Beijing + Qingdao, China

the view from our Qingdao hotel – on the 34th floor!

look familiar? I look almost exactly the same as I did on our trip to Ireland!

First off, I’d like to totally apologize for taking soooooo to get this up. We were in China back in late February – I was six months pregnant at the time and now we have a two month old. What?! Absolutely embarrassed.

China. Where do I even start?
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We’re Back From…

I haven’t taken the photos from the trip off my camera and this was the best phone photo. :/


This isn’t going to be a detailed post as my brain is super foggy from 46 hours travel time and jet lag – I’ll go into more detail about why it took us so long to get back in my upcoming China travel post – but I figured an update is in order.

China itself was a mix of huge ups and really low downs and while I can’t say that I love China or that I’d ever really want to go back, I am glad that we went and got to experience most things we did. We saw the Summer Palace, ate some amazing food (and some not so amazing food 😦 ) and, by some miracle, were able to hike a portion of the Great Wall with me being six months pregnant. I’m sure our mothers’ will scold the hell out of me when they find out and see pictures of the death stairs I had to climb crawl up. And I literally mean crawl.
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Ireland Travel Guide


It’s hard to believe that its been two months since we were coming home from Ireland; the holidays are sure taking their toll on Father Time!

We spent a total of nine days in Ireland, making a loop around the island from Dublin to Galway to Killarney to Cork to Kilkenny and back up to Dublin – with all kinds of stops in between! It was a roller coaster from day one (technically day 0 because we spent most of our departure flight day driving to the airport), but we had a blast. Ireland is a gorgeous country with so much history, we couldn’t possibly do it all. But try, we did. 🙂

We ended up driving ourselves – and by that I mean my dear, sweet husband tried his hardest to keep calm driving through roundabouts three times while I’m holding onto my seat, praying we make it – and we’d totally do it again. Honestly, it really wasn’t that bad. I think our saving grace was that we picked up the car in Dublin at the airport and immediately got out of the city and on our way to Galway and then we turned the car in when we got back to Dublin. Driving through the majority of Ireland is a piece of cake. Dublin, not so much.
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Overnight Flight Survivial

Today I am boarding my first overnight flight! In preparation, I ordered my husband and myself some items to help make our trip a little more comfortable. I just love having excuses to buy fun stuff from Amazon! 🙂

Carry On Bags
The one downside of getting a simple set of luggage is that there are not two of any size piece of luggage. I don’t know why, but it drives me nuts that although my suitcase and my husbands’ match, one is bigger than the other. I have plans to buy a second matching set so that we each have the perfect size suitcase (and when we have kids, they’ll match mommy and daddy, too!), but for now buying two matching carry ons will have to tide me over. Here are the bags I purchased.

My husband has ADHD. Diagnosed, unmedicated ADHD. He stopped taking his medication because as it wore off, it had extremely negative side effects and in the long run just wasn’t worth it. As he has gotten older, he manages it much better, but there are still times I want to kill him. When he drives, he bounces his leg because he’s bored; if he’s a passenger he is constantly complaining that he’s bored and how much longer. It’s a vicious cycle. Luckily, we have all the equipment we need to keep ourselves entertained while we’re awake; we each bring a laptop, mp3 player, phone and a book. I purchased these headphones specifically for our flight.
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Outfits · Travel

Outer Banks Travel Guide

Crop Top / Culotte Shorts / Cat Eye Sunglasses

Wrap Romper similar here / Pointed Toe Heels similar here / Zipper Satchel similar here / Pearl Studs similar here

“Mrs” Tee similar here / Levi’s 501 Shorts in Roadside Blues / Cat Eye Sunglasses / Flip Flops

Off Shoulder Floral Dress similar here / Dress Sandals / Triple Ball Earrings

Beaches. Forests. Food. What more could you want? Oh yeah. That quaint hometown vibe with a very minimal touristy feel. That last one is a biggie for us. The Outer Banks is a place where as soon as we’re gone, we want to go back.

