Tag Archives: friends

Year in Photos 2016

Sometimes pictures are better than words. They can tell more of a story, inviting the reader to infer their meaning, ask questions about their significance to the writer, and wonder what happened before and after the snapshot was taken. I’ve been telling a story of my year in photos for the past couple of years (click here for my year in photos for 2014 and 2015), and it is an exercise I enjoy, looking back through my year’s photos, deciding which ones to include and which ones are better left out. Without further adieu, here is my 2016 year in photos, in chronological order.

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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!

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!

Talkin’ Shop #sol16 30 of 31

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Tonight’s plan was to head to The Montrose for some Mexican food (I was totally craving it!), do a bit of work, blog, and come home early-ish. The atmosphere at The Montrose is laid back and very conducive to writing, which I was hoping would get the creative juices flowing. After scarfing down my quesadilla, I got to work on some paperwork for school. I was taking a break from work, trying to think about what I wanted to write, when a colleague and friend of mine walked in the door.

He walked over, and I invited him to join me. He and I started talking about blogging, and I shared my experiences with the SOL challenge over the years. This led to discussions about teaching, specifically reading and writing. He happens to teach middle school language and literature, so it was right up his alley. Being a primary-only experienced educator, I was unfamiliar with what reading and writing looks like in middle school. My only assumption was that it typically looked quite different from primary. Shortly into our conversation, however, he mentioned that he taught using reading and writing workshops. Say what?!? My ears perked up, and my literacy hat came on!

From there, he and I discussed the learning happening in his classroom, the energy for writing palpable. What followed was a back and forth exchange of ideas, comparing writing workshop in primary to how it’s done in secondary. His students just finished a memoir unit (swoon!), and have just begun a persuasive writing unit. I jumped in, telling him I have some teaching resources (that just so happen to be for grades 3-8) that I can lend him. “Bring it on!” he said. That discussion led to his last unit of the school year, which is poetry. We have a shared philosophy for teaching poetry, in that we both believe it’s not effective to teach form poetry, but rather provide students with ample mentor texts to learn from and tools to use in their own writing. At this point, I shared a few mentor poems as well as my own poetry from my blog, and we realized that we’d both had the privilege of attending PD from Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger. Small world!

Anyway, our conversation continued for hours, meandering from swapping teaching ideas to ways in which we document our travels to other school stuff to travel plans in the future. Despite getting home 3 hours after I had planned, and just now getting to blogging, I am so grateful that he walked in the door. It’s been a long time since I’ve geeked out about literacy, and I was so energized by it! Spontaneous shop talks are always welcome. 🙂

Layover in Paris #sol16 28 of 31

 

Today’s journey home, from Dakar, Senegal to Tirana, Albania, was a long one! We left at 1:00am Dakar time and flew to Paris, then to Rome, and then to Tirana. The whole trip was over 18 hours. But…what made the journey so much better was my layover at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. No, it wasn’t long enough for us to go into Paris. I wish! What made it so special was that I got to catch up with a good friend of mine who I hadn’t seen since departing Shanghai this past summer. Heather was on her way to Mauritania to begin a 2.5 month substitute teaching position, and just so happened to land in Paris 15 minutes before I did in the same terminal. Now that’s a coincidence, huh? Well, naturally, once we figured this out, we made plans to meet up in the terminal before moving onto our connecting flights.

I was coming down the escalator when I saw her. Of course, we both screeched, because that’s what you do when you see a friend you haven’t seen in forever! We hugged, and then sat down on a nearby bench to “speed catch-up.” It’s like speed dating, only instead of getting to know someone, you trade highlights of your life since you last saw one another. Sure, we keep up on social media and chat using WeChat, but that doesn’t replace really chatting, that fluidity you get in face-to-face talks can’t be matched by typing or even Skyping. All too soon, our chat came to an end, as we watched the clock and knew we needed to give each other time for our connections. The best part of our meet up is that Heather decided to come visit me in Albania this June once her contract is over. We had plans to have her come last August, but circumstances and timing prevented that from happening. I’m so stoked that she’ll be my first visitor! Here she is…how cute is she?!? 🙂

After running into Heather, Sally and I made our obligatory Starbucks run. I had my usual Iced Chai Tea Latte and a blueberry muffin. She had a Java Chip Frappaccino. We had to go through security and customs, exit the terminal, and hike to another terminal, but when you are Starbucks-deprived, you’ll go to great lengths to get it! It was yummy!

Our last stop before boarding was Laduree for some of the best macaroons in Paris. When in Paris, you must Laduree! Today’s flavors were salted caramel, raspberry, pistachio, praline, and chocolate passionfruit. The salted caramel and raspberry are my favorites, but the other flavors are new to me. I can’t wait to try them! If you’re ever in Paris (or even just the airport), do stop in and pick up a few. You won’t be sad you did!

Sweet Reina #sol16 27 of 31

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That sweet face right there is none other than Miss Reina Mei, the cutest baby in Africa! I am going to miss all of our snuggles and laughs we shared this week. Reina is the daughter of my good friends Mel and T. I have FaceTimed plenty of times with Reina and seen tons of pictures of her cute, squishy face, but meeting her in person was such a treat!

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Reina’s one of those babies that would make you want to have a baby, because you’d be lulled into this false reality where you think all babies are so easygoing, happy 24/7, sleep when it’s time to sleep, wake up when it’s time to wake up, etc. Not only is she an easy baby, she is so much fun to play with! We spent so much time giggling because her laugh is so contagious. My favorite thing to do was tickle her. She gets this big smile on her face and tenses up, but she doesn’t really laugh out loud when you tickle her. She holds her breath til it’s over, but is loving every minute of it.

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We went up to Mel’s school on Thursday for Sports Day, but we arrived a little early, just in time for story time! Reina was right in there with the big kids, listening to the story. Mel’s students loved her to death, and it was hard to keep them focused once she arrived! At dismissal time, they all crowded around her to talk to her, make her laugh, and coo at her. How could you not when she’s so stinkin’ cute?!?

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Reina and I got to spend a lot of time together during the week while Mel was at work. The other morning, I was blogging, and Reina was on the couch behind me. I kept hearing her making noises to get my attention, and when I’d turn around, I’d see her leaned over looking at me with the biggest grin ever! 🙂

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Her eyes melt me every time…especially when she looks up at me like that!

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Reina loves to sit on poppa’s shoulders and pull his hair! I’m pretty sure it’s her favorite pastime. Poppa doesn’t mind, and even encourages her by saying “Don’t pull my hair!” in silly voices.

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Reina is so good on car trips! We took a long ride out of Dakar (3 hours) on Saturday, and she either played or slept the whole way, despite the heat and length of the ride. All of the adults were more crabby than she was! Look at her lip when she sleeps…it’s so cute how she pokes it out like that! 😀

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Reina got a new bow at the market, and she’s so happy to model it for us!

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Today was Easter Sunday, and we went out to a place near the beach for lunch. I took a few family photos while we were there. This baby is so photogenic! Oh, and her parents aren’t half bad either. 😉

Thank you Reina for the fun this week. I’m going to miss you! Aunt Jen loves you!!