Monday, April 27, 2015

Keukenhof Tulip Gardens

Last Saturday the family and I finally make it to the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens! I discovered this place about two weeks too late last year after we moved see This place is only open about eight weeks out of the year. Timing is everything if you go too early you may not see much blooming, but if you go too late then many things will have already bloomed and be cleaned up.

We went April 25th, this last week of April/first week of May seems to be a good time to go as every single type of flower on display was blooming. From talking to other people, this last week of April/first week of May time frame seems to be fairly consistent from year to year.

Each year the garden coordinators usually focus on a country to feature, but this year they chose Vincent Van Gogh as their feature display. This is the 125th anniversary of his death so they decided to pay tribute to him.

The Keukenhof was one of those things where I was afraid to actually go. I had heard so many wonderful things and saw so many wonderful photos that I wholeheartedly expected to be let down. But, you know what? The gardens certainly delivered. We all left feeling more enriched and happy we went. The greenhouses were full of amazing diplays from Van Gogh's art works brought to life to beautiful wedding displays. Despite the number of people at the park for the Corso (a yearly parade) it was still a wonderful time.

A bit about our trip...

We went after breakfast. We did get stuck in 90 minutes worth of traffic as we left the house about 10:30, arrived at the airport where we picked up the shuttle around 11. We wound up arriving at the Keukenhof at a little after 1pm. If I were to do this again I would leave the house by 8am. Once we were off the shuttle we found a side entrance where we walked right in...make sure you find the alternative entrance, the main entrance is a madhouse. We knew we wanted to make the most of our time there but wanted to leave no later than 3:30 as there was a sign that had tour busses scheduled to leave at 5pm, since we were in traffic on the way there we knew we did not want to hit traffic on the way back. So, we began our stroll conscious of the really was plenty of time. is what we saw...

These were probably my favorite flower/display: Synaeda King and Giuseppe Verdi

I loved these hot pink ones!

The first green house we entered was the Oranje Nassau it was a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. There were several reprints of his artwork displayed along with flowers that were similar in fashion to ones he painted. 

There were even a few exhibits that were sort of interactive but they were so busy I didn't bother with them, nor did I need to...admiring his artwork in this capacity was enough for me.

The big display was one of his famous self-portraits redone in tulips. I feel as though we were so lucky to see this. The entire thing was blooming and even as early as the week before we went there were some that were still just green. I love everything to do with Vincent Van Gogh, so to see this in full bloom was a real treat for me. Hubby even stood in the long line to get on the grand stand and see it with me even though I told him he didn't have to...that is love folks. 

Some of the flower fields. A sea of red.

Loving the XXX in flowers.

I love how they recycled some of these cribs into a piece of artwork. Also, see where all those people are, that is near the windmill where you can climb up and an area where you can book a cruise through some of the flower fields..we didn't do that...nothing was worth fighting those lines.

This was a really fun bridge to play on. 


 This was the only other green house we fought to get into...the weeding displays! They were really pretty. But it was super packed, we did a quick tour around then had to get out.

We loved the displays with these little pineapple looking flowers, they just looked so happy and almost tropical.

Hyacinth...this smelled amazing. Just wow.

This was a magical experience and I would highly recommend actually planning a trip around this even to visit The Netherlands. 

It is a spectacular experience. Here are my tips for making the most of your experience:
  • Purchase your tickets in advance
  • Leave early to get there when the Gardens open
  • Enter through one of the alternative entrances, just ask anyone in a yellow vest
  • Eat before you go, restaurants get really packed and seemed over priced in my opinion
  • Bring a water bottle...lines for drinks and food were extremely long
  • Don't forget your camera
  • Expect to deal with large amounts of crowds, so be patient
This is something that is fun for the whole family since everything is paved so you can bring a pram/stroller, there is playground equipment for the littles, and the teeanger thanked us several times for giving her the opportunity to go. Not once did she complain and she was very in to seeing the displays and all the flowers in bloom. 

As a final note, if you are a fearer of bees because you swell horribly (almost to allergic reaction proportions like me) or are allergic I am happy to report we didn't see a single bee. I am not sure how that was possible and worries me slightly, but I really was glad because it meant I didn't need to worry.

