My friends Jeff and Lauren over at A Piece of the Pyles are doing an adoption fundraiser raffle THIS WEEK! They have put together some awesome prize packs including all kinds of handmade gifts (yes, even some crochet baby converses from my Etsy shop). They have started the adoption process to adopt a baby girl from Ethiopia and are raising money! You can read more about their adoption story here.
So here’s the deal – they are accepting donations for the raffle (only $10!!) through July 8th and will announce the winners on July 9th.
Ok, enough talking from me, head over to their blog to donate and enter the raffle!
This weekend was a busy and EXCITING weekend – one that has been long anticipated! My best friend Nia and Austin got married! They are now in Argentina for 2 weeks celebrating their honeymoon. Check out some of her beautiful bridal portraits here by the talented Amanda/sister of the groom at Studio 310 Photography. Also check out the impressive (if I do say so myself) flash mob performed by the entire wedding party.
I spent a little time adding some personal touches to their wedding gift by stamping onto the paper gift bag and replacing an ugly purple ribbon handle with some braided hemp.
On Thursday evening I made my way up to Reedy Creek to help with pre-wedding preparations. Basically their entire wedding was DIY, so there was lots to do. Most of Friday was spent picking wildflowers and arranging bouquets and other flower decor. Saturday morning all the girls walked around the Lexington BBQ Festival (one of Nia’s favorite events that is always on the to-do list every October. this year it just happened to fall on her wedding day).
After spending the afternoon getting ready all the ladies went to the fields by Nia’s house to take wedding photos. Hannah snapped a few quick shots with my phone while we posed and posed and posed for the real photographer.
Hannah also snapped a few shots of everyone goofing around in the fields while Nia had some fabulous photos taken of just her (she was the bride after all). For example, Kacie and Jera practicing sweet dance moves.
And then I snapped a few casual shots of Hannah. Always looking so fashionable!
Check out these white boots Nia has on. A nice touch to the rest of her all white wardrobe!
Part of our bridesmaid gift from Nia was a too cute J.Crew cardigan adorned with vintage clip on earrings and wooden hangers personalized with each girls’ name. The sweaters came in handy later in the evening when it got quite cold.
Everyone ate, laughed, smiled, socialized, and danced the night away until Austin and Nia sped off into the night in Jerry’s prized possession – his Corvette. I was so happy David was able to join in the festivities!
The whirlwind weekend was concluded with a WOLFPACK WIN and a PANTHERS WIN. David and I got to watch the Panthers vs. Redskins and were joined by Amanda (one of my college roomies) and her husband Matthew.
This past weekend was my 25th birthday. This year it fell on a Saturday, which meant I got a whole weekend (yes, 3 days!) of celebration. Friday night my wonderful boyfriend took me to dinner at Cajun Queen and then to the movies to see Ides of March (hellllllo Ryan Gosling!).
Then I spent some time with family at my brothers house adoring my niece Clara Jane. Brian decided my new nickname to be “Auntie M” (think Wizard of Oz)… now Clara just needs to learn to say it!
Next it was time for LASER TAG PARTY! Yes, I specifically requested a laser tag party for my 25th birthday. David planned a great party which involved 12 others joining me at Laser Quest for two intense games of laser tag. [I’d just like to note that I did come in 4th place in our second game. Heck yeah megapizzle!] The games were followed by some hanging out at my house and about 4 rounds of Mafia. Unfortunately for David he didn’t get to actively participate in any round because he was killed off first nearly every time.
Sunday morning started out with church service at Mosaic Church and I was joined by my family, David, and Hannah. Mom made lunch for everyone at Brian’s house, fried rice and ham – by request. Followed by presents and confetti cake. A halloween version of confetti cake, apparently the real Funfetti is not available all year long.
And the whirlwind weekend was wrapped up with a much anticipated ride on David’s motorcycle wearing none other than my new grey boots! I’ve been asking almost every day for 2 months and he finally took me for a ride. Now I’m thinking maybe I should get my own?! Or just make David take me for a ride every week.
