Five Podcasts I’m Loving

Even though I’ve really been getting back into reading lately, I have still been listening to a LOT of podcasts. I just love listening to great conversations and giggling at silly songs and learning all the things I can. I’m usually listening to one while taking a shower, getting ready in the morning, driving in my car, falling asleep, cleaning the kitchen – really I am listening ALL the time!!

I definitely go through spurts when it comes to the podcasts I listen to – I’ll listen to some for just a few months, and others last for a few years! I’ve found a few new-to-me ones that I’ve been loving lately, so I wanted to share them! Let me know if you love these ones, too, or if there are any other great podcasts I need to check out!

Levar Burton Reads – This is just like you would expect… Levar Burton reads short stories! His voice is magical and the short fiction stories are fun to listen to. If you want to zone out for a little bit and not worry about keeping up with previous stories or plots, this is the one for you.

The Popcast – This is a new listen for me, and it is absolutely hilarious! The hosts, Knox and Jamie, make me laugh out loud every episode as they educate me on things that entertain, but do not matter. They talk about pop culture, celebs, TV and movies, and I love it!

Swish and Flick – If you love Harry Potter, then you will love these 4 girls talking about Harry Potter! They are re-reading the book series, and talk about each chapter as they go along. They go IN DETAIL and also talk about other things like Hogwarts houses, wands, histories of characters, and more! It is a great companion to the books as I’m currently listening to them on Audible.

Skimm’d from the Couch – If you already read The Skimm every morning, then you already know about this podcast, I’m sure! The founders of my favorite daily news email now have a podcast where they talk to other women in business and find out how they got their start, mistakes they’ve made along the way, and what it’s like to be a woman in their field. The episodes are really short but really great!

Stuff You Missed in History Class – How have I not talked about this one yet?!?! (Or have I and I don’t remember?) Anyway, this one is the best! I’ve been listening for about 2 years now, and I still haven’t even come close to listening to all of the episodes. (Seriously, you can scroll all the way back to like 2008…) You can find basically any topic in the archives, but may I suggest starting with the Hamilton-associated ones! They’re so good!


How to Spend ONE DAY at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Are y’all sick of hearing about the ONE DAY I spent at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter yet?!? No? Oh good! Because I’m back with MORE!!!!!!! I just had so much fun! And even though I was only there for one day, I seriously did everything there was to do. (If you don’t believe me, check out my recaps of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!) I even did things that I forgot to take pictures of, like eating ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour and and stopping at the Hog’s Head for the most refreshing glasses of water I’ve ever had in my life.

I seriously think that you only need one day to see and do everything at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Yes it will be a fast-paced, packed day, but you’ll be surprised at how much down time you’ll have, too! There were plenty of times we just sat down to rest our feet and have some water, and I got to ride the Hogwarts and Gringott’s rides approximately 4-5 times each.

Here are some of the tips and tricks I used while there that would be helpful if you’re planning on spending ONE DAY in the most magical place on earth (which I refuse to say is Disney World because Harry Potter is about actual magic so it makes sense…)!

– get the multi-park pass –

Even though you’re only going for one day, you really need to get the multi-park pass so you can see BOTH parks. Yes, it’s a lot more money, but it’s 100% worth it.

– get there right when the park opens –

Set your alarm and head over RIGHT when the park opens!! The crowds are actually pretty small right at the beginning and you’ll feel like you have the whole place to yourself. I didn’t stay at the park, so I missed out on getting in the park an hour early, but I thought getting there for the officially opening was more than great enough.

– ride the Hogwarts Express both ways immediately –

This was something my friend made us do and it was totally worth it. There was NO line (seriously, like 5 people in front of us) and so we got to ride the train immediately. The experience is different both ways, so you’ll want to see them both! There can be up to a 2 hour line for the Hogwarts Express, which is totally not worth it, in my opinion. We skipped the line later in the afternoon and just walked around to the other park and it took about 20 minutes. Another bonus of riding the train immediately – you can get a video of you walking through the brick wall without annoying a TON of people in line behind you!

