Fun Book Shenanigans: A Photo Story

It is both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally set aside the worries of life, seek the company of a friendly book… from the reading of ‘good books’ there comes a richness of life that can be obtained in no other way

Gordon B. Hinckley

A little over a year ago I started a second Instagram page to share my book reviews and to just have fun posting about all things books. I shared the shenanigans I got up to during the pandemic, but I’ve kept it up. Creating fun book posts and pictures is just something I really look forward to.

After traveling all weekend and competing I planned on sharing that, but I don’t have the stage pictures back yet. So, we’re going to take a fun dive into my other hobby: reading! I hope you enjoy these because there will absolutely be more like this coming down the line as I create more.

Sometimes I Keep It Simple

A book stack here, a few bookmarks there, or a fun background is sometimes just as fun as the complicated pictures I love to take.

Sometimes I Make Entire Scenes Based On a Book’s Plot

Other Times I Try to Support Local Businesses I Love

It’s always a good time to try to pair books and random objects especially when they are amazing pieces like this doormat or delicious food from our favorite bakery in town(Wish You Well).

Most of the Time I Have a LOT of Help from Mickey…

And Mew Mew…

And Atlas

Sometimes I Take My Books Out Into the Wild

Other Days I’ve Clearly Got Food/Beverages On the Brain

There Are Days When I Go a Little Bit Extra… Just a Little…

Clearly, I Just Love Books a Ridiculous Amount

Feel free to follow along in real time on Instagram @curious_artifact_lancaster

Spring Into Adventure Bingo

Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink in the wild air.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s finally spring! Then Pennsylvania weather laughed and said “hold my beer” and it went back to winter. Then it was SPRING again! Now it’s spring only if you stand in the sunshine, fall if you stand in the shade, and winter at night and in the early morning. This is pretty normal weather here, but it makes me want to run around in the sunshine, pretend I’m warm, and have an adventure…even if that means I’m wearing a winter jacket one hour and shorts the next.

In the spirit of adventure, I wanted to create a bingo board to help jumpstart your spring adventures locally. These are all fun activities and I did try to have as many options as possible for every type of traveler. So go! Get out of the house! Frolic! Do all the fun spring things.

Feel free to download the bingo board to print (it’s free!) or just pull up this page on your phone if that’s more your style.

Upcoming Spring Adventures

  • I’m going to Ohio next weekend to compete in my very first bikini bodybuilding competition. I won’t see much, but I will absolutely try to do as much as I can during the limited time I’ll have to explore.
  • Wedding season is here and we have a few we get to travel for, so be on the lookout for our mini road trip adventure updates.
  • We’re planning a trip to Mexico this year, so I’ll probably end up creating language sheets, post about tips for traveling/packing, and how to find fun things to do when traveling!

Sweet and Savory Dishes to Make If You Miss Traveling to Europe

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you – it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave something good behind

Anthony Bourdain

Bodybuilding bikini competition prep makes you very hungry. I’m channeling my hunger this week into delicious meals and desserts for you to enjoy. I’ll be drooling over the pictures and counting down the days until I can eat all of these things.

I haven’t been able to do much travel because of work, the pandemic still being a bit all over the place, and time BUT nothing says we can’t bring the travel to us when we need to. Food is one of the best ways to do that. I hope you love these recipes and have the best travel-inspired meals because of them!

These recipes will take your taste buds all over Europe in a delicious tour of culinary yumminess.

England: Fish & Chips and Rhubarb Crumble

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Great British Bake Off you’ll know the British love rhubarb. I’ve actually never tried it despite living there for over a year… oops. I can say that the fish & chips there is unparalleled and is basically a rite of passage for anyone who visits.

Don’t have a conventional fryer? I don’t either. However, if you don’t have an air fryer… you’re missing out. Plus frying fish (and chips!) in an air fryer will be MUCH healthier and crisped to perfection. Here’s a great recipe for fish and chips that I’ve been wanting to try.

Dessert is the best part of a meal. If you’ve never tried this vegetable (*GASP* a vegetable in a dessert!?), especially in something as delicious as a crumble, well if it’s good enough for Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, it has to be good. Check out this rhubarb crumble recipe!

France: Ratatouille and Pain au Chocolat

French food varies massively depending on the region you find yourself in, but I had to choose two of my favorite dishes, ratatouille and of course chocolate croissants. Neither of these dishes are quite the same outside of France, but they are both so much fun to make and eat no matter where you are in the world.

Ratatouille is originally from Nice which is my favorite French city. It’s a vegetable stew dish that is both hearty and healthy at the same time and explodes with flavor. It’s also super simple to make at home since you just need veggies and herbs to make it. I’ve only tried this once, but I loved this recipe.

Pain au chocolat is not easy to make. Get the butter and folds wrong and it won’t have that phenomenal buttery, flaky texture that the French have mastered beyond perfection. Only in France have I ever had a perfect chocolate croissant. This recipe was super fun to try though and I love that the blogger used chocolate batons that make them so special and gave an alternative since they are so hard to find.

Germany: Bratwurst and Black Forest Cake

Germany is on my list to visit and one of the reasons is the food. Not going to lie I hate sauerkraut so that wasn’t going to make it onto my list. However, bratwurst and Black Forest cake are both delicious, so hopefully you can forgive my sauerkraut hating ways.

Did you know Germany has over 42 recognized varieties of bratwurst? If you’re missing Germany, get yourself the ingredients in this recipe and cook up a delicious meal. I even found you a recipe that cooks them in beer because what could be more German and German food AND beer in one recipe?

The largest Black Forest Cake ever made was over 6,500 pounds. Now that is my kind of cake. Layers of chocolate sponge cake, cherry liquor, whipped cream filling and fresh fruit on top? Cue the drooling and tummy rumbling. I’ve been eyeballing this recipe for a while now and can’t wait to try it when my competition is over!

Spain: Paella and Flan

I absolutely adored everything about the food in Spain. Barcelona is the only city I’ve had a chance to visit so far, but we ate our way around the city and my tastebuds cried when we left. Spain makes it easy to try so many different foods as you can get a ton of tapas and try a little bit of everything each meal.

Paella originated in Valencia, and because it tastes so damn good it has become one of the most popular dishes in the country. If you want to eat a truly authentic paella it can only have 10 ingredients and they are: short grain rice, chicken, rabbit, water, tomatoes, wide green beans, garrofó beans, saffron, olive oil, and salt. Any substitutions and it’s not a paella valenciana. Since you’re cooking at home, add whatever you want to the recipe to personalize it!

