Monday, November 30, 2015

Weekend recap/Shopping haul

Hello everyone! Not a lot has been going on around here lately! So sorry for the two week blogging break! I've been busy at work and then there was Thanksgiving; I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving by the way! We didn't do too much. It was just my parents, my siblings and I, so not too crazy! My brother had to work Thanksgiving day and Black Friday, so we were able to have dinner and pie before he went off to work. We did get some snow the day before Thanksgiving which has been nice! Although it has been SO cold here!

I have done a bit of shopping over the last couple of weeks and thought I would share some of the things I've bought.
I've been trying to find some Christmas stuff, but I just haven't seen a lot that I like yet! I did pick up this stuff from Target, all of which had pretty great prices!
Old Navy had their Friends & Family sale a few weeks ago (50% off your entire purchase) I had hoped to find a few things, but all that I was able to find that I liked was the cardigan and socks. So exciting, I know ;) It's really hit and miss for me there with their clothes, their tops are usually SO boxy (which I hate!) and they seem short a lot of the times. Anyways, I do like the cardigan because it has some interesting stitching along the shoulder seams and the back, which gives it a little visual interest. 
Aren't these cute? I picked these up at Kohl's for half off! I like little birds, so these were a great addition to my collection!
I also picked up this wreath at Kohl's from the clearance section for only $5! It was marked down 90% off and I think it will be great for spring!


We don't usually go shopping on Black Friday, but we did stop by a few stores this year. I get frustrated shopping on a regular weekend, so shopping on Black Friday seems crazy! But it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Although there really wasn't any great deals (at least for anything I wanted)! I've always read that Black Friday doesn't have the best deals, except on a few select items, but whatever. It gave us something to do and my mom got some flannel sheets for my brother that were normally $100 for only $25 from Kohl's. That was definitely our best deal of the day.
I went into Sephora, and was disappointed that they had literally nothing on sale in their store; with the exception of a few $10 gift items. They had stuff on sale online, but I have heard horrible things about ordering online from them, so I'm kind of scared too! But this is what I did get. 

I've been wanting some red lipstick for a while, and I think this shade worked well for my skin tone. Not sure how often I'll get to wear it, but I figured it's a good thing to have! The nail polishes were $1 each in the clearance section. And while I already have a ton of shades of purple polish, I figured I could always use another!

The pink lip balm on the right is nice too. It was $8 (I was disappointed because it was only $5 online :/ ) but the shade of pink worked for someone pale skinned like me! haha It does have a bit of a strange berry flavor/scent.
I picked up these pants for half off at Old Navy. I bought a black pair about a month ago or so and really liked them, and have been waiting for these to go on sale again. I couldn't find them during the Friends & Family sale, so I was glad that I was able to get them during the Black Friday sale! Although all that is left online is one size. They are pretty comfortable!
We also stopped by Michael's. My mom wanted a garland thing, (which we weren't able to find) but I did get some more Christmas scrapbooking paper and some snowflake washi tape. You can never have too much washi tape ;) Okay, maybe you can, but I do use it quite often! And the snowflakes are pretty. I've been thinking about doing a December daily album, but I still need to find a list and get going on it if I'm going to do it since tomorrow is December 1st already!

We spend the rest of the weekend decorating for Christmas! We got a tree on Saturday and have been busy decorating! I'll share some pictures soon!

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? Or go Black Friday shopping? Were you able to find any great deals! Let me know!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five for Friday

Hello and welcome to my Five for Friday! I hope you all had a great week! I am linking up with Cup of Tea , Della Devoted Bright on a Budget and Coffee With Caitlin!

1. I don't have very much to post about this week! I've been busy at work this week, and with other stuff going on, there hasn't been much time to do anything! I'm just glad I have a job I don't dread going to! My boss taught me how to do a bunch of different things this past week (like how to use a heat press!), so now I can do a lot of things myself instead of waiting for him to do them for me.

2. I was able to buy a couple more Christmas presents for my mom this week, so I think I am just about done shopping for her. I am completely stumped about what to get my brother and sister though! I have one item for my brother, but I need something else since what I have didn't cost very much. What do you get for someone who doesn't really want or need anything? All my brother does anymore is school (he's in college studying international business) and work. He's also fluent in French, and studying German. But he doesn't really eat out, doesn't really have any hobbies, and doesn't even really read either, unless it's the news. It's so hard! And my sister doesn't need or want anything either, which, I guess, is a good thing, except I do really like my siblings and I want to buy stuff for them! Oh well, I guess I will think of something eventually!