Apologies for some of these photos! I triple checked my camera every time we went outside to shoot because the humidity kept fogging my lens, but some of the fog got by me. Oops! And yes, those cat eye sunglasses were my absolute favorite on this trip. 🙂

Where We Stay
Duck. Duck. Goose? No, just Duck. Seriously, the best area on the Outer Banks. It’s south of Corolla and north of Kitty Hawk and it’s a drive to get to the best restaurants and things to do but worth it to be out of the way. The best thing about Duck (and Southern Shores) is that there is absolutely no public beach access – the entire area is all private beach for owners and their renters. And yes, the beach is within walking distance no matter where you stay. From previous experience staying in Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills, I will absolutely stay in Duck or Southern Shores from now on.

Food is a huge part of our lives – on vacation, it’s no different. Although it’s not feasible for everyone, we make a point to eat out every night because it’s a huge part of the experience for us. We’d much rather eat fantastic local food than hit up the expensive touristy attractions.

Blue Moon Beach Grill in Nags Head
We had a 45 minute wait, there were people waiting for an hour and a half and about 50 people turned up and decided not to wait. It was literally that popular. It currently holds the top restaurant spot in Nags Head on Tripadvisor and it definitely lives up to that honor. Every single thing that came out of the kitchen looked and smelled incredible. I ordered the Truckstop (pork tenderloin over skillet potatoes smothered in sage gravy) and my husband ordered the Shrimp & Grits and both dishes were perfect! Mine was literally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten and although I do not personally like grits my husbands’ shrimps were huge and cooked perfectly and the flavor combo of the grits was out of this world.

Kill Devil Grill in Kill Devil Hills
This small diner themed restaurant scores huge all across the board. The staff is super friendly and attentive, the food is incredible and the retro feel is so fun! We loved this restaurant so much the last time we were in OBX that it was immediately on our list to return to. I got the same thing that I did years ago (the Big Kahuna Burger) and it was just as awesome as I remember. My husband ordered the highly recommended special (swordfish with cheese grits and pineapple tomatillo salsa – I had a bite!) and it was just incredible – the plating was beautiful and the swordfish was like butter. Well worth the trip back.

Donutz on a Stick in Duck
I’ll be honest, I had no intention of going here – doughnuts on a stick sounded incredibly boring to me. Boy, was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! If I can remember correctly they have about 30 flavors of doughtnuts and 20ish flavors of ice cream (hand scooped and soft serve) plus a few toppings and coffee drinks. Naturally I ordered the most calorific sounding item on the menu – a doughnut sundae. Best. Day. Ever. They literally make the doughnuts fresh as you order so they’re still warm when they scoop the ice cream on top. The combo I chose was chocolate doughnuts with salted caramel truffle ice cream and they top it with hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry. Talk about the most amazing sundae I have ever had. Period. No shame in admitting I drank the melted ice cream bit left over at the end. Yes, literally drank it. I’m also not ashamed to admit we got ice cream here three times during the week we were in OBX.

Eduardo’s Taco Stand in Ocracoke
Yes, I know – most people don’t go down that far. And I don’t blame them, unless you’re staying in Ocracoke, it’s really not worth the trip; not much to see, the houses and shops and restaurants are so close to each other it feels like the island is going to pop and frankly it’s a hassle to get back and forth from the island to the mainland. However. This mexican food truck serves the most incredible mexican food my husband and I have ever had. I ordered a ground beef burrito and he got a spicy carnita burrito – both were out of this world! There was a line from the time we came onto the island to when we headed back to the ferry. It’s the most consistently busy food truck I have ever seen. Would I go back to Ocracoke for the stuff to do? Not likely, unless I was staying the entire week on the island. Would I go back for Eduardo’s? Hell yes.

Food Dudes in Kill Devil Hills
Unfortunately, we did not get to eat here this time around – we ended up going to Sanya and although it was really good, our hometown sushi place is just as tasty and I ended up wishing we’d gone to Food Dudes instead. Last time I ordered a pulled pork taco and my husband ordered a southwestern steak wrap – both were to die for and those waffle fries, oh my! If you’re going to eat out only once my recommendation is for either Blue Moon Beach Grill or this place! Seriously, one of my all time favorite restaurants anywhere.

