My Summer in London: Where I’m Living, What I’m doing

Hello again!  This time from Courtfield Gardens in Kensington.

Home Sweet Home until August 14th!

I moved into my flat on Monday after a weeklong vacation with my family.  Courtfield Gardens is a mere 25 minutes away via tube  and I quickly settled into my 3-bed room with two roomies, our own bathroom and an accessible kitchen.

It’s a lot bigger than it looks and I love it.

On Tuesday, my special topics class on the Olympics started.  Three hours a day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and our schedule looks a little something like this:

3 weeks of class + 3 weeks of internship = 6 fast weeks

Essentially, I’m putting together a presentation about Women and the Olympics, shooting and editing a ton of video and stills, and have my first few weekends free to travel Europe and explore all that London has to offer.

Instead of sleeping after class, because let’s be real here…. I’m hardly doing any of that for one reason or another… I decided to go down to a local dance studio for an advanced contemporary class.

Not only were both the class and the instructor amazing (I was drenched in sweat within the first five minutes and could hardly move the next day), it had a familiar name making me feel right at home.

A little piece of my DanceWorks family here in London ❤

DanceWorks London… who knew?

When I got back from the class, my friends were ready to get a drink and check out some of the local nightlife.  We decided on the Courtfield Pub about 10 minutes from our place.

Me and Keesa!

The only boys in the program… they have it made.

On Wednesday, our group made the journey on the tube to West Ham to take an Olympic walking tour.

This is Pepe, our tour guide. He really enjoyed his stories but we learned a ton.

We walked for about 2 hours, learning about everything from past Olympics to how and why London was chosen over Paris for the 2012 Summer Games.  Apparently everyone thought that Paris would get it over London, including all of England, and when it was announced that Paris lost, the French didn’t take it so well.  Go figure.

To see the Games, get off at the Stratford tube station and go straight to the park. You’re welcome.

For now, the area surrounding the Olympic Park is still pretty accessible but within the next few weeks, security will tighten and getting anywhere near the entrance will be impossible without tickets or the highest security clearance.

This way to ultimate sporting glory…

See?

Big fence, very legit.

This is the viewing tower and the main Olympic arena…

Doesn’t get more badass than that.

Since it was the 4th of July on Wednesday, there was no way that we were going to not celebrate, despite the fact that we’re in England.  If anything, the irony made it that much better.  We got ready, had a drink or two, and found a bar in Covent Gardens called Roadhouse that we heard would be full of other Americans we could party with.  It was.. and we had a blast.

Future journalists of America celebrating America.

Sometimes we let Justin think he has game…

Just kidding, Justin. We love you!

Matt decided to bring the American flag along for the ride.

AMURICA.

It was, by far, the best 4th of July I’ve ever had.

Despite staying awake until an ungodly hour, we decided to dedicate the next day to being as touristy as possible.  Our solution?  The Tower of London.

Torture chambers, the Crown Jewels. Classic England.

Before going inside the fortress, we checked out the Tower Bridge, beautifully adorned with the Olympic Rings.

Breathtaking right?

Within the walls of the Tower of London, we joined a guided tour with a Beefeater.  I think we got the best one the Tower has because we learned a ton and laughed the entire way though.  He was informative, clever and knew how to keep the audience engaged.  A+ Mr. Beefeater.

Let’s be friends.

We saw the Crown Jewels, took a tour through the Torture Towers and checked out the Royal Artilleries.

The White Tower… home of devices like “The Rack”.

Sometimes Matt likes to play with ancient weapons.

That is focus.

Today included things like a gym session with Justin (who made me run a 7:30 mile to the gym and I thought I was going to die), shopping on Oxford Street (oh Primark…), a much-need 2 hour nap, froyo, wine and Despicable Me…. a terrific way to end one of the busiest weeks ever.

I want to know… How are things in the States?  I heard it’s super hot in Boston!  What else should I check out in London and what would YOU like to see in a London-themed giveaway here on the blog?

A Not-So-Normal Wednesday

If you haven’t heard by now, yesterday was Super Tuesday.  This is how I spent my day:

– 6:00am: Wake up.  Shower. Try to look decent.