Thanks to everyone who joined for any or all of my birthday celebration weekend! Who doesn’t love feeling loved? 🙂
Last weekend myself and 8 other ladies road tripped down to Savannah for Nia’s Bachelorette weekend! We stayed in a bed and breakfast and had the whole place to ourselves – that was quite a treat! The weekend consisted of outlet shopping in Hilton Head, a dinner at The Olde Pink House, drinks on the rooftop of a hotel, a day of walking and shopping in historic downtown, lunch at The Lady & Sons, getting dressed up and going out on the town, and as always enjoying lots of good laughs and quality time together.
It was our last morning in Copenhagen and what better way to say goodbye then one final bacon, eggs, and pancake meal with real maple syrup. We packed all of our things and somehow made room for all of our souveniors as well. We decided to take the 5A bus to the airport since it actually picked us up at the hotel and took us all the way to the airport for the same price as the metro Nia and I took on the way there which left us walking another mile.
Today was going to be a day with a lot of waiting. We waited at the bus stop for at least 45 minutes, waited in the long line to check in at the airport, waited in security (I think Nia still didn’t get it right and had to be patted down), waited at the gate until boarding time, waited in our seats on the plane until we finally took off, waited at baggage claim once arriving at Reykjavik (thankfully it showed up this time), waited in line to buy bus tickets to the hotel, waited on the nearly hour long bus ride until finally arriving at the Metropolitan Hotel. We made it to Iceland at last. And it wasn’t quite as beautiful as it was during our layover 7 days prior when I first fell in love with this country. It was rainy and snowy and windy. And we felt terrible – Nia definitely worse than me. [Unfortunately for Dave, he had quite a bit more waiting than we did. He was heading back to the US and not joining us in Iceland and his layover was in Canada. Turns out the flight he was almost late for this morning was delayed (surprise), causing him to miss his connection in Canada and ending with a night spent in Canada because the next flight to Charlotte wasn’t until the next day.]
The hotel was quite an interesting place. We booked it because it was the cheapest and still really close to downtown. I’m not sure if my favorite part was the tiny two person elevator that jumped each time you got off. Or the small bathroom where you could take a shower while sitting on the toilet – literally, the sink, toilet and shower were all just right together in a tiny little room and when you took a shower, well, the whole place got soaked. Or that everytime we went to the lobby their was a different person working the front desk. Do they have like 30 minute shifts here or something? Or the room key, which was a giant key on a giant wooden keychain; apparently you’re supposed to leave it at the front desk each time to leave. Umm yeah, probably because no one wants to tote around the world’s biggest room key all day. Or the fact that they were the most laid back people. EVER. [When we first checked in the girl said, “well, you can pay now, or later, or whenever really.” Oh is that so? Gah I feel like in the US they won’t even speak to you until you pay up.] Or when we decided to book the Golden Circle day tour and Blue Lagoon tour they just gave someone a call real quick and said OK, they will pick you up at 8:00. Really? Well I sure hope they show up because I have no idea who you could have called during your 10 second phone conversation.
We took a nap for a little bit and then decided to walk downtown and have some traditional Icelandic supper. Our restaurant of choice: Islenka Barenka – Nia picked it out after browsing google and some guide books we picked up in the lobby. Reykjavik is quite a bit smaller than Copenhagen, so it was much easier to find our way around walking. We even found some of the places shown in the episode Ali went to Iceland on the Bachelorette. Remember when the guys had to write poems in Icelandic for her and the crazy guy Casey sung to her in front of a statue? Yep that was right near the restaurant! This was an interesting meal. We ordered the “Journey Through Iceland” and split it. The menu said we’d be taken on a surprise journey through Iceland with an appetizer, main course, and dessert. And boy was it a surprise! We asked the waiter what we’d get and he said he didn’t know, just whatever the chef felt like making.
First course: extremely thin sliced pieces of lamb stretched out over the dish covered in melon and sauce and smokey flavor. I’m still not sure if this was even cooked or not. Second course: foal and catfish atop mashed potatoes. Yes foal, as in baby horse. Dessert: brownie with ice cream – this part was quite a disappointment. After cleaning our plates we walked back to the Metropolitan and headed straight to bed. A day of travel if exhausting, especially when you don’t feel very good. But tomorrow would be a better day because we’d be exploring the beauty of Iceland.
