Monthly Archives: May 2016

Amsterdam in a Weekend

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Can I just tell you how much I love Amsterdam? Like I’ve been back a few days, but I’m still on a high from the loveliness that I experienced love. Like I wanna pack up and move there right now love. Like I can’t stop talking about how amazing it was love. Seriously…when can I move there?

Last Thursday, I headed to Amsterdam for a work conference, and decided to stay the weekend. It was a last minute trip, so I didn’t really have time to look into what I would see or do, nor have I ever really given much thought to traveling to Amsterdam. It was one of those “if I go, I go. If I don’t, I don’t.” situations for me. The only thing I had really heard about it was that you could do drugs there. Well, that’s not appealing to me at all, so I didn’t think much about it. Boy was I wrong! There’s so much more to Amsterdam that the drugs and the Red Light District!

My favorite things about Amsterdam can be summed up in these categories: Bikes, Food, Cheese (yes, I realize it’s food, but let’s be honest, it really needs its own category), Canals, Flowers, and Architecture.

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Bikes. First of all, they’re everywhere! All around town, you can find them chained to bridges and fences, crammed into parking lots (just for bikes), crowding sidewalks, and of course, being ridden. I love their sturdy design and the front apparatus for attaching all sorts of baskets. There are separate bike lanes on all roads, and they always have the right-of-way. I would be in heaven here!

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Food. OMG! If you are a foodie, Amsterdam is for you! I have to go back just for the sheer fact that I didn’t get to try all the foods I wanted to with the limited time I had. Not only can you get amazing cuisine from around the world (I had some pretty bad ass Thai food!), you can get some local delicacies only found in Holland! Two of my favorites were the poffertjes, pillowy little pancakes that are tasty with just a touch of butter and powdered sugar, and the most delicious cookie I’ve ever had, a double-chocolate confection that, when broken in half, reveals a melted white chocolate center. Both are pictured above. Apologies if your mouth is watering now.

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Cheese. Seriously, this was one of the highlights of my trip! I love good cheese, and I did not come across a cheese I didn’t like while I was there. In addition to my cheese plate for dinner, I visited the cheese shop three times to sample and purchase the variety of cheeses and sauces you see above. I brought home a spicy chili gouda, pesto gouda, 6 month and 12 month goat cheese, 4 month and 24 month gouda, apple cinnamon gouda, cranberry gouda, Maxima, and Old Amsterdam cheese. Additionally, I picked up some whole grain mustard, balsamic mustard, and pomegranate jam to go along with them. I cannot wait to break into them! Yumm!

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Canals. Who doesn’t love the novelty of beautiful canals running through the city? Amsterdam’s canals reminded me of Venice. I didn’t have time to take a cruise around in a boat, but next time, I’m definitely going to do it!

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Flowers. I missed tulip season by a few weeks, but that didn’t matter, flowers were everywhere! Beautiful blooms dotted the city in planters, vases, flower shop stalls, gardens, and balconies. The vibrant colors and gorgeous varieties caught my eye everywhere I went!

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Architecture. The old European feel of the city came through in the architecture. I loved the ornate designs on the old churches, the rows of townhouses and shops that lined the canals, and even the occasional leaning building. Amsterdam is definitely charming!

Overall, I highly recommend putting Amsterdam on your list! This beautiful, surprising city has catapulted to my top 5 cities around the world!

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Brought in 35 with a BANG!

So…my birthday was last week, and I celebrated on Saturday night with an epic theme party (oh how I love a good theme party)! My friend Keri and I planned one of the best parties I’ve ever had! The theme was Prom, and the plan was a scavenger hunt bar crawl. The best part was that we actually had a surprise prom set up at the last bar, complete with decorations, a photo booth, snacks, cake, and spiked punch.

It all began with the invitation…including a picture of me at my Junior Prom (19 years ago!!!). Oh man, I had such a baby face back then!

IMG_1904Next up was planning the scavenger hunt…this was definitely the most fun part of the planning process! We categorized the tasks into photos, videos, things to collect, and drinks to drink. The best part was that all photos and videos had to be uploaded to Instagram throughout the night with the hashtag #keslerprompubcrawl so we could follow the other groups and see what they were up to!

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We all met up at one bar, got into teams (we were Team Spice Girls), and began working our way through the scavenger hunt. Along the way, there were checkpoints where we would see our friends/competitors and trash talk one another. Some of my favorite tasks were singing “I’m a Little Teapot” (with motions) in front of a slew of people at a crowded bar, finding a stranger to play Rock, Paper, Scissors (we had to teach him first!), and me convincing a stranger to let me try his food (it was good, by the way).