– 7:30am: Drive to Vermont

– 9:30am: Keep driving to Vermont.

– 10:00am: Arrive in Brattleboro, Vermont.  Scope out election scene at the high school, drive around Smalltown, USA.  Shoot lots of video.  Buy a shot glass and a stick of maple syrup.

Welcome to Smalltown, USA.

– 10:45am: Ask some guy if we can shoot from his back porch.  Guy agrees.  We get great footage with minimal tree intrusion.

– 11:00am: Head back to the high school, shoot more video, interview people, do a standup, freeze bum off

– 12:30pm: Get amazing lunch at random, hole-in-the-wall pub.

– 1:30pm: Start driving home.

– 2:00pm: Stop for gas before we run out.

-4:00pm: Arrive at school, return camera equipment, start editing, writing, recording.

-9:00pm: Finish package, figure out chyrons, write other stuff, tweet, tweet, tweet.

– 9:45pm: Go into newsroom.  Send texts so people will watch the show.  Get on the phone with Skype crew.

– 10:00pm:  Live Super Tuesday show.  A little rocky, but successful.  Vermont package airs.  I get 3423 text messages from family and friends telling me they loved it.

– 11:00pm: Go to bar and drink beer with classmates (and prof) on the dean’s tab.

Report the news.. then drink.

– 11:45pm: Train home.  Almost miss stop.  Set morning alarm for 5:45 and 6:15.

-12:21 am: Sleep.

– 5:45am: Alarm goes off.  Almost throw phone across the room.

It was a long day.  Thankfully today, we don’t have class because we had it last night instead.  But that doesn’t mean I got to sleep in.  Quite the opposite.

I didn’t actually end up rolling out of bed this morning until closer to 6:30.  I had to meet the rest of the Unyted Stylz crew at the New England Aquarium at 7:30 for a show.  I was nervous that I’d totally miss our call time so I left my apartment just after 6:45 to take the Green Line to Government Center and switch to the Blue.  I met up with another crew member waiting for the blue line train and was happy that I wouldn’t get lost the rest of the way.

At the Aquarium, the host of the event was beyond thrilled to see us.  When it was time for us to perform, I was pretty nervous since it was my first show with the crew since joining last month.  Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t as Oh-My-God-I’m-Gunna-Throw-Up nervous as I normally am before performing.  Either way, it was great and the crowd really liked us.  And I looked pretty decent in the video we watched after so WIN.

Some of US Crew (with baby CJ!) at the Aquarium

When I got back to my apartment, I made some breakfast, watched Jenna Marbles (anyone else obsessed with this girl?  Fun fact: She got her Master’s at BU like me) and tried to make myself look decent for the second time today before heading off to Cambridge to meet up with Alaina for the first time in person!

I’ve been reading Alaina’s blog for a while now and when we figured out we live super close to each other, we decided a blogger meet up/coffee date would be the way to go.  Unfortunately, we are both incredibly busy so it’s actually taken months to finally take the time to do it!

We met up at 1369 Coffee House in Central Square, Cambridge just off the red line.  I had never been there before and was excited to try it.  I ordered a blood cider instead of coffee (who am I?) and it was delicious.  Locally produced piping hot apple cider with a deeply aromatic tea steeped in.  I also tried the cranberry-walnut muffin which was delicious.  Alaina and I talked about anything and everything you could think of: our blogs, running, working out, living in Boston, school…  It was great to get to know someone in person that you feel like you have known from reading their blog.

The rest of my day looked like this:

– YouTube videos.

– Nap.

– Oversleep from nap; frantically get ready; train to school.

– Anchor BU’s “Inside Boston”.

– Fro Yo (aka dinner) with a treat-obsessed dance friend.

– Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube.

And now I think I’ll sleep because I have an live guest coming tomorrow to interview on our class news magazine show and I should probably wash my hair and put make-up on in the morning.

How did you spend your Wednesday?  Do you have to set three to five alarms to ensure you’ll wake up on time?

Good staffer, bad blogger – Part 2

Greetings from Towson, Maryland, Louisville, Kentucky, Long Island, New York, Branford, Connecticut … home.  Wait, what?

