Northern California Part 1: San Francisco & San Jose

This summer I stayed a month with my sister (Cat), brother in law (Skye), and their kids in Fairfield, California. Not only was I there for my niece’s and nephew’s birthday parties, AND my grandparents visited from DC, but I also did a ton of traveling around this part of the state! Previously I had only been to Los Angeles, so it was great to see different areas of California including San Francisco, San Jose, Fairfield, Napa Valley, and Red Bluff.


While Trolls was not my favorite movie (after watching it five times) it may be my favorite birthday party theme. Glitter! Color! 

Where are we?

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Long travel days

This post will only discuss random travels in San Francisco and San Jose (part 2 will include Fairfield, Napa Valley, and Red Bluff). While these are very different places–and I’ll talk about them separately–they are all a part of Northern California. This isn’t a geographic designation, but a political one. The division between the two segments of California is usually at the 42nd parallel, which was the boundary established by Spain and the United States in the Adams-Onís Treaty (1819).

Of course I need to include the obligatory background of the region and Northern California has SO MUCH culture and history. The Shasta, Miwoks, and Yokuts all inhabited areas of now Northern California for hundreds of years before Europeans landed on the coast; these Native Californians spoke over 100 languages and 300 dialects! In 1770, Spanish missionaries began building settlements along the coast and Spain continued to colonize the area until the early 1800s. Around 90% of the Native Californian population died during this time, mainly from disease. After gaining independence from Spain, Mexico continued their colonizing work until the Mexican-American War in 1846, when the Mexican government ceded the entire state of California to the United States. It is important to note that the American government did not recognize Indigenous land titles. The Gold Rush and Trans-Continental Railroad increased the number of people, particularly Chinese immigrants and Americans from the East, to California.

Okay, history lesson over. Let’s get to all the things:

San Francisco: 


Places to Visit:


Someone loves the ferry!

We traveled to San Francisco by ferry which was overall a great experience! It beats going by car (gas, parking, traffic, ugh) and wasn’t too expensive. The kids loved it and Caroline said she wanted to grow up to be a Ferry Conductor.

Aquarium of the Bay: 


Via Fine Art America

The Aquarium of the Bay is AMAZING and a must-see if you’re in the area. Unfortunately, I didn’t take many pictures because I was enjoying the actual aquarium, but thankfully there are a ton of photos online. My favorite was the super cool river otter exhibit (featuring crazy otters running around everywhere) and the underground “Under the Bay” tour that was awesome, if not a little scary, to be surrounded by water. The Aquarium also helps run the San Francisco Bay Area Sustainable Seafood Alliance, which includes the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, a sustainable seafood guide that we actually began using at the College of Charleston when we started tracking food purchases (they also have personal guides too, check it out!)

Golden Gate Bridge:


I had to include a Full House gif

Like a real tourist, I had to stop at the Golden Gate Bridge. The state has a pretty solid parking and trail near the bridge so people afraid of heights (me) can see the bridge without actually walking it (never in a million years).


Shout out to Skye Thompson who parked with the sleeping kids!


Built in 1937, it is still the tallest bridge in the United States


Skye and I also spent the afternoon wandering around San Francisco on our very own brewery crawl discussing The Martian (book or movie better?), how we can make my sister less-stressed (a fool’s game), and Rick & Morty (thankfully, I let Skye talk me into a marathon of the show).

ThirstyBear Brewery:


ThirstyBear was our first stop. The first and only Organic brewery in San Francisco, we really enjoyed our beer and the atmosphere. ThirstyBear boasts a Spanish-inspired menu (we unfortunately didn’t try anything) and an extensive beer list. I tried the California Common and Howard Street IPA.

21st Amendment Brewery:


I loved 21st Amendment! We were able to grab seats before the game finished (perfect timing) to have a few beers and a snack. The 21st amendment is in my top five favorite Constitutional amendments so I pretty excited to visit a brewery named after the repeal of alcohol prohibition. I tried the Summer Saison and Brew Free or Die IPA. I’d love to go back and try their Winter Saison (whaaa?) which has the description: “You might not expect a Saison in winter. But the enemy didn’t expect Washington to cross the icy Delaware, either. Expectations be damned, we say.”


21st Amendment also had TACHOS, which if you haven’t eaten tachos, please reevaluate your life; this was one of my favorite snacks in CharlestonSO GOOD.

Anchor Brewing:


Via SFGate

Finding and touring Anchor’s Brewing was a little bit of a disaster; the actual taste room was closed and the shop was almost closed as well. They were also working on the building itself so we weren’t able to tour the actual brewery itself, but picked up a couple of beers to take home with us. We enjoyed their beer (they’ve been brewing since 1896!).

Honorable Mention: Gracias Madre


Not pictured: Me, sobbing.

Oh what could have been. After taking an uber in rush hour traffic out to Anchor’s, we were pretty far behind schedule for dinner AND making our ferry. Gracias Madre is “the one that got away” for me in terms of San Francisco. They were booked when we finally arrived, much to my dismay, as they are known for their amazing vegetarian cuisine. Next time!


Always have to finish the day with an old fashioned (and Taco Bell, thanks Cat!)

San Jose:

We were only in San Jose for the afternoon (where my grandparents were staying the night before their flight the next day) but I’m glad we stopped.

Winchester Mystery House:


The Winchester Mystery House is another tourist spot but cool to see if you’re in the area. Built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the mansion is known for its crazy layout and number of rooms.


Yes, that Winchester. Go watch Shaun of the Dead

When her husband passed away in 1881, Sarah inherited more than $20 million, as well as 50% ownership of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which provided her with $1000/day income; this equates to around $23,000/day today. Rumors state that Sarah was told by a Boston psychic to leave her home on the East Coast for the West to build a home for not only herself but also all of the victims of the Winchester rifle (known as “the gun that won the west”). As a result she built, and continued to build, her mansion in San Jose.


