got to have our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs! Since Tara and I did not grow up going to Synagog we had never gotten the opportunity to participate in this aspect of Jewish culture.

It was very exciting to recite our Torah portions (that Roi had taught us the night before) and finally “become women“. I think Natalie has a promising future as a Rabbi and I’ve even commissioned her to perform a future Bris. 🙂 (google it at your own discretion)

We then hiked down Masada, which was almost worse than hiking up! At the bottom we enjoyed our lunches and then changed into our swimsuits to swim in the Dead Sea! There was a little gift shop in front of the beach that you had to enter to get to the beach and they sold the mud that you see so many people in pictures using. At least at this part of the Dead Sea there isn’t any mud on the actual beach so you buy a cheap, large bag of mud to slather on yourself.

You are not to put your head under the water or get the water in your eyes. There are freshwater showers right next to the beach to rinse yourself off from the salt. It was seriously SO SALTY. You hear that, but until you experience it it’s rather alarming. What I hadn’t heard before is that the water is also kind of oily from all of the minerals and the bottom of the sea is actually like rock salt. You must wear either flip flops or water shoes in or else your feet will get torn up. Of course the only cut on my body was this huge blister on my foot so that wasn’t very pleasant. Before we arrived at the beach, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough time there, but our two hours was plenty. My skin felt amazing afterwards though and I bought some more Dead Sea products at the gift shop for gifts. Those made it home!

After the Sea we got back on the bus and headed back to Jerusalem where we would be the rest of the trip. We ended up in the worst hotel of the trip for the next three days. We were back to the roommates from the night before the tents so Tara, Rachel, and I headed up to our room to unpack and shower. It was time for lunch and shopping so I grouped up with Ann, Lior, Stephanie, Cheyanne, and Jordan to get some food and explore more of Jerusalem. We had a lovely afternoon of chatting and shopping, but yet again we had to move on to our next activity.

This is the part where I took so long to write this that I totally don’t remember what we did, sorry!

Day Nine (Friday)

In the morning we visited Har Herzl, the military cemetery. There are also many former Prime Ministers buried in the cemetery, except Ben Gurion. There was a funeral going on while we were there and we also spoke with the family members of a solider who had died several years prior who were there visiting. Yossi showed us several specific graves and told us the stories of the people who were buried there. It was a very sobering visit and I think very important for our group to see.

After the cemetery we went to the shuk in Jerusalem to shop, get some lunch, and buy something to bring to Shabbat. An organization called OneTable gave us each a little bit of money to get a snack to share for Shabbat. Amy and I teamed up to bring tea and then I bought wine with the intention of bringing it back for my dad, buttttt it might have gotten drunk a few hours later… oops 🙂 Of course I had to many another stop at Aroma per usual to get my iced coffee fix.

We went back to hotel and got ready for Shabbat. We were going to go back to the Kotel and I really didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, it was incredible. To see so many people gathering for Shabbat at such a holy and ancient place is something I will remember the rest of my life. There was dancing, singing, praying, laughter, reunions, and of course our favorite “game” Sha-sha-shabbat-shalom! It reminded me of like a huge family reunion, which in it’s own way it sort of was.

We were trying to be as observant of Shabbat as possible for a group of non-religious Jewish millennials AKA we walked home instead of taking the bus (but we still used IG,snapchat, and WhatsApp). That walk home was fun at first, but someone failed to tell me how long that was going to be and my sandaled feet were not prepared.

It was really interesting to see NO cars on major roads and highways that night going into the next day. Apparently Jewish teenagers take pictures of themselves sitting on highways during this time since there are hardly any cars out and the ones that do show up you can see coming from really far away.

We got back to the hotel and ate dinner then had our Shabbat snack. Another memorable round of sha-sha-shabbat-Shalom and we were free to drink for the evening.

Day Ten (Saturday)

Shabbat was still happening so we walked to our morning activity of seeing some government buildings and other parts of the city. We had a lively political discussion, which I think was much needed to show some people that not everyone believes the same thing in Israel. Israel has many different political parties ranging from conservative to religious to liberal to secular. Even among our Israelis there were many differing views and it was refreshing to hear the conversation that took place. Now, it was probably a little late in the game for a few, but valuable nonetheless.

