Oh Shenandoah | Part 1

US citizens: make sure you vote today if you haven’t already! It is one of the most important things you can do that affects you and the people around you! What else can bring people together with a free sticker like exercising your civic duty?

Ben and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary a little early this past weekend because I am actually going to be out of town for a conference during our actual anniversary. (I felt so guilty about it, but Ben was so supportive in encouraging me to apply and attend for my career. I’m so lucky!) We started brainstorming a way to celebrate this milestone anniversary and began by thinking of a staycation in DC… which led to us thinking of bed and breakfasts in the area…

… which eventually led to us booking a bed and breakfast in Shenandoah Valley for the weekend!

After driving for a few hours, we ended up at By the Side of the Road, which has a place in the rich history of the region including the burning of the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War and the beginnings of the Mennonite Church. We had a truly lovely stay here for our first-ever B&B experience!

Photo courtesy of By the Side of the Road, whose website is definitely new and improved since we last checked it out about a week ago!
Photo courtesy of By the Side of the Road


Flutes + champagne = celebration!

As soon as we were checked in, we booked it to Bojangles, one of our favorite fried chicken joints that is really difficult to find the farther north you go. As we were driving the short distance to Bo’ Time, I started wondering… wasn’t the Bojangles we visited on our way back from Roanoke near some JMU (James Madison University) stuff? Like an athletic stadium or something? And Harrisonburg, the town that our B&B was in, is home to JMU. Proceeding down the street, even though it was much darker than our drive up from Roanoke…


… it was very familiar. We were back at the same Bojangles! That was nice. Almost as nice as digging into that delicious fried chicken.


Belly full of Bojangles and sweet tea, I took a nice little candlelit bath to get settled in and got ready for our weekend away! I haven’t taken a bath in a long time, and it really set the tone for a relaxing weekend with my favorite person.

Pausing here so I can get things ready for my conference this week and the rest of the recaps from the weekend!

Have you stayed in the Shenandoah Valley before?
Have you stayed at a bed & breakfast before?
And maybe most importantly, where are your favorite places to get fried chicken???

The Snow Queen

Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tales are well-known to many of us for their place in our collective fairy tale storybook and for their Disney adaptations.

Yes, The Snow Queen is the story that inspired Disney’s Frozen. But I’m not going to talk about Frozen. I want to talk about this gorgeous print edition of this classic winter fairy tale.


What a lovely way to share this classic fairy tale. If you only know the “Let It Go” version of this story, then I recommend visiting the original Hans Christian Andersen tale of Kay and Gerda and the Snow Queen.

The illustrations by Sanna Annukka are really beautiful.

If you have a friend who is a fan of fairy tales, illustrated books, or Hans Christian Andersen, or are looking for a classic book to read with a child in your life, I’d recommend this one and the others in this series.

(Ironically enough, yesterday was almost 80 degrees outside. But the winter will be here before we know it…)

In the middle of the vast, empty hall of snow was a frozen lake. It was cracked into a thousand pieces, but each piece was shaped so exactly like the others that it seemed a work of wonderful craftsmanship…

Back cover excerpt

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Halloween 2016

Ahhh Halloween, one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is the coming of my favorite seasons and the best way to get everyone to participate in one of my favorite all-time activities:

Themed outfits. And yes, a costume is very much a themed outfit!

I saw some really awesome costumes this year, including the ones that terrified me. (And I had forgotten that Halloween is sometimes a scary holiday… silly me…) As a millennial, I definitely appreciate all the pop culture costumes that pop up, even if it means seeing a lot of Harley Quinns and Ken Bones.

For me, I came at Halloween wearing not one, not two, but three costumes over the course of three days. I usually spend all year preparing one costume to wear for everything, but this year, circumstances were different and I wound up having 3 different costumes to wear.

ON FRIDAY and Saturday, I went out in the costume I purchased back in June, so excited I was to be in possession of it. I actually purchased this last year as well, but the post office returned it to the sender instead of giving it to me… and then I never got it. June seems very early to be thinking about Halloween, but the seller actually stopped selling costumes a short while later so I’m really happy I acted as early as I did because I was finally able to realize my dreams of becoming…

In the name of Mars, I’ll punish you!

YES, after nearly two decades of desperately wanting to be Sailor Mars, the Pretty Guardian of Flame and Passion, I was finally able to achieve this dream.

