one. Visit an amusement park
two. Take Oliver to the beach for a weekend
three. Get a snow cone
four. Pick fresh peaches from a farm
five. Create an outdoor sitting nook/garden
six. Watch fireworks on the pier
seven. Make a decadent peach cobbler
eight. Visit Luray Caverns
nine. Take a day trip to bike around Philadelphia
ten. Attend a baseball game
eleven. Discover hidden treasures at a flea market
twelve. Have a picnic on Federal Hill
thirteen. Watch a drive-in movie at Bengie's
fourteen. Hike on the Appalachian trail
fifteen. Make gourmet popsicles
I can't believe that it's already Summer! I feel like I was just putting away our Christmas decorations (well... actually I was but, that's a different story). I am anxious and excited to get this season started with some fun activities and adventures. Some of my most treasured Summer memories when I was younger include devouring fireball snow cones with friends on the bike trail, spending time at our neighborhood beach, and going to baseball games with my Dad and sisters.
The past few years, Sam and I have started our own Summer traditions. We love whipping up my famous peach cobbler with juicy, local peaches from the Farmers Market as a weekend treat. For a special date night, heading back in time to Bengie's drive-in theater always feels extra romantic. And, watching fireworks with friends and family on the pier near our home for the Fourth of July is our favorite way to kick-start it all.
This year, we made a new list of things that we want to check off starting with our outdoor sitting nook/garden that is almost complete. I can't wait to relax out there in the evenings after work with Sam and Oliver and enjoy an ice cold glass of wine while we plan out the rest of our adventures.
What items are on your Summer bucket list? Share them with me below!
xo Anna Elizabeth
Hey, babes! Welcome to our very first book club discussion; I am so excited to get started! I hope you have been enjoying our pick, A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. If you haven't started yet, it's not too late! There's plenty of time to start before our final discussion on July 14th. For those of you that have been reading along, I told you in the announcement post that we would be reading to the end of Chapter 20 (p.s. it's totally okay if you read ahead!).
I have been absolutely loving the story so far, I have to say that it is already one of my favorite books that I've read in years (yes - woah). The fact that this book is based on a true story is so moving and, in my opinion, brings it to an entirely new level. I happily devoured all 20 chapters in a matter of 2 days. I was unable to tear myself away from Amanda's boldness as a woman traveling alone through foreign countries, the terrifying run-ins in each place that she visited, and her unique empathy for those that she came in contact with including her captors. I hope that you all enjoyed these first 20 chapters as much as I did. Now - grab your book, pour an extra large glass of vino (you deserve it), and let's get started!
1. Above all else, Amanda identifies herself as a traveler, an identity born out of her childhood obsession with National Geographic. Why do you think National Geographic had such a large impact on her? What led Amanda to make the leap from the legions of armchair travelers into someone whose life revolved around her journeys?
2. On page 14, Amanda discusses sneaking into an amusement park after dark, with a childhood friend. She writes, “…we allowed ourselves to relax and feel giddy, forgetting that it was dark and we were trespassing, forgetting everything that scared or haunted us…” How does this childhood memory reflect Amanda’s experience traveling to foreign countries and unknown places? Is part of the thrill of travel related to risk?
3. Amanda’s first trip, to South America, initially disappoints her because Caracas doesn’t “feel foreign”. What does this demonstrate about the different ways people travel? As she leaves Caracas and ventures into the kind of journey she’ll come to crave, what changes for her?
4. During this trip to South America, Amanda confronts the experience of venturing off the beaten path, and defines the feeling of the frontier as “a knifepoint between elation and terror” (p. 36). How will this balance come to define her travels?
5. The memory of cutting her friend Kelly’s hair will become one of the things that sustains Amanda throughout her captivity. Why do you think this memory sticks with her?
6. In Dhaka, Amanda experiences what she sees as the “beautiful” side of Islam, but also confronts the dangers inherent in being a solo female traveler in that particular place. How does this dichotomy influence her experiences in captivity?
7. On page 67, Amanda quotes Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari, “All news out of Africa is bad. It made me want to go there…” Both Nigel and Amanda understand this sentiment, and it’s partially what draws them to Somalia. What do you make of the idea that bad news would bring someone to a place?
8. Amanda’s time in captivity is spent trying to negotiate the best way to stay alive—she vacillates between trying to understand and connect with her captors, through things like converting to Islam, and resistance like trying to escape. Why do you think Amanda and Nigel have such different takes how to best manage their captivity? What do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each method?