An overview of the House (via Amusing Planet)

Originally seven stories (now only four after the 1906 earthquake), the house has 161 rooms, 47 fireplaces, and 10,000 panes of glass. Because construction was constantly continuing (as instructed by the psychic) with no real purpose, there are a number of stairways and doors that lead to nowhere, as well as only one toilet (the other bathrooms were built to confuse the spirits that haunted her). Already a short person herself, Sarah developed arthritis in her later years; she had all of the staircases amended for short steps. As a result, all of the stairs are tiny and barely inches above one another (perfect for me and little Caroline).

©David Swann

via Winchester Mystery House

Sarah also slept in a different room each night. When she passed away, she left her belongings to her niece and secretary. The niece sold mostly everything in the mansion, which required six trucks working eight hours a day for six weeks to remove everything from the home. The house itself was not mentioned in her will and was considered worthless at the time–due to its insane layout and lack of completion–the mansion was purchased and is now held by a private investor that maintains the home’s integrity and hosts tours to the public.


The property also holds a couple of museums and exhibits including one area dedicated to the different guns created and developed by William Wirt Winchester.


Part 2 coming soon!


My favorite Shaun of the Dead gif

Reading: Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

Listening: If You Leave by Daughter





“The World is Big & I’d Like to Have at it Before it Gets Dark”: Muir Woods National Monument Park, California

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to visit Muir Woods National Monument Park, just twelve miles from San Francisco, California. I’d always wanted to see the giant redwoods and jumped at the chance to travel with my family to the park for the day.

Where are we?

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Muir Woods National Monument Park is located near San Francisco, close to the Pacific coast, and the Golden Gate Bridge. The National Park Service states that: “Muir Woods is the only old-growth coastal redwood forest in the Bay Area and one of the last on the planet. It is estimated that nearly 2 million acres of forest just like Muir Woods once covered a narrow strip along the coasts of California and Oregon. Today, 97% of this has been impaired or altered and most coastal redwoods now grow on protected second and third growth forests or managed timber plantations.”


By the 1900s, logging industries cut down a majority of the Californian redwoods trees. The only remaining forest was owned by Californian politician William Kent. Kent, along with his wife, purchased the land with the hope of protecting the trees from extinction. In 1907, when a water company proposed plans to build a dam the Redwood Creek and thereby flooding the forest, Kent donated 295 acres to the federal government. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the park a National Monument in 1908 and under Kent’s insistence, named the land Muir Woods National Monument Park. A conservationist, geologist, and naturalist, John Muir was also instrumental in creating the United States National Park System.


Today, Muir Woods contains 554 acres of old growth coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and is one of the few locations of old growth redwoods in the area. While the giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) are also part of the redwood family, the coastal redwoods are the tallest living things. These trees can reach up to 379 feet high and, to put that in Ashlyn-terms of length and measurement, that equates to 74 feet taller than the Statues of Liberty.


The tallest redwood in Muir Woods stands at 258 feet high. A majority of the coastal redwoods are between 600-800 years old and the oldest tree is more than 1200 years old! However, these types of trees can reach 2200 years of age, which I can’t even comprehend.


Seriously, my exact reaction.


Getting our national park on


Visiting the Muir Woods was an absolutely incredible and humbling experience. I 100% recommend planning a trip if you find yourself in the San Francisco area. The main trails were well laid out, safe, kid-friendly, and wheelchair accessible. Muir Woods also boasts a number of hiking trails and other sites as well.

Okay, enough text. I wish I could convey the overwhelming beauty of the park–which is pretty impossible–but hope my pictures can do some justice.




Baby Jack just wanted to RUN.


– Ashlyn

Reading: The Power by: Naomi Alderman

Watching: Thor Ragnarak directed by: Taika David Waititi



Brunch, Pimm’s, & Windsor Castle: the Most British Day of My Life

Sheesh it has been a while since I posted any updates!


Forgive me for my lack of routine posts but I promise to have a ton coming up this month (California! Slovenia! Poland! All the things!)

Back to England:

Haley and I decided to visit Windsor Castle on my final day in England. We took the short train ride up to Windsor to tour the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.

But first… BRUNCH.


Alright we didn’t order mimosas, but the concept is universal


View from our table ❤

We stopped in Richmond for brunch and book shopping before heading out to Windsor. Haley’s flatmate recommended the wonderful Jackson and Rye for breakfast and I’m so glad we were able to secure a reservation.


Too excited for our Bloody Mary jug that we can’t hold the camera still

When we saw the option for a Bloody Mary jug, there was no way either one of us could refuse. The server looked at us like we were nuts (justified) and the entire wait staff was visibly impressed (our server clapped) when we finished the whole thing.



Huevos Rancheros, the love of my life


Avocado Florentine 

100% full and 100% satisfied with our Bloody Mary game, we traveled back to the train station to make our way to Windsor.


Can’t say no to a LAVENDER pretzel as a train snack

After arriving in Windsor, we headed up to the castle, but decided to make one last pit stop so I could try Pimm’s for the first time.


Bartender: “You’ve never heard of Pimm’s?!”

Developed by James Pimm (who ran an oyster bar) in 1823 as a “health tonic”, Pimm’s has been a popular drink in England for the past 150+ years. Originally gin-based, the Pimm’s #1 cup was the first version created and sold. In England, the fruit and herb based liqueur is usually mixed with sparkling lemonade but the liqueur is also popular in New Orleans, where they mix Pimm’s with lemonade, soda, and cucumber.


So classy

After enjoying our Pimm’s, we walked up to the castle to purchase our tickets for the tour. The lady selling tickets instructed us to look at the flag flying on top of one the towers. Confused, we asked why and she excitedly responded that the Queen was currently residing in Windsor (Queen Elizabeth and I have similar travel agendas it seems).


