Book Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

summer paris

Sophie Peterson and her brother Eric are spending the summer in Paris, France, with their father and their new stepmother. Their father left them back in America almost a year ago with barely any advanced notice or too much communication since. Not only are they meeting their dad’s fiance for the first time in Paris, the day before their wedding, but they are also meeting their soon-to-be stepsister, Camille. Camille is set on making the summer miserable for her new “little sister.” Sophie has no desire to be in Paris, she needs to focus on the piano since she is applying for a scholarship in the fall. The only reason she is going to Paris is because her father promised there would be a piano for her to play. When he falls through on his promise, she learns that a cute French boy, one of Camille’s friends, happens to own a Steinway. Maybe Paris won’t be so bad after all

I am a sucker for any book set in Paris, especially if it is a young adult book. One Paris Summer started off really slow. Towards the middle, it picked up speed and started to keep my interest. I really enjoyed learning a little bit of French and reading about all the amazing sites to see in Paris; all the places I will one day visit. I also enjoyed reading about all of the French pastries, I am going to go on a diet before Paris, just so I can fatten up on sweets.

The growing relationship between Mathieu, Camille’s friend, and Sophie was drawn out nicely. I always like it when it is a bit of a challenge for characters to form friendships; it makes a book more intriguing. As for other relationships, like Camille and Sophie’s, I found it to be a bit over the top. I can’t imagine all of that stuff happening right before parent’s eyes and them not doing much about it, although they were unaware of many of the incidents. I also didn’t understand Eric’s obsessive behavior towards his sister and dating, also a bit dramatic.

Overall, if you’re looking for a beach read, plane read, a book that doesn’t require much deep thought, this one if for you. Plus, it’s about Paris, so it can’t be too bad, right? Now I need to go buy myself a crepe.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Fit Snack Subscription Box Review June 2016

fit snack logo

We ate all of out June 2016 Fit Snack snacks way too fast. My husband was asking me the other day if we had anymore, unfortunately, I had to tell him no.

20160617_124031

Grayson Natural Beef Jerky: Jim ate this and said it was pretty good. They are made with 100% grass fed beef. They are mountain raised, hormone free, and antibiotic free.

Nature’s Path Qi’a Bar: This bar is made with nuts so it went to Jim right away. He said it was really, really good. It is made with roasted peanuts, dark chocolate, chia, and hemp seeds.

Kiwa Chips: I love me some healthy chips. These were awesome!

20160617_124123

Burkart Organic Died Fruit: My husband has been enjoying this big bag of dried fruit. Watch out for the seeds! The dried fruit is all organic, preservative free, sulfur free, and there isn’t any added sugar.

20160617_124051

High Brew Coffee: I received a can of this naturally caffeinated coffee before and I was excited to see a can in this box. So yummy!

Krackin’ Kamut Ancient Grain: We haven’t tried this yet. You can either snack on it or put it on a salad.

Tranzend Detox Stix: We probably won’t use these. They say that after using them you will stress less, sleep better, and feel amazing. Sounds like a miracle.

20160617_124105

Smartypant Vitamins: These were the best gummy vitamins I have ever had, and Jim agrees. We received a men’s packet and a woman’s packet. Too bad the serving size is 6 and we only received 2 of each, which I found odd.

If you have never heard about Fit Snack, please check out another one of my posts about the amazing subscription box company based out of Colorado. I love how each box comes with new exercises, workout tips (this month was a four week fit challenge), and coupon codes for some of the snacks in the box.

For your chance to WIN a free Fit Snack box, head on over to their contest page here. There is a chance to win every month. Enter today so that you can start snacking healthy tomorrow!

I was sent a Fit Snack box in exchange for an honest review. All of the options are my own. Thanks Fit Snack!

June 2016 Road Trip Day 4 and 5

We woke up in Kentucky on Day 4 and went to sleep in Ohio that night. Traveling in our country is wonderful; there is so much to see and so much to do. You can go through so many states in one day. We are lucky to live in such a fascinating place.

