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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Taking Awesome Travel Pics

You know I'm no stranger to taking a million travel photos. I use my point-and-shoot camera as well as my phone (and Eric's), but even I can learn some tricks to take better ones. If your pics are lacking or you think they look a bit boring or flat, then here's a great infographic that can help you make them more fab and give them new life. It's all in how you look at things, which I have had to learn over the years. I've been known to lay on the ground to get a shot I liked or create a fun angle. You do you!

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Did that help at all? What do you hope to change or get better at in your future vacation snaps? I'm still working on nighttime shots.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Packing a Halloween Costume

You know how I always like to travel around Halloween. It's not just because it's cheaper for me to take a trip then, but also because we're often somewhere that we can dress up and have fun, like Disney. If you also plan to travel near or on Halloween and want to wear a costume that doesn't take up a bunch of space in your carry-on bag (because checking a bag to accommodate a costume means you might as well have bought one once you get there), then I've found some great ideas that will make you look festive, but with minimal extra items.

Eric and I as Bojack Horseman and Diane Nguyen
Anyone can be a witch or Where's Waldo. Those aren't all that creative, but will do in a pinch. We like to try a little harder and be somewhat creative when traveling. Some of our past costumes have been: ice cream man, baseball fan, burglar, Wayne & Garth, airplane pilot, Bavarian reveler, and safari-goer.


I love this airline tarmac worker costume from TravelingMom.com. A vest takes up virtually no space and you can easily make flashlight cones from a pool noodle, which will fit conveniently in your bag or can be purchased at your destination.

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Got a black and white or blue and white striped shirt? You're probably going to pack a pair of matching pants or a skirt, so why not get yourself a beret and a matching scarf (a long scrap of fabric can work) and go as a french person, possibly not as sexy as this one:

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I also like this adorable little French dude: 
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Go with it and be a tourist. If you're traveling in a place that is warm, it's even easier, especially since you probably already have a map, a hat and your camera. We always bring khaki pants or shorts, because they go with everything. Toss in a Hawaiian shirt and you've got it down. Easy peasy.

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Everyone has room for an extra t-shirt in their bag. Turn yourself into a treasure map with this cool tutorial from Beantown Baker. Add a fun accessory, like a spyglass, an eye patch, a bandana or a sparkly red X glued to a barrette for your hair. 

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Be a hero to women everywhere and dress as Rosie the Riveter. If you're like most women in the world, you own a chambray shirt and a pair of jeans. Add a bandana and a slick of red lipstick and you're done. You don't even have to do your hair. Bonus!

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Be a more traditional hero - a superhero. Everyone loves Superman and you can be Clark Kent as Superman so easy. Any pants you've brought can work, pack a button-down shirt (or borrow one from your travel companion) and toss in a Superman t-shirt. Wear it underneath the open shirt (that you tuck in) and find a cheap pair of black-rimmed glasses. You can also be Supergirl, as lady below. Check Target next time you're there and pick up a Superman tee for cheap.

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This one relies mostly on makeup. Wear the jeans you brought and pack an old flannel shirt (or one you love and planned to wear anyway). The only thing you'll need to buy is a floppy hat and voila! You're a scarecrow, you know, with this makeup tutorial. This one is fun, because it's also unisex. Want to make it a little more realistic, buy some straw-colored yarn or pipecleaners and make some "straw" bracelets with pieces sticking out of your cuffs.

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When I go somewhere that might be cold, I almost always have a black sweater with me. It goes with everything. Make a run to the craft store and get some felt to make a circle and a big number 8 and go as a Magic 8 Ball. This is genius, whether you're pregnant or not...and is seriously easy to pull off for everyone.

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Guys, do you have a leather jacket? If you do, poof your hair and don a white tee and some jeans and go as The Fonz. Eeehhhh! Thumbs up!

