UK Recap Fit for a Queen // Besties Abroad

Feb 28, 2018

Kelly and I recently returned from our trip to the United Kingdom, and it was an amazing experience! The week went by so quickly -- and the time with Kelly just made me love her more. If you followed along on our blogs while we were gone, you may remember that we did a three-day blog event that we called UK Recs Fit for a Queen. We recommended books and movies/TV shows set in the UK, and we chatted about some of our favorite places there, too.

Now that we're home, we thought it would be fun to recap our trip with a three-day UK Recap Fit for a Queen. Yep, we basically just tweaked the name from the first event. In today's post, we're sharing our favorite photos + three good things about each day. After reading Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center, I started a "Three Good Things" journal to make gratitude a daily habit. We're using that idea in this post to help us narrow down our highlights from the trip. 


1. REUNITING WITH KELLY • I was SO EXCITED when I saw Kelly waiting for me at our designated meeting point: Caffé Nero in Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport! Honestly, I was most looking forward to spending a week with her, and you know that's saying something when you're in your favorite place. It was time for the adventures to begin!

2. VISITING THE TOWER OF LONDON • After checking in to our hotel and grabbing lunch in Convent Garden, we made our way to the Tower of London. I honestly couldn't remember if I'd visited in the past, and I loved being there with a fellow history lover. And Kelly is basically an expert in this time period, so she was the perfect tour guide.

3. BUYING MY MOST-COVETED UK EDITION • I collect copies my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and try to buy one anywhere I travel. I knew we'd do some bookstore browsing together, but there was one specific edition I had to buy. I found it our first night (YAY!) -- and convinced Kelly to buy a few books, too.


1. CELEBRATING KELLY'S BIRTHDAY • One of the most annoying things about having a long distance friendship is that you aren't able to celebrate (or commiserate) together in person. So, I was thrilled to wake up on Wednesday morning, wish Kelly a happy birthday and then spend the whole day celebrating her!

2. MAKING NEW MEMORIES IN OXFORD • I studied abroad at Oxford in college, and it was a bittersweet experience because of some friend drama. So, I couldn't wait to go back with Kelly and make new memories! We climbed the tower at St. Mary's, toured the Bodleian Library, ate fish and chips, bought some books, and admired this gorgeous city.

3. PIZZA, CUPCAKES & NO HEAT • We're fond of the simple pleasures in life, so we wanted nothing more than to eat takeaway pizza, treat ourselves to delicious cupcakes and watch some British home design show back in our room that night. We were less than thrilled to discover that the heat was broken, but we've laughed about it since then!


1. A QUIET TRAIN RIDE • After two very busy days exploring, we were looking forward to a long, quiet train ride to Edinburgh. It couldn't have been more perfectly timed! That's not to say we didn't talk and laugh a lot on that journey, because we did, but it was nice to spend a few hours sitting down. Especially considering what came next...

2. CLIMBING ARTHUR'S SEAT • Before the trip, we discussed the things we wanted to do or see in each city. Climbing Arthur's Seat was at the top of Kelly's list... and probably wouldn't have made mine at all. Listen, hiking isn't my thing. But my love for Kelly won out, and I'm glad she made me challenge myself because it's a great memory now!

3. A FANCY HOTEL • We then treated ourselves to some Diet Cokes, relaxed in a bookstore and took dinner back to our room. Kelly found awesome (and budget-friendly) places to stay, but this hotel was definitely the highlight. I was exhausted and muddy from our adventures, so I was so grateful for the fantastic shower and comfy bed.


1. WANDERING EDINBURGH • We woke up on Friday refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead! We went to Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument, Calton Hill, Greyfriar's Kirk, The Elephant House (where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter) and more.  I still can't believe how much we accomplished -- and we perfect weather all day!

2. TOURING HOLYROOD PALACE • This was one of my favorite things we did on the trip! It's the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh and contains the apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots. We listened to the audio tour, and it was super interesting and informative! I'm just bummed we missed Meghan and Harry by a few days...

3. PICKING UP A FEW TREATS • While exploring, I found a copy of Pride and Prejudice that I didn't own -- and Kelly bought it for me as a birthday gift! Then, I snagged a cute (and warm) pair of wool mittens and a t-shirt for my son at a cute boutique in the Grassmarket area. Did I make Kelly treat herself to a few things, too? OF COURSE.


1. EATING OUR FEELINGS • We woke up in the Lake District, where we had an all-day tour planned. Unfortunately, the tour was canceled due to the weather. We were disappointed but made the best of the situation by getting a decadent (and delicious) brunch: hash browns + waffles topped with bacon, caramelized bananas and mascarpone. NOM.