We actually didn’t have a ton of stops planned for this day because I wanted to get to our hotel in Cincinnati for check-in so that we could get ready for the wedding. Our first stop was Starbucks, on the way to our second stop. I bought my one, and only, mug from the trip in Kentucky. I also purchased an iced coffee.

Our second stop was a Japanese Friendship Garden in Georgetown, Kentucky: Yuko-En. Since we spent two years in Asia, I go to places likes this with high expectations, and I’m usually underwhelmed. This garden was extremely disappointing because it is right next to a main road; not very peaceful, my friends. At the very least, it was free. We were only there for about 30 minutes and then we were back on the road towards Ohio.

20160611_101547

Welcome to Ohio, it’s been waiting for you.

20160611_102554

Turn in here to park.

20160611_102721

20160611_102746 (1)

Our first stop in Ohio was the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. I can’t even begin to tell you how cool this place is. The military discount brought each ticket to only $10. There isn’t a word to describe this museum’s awesomeness. We did the 11 AM tour and learned more than we could have ever dreamed of about signs and their history, our guide was very passionate about signs. The tour is a must do! There is free parking at the museum, as well. In what other city can you find free parking? They also do weddings. I told Jim if we ever get married again (to each other, of course) we are having it at the American Sign Museum.

20160611_104256

20160611_113334

20160611_114736

20160611_115712

20160611_114749

20160611_120319

We have never had Big Boy burgers

20160611_120410

We really got into selfies this trip

I never wanted to leave the museum, but all good things must come to an end. After the museum we drove right down the street to Camp Washington Chili. We were told by our tour guide at the museum that it is the best chili in town. I had no idea what Ohio chili was until I asked our tour guide. He informed me that it is is chili and cheese on top of spaghetti…say what? Apparently, it’s Greek.  You have to try it. It is interesting, to say the least. There is also free limited parking in a lot behind the restaurant.

20160611_122137

20160611_122635

Small 3 way, with beans (yes, they call it that), and a Coney.

20160611_123116 (1)

After lunch, even though we were stuffed, we went to Aglamesis Brothers for ice cream, in Oakley Square. This place is a quaint, old fashioned soda shop built in 1913 and is currently run by third generation family members. We sat at the bar and had sundaes. It was a fun experience, and the ice cream was pretty good, too. I was bummed that the banana chocolate chip ice cream wasn’t ready to be served yet. Before out trip, we were told by a friend that Graeter’s ice cream is really good, too. We would have went there if it weren’t for the fact that the candy shop owner, from the day before, suggested Aglamesis.

After ice cream, we headed over the hotel. Nothing special, just a hotel. We kind of hate hotels now that we have been doing AirBnB (except Disney hotels, of course). We only stayed here because of the wedding shuttle. Let’s just say the hotel was full of kids on sports teams (and their parents) who kept us up well past midnight and the staff didn’t do anything about it. Someone also filled their cooler with ice at midnight, which was right down the hall. Who does that?

The wedding we attended was beautiful. It could not have been a more picturesque golf club with big open windows where the ceremony was held, as well as, the reception. I wish I would have stopped to soak in the sunset, and actually take pictures. The food was great (especially the dessert bar) and we had a lovely time catching up with people we don’t get to see very often.

Day 5 was blah. We woke up at 6:30 and hit the road by 7. It was a rough trip home. We stopped just outside of Pittsburgh to eat lunch at Hoss’s (because I’m obsessed) and made it home by 4 PM to a sick little boy. He was so happy to see us, which made me feel happy and horrible at the same time.  He basically just wanted to cuddle the rest of the night, and the rest of the week. He finally started feeling better around Wednesday and was completely recovered by Friday. (I’m blaming it on his teeth, as always.)

Where will we be heading next? Only time will tell!