Today we again took advantage of free transportation with the Copenhagen Card and took the train up to Helsingor. After breakfast we took the 5A bus to central station and figured out which line we needed to get on. We had about 15 minutes before the train left the station, which was just enough time for Nia to get a postcard and mail it to her Grandma. She had been wanting to do this all week but we weren’t sure where to find a post office, but central station conveniently had one inside. She picked one out, filled it out, and we waited in line until our number was called. She was pretty excited when it only cost 12 kroner to buy the postcard and mail it back to Reedy Creek. We had to wait in line longer than expected so then we had to run to the boarding dock to catch the train just in time. This was another 45-50 minute train ride, but this time it was hugging the coastline headed north instead of heading inland.
Once we arrived in Helsingor we made our way through the station to get to the ferry station. While planning this trip in the previous months we read about going to Sweden for the day if you’re in Copenhagen – so we just knew we had to make this a part of our itenerary to add another country into our adventures. We bought 2 round trip tickets to Helsingborg, Sweden with HH Ferries and boarded the boat. Now this was a heck of a boat for a 20 minute ferry crossing. I guess they use this for other routes too because you can’t possibly eat a sit down meal, play arcade games, and go shopping all in 20 minutes? We spent our 20 minutes on the top deck for the best view and picturing taking, although quite cold and windy. Since most of the canals were frozen so was the water nearest land, but this boat just sailed right on through the ice and out into the Oresund. There was a nice view of Helsingor’s coastline as we set sail and a nice view of Kronborg Slot – Hamlet’s Castle. We met a nice man from Denmark who was heading over to Sweden for the day just to buy some books at a bookstore sale. I think I’d like to travel to another country as well next time I’m looking for some good book deals. He did give us some good info about what all to see in Helsingborg and most importantly he told us about the heated benches. He said, “if you see a bunch of old people sitting down, then you know you’ve found them.”
Once setting foot into Sweden, we grabbed a map and made our way towards Karnan, an old tower that is the only part remaining of the old fortess towering over the city when it was under Danish rule. Since it was a sunny, yet still cold, Saturday things were a bit more crowded than we were used to all week. We made our way up all the levels of stairs to get to higher ground and Karnan and of course took lots of pictures of the view overlooking the city and Oresund. I think you could even see the coast of Denmark from here since they are only about 4km apart. Now to find the heated benches. As we headed towards the harbor, Nia made me sit on every single bench to see if it was heated or not. I sat on at least 5 benches, which all looked like a normal bench, but we were convinced they could be magically heated. When we had almost given up Nia spotted something in the distance; is it what I think it is? Yes, its a lot of old people… sitting down… just as the man on the ferry said there would be. BINGO! Heated benches! We were so excited we were almost running. We sat our butts down and instantly felt warmth flooding our bodies. The benches had hot water running through the bottoms to heat them. This made for the perfect lunch spot, and we got out our “window sandwiches” and snacks and relaxed. The harbor and boats were frozen and we laughed as the birds walked on the ice slipping around.
Then it was on to something a little more modern – the culture house – Dunker’s Culture Center, to be exact. The man on the ferry told us about this and we weren’t really sure what it was, but its basically like a museum, gift shop, concert hall, community center all in one. The strangest thing about it were the emo looking rabbit statues outside, laying in a pile of rocks. I guess its supposed to be artistic, but to me it just seemed weird. And even stranger than the emo rabbits, we stumbled upon some kind of event once we went inside. There was a small room with a crowd of women waiting to get in. Then all of a sudden I guess it was time and they all flooded the room. Time for what? I don’t know. But we sure were going to find out! So we also made our way into the room, which was filled with tables and hangers of random clothes and other things and people were going crazy snatching them up. So I figured out it must be some kind of rummage sale based on the urgency all these people had to grab the perfect item. We asked a lady at the door what was going on; she told us “you can switch clothes and you have until 5:00pm.” Ummm… ok? So I change the clothes I’m wearing and I have until 5 o’clock to wear them then switch back? After more watching we figured out what she meant was that you bring items of your own and trade them for different things – so in our words – a clothing swap. Well we didn’t swap anything since we needed the clothes we were wearing.