Putting this cosplay together was an ordeal. The costume itself was custom-fitted (because my measurements fall across a lot of different sizes), came from a seller on Etsy, and included the dress, the choker, the headpiece (and an alternative material headpiece), and the gloves. Honestly, the seller was great and I was just happy to have received it at all this year! The shoes were one of the hardest things for me to find, actually, because I have been searching high and low for plain red pumps but all I have been seeing over the past 2 years were super pointy red shoes or sky-high stilettos with a thick-thick platform or red shoes with random patterns or designs on them. I knew this was the year my dream would finally come together when I found these at a Payless – classic shape, patent leather finish, the right shade of red, a reasonable heel height. I even got the earrings and earring adapters for my unpierced ears. I also bought a wig for this costume, as I was expecting my hair to be a much brighter shade of red, but I ditched the wig at the last minute because I couldn’t get it on right when I was rushing. This year, I also forced myself to learn to apply false lashes for that cartoonish, wide-eyed look.

A lot of folks called it a “Sailor Moon” costume, but I could tell the costume excited other people. I honestly can’t wait to take this costume out for other occasions because there is no way I retire it after Halloween, not a chance!

ON SUNDAY, I attended a local Instagram meetup in partnership with IGDC and Visit Washington DC where we were asked to come in costume. Thinking about good photo opportunities for the amazing Instagrammers, I brought out my outfit that I originally purchased with RennFest in mind.

Grandma, what big teeth you have!

For her dramatic red cloak – another item I have been coveting for years now – I went with Little Red Riding Hood. This has been such a great purchase for a costume-in-a-bag I got on Amazon, especially given that the last time I bought a costume-in-a-bag was… in the 4th grade? (It was a ninja!) Instead of keeping my hood up, I went with this beautiful red butterfly hairpiece from an Etsy artisan in the Ukraine, and I got the basket separately to go with the basket hanky that came with my costume. (It came in handy for holding little things like my phone and glasses, but I did still need a larger bag for other things like my wallet and an umbrella, since it was going to rain.) It was actually over 80°F on Sunday, so I thought the flow-y cloak would help keep me cool but I think the long skirt and the long cloak wound up still keeping me glistening on that hot day. If you check out the photos I’m tagged in on Instagram, you can see some of the really lovely shots that the talented photographers captured of Red in action.


ON MONDAY, I went to work with a plan set in motion by my team several weeks in advance. We all came to work wearing…

Adult onesies! This was so much fun to plan, and our excitement to wear them got the rest of the teams in our office wearing costumes in a big costume contest! (The managerial team won for a great Wizard of Oz group costume.)

I know it’s not as recognizable as Pikachu, but Espeon has always been my spirit Pokemon

I stuck out with my Espeon kigurumi onesie, since it was bright purple and not an animal like the rest of my coworkers. But I have been wanting to own an Espeon onesie for, again, years and years, and I finally had a legitimate reason to purchase and own one! When I first tried it on, I could hardly contain how giddy I was. (Ben said he has never seen me more delighted!) It was a lot of fun to wear to work, although I was scared that I got the date wrong when I walked onto the metro wearing this and… no one else was wearing a costume? Not a pumpkin shirt or tie in sight! You cannot imagine how scared I was arriving at my office wondering if it wasn’t actually Halloween… But walking out to lunch with my coworkers in their onesies made it all worthwhile. (I also managed to make it all day without using the bathroom, knowing how difficult that would be…)  Also, as it went back to being cold, it was nice to have such a warm and cozy costume for once!

This Halloween, I not only got to be 3 different characters, but I fulfilled 3 different goals that I’ve had for such a long time:

  1. Be Sailor Mars
  2. Own a long, hooded, red cloak
  3. Get an Espeon onesie

These are fairly specific goals, and I did not imagine that I’d be checking them all off in one Halloweekend.

What did you do for Halloween?
Did you see any good costumes?
One of the most creative costumes I saw was actually terrifying, but it was a pairs costume, with one man on stilts “controlling” a zombie man below him. The zombie on the strings would lean with gravity towards people, and both men had really scary/disturbing makeup and facial expressions. Super creative and really creepy! I seriously LOVE how creative costumes get. I bought all of mine but it is cool to see the costumes that people make.

I hope you all had a happy Halloween. Can you believe it’s November now? Two months of 2016 left!

P.S. Is anyone doing NaNoWriMo? I don’t know if I am…
P.P.S. Ghosts of Halloweens past: 2014 and 2013