June 2016 Road Trip Day 3 Part 2

If you haven’t read part 1 of day 3 of our road trip(Maker’s Mark Distillery), you can find it here.

After lunch in Louisville, Kentucky, we were off to Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour. We parked in the Science Museum lot for only $6. When we went to buy tickets, I asked about a military discount, and we were both given free admission (it never hurts to ask even when you can’t find any information online); this was very unexpected and appreciated. Your museum ticket includes a tour of the factory, access to the exhibits, and a free mini-bat at the end of the tour. Tours start frequently and we only had to wait a few minutes to start our tour. Unfortunately, they do no allow photos during the tour. The tour is awesome. I learned a lot about Louisville Sluggers bats including: their history, how they’re made (past and present), and how many bats players go through during one season.

20160610_140809

20160610_140927

20160610_140954

After the tour, we checked about the exhibits. I even got a few selfies.

20160610_145046

What up, Jeter?

20160610_145134

Just me and the Babe

20160610_145748

After the museum we went over the bridge to Indiana. I had never been there before, so we found a town right next to Louisville to visit: Jeffersonville, Indiana. Our planned stop was Schimpff’s Confectionery: one of the oldest, family owned, and operated, candy business in the U.S.  The current, fourth generation owners, Warren and Jill, could not have been any nicer; Warren even gave us recommendations on what to do in Ohio the next  day. It was a really interesting stop and they were so passionate about their store; I just love that. We sampled popcorn and red hots. We also bought some delicious chocolate that we had to eat right away because it was very hot out. The candy shop is known for their red hots, hard candy fish, and modjeskas.

20160610_155912

20160610_155906

There is a free museum in the back of the confectionery. One of the few candy museums in the country.

After a fun stop at the candy shop, we headed back to Kentucky. We were on a hunt for the huge floral clock at the state capital, Frankfort. After driving around a bit, and asking a stranger, we found the clock. This clock is one of the largest in the world. It was pretty cool to see and it really does tell time. It was a beautiful place to go on the way back to our house in Berea, Kenntucky.

20160610_175345

20160610_175337

Our final planned stop of the day was at the Josephine Sculpture Park in Frankfort, Kentucky. The park is free and full of quirky sculptures. I think I would have enjoyed it more if there were less bugs or I had bug spray. I was also tired and hungry. Not a bad place to stop, just not the right time for me to enjoy it to its fullest.

After the park, we started our journey back to Bereu and looked for food along the way. We ended up stopping in Lexington, Kentucky, at Sutton’s Restaurant, an Italian eatery. The food was very great and so was the atmosphere. We didn’t get back to our house until 9:30 and by then we were ready to go to bed. Day 4 of our trip was our final destination: Cincinnati, Ohio.

June 2016 Road Trip Day 3 Part 1: Maker’s Mark Distillery Tour

Day 3 of our road trip was so busy that I have to split it up into two posts. If not, there will be a picture overload.

We started the day off by getting coffee at Berea Coffee & Tea which is near Berea College. Both coffee shops in downtown Berea, Kentucky, were closed…at 7:30 in the morning. Last time I checked, I can’t wait until 10 AM to get coffee. After a quick coffee stop, we were off to the Bourbon Trail. We only picked one Bourbon tour to go on: Maker’s Mark. I’m not a Bourbon drinker at all, but I must say, the tour was really cool. Active Military are free and I paid $9 for my tour ticket and sampling. Anyone under 21 are free for the tour but obviously can’t participate in the sampling at the end.

20160610_102430

Our tour guide was awesome.

