Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top 10 Things to do in London!

Guest Post from Claire

Tracy was kind enough to have me to write a guest post for her blog for whilst she's on break, and we decided that I should write about my lovely hometown, London. While I'm originally from the north of Scotland, I now live and work in the capital of the UK and I'm hugely fond of the city. Busy, vibrant, and at times chaotic, its a wonderful place to visit and enjoy. Here, in a rather hotch-potch fashion, are some of my very favourite things to do in the city - in a place as big as London no list could ever be exhaustive, but this should offer some inspiration!

My favourite way to travel around the city is the tube (when I'm not on foot!), so where possible I've added tube stops for attractions! The Journey Planner site from Transport for London is fantatsic for plotting routes. Invest in an Oyster card for longer journeys, and walk the shorter distances - like Paris or Madrid, London is full of fab, fun finds when you go a little off the beaten track.

When you get here, I think one of the funnest ways to get your bearings is to enjoy one of the many open topped bus tours available. While they are a little touristy, they are also a great way to get your bearings and see a lot of central London. If you're feeling very brave, try the DUCKbus - this amphibious vechile dashes you round lots of sights and then plunges into the Thames (in a deliciously controlled way!). after that, ten of my tips would be....

1. Go to Spitalfields Market (best tube stop, Liverpool Street).

Smack bang in the heart of the City is Spitalfields. Home to a wonderful market, tonnes of quirky, fun stores, close to some of the city's most iconic skyscrapers (I have a soft spot for the Gherkin), and full of great eateries - it's the perfect place to sit and people-watch. After all that shopping and enjoyment, grab a curry on Brick Lane, or settle down with a pint in the wonderfulWater Poet pub.

2. Get cultured at our museums (best tube stop for my recommendations: South Kensington).

London loves to shop....but also boasts some of the greatest museums on earth. The Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are all in the south west of the city (signposted and accessible via a pedestrian subway at South Ken) and are free, barring special exhibitions. Such a wealth of things to see and do!

3. Do a six-part tour of some of London's most wonderful sites (best tube stop to start: Charing Cross/Leicester Square).

Part 1: Head to Trafalgar Square. Look at Nelson on his column and the lions by their fountain. In the warm weather enjoy the many people splashing in the fountains!
Part 2: Leave the square and head under Admirality Arch to the wide and sweeping grandeur of The Mall. Relive the many carriage processions you've watched sweep through here.
Part 3: Reach Buckingham Palace. Take many pictures. Do a very happy dance if the Royal Standard is flying high, signifying Her Majesty being at home.
Part 4: Walk along or through the calm sweetness of Green Park.
Part 5: Marvel at the Wellington Arch, and if you've time, visit Apsley House, the residence of the Duke of Wellington, with the fabulous address 'Number 1, London'.
Part 6: You've walked a little over a mile, and you're now in Hyde Park. Take a turn about, watch the ducks on the Serpentine, wander through to the beautiful Kensington gardens (where sometimes you might catch a glimpse of the Duchess of Cambridge walking her dog, Lupo), or head north towards Oxford Street if the shops are calling...

4. Put on The Ritz (best tube stop: Green Park).

London does glamour and glitz and afternoon tea very well, but The Ritz does it exceptionally well. If you can get a table (they book up months in advance), take your afternoon tea here - it is beautiful, and very decadent. Tiny sandwiches, cakes, and scones which appear to replenish magically. Honourable mention to the Grosvenor House, where they also do a super afternoon tea. The Ritz is also great for cocktails - the lounge is very Gatsby and refined, and the bar staff mix like demons!

5. Head to Hampstead (best tube/train stop: Hampstead, Hampstead Heath).

Hampstead Heath is a ginormous plot of land in the north-west of London. Half an hour from the hustle and bustle of the West End, you can wander through a pastoral idyll. There are ponds for swimming, as well as ponds for ducks, and the view from Parliament Hill is stupendous - the whole of London spreads out before you. Take a picnic, and after a day on the Heath explore Hampstead village, filled as it is with restaurants, pubs, and cafes.

6. Regents Park (best tube stop: Baker Street, Regents Park, Great Portland Street).

Even closer to town is Regents Park, one of my favourite spots in London. Ride on pedalos, take in the manicured gardens, visit the zoo (London Zoo is a true treasure!), ride a Boris Bike around the Outer Circle, read a book beneath the trees, feast on free range meats at The Honest Sausage, venture to Primrose Hill to celebrity-spot and take in brilliant views (and while you're there, do pop into Primrose Hill Books - an Alladin's cave of books you'll be dying to dive into, with very helpful, friendly, knowledgable staff). After all that, curl up with a pint at The Volunteer, or a delicious roast meal - this place is a great, welcoming London pub!