We wanted to check out one more place so we headed towards the biggest church in the city – the Church of St. Mary’s. Like all old churches, this was ornately and beautifully decorated inside and just as cool on the outside. Now at this point in the week I was feeling pretty exhausted and developing a bad cough. Must have been all the walking outside in the cold wind. I had a feeling Nia was feeling the same way when she agreed to head back to Denmark on the ferry even though our stay in Sweden had merely been a few hours. We got to the ferry just in time as we were the last people to load up. Not feeling up to par, we opted to sit inside this go around since we experienced the viewing deck on the way over. 20 minutes later we were breaking through the ice and stepping foot back into Denmark.
On the train ride back to Copenhagen I think we both fell asleep. But I woke up in plenty of time to make sure we got off at the right stop. Back at Hovedbanegarden, we took the 5A bus to the Radisson and met up with Dave in the Player’s Lounge. Since this was the last day of the poker tournament, not many people were still there. We told Dave all about our day and then decided we should go take a nap for a little while since we had a couple hours until it was time for more “free sandwiches.” It felt so nice to nap considering I wasn’t feeling very good. But we did of course wake up in time for supper! I must say, every single meal we ate with the PokerStars was delicious and such a great surprise that we weren’t expecting on the trip.
This was our last night in Copenhagen and Nia wanted to GO OUT! Meaning, stay up later than 10:00pm and go somewhere besides playing guitar hero and foosball with the PokerStars. The night before we enjoyed ourselves at Sari Restaurant and the ICEBAR. Tonight, we wanted a more local experience by heading to “the most elusive bar” in Copenhagen. I’m still not sure what this means, but my guide book described it as – so elusive, almost impossible to find. Perfect! That’s just the kind of place we like – and it was one of Peter’s recommendations for bars to check out. It is also voted to have the best cocktail in Scandinavia. After we put on our dresses we took the bus to the stop closest to the bar and started walking to find it. We had our map in hand with the little side street that it was on circled. Remember when I talked about how we had at least 4 maps but none of them were detailed enough? That made finding this place pretty difficult since it took us a while to find the street it was on. Now I know what they meant by so elusive almost impossible to find, because if it wasn’t for the line of people waiting at the door and the fact that we knew the address number we probably would have passed on by it. No sign, except in tiny writing on a door once you were already inside the hallway – “Ruby.” We waited probably 15 or so minutes before the guy at the door told us we could go in. And when we walked through those doors I felt at home, literally! Well not MY home, but someone’s home. It felt like someone’s house/apartment decorated very homey with big couches and chairs and artwork. I guess the only thing that gave it away as a bar was the actual bar. And it sure was crowded! We walked around the whole place to check it out and then decided to put our coats on the coat rack along with everyone else. Remember when I said the Dane’s are trusting people? No coat check at this place, just simply a rack where you hang your coat as if you’re at a friend’s house.
Here we learned a few more things:
- We can at least pass for Europeans as everyone first spoke Danish to us before realizing we didn’t understand them. Or maybe it was because this bar is more of a local spot and people wouldn’t expect American’s to be there in the middle of winter?
- Bartenders take their time in making drinks. They measure out every single shot that goes into a cocktail and make sure to have a taste using the “finger over the straw to get some out trick” to make sure it is just right. None of that super fast and messy slinging of bottles like in the US. Now we knew what the guy at the door meant when he said he had to wait until the bartenders were caught up with orders before letting more people in, because they were way slower than bars here! But I’ll have to say, the bartenders were much nicer and hotter. And hey, we were having the best cocktails in Scandinavia, who cares how long it takes?
- Europeans sometimes wear their wedding band on their right ring finger. This becomes quite confusing to someone who is used to only looking on the left ring finger. I ended up talking at least 30 minutes with a guy that was hitting on me before realizing that he was in fact married and then I felt terrible for talking to a married man. I vote the whole world needs to pick one finger and stick with it!
We had a really fun time feeling like locals and meeting some locals! We didn’t stay too terribly late, probably there a couple hours and then headed back to the Radisson for our last night in those tiny beds. I was glad Nia made us go out to enjoy an evening of Copenhagen’s night life!
