I Went to Hogsmeade and It Was My Favorite!

At the end of March, I went on a work trip to Orlando, FL. Since I was already going to be in the area, I decided to stay a few days longer and I went to what people affectionately call “Harry Potter World!” I had a BLAST! I only went for one day and I actually got to go with my friend, Kate! It’s such a small world, because she was already planning on going to Universal Studios when I was going to be there! She was such a great guide (she’s been there multiple times) and helped to make sure I experienced every little thing.

So get ready for a ton of photos, y’all… I’m finally starting to share my time at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando! Oh yeah! I’ve decided to break it up by area, so it will be a little more tolerable. I’ll post about Diagon Alley next, but today let’s start with all things Hogsmeade!

Actually first let’s back up. For anybody who doesn’t know, let me explain the park setup a little bit. So the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of Universal Studios in Orlando, and it’s broken up into 2 parks: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Since they’re *technically* 2 different parks, you need to get the (much more expensive) multi-park pass to get to go to both. (But it’s 100% worth it!) You can walk around a lot of other parks to get from one to the other, OR you can take the Hogwarts Express train (which they count as a little ride) between the two! But the kicker is that you can’t ride the train unless you have the multi-park pass. So again, it’s totally worth the extra money- just do it.

Ok. On to ALL THE PICTURES!!! Here’s what I did and saw and loved while in Hogsmeade!

The village is ADORABLE!

The snow-topped buildings! The streets! I really felt like you’re in a quaint little English town – especially in the afternoon when it got cloudy and grey like it would be in England, the land with no sun.

The first glimpse of Hogwarts!

STUNNING. It literally took my breath away. I seriously felt nostalgic for a place I’ve never actually been, and I loved getting closer and getting to see more details of the castle. I love that you can see Hogwarts from most areas in Hogsmeade – it definitely helped keep the magical feeling alive!

The Hogwarts Express!

I’ll go into more detail about this on the next post, I think, but it was so easy to ride the train between the 2 parks!

Hearing Moaning Myrtle!

This is one of the little “secrets” that really isn’t secret at all – if you go into the women’s bathroom you can hear her talking! I’m sure you can hear her in the men’s bathroom, too, but I didn’t go in to check!

Eating at the Three Broomsticks!

The level of detail in the entire park was so incredible, and that includes the restaurants! I was so excited to go in the Three Broomsticks and I ended up having breakfast there. I got to try pumpkin juice (actually REALLY good!) and loved getting a side view of Hogwarts from the patio out back!

Seeing a little show!

I’m not sure what this little show was called, but it was starting as we walked by, so Kate and I stopped to watch! We got to see little dances from the two other schools participating in the Tri-Wizard Tournament and they did a great job! But it was VERY hot out and I can’t even imagine being up there dancing in those hot uniforms all summer. No thank you.

Riding the Flight of the Hippogriff!

I just need everyone to know that I 100% spelled hippogriff wrong the first time there. Thanks for the assist, Google. This was the only outdoor ride they had, and it was definitely for a younger crowd, but still pretty fun! You got to see Hagrid’s hut close up as you waited in line which was pretty neat! This was the longest line we waited in all day (maybe 45 minutes) which isn’t too bad at all, really!

Riding the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey!

I think this was my favorite ride at the parks! I loved how it spun you around, lifted you up and down and back, made you feel like you were in some real danger (but in a safe way), and let you feel what happened around you. It was honestly just so cool! I don’t really get motion sickness, but I definitely didn’t want to ride this more than once in a row. We went through the single-rider line 4 out of the 5 times we rode it and it was amazing – we waited maybe 5 minutes tops.

Walking through Hogwarts!

Later at the end of the night when the crowds were a little more manageable, we walked through the regular line for the Forbidden Journey ride and got to see all the details inside the castle! I loved getting to see the house points, Dumbledore’s office, a classroom, the talking and moving pictures, and so much more! It definitely made waiting in line seem a little more bearable.

Seeing the Hogwarts light show at the end of the night!

As we were leaving the ride/gift shop (I had to get a Christmas tree ornament!) we got to see the light show!! It was fabulous! So bright and the music was awesome and there were even some fireworks, too!