3. I shared our London itinerary earlier this week. I posted everything we did and places we ate at. There is pretty much nothing out there about traveling as a family (and if there is, it's traveling with little kids.) so I wanted to share what we did as a family of 5. You can find those posts here and here

4. We went to Winter Jam last night and it was so fun! It's been a really long time since we've been to a concert, so it was definitely fun to go and see a bunch of bands. And it was only $10 a person, so you can't beat that! I was a little bit disappointed though, Skillet was the headliner and they didn't play as many songs as I would have hoped and the sound wasn't that great. They have an incredible violin player (which might sound weird for a rock band, but it really works!) and you could hardly hear him! Oh well, there's always next time!
5. Is anyone making any fun Christmas decoration or gifts? I am looking for some ideas, so if you have any, please share!

Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Our London Itinerary | Day 3 & Day 4

For days 1 & 2 of our itinerary, click here

Day 3 started off with us waking up early, eating a quick breakfast, and heading up to Leavesden for the Harry Potter studio tour! We were all pretty excited! Although from our new hotel, it was going to take us over an hour to get out to the studio. One underground and one overground train were late, so we were worried we were going to miss the shuttle bus. We got there in time and the shuttle bus waiting around way longer than the website said it did!

The Harry Potter studio tour was the one activity that we decided was worth the splurge. We tried to limit what activities we spent money on, and we were all SO glad we went! There was SO much to see and do on the tour! We spent a good chunk of the day exploring the studio before taking the train to St Pancras/King's Cross station. We did eat a snack at the studio cafe before leaving. About halfway through the tour (and I should state that the first few minutes of the tour are with a guide, but then you are welcome to explore and take as much time as you want wandering around.) From what I can remember, I believe they had burgers, sandwiches, some sort of meat pie, and a few other items. Since the prices weren't too bad and we weren't sure what we were going to do after the tour, we wanted to make sure we ate before we left. And they also had a place where you could buy butterbeer! We did buy a cup and share it (it was a little expensive.) and it really just tasted like cream soda. We were kind of disappointed!

Anyways, back to St Pancras/King's Cross. We walked over to the British Library, because I had read that they were supposed to have some free exhibits you could look at, but when we got there everything we found you had to pay to look at, and since none of it was interesting enough to us to pay for, we left. 

We then decided to walk over to 187 N Gower Street, which is the location used for the exterior of Sherlock and Watson's apartment in the BBC Sherlock series. Unfortunately there was a bunch of cars parked in front of it, so we weren't able to get a great picture. But it was still pretty neat to see!

It was later in the afternoon by now and everyone was getting hungry again, so we decided to have an early dinner. I has spent quite a bit of time researching a good place to get fish & chips, and the place I had found was not too far. 

We almost walked by the place (I had read some reviews that said it was a hole in the wall type of place. They weren't kidding! There was construction going on around the shop, so there was scaffolding everywhere so it was quite hard to find because of that.) But anyways, Fish Bone was a great place to get fish & chips! Most of the places I had read about were pretty expensive, but Fish Bone had a pretty decent menu, and also had items for people like my brother who doesn't like seafood. My mom, sister, and I all got the cod and chips, while my dad got the calamari and chips, and Michael went with a meat pie. The food was all SO good! And, as with most American fish & chips, the food was not greasy at all! Meaning the cook knows what he's doing. The staff was really friendly and I would definitely recommend stopping by if you're in London! 

After eating, we took the tube back to our hotel.

For the full London day 3 post, click here.

On day 4 (and our last day in London) we didn't have too much planned. I wasn't sure what we were going to be able to do earlier in the week, so, since we had already done what was planned, we headed over to the British Museum. The museum is free and there is a lot to see there. We spent maybe 4 or 5 hours there before leaving. 

We wanted to find some touristy shops so we could get some souvenirs, and luckily we didn't have to go far! Fancy That London was right by the British Museum and had tons of fun touristy things at decent prices. We had been in a few other tourist shops before and they were all kind of expensive, so I would definitely recommend Fancy That if you are looking for a more affordable place. We all picked up some fun little trinkets and postcards and then left. We spent a little time just walking around the city, taking it all in since it was our last day. 