The idea of flan actually came from the Romans, but Spain is the epicenter for flan nowadays. Flan is one of those recipes where you almost always have the ingredients (there’s only 3-4), it’s super simple to make, and you can personalize it with lots of fun ingredients like caramel or cinnamon. Check out this recipe for a step by step guide to making your own.

Denmark: Smørrebrød and Kanelsnegle

I have a genuine addiction to sandwiches. I could eat them all day every day if I could. While I fully plan on heading back to explore more of Scandinavia, the only place I went was Denmark. Yes, I got a sandwich.

Smørrebrød is a Danish open-faced sandwich with endless possibilities for toppings. it originated in the 19th century as an inexpensive and portable lunch option for workers. They would often pile leftovers on top of bread and enjoy them on their breaks. The bread remains the same but the toppings and which ones pair best together and how they are layered makes this sandwich different from others. I’ll let you decide whether you want to make a traditional one with lots of rules or freestyle it with this recipe or your own creation!

Danish cinnamon buns to the rescue! Seriously, if a cinnamon bun can rescue something we need more disasters like that. These are not your average cinnamon bun; they’re better. Instead of an explosion of just sweet in your mouth, the Danish like to balance it with spice so it’s a much more elevated and even yummier experience. Try this recipe out to revolutionize how you make cinnamon buns!

Hungary: Goulash and Dobos Torta

When we were in Budapest we stumbled across a restaurant while talking about what we wanted to dinner. They had a special going for a full course meal featuring goulash. After having walked 10 miles that day it sounded like the perfect meal. To this day (almost 7 years later) we still talk about that goulash.

Goulash gained popularity in the 17th century in Hungary, but may have originated well before that. The name comes from the word ‘gulyas’ which means herdsmen. The dish started out as a hearty stew made by shepherds and then turned into a country-wide and global phenomenon as more and more people tasted it. It’s a simple dish to whip up and there are so many ways you can customize it to your liking. We had a pasta variety, but there are no wrong ways to enjoy this dish

Layer cakes are amazing. Thin layers of cake and lots of buttercream or filling. It’s heaven and so is a dobos torta. Typically there are 6 layers of sponge cake with a layer of chocolate buttercream between each and surrounding the entire cake. A layer of caramel sits on top and crushed hazelnuts adorn the sides. It might look simple from the outside, but when you cut the cake to reveal a slice with perfectly proportioned layers, it is magical.

Italy: Ravioli and Tiramisu

Is there any other cuisine more beloved around the world than Italian food? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a crowd pleaser. It’s filling. There’s so many variations. IT’S FREAKING SCRUMPTIOUS. Without further ado, Italian food is served.

Ravioli dates back to at least the 14th century. If something as simple as two square pieces of pasta squished together and filled with basically whatever food you can imagine has been enjoyed for over 600 years, you know it’s worth making. It’s also really fun and relatively easy to make. Choose your favorite fillings and make it a feast!

If you need a pick-me-up dessert, Italy’s Tiramisu dessert will immediately transport you to Italy with taste alone. It’s indulgent and can be made in cake form or even in a pudding-like concoction in a bowl. The dessert features ladyfinger cookies, espresso, marscapone, wine, and a few other ingredients that add to the bold flavors and richness of the dessert. Whip this up when you need to be caffeinated and need dessert fit for a queen.

Matching Bookmarks to Travel Photos: A Photo Story

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

Terry Pratchett

By now you know I LOVE books and travel. Duh. What you may not know is that I absolutely love designing and creating original bookmarks. Like I get giddy about it to the point I’m dancing to absolutely no music while I sit in my chair and make fun bookmarks. I’m that person. I’m also that person who will take 9,000 pictures on a trip and lay down on the ground to get “the shot”. Both make me super happy.

I’m not sure where the inspiration to combine both into one post came from, but here we are. Welcome to my brain. Today, I decided to match a bookmark I made with a travel photo I’ve taken, because why not?

Fantasy Read More Bookmark & Scotland

I designed this, but my amazingly talented friend Vania turned this into the amazing illustration you see here! These photos were taken on a road trip with one of my favorite people in Scotland. We explored as much as we could in a few days after visiting Edinburgh and every second felt like we were in a fantasy book.

Witch, Please & Northern Virginia

I went on an archaeological survey in the middle of nowhere Virginia. We came across these abandoned buildings. They weren’t creepy when we were there in the middle of the day, especially with my dog happily roaming around, but in black in white photos? Yeah, a witch definitely lives there.

Just One More Chapter & Albuquerque, New Mexico

Remember the time you read just one more chapter? Me neither. 12 chapters later and I’m asleep with a book on my face with no idea where I am, what time it is, or what day it is. Remember that time you thought you wouldn’t end up in Albuquerque year after year? Yeah… 5 trips later and we still can’t stop ourselves…but why would we when it’s so amazing?

Keep Sleighing Those Pages & Alaska

Is there anywhere more Christmas-y than the North Pole? A few years ago I went to Fairbanks, Alaska to visit a great friend. The views there were next level and I’ve never seen so much snow in my life. We even took a mini road trip to the North Pole for an ice sculpture competition. Couldn’t imagine pairing this bookmark with anywhere else!

Oh My Gourd & Barcelona

Barcelona was full of bright, sandy coastline and sand-colored buildings. The colors and the food scene matched perfectly, at least in my opinion, to the Oh My Gourd bookmark. I loved sampling tapas from around the city and pretty much gorged myself on delicious food and gorgeous views the entire time.

Dewey Decimating This Book & Pompeii, Italy

Not only did the sand-colored buildings remind me of the bookmark, but Pompeii is surprisingly quiet. Not to mention, the volcano in the background threatening to decimate the entire site again. I loved spending 3 weeks on site for an archaeological field school and it was a time I’ll never forget. Exploring these ruins was an amazing experience.

Donut Worry & Lancaster, PA

The sheer number of places you can get a donut in Lancaster is mind boggling. Central Market is our go-to place for donuts since there is one giant stand with over 30 different options available. Then there’s Achenbach Day which is a type of PA Dutch donut, and you can’t forget about the Fasnachts either which is a German donut found here. THEN there’s the other donut stores like Beilers and we even have a Duck Donuts. It’s kind of low-key donut heaven here.

You Better Be-Leaf & Peru

You probably don’t think of flowers when you think about Peru, but I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them. Every place we went we saw so many I’d never seen before and they were all so gorgeous. I was looking through those pictures when I came up with this bookmark, so they genuinely were the inspiration behind this one!