The Royal Standard flag is raised when the Queen is at Windsor

Originally built in 1098 by William the Conquerer, Windsor Castle has been used by the monarchy since Henry I; it is the largest and longest-occupied castle in Europe. The Castle’s 13 acres also contains St. George’s Chapel, which was built in 1275 by Edward IV. The chapel is burial site for many famous Brits including Henry VIII (known for his six marriages and separation of the Church of England and the Catholic Church). During WWII, the royal family actually stayed in Windsor, although it was widely believed they were at Buckingham Palace.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside of the castle or chapel, but it was a beautiful tour.



One of the drawing rooms (source: the Royal Collection)




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The Grand Reception Room was one my favorites (source: the Royal Collection)



State Dining Room.jpg

State Dining Room (source: the Royal Collection) used to be just for the king! 



Queens Drawing Room_1.jpg

Queen’s Ballroom (source: the Royal Collection). I LOVED this room. It was beautiful and we made friends with one of the tour guides. We asked which was his favorite portrait was and he laughed, responding that no one had asked him that before! 


View from the courtyard


St George's hall.jpg

St. George’s Hall (source: the Royal Collection)


Our sunny weather could only last so long


Windsor is really worth the trip if you have time!




Classic nerds

Bonus brunch gif in case you need this in your life today:



❤ Ashlyn

Reading: But What if We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

Watching: Baby Driver directed by Edgar Wright

Champagne, Hot Dogs, & Harry Potter: England Part 1

London has been on my list of must-visit places for nearly as long as I can remember. Now that one of my dear friends is kicking ass as a Producer for BBC World Service, I have all the excuses to visit the UK. I had a blast visiting Haley and checking off all the tourist sites in the city.

Where are we?

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Just a quick two hour flight from Vienna, Austria

Of course it basically rained the entire long weekend I was there, which made walking around definitely an adventure. We took a trip to Windsor Castle that I’ll publish next week; there was so much to see (not to mention my first ever Pims) that it definitely needs its own post.


The largest and capital city of both England and the United Kingdom, London sits on the Thames and is known for a million things, but most importantly Monty Python and Harry Potter. With history extending as far back as the Bronze Age–recently archeologists found the remains of a bridge crossing the Thames–London is officially recognized as a settlement in 43 AD during the invasion of the Romans.

My first stop was visiting BBC; now I can say I’ve been to the headquarters of my two favorite broadcasting companies (I toured NPR in 2011). Also, I’m a nerd.


View of BBC Headquarters. Haley gave me an amazing tour of the building!



View from the top


Ever wonder how BBC World Service is made?


Buckingham Palace gate


Buckingham Palace (Originally built as a townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703)


The palace became the official residence for the monarchy in 1837



Westminster Abbey was founded in 960, 1057 years ago!


In 1950 the church became known as “a Church of England ‘Royal Peculiar'” meaning that it’s directly responsible to the sovereign


All British and English coronations have been held here since 1066 (William the Conqueror) along with 16 royal weddings starting in 1100


Westminster Abbey is also a memorial; over a thousand people are buried here


Big Ben, the Great Bell of the Clock located at the northern side of the Palace of Westminster. The clock was completed in 1858 and was named Elizabeth Tower in 2012 after the Queen


Westminster Palace (also known as the Houses of Parliament) is the central meeting place for the House of Commons and House of Lords. Originally built in 1016, the palace was destroyed by fire in 1834 and rebuilt.


My interpretation of the “London Tourist Sites Postcard”


The Palace of Westminster was the first official place of residence for the royals until 1512.


Let’s be real, my biggest reason for visiting was to reenact the “Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament!” scene from European Vacation when Clark is stuck in the roundabout:

I really wanted a picture of the police in their uniforms due to our obsession with the movie Hot Fuzz. Trying to be sneaky with my camera didn’t work (of course as I’m the most obvious person in the world) and the officers posed for a picture for me:



If you haven’t seen this movie, please do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP


The London Eye was completed in 2000 and stands at 443 feet tall. Also, a big hell no to ever riding one of the world’s tallest ferris wheels.


The Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian walking bridge that was completed in 2000.

For Harry Potter reasons (and also fear of bridges reasons) I did not walk the Millennium Bridge.

Who knows what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is up to these days?


Tower Bridge


It was awesome to visit the Tower Bridge after seeing it as one of the iconic sites during the 2012 London Olympics. The Bridge held both the Olympic rings and Paralympic emblem


Tower Bridge (built between 1886-1894) and the Tower of London (founded in 1066!)

The Tower of London was one of the few sites I actually paid to tour. The fortress is pretty big and well worth the cost; Used as a prison, menagerie, and a palace, the Tower of London has been a prominent part of British history. Unfortunately it was pouring while I was walking the (largely outdoor) grounds so I wasn’t able to take many pictures.




The Tower also houses the Crown Jewels, but they were hardly guarded at all…


South face of the Waterloo Block


The moat was an important part of the fortress’s defenses


90% of my snaps that day




In line to see the platform! 


Hufflepuff v. Slytherin

Food & Beer

Haley’s House:

Known for her egg-making expertise, of course we had to have eggs and toast my first morning in London:


After a rather long (and dance party filled) night she was nice enough to make homemade pizza for dinner the following day.

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The Hop Locker:

Located under the Hungerford Bridge, the Hop Locker was an awesome and surprising find after I crossing the park behind the Eye.


The beer-truck had a couple of really great options. I tried Verdant Brewing‘s Roy, I want a Hilux, an American Pale Ale brewed in Falmouth, England.


So happy for a beer and a spot out of the rain

Gourmet Burger Kitchen:

I stopped in Gourmet Burger Kitchen to get out of the rain and charge my phone (and let’s be honest, truffle cheese fries). I ordered the Californian because I was craving avocado. Pretty good burger, great fries, and a ton of options for the pickiest of eaters.