The Prom party at the end was AMAZING! Not only did it look (almost) like a real prom, but we had hired a DJ to play music that would have been at my prom, so everyone was dancing and singing along to songs like Will Smith’s Getting Jiggy With It, K-Ci & Jojo’s All My Life, and N’Sync’s Bye, Bye, Bye! Everyone had a ball taking selfies and group shots in front of the photo booth display. At the end of the night, we even crowned a Prom King and Queen…and guess who was Prom Queen?!? Yep…you guessed it! It was me! 🙂

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the night…it was definitely hard to narrow it down to just a few!

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35 was definitely one to remember…I had a BLAST! 🙂

 

35 Things that Make Me Happy!

As I approach my 35th birthday later this week, I am struck by the fact that I don’t have any real feelings toward it. I’m not worried or sad about getting older, nor am I overly excited about it. I’m excited about my kick ass birthday party this weekend, but I love planning parties, so that’s no surprise! I think I find it odd because 25 really bothered me. Something about no longer being able to say I was in my early 20’s rubbed me the wrong way. No other birthday before or after 25 has bothered me.

For today’s slice, I thought I’d take a page from fellow blogger Michelle’s book and write a list of 35 things that make me happy. Here goes! (in no particular order)

  1. Goat cheese! (I had some with dinner tonight…yum!)
  2. Traveling! OMG I live for my next trip! (Coincidentally my next trip is Amsterdam in 9 days!)
  3. Slow mornings
  4. Organizing and planning
  5. My family (I get to see them in less than 2 months! EEEK!)
  6. Making lists…hehe
  7. Decorating my home
  8. Cooking
  9. A new journal
  10. Lip syncing! I equally love doing it and watching it.
  11. Soft pajamas
  12. English Breakfast Tea, Twinings to be exact
  13. Chai Tea Lattes…especially from Starbucks
  14. Teaching
  15. Sharing a story…in a book or from my life, it doesn’t matter to me
  16. Smiles
  17. Videos…inspirational, funny, informative
  18. My friends
  19. Blogging…so far I haven’t missed a Tuesday since the SOL Challenge ended!
  20. Biking around the city
  21. Making new friends
  22. Coming home to a clean apartment
  23. Spending time on the beach
  24. Glasses!
  25. Living abroad…it has shaped who I am today
  26. Theme parties
  27. Queso!!!
  28. Artwork that speaks to me
  29. Finding a new book
  30. Listening to music
  31. Sharing my joy with others…whatever it is that day!
  32. A good pen…I’m totally like my dad about this one.
  33. Massages
  34. Brunch
  35. Firsts…love trying something new! Here’s to more firsts this year! 🙂
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Michelle, Linner, and me on my birthday last year…man I miss these gals!

PYP Exhibition was a Huge Success!

Earlier this week I blogged a bit about Exhibition. While it was a ton of work for everyone involved, I couldn’t be prouder of the students and teachers who made it all possible! Yesterday, the Grade 5 students presented their Exhibition three times, once to the PYP students, one to the MYP students, and once to their parents. While we were all beat at the end of the night, we had a blast!

We began with an introduction by the Grade 5 teachers, school Director, Head of Secondary School, and me. Then the student groups took turns presenting the main points of their project, including their technology and art components, and their action as a result of the Exhibition. Following the group presentations, the audience was invited to view the display boards to learn more about the students’ research and ask questions. Lastly, visitors left a positive comment about something they loved about the presentations.

Click here to watch a short video of our Exhibition!

Today the students reflected A TON on the whole Exhibition process. They assessed themselves, wrote about challenges they encountered and how they overcame them, and celebrated their successes. Tomorrow we’ve invited all of the mentors and experts to have a pizza party to celebrate the end of the Exhibition! They definitely deserve a party…they’ve worked hard! 🙂

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I just loved reading all the positive things people had to say about the students! They loved reading them, too. The notes helped boost their confidence and made them feel proud! 🙂

Surrounded by PYP…and Loving It!

Holding dual roles at school means that sometimes I wear one hat more than the other. Lately my PYP Coordinator hat has been on more often, as our Exhibition has been fast-approaching (it’s TOMORROW!). Last week and this week, I have been surrounded by PYP– literally. I can’t seem to get away from it, but I sorta love it!

As I mentioned, our Exhibition presentations are tomorrow. Our Grade 5 students, teachers, and mentors have been working their little tails off getting ready for this momentous occasion for the past 6 weeks. Their collaborative, in-depth inquiry has lead them to some really interesting learning experiences and to take action in their local community. Here’s a video of their journey thus far. Today, I attended a field trip to our sister school, ACD, to attend their Exhibition, and then worked with the students on perfecting their presentations and display boards. I think know we are ready!