2. FIRST CLASS TRAIN RIDE • We were sad about the tour, but our main concern was getting back to London. We weren't supposed to leave until late that night, but we really wanted to reclaim some of the day. Luckily, we were able to cancel our tickets and rebook for an earlier departure. And the best part? Our new tickets ended up being in first class!

3. SIX-STORY BOOKSTORE • Once we made it to London and dropped off our stuff at our hotel, we headed to Piccadilly Circus and the flagship Waterstones there. We were on a mission to find Mhairi McFarlane's books (bless their website for letting you look up availability by location). We hit the jackpot, and I left with a long list of authors to look up!


1. EXPLORING HAMPTON COURT PALACE • On our first day in London, Kelly convinced me to pay for a Historic Royal Palaces membership. She knew that if we visited three, it would more than pay for itself. I'm glad she did because that gave us to motivation to head to Hampton Court in the morning, and I'd never been before. It was gorgeous!

2. TOURING KENSINGTON PALACE • Next, we popped over to Kensington Palace. I loved the Victoria exhibit, and going through Diana's fashion showcase led to a fascinating discussion about modern royalty with Kelly. And we made sure to stop by the Sunken Garden, where Meghan and Harry announced their engagement. If only we'd seen them...

3. CHILL AFTERNOON IN OUR ROOM • Since I was heading home the next day, we headed back to our room a little earlier than normal. Honestly, we wanted to work on our travel journals, go through our photos, organize our stuff and just hang out together without the hustle and bustle of sightseeing. It was the perfect last hurrah for me!


1. OUR LAST MORNING TOGETHER • My flight wasn't until early afternoon, which meant we didn't have to rush around in the morning. I was glad for a few more hours with this precious friend! But gosh, it was awful saying goodbye to her and boarding the Heathrow Express. I couldn't believe the week was over, and OMG I AM CRYING AGAIN.

2. NO ISSUES WITH MY PASSPORT • I mentioned this in Monday's post, but I discovered that my passport had a typo in my first name when I got to the Atlanta airport to leave for my trip. I wasn't sure if it would be an issue when I departed (since the computer flagged my boarding pass because the names didn't match), but everything was fine in the end. 

3. FINISHING TWO & A HALF BOOKS ON MY FLIGHT • I read one book during our actual trip, and then finished two and a half books on my nine hour flight home. Haha! I clearly soothed my sadness with stories. If you want to know more about what I read while I was gone, check out my Books Abroad post for my mini reviews. 

And now, take a look at Kelly's highlights from our trip!

UK Recap Fit for a Queen // Books Abroad

Feb 26, 2018

Kelly and I recently returned from our trip to the United Kingdom, and it was an amazing experience! The week went by so quickly -- and the time with Kelly just made me love her more. If you followed along on our blogs while we were gone, you may remember that we did a three-day blog event that we called UK Recs Fit for a Queen. We recommended books and movies/TV shows set in the UK, and we chatted about some of our favorite places there, too.

Now that we're home, we thought it would be fun to recap our trip with a three-day UK Recap Fit for a Queen. Yep, we basically just tweaked the name from the first event. In today's post, we've got reviews for the books we read while we were abroad. Check back in on Wednesday for photos and highlights from our trip. As a reader, choosing what books to bring on vacation is an important task. I think I spent more time debating this than I did what to wear! 

I knew I'd go book shopping while there, so I only packed one physical book and focused on having options on my Kindle. I was convinced that I'd get a decent amount of reading done since we had several long train rides ahead of us! And then I spent almost all of that time talking to Kelly instead... Haha! I finished three books total -- one during the trip and two on my flight home. I started a fourth book on the flight but didn't finish it then, so it will be in my February Quick Lit.

WHO'S THAT GIRL BY MHAIRI MCFARLANE | On my flight to London, I started and stopped several movies before deciding that re-reading a favorite book might help take my mind off my anxiety. Why was I worried? Because I got to the Atlanta airport and discovered that my passport had a typo IN MY FIRST NAME. The Delta agent gave me my boarding pass and told me she didn't think it would be an issue (though she couldn't guarantee it, of course). So, yeah, I spent most of the eight-hour flight there thinking about it. Y'all, it was not the best start to the trip.

I only read about 20% of Who's That Girl? on that flight, but it was the perfect story to distract me. McFarlane is one of my very favorite UK authors, and I noted that this one just might be my favorite of them all when I first finished it. When I started it, I was immediately invested in Edie's story.  She goes through a hard fall from grace -- but it's a revealing journey that helps her discover her worth, appreciate her true friends and recognize her missteps. I loved it even more the second time around! McFarlane is a talented writer, and I'm just such a huge fan.