I know I’ve been away for a long time again.. When you are on NDA time, it’s almost as if real time has stopped, the rest of the world passes at a glance and not one staffer could confidently tell you what day of the week it is.

The past 3 weeks have been nothing short of ridiculously busy.  Here is the Sparknotes version.

3 Saturdays ago (the day after my birthday), I pulled myself out of bed at 5am to catch and early flight to Louisville, Kentucky.  After a much later night than I had anticipated, I was cranky, a total bi-otch.  The flight was originally delayed a half hour and when we finally got on the plane, the captain informed us that we would be sitting in the plane for an additional 2 hour delay before embarking on the 2.5 hour flight to Chicago, IL.  Needless to say, I missed my connecting flight and had to take a much later one.

However, despite my ill-willed travel, I arrived in Louisville and was greeted by NDA staff friends that I had come to know and love from previous years/camps.  I dove headfirst into a 5-day, very large camp with 10 other amazing staffers and came out alive and happy.  Slightly worse for wear, maybe, but happy nonetheless.

Louisville Staff 2011

The last day of my Louisville travels marked the first day of my next camp: Adelphi on Long Island, NY.

Of course, American Airlines decided to be difficult once again and I was delayed in Louisville for an extra hour and a half, therefore missing my connection in Chicago.  I’ll just say it now: I hate the Chicago Airport.  Sorry Chicago friends (if there are any out there), but your airport stinks.

Rant over.

I made it to Long Island and met up with another rock star staff.  Together, we pulled together our routines, staff assignments and inventory (broken trophies and all..) and headed out for our first night meeting at none other than 16 Handles.

Yes, friends, guilt-free indulgence at it’s finest.  Then we laughed a lot.

I want some now. Sigh.
This is what we call the "Awkward Starfish". Embrace it.

Unfortunately, Adelphi was only a 3 day camp rather than 4 days so before I knew it, awards had come and gone, applications had been given out and I had to say goodbye to one of my favorite buddy teams of all time.  Specific details aside, it was easy to become close with this team and when they gave me one of their camp t-shirts and signature heart pins at the end of Day 3, it took all I had not to start crying hysterically.

Adelphi Buddies ❤

I cry a lot, it’s whatever.

When I got home, I proceeded to unpack to repack, saw Stephen for about .02 seconds before falling asleep and didn’t wake up until the early afternoon hours the next day.

Keep in mind, that day was my only day off.

After repacking, having lots of coffee and making myself look half-decent, I left for DanceWorks Boston auditions in the Prudential Center.  Apparently, the travel gods didn’t like me in the month of July because a trip into Boston via train that should take not longer than 30 minutes took me a hour and 45 minutes.  I showed up flustered but somehow, miraculously on time.  Just in time, in fact, to hear Lisa, our director, introduce herself, the company, the day and our first showcase piece: mine.

I got up, said my shpeal (spelling?) about my piece, cried halfway through (of course), and did a small demo of the routine.  All in all, it went well.  I watched the rest of the routines (9 total), decided which ones I wanted to audition for (two) and which others I would sign up for (six).  I held my auditions, auditioned for the other two I hope to be in and then got Pinkberry with a few of the girls.

Oh, and I made cookies.  I forgot that part. Pretzel M&M cookies, recipe courtesy of Brandy’s Baking.

There were none left.  Win for the baker.

DanceWorks Boston Auditions!

After auditions, I returned home to finish packing, get some last minute travel details out of the way and fell asleep around 11pm.  Just the way I like it.

Monday morning, I was back at the airport, this time to catch a flight to Wisconsin, a state I have never been to.  And I have to say, Frontier Airlines makes everything so easy.  Nice people, no delays, arrive on time… makes Marie a happy camper staffer.

A short drive with my Head Instructor and 1 other staff member brought us to the small town of Whitewater, Wisconsin, where I was clearly not in Boston anymore. Seriously — it was like a set of a (mid-)Western movie.

Am I wrong about the movie? Can't you just picture a tumble weed blowing by?

Although I didn’t know the staff as well as those I have worked with at previous camps, we clicked minutes after we met, breezing through our Day 0 to-do lists, grabbing dinner at an adorable (and cheap!) little restaurant a few blocks away and sweating profusely in our non-air-conditioned dorm. (Oh, the gym isn’t AC-ed either. I think I lost about 5 pounds of water while there.)