Miller’s Waterfront in Nags Head
As beautiful as it would have been had we eaten here at sunset, we opted for lunch instead. I ordered a shrimp po’boy and my husband ordered the crab dipped burger. Seriously, the best fried shrimp I have ever had – the sandwich was overflowing with it! – and the house made tartar sauce was just incredible. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his sandwich – he’s giving it a solid 9 out of 10 –  and then he enjoyed the rest of my sandwich that I was unable to finish (curse my small tummy!). And although it wasn’t sunset, the view was still amazing.

Duck Donuts
I typically don’t do cake doughnuts, but these are my exception. Usually, we both pick six flavors each and eat on them for a few days but this time we showed some restraint and only got one each. I got just a powdered doughnut – I had been sick the night before and the morning of – and he got a chocolate and peanut butter drizzle. They have lots of coatings, drizzle and topping options and you can mix and match to make some really unique flavors – some customer favorites include lemon coating with coconut, Oreo with vanilla and chocolate drizzle and maple coating with bacon crumbles!

Things To Do
Because Outer Banks isn’t a massive tourist trap, there’s not a whole lot to do if you’re into the super touristy stuff. Luckily, we’re not and we still had plenty to do.

Destination Fun in Kill Devil Hills
Maybe not for everyone, but totally worth it if you’re into arcade games and laser tag. I’ll be honest, I was not looking super forward to playing laser tag – I had never played before and really wasn’t sure what to expect – but my little brother was looking forward to it all week, so we went. I had a blast! I was literally running all over the laser tag room and crawling on the floor (it pays to have a pair of sandals in your purse when you wore heels to dinner!). Our team consisted of me, my husband, my sister and her husband, my other sister and my brother and everyone walked out of that room sweaty and smiling. Side note: we beat the other two teams (a team of 7 and a team of 5) by 10,000 points. Sorry, not sorry.

Nags Head Woods in Nags Head
Until two or three years ago, we had no idea that this place existed. We figured you go to Outer Banks to go to the beach, so no hiking trails. Wrong! There are actually quite a few places to hike in the Outer Banks, but this one is our favorite. There are seven trails, all of which are nothing alike; some take you just through forest, some go through marshy areas and at least one leads you out to a really cool beachy area that I believe is along the bay. It’s a nice break from the beach if you need it, or on not so beach friendly days. Bring your bug spray!

Duck Town Boardwalk in Duck
And we’re back to Donutz on a Stick. Not really, but it is located on the bay side boardwalk along with a bunch of quirky and fun shops, cafes and the like. The sun sets right over the bay, so it’s a nice spot to meander along at the end of the day, ice cream in hand, waiting for the sunset.

Lost Colony Show in Manteo
This is also something I did not know existed until this year. Tripadvisor, folks, Tripadvisor. The theater itself is where the events of the play are supposed to have taken place, which really creates a supernatural feeling. Not a creepy, unpleasant sort but more of a feeling of oneness with those who came before. Tickets are from $20 – $35 depending on how close you want to sit – we sat in $20 seats and it was perfectly fine. The show itself is amazing – from costumes to acting, everything was spot on. Unfortunately, I ended up feeling really sick through the first act, and then being sick during the second – but all was good after that. I’d definitely see it again, sick or not. Bring your bug spray!

Ghost Tours of the OBX
This is the one you want, not OBX Ghost Tours. This tour is the original ghost tour of the Outer Banks and it shows. Our tour guide was dressed in a very Jack the Ripper-esque outfit, carried a real lantern and the way he told stories had a very “dark and stormy night in an old Irish pub” feel to it – it was fantastic! On the other hand, the second tour, OBX Ghost Tours, was a woman in jeans and a tshirt carrying a battery powered lamp leading about 60-70 people around. (Our tour had only 37 people and let’s be honest, ghost tours are not ghost tours with that many people – takes the spook out of it.) If it’s not Jack the Ripper and it’s not a real lantern, it’s not the real deal.

Been to the Outer Banks? Live there? If I missed anything you’d recommend, I’d love to hear it!