I mean, how pretty is that castle, tho?!? I’m swooning over here!

I hope you liked seeing all the bits of Hogsmeade I loved! If you’ve been, what was your favorite part of this park? If you haven’t been – what are you waiting for?!??!

Be sure to stay tuned for my photo dump/recap of the Diagon Alley park next time!!


2018 Summer Reading List

I have a very serious problem. It’s called “I add approximately 8 book to my to-be-read list for every 1 book I read.” It’s such an issue!! There are just so many great books coming out all the time and I want to read ALL OF THEM!!! It’s such a struggle, too, because I want to read books that have been on my list for a while, but then also the new ones are so NEW and enticing and I want to read them before they get lost in the middle of my ever-growing list! Anybody else have the same problem?!?

I went through my list and picked out some of the books I’m hoping to read this summer! I already have a few of them reserved at the library and can’t wait to dive into them!

New York Times best-selling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada – Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.” 

When I saw that this book will follow Emily from The Devil Wears Prada, I got SO EXCITED!! (She was secretly kind of the best… right? lol) I really liked Weisberger’s writing style and I can’t wait to read what happens to a familiar character!

“She Reads Truth tells the stories of two women who discovered, through very different lives and circumstances, that only God and His Word remain unchanged as the world around them shifted and slipped away. Infused with biblical application and Scripture, this book is not just about two characters in two stories, but about one Hero and one Story. Every image points to the bigger picture—that God and His Word are true. Not because of anything we do, but because of who He is. Not once, not occasionally, but right now and all the time.”

Gaaah She Reads Truth has been on my list for so long!! I saw it for sale at the Sparrow conference (and 40% off!!) so I bought it! Can’t beat a discount! I’ve heard both of the authors as guests on one of my favorite podcasts (The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey) and I can’t wait to dig in and read this one.

“In So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know, Parks and Recreation star Retta takes us on her not-so-meteoric rise from roaches to riches (well, rich enough that she can buy $15,000 designer handbags yet scared enough to know she’s always a heartbeat away from ramen with American cheese).”

RETTA!!!! This one doesn’t release till the end of the month, and you bet I’m already on the waiting list at my local library!! I can’t wait to read her essays – I bet they’ll be just amazing and most likely pretty hilarious.

“From the best-selling authors of The Knockoff, an outrageously funny novel about one woman’s attempt – through clay diets, naked yoga, green juice, and cultish workout classes – to win back her career, save her best friend, and lose 30 pounds. … As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture.”

I’ve heard that this book is actually pretty good, so I’m excited to read it at some point this summer! The authors also wrote The Knockoff, which I REALLY enjoyed, so that alone gives me high hopes for Fitness Junkie!

“In our modern world, where celebrity is a careful construct, Laura Dave’s compelling, enticing novel explores the devastating effect of the secrets we keep in public…and in private. Hello, Sunshine is a fresh, provocative look at a woman teetering between a scrupulously assembled life and the redemptive power of revealing the truth.”

I think this book sounds like a light, easy, and fun book. It seems very current, too, as I find myself drawn toward bloggers and other influencers that are vulnerable and real and share their actual real lives (smudged mascara and all) instead of just presenting the picture perfect, posed life you see on Instagram. (The premise also kind of reminds me of My (Not So) Perfect Life!)

“Set amid the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future – perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.”

Well yes this book sounds right up my alley!! Really the fact that it takes place in England sold it for me immediately. I know we didn’t go to Oxford last year, just Cambridge, but I bet I’ll be able to picture this book in my head very easily anyway.

“The Ensemble is a heart-skipping portrait of artistic ambition, friendship, and the tenderness of youth. With heart, clarity, and poignant understanding, Aja Gabel examines the relationships between trust, love, and the magical, messy world of making music.”

From the description on Amazon, it sounds like The Ensemble jumps from character to character narrating and I LOVE books that do that. And I love music (I’m trying to get back into playing the piano) so I think I’ll really enjoy having that be a central part of the book’s plot.

If You Only Knew is the utterly inviting, often humorous, incredibly authentic back-story of one woman’s life, told for the purpose of helping you strip away both the inner and outward hypocrisy that cripples Christian freedom, choosing instead to live with courageous confidence in God’s ability to make you truly one person. His.”