In addition to the Exhibition, we held a PYP training for all staff this past Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately I was sick and could not attend all of the training, but the teachers did some amazing thinking and reflection while I was gone!

A documentary made about our school, and how we teach, was just released online today. It shows what it’s like attending and teaching at an international school in Albania, but also what it means to have an IB education. We are a candidate school for all 3 programmes of the IB- PYP, MYP, and DP!

Lastly, today during recess, I was drawn to a group of girls who were playing in the field. I watched them a short while and noticed they were gathering items and piling them up. I decided to investigate. After approaching the group (one in preschool, one in Grade 1, and two in Grade 2), I asked them what they were doing. They explained they were building a nest for the birds. When I questioned them further, they explained that people are cutting down trees, so birds no longer have homes, therefore they built a nest for the birds. They included leaves, flowers, dried twigs, berries, and a long stick. The berries were for food, of course, and the stick was so the bird could locate the nest and have something to sit on. The interesting thing is that they are all learning about Sharing the Planet at this time, although their Central Ideas vary. This group of girls decided, on their own during their free time, to take action to help animals who are losing their homes. If that’s not PYP, I don’t know what is!

It’s moments like this that remind me of why I do what I do and why I believe in it so much!

Unexpected Bump in the Road

If you know me or read my blog, you know I love to travel. Let’s be real…I live for it. Traveling is this amazingly fun adventure where you get to explore new places you’ve never been or familiar places with a different perspective. With travel comes adventure, but not always the kind you are looking for.

Case in point: Last Thursday my friend Callie and I departed for our trip to Pisa and Florence for the long weekend. We’ve had this trip planned for months. And by planned, I mean we bought our airplane tickets in December. A couple of weeks ago we booked our accommodation, too. We flew in and out of Pisa, but decided to spend the majority of our time in Florence because it’s much cooler, plus it has so much more to do. Our time in Pisa was pretty much spent on the Leaning Tower and pizza. I mean, what else do you need?

Anyhow, we arrived in Pisa later than expected due to flight delays. We hopped in a cab and headed to our hotel, this cute little B&B a stone’s throw from the tower. After being dropped off, we realized the hotel was closed. As in the door was locked, lights were out, no one was there to check us in closed. Cold, tired, and ready to crawl into our beds, we began to wonder what we should do. Of course, our phones don’t work in Italy, there was no free wifi in the random alley we happened to be in, and it was 11:30 pm, so Pisa was pretty deserted. The sign on the door said “For check in after 11pm or for emergencies, call {this number}.” That’d be cool…if we had a phone.

Selfie with the hotel…proof that we were there!

Being the resourceful people that we are, we noticed a young woman looking out of her open window about 3 stories up in the building across the alley. “Hello!” we called, “Can you help us?”

“Yeah, what do you need?” She speaks English! I thought.

“We booked this hotel for the night, but they are closed. We need to call them, but don’t have a phone. Could you call the number for us?”

After relaying the number to her, she tried twice, but no one answered. So much for emergencies.

At that point, she told us she thought she knew the building code. We tried the code she gave us several times to no avail. At that point, I was cold and frustrated and didn’t want to wait around or sleep outside, so I made the executive decision to find a new hotel. Not knowing our way around Pisa, we waited on a cab to pass by and take us to a nearby place. Luckily, it didn’t take too long. The first place we were taken was a bit bleh and not the cleanest place ever. Moving on, we decided to take the taxi driver’s recommendation of The Tower Plaza, the best hotel in town. It was definitely nice– and expensive! Oh well, at midnight, after working all day and traveling all night, I was willing to fork over the 100 Euros for a warm shower and a clean, comfy bed.

Once in the hotel room, Callie signed onto wifi and checked her email. Whaddya know, the hotel had sent her an email to explain that late check in, which is any time after 11:00 pm, means that you have to have a code to get in the door (which was included in the email). The email was sent at 10:54 pm. 10:54 pm. Six minutes before check in ended. At 10:54 pm, we were getting off the airplane, getting our bags, and making our way to the taxi rank. How in the heck is that an appropriate length of time for us to get that information? Sheesh! Oh well, we had already checked in, paid for the night, and were in our pjs. We decided to rest and deal with it the next day.

The next day was glorious. The sun was shining, yet the air was cool. We had a nice walk to the Leaning Tower, took way too many selfies and touristy poses with silly faces, and had the most delicious salad, pizza, and gelato for lunch. 

Come on…how delicious does that look?!?

After that, we walked over to the first hotel to explain the situation and ask for a refund. After much cajoling on our parts, Juliano, the front desk clerk, caved. Callie’s card would be refunded. Even though it took a while to convince him, it was a victory for us!

This was just the first of many bumps we would encounter during our 4-day weekend in Italy. Stay tuned for the other little adventures!