10 Bloggy Things

This year has been … interesting for my blog. Here are a few of my successes, failures, random facts, and possible improvements that will potentially make 2017 an even better year for my blog…

1. I have a new domain! YourEverydayTraveller at your service!

The idea stemmed from a lunch date with my beloved wherein I described my blog niche as not quite travel on the cheap yet not luxury travel either. i.e. The everyday traveller. Only "theeverydaytraveller" was already taken by a blog that incorporated travel-esque concepts into everyday life.

Yes … but no. Does that sound like a never-ending ad to you? … It does to me despite the fact that I kind of agree with the concept. Oh well. No matter. It was taken. Moving on to…


Of course, the old link still works. AND I'm still blogging from blogger, a platform I enjoy much more than Wordpress.

So, there's that.

Hopefully, this domain sticks. I really do enjoy writing about travel. :)

2. Speaking of domains and travel, this year was the year my blog got a "niche".

Before, I just considered my blog to be a "lifestyle" blog with no real focus. And thus I floundered. I can't say I'm doing much better even with a niche, but I'm trying. Does that count for anything?

3. I also began joining link-ups and twitter chats. Both are great ways to meet new friends and learn more about one of my favorite hobbies–travel. :)

4. My blog viewership is up 20% from last month and 193% from last year.

The one thing I've found though is that it takes quite a bit of work growing one's audience. This is especially difficult when you are introvert. I just want to say my peace and then walk away. But no. You have to "advertise" it to get it read.

Enter link-ups and twitter chats. Luckily, those are fun. :) Much better than just posting "Here! Read this!" on my social media platforms.

5. I started using facebook for my blog. I have all of FIVE follows. Woot. (I didn't count. It could be more. Or less. Just click to follow me, okay? I need some love!)

6. Then there is twitter. And instagram. I'm up in follows on those accounts too (680 and 94).

Twitter is by far my favorite. (Travel chats much?) I always feel so bad when people don't like my images on instagram. And I stress out when posting. Just because an image looks good on the phone doesn't mean it will look good on a bigger screen.

I downloaded an app Tags For Likes to help me with my Instagram hashtagging. So far I think it works. My last image received more than 54 likes, up from my previous high of 43.

7. Top 10 countries represented by blog visitors for my blog:

one) US (I'm shocked.–Are you?)
two) UK (I blame the link-ups.)
three) Canada (probably travelling south for the winter.)
four) Australia

(all English speaking so far)

five) Germany (one of whom is moving to Australia next year!)
six) Russia (EEK! Not sure what to think about that after the whole US election thing!)
seven) Switzerland (shout out to Tamara who is probably leading the way for that country!)
eight) India
nine) Singapore
and drum roll please…
ten) France

YAY! (I blame all of my recent trips to France for making France my number ten! You guys rock!)

8. Other fun facts:

• I have more female readers than male. (I'm not surprised.)
• And my blog is appealing to a younger demographic this year than it did last. (Also not too surprising.)

9. I bought a book this year called the Creative Writing Journal to help me with my blog writing. I've only used a few of the topics so far, which are formulated with famous, classic writers in mind. The big problem I face when using these prompts is time, but in the end I think it will be worth it. Better writing = better blogging. And that is a good thing. :)

10. Next year I'm hoping to incorporate more videos into my blogging. Wish me luck!

If you are a blogger, was 2016 a good year for you? Did you learn anything new or try anything different within your blog? Will you be doing anything different in 2017? … If you aren't a blogger, why'd you read this post? I think you deserve all of the cookies! :)

Linking up with Tamara Gerber
of Confessions of a Part Time Working Mom

for #TopTenThursday

Shooting With A GoPro

This image was taken during one of my first outings with the GoPro Hero 5. (I was a tester for the beta model.) It was a lovely spring day, if a little overcast. Justin and I were headed to the local BJ's for groceries. Never having used the camera before, I set it up to shoot at various intervals during our drive there. Thereafter, shooting with a Go Pro became one of my favorite things ever. I loved that no matter where I was I could capture beautiful sunsets or landscapes without having to have a camera in hand sitting as close to the dash as possible (because we all know that if you get in an accident and the airbag goes off while you are sitting super close… well, that's not good!).