I have been waiting to read Jamie’s book FOR SO LONG!!!! I’ve been a fan of hers for a few years now (I’ve seen her speak a few times and I listen to her podcast nonstop) and I got so excited when she said she was writing a book… and now it’s here! She goes into her past and how often the things we feel like we need to hide from people are often the things that can most show God’s grace and glory. I’m borrowing this from a friend and I don’t think I’ll want to give it back!!

“When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.  On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.”

This book definitely isn’t new, but I haven’t read it yet, so on the summer list it goes! Crazy Rich Asians is being turned into a movie that is coming out sometime this summer and so I want to have the book read before I see the movie! I know that I’ll love this one and I might have to make it the one that I read next.

Whew- so many good books to read! And trust me, I had a hard time getting it down to a list of only nine books- my list is seriously out of control. I’m currently reading Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler and loving it so far! It’s been made into a TV show (there’s only been a few episodes out so far) but I want to read the book before I watch any of the episodes.

Have you read any of these books and LOVED or HATED them? What’s on your to-be-read list for the summer?!?

Turning 30 in Nashville

You guys, I had the BEST 30th birthday!!! My birthday was on a Saturday this year (aka the best day to have a birthday) so I knew it was going to be a good one. I had to be in Nashville the next day for a work trip, so I flew out a few days earlier and had a super fun birthday weekend with friends!

I know a lot of people dread turning 30 (and I guess I kind of did a tiny bit…) but honestly, turning 30 was such an exciting milestone for me. All of the older ladies I know say that their 30’s were SO MUCH BETTER than their 20’s, so I definitely was looking forward to a new decade! I am ready to feel “adult-ier” than I did in my 20’s and love that I can now feel better about going to bed early and not going out as much. Now Liz Lemon can officially be my spirit animal.

I flew to Nashville on Thursday night and stayed the weekend with my friend Michelle who lives there. On Friday, our sweet friend Ashley drove into town to help me celebrate – we just had the best weekend and I felt SO LOVED! On Friday, Michelle and I (who both took the entire day off) both had some work to do, so we spent the morning working hard so we could have the rest of the weekend free for fun.

Once we were finished working, we went to the 12 South neighborhood for a little bit of eating and a little bit of walking! We had lunch at bartaco (they have quite a few locations around the country – it was pretty good!) for tacos and a margarita, and then we moseyed on down to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for a little treat. I seriously wanted a scoop of every flavor!! I got a cone with two delish flavors and enjoyed them thoroughly.

Next Meesh and I walked to the famed Five Daughters Bakery to pick up some 100 layer donuts (they’re cronuts) to eat later! They had a few great flavors to choose from, but I’ll tell you now that the regular sugared option was MY FAVORITE!!!

Once Ashley got to town, we got ready to go out to dinner at Tavern. I can’t remember where we tried to eat first, but that place had a CRAZY long wait. It took a while to get a table at Tavern, too, but the food ended up being delicious and the dinner was really fun! After dinner we met up with some of my Dallas friends for a Josh Abbott Band concert! They were also in town a little bit early for the same work trip, and it was fun to see them in another state! The concert was pretty good, and I got to start my actual birthday in the WEIRDEST Uber ride of my life!

Saturday (my actual birthday!!) started out with some delicious cronuts! Even being a day old, THEY WERE SO GOOD! And after eating a treat, what’s the next thing we did? Go to brunch, obviously!! Michelle, Ashley, and I met up with my old friend Jacob for brunch at a place called Hopsmith. The food was great and it was a lot of fun seeing an old buddy (we’ve known each other for about 21 years!)

After eating ALL THE FOOD, we hopped in the car and headed to Franklin, TN! My mom has always raved about how cute it is and how much she loves it, so for my birthday I chose to go there and experience it for myself! My mom was definitely right – it was adorable! We walked, we shopped, we got coffee at Frothy Monkey, and we had a blast!