Sun’s Out Buns Out & Puerto Rico

Last, but not least, is my favorite bookmark. Funny enough it pairs perfectly with one of my favorite places of all time, Puerto Rico. When we went I had started on my weight loss journey and was thinking about competing in a bikini competition down the road. It was the first time I had ever felt confident in a bikini. Plus, everything about the beaches there were incredible and I never wanted to go inside while I was here. It was truly a ‘if the sun is out, my butt is going to be outside’ type of vacation.

Which One is Your Favorite?

You already know my favorite! I make a new one each month, but this is a sneak peek at May, June, and July for my book adventure boxes. Keep an eye out soon because they will be going up in my store!

8 of the Best Small Towns I’ve Visited

I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world

Mary Anne Radmacher

Massive cities like New York, London, Prague, Paris, and Rome are all wonderful places to visit and I highly recommend them. They aren’t the places that immediately jump to mind when people ask for recommendations for where to travel next. For as long as I can remember I love visiting the big tourist cities first and then spending the rest of my time in the smaller, nearby towns. It feels more authentic to me, it’s less crowded, and there’s just something about small towns around the world that suck me in and make me never want to leave.

I was thinking about travel (shocking) the other day because we’re planning a trip to Mexico and I noticed that the smaller towns are what always stand out as something special to me, with a few rare exceptions. That’s the inspiration for this week’s post, so I hope you enjoy and get motivated to travel to some of my all-time favorite small towns around the world. I can’t wait to visit more and share them all with you!

Lancaster, PA

When Will was interviewing for jobs his recruiter had a few options, most in places we’d never heard of. Lancaster was one of those places. Initially, it seemed like it was a hub for the Amish and we were skeptical. Will accepted the job and we moved. After 9 months we started looking to buy a house we loved this town so much. It immediately felt like home and while there are Amish, there’s so much more. Most people still haven’t heard of it, but they’re genuinely missing out.

Let me start with my favorite part: the food. Lancaster was a sanctuary city and as a result there are TONS of restaurants featuring cuisine from all over the world. All of it is insanely delicious. There’s food from Trinidad, Peru, France, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Jamaica, France, and then there’s the PA Dutch food that stems from the original immigrants here and that’s barely scratching the surface.

There are dinner theaters, MainStage shows, concerts, local outdoor Shakespeare performances, art galleries, live music, craft shows, and markets that have everything from food to crafts. Then there’s downtown Lancaster. The government here made a concerted effort to keep chain restaurants and shops out of the downtown area and relegated to the tourist areas. That means that you’ll find (almost) nothing but locally owned businesses to explore and support. I’d also like to point out that the city is walkable and I’ve explored SO much of it with my dogs. Plus we love being able to bring our dogs to a lot of the businesses and restaurants.

Ville Franche, France

My aunt and uncle moved to Nice, France a few years ago and we’ve been lucky enough to stay with them several times. I fell in love with Nice and could see myself living there, but there’s a town just a few miles away by train that is a little slice of French paradise. Ville Franche is located right in between Nice and Monaco, but keeps its super small town vibe and I felt so relaxed and immediately at home there. I only had a few hours to explore, but I’m itching to go back.

My favorite area was the small area lined with restaurants near the beach. There was not only a lack of tourists, but the views! Oh my goodness the views! Will and I stopped for drinks and an appetizer at one of the many cafes/bars that lined the street. It was so nice to watch the world go by in one direction, see small fishing boats coming in for the day in another, and then look up to see the fort and other historical monuments and buildings in another direction.

Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Yes, it’s a major tourist destination, but it never felt like that when I was there except inside one of the popular restaurants. Even then, I didn’t mind and loved every second I spent here. Stratford was a short drive from Leicester where I was living at the time. When you get to the town after a gorgeous drive through the English countryside, you are greeted by giant statues of Shakespearean origin. Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, Falstaff, and even Shakespeare himself are all there among others.

You can explore the town by foot (walking tours are available) or you can rent a bike and explore a little further afield. Seven buildings are still standing from Shakespeare’s time including his birthplace, schoolhouse, and Anne Hathaway’s cottage. My favorite part was the theatre. There’s just something magical about seeing a Shakespearean play while visiting the playwright’s hometown. If you love theatre, this absolutely needs to be on your list. Once you see a show I highly recommend sitting outside at one of the restaurants overlooking the river to watch the sunset. It will put an exclamation point on the end of a day well spent in a super cute small town.

Malibu, CA

A few years ago I went to California for the first time with a friend. I loved exploring Los Angeles, but I loved our half day trip to Malibu. I’m a huge nature lover, so seeing the west coast’s jagged rocks and the beach was a relaxing break from the craziness of L.A. We walked along the beach and explored around the rocks for a few hours and I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

We made our way to the pier which had a restaurant on the end of it so we literally got to eat lunch in the Pacific Ocean. The views were amazing, the food was great, and the atmosphere was super chill. I’m not sure why, but Malibu really inspired me and has stuck with me. Outside of the beach and the restaurants there wasn’t a ton to do, but that was the point. One of things we didn’t get to do was go on a driving tour to see all of the famous or celebrity-owned houses, but you can see quite a few from the beach. If you want a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of L.A, Malibu should 100% be on your list.

Watkins Glen, NY

If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you’ll know I love Watkins Glen and I have a lot of blog posts to prove it. We’re even going again this September! I had never heard of this tiny town until a coworker of mine mentioned it. We booked a trip and stayed at a bed & breakfast with the most amazing host. We always stay there now because we can’t imagine going anywhere else. Half the trip with spend at the house because there’s space to walk around, play with the dogs, and we LOVE to cozy relaxing feel of the downstairs, especially by the fire.

If you don’t like wine, you will probably be a little bored as there are dozens of wineries in the area. I didn’t like wine until I tried a few here and now I have a few I like! Even if you’re not big on drinking the views from the wineries of Seneca Lake are worth the trip. There are also tons of state parks, hiking trails, and waterfalls to explore, making it the perfect place for nature lovers as well! Watkins Glen is a great base for taking smaller day trips to nearby towns like Ithaca. Don’t forget to make your way down to the lake where you can get food at restaurants on the water, go kayaking, or explore the marina.

Check out my previous posts here and here.