1. In Amanda's childhood, she recalls using National Geographic as a means of "escaping" her reality: an abusive and strange household. She said in the first sentence of the book that when she was young, she trusted the world (what she saw in National Geographic) and that it wasn't ugly or dangerous. Her defense against girls at school bullying her or one of her Mom's abusive boyfriends was that she planned to move on one day and far away from it all. I think that submersing herself in pages of National Geographic and other, foreign cultures within the magazine was a good means of coping as a child.
2. Amanda recalling her experience with trespassing inside of a dark and mysterious amusement park at night with her friend was a great foreshadowing for her travels. "...forgetting everything that scared or haunted us, lost in the playland we'd never before seen". In the beginning of the book, Amanda described herself as a frightened kid. I think that traveling allowed Amanda to push past her boundaries and her fears and enjoy the thrill of risk and of being alone while traveling. I do believe that part of the thrill of travel is related to risk, especially for full-time travelers as opposed to "vacationers". For me, the point of traveling to a foreign country is to immerse oneself in the culture and into the unknown which comes with a certain risk and inability to control a situation.
3. I can relate to Amanda's disappointment in her first trip to South America in Caracas and it not "feeling foreign". When I travel, my first desire is to learn or experience something totally new and unrelated to where I came from (home). I believe that the only way to grow is to push your boundaries and experience new emotions that come with "feeling foreign". However, I definitely do not think that everyone that travels feels the same way. I think that for some people, the point of their travels is to simply de-stress or relax; which is not something you would typically anticipate if you are foreign to the location. As Amanda leaves Caracas, she begins looking for places that are "off of the beaten path" and that typical travelers would not choose. She begins to look for the beauty to share in places that travelers don't see any - which I've found is a reoccurring theme in this book.
4. This was the first time in Amanda's travels that I remember that she was truly afraid of something awful happening to her while she slept on the beach with Jamie. She was experiencing something new but, also uncertain and potentially dangerous. The phrase that she used to describe it, "a knifepoint between elation and terror" is a great way to describe Amanda's travels in foreign countries by herself throughout the book. A lot of the experiences that Amanda recalls while traveling are positive and freeing, learning new things about herself and pushing herself further. She learns how to be independent and rely on herself throughout her travels which I think can be a life-changing realization, especially for women. On the other hand, other experiences that Amanda recalls are terrifying mainly due to the fact that she is traveling alone. For example, getting robbed with the gun pressed to her back in a crowd full of people.
5. Amanda describes this memory with Kelly as a "made-up story" or a "fever dream" while she is in captivity. I think that she holds so tightly to this memory because it draws her back to her former "reality" and really shows her that the worries that she had prior to her kidnapping were nothing like she thought they were at the time. She remembers the feeling of having friends and people that cared for her around and cutting a friend's hair after her Summer heartbreak and how "big" it felt, because Kelly's hair was so beautiful and long. In comparison to her situation now however, being beaten and starved, the idea of cutting someone's long hair is minuscule and carefree. I think that the point of re-telling the story with Kelly is to show that while she is in captivity, she begins to truly see and appreciate the little things in her prior life that she took for granted.
6. I found it very interesting when Amanda was in Dhaka and several of the hotel owners would not allow her to stay because she was a solo female traveler and not with a husband. It made it very difficult for her to find a place to sleep overnight alone and at the same time, on the street, all attention was drawn to her each time she passed by alone. The scariest part of Dhaka was when Amanda's cab driver began to take her off of the beaten path and further away from the city center, where she had asked to be taken. It appeared that she was going to be kidnapped or harmed before she smashed her fist into the side of his head and forcefully made him turn the car around. Because of Amanda's travels alone as a woman, I think that she was better prepared for her experience in captivity since she was the only female. She was very aware of the dangers of sexual assault and abuse due to the fact that she was surrounded by all male captors. Oftentimes throughout the beginning of her captivity, she was defensive about sleeping, changing clothes, or showering even in her room.
7. My belief is that Amanda was drawn to Somalia mainly due to the fact that all people hear is negative news from the country and she wanted to shed some light on the good. I think that Amanda wanted to give a different perspective on a very tough situation by showing the "normal" in the country like two children playing together or a neighbor watching after another neighbor - rather than the public executions and other crime that is reported and televised. I really admire Amanda for thinking this way because it shows that she can view life and situations by seeking out the positive rather than being blinded by the overwhelming negative.