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I love food. I mean, who doesn't? I was inspired by this adorable little kid as spaghetti. You could easily make this for adults on a much smaller scale. Make a headpiece of spaghetti yarn, add some pom pom "meatballs" on top, wear a red shirt and possibly make a meatball necklace and wear a checkered napkin like a tablecloth. I like this idea so much, I might use it for my next trip to Disney's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

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So, there are some of my new favorite costumes for your travels. If you've worn any of these or have other ideas, I'd love to know. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and even though I have more costumes than I know what to do with, that doesn't mean I don't want more. Where will you be this Halloween?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Review: One Tribe Apparel's Aladdin Pants

If there's one thing I love, it's travel clothing that's good looking and also comfortable. It's especially fun if they are reminiscent of a travel destination in some way, and you can't get any better than those that help out charities. Somehow, One Tribe Apparel makes clothing that does all four. Even better: They're super affordable.


When they asked if I'd like to check out their clothes, I immediately gravitated towards their Aladdin pants. As much as I enjoyed the look of their harem pants, it's been a hot summer and I've been traveling to some warm weather places were a shorter pant, would be welcome. Look how cute they are! 

After seeing how many travelers to their hostel were taking to the Thai boho look, Mitchell and Fai decided to start their own line for folks in the U.S. and boy did they succeed. These lovely lightweight pants are perfect for lounging around your house or hotel, but also wonderful for beating the heat while out sightseeing. If you're a light packer like me, these barely taken up any room at all in your carry-on.


Do I look ready to take on a new travel destination? The harem pants are a lot more vibrant and lively, but I like to mix and match, so the Aladdin pants were a perfect fit for me. The waistband is made of a handwoven panel with a fun pattern, but the pants themselves are solid colored. I love that they even work for someone short like me and the elastic on the bottom of the legs isn't constricting at all.


I've worn these a bunc of times this summer and I can say I love the feel. The fabric is really lightweight and breathable, making them easy to wear even when it's over 90 outside.


Each pair come with this handy little attached pouch pocket that is sewn to the waistband, but looseat the bottom, so it swings. It barely fits my larger phone, if I don't button it back up, but it would be ideal for your money and hotel key card, for when you hate carrying a purse. 

Here it is without my phone in it. (Please excuse the dog hair.) Now, I'm not the skinniest, and these pants are pretty much "one size fits all". They come in Standard sizing, which says fits up to size 12. I wear a size 6 normally (my waist is a 28), and these don't cut in at all on me. The back of the waist are elasticized, so they may be a bit snug if you are in the larger range, but I'd definitely try them. 


I also like they they look great with shorter tops that are more popular now. I'm not going to go full-on crop top or bikini top, but most shorter tops are normal length on me, so opted for one of my new athletic tops. I think it looks great and it's equally lightweight and breathable, so I'm ready for summertime weather. I really think these pants are going to be a staple in my future packing. They're everything I'm looking for in a travel pant, including a great neutral color to go with more tops.

If you love a comfortable, cute and functional pant for your travel bag, then go see the other styles of clothing they have at One Tribe Apparel.

Ooh! I almost forgot the best part: Your OTA purchases help support elephant rescue. When so many places are exploiting animals in the name of tourist experiences, there are some fantastic rescues that rehabilitate animals and educate the public properly. Part of your purchase will go to one of these awesome places in Thailand, The Elephant Nature Park. Feel good, look good and be happy about how you spent your money.

More info: 
You can buy them here: On OneTribeApparel's website
How much they cost: Only $27 each, which means you can buy multiple pair!
The awesome colors: Rivergreen | Black | Purple | Grey (shown) | Coral | Skyblue
Additional specs: handmade in Thailand, so you're supporting individual business people, cotton fabric, for waist sizes 26-36." Each item comes with a 30-day guarantee and you can get free shipping on orders $60+.

Love what One Tribe Apparel stands for? Connect with them online:

Disclaimer: I was provided with a pair of One Tribe Apparel Aladdin pants for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Free Museum Day

In less than two weeks more than 1,400 museums in America (and Puerto Rico) will be offering free admission all day. This is a great promotion and can save you big bucks whether you are on vacation or at home. It’s also the perfect time to get your kiddos some culture without having to dish out the cash when they may or may not let you stay long enough to get your entry money’s worth.