7. Walk the river (best tube stop: oh my goodness, there are oodles!).

The Thames flows through London and is a big part of the city. Here you can read about the numerous river walks available - it's a great way to explore and enjoy the city! Whether you're feeling cultured on the South Bank, blissful in Battersea Park (where there are monkeys!), or enjoying the pubs and parks of Richmond, you're sure to find a location and distance that works for you!

8. Fly on the London Eye (best tube: Westminster or Waterloo).

Most big cities have their 'must do' item. The Eiffel Tower. The Leaning Tower. The Empire State. London has a wealth of things to see and do, but I'd heartily recommend you making the London Eye one of them. This Ferris-wheel-gone-wild has you far above the busy streets, with views for miles. It's fabulous at any point of the day (I've been on the Eye many, many times now!), but I especially like the night flights - all those twinklings lights stretching for miles are so romantic and inspiring!

9. Shop On (best stops: Oxford Circus, Bond Street, Green Park).

Everyone who comes to London seems to want to shop. Three of my favourite department stores are John Lewis (the bastion of Britishness and good taste), Selfridges (very haute, great for people watching), and Fortnum & Mason (fabulous wines, homewares, and foodstuff. Oh, and the 1707 restuarant in the basement is a treasure!). Also worth a look are Regents Street, and Bond Street (window shopping central!).

10. Explore an area: Notting Hill/Marylebone Village (best tube stop: for NH, Notting Hill Gate; for MV, Marylebone or Baker Street).

I love exploring parts of London on foot. There's so much to see, from cute shops to great buildings, interesting people to blue plaque spots (here in the UK the homes of famous folk are oftentimes marked with a blue circular plaque). Two areas where I can happily wile away an afternoon are Notting Hill (romantic and boho, and Portobello Market is fabulous) and Marylebone Village (great pubs, lovely shops). Camden (best tube: Camden Town/Chalk Farm) is also awesome for people watching.

So that's my top ten. There are so many things I haven't space to urge you to do....catch a show (Matilda and Billy Elliot are both amazing); eat at Belgo or Tapeo or Byron or Guiseppes; visit one of the many galleries (my favourites? The National Potrait Gallery or Tate Modern); take in the splendour of St Paul's....

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you enjoy a great visit to this super city!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Guest Post: My Friendship with Tracy

I have to preface this very sweet post by saying LaTache is one of my dear friends from college, and I was so happy while reading this and thinking back to the great years we spent together in college.  LaTache is one of those people you meet once in your life - thank you sweet girl! xo -Tracy

I cannot even express how honored I feel that Tracy has asked me to guest post for her today while she is on the adventure of a life time!
Thank you so much for asking and I hope that I can do your blog justice :-)
You can check me out over at Smiling Is Good For Your Teeth where I write about life and food!
(Side note: I started blogging because of this lady!)

So here, we go...

Do you ever wonder why you did something?

Why did I say that, out loud?
Why did I do that to that person?
Why did I date that person?
Why did I go to college or take that job?

Do you ever wonder why you didn't do something?

Why didn't I go to the party?
Why didn't I say what I really wanted to say?
Why didn't I think before I reacted?
Why didn't I stay in better touch with that old friend?

All of these things that you did and/or didn't do lead you to where you are today, lead you to to the person you are today and lead you to the people you know and surround yourself with today.

Fortunately my series of decisions lead me to cross paths with the Lovely Tracy! 
How lucky was that?!

She and I met early Fall 2005 - wow that seems like forever ago.
We met during a whirlwind week during formal recruitment for greek life on campus at SFSU.
We were in the same group and totally clicked!
The best part?
We were recruited and pinned into the same Sorority!
How awesome was that?!
From then on, we spent late nights chatting in our dorm rooms, introducing each other to our friends and getting to know each other as friends and sisters.

How young do we look?!

Summer made us go our separate ways and when fall came around and we started gearing up for formal recruitment our friendship grew stronger.

How I love those Alpha Gamms...

This girl and I laughed together, got into deep discussions together, cried together, traveled together.
She is an amazing friend and I am so lucky to know her!

Our sorority would have a semester retreat where we went somewhere, whether that be that we rented a big house or someones parents opened their homes and vacation homes to us.