Xlendi, Malta

Xlendi will always have a piece of my heart. Located on the second largest island (Gozo) that comprises Malta, Xlendi is a tiny town along the coast. I spent 3 weeks there for an anthropological field school and I explored every inch of the island I had time for, but Xlendi was my home base. Almost everywhere you go in the town you can see the shockingly blue waters of the Mediterranean. You can jump off the cliffs or walk right in on the small pebble beach. There are even a few caves you can swim to!

Small restaurants line the road and walking paths around the small bay and the food is fantastic. Fresh caught fish is always on the menu and it’s not possible to have any meal without a spectacular view. Sunsets are absolutely something you want to see here. You can walk almost anywhere on the island and there are very few cars which makes it feel even homier. There are 3,000 year old ruins, churches with amazing architecture, and historical monuments on nearly every corner. Scuba diving is an absolute must and you can even visit the locations of several movie sets.

Cusco, Peru

While it’s the 7th most populous city in Peru, Cusco never felt massive to me. It extends a few miles, but they are mostly neighborhoods. We stuck to the central plaza and compared to many cities I’ve been to it had an amazing small town feel to it even with it being slightly busier with tourists. It was also the perfect town to use as a jumping off point for the smaller, lesser known towns we wanted to visit.

I loved exploring the plaza where there were tons of shops, monuments, and restaurants. While most of these catered to the tourists, we ventured further into the outskirts and found some amazing local places to try. The chocolate museum and chocolate making experience were so much fun to experience and we learned so much about Peru in general while we were there. Nearby are the ruins of Sacsayhuaman and other smaller Incan ruins that are incredible and it still blows my mind that these aren’t major attractions.

While it is touristy, it is my favorite small tourist town I’ve been to. It allowed us to see and experience events and places we’d never known existed before this trip and I’ll never forget my experiences there.

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was our last trip before the pandemic hit and I don’t think it could’ve been more perfect. We opted to stay 30 minutes outside of San Juan in Rio Grande to avoid tourists and have a more relaxing vibe. Oh. My. Goodness. It was like this town was meant to be for me. We stayed at an apartment with access to a semi private beach where I could’ve stayed forever if someone let me. I walked as far as I could on those beaches each day and saw both sunrises and sunsets there that are still the best I’ve ever witnessed.

I can’t sit on a beach all day. I’m just too hyper of a person. Lucky for me the El Yunque Rainforest with tons of hiking trails was literally across the street. We got up a little early and drove over and up the mountain to the trail we wanted to see. Since we were there early we had the entire trail to ourselves until we were walking back down. It was insanely gorgeous. In addition to the rainforest hiking, we also got to kayak at night to a bioluminescent bay.

The food, of course, was next level. We made sure to eat at local restaurants and I couldn’t stop stuffing my face with delicious, fresh food. Old San Juan was great to explore, but crowded. It was fun to walk around the see the brightly colored buildings and the forts. Honestly, Rio Grande is one of the places I could see myself returning to over and over again. There’s so much to do within a short drive and the beaches were some of the best I’ve ever seen. Absolutely loved it there.

Check out my previous posts about Puerto Rico here and here.

What Small Towns Do You Love?

Let me know in the comments below. I always love hearing where other people have discovered, so I can add them to my list to explore!

Healthy Eating Tips Every Traveler Can Use

Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.

Elsa Schiaparelli 

For some weird reason, people think eating healthy is about consuming boring salads and being miserable. Fun fact: in addition to my personal training certification, I also have one in nutrition. I’m here to tell you that eating healthy foods doesn’t have to taste like cardboard and you don’t have to give up the good stuff. Traveling and eating healthy aren’t two concepts most people put together unless forced.

This week I wanted to share a few tips for eating healthy while traveling that won’t take away a single thing from your experience, except maybe some unnecessary guilt and even a few extra pounds. A few weeks ago I shared my tips on staying active while on vacation, so I wanted to round it out with some healthy eating tips. Don’t forget, food can and always should be fun and something to look forward to. It should NEVER be something you feel guilt over. We live in a world with so many amazing tastes and we travel to experience them. There’s a way to have your cake and eat it too! Seriously.

Choose an Accommodation with a Kitchen

Best case scenario is being able to control all the elements of a meal. Lots of restaurants cook everything in lots of butter and oil and while the taste is incredible, it adds a ton of extra calories. Whether it’s just one meal, a snack, or several meals a day, try to book an accommodation where you do have the option to cook. Shopping at a local grocery store or market gives you more time sightseeing and spending time where the locals do which is always a win. You’ll get to take back lots of new spices and fun memories cooking a new meal in a new country.

Pack Healthy Snacks or Limit Them

Let’s be honest. Airport food is not the healthiest, especially if you know how to read a nutritional label. Most options are comfort food because it’s a stressful part of your day. Bring healthy snacks in your carry on like dehydrated fruit, protein bars (think Quest Bar or Lara bar…not Kind bars).

If you’re the type of person who constantly snacks, maybe you limit them when you travel. A lot of snacking happens as a result of boredom. Your vacation should be filled with lots of distractingly incredible sites and events. I find that when I go on vacation I almost never snack unless I find something I’ve never tried. I’m always so distracted that I don’t think about snacks and focus on enjoying an amazing meal or something special I can’t get at home.

Splurge On Extra Special Items, Not Every Meal

We’ve all been on vacation and heard “calories don’t count on vacation”. I wish this were true and just some weird, beautiful fluke of the world. Sadly, they do count and this phrase can honestly be dangerous for people with underlying health conditions. Yes, PLEASE splurge on vacation. You deserve it, but choose something that’s going to make your brain explode instead of just eating for eating’s sake.

When I was in Italy when I was younger I was like well I’m going to inhale as much pizza and pasta as I can. It didn’t feel great. Now, I love spending time walking around, looking at the menus at lots of places and then choosing a meal that really gets me excited. It’s one of my favorite parts of vacation. I’m picky about what I eat because I want to experience the best of the best and give my taste buds a treat. If you’re stuffed to capacity at every meal, you just can’t really savor it and meat sweats are not fun to experience.

Vary How Much You Eat at Meals

If you have a giant dish at one meal, try to share a dish at the next to let your body recover. Varying how much you eat helps prevent your digestive tract from getting overwhelmed. If you are SUPER excited about one meal, enjoy it! Maybe, take a little bit back to have as a snack or plan a picnic with leftovers for the next day. Get everyone together and share a few plates instead of everyone getting their own meal.

Always Order Vegetables

You don’t need to sadly munch on lettuce while the rest of the table chows down on fully-loaded banh mis. Adding a non-processed whole food that’s packed with nutrients will not only be healthy but will help you stay full. Adding more protein will also keep you fuller for longer, so maybe opt for lean meat choices. You don’t have to go vegetarian at all. Just make sure you add veggies to your meal and you’ll have a great start to a healthy option.