After a long news day for Haley and my miles in the rain around London, Bubbledogs was the absolute perfect stop for dinner.


Yea, thats a macaroni and cheese dog

Bubbledogs is founded on a simple ideology: gourmet hot dogs and champagne. They have meat and veggie dogs available with a ton of options for toppings (I of course chose macaroni and cheese). Also–TOTS.


Me being a creep and snapping a picture of the orders arriving to the table next to us

Bad Bean Coffee: 


My last brunch in London! We originally wanted to go to another spot for breakfast but the line was ridiculously long and being the impatient, hangry people we are, Haley and I walked across the street to Bad Bean. I’m so glad we did!


Matching cappuccinos 

Known for their coffee, Bad Bean also specializes in breakfast sandwiches, sides, and a variety of amazing looking treats. We ordered eggs+toast and both were ahhhmazing.



In the famous words of Haley Elaine: “Part of growing up is falling apart.”


Reading: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

Listening: Ash & Ice by The Kills

Amsterdam & The Hague

This spring Chris and I spent a couple of days visiting our lovely and amazing friend Kelsey in The Hague, Netherlands. We also traveled to Amsterdam to see one of our favorite bands, Pokey Lafarge & the South City Three. Chris had visited Eindhoven before, but this was my first trip; it was great seeing Kelsey for the first time since New Years!

Where are we?

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We flew from Budapest to Eindhoven, then took the train to The Hague. The public transportation was awesome; the trains and buses were super clean and organized. SO MANY BIKES EVERYWHERE. It was awesome to see infrastructure that promoted walking, biking, and public transport over driving.

The Cities

The Hague: The third largest city and the capital of South Holland, The Hague (Den Haag) is located near the coast. First mentioned in 1230, the city was heavily damaged during WWII and was largely rebuilt after the War. The Hague is also known as the “International City of Peace and Justice” due to the city’s hosting of multiple peace talks and conferences since the late 1800s.

Located north of The Hague, Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital and largest city. Originally a small fishing village established around a dam on the Amstel River in the 1100s, the city soon became one of the most important trading ports for the kingdom. Amsterdam has 165 canals (combined has a length of over sixty miles!) and 1,281 bridges throughout the city.


The Hague: Walking to the beach


The Hague: View from Kelsey’s townhouse


The Hague: Mauritshuis Art Museum (established in 1822)


The Hague: Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) was completed in the 1200s (!!).


The Hague


The Hague




Amsterdam: Royal Palace (1648)



Amsterdam: Ann Frank’s House. The Secret Annex that hid her family before they were betrayed to the Nazis is located in the back of the building.








Amsterdam: Paradiso (1968) is a converted church that is now used as a music and arts venue




Amsterdam: Oude Kerk (Old Church) is the city’s oldest oldest building and church (1213!)


Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three


Our fourth time seeing the band. We’ve been to shows on the Ohio River, Cleveland OH, Asheville NC, and Atlanta GA.

Bonus video of Ryan Koening playing the hell out of the spoons.

Restaurants & Food

The Hague: Beachclub Indigo


We had an amazing brunch at Beachclub Indigo. A gorgeous walk down the beach, the restaurant had a ton of burger options and seating right on the water. My first 2017 beach trip!

Amsterdam: Pancakes Amsterdam 


Chris had ham and cheese while chose the goat cheese option.

After our train ride to Amsterdam all I wanted in my life was Dutch pancakes. We stopped at Pancakes Amsterdam before wandering around the city and loved it. They had a variety of sweet and savory options, as well as a cute atmosphere to escape the rain (because of course it was raining).


Mint tea: My new favorite

Kelsey introduced me to mint tea and I am officially a fan. Rather than using a tea bag, you place a ton of fresh mint leaves into a glass of hot water and let them steep for a couple of minutes. So good.

The Hague: Kelsey’s House


Our all time best meal in the Netherlands was hosted by Kelsey’s roommate. Raising money for a non-profit (she was in this super cool non-profit certification program) her roommate hosted a home-cooked five course (TWO DESSERTS) meal for a dozen people in their apartment. WOW. It was absolutely amazing. Lovely wine, out-of-control cooking, and wonderful people–what else can you ask for? I wish I had taken pictures of the food but I was too busy being the emoji-with-hearts-for-eyes brought to life.

Breweries & Pubs

Amsterdam: Cafe ‘t Smalle


Our lovely friend in Pápa, who spent a summer in Amsterdam a few years ago, recommended Cafe ‘t Smalle as a place to stop right on the water for a quick drink and snack. She mentioned that she had always wanted to visit the small cafe but never had the chance during the summer she was abroad. Thankfully we were able to visit while in Amsterdam! It was so lovely and right on the canal.

Amsterdam: De Prael Brewery


Having a friend who works at a brewery definitely has its perks, among them being great recommendations for craft beer in the Netherlands. We LOVED De Prael and ended up trying a couple of their beers while in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam: The Beer Temple


Whoa, the Beer Temple was such a great place to stop on our way to the show. Their selection is enormous, with beer even from South Carolina! We overheard a group talking about beer from Mt. Pleasant, SC and were both thinking “wait, whaaa?” before realizing they also carried Westbrook as well. I don’t even know the last time I had their Gosa, so it was an unexpected surprise.

The Hague: Kompaan


I can not say enough amazing things about Kompaan. They have great beer, amazing food, and an awesome atmosphere. This was probably the best beer we’ve had since moving abroad and it was really special to share this with Kelsey. The atmosphere reminded us both so much of Holy City Brewing, which made me a little homesick, but so cool to see what other countries are doing in terms of developing new beer. From the clever names, to the genuineness of the staff, and the quality of the food and beer, Kompaan is a must.


I love all the things.



Solid advice

The Hague: Huppel de Pub


Huppel de Pub was a solid post-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-2 viewing stop. They had a ton of great options (including Kompaan) and a really comfortable atmosphere.