After a quick pit stop at Chick-Fil-A for an afternoon snack, we all got ready at Michelle’s apartment and then headed out for my birthday dinner. There were quite a few of my work friends in town and so I got to spend my 30th birthday surrounded by 10 of my favorite people while eating delicious burgers at The Pharmacy. We also got delicious milkshakes and I tried rose cider which is the absolute best (and apparently the new big thing so go to your grocery store and try it!)

We all parted ways after dinner (and it started POURING) so us girls went back home to play games and listen to music and finish out my birthday in comfy pajamas. It was such a wonderful day! It’s always a nice feeling to get so many calls and texts and messages from family and friends.

The next morning we woke up and packed up and went to have breakfast at a cute local cafe. Then I went to my hotel and started my work trip!

Even though it was “technically” for a work trip, I just had THE BEST TIME celebrating my 30th birthday in Nashville with some of my very favorite people!! I really feel like I saw (and ate) a lot of great parts of Nashville and I already can’t wait to go back some day! There were so many great things (and lets be real, lots of restaurants) that we just didn’t have time to check out, so I’ll have to keep my list for the next time I get back there.


Five for Friday #41

Hey, what’s up, hello! It’s Friday!!! I’m so happy to be at the weekend, you guys. This week has been CRAZY and I’m glad to put a few more days behind me. I got into a little fender bender last week (I’m 100% fine!) and long story short- I have a new car!!! Well, new to me but you get it! Still exciting! I’m now driving a Honda CR-V and I love sitting up higher than I was in my little Civic. I’m still trying to think of a name for it… I’ll keep y’all posted.

Here’s what’s been on my radar for the last week!

One || How to Hang Art Like a Pro. Always a good skill to have.

Two || The Triple Quench Deep Hydration Sheet Mask System. I think I’ve posted about this before, but it needs to be said again. Best. Face. Mask. EVER. It’s a bit pricey, but I promise that it is 100% worth it. It feels like I have a whole new face the day after I use one of these!

Three || I’ve been working out more lately, and this quote keeps coming to mind.

Four || I got my sister this ice cream starter to use in her Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment, and wow it made some delicious ice cream! They have so many other flavors and I kinda want to try them all. Especially the s’mores!

Five || These sandals are too cute! I would either wear them every single day or only once… I can’t decide which it would be… so for now I’ll just look at them online and love them from afar!

That’s it for now! I’m already so pumped for this weekend – I’m going to a little dinner party, baking and decorating some cookies, and possibly going to the zoo! Happy weekend, friends!

Sparrow Conference 2018

Do you remember last year when I posted about going to a Christian women’s conference? It was so good that I bought my tickets for the next year (aka this year) in advance. Well, the 2018 Sparrow Conference was a few weekends ago and just like last year, it was SO GOOD! I went with two friends and we just had a great time together. The speakers this year (quite a few of them were also speakers last year) were amazing and I filled up my little notebook with so many good little nuggets of biblical truth.

This year it was held at the Music Hall at Fair Park so that more people could attend. The lobby was decorated so well, there were lots of opportunities to purchase books and candles and earrings and things like that, and there was even a super fun photo area!!

All of the (again, incredible!!) speakers led us through the book of 1 John, and I got so many great things out of it- SO MANY- and I wanted to share a few of the things I learned/took away from the weekend! (Just remember that this is all coming from going over 1 John, for context.)

The goal is to experience fellowship with God so we can have fellowship with others.

God made something good. We messed it up. Jesus made it right. One day God will make all things new.

Abiding is a choice. It’s loving Jesus beyond anything else so that is the place we want to be.

If we abide in Christ and not in the world, we will love as God loves. But you can’t abide in both places at the same time- you can’t be bitter, withholding, and unkind AND be nestled in Jesus.

If we abide in Christ, our life patterns will change. We cannot keep in a pattern of sin and also keep in a pattern of loving Christ.

You repeat the actions that matter most to you. God isn’t calling us to be perfect followers of Christ, but to be practicing followers of Christ.

When you’re living a life abiding with God, He will give you the desires of your heart because your desires begin to be His desires for you.

God hears you. He is not a distracted father. He is present and interested and we can have a fellowship with Him.

God’s commands are not burdensome- they are an extension of his good character. Sin IS burdensome, oppressive, and worrisome.