Get Dressing On Side

Restaurants are notoriously heavy handed when it comes to dressing. They give it out like it’s free candy day and it’s basically a giant bowl of calories. I love dressing, but I always get it on the side so I can control how much goes on my food. No one wants soggy veggies that have been sitting in dressing anyway. Plus, it’s more fun to get a few different dressings to play with taste!

Fewer Fried, More Grilled Choices

Fried, battered, sautéed (depending on how much oil), smothered, or creamy are all words on menus that come with extra calories from the way they are cooked or presented. Instead look for words like grilled, seared, roasted, baked, braised, steamed, spiced, seasoned, rubbed, or poached which all indicate a healthier option. Don’t worry, cooking food this way never means you sacrifice on taste. If it’s on a menu at a popular/successful restaurant that means it’s delicious.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Most people forget drinks also have calories, especially after 2 or 3 go down smoothly. Mixed drinks are a staple on vacation, especially when they are fruity, provide a cool break from the heat, and come with an adorable little umbrella. Until you learn that some drinks have upwards of 700 calories per drink… I’m not huge on alcohol, but the drinks do add up and often cause bloating. Trust me. No one wants to feel bloated when they’re traveling.

Think about limiting your mixed drinks. Try one you’ve got your eye on and then order a water with fruit or cucumber in it. You’ll get fuller faster and be less likely to over indulge (this means less hangovers, better hydration, less bloating and less empty calories).

It might not be fun to think about your food choices when you’re traveling, but it doesn’t take too much time. My hope is that you’ll make just a tiny change to how you eat when you travel so you feel great about your vacation and choices once you’re home. After all, you’re home more than you’re traveling, unless you’re one of the lucky few, so you deserve to feel amazing when it comes to food and eating all the time.

8 Museums for People Who Hate Museums

Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film. Your bright eyes and easy smile is your museum

Ansel Adams

Kids get the best museums. They get to rub amok inside, touch every surface, press all the cool buttons, and jump in giant ball pits depending on the museum. Museums as adults? We have to be near-silent, wander around looking scholarly and under no circumstances are we to touch anything.

Museums seem to forget that adults are just large children at heart who pretend we know what’s going on. While I love museums, they can get a bit stuffy and I can totally see why many people just don’t get excited over going to one, especially on vacation. For this week’s post, I went on a deep dive to try to find museums for adults who just don’t like museums. I’m convinced there’s one out there for even the pickiest of travelers. I hope my picks below inspire you to visit more!

MONA Museum in Tasmania

Photo from MONA website

The Museum of Old and New Art is one of the most innovative museums in the world. It is the largest museum in Australia and houses 3 levels of underground galleries. A handheld device (or app on your phone) called The O guides you through the entire museum so you can go at your own pace and explore uninhibited. None of the exhibits are normal. There have been exhibits on the infamous Gorilla in the Room experiment, galleries turned into a mine shaft, and so much more. You have to expect the unexpected here.

Maybe you also want live music, to explore a house of mirrors, or attend a comedy show? Yeah, they have that. They also have High Tea for Two, a winery on site, and lots of delicious food. Getting sleepy from all the amazing exploring you’ve done? You can have a sleepover with access to the museum at night. Oh yeah, your room overlooks the water too. I think we can all agree this isn’t your average snooze-inducing museum.

Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia

Photo from the museum’s website

If you’ve ever wanted to contribute to a museum this is your chance. Unfortunately, it’s a museum dedicated to failed relationships. Every item in the museum came from a real person and is displayed with a brief story behind the object. Fun fact: the museum was created by two artists whose relationship failed and they joked about opening a museum around the concept. They asked friends to donate objects left behind from their break ups and their mini collection was born and eventually evolved into what it is today. There are traveling exhibits as well as the permanent museum in Croatia and another in the USA.

Not only can you donate items, you can choose to record confessions. You can also share your stories online and have a pin left on a map so you can see that you’re not alone. This museum is super neat in the fact that it aims to bring people closer together through the shared experience of heartbreak to create a community of shared experience and connections.

Vigeland Sculpture Park in Norway

Photo from ThirdEyeTraveller.com

Most museums have you stuck inside all day. That is not the case with the Vigeland Sculpture Park. You get to enjoy the fresh air while you wander the park viewing the 200 sculptures on display. However, if it does rain the outdoor park is part of a larger museum that houses over 1,600 sculptures and other works of art indoors for you to explore.

The park itself features the massive sculptures, all works created by Gustav Vigeland. You start the journey through the park at the Fountain. From there the path you take is up to you. You’ll pass so many interesting sculptures, so please don’t expect anything remotely boring. Unless you think a man fighting flying babies or hugging giant lizards is normal.

MUSA Museum in Mexico

Photo from MUSA website

Ever needed to SCUBA dive to get to a museum? You can if you visit the Museo Subacuático de Arte. If you’re not feeling extra, you can take a glass bottom boat ride and experience the art from above. Both are great options, but everyone knows which one I’m choosing! Sitting on the sea floor are 500 sculptures created by artist Jason deCaires Taylor. DOn’t worry, it’s eco friendly as the materials used were made to stimulate the underwater ecosystem to create artificial reefs.

The exhibit features 3 galleries and they all have an important meaning behind them centered around conservation. The artist aimed to show the relationship between humans and nature. He achieved this by showing both the positive and negative aspects of that relationship and through the sculptures themselves he shows how the two can have a workable future without destroying the other.

Museum of Ice Cream in USA

Photo from museum’s website

Calling all ice cream lovers! AKA 99% of the world’s population. There’s now a museum where we can live out our wildest ice cream dreams. What started as an NYC popup turned into a global establishment and took the world by storm. From a pool full of sprinkles, a candy garden, pop rocks cave, and lots of ice cream flavors to try, this place is perfect for any summer trip to New York, Singapore, or one of their pop up locations.

Each room features a different aspect of our favorite summer treat. For example, there’s a whipped cream room, 50s diner room, cotton candy and cherries, and so much more. The rooms change often so you’ll get to experience something new each time you visit. What’s sweeter than that? The experience tries to create moments to share with the world with lots of Instagram-able places. They aim to get you to remember the best moments and connect with others while you share those pictures.

