Travel Review: England and Scotland 2017 with Education First Tours (EF)

Let me begin by stating the obvious: it’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  Like… years? Whoops. A lot has happened since then – Jeremy and I bought a house and began an endless stream of DIY projects and remodels, I taught high school English for a couple more years, and we are now about to have our first baby. I’ve decided to stay at home with my little one this year, and before baby comes, I wanted to try to catch up on a little blogging. I still hope to post here more regularly someday, whether that be about our home, our travels, or our family.

So in today’s long and detailed travel-focused post, I’ll be looking back on a trip that was truly a bucket list experience for me. In August of 2016, my friend and fellow English department member, Heathyr, told me that she was interested in arranging a trip abroad with some of our students. This was something that I had always desperately wanted to do, but I’d never really looked into myself. Heathyr kindly asked me to join her as a trip leader and chaperone (technically, she was the official leader, but I helped!). She had already selected a tour from the educational travel company EF (Education First) – a nine-day journey around England and Scotland.  As a true anglophile, I thought it sounded great – and, since we were both young teachers and this would be our first experience taking students abroad, it would be more manageable to travel to a familiar English-speaking country that we would explore at length than to do too much globe-trotting or fast-paced touring.

Fair warning, this post is long. But if you’re an educator thinking about traveling abroad with students, with EF or with another organization, I thought it might be helpful to do an in-depth review of our experience, from the initial organization to the last flight home. So let’s get started at the beginning!

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DIY: Monogram Wreath

Being a teacher means that during the summer months, if you aren’t working a part-time job (and let’s be honest, why would you?), the days can feel a little long and lonely, especially if you’re young and have no children to take care of, like me. To combat this summer loneliness with a little social interaction, my wonderful and dear friend Melanie and I planned to spend a day together working on DIY projects – she dubbed it “crafternoon.”  We both poured over projects on Pinterest, and then we made a trip to Hobby Lobby and spent the day crafting.

Being creative and spending time with friends? It’s good for the soul.

Melanie used glittery cardstock and a blank canvas to make an art piece for her niece’s sixth birthday.  I wanted to make a wreath for our front door.  Since we live in an apartment, personalizing our space is always a challenge, and Jeremy and I are forever dreaming of the DIY projects we’ll do in our home someday. (First step? Modernizing a bathroom to create a spa-like retreat.  Again, someday.)  For now, we’re stuck with small projects, and making a wreath seemed like a simple way to brighten up our home for the summer season. I wanted to include a monogram letter and make a wreath that was springy, summery, and generally warm and inviting.  There are literally a gazillion beautifully crafted wreaths on Etsy (in my opinion, these were the best and gave me great inspiration), and after looking at several examples, I gave it a try.  And I have to say – I’m really happy with the results!

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Simple Homemade Granola Bars

Jeremy really loves granola bars, and sometimes he even eats them as part of his lunch.  Full of savory-sweet morsels, nuts, oats, and a little something sweet,t what’s not to love, right?  Well, recently we’ve both become more aware about how much sugar is in the average American diet, and as we started reading labels, the sugar counts on the store-bought granola bars that we often considered to be “healthy” snack choices were rather surprising. Looking for an alternative, we began to hunt around for a great homemade granola bar recipe, and Jeremy found one on the lovely blog The Minimalist Baker.  (We also bought their e-cookbook, which has yummy meal plans and plenty of fun recipes to break the monotony in the kitchen.) Their Five-Ingredient Granola Bar recipe was just what we were looking for!
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Our Honeymoon in Kauai

Continuing in chronological order, my first travel post will be centered on our Hawaiian honeymoon.  After my family visited Maui when I was sixteen, I knew that I wanted to come back to Hawaii as soon as possible.  Truly, is there anywhere on earth more beautiful?  I recently told Jeremy that when I die, if I’m lucky enough to go to Heaven, it will look like Hawaii.  Sure, maybe I want to visit other landscapes and places (I would miss bustling American cities and quaint European villages), but Hawaii really is heaven on earth.  The weather is always beautiful, and the scenery is just so lush.

When we began planning our honeymoon, we knew a couple of things – first, Hawaii isn’t cheap.  Second, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  We got married right out of college, and while we had some savings to put toward the trip, it certainly wasn’t going to be a deeply luxurious affair.  We planned carefully and explored many options, and in the end, we put together a quick but fabulous trip.  We didn’t skimp, but we didn’t splurge too much either.  We planned a wide variety of activities that kept us busy, but we made time to read and sip a couple of poolside cocktails, too.  All in all, it was an ideal honeymoon.  A year and a half (wow!) later, here’s my recap:

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September 20, 2013

The purpose of this blog is to document my life, so I suppose it makes sense to begin by documenting the biggest day of my life thus far.  Our wedding was on a perfect, late-summer day and we were blessed to share this day with so many of our beloved family and friends. Even though our days as true ‘newlyweds’ are probably numbered, I still find myself thinking about our wedding often – what a happy day it was.

We were married at my husband’s family’s church – Christ Church, in Overland Park, KS – and celebrated with a reception at the Lenexa Conference Center (which has a very nondescript name but is a beautiful event space, both rustic and modern, in a refurbished barn).  Our wedding was photographed by Steven Michael Photo, and we will always treasure the beautiful images that day.

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