At these retreats, Tracy and I would spend our free time & cough: Study Hours: cough & going on walks and catching up, talking about what was going on in our lives.
We talked about boys (and yes I said boys ;-)), college, classes, family, our dreams, our goals even about the sorority and how we wanted to make it better.

Tracy was the friend you could always count on. 
She was always ready and willing to help out, lend a hand to fill up balloons for events, extend a ride to a friend who needed to get somewhere.

Driving in her car, filled to the brim after going to our storage unit to get our house letters, blasting country music - only with Tracy :-)

We celebrated birthdays together, we explored San Francisco together, we had sleepovers together.
We encouraged each other to follow our goals, our dreams and hearts.

I remember meeting Mr. TL...
I was driving our carpool up to our last retreat that we spent together, in the Russian River.
TL was visiting Tracy.
I had loaded up the car with our weekend getaway gear, other gals and all we had to pile in to my small A4.
We arrived at her apartment in the evening and we got to meet TL.
She gets into the car after kissing him (Que the angles singing) blushing and  totally smitten.
She told us that the afternoon was the first time they told each other that they loved each other.
You could see the pure love and joy that she had in her heart and we all knew at that point that he was the one.

I am so happy that you are happy, Tracy. You deserve the absolute best that the world, life and everything in between has to offer and I am truly blessed to know you.

Thank you for allowing me a little slice of your place on the world wide web!
Cheers, and remember to Smile, It's Good For Your Teeth!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lake Tahoe Summer To Do List

Hello to all you lovely Then I Got To Thinking readers! I'm Jane and I blog over at In the Pink and Green and I'm so happy to be here with you today! I had the privilege of meeting Tracy earlier this summer at the Sacramento Blogger Meetup that she put together, and let me just say that she is just as sweet and adorable in person as she seems on her blog! That's why I'm so happy she invited me to share with y'all today about one of my favorite topics--Lake Tahoe!

My husband and I relocated to the Lake Tahoe area for his job earlier this year, and I'll admit, I wasn't crazy about it at first. It didn't seem like there was much to do besides ski, and since the snow wasn't great this year a lot of times you couldn't even do that. Plus, from where we live in South Lake Tahoe you have to drive 45 minutes to get to the nearest Target! I know, the horror. But over time, Tahoe really started to grow on me...and once summer hit, I totally fell in love with it. The weather is gorgeous, the lake is stunning, and I can't imagine a more perfect place to spend the summer.

So although I'm still somewhat of a Tahoe newbie, I thought I'd share my top 5 favorite summer activities here!
(some of these photos came from my blog while others came from my Instagram!)

1. Drive around the lake 
Surprisingly this is one of my favorite things to do and it still hasn't gotten old yet. The lake itself is a little over 70 miles around, so it's very doable to take a trip around the whole thing in a day while allowing time to stop and explore along the way. As you're driving, you can stop and take photos at scenic Emerald Bay (pictured above), head up to the cute little town of Truckee and have lunch, and just take in all the different communities scattered around the lake. You drive pretty much right next to the water the entire way, and if you're in a vehicle where you can take the top off even better!

2. Rent a stand-up paddleboard
Stand-up paddleboarding is so much fun, so if you've never tried it it's definitely a LT must. There are few different places that rent paddleboards in the area, and there are a lot of great spots you can take them out on to the lake. I've only done it once so far on Lake Tahoe this summer, but I definitely plan on doing it again soon. It's a really good core workout and it's an awesome way to spend time on the water.

At the top of Mt. Tallac with my sweet husband and our goofy dog
3. Hike Mt. Tallac
There are lots of great hikes in the Tahoe area, but my favorite (so far) is definitely Mt. Tallac. The hike is a little under 10 miles round trip, and you get great views of both Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe pretty much the whole way. Once you reach the summit, the views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierras are truly spectacular.

 4. Float or Kayak on the Truckee river
 The Truckee is the main river in the Tahoe area and there lots of great spots where you can put in a tube or kayak and spend the day relaxing on the river. It's a definitely a popular activity here in Tahoe, and it's such fun way to spend a summer afternoon.

5. Take a boat cruise
 If you're visiting Lake Tahoe, boating is a great way to really see the lake in all its glory. If you can rent your own boat or you know someone with a boat, that's ideal as you have the freedom to go where you'd like. However, another fun option is one of the paddlewheel cruises that leave from Zephyr Cove or the Ski Run Marina in South Lake Tahoe. The cruise itself is a little cheesy and very touristy, but there's nothing like being out in the center of the lake with the crystal clear water all around you!