We then took the tube back to Tower Hill and walked over to St Dunstan-in-the-East, which was finally open! I don't think the rest of my family was too excited about it, but I thought it was pretty neat! 

The church was built around 1100, was severely damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666, was fixed up, then was severely damaged during the Blitz in 1941 when they just left it as ruins. In 1967 it was cleaned up a bit and the ruins were left as a park. I thought it was pretty neat and took an ton of picture (which you can find if you follow the link just below the map to the full London post.) 

It was nearing dinner time, so we walked over to the Tower Bridge and walked around on the west side of the bridge. There was a lot of restaurants, but they were all pretty expensive, so we walked back over to Pret and picked up some sandwiches. The weather was nice, so we took our sandwiches down the the river and ate by the Thames. It seemed like a nice way to end the day! After dinner, we walked back over to the Tower Bridge to take some more pictures. We all wanted to pick up some British candy (becuase let's be honest, European chocolate is SO much better than American chocolate!) there is a Tesco right by the Tower Bridge, so we stocked up on Cadbury bars, Jammie Dodgers, and whatever else sounded good. I also got a couple baking items to try.

After buying all our chocolate and stuff, we headed back to our hotel. We knew we were going to have a long day the next day, so we wanted to get packed up and to bed at a decent time so we could travel on to Paris.


For the full London day 4 post, click here.

A few tips...

-We all really enjoyed London, and it really wasn't too busy or crowded with tourists when we went. London is an expensive city, but we tried our best to keep the cost down and I think it can be affordable for a family. Airbnb is a great resource for finding an affordable place to stay. Most hotels in Europe only allow 2-4 people in a room, so since there is 5 of us, that meant we would of had to get 2-3 hotel rooms! I'm not sure about you, but an average of $300 a night is just not doable for us! Airbnb allows you get be closer to the city, and you will probably have a full or partial kitchen, as well as a washing machine, and WiFi. 

-We also saved money on food by purchasing breakfast items (like muffins, yogurt, things like that) at a grocery store (link Sainsbury's Local, which are all over the city). We either didn't eat lunch, or snacked during the afternoon (it's a good idea to bring protein bars from home) and then we ate out for dinner.

-Some food places will charge you extra if to dine in. (Pret is one of those places.) If you get your food to go (or take away as they call it in London!) it's cheaper.

-Definitely bring some good walking shoes! Something comfortable because you will probably walk a LOT!

-Do get a picture of yourself with a telephone box. I know it's super touristy, but I wish I had now!

-If you are going to be in London 4 or more days, or plan on traveling across the city a lot, get an Oyster card. It can be used on the bus, underground, overground, and most of the rail services in London. Just swipe it and go! Super easy and way more convenient than purchasing tickets ever single time you want to go somewhere. And, if you don't use all of the money on your card, you can use the machines in the stations to get a refund. Plus, they'll make you feel like a local ;)
If you have any other questions about traveling London, or London as a family, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message at nicolealiciablog@gmail.com!

Monday, November 9, 2015

London Itinerary | Day 1 & Day 2

For days three and four, click here.

We arrived at London Heathrow a little after three, got through customs and immigration pretty quickly, picked up our bags, and met Michael before taking the Underground to where we were staying in Bethnal Green. 

We were supposed to meet up with the lady we were renting our apartment from, but she never showed for over an hour (it was a nightmare. You can read a little more about that here.) 

Anyways, we were over an hour behind on our sightseeing because of the apartment delay. We took the tube to Tower Hill and checked out the Tower of London. We didn't go in, just took pictures of the outside. It was pretty pricey to go in (especially as a family of 5! It would have cost us £100 (or $162.19!) so definitely not worth it for us. If you are interested in touring the Tower of London, HERE is the website.

We then stopped by Pret for some sandwiches for dinner (It was right by the Tower of London.) It was pretty inexpensive (by London standards) and the food was great! Pret has a variety of sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salad ready to eat as well as coffees and bakery items (all organic and natural by the way!) Sandwiches were between £2 - £5 (about $3 - $7)

We then headed over to the Tower Bridge. It was so cool to finally see the Tower Bridge in person! It's something you always see in pictures, but finally seeing it up close was so neat! We stayed there for a little while, walking around and taking a ton of pictures before heading back to our room.
  