I loved the relatable characters, sense of humor, personal growth and swoony romance! I read a large chunk of this book (and ultimately finished it) on the train ride from the Lake District back into London. As I read, I could feel myself smiling, giggling, tearing up and sighing over it all. There's something to be said for a book that brings you so much joy. I can't recommend this one highly enough, and I'm obviously So Obsessed With It. And I can now confirm: this is my favorite from McFarlane, but only by a slim margin because all of her books are great.
IT'S NOT ME, IT'S YOU BY MHAIRI MCFARLANE | After saying goodbye to Kelly and hopping on the Heathrow Express, I could feel myself holding back tears. We had the best week, and I was so emotional at the realization that I was saying goodbye to her! I knew I needed to distract myself, so I turned to Mhairi McFarlane once again. I knew re-reading another book from her would help cheer me up! I ended up settling on It's Not Me, It's You. This was the book that first solidified my love for McFarlane, so I was excited to revisit it a few years later.

I really love Edie's story (and majorly adore her romance), but I think I relate more to Delia. Like Edie, she has to reconsider some things in her life -- both decisions she's made and people she's trusted. There are some similarities in their stories, but what I connected to was the way Delia has let fear hold her back from trying things. She sells herself short but slowly, over the course of the novel, she starts to push herself out of her comfort zone. Despite knowing what would happen next, I still found myself completely hooked on every word.

Once again, McFarlane's sense of humor and well-developed characters shine. There's a little more action and intrigue in this plot, which made it a fun follow up to Who's That Girl? The first time I read it, I finished all 531 pages in one sitting after work. And once again, I tore through this book -- thankful that if I couldn't be with Kelly, at least I had plenty of time to spend with these characters. If you're a fan of smart, readable women's fiction that will make you happy then you need to check out Mhairi McFarlane. It's Not Me, It's You is my second favorite book from her, and I'm So Obsessed With It.
ACT LIKE IT BY LUCY PARKER | I finished It's Not Me, It's You about halfway through my flight home, and I knew I had time to finish another book if I chose wisely. I had to take advantage of the uninterrupted reading time! There were so many options on my Kindle (re-reads and new-to-me) but one book was calling my name. It was the only book I purchased with my trip in mind: Act Like It by Lucy Parker, the first book in the London Celebrities series. It seemed fitting to read a book set in the London theater scene while Kelly was back in London seeing Wicked without me!

I honestly can't remember how to book ended up on my radar. I think it kept popping up as an Amazon recommendation, and I know that I was convinced to buy it when I looked it up on Goodreads and saw high ratings from a number of people I trust. Plus, I was super intrigued by the fact that it was billed a slow-burn romance. That sounded good to me! As soon as I started, I was completely smitten! I'm a sucker for hate-to-love relationships, and this was one of the best ones I've read in recent memory. It reminded of a modern Pride and Prejudice, and that's a huge compliment from me!

It was snarky, sarcastic and totally swoony, and I was immediately drawn in by Parker's writing, the setting and the believable characters. Plus, I cannot stop raving about the fact that there was drama but it wasn't dragged out endlessly. I expected a certain storyline to go one direction and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the characters acted like adults and communicated. Give me more of this, please! Y'all, I So Loved It. When I landed, I texted Kelly and begged her to read it too. And as soon as I got home, I bought the second book so that I could start it the next day.

Don't forget to check out what Kelly read abroad!
How do you choose what to read on vacation?

'Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined and bloodshed. Epic.'

Feb 15, 2018

1,865 dramatic pages. 6 days. 5 stars each. 3 epic love stories. Countless heart-pounding adventures. One happy reader. 

"I just finished the most wonderful story..." I felt like Belle recently as I turned the last page in this incredible series. I spent one week with my nose stuck in these books, and I didn't regret it for a second. The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly epitomize why I love historical fiction and family sagas! I actually read The Tea Rose (and The Winter Rose, too, I think) for the first time years ago. If I remember correctly, A Northern Light was my first experience with Donnelly's writing (all the way back in high school) and then I picked up this book because I longed for more from her. But honestly, I'm not quite sure because I've read so many books since then and so much time has passed. Regardless, I had all three books on my shelves but 1) had never read the last and 2) couldn't remember the first two well enough to start with the third. And so, I decided to re-read. I'm always a little hesitant to pick up long books, which is the main reason The Wild Rose has been on my TBR for so long. But I was soon kicking myself for letting a little thing like length keep me from such a fantastic read! I could not put these books down.

I truly remembered very little from the first two books, so it felt like reading them for the first time. And they are definitely an emotional rollercoaster! One of the reasons I love long books, when I finally convince myself to pick them up, is the way I typically get to completely immerse myself in the characters' lives. I know that I'm signing up for a dose of drama and angst (a lot happens in this many pages!), but I end up loving every second of it. That's not to say there aren't moments where I'm frustrated by a particular storyline, but the books are still so satisfying overall. 