Another bacon, eggs, and pancakes morning [Nia and Dave may be the only ones finding this funny as I was trying to tell a story one morning at breakfast and said “bacon eggs and pancakes” at least 30 times] and then we were off. We got a little earlier start than the previous day since we wanted to see a couple things around Copenhagen before taking the train up to Hillerod for the afternoon. To get the most out of our Copenhagen Card there were a couple more things we wanted to see around the city: Carlsberg Brewery, Stables & Elephant Tower, Copenhagen Zoo, Frederiksberg Slot and Have (aka castle and garden).
By this time we had mastered the buses and switching buses (and Nia didn’t get cussed out by anymore angry Danes). So we took the bus to Carlsberg Brewery Visitor Center. The bus didn’t go quite to the brewery, so we still had to walk a bit. And by walk I mean wander around confused trying to find where the visitor center actually was because it was seriously lacking signs. At least we passed by the Elephant Tower on the way. Basically this is just a tower over the road that has giant elephant statues built into it. And you know I LOVE elephants!! This made for a few good photo ops and then we found the visitor’s center. We debated on paying to do the tour but opted not to since we had already walked around some of the place by ourselves and we were allowed to see the stables for free. And we figured it was a bit early in the morning for beer tasting – the same beer we already had as a part of the “free sandwiches” in the evenings in the player’s lounge. Instead we spent our money on some souvenoirs for friends/family/ourselves. We purchased a few different types of Carlsberg beer and some nice glasses with the Carlsberg logo. But the best part about this place – THE STABLES! Remember when the people joked around with me at The Royal Reception rooms about having cardboard horses? Well no worries, the horses in this place were the real deal. Pretty much Denmark’s version of the Budweiser horses. We petted the horses while they tried to eat my scarf, we took some pictures, and watched them get suited up to drive the wagon. We followed the wagon out and under the Elephant Tower as we were making our way back to the bus stop.
We opted to skip over the Zoo (what animals would even be out and about in the middle of winter?) and Frederiksberg Slot in order to make it to FrederiksBORG Slot in Hillerod. But first we needed to stop back by the Radisson to drop off all of our new purchases from Carlsberg. This was supposed to be a quick process – just hop on the 5A bus, brief stop at the room, then back on the 5A bus to central station to catch the train. Instead, stubborn me insists that we need to walk one direction to the bus stop when Nia was certain it was the other direction. So we ended up walking all the way back to the Radisson, in silence and frustration. Once we finally made it back and I apologized for not listening when Nia was right then we were on our way on the BUS, not walking, to central station. Remember when I said we had the bus system figured out? Yeah, I guess I meant NIA had the bus system figured out. My job was just to hold onto our Copenhagen Cards since Nia almost lost hers 3 times.
Once at Hovedbanegarden (Central Station) we checked the timetables to see which track we needed to be at to get to Hillerod. My guide book told us which line we needed to ride and which bus to take to get to Frederiksborg. The train ride was about 45-50 minutes long and Hillerod was the final stop on this line. We had some snacks on the train and this was the one place they did actually send someone through to check tickets. [Taking the metro just throughout the city, no one really checks, but remember my list of things we learned about Danes: they are very honest and trusting people. Imagine this system in the US – I’m sure nearly no one would buy tickets if they knew they probably wouldn’t be checked for because unfortunately too many Americans try to take advantage of things and cheat the system. I think we should learn to be a more honest and trusting culture.] Upon arriving in Hillerod we tried to find a bus that was numbered one of the numbers my guidebook told me, but none were there. So we walked around the station trying to find maps and routes and asked a number of people how to get there. I mean this dern castle is kinda the biggest thing in this town, surely everyone knows how to get there. So some nice teens directed us which bus to get on and which stop to get off to get there. And all of a sudden… there she was! In all her beauty! NOW we sure are glad we ditched the rest of our morning plans in order to make it to this amazing place in time. I mean look at this. Now tell me where I can find something this amazing in the US? And with this much history and detail and culture? Probably nowhere.