ArtScience Museum in Singapore

Photo from visitspingapore.com

I love a museum that champions a great cause and uses it as a theme to educate and raise awareness without boring you to death. It combines art, science, culture, and technology into one museum in fun, innovative ways. The building itself represents a lotus flower, but here’s the first place nature and technology collide. Each petal tip has a sunlight that uses the curvature of the building to provide sustainable light to the galleries housed in each wing. The roof was also designed to collect rainwater and when it overflows it creates a waterfall effect. That’s just the outside.

From manga exhibits to virtual reality experiences highlighting space travel, this museum has such a wide variety of exhibitions that you’ll want to explore every gallery. You can even travel in an imagined future or explore the history of inflatable objects. How cool is that!?

Spyscape in USA

Photo from longislandweekly.com

Calling all espionage fans, do I have a museum for you. From cryptanalysis and hacking to James Bond and WWII spy gadgets, there is something for every type of spy aficionado or movie lover. The museum prides itself in being extremely interactive and rotates their experiences so nothing ever gets stale. Can’t make it into the exhibit? They even have a celebrity-hosted podcast where real-life spies and superheroes are interviewed.

Within the galleries, visitors are challenged to test their own spy skills. You’ll be tested on assessing traits, agility (can we all just admit we’d love to expertly maneuver through a room of lasers?), and risk tolerance to name a few. At the end of your visit, you’ll get a report on how well you’d fare as a spy.

Cité de l’Espace in France

Photo from fromspacewithlove.com

Discover all things space and science here! While air and space museums are not rare by any means, few are in-depth as this one in Toulouse, France. When they say they want to transport you beyond Earth, they mean it. Most museums have a look, but don’t touch policy, but that is not the case here. Most of the exhibits are interactive to get you completely immersed in space travel.

Ever wanted to touch a moon rock? You can. Wanted to walk on a moon simulator and feel what zero gravity is like? That’s absolutely an option. You can also kick up your feet and view the wonders of outer space in the planetarium. Outside sits the replica of the Ariane 5 rocket. It’s not just a boring replica, you can press all the buttons and help prepare the launch of a rocket, assist on its flight path, and even place a satellite in orbit. If that’s not enough, you can visit the Mir space station or the Soyuz spacecraft.

A Fun Way to Start Spring: 13 Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.

John Green

Today has been a DAY. One that feels like zero things are going well and I’m honestly contemplating taking a nap to see if that will reset today. In another attempt to reset my day, I’m sitting down to write about some of the funniest books I’ve read in the past year. I even ranked them in order of how much each made me laugh with the least amount (still a lot) at the top and the most (wow, a lot) at the bottom.

Have you read any of these? I adored all of these, so even if they don’t make you cry laughing, they are worth a read and will at least make you smile. Happy first day of Spring! Go curl up with one of these books and giggle uncontrollably.

Ask Me Anything by P.Z. Reizin

Wouldn’t it be great if all of your smart appliances teamed up to handle your dating life? Maybe not. Daisy’s dating life isn’t exactly going well, so her smart fridge, TV, toaster, and more concoct a scheme to find her the perfect man… only it doesn’t quite goes as they intended.

This book was a 4.5 stars for me. The appliances were the right amount of sassy and I couldn’t stop laughing at how each date turned out. If you love British humor, banter, and a romantic comedy that’s not like most in the genre, go pick this up.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Tweet Cute

Pepper is a perfectionist who takes pride in being an overachiever and happens to be the daughter of the owner of a massive fast-food burger chain. Jack is a laid-back class clown who is the son of the owner of a local mom-and-pop deli. When a Twitter feud becomes an all-out war the two battle each other in burger memes and snarky twitter exchanges. What could go wrong? They fall for each other.

Young adult novels are a guilty pleasure of mine, but this one felt much more mature and well done. The banter was witty, there was food involved, and the relationship’s trajectory was full of hilarious shenanigans. If you love an enemies to lovers trope this is a fresh take on it.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

Nine years ago Vivienne was nursing a broken heart and did what any witch in her situation would do: drink wine, take a weepy bubble bath and curse her ex, Rhys. Unfortunately, her ex’s family started the town she lives in and he’s back to recharge the ley lines. What can go wrong absolutely goes wrong and Vivi starts to think her harmless, ineffective hex may have been more powerful than she thought. Suddenly the town she loves is under attack by ghosts, possessed wind up toys intent on biting ankles, and more.

Yes, it’s a Halloween book, but who cares about seasons? The weather changes here enough to make seasons seem irrelevant, so if you love witchy books don’t wait until October rolls around to grab this one. It’s a lighthearted, quick read that had me laughing in every chapter.

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Gay Uncle Patrick’s acting career has stalled, so when tragedy strikes his brother’s family, he’s the perfect person to watch his niece and nephew, right? Sudden thrust into a new role of primary caretaker of two children, Patrick must quickly learn how to be a parent amidst his outlandish lifestyle choices.

Stories about family usually fall flat for me and end up being sappy or just annoying. Not this one, not by a long shot. Patrick has an out-of-this-world, give no shits personality that proves you can be yourself and he turns into the type of role model the rambunctious kids really need. The kids are the epitome of endearing and you find yourself wanting to go on all of their adventures. You’ll laugh and tear up in this one and it’s worth every second.

Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

Yes, another book that’s out of season. It’s worth it! Kate is one of those people who is down on her luck when it comes to dating. So, her friend convinces her to sign up for a dating agency’s service where she’ll experience 12 dates before Christmas and Kate can’t say no. Each new date is a little more disastrous than the last with some bright spots in between. What makes it even better is the entire town is keeping tabs on her misadventures and everyone seems to know what’s best for her dating life, except Kate.

You think you know what’s going to happen on each date and then you’ll be crying laughing because what actually happens is way funnier. The dates are cringey and some are cute. All of them are fantastic and you’ll be rooting for Kate the entire time.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens

Laura’s work trip isn’t off to a great start. She spilled her bag, featuring an absurd amount of tampons, in front of the hottest guy at the airport. Once she reaches her hotel, she noticed she grabbed the wrong bag and now she’s convinced it’s fate and she’s accidentally stolen the suitcase of her dream man. After commissioning a grumpy cab driver to drive her around the island for the article she’s writing, she realizes what she’s always believed isn’t what’s best for her.

Okay, that description doesn’t sound hilarious, minus the first sentence, but trust me. Overall, it’s a super cute love story, but Laura just can’t catch a break for a while and she’s a bit of an idiot when it comes to love and it makes for hilarious circumstances and interactions. Plus, this book will make you feel like you’ve traveled to the Channel Islands with her and who wouldn’t love that?