We almost always visit at least one museum on any trip we take. From the Museums de la Mitad del Mundo in Ecuador to the Queen's House in Greenwich, London, we have seen some very interesting bits of history indeed. I know not all museums are fascinating for children, but there are plenty that are educational and fun for them. In Oregon alone, I found several that would keep their attention: ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum (Ashland), World Forestry Center Discovery Museum (Portland) and the Antique Powerland Museum (Salem).


If you don’t have kids and just want to see some fantastic art, that’s great too, and you will have plenty more to choose from. Museums of history, art and sculptures fill the list in each state, so you will find something that will fit your mood. All you have to do is go to the website, choose your preferred museum and submit your information. You’ll get an email to print out your free ticket and gain admission for two people. It’s that easy! You can get a free ticket for two per email address/household. If there are more people in your group, use your husband’s email address or a friend’s. I don’t think you’ll need to go so far as to pretend you don’t know each other when you enter, but use your own judgment.


The majority of the free entries are September 23, but a select few aren’t open on Saturdays and are offering it on Sunday, September 24. You MUST have your printed ticket to get free entry.

Will YOU be attending Museum Day Live! organized by Smithsonian Magazine?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Heading to San Diego

Soooo...remember how a week ago I was super excited about visiting St. Thomas? Well, it sure looks like Irma and Juan are going to thwart that plan, so we're looking into back-up plans. Right now, I think our best bet is San Diego, as neither of us have really actually been there and there are tons of things to do, and we don't even need to rent a car to do it all. 

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I've tentatively booked myself into our timeshare near Balboa Park, so we can walk to 80% of the things we want to see and do, and take public transportation everywhere else, including the train to Legoland. Plus, the weather will be less hot and muggy, but I can still pack everything I planned to pack for the USVI, with the addition of a cardigan and a pair of pants. 

Why am I telling you this? Because I gotta have a plan, right? Don't worry. You know me with the million ideas that I can fit into any time frame, so of course I have this list of fun stuff that work for our budget:

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Free and inexpensive

Balboa Park – This gateway to San Diego culture and activities is home to 15 museums, art venues and gardens, as well as the San Diego Zoo. The park itself is open 24 hours and offers free admission to the grounds, Botanical Building and most gardens.

Old Town San Diego – Discover San Diego’s historical Mission Valley Neighborhood where the Kumeyaay Indians prospered. You’re invited to enter Old Town’s historic buildings for free, including the oldest schoolhouse in San Diego, the Estudillo House. Visiting Bazaar del Mundo is a must, where you can pick up one-of-a-kind and exotic items. While it is 3 miles outside of downtown, taking the Trolley or Coaster to Old Town is quick, easy and affordable.

Seaport Village – Everyday you’ll find free entertainment in Seaport Village, from Shakespeare to blues music. Find the schedule of outdoor performances HERE. Enjoy the view of the bay, browse over 50 shops and choose from 17 unique dining venues. You can even sign up for coupons to use on your visit to Seaport Village.

Moderate

Mission Beach Boardwalk – Stroll along 3 miles of beach with fun shops and food selections. Take the family to Belmont Park, the beachfront amusement park and entertainment center. It’s famous for its oldest wooden coaster called the Giant Dipper. Unlimited ride passes are available. Get discounts for Belmont Park HERE.

Birch Aquarium – See the wonders of the Pacific Ocean with over 60 habitats, including hands-on exhibits and the soon-to-open Boundless Energy exhibit which explores the groundbreaking ways we can use the power of the sun, wind and water for natural power. The aquarium brings amazing aquatic creatures to the surface and educates you on their habitats and preservation.

Splurge

San Diego Zoo – Explore one of the nation’s largest and most innovative zoos with your family. At 100 acres, it houses over 4,000 animals and also offers a guided bus tour that can give you an overview of the entire zoo. You can reach the zoo by Coaster from downtown. Children 11 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult in the month of October.