So, I highly recommend you plan a trip to see this at some point, well worth it!

P.S. Make sure you check out the Reasons to Travel link up over at Reasons to Dress!


Today's post for the Blogging A to Z Challenge, which I've been semi-decentish as keeping up with is all about Windmills.

There is a saying someone told me the other day, "Only two people can make land in this world: God and the Dutch." Funny, but 'tis true, the Dutch are fabulous at creating land and often when a resort or something is built from reclaimed land you can guarantee the Dutch were behind it. ;)

Now enjoy these Windmills from my travels because this is how the Dutch create all this great land....

Windmill at Keukenhof in Lisse, Netherlands.

Back of windmill taken during a run in Hoofddorp, Netherlands.

Front of above windmill.

I think this is the windmill near my house by Amstel Park, angle is funny though.

A wall of what I think are spekuloos the windmill ones.

This is somewhere in Ouder-Amstel, near Amsterdam

Amstel Park, Amsterdam

Near Station Ede-Wageningen

These windmills were very important to the Dutch, this land was difficult to settle due to all the water and marshy lands which is why  good majority of their traveling and transportation was able to be done by boat. However, using the wind technology they were able to drain the land and create farm land hundreds of years ago and to this day use these windmills to keep these areas from flooding. 

Today is King's Day so we are off to celebrate, I hope you enjoyed the windmills!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Menu Plan Monday #15

I'm not really going to do a weekend recap because the posts I have coming up this week are all from the super fun things we did this past weekend. Hubby has finally recovered from his 3 weeks straight of work (although he may be going right back into that) and since this past weekend was a three dayer for us thanks to Koningsdag on Monday I took advantage and dragged him and the teeanger to the Keukenhof, Elfia, and my friends house for some King's Day celebration in the city center.

This past week I wrote a few great posts about traveling, make sure you check them out:

Packing Tips
Road Trip Planning Tips
Suit Case Organization
Travel Essentials

Also, our friend Stacey Grice had the debut of her second book, Tapped this week...go check out the post I did for her blog tour, then buy the book because it was awesome!

Sunday: Rest day
Monday: Yoga
Tuesday: Quiet apartment workout  coupled with some glute bridges, planks, and stretching
Wednesday: Yoga
Thursday: Same as Tuesday
Friday: T25 Cardio and T25 Stretching
Saturday: 4 mile run and stretching

Not really setting any goals for this week but to explore Berlin and make some fabulous memories learning about another country/city with my teenager.

But, despite all this excitement we must continue to eat. The menu will be abbreviated because the kiddo and I are traveling and the husband will mostly eat whatever work is providing for all the over time (ha!).

*Lately my breakfasts have consisted of Bullet proof coffee (with 1 T coconut oil, 1 T butter, and 50ml of real fresh cows milk and a banana, I never thought this could fill me up but it really does the trick!)
Sunday: Cereal
Monday: Egg and cheese croissant sandwiches
Saturday: Same as Monday

Sunday: Lunch at Ren Fayre (meat on a stick was awesome)
Monday: King's day will probably just feast from the food vendors
Saturday: Soup and Sandwiches

Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: hamburgers, rice, and carrots (if we come home for dinner)
Friday: Pizza with salad
Saturday: either Monday's dinner if we don't eat that or tacos with salad

This week I will be linking up with Mommy Run Fast, Jill Conyers, and I'm an Organizing Junkie...come check out the rest of the party for some other great ideas!

We are on our second round of spring break here, ready to wind up this school year, when do your kids get out?

As a side note, have you ever been to Berlin? Have suggestions on must see/eat places? We mostly have our itinerary set but are willing to add a few "must-do-see-eat" places to it!

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Top Travel Essentials!

On my last train ride from Brussels to Amsterdam, after a long day spent outside in the rain, I was sipping my wine and thinking about the number of things that make traveling easier for me. Whether you are on a day trip or a multi-week trip here are my must have travel essentials!