I was so invested in these characters embracing life and finding love amidst the backdrop of an ever-changing world. I journeyed everywhere from tea factories in Whitechapel to Tibetan mountain ranges, cattle farms in California to camels in the Middle East, and beyond. Donnelly brings such rich detail to the various settings, which was the icing on the cake for this historical fiction lover. I am all about the description that paints a clear picture of the time period!

But the best part is that I met so many unforgettable characters in these pages: costermongers and code breakers, entrepreneurs and explorers, guv'nors and gangsters, spies and suffragettes, doctors and drug dealers, prostitutes and Prime Ministers. Donnelly depicts a sprawling world populated by characters from all walks of life. 

I'm a little shocked that I didn't remember more from these books because they feel so unforgettable to me. It's been a few weeks since I finished, and I'm still wishing I got to spend more time with this family. Honestly, I can't recommend this series enough! I'm sad to say goodbye but thankful that I can reread and revisit this world and these characters anytime I choose. If you're a lover of historical fiction and/or epic family sagas, I hope these books are on your radar!

(And yes, I quoted Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars in this post title. I just couldn't help myself!)

So Quotable
“We're not punished for our sins, lad. We're punished by them.” -- The Tea Rose
Released: March 2002; November 2006; August 2011 | Publisher: Thomas Dunne; Hyperion
Pages: 557 pages; 736 pages; 623 pages; | Source & Format: Owned; Paperback

'You're My Person' // A Galentine's Day Gift Guide

Feb 13, 2018

Ever since our Capsule Library event, I'd been hoping for another chance to collaborate on something with Kelly from Belle of the Literati, Alexa from Alexa Love Books and Rachel from Hello, Chelly. Then, a few weeks ago, Rachel approached us with the fantastic idea for this post: a series of gift guides inspired by our favorite fictional friendships. We all loved the idea! Go explore each of their blogs to see who they chose. 

I'd initially planned to focus on a literary one, but then I realized that I had to choose a hate-to-love friendship for the ages: Paris Geller and Rory Gilmore! This classic duo from Gilmore Girls prove that even the bitterest of rivals can make the best of friends. They went from frenemies to roommates to BFFs, and I was there for every minute of it. Today, I've got 10 unforgettable quotes from the show that inspired each of my gift guide selections.

from gilmore girls

PARIS: "We're friends?"
RORY: "I'm not sure if there is an exact definition for what we are..."

1. Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders ($13) - Paris and Rory meet at Chilton, an academically rigorous prep school. Paris has always been at the top of her class there, and Rory's arrival in the first season threatens her position. Paris and Rory are both smart, driven, capable women, and they frequently challenge each other to accomplish more. So, what better gift for two nerds who can't define their relationship than a dictionary of untranslatable words? 

PARIS: "Sorry if you thought we had a deep Thelma-and-Louise thing, but we didn't."

2. Thelma and Louise Blu-Ray ($9) - Just when Rory thinks she's finally getting somewhere with Paris, Paris puts her in her place. They have a rocky relationship early on because they're academic rivals, but they both develop a begrudging respect for one another the more they spend time together. But with Paris, it's always two steps forward and three steps back. She isn't ready to take this show on the road quite yet...

RORY: "Oh my god! I'm gonna have to quit drinking coffee! And I love coffee! I really love coffee!"

3. Deluxe Thermal Travel Coffee Mug ($18) - I think this is the only quote on the list that doesn't involve Paris or Rory talking to each other, but I had to include it. Because if there's one thing Rory is known for, aside from making Terrible Life Choices and Not Reaching Her Potential, it's her love of coffee. And I think that after one day as her friend, let alone years, Paris would know this mug would make a perfect gift.

PARIS: "So, that's how you look when you've just woken up?"
RORY: "Yeah."
PARIS: "Nothing in my life is fair."

4. J.Crew Vintage Pajamas ($95) - Oh, secret societies! When Paris and Rory are kidnapped by the Puffs for a hazing of sorts, Paris can't help but notice that Rory looks practically perfect, even in the middle of the night. I can't gift Rory's natural beauty, but a cute pajama set is a step in the right direction! Rory would probably want a pair with coffee cups or junk food pictured on them, but I think Paris would prefer a menswear-inspired set like this one.

PARIS: "I'm going to Yale."
RORY: "You're going to Yale." 
PARIS: "And we're suitemates."
RORY: "Of all the gin joints."

5. Hillflint Yale Letter Sweater ($89) - Rory always saw herself at Harvard, but things changed by graduation and she realized that she wanted to go to Yale instead! Paris ended up at Yale after she was rejected from Harvard (which led to an unforgettable meltdown on C-SPAN), and she made sure to request Rory as a roommate. She knew their journey wasn't finished yet! Neither strikes me as the Yale-sweater-wearing type, but I couldn't resist.