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

The Tourist Trap is a local Alaskan restaurant run by a handsome curmudgeon who hates tourists. Zoey loves everything about tourism and is in town to cross everything off her bucket list for the trip she’s been saving up for for years. Every adventure she planned goes absolutely wrong, but at least she found a local to help make this trip the most memorable of her life. If only, she didn’t think he was a chainsaw murderer and attacked him… It only gets funnier from there.

This is 100% my type of romantic comedy. Exploring a place I have been and adored? Yeah. Curmudgeons? Banter? YES and YES. Super sweet interactions and heartwarming relationships? Yeah. Sassy moose? Yep. This book has it all.

People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry

Poppy and Alex are polar opposites who happen to be best friends. Each year they plan one amazing week of traveling together until one year they had a falling out. Several years later, Poppy reaches out to plan one more trip with Alex. Now she has one week to fix their relationship and have the absolute, most perfect vacation ever. What could go wrong? Everything. Everything can and will go wrong, and it’s the perfect train wreck.

This book will leave you with a warm afterglow that only comes after a good vacation and a good book. It’s a little steamy, but the characters are so lovable and flawed which makes the book even better. It’s equal parts funny and equal parts aww.

Broken by Jenny Lawson

Wait, how is a book about depression, anxiety, and taxidermy even remotely funny? Jenny Lawson uses her ability to make any situation hilarious to raise awareness for depression and mental health. Her stories are so relatable and make you feel less alone in the world. So, when it’s framed in the context of real-life hilarious circumstances you find yourself laughing so hard you’re afraid you might pee.

This book is basically a beacon of hope for anyone feeling alone and one hell of a funny story because it’s all true and we’ve all experienced something similar. Jenny Lawson’s books always make me laugh. I highly recommend reading her previous books to better understand her story.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

January, a romance writer who is over all things relating to love and Augustus, a literary writer with writer’s block engage in a summer-long challenge to not only survive as next-door neighbors but to write in their opposite genres. They take each other on field trips to help the other experience what their genre is all about. Will they write great books and who will finish first? At what cost?

Why yes, this is the second book on this list by Emily Henry. She’s quickly become a favorite author. You know when a romance writer is forced to learn about death cults and a grumpy man is forced to write a romance that things will be funny. This book is hysterical without it seeming like it’s trying to be funny at all. Not only will it make you laugh, but it will challenge you to think outside your normal and what you could accomplish if you do.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay is stressed single mom of two children who also happens to be a struggling writer. When a disgruntled wife overhears Finlay talking to her agent, she is mistaken for a hit woman and subsequently offered a contract to kill her husband. As far from a hit woman as humanly possible, Finlay soon discovers that committing a crime is a lot more complicated in real life than in her books.

It’s witty. It’s non-stop hilarity. I mean, where else can you read about a mom duct-taping her child’s bangs to her forehead after they decided to chop them off? It’s a story about what a mom will do to save her family and one hell of a revenge story gone totally and completely wrong. You’ll only need tissues for the river of tears you’ll cry while laughing for hours.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

Ruthie works at a retirement home and although she’s young, she acts like she’s a resident and has completely forgotten there’s a life outside of work. Teddy is a party boy, tattoo artist, and ends up residing and working in one of the retirement homes since his father owns the business. From endangered turtles to little old ladies with absolutely no filters or limits, Ruthie and Teddy become an unlikely duo who team up to save the retirement homes from demolition.

If you love stories about learning to live your life to the fullest, if you love books that reteach you what funny actually is, if you love plots with characters that jump off the page, this book is 110% for you. It might sound more charming than funny, but it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and I couldn’t stop belly laughing. Seriously, my abs hurt after reading this.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Sutanto

Meddling Chan begrudgingly agrees to go on a blind date after her mom catfished someone for her on the internet. Then, she accidentally kills him… and hides him in a freezer…which makes its way to the wedding of the century where she’s the photographer and her ex owns the hotel. That’s just the beginning.

Hands down this is the funniest book I’ve ever read by a long, long shot. I didn’t want it to end. I actually forced myself to stop reading too much at a time because I knew I’d be upset if I blew through it. Please do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a great laugh by getting this book.

5 Incredible Events You Can Only Experience in the Spring

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.

Freya Stark

The weather here changes so much, but we’ve been enjoying some warmer temperatures and gorgeous sunshine…until yesterday. We woke up to mild rain which quickly turned into a full on snow storm where we experienced 4 inches of snow accumulating in 5 hours and winds of 45mph. We stayed inside and dreamt of warmer days.

I spent the morning mostly outside playing with my dog, so I’m mentally transporting myself to warmer destinations with this post. Writing about events you can really only experience during the spring will make warmer weather appear faster, right? Right??

Cherry Blossoms and Spring Festivals in Japan

You just can’t have a travel blog post about spring events and not mention cherry blossoms in Japan. From the end of March to early May, the cherry blossoms spring into full bloom. Yes, pun intended. Take full advantage of the gorgeous scenery by having a picnic (hanami) underneath the trees.

What you may not have heard of are the Shibazakura Festival, the Kanda Matsuri Festival, and the Aoi Matsuri Festival. They take place during various parts of spring, so you’ll have to plan your trip according to the dates of the ones you want to see. The Shibazakura Festival celebrates how certain flowers turn the valley surrounding Mt. Fuji into a bright carpet of color. Kanda Matsuri and Aoi Matsuri are some of the largest festivals in Japan and you’ll get to see portable shrines, floats, and commemorations.

Tulip Festival, Netherlands

Celebrate King’s Day with celebrations across the country which occur the last Saturday of April each year. Street parties, flea markets, food, flower parades, and so much more will give you a wild introduction to the local culture. On the calmer spectrum of events and what brings most tourists to the area in the spring are the tulips. Millions, yes MILLIONS, of tulips bloom in April transforming an otherwise normal countryside into a violently beautiful burst of color.

Restaurant Week in Dubai

Dubai boasts warm temperatures year-round which makes it perfect for anyone hoping to escape winter. However, you should really consider booking a vacation there in late February to early March when the Dubai Food Festival rolls around. The name makes it sound like there’s just one event to see, but there are tons.