Whitewater proved to be a great time.  My buddy teams were wonderful and I feel like our staff worked great together.  Sure, they took a staff picture without me, but I’m sure they can crop me in!

Whitewater Varsity Buddies!
Whitewater JV buddies!

A few days later, I drove down to the small town of Branford, Connecticut…details aside, it was the wrong location.  With only one other staffer, coincidentally the same one I convinced to apply to NDA, we would have had a small 3-day home camp ahead of us.  That usually means a 9-4 day, comfy hotel beds and more time to learn my routines (!)  Due to a mix up, I came home a little earlier than planned, but hey, it happens.

Branford staff on the way home... but not without a froyo stop first!

I have 2 camps left this summer but not for a week and a half.  They are back to back, one in New York, one in Rhode Island.  Until then, I have quite a to-do list in front of me.  Including LOTS and LOTS of blogging.

Now that we are all caught up, I promise to have more pictures when I can get my camera to work.  I plan on doing a full summer recap right before I go back to school (ugh… did those words really just appear on my screen?) and there will be many pictures to accompany it.

Until then, I want to know: What’s the best and worst travel experience you’ve ever had?  Did you get stranded somewhere or was a flight attendant particularly nice to you?  Which airlines are your most and least favorite?  And finally – what is the best part of your summer thus far?

PS – I plan on hosting a personal giveaway when I get home (for good).  Anybody interested?  Shoot some ideas my way!

Good staffer, bad blogger

I had a revelation and made a big oops: I am a good staffer and a bad blogger.

If you have been reading C&W for more than a day (if this is your first visit, WELCOME!), you know that I travel during the summer with NDA (National Dance Alliance) to teach middle school and high school dance teams at camps all over the country.

Being on staff entails many things, including early mornings, late nights, complex meetings, 2-3 sessions a day, complicated decision making and above all, lots of dancing and lots of teaching.  Being prepared is essential, being unprepared is… bad.

Last Monday, I ventured 5 hours to Long Island, NY to meet up my good friend, Duke undergrad and fellow staffer, Julianne, spent the night at her house and drove 5 more hours with her the following morning to Towson, Maryland for my first big camp of the summer.

Unlike my Kansas camp, this camp was four days long (five for the staff if you include our report day), had many more teams and a much bigger staff (6 of us total.)  I love big “resident” camps because you get to work with multiple teams in four short days and getting close to your other staff members is surprisingly easy.  I think we spend more time laughing than anything else.

Check out those jazz hands. I'm a pro.
It took us about 10 times to get this picture just right. We were too busy laughing.

Nevertheless, I have been neglecting my lovely blog and I have so many things to share with you!

I got my first sponsor!  I received and e-mail the other day from a woman with a darling company in the UK (yep.. I reach that far apparently!) called Bags of Love and asked if I would like to place the link to her “Personalized Aprons” on the sidebar of my blog.  Well, of course I would!  I even figured out how to make a pretty button for the link so click on over and check it out for yourself.  I will be doing a product review for her in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.

I have an obsession with frozen yogurt.  I mean, we knew this already but this past trip to New York/Maryland gave me the excuse to ask Julianne, “So you’re from New York and New York has frozen yogurt.  Can we go, please please pleaseeeee?”  I ended up getting froyo four times in the past week: Red Mango, 16 Handles Too (a kiosk of sorts inside of a mall), Yogoya and 16 Handles (the real one!)  Would you like to see what they looked like?

The journey through a frozen-yogurt-packed week:

Red Mango right near Jules' house. I wish I had one.
 
 
 

Frozen yogurt overload.  I’m so jealous of my NYC friends (especially Christine and Ali) for having this at their disposal whenever they want it.

Which brings me to a small update about how my Weight Watchers endeavors are going.  I am now 3 weeks in and down 6 pounds.  I am beginning to see a difference already and it’s really motivating me to eat well and work out.  I hope to see a bit of an increase as the weeks progress but for now, I’m happy and I’ll take it!