Do you have a GoPro? If so, what are some of your favorite ways to use it? If not, what are you waiting for? (Ha! Just kidding!) … Would you consider purchasing one in the future?

A Picturesque Tour of Monet's Gardens and Giverny, France Pt. 2

Were you wondering where Monet's lily pads were in my first post?

Guess what?

You found them! :)

So, as it turns out, Monet's backyard is actually broken up into two sections – the area where he painted his famous Water Lillies…

Google image of Monet's paintings
and the area where he didn't…

Garden Path, 1902 by Claude Monet
Aerial view of the gardens found on giverny.org

Last week's blog post covered the first area: the main gardens, Clos Normand, but today's blog post is more about the pond, the lily pads, and the second garden, the Water Gardens…

As you'll notice, you have to go under a roadway to reach the Water Gardens. Down some stairs, through a tunnel, and back up again.

Do it.

It's worth it.

Of course, the crowds are tremendous.

I read, before going that is, that if you want images without tourists in them, to go early (preferably drive in a hired car), have your tickets in hand, get in line early (the earlier the better) and race to the Water Gardens first (the section featured in this post). This equates to an ungodly wake-up time if you are staying in Paris, boarding the 8:22AM train from Gare Saint-Lazare (assuming you don't miss it like we did), fighting for a seat onboard a tiny bus that will take you on a 45 minute ride from Vernon to Giverny (13.90€ each way), and then beating every single person you've traveled thus far with over the head with a stick just so you can be first in line.

Perhaps a better option would be to arrive the night before and explore Vernon and Giverny proper? Stay in a hotel, leisurely wake up (still early), grab a croissant and some coffe, then meander to the gardens… But I wouldn't know anything about that… ;)

You could also pay for a taxi (EXPENSIVE) or take a tourist bus. Of course, with the tourist bus, you certainly won't beat the crowds. However, if you pick the right tourist bus, you may receive a guided tour and learn more about Monet than we did during our time visiting the garden? … Who knows? (There aren't many written plagues in Monet's home or around the garden.)

While my husband and I were a tad bit worried that the most beautiful of the French flowers would have bloomed just before our trip during mid to late summer, we were surprised by all of the color we saw. We came on a day that was suppose to be rainy and overcast but instead we were treated to beautiful blue skies and a harsh sun. (No kidding – I had to get Justin to provide me with "flower shade" when I was shooting some of these images! I hate harsh light!) If you are at all curious or worried, you can check here to see if and when your favorite flowers will be in bloom. The house and gardens are open every day from the beginning of spring to the end of fall; this year those dates fall on March 24 and November 1, 2017. You can check here to confirm dates as well as discover the current price for entrance.

(Also, when they say they are open EVERY DAY during that period, believe them. They were actually open for Bastille Day which surprised me!)

Of course, I think the biggest key to visiting Monet's house and gardens is to be patient. You aren't the only tourist to be thrilled with the beautiful flowers. Wait your turn in lines, be patient when trying to get the "money" shot in front of the lily pads, and just overall be courteous. :)

And most importantly, eat before you come.

I believe food is allowed inside the garden gates, but I'm not entirely sure. If it is, I think Monet's gardens would be a fantastic place to have a picnic. :) As it was, my husband and I had a dessert from Angelina's in our bag that we promptly pulled out while waiting in line while our stomachs were growling. The dessert was suppose to be saved for after dinner, but with no food options inside the gardens, this seemed like the next best thing.

One of the most surprising discoveries we found was the gift shop just before we left. I think our whole tour of the house and gardens was approximately two hours. Just as we were leaving, we decided to see what was in the gift shop. As you might expect, there were postcards and copies of Monet paintings you could purchase; books about Monet, France, and Giverny in both English and French; toys for the kids; and, the gift that thrilled my husband most of all, cider from the Normandy region of France. Of course we had to pick some up to share with our friends that we would be meeting the next day. :)

To be continued…

Up next:
a look inside Monet's house and at his artwork
• a walk through Giverny
• lunch
Musée des Impressionnismes

Click here to join the link-up!