We got back to the hotel and were broken up into groups to do little skits about all of our days on the trip. The creativity was very apparent in some groups with songs, dances, and artistic interpretations of the activities we had gone through. The whole trip was a blur at this point and we all felt like we had known each other forever. After the skits we went around the room and said something we were grateful for on the trip and something that we would take back with us after it was over. I didn’t realize that we were literally going to go through allllll of us so I saved mine for one of the very lasts and was called out by my own sister (but I got her back later 😉 )

We ended Shabbat with Havdalah and were invited to dinner and swimming at Amit’s family’s house. We piled into the van and had a dance party on the way over. It was so much fun and her family made us sooooo much good food. They were so sweet to open their home to about 50 crazy strangers and we had the best time. We left and continued the hang out back at the hotel with the rest of the wine. Pretty sure I only got about 30 minutes of sleep before it was crunch time to get packed up and head to the airport.

Heading Home (Sunday)

Not going to lie: totally didn’t shower after swimming before a 16+ hour plane ride. Shame me as much as you want, I deserve it all. We headed to the airport and said our tearful goodbyes. Tara had decided the day before that she was going to extend her trip for another month and I was really sad that she wasn’t going to head back home with me. I am really glad she decided to stay though since it was such a great opportunity and she was with people I trusted. Ann and I cried multiple times. We all did our group dance that we did when we first joined the group at the beginning of the trip and then we headed through security. Ben was super nice and helped me out carrying my other carry-on that Tara was originally going to help with since I bought so many souvenirs. He was a life saver! We got on our first flight to head back to Toronto and I fortunately was able to sleep most of the way. We had our layover in Toronto and got some food. Amy was super nervous that we were all not going to make it onto the plane since some people enjoyed wandering off and she had to run to a business trip after Israel so she couldn’t stay to find us. Fortunately we all made it back to LA safe and sound. I still had some points leftover so I had gotten a room at the Renaissance Marriott. I immediately took a shower and slept for what felt like forever. I had gotten a later flight the next day so I chilled at the hotel pretty much the whole day and just enjoyed being along for the first time in like two weeks. I made it home and the rest as they say is history.

Post-Trip

This was without a doubt the most important trip I have taken in my whole life. Here we are several months later and we still have our group chat going in WhatsApp. Several people have traveled across the country AND back to Israel to see each other. The bonds created within this trip is everything that I read and dreamed about. I’ve talked to others who have gone on different birthright trips and they may have one or two people that they kinda keep in contact with afterwards, but nothing like our group’s connection. Next month Tara and I are going to meet up in NYC with a few people, one of the girls from the trip lives in Dallas and came to my house warming party. I still talk daily or weekly to several people from the trip and I hope to always continue to keep in contact with everyone. I am really trying to make a reunion trip happen with everyone who is available next year.

Tara and I are planning to eventually do Aliyah and hopefully Masa. Several people from our trip have already signed up for one or the other and I am so excited for the new experiences that they will have and hopefully share with our group. This is one of the most positive things I have ever done in my life and I am so glad that I didn’t let it pass me by before I turned 27.

If you are on the fence about going my advice to you is stop worrying and just GO! If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me in the comments or on my social media accounts and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. If I can’t answer them then I can find someone who can. I am convinced that every Jewish kid NEEDS to go on either this trip or the equivalent trip through another organization. I can only speak for Shorashim, but I hope you can tell that I had an awesome experience and if I could do it all over again I totally would in a nanosecond. I’m already trying to figure out ways to get back there and get all of my friends there too. All of my coworkers and non-jewish friends are super jealous that they can’t get on this trip and I tell them even if you have to pay for it, go. It’s so worth it.

I think this post is now sufficiently long AND overdue (I got back in July and it’s now the middle of October…) so I will end it. Here’s to amazing adventures, good friends, and crazy dancing. Also Tubi60 is the best and Texas is a boss for importing it.

Also: Not all pictures are my own. Borrowed from other’s in my group. Credits: Natalie, Rachel, and Brandon

Happy Reading!

Savvy

Dallas Personal

Summer 2017!

Now that I have finallyyyy finished the Ireland posts (again, apologies for the delay) I can focus on the rest of my amazing summer!

Here are some highlights and pictures to tide you over until my next post: ISRAEL!

Celebrated my birthday (again!) with my Texas friends in Uptown (while jet-lagged). We went to dinner in Dallas at The Social House. I got my dress for free from Rent the Runway (you know I love them) #notanadvertisement and I got to wear my new Loubs! I missed my friends so much while I was gone and wish they all could have visited me. Having Melissa and Brian, even for a week, really saved my spirit. Having friends is one of the best things about life and I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. They all mean so much to me and it was really amazing that they all came out to help me celebrate my special day (belated as it was). 