Oh and as a staff, we went to see Harry Potter 7.2 on Saturday night.  I proceeded to cry through the entire movie.  It was just that good.  If you haven’t yet seen it, go.  Right now.  You won’t be sorry.

Towson Rock Star Staff

  What’s coming up!!

Today: Normal work day, gym sesh, cooking dinner for the first time in FOREVER.

Wednesday: Normal work day, longer gym sesh, then boyfriend is taking me out to dinner and for some surprises for my upcoming birthday. So excited! He’s a master of surprises, even though he has a total snoop of a girlfriend.

Thursday: Normal work day, gym (or maybe some hot yoga?), repacking my giant suitcase for 2 back-t0-back camps.

Friday: Normal work day, gym, maybe festivities with the fam, bed early.. and oh yeah, my 23rd birthday.

Saturday: 8am flight toLouisville,Kentucky!!

That flight will be followed by 5 days in Louisville and 4 days in New York for two seperate resident camps.  And the last day of July?  DanceWorks Boston auditions!!!  See “Hello World” on that schedule? Yep, that’s me.

So tell me friends… what is your favorite frozen yogurt and where can I find it??

Seneca, Kansas: The Tip of the NDA Iceberg

Hi Friends!

I’m sorry I’ve been a bit MIA this past week.   As you could see from my July schedule, I spent my Independence Day traveling to Seneca, Kansas.  I had never been to Kansas before and I assumed it would be lots of fields and rolling plains and corn.

I was right.

Mmm... corn

But you know what they have in Kansas that they don’t have in Massachusetts (besides corn pickers, weird watering devices and horrifying highways where the only way you can pass is by driving in the opposite lane…) ?

ORANGE LEAF.

Yes, my friends, frozen yogurt at it’s finest.  The fro-yo phenomenon is just barely reaching Boston, which is unfortunate.  While Pinkberry is pretty awesome, there are other chains that allow you to pour your own fro-yo into a cup (and there are a ton more flavors), load on whatever toppings you want and pay for it by the ounce.  It’s spectacular.  Such chains popping up around the country include 16 Handles, Red Mango and of course, Orange Leaf.

So after my fellow NDA staffer and Idaho native, Kira, and I drove an hour from Seneca to Manhattan (also known as “The Little Apple”), found Orange Leaf and indulged in the frozen treat.  Oh yeah – did I mention it was 100 degrees the entire time we were there and the high school gym we were dancing in wasn’t air-conditioned? So, yeah, frozen yogurt was a must at that point.

I settled for a low-fat swirl of brownie batter and chocolate chip cookie flavors topped with a ton of fresh strawberries and a few cookie dough bits.  I was in heaven.

C'mon Boston.. work with me here.

Kira and I also got to try out a cute little restaurant close to our motel on the last night of our stay.  I had the Champagne Chicken Salad which included mixed greens, grilled chicken, strawberries, dates and spiced pecans with a champagne vinagrette that I got on the side.  It was delicious and definitely filled me up.  If you ever visit Seneca, Kansas, I highly recommend “The Willows”.

The Willows in Seneca, KS. Go here.
I love salad.

The camp itself was great and the perfect way to kick off my NDA summer.  The team was fun, enthusiastic and they picked up the 5 routines we gave them really well.  I was even a little sad to leave after spending three days with them.

Kira, me and the Centralia High School Dance Team

 Coming home wasn’t as fun.  It involved a 3-hour detoured car ride back to the airport, a long delayed layover in Chicago and a 3am bed time, but eventually I got home, hit my bed hard and slept for the majority of the next day.

So what’s next?  According to my schedule, I have normal work today, a gym date with boyfriend and some packing to do before I hit the road to Long Island, NY tomorrow.  Five hours to Smithtown, a sleepover with one of my best NDA friends and an additional 5 hour drive to Towson, Maryland on Wednesday for 5 days of Resident camp fun (and maybe a late night showing of Harry Potter? I think so.)

Although I didn’t get much have any service while in Kansas, I believe I will have more connection in Maryland.  Hopefully I can update the blog as I go but there is a good chance I will be so entralled with Level 3 Kick, I might not have much time on my hands.

What’s going on in your life this week?  Any big plans?  Do you travel a lot during the summer or do you prefer to relax at home?