Honorable Mentions:

The Hague: Instock

Sadly we weren’t able to eat at Instock while visiting, but I wanted to mention the super cool work they’re doing in the area of food waste. Their chefs use food surpluses that would otherwise be taken to the landfill and make amazing meals from them. They source mostly from grocery stores that don’t sell their “ugly” produce, which is fruit and veg that is perfectly fine but not the prettiest of the bunch (think tomatoes that aren’t cute enough for a BLT but just fine for sauce or a banana too bruised for purchasing but perfect for banana bread). Their  menu changes with what’s available and they serve breakfast, lunch, and (four course) dinners. When one third of food is wasted, operations like these help break this linear cycle. SUPERMARKT_en-603x180@2x.pngThe Hague: Zaal 3

We visited Zaal 3 for a super cool event they were hosting that combined local beer and used records. I scored Buddy Holly and Elvis records (I finally have Suspicious Minds! My favorite as a kid!) while enjoying beer sourced from the area.


Watching: The Next Food Network Star Season 12

Listening: It’s Blitz! by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs


Things I’m Loving 7.10

Things have been crazy lately and I haven’t been updating as much as I’d like… Side-note: How is it already July?!

To Watch: Rick & Morty & Mad Men

Rick & Morty


Alright, alright. It’s taken me literally years to get on the Rick & Morty train but I’m so glad to finally be aboard. The first time I watched a few episodes I was determinedly “meh” about the entire show, until my brother-in-law forced me to give the adventures of mad scientist Rick and his grandson another chance.


Not all heroes wear capes Skye Thompson

Created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, the show centers on the sci-fi adventures of Grandpa Rick and his teenage grandson Morty. Rick, a scientific genius, is often dragging Morty to different planets and galaxies while his daughter (Sarah Chalke) and her husband (the AMAZING Dr. Spaceman, oops I mean Chris Parnell) deal with many of the consequences of their space adventures back on Earth. The show is funny and really well written; my favorite episodes have to be their take on Inception (Lawnmower Dog) and the John Oliver guest starring Anatomy Park.  


The new season of the Adult Swim cartoon comes out later this month and you can watch the trailer here.

Mad Men


Oh Mad Men. With a ton of traveling over the past few months–along with the addition of Mad Men to Hungarian Netflix–rewatching one of my favorite shows of all time became an absolute necessity. I never thought watching the show back in Ladson, SC that I’d be rewatching episodes on trains through London or Amsterdam or on a flight to San Francisco, but here we are.


Mad Men follows the life of Ad Executive Don Draper from the 1940s-1970s (thankfully the show ended before bell-bottoms became a thing, so we were spared Don in 70s dress for the most part). Don, with his questionable history and ever-constant unfaithfulness, is the hero/anti-hero of the show. I love Don but my favorite characters are his first wife Bettie (the underrated and often vilified January Jones), his protege Peggy (the amazing Elisabeth Moss), and his drunken boss Sterling (the dapper John Slatterly).



I could write an entire piece on the unfair treatment shown to the cold Bettie Draper, often listed as one of TV’s worst mothers of all time, but also someone with one of the most fucked up childhoods and treatment as a woman during this time period. As the seasons progress, Don makes similar mistakes over and over, as does Sterling. The progression of Peggy from secretary (“the men who make these machines made them simple enough for a woman to use”) to Copy Chief is one of the most important story-lines of Mad Men. Not to mention her roller-skating in the final season is one of the greatest scenes of the show.


If you haven’t watched it, I’d definitely recommend (clearly, considering that I could apparently write an entire post just on the show). However, I skipped the last two episodes of the final season this time around, because, ugh.

To Play: Fight Songs: The Music of Team Fortress 2 


So incredibly nerdy, I know. Team Fortress 2 is probably my all time favorite game (turning 10 this year!) and I was so excited to see that they were publishing the ridiculous and yet amazing music from the game on a two disc vinyl set. The cartoon-y sequel to Team Fortress Classic (a game I played with my sister wayyyyy back in the day) is known for its fun maps and distinct characters. Chris and I have been listening to the soundtrack non-stop; a few of my favorites are Right Behind You, Rocket Jump Waltz, and Dapper Cadaver.


Bonus video: Meet the Spy which includes my all-time favorite quote: “Pornography starring your mother will be the second worst thing to happen to you today.”

To Do: Gardening


I started a small garden bed this year and am so excited that things are actually growing! I have a few tomato plants, pepper plants, a zucchini plant, and a bunch of herbs. I’ve found that tomatoes grow almost horizontally here (like a bush) so it has been a little difficult making sure my pepper plants have enough room; right now I feel like they’re in a “back off me bro!” stage.


My goal was to make my own paprika. I’m not sure I’ll have enough peppers this summer, but I’m hoping that next year I can have a few of additional beds to accommodate more plants!

To Eat: Hot Cheetos with Lime


Oh man, so apparently Hot Cheetos with Lime have always been a thing, I just never knew of their existence until I visited California. Here in Hungary, we not only don’t have Hot Cheetos readily accessible, but even the regular cheetos (KETCHUP FLAVORED) don’t ever quench that Hot Cheeto hunger. I was able to bring a bag back with me; although when they forced me to check the carry-on bag containing this love of my life (thanks a lot Air Canada), I had a mini mental spazz attack. Thankfully they made the trip.

Related: 23 Symptoms of Being Addicted to Hot Cheetos.

Related: Cheeto that looks like Harambe sells for $100,000.