 Linking up to City Trippers Mummytravels.com and Wandermum.co.uk

2016 Recap

As I usually do before the end of the year, I decided to share some of my favorite pictures from this past year and a few of my most notable activities. I began a rehashing of this year back in August, so feel free to backtrack and click here to see what my year looked like from January to August.


Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL (November 2015)

• Went on adventure across the state beginning at Callaway Gardens and ending in Savannah for the holiday weekend and my husband's birthday.
• Began my #4Parks2Days Disney series with Animal Kingdom and had so much fun looking at the beautiful images! :)
• Loved talking about the nuances of languages with my readers when I wrote about words Germans get wrong. :)
Food on my camera roll was a great way to empty my phone and see all of the pretty foodie pictures it had helped me capture during the months of August and September.
My most-viewed blog post from this year actually stemmed from a #TopTenThursday challenge.


EPCOT in Orlando, FL (November 2015)
• Started my 101 in 1001 list.
• Continued editing and reviewing my #4Parks2Days series describing in detail what we did at Disney World (1, 2, 3, 4)
• Took a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway…
• And the next weekend went exploring with the in-laws through Waynesville, NC.
• Tried a new restaurant for Halloween (One Midtown in Atlanta, GA).


Hohenzollern Castle in Germany (January 2016)
Ingrid Michaelson concert.
• Thanksgiving plans.


Palace of Versailles (July 2016)
Christmas Parade.
• saw The Shack movie.
• spent a weekend in Asheville, NC.

Laura Kim Le-Roux did a summarization survey on her blog in 2009 that I found and promptly stole. I figured there was no better way to end the year than with an examination of what went down in my life.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before? So many things! Went to Czech Republic, explored new areas of France and Germany, saw the Bastille Day fireworks, argued politics on facebook, attended jury duty.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for next year? I kept the majority of my resolutions from 2015, added more during the year, and definitely intend on making more for next year. (I have to stay on top of my 101 in 1001 list!)
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My husband's friend Whitney gave birth and my sister-in-law's sister is due to give birth any day now!
4. Did anyone close to you die? My aunt's father. :(
5. What countries did you visit? Czech Republic, Germany, France
6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016? Blog money. More travel. More friends. :)
7. What date, from 2016, will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 11/9, the date America chose Trump.
Also, 7/14, the date of the terrorist attack in Nice, France. Justin and I were in Paris celebrating Bastille Day when we received the call.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Does getting to visit Paris for Bastille Day count as an achievement? Because it totally should!
9. What was your biggest failure? Keeping my mouth shut during political discussion up until the election of Trump. Not researching politics enough to be able to confidently argue my way through a discussion.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? In February, I was so sick that I couldn't sit or stand without vomiting. That was pretty awful. Aside from that, nothing! Thank goodness! :)
11. What was the best thing you bought? Maybe my Creative Writer's Notebook? Or my boots?
I didn't buy this, but I'm pretty proud of the GoPro Hero 5 I received after reviewing the Beta. Can't wait to use it!
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My husband's. I mean, yeah I'd always say that, but he took quite a stand for women's rights. He's tirelessly sending messages to our government senators letting them know he doesn't approve of the cabinet members. I love being married to someone who is advocating not only for my rights but for the rights of those less privileged than he and I are. It's quite beautiful. :)
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? My family and friends. First in their choice of president-elect, and then how they back him no matter what he does. He said something bad about a person? Who cares? It won't be reflected in his policies … except it seems like it will be. :-/
14. Where did most of your money go? Travel. Food. Student loans.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Going to NYC for July 4th (disappointment), seeing the Bastille Day fireworks for my birthday (better than anticipated!), and booking a flight to Hawaii (for 2017)!
16. What song will always remind you of 2016? Mike Posner "I Took A Pill in Ibiza", because I read a book (Donna Tart's The Goldfinch) where the main character seemed like the guy from the song.
Pink "Just Like Fire". It always makes me happy. :)
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: Happier or sadder? sadder
Thinner or fatter? fatter
Richer or poorer? richer, but not by much
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? paid off more debt.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? spending? … but not on travel. Loved every bit of that that we did. :)
20. How will you be spending Christmas? with family then flying off to Canada.
21. How will you be spending New Year? in Canada.
22. What was your favorite TV program? none. I didn't watch tv.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
umm … sorta.
24. What was the best book you read? The Goldfinch or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?Ingrid Michaelson. I was so-so about her music until my husband and I went to her concert the day after the election, and I felt like I connected with her. From that point forward I began following her on twitter. She's kind of a hippie/love-spreader and just … Yeah, even if I hadn't gotten tickets for free to attend her concert, I feel like now that I know more about her and how relatable she is, I would totally support her and attend her concerts again.
26. What did you want and get? A GoPro Hero 5.
A trip to Paris for Bastille Day and my birthday.
27. What did you want and not get? Lower debt.
28. What was your favorite film of this year? Deadpool, Jurassic World 3, The Accountant
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I'm old. :( Basically, I sat at home, blogged, read, and then went out to dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant.
BUT before my birthday we went to France, so I think it's totally ok that I didn't do much on my actual birthday birthday.
30.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?paying off more debt.
Getting the new Chase Reserve credit card.
Selling my Chrysler Sebring.
Not having Trump as my president-elect.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016? Buy as few clothes as possible for as cheap as possible so that i can travel more. :)
32. What kept you sane? the husband.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Justin Trudeau. :) He has remained so positive and uplifting toward the US. I've also enjoyed listening to Steven Colbert and John Oliver who have kept me sane during the election season.
As for celebs? Umm … Joe Jonas? (I know. I can't believe I'm saying it either!) And maybe Charlie Puth.
34. What political issue stirred you the most? the election.
human rights.
35. Who did you miss? a few friends who have decided to not be part of my life.
36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016. People are stupid.
Travel is worth it.
Debt sucks.
Marry rich. ;)
Oh and when Delta offers you an $800 travel credit for you to stay an extra night in Paris? Take it.
37. Quote that sums up your year. "Great stories happen to those who can tell them." - Ira Glass
How was 2016 for you? Are you ready for 2017?