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Road Trip Survival Guide

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Recycled Karma Hello Friday Sweater similar here / Levi’s 501 Shorts in Roadside Blues / Nine West Zipper Satchel similar here / Tommy Hilfiger T Strap Sandals similar here / Circus by Sam Edelman Gray Glasses similar here

By the time you’re reading this I will be in Tennessee. I will have hopefully endured an eight hour drive with my limbs, sanity and husband in tact. Fingers crossed. Here are my tips and tricks for not coming out of the car a convicted woman.

Have a meal plan.
This is HUGE for me. (Notice the bold, italicized capital letters.) I have worked extremely hard to lose about 30 pounds and I am not about to rebound. Obviously, eating well while you’re travelling can be difficult so here are my tips.

You don’t have to eat fast food. Shocking, I know. But just because you need to get back to the road doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) stop for a bite. Long drives can do a number on your physical and emotional wellbeing and more often than not an hour to sit and enjoy a meal out of the car is a welcome relief. Still feeling the time constraint? Pack a meal before you leave and picnic at a rest stop. Saves calories, time and your budget.

Pack snacks. A road trip is not a road trip without snacks and having some on hand will decrease the number of stops you make and keep you from getting hangry. Some things you’ll find in my cooler are snack bars, Fiber One Brownies (the mint one is to die for!), something salty like pretzels or chips, at least two different kinds of candy and plenty of drink options.

A first aid kit is a must.
I have a DIY first aid that I’m always adding to and I keep it in my car at all times. You never know when you’ll need it and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Basic items to include: bandaids, tylenol, dramamine, itch relief, sleeping pills, antiseptic, tweezers.

Organize, organize, organize.
My little mama gifted me the American Tourister Pop Plus 3 Piece Set for my bridal shower last year and it is perfect; simple, well made and…black. Love me some black. (It also comes in a few other colors if black isn’t your thing.) She also gave me a set of Amazon Basics Packing Cubes (2 medium, 2 large) and a set of the smaller Amazon Basics Packing Cubes (4 small). Typically, I use the large ones for clothes, medium for swimsuits or pajamas and the smallest for lingerie and undies. We purchased the Lavievert Toiletry Bag because the luggage set above doesn’t actually come with a toiletry bag and I have a separate makeup travel bag for all my beauty products. I use a David Yurman travel jewelry case my sister picked up at a thrift store for $1.78, similar here.

As for documents, I have this document organizer on my wishlist for next trip. I plan on using it to hold reservation confirmations, prepurchased tickets, passports and to organize carry-on items.

Invest in travel “guides”.
I do not like being lost. Let me repeat that. I do not like being lost and when I’m in the car we don’t get lost. Ever. I like to keep four essential travel helpers in my car at all times. A GPS, an actual paper map of the state we’re visting (you can find these at rest stops or what I like to do is have one mailed to me for free before we go – just google free road map of ________ state), a wirebound atlas (it’s easier to keep open) and my trusty Next Exit book. The Next Exit book is my absolute favorite because it lets you see what is off an exit WAAAAAAAY before the road signs do so you can plan ahead to stop for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings 100 miles before you’re there.

Dress to impress….
…your butt into your seat. I don’t ever travel in jeans and heels. It’s not practical, it’s not comfortable and road trip ninja skills are always necessary. My favorite travel outfits always include: leggings, a tunic, some type of wrap or cardigan and flip flops.

Preferably not something your husband listens to or you’ll have to listen to him screech the entire trip. (Just kidding!) Here are my favorite eight albums to have on my MP3 player for trips.

Your Favorite Weapon by Brand New
Self Titled Album by Good Charlotte
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse
Greatest Hits by Journey
Oracular Spectacular by MGMT
Self Titled Album by Foxy Shazam
Self Titled Album by The Used
Fang Bang by Wednesday 13

What do you do to stay sane on the road?

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hello friday roadside blues sandals sunglasses BLACK SATCHEL

luggage  packing cubes toiletry bag makeup bag jewelry case document organizer next exit atlas

brand new good charlotte modest mouse journey mgmt foxy shazam the used wednesday 13