DIY: Harry Potter Tote Bag

So if you live in So Cal, you have probably heard by now that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is opening next month at Universal Studios. And if you follow any theme park/book nerd/awesome people on Instagram, you have probably noticed that they have been having soft openings on a regular basis. In other words, a lot of people have already gotten to experience the magic of WWHP and I am super jealous that I am not one of them. I am planning on sucking it up and investing in an annual pass next week, so stay tuned for reports. In order for me to hit up WWHP in style, I decided to rock some new HP themed crafts, one of them being this super cute tote bag.

harry potter tote bag


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NYC Trip Report Day 4

Our final day in the Big Apple (check out part one and part two of the trip report!) was probably the most uneventful in terms of the touristy stuff, but it was one of my favorite days I have ever spent in the city. When I travel, I like to hang like a local, and that doesn’t typically happen when you are on a tour with students, but we got a small taste of local NYC life on our final day and I loved every minute of it.

We started the day with a walk through Washington Square Park and the West Village. I decided if I ever move to New York, I’m going to have to live in the Village, which means I am going to have to be a millionaire. Gonna need to work on that one.

The park has a really stunning view of the new World Trade Center building. We had seen it before on our water taxi tour, but I almost liked this view better.
After the Village, we went and indulged our inner nerds. First, we stopped at Forbidden Planet, which is every comic book lover’s dream. I am not a comic book lover, but I have enough nerd in me and I was able to walk away with some cool Harry Potter swag and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle travel mug for the hubs.
And then….we went to one of my new favorite places on the entire planet: Strand Bookshop. Holy moly you guys. Words cannot express how much I loved this store and I only had time to explore one floor (I think there are four all together). Outside on the sidewalk is a huge array of used books, most of them for $2.00. I found some fun new reads for me, plus an awesome out of print photography book about Hollywood stars at home in the 1950’s for my mom (she loves that stuff since she grew up in Hollywood around then). In addition to literally thousands of amazing books, Strand also carries so much book nerd goodness I had trouble controlling myself. Bags, mugs, notecards…it’s pure luck I made it out of there without spending my entire life’s savings.
Lucky for me, the students I was with are just as into books as I am (one of those things that makes my teacher heart sing) and we spent a good portion of our afternoon in the hotel reading our new purchases. I did manage to drag my lazy butt up for long enough to go check out the Star Wars Costume Exhibit at the Discovery Center in Times Square. Super cool, you should go check it out!
For dinner that night we went to Junior’s and I had my tenth grilled cheese of the week, but also a delicious vanilla milkshake (gotta get that calcium in).
Then we headed out for our final show of the trip, Aladdin. I have so many fond memories associated with Aladdin and I loved every minute of seeing it on Broadway. I’m looking forward to the upcoming tour!
And then it was back to the hotel to get some sleep so we could be up and ready for our plane ride home. This trip was the first time I had been away from Squirt for more than two days, and that was the hardest part about it. I missed my little man (and my husband, of course) so much more than I had anticipated. But overall, it was an amazing trip, one of my favorites and I am so looking forward to the day when I get to share one of my favorite cities with the kiddo!
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NYC Trip Report Day 3

Hello friends and welcome to Day Three of my recent trip to the Big Apple (you can catch Day One and Two here). So our first full day in New York was basically the best day of the theater in the history of the world and it was going to take a lot to top that. Theater wise, nothing could compete with seeing Hamilton and Fun Home on the same day, but Day Three was pretty awesome in terms of touristy stuff.

We started the day visiting the New York Public Library, home of Carrie Bradshaw’s failed wedding and surprisingly few books. Turns out the real library is across the street in a not nearly as gorgeous building and this building is mainly used for research and touring (and fancy weddings, apparently). It was very cool to see the building and tour some of the inside, but my favorite part was the gift shop. I didn’t know one could spend $100 in a library, isn’t that shizz supposed to be free? Anyway, I scored some really cool book nerd swag that I love, so that was definitely awesome.