Best of Worst

Humble Holiday Hacks

Joanna Kosinska (unsplash.com)

There's no doubt that the Christmas season can be stressful. Planning, shopping, gifting, decorating. To help ease a bit of that stress, I've come up with ten hacks that will hopefully help you get through these last few days of holiday madness. (Although some hacks will be more useful in preparing for next year!)

1. Buy gift cards, bake in batches, and always have extra wine on hand.

For example, a friend you haven't heard from in almost a year calls you up the week before Christmas and asks to meet up for lunch or dinner, a catch-up if you will. You have no idea if she will have a gift for you or not, so you wrap a gift card up in a pretty little box and bow and slide it into your humongous purse. If she DOES have a gift for you, voila! You reach into your purse like you had this planned all along, and you have something for her too! And if she doesn't have a gift for you, you keep your mouth and purse closed (unless you really like her). No foul, no harm. ;)

This also works if you batch-make a food item like hot chocolate on a stick or banana bread.

And for a party? Extra bottles of wine to give to the host are always a good idea! (If you don't use them as hostess gifts, maybe you can use them to de-stress after visiting with family! 😉)

2. No Christmas wrapping paper? No problem!

Anthropologie shopping bags are always super cute! Maybe stores in your area also provide cute paper bags that can be reused for more than just a one-day shopping trip?!
If you don't have an Anthropologie in your area, maybe you have some paper lunch bags? Or brown packing paper? Maybe your five-year old's large easel paper? Newspaper? Add some colorful ribbon, make a potato stamper, decorate with paint, etc! Fun, unique, special, creative, and festive! The gift receiver will feel so loved!

3. Along the same lines, create your own Christmas card.

Or get your child to do it.