Wild  Animal Park – Observe herd animals from Asia and Africa, such as giraffes, rhinos and cheetahs. Choose from the original tram safari and walking tour or from 7 other more unique safari tours (unique tours have unique prices). The Safari Park is located 35 miles from the San Diego Zoo in Escondido. It’s possible to get there via public transportation.
(Save money by purchasing a multi-pass ticket  HERE.)

If you, like me, want to do a ton of things, you might want to think about picking up a San Diego GoCard for you and each member of your traveling party. For a discounted price, you can gain admission to your choice of 50 of San Diego’s top attractions, including the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND California, Sea World (with the purchase of a 3, 5 or 7 day pass), Birch Aquarium at Scripps and many more. 

The pass allows you to skip the ticket lines and go right to the front gate.  Each comes with a full-color guidebook and shopping and dining discounts, giving you even bigger savings. Have it shipped to you before you leave or pick it up at designated locations when you get to San Diego.

There you have it. Things to fill more than 7 days, but also plenty of ways to just relax and wander for days without really stressing out about life. The only thing I'll really have to worry about is where I'm going to eat for dinner, because there are so many options. I'll keep you up to date on my plans, but if you have suggestions for what I must see and must do (and must eat!) in San Diego, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Be a Decent Plane Passenger

Being a decent plane passenger is not only easy, but it makes traveling in a flying tin can a lot happier for everyone involved. You don’t have to be a jerk, just because you hate flying. Just keep in mind that at the end you’ll be somewhere cool, so try not to encourage others to punch you. I know being in close proximity with strangers is hard. I’m an introvert, I like my personal space, and I don’t much love people in general.


I have yet to get into a fist fight or shouting match with anyone on a plane or in the airport, as much as I’ve wanted to on several occasions. I feel like a little courtesy goes a long way. You aren’t the only one probably having a hard day. Travel can induce stress, but letting it get the best of you is a terrible way to live.

Chillax

I said it. Things are going to go wrong and plans are everchanging sometimes. Getting all uppity about things you can’t change isn’t helpful to anyone. Chill. Have a Plan B. Even if that plan is just you going to the bar to get a beer and wait for your delayed flight.

Travel is like life. Not everything runs smoothly, and most of the time it’s not your fault. Learn to roll with the punches and breathe. Things will work out and you’ll eventually make it to where you’re headed. The same goes for when you’re stuck on the tarmac with no timeline as to when your flight is going to take off or be able to deplane. If you’re calm and dealing with it like a grown up it’s possible others will too. Aggravation just breeds more aggravation.

Imagine if someone came into your work while you're just doing your job and started yelling at you because they were unhappy and wanted to make you miserable, but there was a door on your cube, so you couldn't even get away from them. Yeah, that's about what it's like for a flight attendant (and all the other plane passengers for that matter). I've already worked retail. I don't particularly want to live through the experience again. Flight crew have hard jobs. You don't need to make it harder.

Bring snacks

Don’t be hangry. You should already know that you aren’t getting fed on your flight. Sometimes they even have to skip the tiny bag of pretzels you don’t actually want anyway. Plan ahead. Pack a few snacks and a bottle of water in your bag for when you start to get puckish and need to eat. It also helps to keep from getting dehydrated and may stave off jet lag when you arrive at your final destination.

Charge your phone

My phone is the source of much of my entertainment (as is my iPad mini), so I always make sure those are charged up before getting on the plane. Getting bored and restless can make one cranky and horrible. Have a source (or several sources) to amuse yourself, just in case you can’t sleep, because I guarantee you that 98% of the people you sit next to don’t want to be your friend and would rather just do their own thing than talk to you the entire flight. Also, the other people on the plane don’t want to hear your loud conversation. Sorry. They just don’t.