That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun things to do here in the summer, but those are some of my personal favorites. Thanks again for having me Tracy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Party Bus Bunco

We're half way through our second year of Bunco with our group... and our fun themes keep it lively.
This month, Melissa I hosted bunco.  She's in the process of moving, and rather than hosting us at her house, she decided it would be fun to do a "Back to School" bunco.

We rode the party bus to two Amador County Wineries, Helwig and Cooper, and it was a blast!
But before we left, we had our sack lunches ready for us to make so we didn't get hungry on the bus :)
It was a wild Sunday, and such a great time.  I am so lucky to have these ladies!

 Don't forget to pack your lunch!
 In the bus!
 The gang
 Waiting for our private tasting room at Helwig.
 Amador is beautiful!
Such a gun group of girls!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Back to High School...

Linking up with Neely for Sunday Social...

1. What were you like in Middle School/HS?
Oh, dear... well, I was your typical "student council, cheerleader, yearbook, track runner, people pleasin', loved my friends, pretty good student" girl.  I compare myself to that girl on Grease who cries when the float falls apart at the dance. (try not to judge me ;)) We had a huge class through high school (almost 750 kids) and it was fun!

I won't discuss Middle School... there isn't enough space on this blog to talk about that awkward time of my life.

2. What were your favorite past times?
My friends and I loved driving in the car listening to music, sneaking off campus for lunch, Friday night football & basketball, float construction, parties, girls nights, sleepovers, school dances, and (mostly) innocent fun.

3. What songs were you obsessed with?
I can't remember HS songs very well... hmmm, I think Avril Lavigne & got into Taking Back Sunday late in my senior year because of Jenny (bff).

4. What fashion statement do you look back on and cringe?
Definitely the slicked back pony tails with gel.  What was I thinking?

5. Who was your celeb crush?
I only had huge real life crushes that never worked out.  But my biggest one did, married him! ;)

6. What were your favorite tv shows/movies?
I didn't watch a lot of TV (see question 1 & 2) but I think 7th Heaven and maybe American Idol (or was that college?)

Here are a few pictures I could find - 'pictures of pictures' because these are the ones I could find quickly...
I am naturally not a bleach blondie (yep, that's me all the way to the right) - I went back to my natural brown in high school for a while... but blonde called me back at the end of Junior Year.  
These are friends Katie and Liz (center) - Liz and I were very close.
 My bff, Jenny is left, and very close friend Gina is in the middle.  (I am in the pink)
 Homecoming senior year.
Been friends since 2nd grade... this is Kaitlyn and I our Junior year!
 My favorite part of cheer... flying!! (did it for almost a decade)
 My sophomore year with braces - can you find me?
This was my 18th Birthday - we had a girls night out in downtown Sacramento.

Although I feel I have changed dramatically since High School, a part of that girl still makes up my character and I am so blessed to have had a mostly positive experience.

Have a great Sunday!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday

It's been a while again since I have taken some time to remind myself of all of the things I have to be thankful for.  I think it's a good thing to stop and smell the roses.

1. My health - it's something so easily taken for granted, until suddenly you have a reminder why it's a great thing to have.

2. My house.  I feel happy inside the walls of our home.  

3. Our Keurig coffee maker.  I can never have a full pot of coffee, shoot, sometimes not even a full cup - so I love having this thing in the mornings.  So quick and easy!

4. Our Air Conditioner - I know it seems silly, but phew, we have had a string of 100+ degree temps.  It's definitely a luxury. 

5. The ability to experience new adventures with TL.
Source: quotediary.me via Tracy on Pinterest

Hope you're having a wonderful Thursday.  
Take a moment to think of a few things you're thankful for - and let me know if you feel like it :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Social: Food

I'm so excited to be going wine tasting today with my Bunco girls - hope you're having a fabulous Sunday!

Linking up with Neely from A Complete Waste of Make Up for Sunday Social... and today it's all about food :)

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
In N Out - I am obsessed with that place.  It's really a problem.  I go there at least a good 6-7 times a month.  Read why here. :)

What's your guilty pleasure/comfort food? 
Besides In N Out - anything having to do with bread.  I love bread - especially sourdough bread from Boudin.  It's just delicious - and if I am really hungry, nothing in the world sounds better than Boudin!

What's the weirdest/craziest thing you've ever eaten? 
I wouldn't call myself a risk taker.  TL loves raw fish - so sometimes I will take a bite of his stuff - but that's about all the raw of anything I can do.

What foods do you avoid at all costs? 
Octopus at Sushi restaurants - the tentacles and everything make me feel really sick.  I can't even look at it.