Took my mom out for Mother’s Day to brunch in Denton at Barley and Board. We then went blackberry picking at this super cute farm, which didn’t have very many blackberries, but had AMAZING blackberry cobbler! If I can get the recipe I’ll post it on here. It was seriously soooo good! 

Got in a small fender bender on the way to work 🙁 I was literally totally fine driving for THREE MONTHS IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, but I am home less than a week and run into the back of another, smaller car. #angst 

Had an afternoon of wine tasting at the Shops at Legacy with Melissa, Becca, and Scott. The Cru Wine Bar is now one of my favorite places to have a chill, but upscale afternoon. We tried so many different kinds of wine and snacked on two charcuterie boards. We of course had to also make a stop at Oil and Vinegar. I bought some amazing roasted garlic olive oil that I still need to pull out for a well-planned dinner. They always have great samples and the staff is very knowledgable about all of the products; how to pair them and how to use them creatively. If you’re ever near one of their outposts I highly recommend going in even if just for a small sample. 🙂 They also can do private parties and my friends have been talking about having one someday so maybe I’ll just have to make that happen this year!

Finally visited Magnolia Market in Waco with Julia! Unfortunately, we did not see Chip and Joanna, but I plan to return on a less busy day and hopefully catch a glimpse! #couplegoals 

We also got to see some of the other landmarks around Waco that are regularly featured on the show such as the store and workshop for Harp Design Company, some of the renovated houses, and the coffeeshop, Common Grounds. There are also some copy-cat design stores that are near the Silos, which are way less crowded and have similar items. Obviously, I had to check those out as well. Julia and I got lunch at this awesome Greek place called Alpha Omega. I highly recommend it if you are looking to get lunch near Downtown Waco and don’t feel like dealing with the lines at the Silos. There is also the last remaining Ninfa’s restaurant next to The Spice Market (another really cool shopping destination). I didn’t get to try this location, but if it is like any of the other Ninfa’s then I am sure it is awesome. I wish the one in Lewisville was still there. I have such fond memories of visiting there for dinner after elementary school so long ago. Next time I go to Waco, Ninfa’s it is!

Got a belated birthday present from my sister: a puppy carrier for Karma! It is seriously the cutest thing ever and I love dancing around the house with her in tow. She likes it sometimes, but other times struggle to break free from my loving embrace. I wish she could understand just how much I need to be holding her at any given time. She is too precious for words. 

I restarted Paleo and fell in love with it all over again. I kept it up for the entire time leading up to my trip to Israel. I have been falling off of the band wagon since returning, but this weekend I am going to do some SERIOUS meal planning to get back on track. I felt amazing and could immediately tell a difference in the way I felt. I’ve been on a new medication that makes me nauseous and fatigued so I’m praying that paleo can once again come to the rescue and save me from these side effects. I cannot keep falling asleep at work… #notgood 

I also managed to sell my house and find a new house right before I left for Israel. Let me tell you, house stuff is always: #1 more expensive and #2. stressful than you originally think. It had been a few years since my last experience and this time I was doing this without my dad’s help so I felt the full weight of responsibility. It’s totally do-able and hopefully you pick awesome people to work with, but it can be overwhelming at times. Just being honest.

I ended up with an awesome, new (to me) house in a much better area with a shorter commute to work, closer to friends, and closer to Dallas! I am still in the middle of fixing it up/organizing (it’s been almost two months at this point… don’t judge!), but once I get everything situated then I’ll take a home tour and give you guys some more details! I am 95% finished painting and my floors are being delivered on Saturday. My mom is getting my little, back patio fixed up so that may or may not make it into the house post. We will see how well everything progresses and if it’s not ready then we will just do another house post later 🙂 Karma is loving it so far, but she has quickly ruined the carpet, hence the new hardwood floors that are on their way. In all fairness, I was already planning to get the floors even before she had her many accidents, but this just makes it more necessary to get it sooner rather than later.

I’ve managed to pack a lot into a very short amount of time. This summer is one for the books and I am so excited to tell you allllll about my wonderful, life-changing trip to Israel!

Happy Reading!

-Savannah 

Ireland Travel

Ireland Wrap-Up

It’s almost September and I’ve been back from Ireland since May….. Sorry guys!

Life got reallyyyy crazy there for awhile (I think I say that every single time, but it’s very true!), but it’s finally starting to slow down again for a bit. Let’s hope that I remember everything that has happened!