I was unable to put Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel down; it is one of the most impactful and powerful works of non-fiction I’ve read. Each chapter covers a different branch of two families of descendants from Africa; one family of descendants were captured by slavers and brought to the US while the other, a part of the collaboration with the British to sell slaves to the Americas, has an entirely different history. While each chapter is a different story, I felt that Gyasi (herself from Ghana and later grew up in Alabama) did a decent job connecting all the narratives to form a collection of perspectives both from the coast of Africa and the African American experiences in the states (slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, etc.). While difficult to read at times, Homegoing strives to share these upsetting experiences that are often left out of history books.
To Look Forward To: Icarus
Being released by Netflix on August 4th, the Sundance winner Icarus details the background and extent of the 2014 Russian doping scandal. First time filmmaker Bryan Fogel originally begins the documentary in a “Super-Size Me” style by trying to understand how much performance enhancing drugs could help him become better at sports. With the help of whistleblower and the head of the Russian doping program, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, Fogel switches gears and begins investigating the extent of doping of Russian Olympic athletes.
As we know with investigative work such as Spotlight’s uncovering of Catholic Church sexual abuse and USA Gymnastics’s involvement in the sexual abuse of gymnasts, understanding the institutional aspects of a particular issue can be difficult to prove. Icarus attempts to show that doping was in fact systematic and that knowledge of the illegal use of performance enhancing drugs was known at the highest levels of government. The trailer for the upcoming documentary can be found here.
Watching: Better Call Saul Season 2

Prague Part 2: Old Town

A very belated part 2 of our visit to Prague! You can read part 1 here.

Where are we? 

This blog post I’m concentrating on our time in Old Town, on the right side of the river.


Old Town (or Staré Město) dates all the way back to 1100 AD when the settlement was known for trade, particularly markets held on Saturdays. After the traders gained wealth, King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia granted them the privileges of township and Město pražské was formed; originally the town was surrounded by a moat and 13 gates.

The Sites:


Prague’s Astronomical Clock (Pražský orloj) was built in 1410. This makes it the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and oldest one still in operation.


According to a local legend, hard times will come to the Czech people if the clock stops working.


The dial represents the positions of the Moon and Sun, along with a skeleton representing Death, which strikes the time. 


Jewish Museum of Prague (established in 1906). 



Old-New Synagogue (built between 1210-1280).


Maisel Synagogue (built in the 16th century)


St. Nicholas Church (first mentioned in 1273) was burned down by the French in 1689 and was rebuilt in the 1700s. 



Russian Tsar Nicholas II donated the chandelier of Harrachov crystals. 


Chuch of Our Lady Before Tyn built in the 1200s. 


View from the Astronomical Clock


Old Town Square




Seven Foot Sigmund Freud designed by David Cerney. The sculpture was created to signify his struggle and fear of death. Freud himself committed suicide after struggling with mouth cancer. 


View of the castle


St. Charles Bridge


National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror. Not located in Old Town, but we wanted to see the memorial for the Czech paratroopers behind the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. 

Restaurants & Pubs:



We stopped by Sisters for sandwiches and the restaurant is a great place for a quick snack. Opened by two sisters, the shop specializes in “chlebicek” or open faced sandwiches. There were a ton of varieties but I couldn’t say no to the beet puree.


Fat Cat:


Fat Cat is the perfect place for burgers and sides. The burgers were YYYUUUUUGGGEEE and they had a ton of options for all types of eaters. They also had a number of beers on tap. I forgot to take a picture because I was so overwhelmed by how amazing and how much food we ordered. We had an awesome time with friends.


Prague Beer Museum:


With over thirty beers on tap and one of the best places to try Czech brews, the Prague Beer Museum was our favorite pub. Prague is the beer capital of Eastern Europe and the selection at Prague Beer Museum definitely represented that title.


Joystick Arcade Bar:


An AMAZING find, the Joystick Arcade Bar is one of the underground gems of Prague. Filled with old school video games (include Sonic the Hedgehog and Jurassic Park Pinball!!!!!) we had a blast playing games while enjoying a few beers with friends. Okay, so I probably played Jurassic Park Pinball for at least an hour….

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Klášterní Pivovar Strahov:

Records of this small microbrewery in Old Town show that the operation was around as early as the 13th century. Today Klášterní Pivovar Strahov includes a courtyard, restaurant, and three beers on tap. Highly recommend for a good local beer while visiting Old Town.


Special Mention Bric a Brack Antiques:

Bric a Brack Antiques was one of the coolest shops in Old Town. We stumbled onto the shop by accident and I could have stayed there the entire day looking at treasures.


Others that I loved:


My inner Sean Connery Celebrity Jeopardy laughed wayyyy too long at this


So 90s

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Reading: Charlene Gilbert’s Homecoming

Watching: Batman Season 1 (RIP Adam West)


Prague Part 1: Malá Strana & the Left Bank of the Vltava

This March we spent a few days in Prague, Czech Republic and we had such a great time (read: I took too many pictures) that I thought it might be best to split this adventure up into two separate posts. We spent our first day in Malá Strana and wandering around the left side of the Vltava River.

Where are we?

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The capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, Prague is about a four and a half hour drive for us. Having been in existence for over a thousand years, the city is known for its many historical and cultural sites, as well as an expanding food and beer scene. Germanic tribes replaced the Celtics living in modern-day Prague around 100 BC. In 400 AD the fall of the Roman Empire caused most of these Germanic peoples to move west to Germany; Slavic tribes from Russia and Asia replaced them by the end of the sixth century.

Prague was officially founded by Princess Libuše, an ancestor of the Přemyslid dynasty and the Czech people. The youngest and wisest of three sisters, she became queen after their father died. She held the gift of foreseeing the future, legend states that upon seeing the Vltava River from a cliff, Libuše prophesied:

“I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.”

She then ordered the castle to be built overlooking the river. Construction started in the late 8th century and you can still read some of the masonry under the castle dating back to 885. Another fun Libuše legend I wanted to share: When the male leaders of her tribe were unhappy with a woman ruling, they demanded she marry. Libuše, already in love with a plowman named Přemysl, claimed to have a vision of a farmer with one broken sandal plowing a field. The councilmen found Přemysl in nearby Stadice just as she said; the two were married and had three sons.