What meal reminds you of your childhood? 
My mom's casserole and my dad's BBQ chicken, rice, and corn.

Share one of your favorite recipes and the story behind it.
Taco Soup is my favorite recipe.  Let's face it - the reason it is... because it's the only thing I really know how to cook.  Honestly.  Here's the recipe from my mom.  TL and I both stink at cooking.

Let me know if you link up.  This post is making me hungry...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Leadership Retreats {work}

I get a lot of joy out of what I do for work.  It isn't always easy, but what job is?
I work for a non profit organization called Hands4Hope.
What do we do?
Simply put: we are a youth run organization that strongly believes in service learning - that is: learning through serving others.  Our youth members volunteer for several outreaches a month, they also develop projects and fundraisers for other agencies serving those in need.
Through the process of volunteering, planning fundraisers (they do it all - including the marketing & PR, contacting businesses, getting donations, etc), and working together with their peers has taught many of them life long lessons - many of which some adults haven't ever had the opportunity to learn.  If you want to see a list of last year's successes, click here. This year's is even more impressive! :)

In the last few weeks - I have gotten to work really closely with our Youth Board.  They are the leaders at their high schools of the Hands4Hope Clubs there.  They are from 4 different high schools in the area - and they work closely with each other and their clubs to make a difference.

In July, we did a team build day at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.  We learned about our strengths as a person and how we can effectively use them in a team setting - and we also learned important lessons about leadership - trust, respect, encouragement, etc.

Last week, we spent 3 days camping (in bunk houses).  It was our annual Leadership Retreat.  Here, we have break out sessions with adults who have years of experience and expertise in their fields training them on how to get better at what they do, and we have several team building exercises.

The kids get close - they open up to each other about their life experiences, and so much more.  Many of them are meeting for the first time before this retreat - and by the end of it - they've seen tears, cheered each other on, and shared a lot about themselves.  It's a great experience to be a part of - and I feel like I have learned a lot about myself from each of them.  What a great group of truly dedicated and inspiring youth - the future is in good hands with them!
Getting everyone on the mat - a lot harder than it looks ;)
They worked together to make dinner - and it was pretty good.  Day 2 of our Retreat last week.
It's deceiving, but the course is about 35-40 feet up.
 Our Executive Director and I participate in all of the high ropes team builds with them - this one was difficult, but a lot of fun.  Hard to tell - but I am in the air jumping from platform to platform here. :)
 Figuring out how to face a challenge together with out talking...
 Ever had anyone lead you through a forest while you're blindfolded?  Takes a lot of trust.
Of course... we did more than just ropes courses and challenges - but these are the fun pictures to share :)

I did this same course last year with the kids, i've done one in San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge, we've done a zip line course in Kauai, and in Juneau, Alaska - and - TL and I did a high ropes challenge in Switzerland as well (that one was much higher!)  I love the challenge of the ropes - and the heights - gets my adrenaline going!

It was a fantastic Retreat!

PS. if you're interested in supporting Hands4Hope and the awesome things are youth are doing, purchase a button on my blog - ALL of the money goes directly to Hands4Hope.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Blog Star favorite Posts

Linking up with one of my fellow Sacramento Area bloggers, Mrs. Monologues, for her Blog Stars linky :)
She tells us to share a few things about ourself - and I thought I would just share 3 of my more meaningful posts I have written.
I always look forward to meeting more bloggers... please let me know if you're saying hi for the first time - or if you read these posts and have a response.  :)
Our beginning
Of course I love just posting about every day fun happenings - i.e. The Color Run below :)

The Color Run

I was so excited to do The Color Run - I've seen several ladies talking about it, and their pictures are always priceless... and it totally lived up to my expectations!

There is something amazing about just letting go, getting dirty, and having fun!

 The before - all squeaky clean and white!!

TL and the boys came along too - but they stayed clean!
The boys were taking pictures of the color explosions from a distance... lots of green!
We were in that big mob!
This was the "blue" color station - running through these was awesome - full of people and so much color you could hardly see where you were going!
 Trish and I - love this girl!
Rinsing off in the fountain! (eww!)

I love these girls... what an awesome day.
After the Color Run, we did a 5 stop pub crawl and had a yummy brunch to kick it all off.  After a 12 hour day, we were all exhausted :)
The boys were with us, too - and weren't too embarrassed walking around Downtown Sacramento with us all covered in color!

Have you done The Color Run?  What did you think?

Next up... a mud & foam run in September with these same girls... I can't wait.