Either way, your card will definitely make more of an impression on the receiver than anything store bought ever would!

4. Use items in your home and from outside to decorate.

Cut paper into delicate, intricate snowflakes that can be hung on your windows or from the ceiling.

Bring in pinecones to adorn the less-decorated places in your home.

A few other ideas… 

5. Fill your home with a wonderful Christmas fragrance.

Check out a few ideas here.

6. Shop Early.

And buy/prepare Christmas cards early.

Do you really want to be out in the holiday rush?

7. Parents, take your kids Christmas shopping for their own clothes (if they are old enough), so they can pick out what they want. Then mix up the pieces by putting them into boxes before you get them to help you with the wrapping. They already know what they are getting, so no temptation to look in the box before wrapping! (Or you could always threaten I suppose! … If you look,  I'm taking that gift and all of your others right back to the store!)

You can also wrap whole outfits together, so that underwear, which is already a boring but necessary gift, doesn't have to be opened alone.

8. If you are a "camera mom/dad", set up a recorder while everyone opens gifts and just forget about it. Enjoy the day; enjoy seeing your children's smiling faces. Spend time with your family. You can worry about what footage you got tomorrow. ;)

9. Do Christmas the Catholic way.

Twelve days, that is. Beginning Christmas day.

So instead of rushing to get everything taken down and put away by New Year's Day, relax and enjoy even more time with your family. The holidays only come around once a year!

10. And because I know I'm forgetting something…

BuzzFeed put together an awesome list of holiday hacks that will knock your socks off! Check it out!

What are some holiday hacks you use to get through the season?

Linking up with Tamara Gerber
of Confessions of a Part Time Working Mom

for #TopTenThursday

Wordless Wednesday 12/21/16

Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC (November 2014)

I think the changing leaves in fall makes it one of my favorite seasons. There are so many colors! And the cooler weather makes me so happy! I feel like after a summer indoors (because that's where you linger when you live in the South, air conditioning ftw!), I am now free to go out and explore! … And, of course, Asheville, is one of my favorite places to do so.

When I shot this picture, I had googled "best places to see the sunset in Asheville, NC" hoping to find a place I wouldn't have to hike to. We ended up at the Omni Grove Park Inn for dinner that night where I shot this image. Our dinner was expensive, and I remember getting frustrated that my camera just wouldn't focus! But you know what? Turns out I got a pretty good image anyway. :)

Lesson learned. ALWAYS get your camera and lenses cleaned before you go out to do any serious shooting. Trust me! It makes a difference! :)

What is your favorite season? Is there anything special you like to do that you can only do during your favorite season?

* I'm participating in Susannah Connway's December Reflections. Today's prompt: Solstice Sunset. Or at least the sunset part, anyway! ;)

A Picturesque Tour of Monet's Gardens & Giverny Pt. 1

Racing across Paris was never the plan, but it was what we had to do to make our train to Giverny, a small town located approximately two hours away from Paris.

I had not booked tickets for Monet's Gardens considering Justin and I would be visiting on July 14th, Bastille Day. Knowing my luck, the gardens would be closed for the holiday and I wouldn't have a clue since my French is about as good as my cat-speak. Well, actually, my cat-speak might be better; I can at least imitate them. ;) Either way, we had our hotel concierge call Monet's Gardens and confirm that they were indeed open for July 14th. Then, we proceeded to get directions.

If you've ever been jetlagged you will understand our confusion. Justin heard one thing; I heard another. And this was all before our Seine River sunset cruise, so who knows who was right?

Either way, we had a difficult time waking on July 14th. We needed to get up between 6 and 7AM to make the train, but we pushed our alarm to give us the most limited time possible. #MistakeOne. Because I'm super organized (most of the time anyway), I was sorting our luggage and chomping on a croissant, taking my time getting ready. We left the hotel, according to the concierge's directions, just in time, but, of course, late if we had wanted to be early.