“I just might be the next ruler in the making.” #slay

The city is divided by the Vlata River. This first post I’ll just concentrate on our time in Malá Strana and the left bank of the river.


The Sights:



Kostel svateho Josefa built by the Carmelite sisters in 1686-1686.


View from the Castle



Entrance to the castle. The compound is the largest ancient castle in the world.


Prague Castle





The compound (larger than seven football fields) includes the St. Vitus Cathedral.


Mala Strana District


Mala Strana District


Church of Saint Nicholas was built between 1704-1755 on the same site where a 13th century church stood before plans to rebuild the church began.


Prague Castle at night.


St. Charles Bridge




Czech scuplter David Cerny is known for his “tongue and cheek” pieces including this one called “Piss.” We saw more of his work in Old Town.



Malostranská Pivnice:

After wandering around Malá Strana looking for a couple of bars that were only open in the summer (damn seasonality!) we found Malostranská Pivnice on our way back to the apartment. Apparently the pub is located on a former hangman’s house built in 1664 and was opened as a bar in 2002.


Too cute not to snap a picture

I wish I had taken more photos but I was wayyyyy too distracted by the amazing accordion player who was taking folk requests from a group of Russians in the pub. I uploaded these amazing jams here and here.

Cafe Lounge:

Cafe Lounge had an amazing breakfast and coffee menu. The restaurant had a really cool art-deco Great Gatsby vibe that was super cute.

I was overenthusiastic about sitting outside (in March) and the barista kindly reminded us that no normal person wants to enjoy their brunch outdoors during this time of the year. Inside it is!




The Farm Letna: Urban Kitchen & Coffee:

Breakfast all day, changing menu each week, and bike rentals, what else do you need in life? We had lunch at Farm Letna our last morning in Prague.


The restaurant concentrates on using locally sourced produce, meat, and coffee. Shockingly, I chose lunch over breakfast (I know!) because that day they had a soup special that sounded great.

I had the best beet-based veggie burger of my life and Chris had the club sandwich, which was a perfect opportunity to state all of the Lion King “cub” sandwich puns from the elephant graveyard scene.





View from the Airbnb


Obligatory Prague Castle Selfie


My favorite house


Up Next: Prague Part 2 including Old Town, Beer Museums, and the quest for Jurassic Park arcade games.


Watching: Master of None Season 2

Listening: Team Fortress 2 Fight Songs Soundtrack

Reading: Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur



❤ Ashlyn

Things I’m Loving 4.21

To Watch: Trailer Park Boys Legends of the Hidden Temple

Trailer Park Boys

For those not familiar with the beauty of this show, Trailer Park Boys is a mockumentary centered around three friends (Ricky, Bubbles, and Julian) living in the Sunnyville Trailer Park in Nova Scotia, Canada. The show follows the trashiest, most wonderful adventures of the boys making money and escaping their alcoholic, ex-cop of a Trailer Park Supervisor, Mr. Lahey. First released in 2003 and now in the eighth season, it’s crazy that the actors have been playing these characters for so long.

The eighth season of Trailer Park Boys was released by Netflix two weeks ago. Admittedly, there is a hole in my heart without J-Roc on the show, but its TPB so I’ll take what I can get. If you haven’t seen the show please do yourself a favor and start.


 Legends of the Hidden Temple


Oh, Legends of the Hidden Temple. Oh, Olmec. Oh, Kirk Fog. Oh, childhood things. Did you know that you can watch old episodes of the show on YouTube? 90s kids–your life is about to change.

The Nickelodeon show ran from 1993-1995 with teams competing for prizes based on physical challenges, answering questions, and, most importantly, escaping the guards and finding the hidden object in the temple run. Legends of the Hidden Temple featured a giant talking face named Olmec and Fog as the khaki-shorts-and-utility-belt-wearing-trying-to-keep-a-straight-face-host.


This show is just so 90’s I can’t handle it. The glasses, the socks, the haircuts, and the prizes (DON’T WORRY! THEY’RE STILL GETTING THE REMOTE CONTROL CAR AND THE FASHION BUG GIFT CARD!) are so amazing that you owe it to yourself to rewatch them. Watching these kids continuously mess up putting together the Shrine of the Silver Monkey (COME ON IT’S THREE PIECES!) is still just as frustrating today as it was in 1994.


Chris and I have been rewatching episodes and choosing to cheer for our teams as if we were watching college football. Highly recommend.

To Play: 99% Invisible


Last month two friends told me about the 99% Invisible podcast. Hosted by Roman Mars and a collaboration between the American Institute of Architects and radio station KALW, each episode overviews an aspect of design that is largely absent from view. I first listened to “The Falling of the Lenins“, which discussed how Ukrainians are literally dismantling history by tearing down Soviet-era statues of Vladimir Lenin in towns across the country. How do cultures evolve and see their society? What do statues and other forms of public displays actually mean? Of course I fangirl-ed the hell out of this episode. A bonus episode I recommend is “War and Pizza“, a collaboration with Gravy. The episode details the history of the American military in developing many of the processed foods we see in grocery stores today.

To Do: Local Markets

Spring is finally here (-ishhhhh considering we had a random snowstorm this week) and there are a ton of cute markets selling different cheeses, produce, and homemade goods.


Market in nearby Nagygimot

Got to spend the morning wandering around with this cute pup ❤


Random trip to Austria in a snowstorm for craft beers


Being a part of a lovely spring floral design workshop featuring local flowers (the tulips here are incredibly beautiful) and a wonderful host


When the local dairy farm opens a shop how can you choose just one specialty cheese?