  • Restaurant week has participating restaurants showcasing the best they have to offer
  • Beach Canteen is an immensely popular dining popup experience that is open for just over two weeks each spring. They offer back to back days of food, live entertainment, and even activities for kids. They’re typically open late November to mid December, so ditch winter and stay a while.
  • Taste of Dubai is a 3-day food festival that usually occurs in early March. It features restaurants, celebrity chefs, live music, and even learn cooking techniques from international chefs. You’ll get to experience tastes (and delicious smells) from all over the Middle East, making it one heck of a foodie event you shouldn’t miss.
  • Dubai is also home to the International Kite Festival which also happens in the spring and has incredible kites from all over the world on display.

Wildlife Sightings on the Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands were made infamous by Darwin and they remain that way because of the incredible variety of wildlife you can see. Ecuador in March has lovely tropical weather, albeit some short downpours. If you love wildlife, this is the place for you as 20% of the species there aren’t found anywhere else on the planet.

On Santa Cruz Island you can witness marine iguanas hunting underwater. Darwin Island is known for its sharks, so scuba diving is a must for shark lovers. The water temperatures are at their warmest in March too, so take full advantage of that. Don’t forget about the hatching turtles on land as well as the return of the albatross at the end of March.

Whale and Seal Watching in Glacier Bay, Alaska

So you won’t be escaping the cold at all, but this cold weather is 110% worth experiencing. Feeding season begins in the spring for whales that venture to Glacier Bay (near Juneau) each year. Starting in late April grey whales arrive and are shortly followed by orcas and humpback whales. Spring also marks the peak of breeding season for harbor seals, making it the best time to travel to Alaska if you want to see marine life at its finest with the backdrop of the dramatic snowy mountains Alaska is known for.

If you’re looking for land-based activities for when you’re done whale watching, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race occurs the first Saturday of March. There’s also the annual Folk Festival in Juneau, and Girdwood Spring Carnival in Seward where you can see skiing and snowboarding competitions while the competitors are dressed up in fancy costumes.

Road Trip to the Arnold Classic BodyBuilding Competition

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

At first glance, this won’t seem like a travel post, but I promise it is all about my incredible road trip weekend to Columbus, Ohio. It just needs to some back story and why it was so meaningful to me. It will probably come as a surprise, but I’m currently prepping for my first ever bodybuilding bikini competition.

Two years ago I was the unhappiest with my body that I had been for a while. I’d lost some of the 40 pounds I gained in college with becoming a group fitness instructor and I was in fairly good shape. I was killing myself with cardio, not prioritizing weights, and I had a horrible relationship with food. Then I was introduced to my current coach and my life did a complete 180.

I’ve been on meal plans and training plans for 2 years and the difference is more than just physical. Yes, I’m down about 15% body fat, 20 pounds, and have improved every aspect of my health as a result of working with Kiki. I’m finally happy and decided I wanted to truly challenge myself this year. My coach is an IFBB Pro bikini competitor and she’s just an all-around fantastic person. I told her I wanted to compete in 2022 and we’ve been gradually working towards that. My first show is May 7th and I knew I needed to see what shows are like in person. Luckily, she invited me to come to Columbus with a few of the other girls on the team for a weekend of nothing but good people and all things bikini competition.

What does this have to do with Columbus? It was the weekend of the Arnold Classic aka a pinnacle show in bodybuilding and a fitness expo like no other. Clearly this road trip needed to happen and as an added bonus it gave me an excuse to explore a new city. Double win!

Thursday

Thursday morning I packed up my car and drove the 6 hours to Columbus, Ohio. My first stop? The Book Loft which houses 32 rooms of discounted books. Each room has a theme and there are books in every space that could possible hold a book. They really should change the name to Book Heaven because that’s what it was. Luckily, I had some self control and only purchased two books (Gallant by V.E. Schwab and Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz). All of the books are discounted despite being brand new. It was so much fun to explore this unique bookstore and I highly recommend it to anyone going to Columbus.

Since I still had more time to kill before I could meet up with my trainer and teammates I explored the German Village where the bookstore was located. This part of Columbus was built and inhabited by German immigrants beginning in the 19th century and as a result there is ridiculously cute German architecture and lots of coffee, fudge, food, and beer. Since I’m on prep I could just appreciate the smells and sights, but even then it was a really great place to walk around and explore.

I had just enough time to explore a few smaller attractions, so I chose to visit the Topiary Park and North Market. The Topiary Park is a super small park in the Discovery District. Its main attraction are the (you guessed it) topiaries they were designed to mimic the Georges Seurat painting called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It was definitely neat to see, but I did visit during the time of year when plants are not exactly showing off. Try to visit this park during the summer to get a more impressive experience.

North Market was amazing. I couldn’t spend long in there because I wanted to sample food from every single stand. There were so many different types of cuisine, savory and sweet dishes, and an adorable coffee shop that smelled amazing. Can’t wait to try a little something from each stand the next time I’m back in town.

Friday

3AM wake up call for a 4AM workout. When your trainer says let’s go workout, you go workout. The Old School Gym is more of a gym for powerlifters and bodybuilders and it was a VIBE. It made getting up before dawn, sweating, and getting home before dawn worth it. Plus, I can never say no to a workout.

Helloooooooo Arnold Classic Sports Festival. If you think this is just about bodybuilding, you’d be wrong. There were over 75 booths where you could sample everything from pre workout drinks to protein coffee to steaks to energy drinks and you could even try on bikinis. It was a lot of fun exploring each booth and seeing what everyone had to offer. Pull up contests, grip strength tests, and other fitness contests to win prizes were super popular and it was awesome seeing the creativity behind it all.

The star of the exhibition was obviously the bodybuilding, powerlifting, and even the Medieval events. After several hours of exploring, sampling, and just having a great time, I decided to explore the main street with all of the shops and restaurants. Yes, I found another bookstore! Prologue Bookshop was tiny, but full of personality and a great selection of books.

Saturday

I thought Friday was filled with bodybuilding and exploring, but Saturday took both to the next level. We started the morning by walking to the expo again. We explored more, but the convention center had triple the amount of people, so I beelined it to certain stands to get the items I really wanted before the hordes of people got worse. Along the way I stopped to watch the Ninja warrior booth, a skateboarding dog, and a few powerlifting events.

That morning was also the pre judging for the bikini competition which I really wanted to see. It was so cool to see women who are considered the best of the best on stage. It was a motivational boost I needed to get me in the right headspace for competing. Plus, seeing my coach and teammates get so excited was an all-around great thing to see since they’ve all competed so many times.

Around lunch I walked back to the Airbnb to grab some food and then rest before our super busy evening. I took a walk around the town because I’d noticed all of the fun murals on the main street and wanted to take a better look. Columbus’s art scene did not disappoint.