May

Bought my Christian Louboutin shoes as my birthday present to myself!

(they are wayyy cheaper here just like LV)

Went to Jameson Distillery

Celebrated my 26th birthday at work

Went out with my Irish twin, Marie!

Got brunch a few more times….

Had the sunniest day ever in Ireland. I even got a little sunburn on one arm!

Youssef and I ate our weight in Indian to commemorate all of the delicious meals we had at Diwali

(I still dream of it)

Went out one last time with the work crew

Spent the last few days enjoying my favorite things in Dublin

Flew home 🙁

Living abroad, even for a short amount of time, was one of the top 5 most amazing experiences of my life. I feel like I really got to experience the life of a real Dub, at least in the small sense. I really wish the trip could have extended a little bit longer, but I am extremely grateful for the three months that I did have. Hopefully I will be going back for a WEDDING next year!!

(fingers crossed that Therese actually lets me be the flower girl!!) 

Happy Reading!

-Savvy

Ireland Travel

April Recap

 

This is me being a diligent blogger for once in my life and actually starting on a post on time! You can thank the fact that I needed to deep condition my hair, which means I actually am very productive around the house for those few hours a month. Settle in because this is going to be a long one and it’s not even covering the full month 🙂

I wanted April to be different than March or February. I was going to proactively do things around Ireland even if it meant doing them alone. First step: get a piercing. Right after that I think the surrounding pedestrians noticed my realized confidence and someone asked me for directions #localstatus

My high school friend, Ruthie, was coming to visit so I had that to look forward to, but when I went to pick her up from the airport she surprised me and brought along our other friend from high school, Alicia – FROM ALASKA! I was very surprised (it was also 6AM on a Sunday) so I’m not really sure what my reaction looked like other than confused lol. I don’t get surprised like that very often and I was only half-awake so I think I just hugged everyone and then got back into the car. We immediately left Dublin for the Cliffs of Moher.

I had already been (if you’ve been reading since the origination of my blog then you already know this), but this was the first time in Ireland for both Ruthie and Alicia and that is one of the #1 sites to see so off we went. Because we had such an early start we managed to beat most of the tour busses/tourists to the Cliffs. It was a GORGEOUS day as you will be able to tell from the pictures below. They have updated the visitor center since the last time I went and I enjoyed it even more the second time around. I will probably end up doing another photo post at the end of the trip with updated pictures since everyone else took a bunch and haven’t uploaded them yet.

After the Cliffs, we went to Galway for a bit for some lunch. The drive between the Cliffs and Galway is so beautiful and green. It was staying a nice day, which was awesome since I had to drive on some very tiny roads! We hung out in Galway for a few hours and then made our way to Limerick for the night.

I had the next day off of work so we visited King John’s Castle before heading back to Dublin. I showed them a little bit of Dublin and found out their plans for the week. Ruthie had originally just given me some basic plans because she didn’t want to let on that Alicia was also coming. Alicia also is super handy and helped me air up my tires because I’m basically helpless with car issues.

 

Alicia’s dad is originally from Ireland and was adopted as a young child. The rest of the family is very interested in learning more about his heritage, but since most of the records from that time were only recently released, you generally have to actually come to Ireland to learn anything. The girls spent two days doing some of that research and were actually able to come away with a lot more information than I thought that they would. They also went to the Book of Kells at Trinity College, did a walking tour of North Dublin, and had high tea at a hotel. It was a short visit, but they made the most of their time.

On their last night we went to Murray’s over on O’Connell Street where they have Traditional (Trad) music and Irish dancing. They pulled Alicia up on stage to dance and she was presented with a certificate that we made the bartender sign. He also shared with me that you can add Black Currant juice to Guinness and now I can finally finish a whole pint. #proudmoment  

In between the guests I needed to attend to my roots. At home I generally go see Sydney, my hairdresser, every 6-10 weeks (depending upon upcoming events). Three months without at least one touch up was not going to cut it for me. It took us a long time to get my hair to where we are and I was really nervous about anyone else touching it. Fortunately I found a salon really close to my apartment that uses Olaplex (if you don’t know what it is SEE the magic) and seemed to really know their way around blonde hair so I felt like I was in good hands. Five hours later I am pleased to say that my hair is still a gloriously silver blonde through and through. If you are ever in Dublin and need a salon I can now highly recommend Angels and Cowboys in City Centre.