After the library we walked to the Empire State Building. We didn’t have time to go up to the top, which was good because I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway, but we did snap some pics outside. Side note: you have to walk a good two blocks away from the building itself in order to be able to get a good pic.
Then we headed to the Museum of Modern Art, which I was iffy about because I feel like most modern art is weird. And a lot of it was. There was definitely one whole display that was a stool under a shovel that was hanging from the ceiling. Probably worth millions of dollars. Whatevs. We did get to see The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh which was pretty cool.
Then we went for a tour of Lincoln Center, which I truly only enjoyed because our tour guide talked about the end scene from Center Stage being filmed there (though we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, which was lame). It was cool, but I really wanted to go backstage and apparently that ain’t happenin’.
On our way back to our hotel I had to stop for my obligatory Dunkin’ coffee with cream and sugar and then take this awesome tourist pic in Times Square. I have to say, I am a little less into Dunkin’ now that it is available here in Cali (though there is not one actually in LA proper, which I find annoying), but it was delicious nonetheless and I needed the pick me up because we had walked like twelve miles during the day and we still had an evening show to go to.
That night we went to see Something Rotten, which was hilarious and amazing and had we not seen Hamilton, probably would have been my favorite show (if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am really freaking into Hamilton). I am a huge Shakespeare fan and a musical theater nerd so I loved trying to figure out all of the references. We got to do a talk back with some of the cast members after which is always fun. I learned that the good tappers actually wear mics on their feet to pick up the sounds from the taps, super cool. I do have to say that Christian Borle (love him on Smash) and Brian d’Arcy James (love him a little less on Smash) did not come out for the talk, which was a bummer. Even if you come out for five seconds and wave, I feel like you gotta put in an appearance when you have a group of students there to talk to you. Uncool.
But loved the show, loved the library, and had a fun day three in NYC!

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My 2016 Reading List

Hello readers! As we barrel into the new year, I’m sure we are all busy making resolutions for 2016. My main resolution for 2016 is to only make resolutions I am really passionate about (so no “fluff” or obligatory ones). One of those is to read more real books.  I read every day, without fail. However, a lot of that is reading that is not really doing much to enrich my mind. I like reading silly romance novels (and not the well thought-out, well written ones, the really bad cheesy ones) because they help me unwind at night when I don’t want to think about much. I certainly am not going to stop reading these books because I need that time to enjoy brainless entertainment (it’s why I love Bravo TV!), but I do want to make an effort to also read books that are going to challenge me a little.  I’m sure this list will grow as the year goes on, but this is what I am going to start with!  (Note: all of these links are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through the link, I will get a small portion of the sale. So buy some books and read along with me!)

1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling: I’m a very bad Harry Potter fan for never having read this book! Gotta get it in before the movie comes out, and before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in April!

2.  BFG by Roald Dahl: This is another one I’ve got to read before the movie comes out in 2016. The tale of a big, friendly giant and a little girl named Sophie.

3. #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso: I have no intention of being a CEO with 400 employees working for me, but I’m sure Sophia’s kickass attitude will be inspiring, nonetheless.

4.  Paper Towns by John Green: I am a huge John Green fan and I have had Paper Towns sitting on my shelf for far too long. Time to actually read it!

5.  Games of Thrones by George R. R. Martin: I’ve technically already started this one, just gotta buckle down and finish it!

6. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin: I have it on my 30 by 40 list to finish the series, so I’m gonna have to knock out more than one per year!

7.  The Siren By Kiera Cass: I am a big fan of Cass’s The Selection series (see below) so I’m interested to read her other work.

8. The Heir by Kiera Cass: The final book in The Selection series comes out in May, but I still have to read number four! The series is like a cross between the Hunger Games and the Bachelor (both of which I love) and is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

9. The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling: Another one I want to read before seeing the movie. I love the idea of reading this to Squirt eventually and considering I have a degree in English (writing, but still English), I have read very few of the classics.

10. The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory: I love all of Gregory’s historically based books, especially those centering on the Tudor family. This is the latest and focuses on Henry VIII’s final wife.

11. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This was on a lot of book lists last year, but I am behind the times so I will be checking out this mysterious love story in 2016.

12. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: This looks like it will be one of the most popular YA novels this year, and since it is part of my job as an educator (that’s really just an excuse because I love YA lit), I should read this one.

13. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn: This is another one that I have started and not finished. A friend of mine is reading this murder mystery by the author of Gone Girl and she advised me to give it another shot, so I added it to the list.

14. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: Another YA piece, this one focuses on a chubby teenage girl and her beauty pageant mother.

15. Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn: We’ve all read plenty of dystopian teen lit at this point, but this one seems like a new take. The main character gets implanted with a memory of her future (chew on that one) and is automatically arrested as a criminal.

So that’s where I am going to begin with my reading for 2016! Anything you think I should add to the list? Anything in particular you would like me to review when I am done?

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