PARIS: "No men -- just lots and lots of Chinese food."

6. Joyce Chen 10-Piece Wok Set ($80) - After breaking up with their boyfriends, Rory and Paris turn to one another for support, commiseration and eating their feelings. But the best part? When Rory's ex shows up,  Paris tells him exactly how she feels about him. We all need a friend who will be there for us when we're sad, deny those losers at the door and share our love for life simple's pleasures, like Chinese food. Take out is easier, but owning a wok set feels very grown up.

LORELAI: "Take the tickets, go to your seats, have the night of a lifetime - Bangle it up."
PARIS: "You know what? I think this is the best night I've ever had."

7. Greatest Hits by The Bangles CD ($7) - About halfway through season one, Paris and Rory attend a Bangles concert with two Chilton classmates + Lorelei and Sookie. I loved the episode because it marked a turning point in their relationship. You could see the tiniest glimmer of a possible friendship! I like to imagine one of them gifting the other this CD as a throwback to that night and dancing it out, as Meredith and Cristina would do.

PARIS: "I already wrote his name in my revenge notebook."

8. People On My Sh*t List Notebook ($22) + Quietly Plotting Your Downfall Pencils ($4) - Paris Geller and her list of enemies is the stuff of legends. I love to imagine her going home each day and writing in her revenge notebook. And listen, I saw her in that awful Netflix revival. You can't tell me she doesn't still have one! This funny journal + a perfectly coordinated pencils would be the perfect gift for a woman who knows she's the smartest person in the room. 

PARIS: "Journalism is an art form, and the best art is created under repression, like Stalin's gulag."

9. The New York Times Digital Subscription ($8/month) - Who can forget Paris' brief reign of terror as the editor of the Yale Daily News or when Rory replaced her? I'm sure both would already have a New York Times subscription, particularly in today's world, but I've included a digital one on my gift guide just in case. Rory might wax poetic on the beauty of print, but she'd appreciate having the news at her fingertips. 

PARIS: "Typical guy response. Worship Kerouac and Bukowski, god forbid you pick up anything by Jane Austen."

10. Jane Austen Penguin Classics Box Set ($112) - I loved Jess Mariano when I watched the show in high school, but rewatching the show as an adult has made me realize just how much growing up he needs to do. I loved that Paris had his number from the beginning! If a man can't appreciate Jane Austen, he needs to take a seat. I'm sure both Paris and Rory already own their fair share of books by Austen, I think this gorgeous set would be perfect for either of them.

What is your favorite fictional friendship?
Happy Galentine's Day, y'all!

UK Recs Fit for a Queen // Places

Feb 9, 2018

Today, I'm in my favorite place, the United Kingdom, with my favorite adventurer, Kelly from Belle of the Literati. This trip started as a dream that I honestly didn't think would come true, so I'm totally pinching myself. Happy birthday to us! I'm so thankful that my husband and family are making it possible for this mama to pop across the pond.

In between booking trains and researching hotels, Kelly and I decided to commemorate on our adventure on our blogs with UK Recs Fit for a Queen. Throughout the week, we'll be recommending our favorite books, movies and shows set in the UK before chatting about our love for the place itself. To wrap it up, let's talk about my love for the place itself.

Kelly and I could easily get carried away talking about our favorite places in the UK. I think the obsession started young for both of us, and it's shown no signs of waning since. When we were chatting about the places we could go together, we both kept coming back to the UK. It doesn't matter how many times I've been, I will always want to go back! To give this discussion a little direction, we're answering four specific questions today:

1. When/how did your love for the UK begin? 
Well, it all began with my love for historical fiction. Growing up, I adored the American Girls and Dear America series. And from Dear America I moved to the Royal Diaries where I read about Elizabeth, Mary, Queen of Scots and Victoria. My obsession with history and royalty was the starting point, but reading Pride and Prejudice in middle school turned me into a dedicated Anglophile. It's one of my few obsessions that's lasted almost my entire life.

At 17, I had the opportunity to visit London for the first time through my high school. It was an unforgettable trip! I quickly realized that I didn't just love the place because it was the setting in all my favorite books and movies. There was so much to experience and discover, and I was bummed that I had so little time to spend in the city and was dying to go back.

And so, the summer before my junior year of college, I signed up for a six-week summer study abroad program in Oxford. It was one of the best -- and most challenging -- things I did during college. It was challenging because you had to work, and I'm a Type A perfectionist who cared way too much about her grades to slack off. But it was the best because I WAS IN OXFORD. FOR SIX WEEKS. I still can't believe it!

2. What's your favorite thing you've done in the UK?
Living in Oxford is probably at the top of my list, but there's something else I did there that I have to mention. I signed up for the study abroad with my best friend at the time (who ditched me the second we got there, but that's a story for another day...) but didn't know anyone else going. Well, it turned out that there was a girl, Alexandra, from my sorority there that I didn't know very well. We ended up hitting it off and traveling together on the weekends.