(not a sponsored post)

The next day was still lovely so I finally made the trip out to Howth. I was supposed to go multiple times on different occasions, but plans always fell apart. You need nice weather when you go too and you never know when that is going to be so make the most of it! #carpediem.

I really enjoyed seeing a part of Dublin that I hadn’t visited yet and am now totally contemplating getting a vacation home in Howth when I am rich and famous. Howth is a small, seaside town with a Marina and hiking trails. I visited Howth Castle then made my way down the road to the coast. I indulged in some fresh seafood, walked around the town and the little market, then took a hike on Howth Head. I managed to get out of there before it started raining again, but I am hoping to go back once more before leaving.

 

A few days later Melissa and Brian came to visit. They have frequently been featured in the blog and always have a couch for me to crash on at home so now I get to return the favor. They were staying for a whole week and I took a day off of work so we shoved as much into those days as humanly possible.

They also took advantage of this service I had discovered on my last trip: Flytographer. Basically, the idea is that pictures are one of your best mementos from a trip, but either you’re traveling alone and relying on the compassion of other travelers to capture that moment for you or you are a couple and can never be in the same picture together. Flytographer has photographers based in cities all over the world who are there to capture that trip for you in a photo session. Melissa’s birthday happened while she was here and it was also their 10 year dating anniversary (they have been married for three). The day after they got here they had a photo session with Vanessa and absolutely loved it. By the time they left their pictures were ready so I was able to see them and account for their awesomeness. I am now super jealous that I didn’t also book a session for myself, but there will hopefully be more trips in the year to come. #fingerscrossed 

After their photography session, we went for Melissa’s birthday dinner at the hotel where I stayed last time, The Shelbourne, at The Saddle Room. It was delicious, but because we were not guests of the hotel and it was Good Friday, we were not allowed to drink. Randomly, Ireland takes Good Friday VERY seriously and no pubs or restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol (so a lot of places are closed). Hotels can, but only to their residents. Curiously though, on actual Easter you are allowed to drink and most business are open. I had prepared by buying some wine before they arrived so we partook once back at the apartment and there was rejoicing in the land!

The next day we went to Kilkenny and Waterford. We left Dublin super early in the morning on the train (which was a new experience for me in Ireland). We stopped first in Kilkenny, which is apparently a big party town that I will need to re-vist next time I come. The town had a huge castle that we toured and had tons of cute, little shops and very friendly people. We discovered that Brian had an inner-photographer in him that had been lying dormant until this moment. Once they upload all of their pictures I’ll nab some for my photo recap post once my trip is over.

After Kilkenny, we hopped back on the train and headed to Waterford for some lunch (shoutout to Brian for overcoming his salmon allergy before eating ALL the seafood chowder in Ireland) and then we visited the Waterford Crystal Factory. I don’t know why, but I have been obsessed with seeing the factory ever since I found out it was in Ireland. It was honestly really cool, but it was totally different in my mind (as was Waterford). I wanted to buy everything, per usual, but settled on a package of 4 wine goblets that are currently being shipped back to my house. I’ve got my eye on a peacock carved crystal bowl though (also available at Macy’s) in case anyone wanted to get me a birthday present (on the 25th!).

 

 

We were supposed to take the train from Waterford all the way back to Dublin, but something was going on with the line we had to use so we took the train as far as we could go then they put us on a bus for an hour to get back to Dublin. While at the train station in Waterford, Melissa discovered that she had lost her phone… which was also holding her credit card and driver’s license.

Fortunately it was safely in the cab we had just left that was still nearby and we were able to avoid disaster once retrieved! The rest of the group we were with consistently asked her at each of the next stops if she had her phone as did Brian and I the rest of the trip. She will never live that down 😉

The next day was another early one as we set off for Blarney and Cork. On the way to Blarney we stopped at the Rock of Cashel. I had never heard of it, but honestly it was really beautiful and I would love to do a photoshoot here. Melissa and I just kept marveling over how Dublin always seems to have the best lighting for pictures (i.e. overcast). The Rock of Cashel is an ancient church in ruins complete with a graveyard. I was really impressed with this seemingly commonplace ruin (there are just so many of them).

After that little stop we hopped back on the bus and were soon in Blarney to visit the very famous Blarney Stone. Our tour guide warned us that if that was our major goal for the day then we needed to hop to it before the rest of the tourists did. I didn’t think we were that excited initially by it, but Melissa and Brian took off RUNNING for it so I followed. We did manage to beat most people to the stone and as I am always competitive that did give me a sense of accomplishment. We got our pictures with the stone (I fake kissed it since I heard rumor that drunk teenagers sneak up there to pee on it) and headed back down to enjoy the grounds.