To Eat: Homemade Pizza Boats

One of the greatest successes of my life is getting Chris to call french bread pizzas their true name–pizza boats. My family always called them that and growing up they were one of our favorite dinners. In Charleston, Chris and I would buy baguettes from our neighborhood bakery (EVO Pizza) and make our own. Here in Pápa, I was at the grocery store and randomly saw the baker wrap up a few olive baguettes still warm from the oven.


Chris is a great cook, especially when it comes to grilling. After grilling our baguette, we loaded them up with toppings: szalami (pepperoni) for Chris and gomba (mushrooms) for me. They were so good and so filling I nearly fell asleep half way through eating mine.

To Self Care: Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary 


All photos via Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary Facebook page

Former intern and overall wonderful person Alexandra Keane just opened her own herbal remedies shop, Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary. As a student, she was always drawn to herbal medicinal practices and native knowledge; while working for the Sustainability Office, we helped re-establish the outdoor garden at the political science department where she was able to actually put these interests into practice. After graduation Alexandra worked with the College of Charleston’s Grounds Department where she developed the Restorative Agriculture Program.


Following her success at CofC, she opened her own online shop of homemade and locally sourced teas, salves, and other products meant to promote self care and the healing power of herbal plants. We ordered the fire cider (helps with digestion, relieves sinus congestion, and helps ward off the flu and colds) and lavender salve (calming skin moisturizer and lovely to use before bed) a few weeks ago; it was like receiving a little box of positivity in the mail. Chris and I take shots of the cider each morning and I use the salve before bed and to help heal the cracking on my hands (my now southerner blood is definitely not used to this thinner European air!)

One of the greatest aspects about Sacred Circle is that every product is made with care and incredibly locally sourced; ingredients are either grown in Alexandra’s own garden or from growers in Charleston. Check out this amazingly detailed blog about the life cycle of one her salves (an LCA nerd myself–basically my entire graduate research–it’s this attention to detail that really sets Sacred Circle Herbal Apothecary apart from other herbal shops). As someone who struggles with taking time for herself, practicing self care, and generally skeptic of how businesses source their ingredients, I love being one of her customers (we just ordered more fire cider and other goodies yesterday).



So proud of this amazing woman and all she has accomplished! Check out her shop (she currently has Seasonal Wellness and Get Well kits available) and this badass interview with There Could Be Blackberries!

To Look Forward To: Babushkas of Chernobyl


I am so excited that the Babushkas of Chernobyl documentary was finally released on iTunes this week. Director Holly Morris recorded the lives of the elderly Babushkas who returned to villages within the toxic “Exclusion Zone” right outside of Chernobyl’s deadly nuclear site. While the villages near the center were originally evacuated–it is currently against the law to live or travel in the Exclusion Zone–roughly one hundred women returned to their homes and currently subsist off the toxic landscape.

Many of the women lived through Nazi occupation and the Soviet-implemented Holodomor before being forced to leave their homes following the meltdown of Reactor #4. For them, the independence and love for their homeland brought them back:

“At her cottage, Hanna Zavorotyna brews homemade moonshine and slices thick chunks of salo, raw pig fat – though it is strictly forbidden to eat local food. “Starvation is what scares me, not radiation,” she says. That stark choice reveals an incredible journey the women have traveled: from Stalin’s enforced famines in the 1930s, through Nazi occupation, to nuclear disaster. Like the wolves, moose, wild boar and other wildlife not seen for decades that have come back to the abandoned forests around Chernobyl, the women of the Exclusion Zone, too, have an extraordinary story of survival, and offer a dark yet strangely affirming portrait of life post-apocalypse.”

You can watch the trailer here. Even if you don’t watch the film, the trailer is worth a viewing just to hear one of the Babushkas talk about where the men have gone.


“Why you so worried about time anyway? The only time I’m concerned with is having a good one.”                    —JRoc

“It’s so hard to Dance & Drink at the Same Time!”: Adventures in Ljubljana, Slovenia

On our way back from Italy were able to stop in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, for one night. Never in my life would I have thought I’d have the opportunity to visit and fall in love with the capital of Slovenia, but Ljubljana was lovely and I can’t wait to go back.

Where are we?

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The name Ljubljana (Lue-be-on-a) originates from the Slavic verb “ljublyoob” which translates as“to love.” The name is fitting to the gorgeous city. Settlements near the Ljubljana marshes were first mentioned in 2000 BC and is also where the oldest wagon wheel in the world was found. The city is known for its “Ljubljana Dragon”, which is illustrated on the top tower of the castle. According to Slavic legend, the slaying of a dragon releases water–therefore ensuring the Earth’s fertility–and again corresponds with the city’s marshes.


Driving from Italy. What isn’t depicted here is me screaming boy band lyrics while Chris is driving.


View from our apartment:



Castle view. Lol like I’m going up there but you get the point.


Chris: Classy vs. Classic Chris


A trip to Preseren Square:


Franciscan Church of the Annunciation (Construction began in 1646)


At Night

The next day we visited Prešeren Square and wandered around the surrounding districts. Thankfully the weather held up and we were able to see a lot of the city before heading home.





Preseren Monument









Robba Fountain (Fountain of the Three Carniolan Rivers) represents the gods of the three rivers of Carniola: Lubljanica, Sava, and Kirka


St. Nicholas’s Church (built in 1700)


Side of the Cathedral with a Portrait of the Bishops

Me and Mo: Giggly and Singing Beyonce

Eat: Pop’s Place Burgers

We only had a chance to have one meal while visiting Ljubljana and it was awesome. Pop’s Place has a ton of different burgers, apps, and locally sourced beer and ingredients. Our server was awesome; he was super knowledgeable and had a laugh with us.


These peppers were pretty similar to shoshito, one of my favorite dishes in Charleston.




Veggie Burger (maybe shed a little tear here)

Plus a little bonus Keanu (from Parenthood, one of my favorites!) with Slovenian subtitles:


What more can you ask for in life?