Learn to play by yourself…or bring a game that you can play with your travel companion. Bring your headphones (because they also don’t want to listen to your game or movie while they’re trying to read or sleep) and a back-up battery to keep charged on longer flights. I always make sure to download a few games that are fun and don’t require internet connection.

Pack a magazine or book

There are times when electronics can’t be used or your devices give up the ghost or your eyes hurt from the light they give off in the dark. I always have a few magazines in my bag for when I just want to read something short, or do a crossword, or look at pictures.

It’s also good to have a book of games that can be played on paper, if you like those sorts of things. I like logic problems. They make the time go by fast and I’m working my brain out. Maybe you like Sudoku or word searches. Get one of those instead.

Keep your shoes on

I know you want to be comfortable on the plane, but so does everyone else. Wear shoes that are not restricting and make your feet angry, or bring a pair of slippers to change into once on board.

Don’t be an armrest hog

If you’re a middle-seater, both of those armrests are, technically, yours. The aisle has their own and the window has, well, the window. The person in the middle doesn’t really get anything going for it, except not getting hit in the elbow by the drink cart, so let them have the armrests. It’s the least you can do for a person who’s stuck in between two strangers for 2+ hours.

Wait your turn

The plane is pulling up to the gate. You can take off your seatbelt and talk on your phone, but the doors aren’t even open yet. You getting up and jumping into the aisle to wrestle your bag out of the overhead is not helping anyone. Unless you have a tight connection to catch, don’t expect to be able to run off the plane, because you’re an adult. Act like it. The plane will be deboarded by aisle. You might as well wait until it’s your turn to shove out in the aisle and get your bag. Relax. You aren’t going to get stuck on the plane, so sit down instead of doing that weird hunch trying to stand up in front of your seat.

Stop taking up all the overhead space

I know, I know. Nobody wants to pay $50 for their bag to fly to their destination, so you gotta carry all your ish with you. I get it. I don’t check bags and I fly with a carry-on. The point is, that’s what the overhead bin is for: your carry-on. Not for your purses and jackets and briefcases.

Stop taking up all the space that other people have also paid for with these things that can fit under your seat. It makes other passengers want to hit you, plus it takes a ton of extra time for the poor flight attendants to rearrange things to make them fit. If not for you (and the other 30% of passengers doing this), you could have left early and already been somewhere fun.


Pay attention to your kids

Yes, I know that people are aggressively against babies/children on planes, but there are a few people that make it that way for the majority. Instead of expecting other people to just endure your kids when you're out in public (you're still a parent, you know), pay them extra attention. Prepare them for what they should expect on a plane, bring them gum, toys, snacks, and possibly a tablet. Whether or not you allow them electronics at home, this can be an exception to the rule. 

If someone politely asks you to have your child stop kicking their seat, don't look at them like it's their fault. I know traveling is stressful, and so is parenthood, but unless you want someone to throttle you in front of your kid, because you act like they should just deal with an unwanted shiatsu massage to their lumbar, please do something. 

Kids have short legs. I understand, so do I. It makes it hard to keep comfortable when they are dangling from the seats. Bring a foot rest (one of those inflatable ones) that you can shove between the seats and they can put their little legs on. When they're restless, they kick. It also helps to have that entertainment for them on hand so they are occupied. I love when a kid has a tablet and is mesmerized for two hours, but not so much when I have to hear it at full blast. Remember a pair of headphones for them too.

Other things that you might consider with children: 
  • bring a change of clothes and a plastic bag, because accidents happen. With babies, this can often extend to others, so I'd suggest bringing the same for you. I mean, I know you have clothes in your carry-on...in the overhead. Just have something handy that you have stashed in your diaper bag, including antibacterial wipes. On one trip I somehow spilled orange juice right in my lap, making my mom mad at my clumsiness. Of course, she tried to open hers, did the exact same thing, and then said she was sorry. But we still had sticky orange juice laps, even after a trip to the bathroom to clean up.
  • Changing a diaper at your seat is not something anyone wants to see or smell. I know the bathrooms are minuscule, but they do have those sweet pull-down changing tables over the toilet, even if you have to stand halfway out the door to use it.