8. I think that because of Amanda's unique way of thinking through other's perspectives, she immediately looks for the positive in light of being kidnapped. She tries to get to know her captors and understand the reasoning behind their actions while also making them realize that she is a human being. She was attempting to build their sympathy for her by making herself more relatable to the captors. I think that this method really helped Amanda to cope in the beginning. Once Amanda realized however, that they are willing to break their moral code in the Koran by putting their wants first (ex. the ransom money), she begins to realize that her only hope is to escape since her family will not be able to pay. Nigel was more resistant in the beginning of his and Amanda's captivity and did not engage with their captors as much. I think this was because he was depressed and had lost hope. He did not want to convert to Islam when Amanda had suggested it because he thought that it would only get them in more trouble if the captors felt that they were not being sincere in their prayers. I think that an advantage of Nigel's method is that it helped him fly "under the radar" while in captivity, by not engaging with their captors. However, I did see that as a big disadvantage as well because he was not building any relationship with them to help his situation, thus being easier to kill as an means of negotiating for the rest of the captives if the ransom money did not come through.
Now it's your turn to answer the discussion questions! Leave your responses in the comments below and feel free to get the conversation going with your fellow book club babes.
After you answer the questions from today's Q&A, keep reading. We will be finishing up the book on Thursday, July 14th and holding our final dicussion for the whole book that night at 7pm EST. We will post a reminder that morning on our Facebook page. Can't wait to see you there!
xo Anna Elizabeth
Oh my goodness. I am so glad to get back to blogging this week after a much-needed break in Canada. As I've mentioned before, Sam and I make our way each year to Ontario to celebrate the anniversary of our first date. We always stop by Sam's family cabin to relax for a few days by ourselves before helping his grandmother get settled in for the Summer. Throughout the past 4 years, we've also begun a tradition of exploring a new city and staying in a hotel downtown for 2 nights or so on our way back home to the states.
The cabin in Ontario has become one of Sam and my favorite traditions since we began dating 5 years ago. It's propped up on an island on Bob's Lake where we don't come into contact with people for days on end. The first 3 years that we visited, we actually had to swim from the parking spot where our car was located, to the cabin which is quite a ways down the lake to get the boat that would carry our things (mainly wine and swimsuits). It was always a fun tradition, even when it was pouring down rain and the lake was ice cold one year.
As you might know, Sam and I live in the big city of Baltimore. We have for over 4 years now and we truly crave the hustle and bustle and loud noises right downtown. We love that at any time throughout the day, whether it's a Tuesday afternoon or a Saturday morning, there's no question that the moment we step outside, we will see friends walking their dogs, babies strapped to their chests, they'll be couples racing bikes, weaving in and out of the busy streets, and we know that practically anything we've ever wanted to eat is just within walking distance. It's a nice feeling knowing that adventure is waiting right outside our door whenever we are ready for it.
With that being said, however, we all need a break from time to time to readjust, refocus, and pause to breathe for a moment or two. If you read my May recap that I shared earlier in the month, you know that I was at that breaking point. Work was stressing me out (which is a pretty normal reaction for anyone in the mortgage industry), blogging was beginning to feel more like a competitive sport than something I enjoy, and my body told me abruptly before my 23rd birthday that I simply wasn't able to keep up with it all.
The emptiness and quiet that the cabin brings came at just the perfect time. Doing nothing at all felt like exactly what I needed. For days, Sam and I anchored the boat in the middle of Bob's lake, read books, played the most ancient version of Battleship ever, and drank cold beer without a single thought directed at work or social media. When Sam's grandmother arrived, we talked for hours about growing up as a foster child, her time on a poultry farm, and about her long lost brother that she almost found the courage to call once from the phone book in New Jersey.
Sitting on the porch swing overlooking the trees, in some moments I felt like if we had brought Oliver along, we would never leave.
On the fourth day, with harsh sun burns on our shoulders and tears in our eyes on the way back to the dock, we waved goodbye to his grandmother and to the lake for yet another year; knowing fully that we would appreciate the cabin even more when we returned. We headed in the direction of beautiful Montreal (without directions, rather) to explore the French-speaking city and load up on a ton of croissants and fancy champagne.
Are any of you thinking of visiting Canada this year for vacation? I'd love to hear what your plans are.
Coming soon: Part 2 of our travel recap - our time in Montreal!
xo Anna Elizabeth
I"M BACK! After 12 hours of driving on Thursday from Montreal to Vermont and back to Baltimore, today is the first time that I am feeling any sort of normal. I figured that for sure on Friday, I would wake up rejuvenated with purpose, wash my car, unpack my things, take Oliver to the park, edit 700 photos, and maybe even shoot a new project. Alas, all I managed to do throughout the day was eat fried french toast, drink several lavender chai lattes, and watch every show that Sam and I missed while we were away exploring. Oh well.