Full London Day 1 blog post

Day 2 in London started out with us taking the Tube to Waterloo station and checking out all of the touristy things! We also did a TON of walking! 

We first walked by the London eye. We decided not to go on it for several reasons. A couple of which were that it was very expensive (especially for a family of 5!) the lines were really long, and it seemed like a bit of a waste of time considering we had so much we wanted to see! 

We walked west along the Thames, when everyone decided they were hungry. I had a place picked out for lunch, but everyone wanted to eat right now, so we ended up at McDonald's. Not the greatest, but definitely cheap and easy! We then crossed the Westminster bridge and checked out Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, and Parliament Square, before heading over to Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately for us, they were doing construction on it so we weren't able to get very good pictures on the one side of the Abbey. 

We then walked through St James's Park on our way to Buckingham Palace. Luckily, there was hardly anyone there and we were able to walk right up to the palace gate! 

Next, we walked to Trafalgar Square, then by Piccadilly Circus, we walked down Regent Street, then up to Covent Garden, where we ate dinner at Shake Shack. We were all really hungry at this point, so we were happy to have some decent food! Shake Shack has a fairly simple menu of burgers, hot dogs, fries, and shakes. The food was really really good! 

After dinner, we took the tube back to Tower hill, then walked to St Dunstan-in-the-East. Unfortunately the park was closed, so we continued on to the Millennium bridge, then by St. Paul's Cathedral, and then back to the Tower Hill tube station.

We were all very tired, and were looking forward to going to bed, but as luck would have it, the heat would not work in our room, and we were just done with the place. The apartment sucked and we couldn't get a hold of the lady we were renting from. My mom called Airbnb, and the lady there told us there was no way we should be staying in the room any more! That was all we needed to hear! We found an overpriced Holiday Inn, and despite the late hour, we packed up and took the tube to the hotel. The hotel ended up being an unfortunate extra expense, but it was nice to be able to sleep in a clean, comfortable bed! 
Full London Day 2 post

Check back on Wednesday for day 3 & 4!


Friday, November 6, 2015

Five for Friday

Hey and welcome to my Five for Friday! I hope you all had a great week! I am linking up with Cup of Tea , Della Devoted Bright on a Budget and Coffee With Caitlin!

1. As everyone probably already knows, I love having flowers around. I picked up this bunch and liked the great fall colors!
2. I don't really like Hobby Lobby, but my  mom wanted to go so we went and picked up a few things. Their Christmas stuff was all on sale, and I've been wanting to build up my own Christmas decoration stuff. I also had to get the little basket with the bird, and the bird jewelry dish was like $2.50, so I couldn't pass that up either!
3. I did a fall fun swap with some other bloggers and I received my box this past week. The coffee smells SO good!
4. I met a new friend through my small group at church, and we went out to lunch and shopping earlier this week. It was so fun! It's been so hard meeting people where I currently live, so it was nice to finally find a friend! We stopped by Target and I picked up a few fun things at the Dollar Spot (as always!) I like getting thing I can use for scrapbooking, and anything used for organization is a win for me!
5. I've started doing my Christmas shopping already. Usually I have my list done and a few things bought, but I'm a little behind this year! No one in my family knows what they want, so it's made coming up with ideas a little difficult! Usually I keep a list going on my phone all year long (anytime someone says they want something, I add it in a note on my phone so I have ideas when birthdays and Christmas come around) but this year no one has really wanted anything!  

Have you started your Christmas shopping? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

1 year blogiversary!

Well, it's been one year since my first post! Well, yesterday to be exact, but we're celebrating today ;)


My top 5 most viewed posts
1. Five for Friday (the week I was the featured blogger)

There's a couple of these posts I don't quite understand why they were so popular! 

Some of my top 5 favorite posts (In no particular order)
1. London Day 2
2. Lyon, France
3. Browned butter chocolate chip skillet cookie
4. Favorite pictures from 2014
5. Paris day 1


Thank you to everyone for reading and following along! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween recap

Halloween was pretty uneventful around here. We carved pumpkins, made Halloween cupcakes, watched Netflix, and handed out candy to trick or treaters.
 Michael's pumpkin | My pumpkin        
Hannah's Darth Vader pumpkin | My mom's pumpkin             
 My chocolate cupcakes. I was happy that I was able to get a nice dome on top! 
Getting ready to decorate!
Did you do anything fun for Halloween?