Keep things you want during the flight under your seat

If I have to look up one more time to see someones butt or midriff in my face, I'm going to start pushing them over. Once stuff is in the overhead, it's there for the remainder of the flight, barring emergency. Keep your magazines, laptop, extra sweater, snacks, and knitting project in your personal item bag at your feet. Think how sucky it'll be for everyone if you hit unexpected turbulence and all those bags fall out onto heads and your break your neck in the aisle. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

My St. Thomas Wish List

I've got my plane tickets and my vacation rental booked and a car waiting for me. We are going to St. Thomas! I've really been hoping to get to the Virgin Islands for a while and we've decided to start with the U.S. Virgin Islands and see how we like it. We'll only be gone for a week, so we won't need a passport. Not quite enough time to go island hopping to the British Virgin Islands.

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Though this will mostly be a relax-and-chill vacation, we're definitely going to be wandering the island (and driving on the left side of the road!) and seeing all there is to see, as well as eating all the delicious food. I have a wish list that may be too long for our time there, but the island is very small, so maybe not.

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Plantation Crown & Hawk Botanical Garden

Guess who doesn't say no to a trip to the botanical garden? Did you guess me? Because it's me! I love looking at new plants and flowers that I might never see again. I don't know much about this place, except the admission cost, so we'll see if it's worth the trip.

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Magic Ice

Is it dumb that they built a place with ice sculptures when it's generally 90 degrees outside? I don't care, because it sounds awesome and a fantastic way to cool off for a little bit. I am excited to go from shorts  to wearing a parka, gloves and a hat. Alcohol might also be involved, but even if it's not, I'm really curious to explore this place.

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Skyride to Paradise Point

I'm not one to pass up a trip up a mountain in a gondola. I mean, views from the sky are always breathtaking, so I'm looking forward to taking the trip up, enjoying the view, watching the exotic birds, and then getting a meal before taking the Skyride back down again. Maybe we'll wait it out and watch the sunset from the top on the observation deck. I hear that's really something.

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Blackbeard's Castle

Castles are the worst. Said no one, ever. They have such rich history, plus their just really effing cool. Blackbeard's Castle is one of the historic sites on St. Thomas, in an area known as the Williamsburg of the Caribbean. It spans 5 acres and tells me all about the pirate legacy of St. Thomas. It also sits on a hilltop and gives you tremendous views of the harbor. I'll even get some extra exercise walking up the famous 99 Steps to the site.

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Coral World Ocean Park

I'm all about local wildlife...and seeing marine animals while I'm not in the water with them. I'll probably go snorkeling, but I guarantee it won't be as awesome for me as Coral World, because I'm a weenie who's terrified of being in the water with anything that isn't a clownfish, bat ray, or sea turtle. At Coral World, I can get up close and personal to things like sting rays and tropical birds, and I can watch other people swim with sharks, as well and enjoy things from the safety of their undersea observatory.

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Hassel Island Ruins

This island is a National Park of 135 acres and used to be a home for those with leprosy and other infectious diseases. The island's buildings fell into disrepair and now stand as ruins with a very vibrant and interesting history. I'm totally going to strap on my walking shoes and bring my camera to immortalize all these things in the middle of awesome flora. 

Have you been to St. Thomas? If so, where should I go and, more importantly, where should I eat?

Friday, September 1, 2017

We're Going Back to Hogwarts

Well, maybe not me, at least not at the moment But for those awesome little witches and wizards in the UK, the Hogwarts Express is speeding its way to that amazing castle we all know and love.



If you're headed back to school, good luck, have fun, and don't fix that broken Vanishing Cabinet, please. #19YearsLater

If you want some posts about my Harry Potter adventures, here's my latest. I figured out I would have been 3 years ahead of Harry if I'd gone to Hogwarts, studying in Ravenclaw Tower. What year would you have been in relation to The Boy Who Lived? Which house would have been in?
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