This post may contain affiliate links, if you love one of the products I suggest and decide to make a purchase by clicking the link I provide I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

My Enrico Benetti rucksack. This is the perfect size for a day trip. It has a chest strap and a waist strap. It can expand in the centre a bit, has a great spot for a small laptop or iPad. It is padded in the shoulders, upper back, and lower back, and has two mesh cup holders. It is small enough so it fits in all the lockers at museums. 
This waterbottle. It is a Bobble Water Bottle and is wonderful because I can fill up from any water fountain or sink and know that my water is being filtered! Plus, most places in Europe now charge for water and since that is all I drink besides wine it is good to carry my own. Let me address the water thing real quick: most places here when you order water will bring you a bottle, I hate paying for water, especially when it is the same cost as wine or coke, you can ask for tap water and they aren't supposed to turn you down but they do-often. They will say it isn't "hygenic" or "they don't do that here" and if you make a stink they will bring you tap water, but with this bottle (that I carry everywhere with me) it makes it easy to just not have to deal with the water situation. 
This scarf. I got it during our trip to Paris last year, it is light but when tied just right and combined with a jacket (heavy or light) it really keeps your neck quite warm, but it is also convenient in the event you come across a place in the summer while wearing a tank top and need your shoulders covered you can use it to cover them. Or if you are wearing shorter shorts and need something that goes to your knees you could easily create a skirt out of it. Seems strange, but it really is a versatile piece for any season so make for a good investment piece.

This charger. I got this at a bookstore chain here for a measley €19. The charge you get from it is crap and it loses charge fairly quickly, but, when you charge it it has enough power to charge your phone to full power. Without a power cord. Without sunglight. You just have to remember to charge it beforehand. Convenient if you just used your GPS for an entire day in a foreign city and want to keep in touch with your husband so he knows you made your 3 train connections ;)

What are your top travel essentials? Anything I should add to my list?

P.S. Linking up to My Little Babog Blog.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Suitcase Organization

Yesterday, I gave tips for planning a road trip, today I want to talk to you about organizing your suitcase. With the right tools and proper planning you could easily travel for two weeks with just one small carry-on, like my daughter and I did in March of 2014 when we went to Hawaii. That's carry on for two adults. Here is how I did it.

This post may contain affiliate links, if you love one of the products I suggest and decide to make a purchase by clicking the link I provide I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Have a medium size carry on . I have found this is the perfect size, it fits in all over head compartments, fits under the seat, and is easy to roll around a city if you make a side trip.

Use these awesome pack-it envelopes . If you fold the items correctly you can fit up to 7-12 items in this envelope. Hubby I can only fit 7, but for the teeanger and I can fit up to 12!

Use these awesome pack it cubes. These are great for keeping socks and undies together, or shirts/shorts that you can roll. I was able to fit a week's worth of undies and socks into one cube for the teenager and I. 

Don't over pack. For a week long trip you don't need a ton of stuff, we went for two weeks and I packed enough for one week and just washed items since I was staying with a friend. Things like jeans, shorts, or skirts can be worn multiple times before needing to be washed, so bringing just a couple items to fit different situations will work. 

Utilize your personal item. I typically put individual toiletries in our personal item. For example, my purse will carry any feminine hygene products and/or make-up I need. 

Fold your dirty laundry. This may sound bizarre but when you are at the end of your trip and won't be needing to keep dirty and clean laundry separate just fold up the laundry as it will help you fit it all back in. 

Do you have an great suitcase organization tips we should know about?

Road Trip Planning Tips

Road trip planning tips are the topic of today's Blogging A to Z post.

Check out the other posts I've done here.

Since moving to Europe almost a year ago I have made quite a few new friends and acquaintences, through our chats one thing has become clear: planning a road trip is hard! Whether you are taking a car or train, getting organized to plan a big trip and see all you want to see along the way can be extremely overwhelming. I'm getting it down pretty well so I wanted to share with y'all some of my tips!

Use google maps. If you are going via car, use google maps, it is fantastic. You can add waypoints along the way, search areas in which you are thinking of stopping for landmarks and whatnot, it is a great resource. If you are going via train, like us, it is easy to map as well since google maps has the transportation feature! In Europe I imagine this is an easier feature to use, but it allows you to see a basic route and what is along the way. Using this feature I know on our way home from Berlin we will be stopping off in Cologne for a few hours since we switch trains there and our tickets are flexible. 