Near the end of the trip, we knew we wanted to do something extra special before it was time to go home. Alexandra and I both loved horses -- I'd taken riding lessons for eight years and she was still an active equestrian. And so, we signed up for a horseback riding weekend in Wales. We spent two nights at an adorable bed & breakfast and were able to explore the Welsh beaches and countryside on horseback during the day. It was so much fun! We made great memories, took beautiful photos and loved that we'd done something off the beaten track. My favorite thing about studying abroad was that I was able to take the time for this kind of random adventure!

3. What's your favorite place in the UK?
Ahhh, I don't know! It's too hard for me to choose because there's still so much I haven't seen yet. I've stayed in that small Welsh town I mentioned, spent a long time in Oxford, visited Bath and Stonehenge and, of  course, explored London a few times. But I've never even been to Scotland or Ireland! So, how can I pick a favorite when I feel like I've got so much left to discover?

So, keeping in mind that I'm choosing with that disclaimer, I think Bath might be my favorite place I've been so far. It felt steeped in history! I could just imagine Jane Austen walking down the streets, lamenting the day she had to leave her beloved home for this social city. As silly as it sounds, it felt like I was walking on a movie set. This place I'd always read about was right there before my eyes! Of course, I enjoyed walking around the Roman Baths, touring the Jane Austen Centre, walking across Pulteney Bridge, gazing in awe at the Royal Crescent, and being legitimately confused by the existence of Stonehenge. My weekend there was a delight!

4. What are you most looking forward to on this trip?
Is it really cheesy if I say spending a week with Kelly? If so, TOO BAD because it's the truth. I'd be excited about this trip regardless, but going with her is the cherry on top. I love that we get to be in our favorite place together. What could be better? She visited me twice in 2017, and I was so bummed every time I had to put her back on a plane. How lucky am I to get another seven days of adventures, laughter and sass?! 

Setting aside the sappiness, I'm torn on whether I'm more excited for Edinburgh or the Lake District. Probably Edinburgh because I'll get to say I've been to Scotland and will use the visit to spur me to come back in the future. But I won't lie -- I'm really excited for the tour we're going to take of the Lake District! I've wanted to see more of the English countryside, and this will be the perfect opportunity. I'll do a recap post once I'm home, so check back in to see which one was my favorite!

What's your favorite place in the UK?

UK Recs Fit for a Queen // Movies & TV Shows

Feb 7, 2018

Today, I'm in my favorite place, the United Kingdom, with my favorite adventurer, Kelly from Belle of the Literati. This trip started as a dream that I honestly didn't think would come true, so I'm totally pinching myself. Happy birthday to us! I'm so thankful that my husband and family are making it possible for this mama to pop across the pond.

In between booking trains and researching hotels, Kelly and I decided to commemorate on our adventure on our blogs with UK Recs Fit for a Queen. Throughout the week, we'll be recommending our favorite books, movies and shows set in the UK before chatting about our love for the place itself. So, it's time to talk about movies & TV shows:

If you're looking for a longing glances in ballrooms, rainstorms, mansions and fields,
watch the Pride and Prejudice.

If you're looking for a historically inaccurate but super swoony ill-fated romance,
watch Becoming Jane.

If you're looking for hate-to-love set amidst the backdrop of industrial England, 

If you're looking for an exploration of race and slavery in Georgian England,
watch Belle.

If you're looking for an introduction to one of the most significant queens in history,

If you're looking for a handsome village vicar who sleuths on the side, 
watch Grantchester.

If you're looking for a brilliant detective solving crimes in a way that will blow your mind,
watch Sherlock.

If you're looking for a Jane Austen obsession that's taken a little too far,
watch Austenland.

If you're looking for a world where the dream that Colin Firth is your father comes true,

If you're looking for something that will inspire you, make you laugh and rip your heart out,

What are your favorite movies or TV shows set in the UK?
Make sure you check out Kelly's recs, too!

UK Recs Fit for a Queen // Books

Feb 5, 2018

Today, I'm headed to my favorite place, the United Kingdom, with my favorite adventurer, Kelly from Belle of the Literati. This trip started as a dream that I honestly didn't think would come true, so I'm totally pinching myself. Happy birthday to us! I'm so thankful that my husband and family are making it possible for this mama to pop across the pond.

In between booking trains and researching hotels, Kelly and I decided to commemorate on our adventure on our blogs with UK Recs Fit for a Queen. Throughout the week, we'll be recommending our favorite books, movies and shows set in the UK before chatting about our love for the place itself. So, let's start with 10 of my favorite books:

If you're looking for impressive writing and the original hate-to-love romance,
read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

If you're looking for a charming (and comical) heroine coming of age in not-so-genteel poverty,
read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

If you're looking for an epic family saga spanning across multiple continents and time periods,
read The Rose Trilogy by Jennifer Donnelly. (Kelly approved.)