Today seems to be off to a more productive start. We already visited the local Farmer's Market this morning and I am downloading the photos from our trip now before my afternoon Krav Maga class. I'm determined to finally finish our backyard patio/nook this weekend so, later on today Sam and I are going to do a little shopping and a lot of DIY-style crafting to get this thing off our plate for good.
Aside from that, I'm working on a recap of our travels from this past week in Canada and I can't wait to share it with you (it will probably be a two-parter because I have like, so much to say - no surprise there). Anyway, I hope you are all having a fabulous weekend and showering your Dads with craft beer, immature pranks, fart joke cards, and maybe some fancy tools that they'll use once a year. YAY!
Happy Friday, babes! So glad that it's the weekend. This past week had me feeling extra romantic - maybe it's the new, make-out fueled season of The Bachelorette (#teamJordan) or my 5 year anniversary with Sam creeping just around the corner. Either way, the romance is inspiring a new wave of classic, lace elegance in my wardrobe this season.
I haven't been able to post on the blog as often as I had hoped for this week because I've been running around playing catch-up and doing all of the things that I swore I would check off last month in preparation for our trip. There's nothing like realizing 3 days before a week-long trip out of the country that I'm in desperate need of a hair appointment, manicure, and that I obviously have nothing to wear. Right!?! Oh, did I mention that I haven't started packing yet? Yeah... there's that. At least my passport isn't expired this year; we're making progress.
Tomorrow morning, Sam and I are heading out for a few days of fishing, cliff diving, and relaxing on the lake in Ontario before making our way to the beautiful city of Montreal to explore and scarf down a lot of poutine. It's the trip that we look forward to all year and it gives us a chance to spend time focusing only on each other without work or other distractions.
Last year while we were at the cabin, we added to our scrapbook, pinning down photographs of the very first day that we met Oliver; we stapled the receipt from the most incredible and spontaneous date we've ever had (3 hours in a private booth at the Charleston), and piled on other mementos like the champagne cork from when we finally decided that I should move in (I had already claimed half of his closet at this point). I'm so glad that we continue to keep these little reminders because when we look back on them, months and even years later, we get to re-live all of the exciting events throughout our relationship and remember how far we have come in the past 5 years.
Outfit Details / Dress: LOFT (sold out - similar style), Shoes: Taupe Curved Strap Stiletto Sandals (on sale!), Necklace: Vintage pearl set (similar style), Lipstick: MAC Ruby Woo Matte
This dress is one of my favorite pieces for a special occasion or when I feel like simply dressing up and doing something a little extra fancy. I wore this to my company Christmas party last year and since it was minus 10 degrees and we were on a yacht, the dress was understandably covered up by jackets, fur, scarfs, and the like. Since I didn't get to show it off that night, I wanted to incorporate it into my wardrobe this Spring in honor of our anniversary and pair it with nude heels, red lipstick, and vintage jewelry to glam it up.
How do you get dolled up for Spring date nights or special occasions? Share your favorite outfit/style with me in the comments or on Facebook!
xo Anna Elizabeth
Hello, June! A few days late, I know but, that has been kind of the theme of May for me so, it seems fitting. May was full of many high's and low's in a personal and business sense. A lot happened in my personal life: Sam got his business degree, we celebrated my 23rd birthday, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day, and we did a few day trips on our bikes, among other things. These were all fantastic and happy memories but, I did hit a few, unexpected obstacles throughout the month as well.
Although I try to be as open and honest as I can on the blog, it is difficult for me to admit when I am feeling down on a certain day or week. I don't like to burden others with my worries and it makes me feel guilty and selfish to complain or feel sorry for myself when I know that I am so fortunate for my circumstances. That being said, we are all human and there were a number of times this month that I felt overwhelmed, paralyzed with fear about my future and failures, and criticized myself and my intentions to the point of tears.
I have had to remind myself that I am doing the best that I can and that I have not hit some invisible ceiling in a business sense. It's easy to compare ourselves to others (especially in the social media realm) and question why we don't have the same level of success even sometimes when we seemingly put in more effort. I remember expressing to Sam several times this month when he would pry me from bed with my favorite take-out or a romantic comedy, that I felt that the more I tried, the more I failed. It's truly an awful feeling and a bleak outlook to have.