20160610_103041

First barrel of Maker’s Mark

We arrived at Maker’s Mark in Loretto, Kentucky, at 10 AM after a very long drive to the back of nowhere’s land. We were lucky enough to score two spots on the 10:15 tour. When you’re drinking your next glass of Maker’s Mark, picture the distillery surrounded by nothingness. With that being said, the place is absolutely beautiful. I learned so much about Maker’s Mark and bourbon, in general, on the tour. After purchasing your tickets (or checking-in if you bought them online), head toward the right of the desk, towards the back of the house, past the bathrooms, and to the coffee cambros in the last room before you hit a glass door. Inside, there is free Maker’s Mark bourbon coffee to try,. Spoiler alert: It’s awesome! I didn’t see any signs directing guests to the the coffee, but after doing some independent exploring, I stumbled upon this morning (or afternoon) treat. I regret not going back for more after the tour, but it was one of the warmer days of our trip and we had miles to go before we slept.

The tour is about an hour long and wraps up with a tasting of four Maker’s Mark bourbon’s;  one of which is only sold at the gift shop on site. The coolest thing I learned at our tasting is how you smell bourbon with your mouth, not your nose. Who knew? Not this girl. I am still not a fan of bourbon, but I am a fan of bourbon tours. If we are ever in the area again, we will pick another distillery to check out.

20160610_103839 (1)

20160610_103811

20160610_104335

This is the only machine that prints Maker’s Mark labels. ONE machine.

20160610_110140

Every single Maker’s Mark bottle is hand dipped.

20160610_110213

I really loved how they let us take photos during the entire tour.

20160610_110627

One of the tasting rooms.

20160610_110706

I tried Maker’s White And Maker’s 46

After all of that bourbon, we were hungry. Off to Louisville, Kentucky, we went. Oddly enough, the day we went to Louisville was the day Muhammad Ali was laid to rest. We thought there would be a ton of traffic, and roads blocked off, but we didn’t run into much trouble at all. We stopped for lunch at Against the Grain Brewery. It is located inside Louisville Slugger Field; there is street metered parking. This was a total drive-by spot and stop. I’m so glad we stumbled upon this place. The burgers were great and the beer was even better. Only complaint is that the burgers do not come with fries.

20160610_134706

I had Tropical Drank (tropical stout)

20160610_135205

Part 2 of day 3 will contain a Louisville Slugger Museum recap, my first trip to Indiana, a stop at one of the world’s largest clocks in Kentucky’s capital, a so-so stop at a sculpture garden, and dinner at an Italian restaurant….in Kentucky. Stay tuned!

June 2016 Road Trip Day 2

Day 2 of our road trip was the most “relaxing” day we had. In the morning, we walked up to a coffee shop right off of the Virginia Creeper called MoJo’s Trailside Cafe where I had a nice cup of coffee and chocolate chip pancakes. Highly recommended! Then we went back to the cottage to sit on the deck for a few more minutes. We really didn’t want to leave such a lovely little spot. After packing up, we went to another point on the Virginia Creeper and walked around for about a half hour. It was so peaceful and breezy; we really did have perfect weather on this trip.

20160609_094310

20160609_093543

After our little walk, we drove to Rogersville, Tennessee. I had never been to Tennessee and it was sort of on the way to our next spot to sleep in Kentucky (another new state to add to my list). Fun fact: Davy Crockett’s grandparent’s are buried in Rogersville. We walked around town, found their burial spots,  and ate a good Southern lunch at Oh Henry’s on Main Street.

20160609_125644

20160609_125716

After Rogersville, we took another 2 1/2 hour drive to Berea, Kentucky. On the way, we stopped at a nice scenic overlook. Jim loves stopping at overlooks, I’m usually too scared to get out of the car. This one had a lot, so I got out to take a look.

20160609_145635

Our house was nice and I loved the kitchen, but I wasn’t as in love with the place as a whole as I thought I would be. It had rave reviews on AirBnB, yet a train came by four times during the night and the bedroom didn’t have a door. I’m a light sleeper and I did not sleep well the two nights we were there. i’m lucky that Jimmie has been sleeping through the night for forever, or else I would have been even more upset with my interrupted sleep. Berea is a little art town. We didn’t get there until 5 or so, and all of the shops closed at 6. We did walk around the downtown area and around Berea College, which was nice. We ended up eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant down the street from our house. When in Kentucky…eat Mexican? I was bummed that they didn’t have margaritas, but the food was good.