– single. rider. line. –

If you only remember one thing from this post- THIS IS IT!!! Seriously. 99% of the time you don’t need to wait in the “real” line because it’s long and dumb. Just do the single rider line and you’ll only wait maybe 10 minutes. Maybe. (Seriously, there was a 2 hour wait to go on a ride and we waited 10 minutes in the single rider line.) You won’t be guaranteed to sit with your friends, but unless you are planning on buying a souvenir photo from the ride does that really matter? Nope!

– don’t wait more than 45 minutes in any line –

It’s just not worth it! Definitely DO wait in the “real” lines to get to see all the cool stuff through the bank and the castle, but any more than 45 minutes is just not bearable in my opinion. Go through the real line at the very beginning of the day or at the very end of the day – that’s what worked out best for us!

– eat at all the restaurants –

They’re all great and a different experience! Most of the plates are big enough where you can share a meal (my friend Kate and I split breakfast and it was the perfect portion size). Also be sure to try all of the non-restaurant foods! Get some Bertie Bott’s Ever Flavor Beans to try later! Eat ice cream at Florean’s! Have the butterbeer! If you’re only there for a day, make sure you get your fill!

– do the wand experience at Olivander’s –

This was actually pretty cool, and I’m really glad that we got to go in and experience this little show. People might tell you that it isn’t worth the wait, and they’re half right. It isn’t worth waiting in line for… but there are times during the day where there is NO line! The line wraps around the side of Olivander’s so just keep an eye out for when there aren’t any people outside. We did that and headed in and got to go see the wand ceremony almost immediately – and it was the middle of the afternoon, when you’d think the line would be crazy! Just keep your eyes peeled and you’ll be fine.

– don’t get an interactive wand* –

*unless you really REALLY want to. Just know that it’s $50 and there are only like 13 interactive spots and I think it is 100% just as fun to watch kiddos swishing their wands around. So again, I think it’s something you can skip, but if you REALLY want to have that experience then I say go for it!!

– stop for shows if you can –

I got to see two of the shows while walking around (the Deathly Hallows one was awesome!!) and I highly recommend stopping to watch if you see that one is starting up close by! However – if you are only there for one day, I wouldn’t rearrange your whole day/schedule/plan JUST to see the shows.

– stick around for the Hogwarts light show –

THIS WAS SO COOL!!! Do what you want, go where you want, but SERIOUSLY try and end up by the Hogwarts castle at the end of the night! The light show was incredible and I wished it was like 10 minutes longer. I can’t remember what time it started (I’m sure the internet could help me here… oh the internet tells me it is “ongoing from dusk to park close”) but definitely try to catch it if you can!

– share a locker when you can –

This just makes everything easier. One person can go in and compete with the CRAZY CROWDS and throw all the stuff into a locker. They’re a pretty good size, and I think we were able to fit 3 people’s stuff into one locker. (This is JUST bags, no souvenirs.) These lockers are SUCH A GOOD IDEA and I love that your fingerprint is what unlocks them! Too cool!

– save your souvenir shopping for the end of the day –

If you’re staying on the property, you can apparently buy souvenirs and have them sent to your room (or maybe it’s your hotel?) for you to pick up at the end of the day. However, if you’re NOT staying on the property, just save the shopping for the end of the day! You’ll have less stuff to cram into a locker, less stuff to walk around with, and there really is plenty of time to get everything you’ve been eyeing throughout the day. (I made a little note on my phone whenever I saw something in all the shops I’d want to get later, like a Christmas tree ornament, a chocolate wand for coworkers, etc. Some of the items are ONLY available in one shop, so make note of that, too! But some things are available in lots of shops. Just keep your eyes peeled!)

– pace yourself with the butterbeer –

This stuff is SO GOOD but man it is SO SWEET!! I got a little bit of a stomach ache because I had so much of it at once (worth it, lol) so it might be a good idea to share it, if you can. That way you can have more later (or try the slushie kind!) and not have your day ruined by a sugar overload.