Justin's GPS directed him to the metro. And me? I didn't know why we were taking it. The concierge had clearly said the train station was a ten-minute walk from the hotel. So, when we missed our first metro (we were on the wrong side of the track), I convinced Justin to walk there with me. A ten-minute walk really isn't that difficult, is it? #MistakeTwo. Turns out, Justin's GPS was correct in having us take the metro to the train station. The walk was, in fact, thirty minutes. #stress! And by the time we realized, none of the cab drivers would give us a ride. "Too short!" they all complained. "It's a ten-minute walk," they all said. Psh! I think ten minutes in French time is a little different than ten minutes in American time.

Finally, we made it, one minute before the expected train departure. But! We didn't have tickets. And, of course, by the time we found the ticket desk, we were already too late. Argh. So, we opted to wait until the next train to buy tickets. #MistakeThree

That particular day, Justin and I were going to be swapping hotels from our swanky Hyatt du Louvre to the also swanky Hotel Brighton. I had booked a room at HB that overlooked the Eiffel Tower so that we could see the Bastille Day fireworks from our hotel room. And, man, was that a dream! For two tired, jetlagged tourists, there was nothing better than snuggling up and watching the Bastille Day fireworks over the Eiffel Tower from the comfort of bed! … But that's another story, and one we will get to another day. The point is: we had to switch hotels, so we had to move our luggage. And when you have an hour or more between train arrivals, why not go ahead and start the process? #MistakeFour, sort of.

We headed back to the Hyatt and proceeded to pack our things. Then, because our hotels were super close together, we walked our overflowing luggage to our new hotel. Even though our room was not yet available, the friendly staff placed our luggage in a holding room until we returned to check-in later in the day. The staff was wonderful and helpful even if we had had a difficult time getting to the hotel due to security measures already in place for the parade and fireworks that would be occurring that day.

With a bit of extra time still at play, Justin and I stopped to get some Angelina's hot chocolate located at the tea room right next to our new hotel. (I can't go to Paris without getting the delightful and delicious Angelina's. If you've ever had it, I'm certain you understand why!) Then, we made our way back to the ticket booth to get our train ticket and wait on the train.

We arrived a few minutes early, but it still wasn't early enough. Y'see … earlier in the day the line for the train had been minuscule, maybe one or two people. Now, later in the morning, the line was full to capacity. We had 30 minutes to get our tickets, but the line didn't move nearly fast enough. (And don't even talk to me about the confusing ticket kiosk! That was a no-go for us! Plus half of them were "out of order".) LUCKILY, when we got to the front of the line, the person we spoke with understand English. Phew! She explained that we may or may not be able to make the train she was ticketing us for, but if we didn't, our ticket would work for the next train. And thus we ran for the train!

I bet you can guess what happened.

We didn't make it in time. Rather than go anywhere, we opted to hang out at the train station until the next train came. With tickets in hand and our time at Giverny shrinking by the moment, we knew that we could not miss the next train. We ate a terrible lunch in the station, listened to some kids playing on the public piano in the main hall, and did a bit of walking/shopping near the station. Then, finally, our train arrived. It wasn't that our train was late, it was just that we were so crazy early that we didn't know what to do with ourselves! 

Of course, once we arrived in Giverny, we had no idea where to go or how to access the gardens. It didn't matter that there were signs directing us, we, at first had to go the wrong direction. *sigh* #Americans?

When we eventually found the "entrance", we knew it was the entrance due to the long, long, long line of people waiting to get in. 

And, because it was hot outside, everyone and their cousin was buying ice cream at a stand just opposite of the line. I'm not sure if I was that hungry or that hot, but this ice cream, my very first ice cream in France, was absolutely one of the best ice creams I have ever had! (And I've had a lot of ice cream in my life!)

Rather than pay the 10,20 € entrance fee per person for just the Monet House and Gardens, Justin and I purchased a combination ticket allowing us to see the Musée des Impressionnismes as well for an additional 8.20 €. Then, we began roaming the gardens…

Stay tuned! There will be more to come next week… (I took a lot of pictures!)

Click here to join the link-up!

** Linking up to City Trippers Mummytravels.com and Wandermum.co.uk