Know your route and stops along the way. If you want to make stops along the way while using a mass transit system make sure you know exactly where you are supposed to change trains. This will often allow you to see some really unique places that will only take an hour or two of your time. If you are in a car, this is important as the teenager remembers once being stuck on a bridge in Louisianna having to pee and once we finally got off the bridge, we were in the middle of nowhere with no peeing stations in sight, so knowing your route is good to prevent emergencies.

Know the terms of your tickets. If you are going by train make sure you know the terms of your tickets. I always get the mid-grade flexi tickets so if we want to hop off and on we can, just be aware of certain time restrictions and whatnot.

Know your train if you are travling by train. Most trains when traveling through Europe I have found do not having a dining car, so know ing your route will help you to know if you need to bring along food and drink. I always recommend having snacks, but we are traveling 6 hours to and from Berlin (12 total hours) this month with no dining car so I know we each need a water bottle, plus one extra bottle each, along with a full lunch and a snack. Usually they have someone walk through on trips 3+ hours with a box like you'd see at a ball game in the US but it is ladened with sugary crappy food that I have no desire to eat. (Plus, if you plan right and you don't have to drive you can bring beer and wine along ;))

Check the weather the day before you pack. I thought this one was something everyone did, but I have talked to 6 different people who have had a horrible vacation because they were so excited to get going, had an assumption about the weather of a place, and it was not at all what they expected! I usually pack just 24 hours in advance. I have a basic outline of what I want to take but the real packing isn't done until 24 hours before, you never know what sort of weather system could come in over night, some places are just that unpredicatable.

Bring as small a bag as you possibly can. This will eliminate over packing and will keep you from dreading making stops along the way. Many train stations have lockers you can rent so if you want to stop off you can toss your small suitcase in and enjoy a few hours sightseeing before catching your next train! For car rides this will allow for more leg room, than if you over packed.

Have a written itinerary. The biggest complaint I hear is they didn't get to see everything they thought they would. This doesn't necessarily have to be a huge written itinerary with walking directions like I made for London, but at least having a written account of landmarks you want to see and what is inside if it is a museum can be really poor time management, not realizing how long some things would take vs. the number of things they want to see is the reason most people are left a little let down. For example, when we went to Paris, we only had a long weekend so when we tackled the Louvre we knew we wanted to see Napoleon's Apartment and then we each picked three works of art we wanted to see, made it to those and then got out of there. We were in there an hour longer than we anticipated, but we still made it to all ther other stuff that day thankfully because we had a plan.

Keep your wallet in your front pocket for men, and women have a cross body bag with zipper in the front. For backpacks, have a lock for the zipper. This is to protect you from pick-pockets. These aren't foolproof but they do help. People can be the suck, especially in large, crowded areas such as the Eiffel Tower, near the Mona Lisa, or in a crowded square in Brussels.

That is all I have for now, later this week I will have some suitcase organizing tips, as well as my travel essentils.

Do you have any tips to add?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: Tapped by Stacey Grice (+giveaway!)

So, y'all remember a while back I reviewed Totaled, then just a few weeks ago I did a cover reveal of a most anticipated book, Tapped...well, the day has arrived, yesterday Tapped was released!

This post may contain affiliate links, if you choose to purchase from one of those links I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. :)

If you didn't read Totaled, you can purchase it here . The beginning of Tapped has a short synopsis of Totaled, but it doesn't give you the complete picture, so I highly recommend purchasing it first, and at .99 cents it is a total (haha) bargain! 

Synopsis of Tapped
Unexpectedly thrust into a whirlwind romance, Bree thought her relationship with Drew could withstand any obstacle thrown their way. Excited for the future, everything she thought she knew came crashing down in one horrible night. Forced to re-evaluate her feelings, Bree is left alone with a heavy heart and the realization that Drew's nightmare changed everything.
The effects of his trauma once again surfacing, Drew had no idea how volatile his actions were until it was too late. He must work to rebuild trust with everyone around him, all while participating in vigorous therapy and being separated from Bree. When a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity presents itself with impeccably poor timing, Drew has some tough decisions ahead.
Can he heal the wounds his past has created and quiet the demons that haunt him? Can he repair the damage done with his love or will he give up?
Discover if it’s all too much and Drew ends up...
Author’s Note: Tapped is a continuation of Totaled, the first book in the Totaled series. It is highly recommended to read these books in sequential order. Due to mature content, profane language, and sexual situations, this book is recommended for ages 18 and up.