Toward the end of the month, not feeling much better about meeting my goals, I took a few days to myself to reevaluate my situation and ultimately decided that I can't give my all as a blogger if I am not giving my all as an individual first. Instead of trying to mold my blog posts around what I assumed was expected of me, I decided to start being more flexible with my topics of conversation, timing of posts, and primarily use what works best for me. I implemented a nightly phone ban to reduce my time on social media, started reading a lot more (I finished 3 books this month and started a book club!), and focused my energy on things that made me happy like working out with my Krav Maga class or biking with Sam in the evening. With these small changes in my day to day routine, I am already feeling more positive about this new month ahead.
May AEE Posts:
How to Style a LWD for Spring
Boho Belted Maxi
What are you reading? + A Nightly Phone Ban
Avocado Morning Boost Smoothie
Flirty White Romper
Payday Wishlist / Summer Edition
Announcing Our First Book Club
At the end of this week. Sam and I are off to Canada for our yearly trip to celebrate our 5 year anniversary and I am so excited! It is something that I look forward to all year and it could not be coming at a better time. We are heading to the cabin first for a few days of relaxation on the lake to fish, read, and play Scrabble, and then we're driving to Montreal to stay in a fancy hotel downtown and explore the beautiful city. It truly is the best of both worlds.
When we get back, I want to redo our backyard/driveway area and create a mini, outdoor nook with comfy chairs, a fire pit, and garden for my favorite flowers and herbs. Then, at the end of the month my best girl friend and fellow food blogger is coming to town to stay with Sam and me for a few days to visit. Tonight, I'm assisting in a blogger workshop and styled shoot where I get to meet some of the ladies that I've been talking with online. If you want to see some of the behind the scenes, follow along on Instagram or Facebook!
My goals for June are to focus on my overall happiness and health and bring you guys content that is more in line with that. Additionally, I want to continue to use my e-newsletters to draw readers into the blog throughout the week, meet new faces that I have been communicating with in the blogging world, and get our new book club off to a great start.
What are your goals for June? What do you hope to accomplish or prioritize this month? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading, babes!
xo Anna Elizabeth
Happy June 1st! I swear the months are just flying by, I can't believe that I'm already sweating out my body weight in shorts and celebrating Memorial Day. How was ya'll's weekend? Ours was full of bike rides, exploring little towns, and playing games with friends in celebration of the holiday. On Monday, Sam and I were both off work so, we decided to take Oliver to this big field across the bridge in the city to play. Oliver is still getting adjusted to the heat and it doesn't take very long to wear him out but, it was nice to relax in the sun for a bit while devouring our first, much-needed cup of coffee together.
This shirt was one of my "Mother's Day" presents from Sam. Yes - that sounds a bit silly saying out loud but, he has surprised me with a gift each year since we got Oliver and it's always something cute and fun like this "Stay at Home Dog Mom" t-shirt.
It ended up being quite humid on Monday so, I opted for all white rather than my usual black, weekend uniform to help with the heat. I paired my favorite animal print sandals (so comfy) with casual, white jeans, this graphic tee, and threw my hair up Ariana Grande-style to get it out of my face.
In case you've yet to notice, Oliver is not big on pictures. He'd rather run circles around me frantically, slobber on my pants, and trip me in public places. You remember when I mentioned that my neck was all sorts out of wack the other week? I could barely drive down the road without getting a friendly, "Good morning" finger in my face. After carefully tracing back through my steps, I finally realized what had caused that horrible, week-long whiplash: it was Oliver. We were on one of our daily walks through the neighborhood and Bulbazor, an exceptionally friendly pit bull down the street (easily doubles Oliver in size), was strolling by minding his own business and Oliver janked so hard toward him, my legs practically gave out from under me and my neck snapped in a way that no human should ever have to witness. I actually feel sorry looking back now that my neighbors had to see such a tragic mishap on their romantic, evening stroll. .
That being said, being a dog mom to this lunatic is my happiness every day and I wouldn't change it for the world. But, that is the reason why he's not modeling his signature wrinkles and blue tongue in a ton of obnoxious posts on the blog. If, by chance, I'm able to snap a decent picture of him it's when he's peacefully sleeping or begging with the sweetest puppy eyes for a freshly made pot roast. Hey, who can blame him though? Certainly not this #DogMom.
Outfit Details / Shirt: Stay at Home Dog Mom (less than $20!), Pants: GAP Stretch 1969 True Skinny Ankle Jeans, Shoes: JCrew Factory Leopard Calf Hair Seaside Sandals, Sunglasses: Blue Planet Recycled Tova, Clutch: Coach (sold out - similar here), Scarf: Vintage Silk with Signatures of Past Presidents (similar here)
How did you spend Memorial Day weekend? What is your favorite graphic tee right now? Let me know in the comments below!
xo Anna Elizabeth
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