There was a lake surrounding all sides of this place, which of course was frozen, and a small bridge crossing over the smallest part of this “mote” to get to the entrance. It was nearing the end of the afternoon, around 2:30ish and the place closed at 4pm. That left us enough time to explore this gigantic castle (self-guided tour of course) thoroughly but quickly. We wanted to see all of it so we went pretty quickly through a lot of the rooms. The best room of all though – the reception room – an enormous room with marble floors and ornate walls and ceiling just screaming for us to take all kinds of self timer pictures. And with us as the only people there = a LOT of picture taking, self timer photos, jumping pics, and experimenting with shutter speed and exposure with Nia’s camera. Still waiting to see how those turned out. We ended up spending much more time than expected taking pictures, so we really had to speed it up through the rest of the castle and somehow we got turned around and left some places out. Before we knew it, it was closing time and we were somewhere in the middle of the castle trying to find the exit. No worries, a security guard found us and escorted us out a secret stairwell and luckily we still had time to take some pictures of the outside of the place. This is when I learned that if its too cold to have flowing water in your fountain, just fill it with Christmas trees. Instant gratification! Yes, I have an unusual obsession with Christmas trees, mainly the smell of Christmas trees. I’d even like my man to smell like Christmas trees [that is, of course, when I finally have a man…]. We didn’t want to head back to Copenhagen quite yet, so we walked around the “high street” for a bit. Apparently every city has a “high street” – a shopping street with no cars, only pedestrians – and still not sure WHY its called a HIGH street?? We did have some pretty good finds here. At an antique store we got these old glass bottles for super cheap, at a chocolate shop got some amazing chocolate flavored ground coffee [which scented our bags and hotel room the entire rest of the trip – it was that strong] and I found a beautiful scarf for Sarah at the coolest travel/outdoor store. We asked more strangers how to get back to the train station and walked our way back there only to have more confusion of which train actually goes straight back to Copenhagen. After asking some strangers and the information desk [which conveniently was inside the 7/11; not only was it inside the 7/11, but the 7/11 workers were the information desk. so strange] we hopped on the train they told us to get on, still unsure if it was right because this one didn’t have the route showing all of the stops.
But sure enough, the train took us back to Copenhagen and we got on another bus in search of Peter Beier’s Chokolade. For days all Nia talked about was hot chocolate and finding PB’s Chokolade to get hot chocolate and possibly sample all the different kinds of hot chocolate. The day before when we were with Dave we did briefly stop in PB’s but sadly there was no chocolate fountain flowing in the window nor hot chocolate samples, only chocolate treats for sale. We found out that evening that there are TWO PB’s and we went to the wrong one. So today Nia and I found the right one with chocolate fountain and all. Now the hot chocolate was not free samples, but we did each get a giant cup of different flavors to share with complimenary walnuts [maybe we weren’t supposed to eat those? but they were in a bowl on the table just waiting to be tasted] and free pieces of delicious chocolate. This place was surely worth the days of anticipation and searching for the right one. We also stocked up on some more souvenirs here: chocolate, coffee stirrers made of chocolate, hot chocolate, and a coffee mug. PB’s was right near Cafe Petersborg – where we planned to eat supper that evening after returning to the Radisson to get ready and get Dave. My friend Peter recommended Cafe Petersborg and we got a discount with the Copenhagen Card. To our disappointment, Cafe Petersborg closed at 6pm and we weren’t planning to go out to eat until 7:30-8ish. We found it quite difficult to find a restaurant that was open past 6pm that was an actual restaurant and not just a bar. And boy was it much harder than we thought! We finally decided on Sari Restaurant and headed there with Dave after we changed into our “going out” clothes. We couldn’t just eat those free sandwiches all week, we had to go out at least once!
We walked to Sari Restaurant and were seated right away. Being that we were in Denmark we had to order Smorrebrod (commonly known as smorgasbord) and herring – so Nia and I each ordered one and split. I don’t know why I ordered herring, but everyone talked about it. We were not a fan of the three types of herring nor the smorrebrod. Maybe if we had different kinds somewhere else it’d be better, but we were just not satisfied with our choices. So what else could we do after dinner besides go to an ICEBAR! We read about the Icebar online and in my guide book, so it was a must. Although a total tourist trap and quite pricey (at least the price included a drink) it was so worth it. The entire thing was made of ice – the walls, the statues, the benches, the tables, the bar, the cups! And you wear these giant blue parkas with gloves to stay warm since it clearly has to be kept below freezing or else it wouldn’t be ice now would it? We met some interesting people in there, but more importantly got to have some fun in our fur-lined snuggies. Needless to say, after less than an hour in that place it was time to get back to the Radisson and get to sleep in a nice warm bed.