Excerpt of Tapped
Something told me to walk around to the back and my legs took me. I followed the skinny path within the dunes and sea oats on the side of his house until he came into view. Standing with his back to me, he watched the water as the sun rose higher and higher above the horizon, the colors beautifully framing his silhouette. He turned his head ever so slightly, I guess sensing that I was there, and then turned around completely.
I froze.
I was unable to take another step for a few seconds as we stared at each other. His posture relaxed, relieved to see me before him, and he advanced toward me. I walked forward, my stomach in knots of nervousness, and he matched me step for step until we were mere feet apart. The salty sea breeze blew violently around us both, coming off of the crashing waves and onto our skin. The second we entered each other’s space, my world went silent. I didn’t hear the water or smell the ocean. I didn’t feel the wind on my face or the sand under my feet. I was only in tune to him.
He swallowed hard, his eyes sharp and assessing, darting around my face as he took me in. They roamed and finally settled on my cheek just underneath my left eye; his shoulders fell as he exhaled. His right arm reached for me, stopping midway and then slowly continuing up, his eyes asking for permission. I lowered my chin and leaned into him as his fingertips grazed over my skin, tracing the scar he had given me. My eyes closed at the intensity of the moment.
He moved a few inches closer and cradled my jaw in his hand, urging me to open up and look at him—to really see him. I did and his eyes brimmed with tenderness and compassion. I looked into them, trying to memorize every shade of green, every fleck of gold, not knowing what the future held. I just knew that if I was never able to lay eyes on him again, this was the image that I wanted to remember. My gentle and loving Drew, normally stuck inside a giant, rough exterior, was now exploding out, his shrapnel penetrating my soul.

I recieved an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

For me, Tapped was a long anticipated release...I hate cliffhangers with a thriving passion. I think I hate them so because one time when I was 13 I found this great book at Wal-Mart and the end was a cliffhanger and I was never able to find the next book, so I am always afraid it I will never get the end of the story! But, I knew Stacey would pull through and boy did she! I really enjoy her writing style of Totaled and Tapped because each book had a beginning, climax, and end, all the while the unconventional 2 book series over all has a beginning, climax, and end, which is a dream come true! 

Throughout the books we follow Bree and Drew; Bree, who after the death of her mother falls into the role of taking care of the men in her life, being somewhat dominated by their personalities, and not really doing what makes her happy and being honest abou it. Drew, who had a rough beginning in life and is still dealing with the aftermath of such a horrific upbringing. Stacey gives great personality to these two characters and really shows the inner turmoil these two face. From wanting to be happy themselves while still making those important in their lives happy. I think everyone knows this struggle, but what I really love is how slowly Bree and Drew learn to communicate with one another and that shows how important communication is in a relationship. 

I am not sure how much I can write without giving the plot away, but I really enjoyed this book. It is a romance, but has a really interested dedicated storyline. So many of these novels I read you can write off and only read for the sex scenes..which honestly get boring after a while because they are the same, but Stacey manages to pull you in with a real story line and a few good sex scenes thrown in to give the spice we are all looking for in our reading. ;)

Did you read Totaled? Will you be picking up Tapped?

Read below for the Raffelcopter giveaway, click this link to enter as it isn't done right here on the blog. There will be 2 winners: (1) gets a signed paper back (USA only) the other winner (1) gets a $10 Amazon Gift Card! So...enter to win!

I am a mother, wife, Registered Nurse, avid reader, and most recently have pursued taking my own writing to the next level. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, the beach is my happy place.

Being an astute people watcher gives me constant inspiration for my stories. But my characters, like many authors, are conceived from actual people in my life. A hodgepodge of personality traits, real world instances, and conversations that I have directly taken part in are the foundation for my fictional world.

Find Stacey:
To add Tapped to your Goodreads TBR...