20160609_195248

At night we went back to the house, read on the porch swing, and went to bed after it finally got dark at 10 PM. It was kind of like being in another time zone during this vacation, even though we weren’t. The sun set way later than we were used to, which kind of threw us off. It was nice to have a not so busy day on our trip. Day 3 was by far the busiest, but also one of the best. Stay tuned!

June 2016 Road Trip Day 1

A good friend of Jim’s got married in Cincinnati, Ohio, this past weekend. When we found out about the wedding, we immediately decided to turn it into a road trip, minus the little guy. We secured Grandma and Pop (Jim’s parents) as babysitters and then started to plan our trip. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is so important to spend time with your partner, after you have kids, without the kids. We hardly have date nights, therefore taking little vacations, like this one, is the best way for us to reconnect and have some adult fun. I know some people think we are crazy for taking trips without Jimmie at such a young age (we went to Disney last year when he was 10 months) but honestly, I think I would go crazy without these trips. I need some time away to unwind, relax, and spend time with just Jim. (Don’t worry, I missed little Jimmie like crazy!)

We left on June 8 at 6:30 AM. I insisted on stopping at Starbucks right as we hit the road because all good road trips begin with Starbucks. By 7, we were cruising towards Virginia. We drove through West Virginia and arrived at our first stop in Natural Bridge, VA: Foamhenge. What is Foamhenge? Foamhenge is a replica of Stonehenge, which is located in England, made out of foam. It is kind of tricky to fin, and if you aren’t looking for it, you won’t have a clue that it is located in Natural Bridge, VA. I would recommend using the exact coordinates that can be found on the Foamhenge website. We passed the white fence (and gate) before using Google Maps on our phone. (You can’t see the sign below from the road. There is nothing on the road telling the unknown traveler where Foamhenge is.)

20160608_105012

20160608_105051

20160608_105233

I have wanted to go and visit this weird site for quite sometime (it’s free!). It was well worth the stop. It was a great day and we were the only ones there. It is a small walk from the road. As you can see, it is nestled in the mountains. We were only there for about 15 minutes and then we were back in the car and off to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. The memorial is part of the Blue Stars Program. It’s free for active-duty military personnel and up to five family members between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

20160608_124527

20160608_125114

We were at the memorial two days after D-Day. It is a beautiful, serene place that commemorates the allied invasion of France. This memorial is a must see if you are driving through Bedford. If you do visit Bedford, there is a restaurant a few miles away: Liberty Station. I recommend the bean burrito, it was delicious.

20160608_131527

After lunch we had about 2 1/2 hours to our final destination of the day: Damascus, VA. Not only does the Appalachian Trail run through this town, so does the Virginia Creeper. I had never heard of the Virginia Creeper before booking a cute little cottage called Ruby’s Rest on AirBnB. I HIGHLY recommend not only visiting this adorable little town, but also staying at this cottage. The cottage is in the homeowner’s backyard, but don’t let that scare you away. They are really nice people and make you feel like you are old friends. The place may look small but it has a really big bathroom and sleeps up to four people; there are a ton of books to read and great photography to look at.

20160608_183110

20160609_084845

The Virginia Creeper is 35 miles of nature’s finest. Most people bike it, we just walked it a bit since neither of us have been on a bike in over 15 years (unless spin class counts). One day, we will be back to ride the trail. I hope to stay at Ruby’s Rest again, maybe even with Little Jimmie. (There is a really cool tree house in the yard that he would LOVE!) That night we ate at Hey Joe’s on Main Street; the catfish tacos were amazing. The owners are quite the characters. It is kind of like paying for dinner and a show with these guys. Check out this little dive taco place if you are ever in town.

20160608_192514