Clearly, I had not done enough research because I totally didn’t realize that there was an actual castle and grounds in Blarney. We spent several hours wandering through the forest, taking about a billion pictures (Brian), and enjoying the beautiful day. We finished the site with some Irish coffees to-go and headed back to the bus to visit Cork.

 

We were in Cork just long enough to finish a pint before heading back to the bus to get back to Dublin. The wonderful thing about tours is that even though most things are several hours away YOU don’t have to drive! You are free to nap, read, write, daydream, eat some snick-snacks, do whatever you please. I have generally had great experiences with using tour guide services and still continue to recommend them. They are generally incredibly knowledgeable about the locations and sometimes even have their own funny stories.

As we were leaving Dublin that morning our bus driver/tour guide drove us by this huge open field that Braveheart had used when filming. Apparently back in the day, when they were filming it cause a lot of traffic issues for the people living in the area. To alleviate some of the grievances the movie crew told the village that they could all be extras in the movie and would even get paid. If you have seen the movie (which I have not…. yet) then you may remember a scene where several men lift up their kilts and moon some people. My bus driver was proudly one of the mooners and remembers that time fondly. #culture

I had that next day off so we slept in a bit and then tried to go see Bram Stoker’s grave at Christchurch Cathedral right by my apartment. It was like 6 euro to go in and we didn’t really feel like it at the time so we skipped out and bought some carrots to feed the deer. We drove over the park and fortunately found a small group of the deer fairly quickly. They LOVED the carrots and let us pet them before the park ranger came over to break up the party. We then walked closer to the front of the park to see this huge statue then left to go visit the Tullamore Dew Distillery.

Brian’s #1 request for the trip was to visit the distillery. This is a fairly small one and no tours leave from Dublin to see it. Fortunately, I have a car this time so I was able to accommodate this request fairly easily. What I didn’t realize was that to get here you have to get on the M50 Motorway and pay a toll, but not at the tollbooth. For whatever reason you have to remember to call or visit a website to pay you toll by 8pm the next day…. guess who forgot and paid it a few days later. I’ll have to update you when my rental car gets turned in about the outcome of that delay.

The distillery is actually really cool. It was recently updated in 2014 after being out of commission for a long period of time and all of the floors are original. We got there pretty early so we ate lunch in their restaurant and started peeking at the gift shop. The legal limit in Ireland is .01 as opposed to America’s .08 so I was not going to be imbibing. They gave me a little take home bottle as compensation for my abstinence. I was also REALLY tired so I found a comfy seat and promptly slept through the entire tasting session so it turned out to be a win-win. We bought way too much at the gift stop (I’m an enabler – what can I say?) then headed back to Dublin for a Skype session with some of our friends in Africa.

We got dinner at Boxty and it was delicious per usual and Melissa even got some of the Boxty mix to bring back home. I may have to pick some up as well before I leave. We did some souvenir shopping and then got one last drink for the night at a pub just outside of Temple Bar.

I had to go back to work, but Melissa and Brian ended up going to Giant’s Causeway and The Cliffs of Moher the next two days so I would meet them back in Dublin at night for dinner to hear about their adventures. We also visited the oldest bar in Dublin – The Brazen Head. It was a good way to end their trip and I was really sad to see them go. I always have a great time with them and am very fortunate to call them friends. 🙂

Side story: My friend Blair is super into finding flight deals and had made plans for our friend group to take an adventure in September. He was going to look in May for something and we would knowingly only have a small window of oppotunity to say yes before the deal closed. I happened to get a text from him in April the day of the United Airlines catastrophe about a deal at the end of September for Belize. I’ve never been to South America and I trust his trip-planning skills so I whipped out my credit card and confirmed my excitement for yet another adventure! I’ve only heard good things from several other Irish people who’ve gone and I am looking forward to a beach vacation SO BAD. I also discovered that there are sharks there so I’ll be diligent about my water activities since I think that a shark attack is probably one of the worst ways to die/have to live the rest of your life remembering. Even if the sharks don’t get me I’ll be on the lookout since I’m flying United now 😉

April isn’t over, but this post is getting ridiculously long and we haven’t even hit my birthday yet so I’ll just make the next post at least for the end of April or potentially combine it with part of May. Stay tuned and see what happens 🙂

Happy Reading

-Savvy