If you're looking for some historical romance with four girls who are #SquadGoals,
read The Chance Sisters series by Anne Gracie. (Kelly approved.)

If you're looking for a little art history while you hum "Sister Suffragette" to yourself,
read A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller. (Kelly approved.)

If you're looking for an American marrying into the British royal family,
read The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.

If you're looking for a reminder that social media often hides a messy reality,
read My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. (Kelly approved.)

If you're looking for a normal girl who finds herself and falls for a famous guy,
read Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane. (Kelly approved.)

If you're looking for a global dystopia set in an alternate version of England
read The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon. (Kelly approved.)

If you're looking for some Scottish burr with a side of time travel,
read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

What are your favorite books set in the UK?
And don't forget to check out Kelly's recommendations!

Quick Lit: January 2018

Feb 2, 2018

I read 6 books in January, which is on the low end for me. I started the year strong with a few enjoyable books, but things got even better when I binged a 1,865-page trilogy in six days. I was on such a high when I finished that I didn't pick up anything else for the next week! I'll be reviewing the Rose trilogy later this month, so I've just got 3 reviews for you today. If you're looking for more book recommendations, check out the Quick Lit linkup at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

In January, I got all caught up and finally posted my November and December editions of Quick Lit! I'd fallen behind after reading a ton at the end of the year, so I ended up splitting both posts into two parts to cut down on the length. November 2017 (Part 1) has reviews for three series I binged, and November 2017 (Part 2) features eight standalones. Then, I reviewed six standalones in December 2017 (Part 1) and two series in December 2017 (Part 2). Finally, I talked about my 2017 favorites (and losers) in my 2017 End of the Year Book Survey.

NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT BY KRISTAN HIGGINS* | This was such a great book to kick off the year because it dealt with a heroine facing an uncertain future. It had everything I’ve come to love from this author: a strong heroine, witty dialogue, an engaging romance and a setting that felt like a character in its own right (populated, of course, by some very memorable people). While the tone was hopeful, there are still some pretty heavy things depicted in the story. But I loved the overall message that you never know what life will hold but can choose how you’ll respond to it. It focused on Nora’s emotional journey and personal growth – with just enough romance added in to warm my heart. I So Liked It.

RULES OF CIVILITY BY AMOR TOWLES | I received this book for Christmas... in 2011. Yes, that's right. It's been sitting on my bookshelves unread for six years. It's ridiculous, I know! I decided it was finally time to pick this up, and I immediately loved the writing. Towles has a unique voice, and there were numerous passages I wanted to slowly savor while I was reading. It's a character-driven story, which I typically love, but I was just never invested in the heroine or her relationships. It took me almost a week to finish the 335 pages because I never felt compelled to pick it up. I'd still say I So Liked It because the tone, setting and writing style balanced out my other issues. I wish I'd loved it!

IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS BY CLARISSA HARWOOD | My sweet friend Laura is Clarissa's agent, and she was kind enough to send me a copy when I mentioned that it sounded like a fantastic read based on her Goodreads review. As a lover of historical fiction, I was intrigued by the focus on the British suffragette movement because I felt like I knew very little about it (aside from this movie). I'm so impressed by what these women went through in order to secure the right to vote. This heroine is a force to be reckoned with! There's a compelling romance in this book, too, and Laura was spot-on with her reference to Grantchester. This book was a gem, and I So Enjoyed It

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

What have you been reading lately?

January 2018: Recap + On My Shelves

Feb 1, 2018

In January, I was busy doing one of my favorite activities: getting organized. 2018 got off to a great start for me, and I already know that February is going to be even more exciting! I can't wait to see what this year holds. 

1. New Computer - This technically happened in December, but I didn't start using it until January so I think it counts! I got my previous Macbook in 2010, and it served me well through the years. But I was so excited to get a new one -- it's so fast! I'm always shocked by how quickly my applications open... and the fact that they aren't constantly freezing. 

2. Hello, 2018! - This year got off to the perfect start! First, a new year means a new planner. My main one is the same (an 18-month one), but I got to add a new blogging section. Then, UGA won the Rose Bowl (don't talk about the National Championship). The next day, I booked a trip to England and Scotland with Kelly. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ME.

3. Savoring Sweet Moments - January was a sweet month for my little family! We spent a lot of time at home with the cold (and sometimes rainy) weather, but we loved every minute of it. From an unexpected snowfall to sweet afternoons reading by the fire, I'm savoring these days. I know that I'll blink, and it will feel like they've passed.