– take breaks –

I know there’s so much to do and so much to see and it’s all so exciting, but sit down and take a break if you need to. You’ll be going going going ALL DAY and it’s nice to give your feet a little break! Sit in the shade, have some water, and relax a little. (We went to the Hog’s Head and had free cups of ice water and sat in the shade on the patio and it was glorious!)

– enjoy yourself –

You’re there to have fun, so have fun! Be a tourist! Take ALL the pictures! Be excited! And most of all enjoy the most magical day of your life!! (Until you go back, that is!)

I Went to Diagon Alley and It Was ALSO My Favorite!

Are you ready for more Harry Potter fun?!?!? I sure hope so! Last time I shared all the things I loved about going to Hogsmeade in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando, and today I’m going to show all the awesome things about Diagon Alley!

This is one of the 2 Harry Potter-themed parks at Universal Studios, and it was SO impressive! Just the level of detail everywhere was insane. The outsides of the buildings, the insides of the shops, literally everywhere you look was so well thought out and it really added to the entire experience. I’m not sure if I liked this park better than Hogsmeade, since they’re just so different, but it did seem like there was more to do and see here.

Here come more pictures and all the things I saw and loved while in Diagon Alley!

Seeing the dragon BREATHE FIRE!

This was one of the things I was most excited to see while there! The dragon on top of Gringott’s Bank moves every 10 minutes, but only breathes fire every 20 (or that’s the schedule it went on the day I was there)! I saw it a few times and you can really FEEL THE FIRE!!!! Incredible!

Seeing all the things OUTSIDE Diagon Alley!

This included the entrance to King’s Cross Station, seeing the Knight Bus, and seeing Kreacher peek through the window at Grimmauld Place! I was just at King’s Cross a year ago, and I gotta tell you – they did such a great job. The train board was a great detail and it really felt like we were in London! And because we got there so early and there was no line, I even got a little video of me going through the brick wall to Platform 9 3/4!

Trying butterbeer!

Oooh this stuff was so good but it was SO sweet! Almost too sweet… almost… I tried the regular liquid kind (they also have a slushy version) and it definitely lived up to the hype! My friend thought hers was too sweet… so I got to drink a little bit of hers, too!

Seeing a couple get engaged!

This one really isn’t park related, but it was so neat! They had a HUGE group with them (who hopefully were all in on it!) and Kate and I got a little teary-eyed watching! I wonder how many proposals happen here every day… my guess is 3.

Going to all of the shops!

They were incredibly detailed and awesome! I loved seeing the goblin in the money exchange storefront, going in the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and seeing all the spooky sights in Knockturn Alley!

 Riding Escape from Gringotts!

This one was so great! It was also a 4-D ride (so you really felt like you were riding through a cave) and the details were amazing. We mostly used the single rider line again and the wait time was so short – on average I’d say only 5 minutes! We did go through the “real” line at the end of the night so we could see all the bank details up close, and it was definitely worth it to do so. The goblins moving around were so realistic (or as much as they could be!)

Eating at the Leaky Cauldron!

Kate and I ate lunch here and it was delicious! They had traditional English fare (I had bangers and mash!) and the food was surprisingly very reasonably priced! Or more reasonable than I expected, I guess I should say.

Watching the wand choose the wizard at Ollivander’s!

Ok, this was actually pretty cool! You can just go through the wand shop like normal, but it’s way more fun to wait in line and watch the wand ceremony! We all gathered in this little room and someone from the audience was chosen to find their wand. We had this adorable little girl chosen from our group and she looked SO nervous, and then SO happy when the wand finally chose her!

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed looking at a million pictures with me – I can’t believe it’s already been 2 months since I was there!! All in all, I’m glad that I only had 1 day there – it forced me to really make sure I saw EVERYTHING and made for a wild and adventurous and fun day!!

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?!?