4. Homemade Happy Planner Printables - As I've become more and more obsessed with my Happy Planner and all the stickers, I kept wishing for a way to incorporate some of the things I'd loved about my bullet journal (like TBR trackers). I couldn't find what I wanted online, so I figured out how to make my own printables. I'll blog about this soon!

Read 6 Books | Favorites:
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
“Sometimes it takes a few years before you understand what you're worth.
And who's worth your time.”
Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

 “As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion [...]
if the next thing you're going to say makes you feel better, then it's probably the wrong thing to say.”
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

 “Why is it that men's courage is called bravery
but women's courage is called recklessness -- or, even worse, foolishness?”
Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood

 “The day you stop dreaming you might as well take yourself down to the undertaker’s,
for you’re as good as dead.”
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

“He who cannot endure the bad will not live to see the good.”
The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

“Bravery is feeling fear but doing the thing anyway.”
The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
One of my goals for 2018 is to blog more consistently, and I was pleased that I started the year strong by publishing 9 posts. In case you missed it, I've got to start with my December 2017 recap. But my first post was actually one of my favorite Top Ten Tuesday topics: Favorite New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017. Then, I reviewed The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (my final review for the 2017 Picky Pledge Reading Challenge). Once we all caught up on our challenge reviews, reflected on the year and shared our future plans in The Picky Pledge 2018

I had ideas for more creative posts, but I really wanted to get caught up on my 2017 reviews. And that meant focusing on Quick Lit, my mini review roundups. Since I read so many books those months, I split both posts to make them shorter. November 2017 (Part 1) has reviews for three series I binged, and November 2017 (Part 2) features eight standalones. Then, I reviewed six standalones in December 2017 (Part 1) and two series in December 2017 (Part 2).

And finally, even though it was basically a month overdue, I couldn't resist sharing one of my favorite 2017 recaps: The 2017 End of the Year Book Survey. I look forward to it every year, but I always procrastinate writing it. It's so hard to choose my answers! Now, let's see if I can keep this up in February...
1. My New Reading Log (+ Free Printable Reading Logs!) by Christine from Buckling Bookshelves - Whenever I check Christine's blog, I always find something new to love. This month was no different! I'd already created my own reading printables before I saw her post, but this is definitely inspiring me to talk about my current reading log. 

2. 2018 Planner Life by Lauren from Bookmark Lit - If you can't tell already, I love anything and everything related to planners. Like me, Lauren has tried a lot of different planners and is always tweaking her system. I loved this update from her, and it was a great reminder that I've got to blog about my Happy Planner soon. Yay for organization nerds!

3. My One Word for 2018 and Read or Die '18 by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books - It's a two-for-one special with Alexa's blog because I had to include both posts! The first inspired me to choose my own word for 2018, though I haven't talked about it yet. And the second is making me think I need to take this type of drastic measure with my own TBR.

I'd love to discover more new-to-me blogs in 2018. 
What are some of your favorites? Please tell me in the comments!

Favorite Song: "I Love You Always Forever" by Betty Who
Although this is a 2016 cover of a 1996 Donna Lewis song, I just found it in January.
I'm not entirely sure why, but I couldn't stop listening to it. I loved blasting in while driving!

The Americans, Season 5, starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys - Nick and I watched the first four seasons of this show early in 2017, but the fifth wasn't available on Prime at the time. It recently occurred to us to finally catch up! I love Keri and Matthew, and this season was a good one. I'm interested to see how it all ends this year.

Baby Driver (2017) starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx - This isn't the type of movie that would typically appeal to me, but Nick got it for Christmas so it was an easy choice for one of our movie nights at home. And I actually really enjoyed it! I loved the emphasis on the music and that it was such a stylized action movie. 

Home Again (2017) starring Reese Witherspoon - I had high hopes for this movie because I feel like I haven't seen a great romantic comedy recently. But I was a little unsure of the premise, so I waited until it came to Redbox. I'm glad that's what I did because it was so bland. I just watched it two weeks ago and can barely remember anything about it.

Younger, Season 4, starring Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff - I binged the first three seasons of this show last year, but then I had to wait for the fourth to come to Hulu. When I finally noticed it was available, I immediately dove in and finished it just a few days later. I'm so invested in these characters, and I'm still emotionally processing that finale. OMG.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 1, starring Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein - I was curious about this show, and then Knox's green light on The Popcast sealed the deal. With Amy Sherman-Palladino as the creator, it should come as no surprise that the show is fast paced, smart, emotional and off to a promising start. So much fun!

Gift Card: Cultivate by Lara Casey and If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey

Used Bookstore Credit: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Review: The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard

Kindle: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, My Life as a Country Album by L.J. Evans, Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson, and Dance, Stand, Run by Jess Connolly

NetGalley: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Audible: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
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