Top 10 Halloween Destinations

It's pumpkin spice season which means Halloween is right around the corner! Now that I'm older, I find it harder to get into the spirit of the holiday, but I still get excited every time October 31st rolls around. Before we booked our tickets to Barcelona for November, I was thinking about doing a Halloween-themed trip, so I started researching places that could be fun. We're probably just going to do something around Oxford (maybe another ghost tour?) but I wanted to share some of the cool places I found in case you're inspired to do a Halloween-themed getaway.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. New York, NY - The Village Halloween parade is so fun to watch in person. Around 50,000 people dress up and parade down Sixth Avenue. Even more fun? Riding the subway with everyone in costume.

2. Transylvania, Romania - Home of Dracula's Castle, need I say more?

3. Oaxaca, Mexico - The city celebrates its annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival October 31st to November 2nd, and costumed party-goers pay visits to local cemeteries and decorate the streets with flowers, skulls, and skeletons.

4. New Orleans, LA - Even on a normal day, this city is pretty creepy thanks to the voodoo shops, old cemeteries, and haunted history. And on October 30th, you can get the Mardi Gras experience with the Krewe of Boo.

5. Estes Park, CO - If the thought of Stephen King's The Shining still gives you chills, try staying at The Stanley Hotel which inspired that story. It's supposedly haunted by at least three people. You can even attend an adults-only masquerade ball at the hotel on All Hallows' Eve.

Fun Reads: September 12, 2014

I heard this week that Americans now officially consume more wine than the French, making it the biggest market for vino in the world. I can totally believe it. I've been hearing that millennials are actually changing the industry. Companies are changing the price points, marketing strategy and even packaging to appeal to the younger generation. I can say on behalf of all the girls in my wine club (yes, we meet monthly in NYC to down a bottle each learn about wine), that we're all appreciative of that.

So, in honor of this big news, I thought we'd celebrate with some fun links to wine-related content this week. Cheers!

First, let's start with the most amazing kind of wine pairing you could ever do in your life: Girl Scout Cookies! This guide made me miss the stash of thin mints and samosas we kept in our freezer in Brooklyn.

A bit hit in Dubai is this $150 bottle, but guess what--it's a non-alcoholic wine. So, what's the big deal then? It's got flecks of edible 24-carat gold leaf in it because... why not?

Perfect for party tricks or if you've just moved into a new house and can't find your corkscrew, this video shows off 10 unconventional ways to open a bottle. Blowtorch, anyone?

Speaking of hacks, this is another good article that shows you how to chill a bottle in a hurry, filter out pieces of cork, and use leftover wine (I mean, if you didn't drink it all…)

Just think, if this were the 1920s, you'd have to have a doctor's prescription to have a glass at dinner in the US while the National Prohibition Act was in full force. Crazy, right?

I'll leave you with this question, something that has come up on more than one occasion. If you're buying a bottle for someone you don't know that well (say, a client or new neighbor), what's your go-to wine to buy? Red or white? Is there a "safe" wine that you've found most people like?

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Cell Phone Etiquette Around the World

With Apple's announcement of the new and improved iPhones yesterday, along with the cool new iWatch, technology is on everyone's mind. Last night, Christopher and I were trying to watch Criminal Minds (the Netflix options are slim-pickings lately…) but I realized I missed most of the story because I kept checking my phone. I ultimately put it in a far corner of the living room -- it sometimes makes me angry at how addicted I am to it.

But is it a universal thing? Does everyone around the world obsess over their new emails and messages (or lack thereof) regularly? While I am in no position to launch a research study on the subject, I did find this cool infographic by Repair Labs that showcases how people use their cell phones in different countries.

In the UK, I've noticed the phone etiquette is about the same as in America. Fun fact though, there is one major difference: when you call someone, the ring sounds different. It's a double ring as opposed to a single one.

Anyway, check out the chart below. I found it pretty interesting!

Have you noticed any other unique things about cell phone use in other countries? Tell me in a comment below--I find this stuff fascinating! :)

Weekend Adventures: Battle of the Top Chefs

The idea was to create a Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen type of cooking challenge where we'd give the boys certain ingredients and a time limit to cook a fun dish, but it ultimately just turned into an amazing double date with two main courses and a lot of wine…

On Saturday, Christopher and I had a dinner party with our next door neighbors Greg and Aleks. I've been hearing how Greg is a master in the kitchen, and I am obviously a pretty big fan of C's cooking, so Aleks and I thought it'd be fun to have the guys go head-to-head in a cook-off, but there's a reason we're not producers for the Food Network. It just turned into a make-what-you-want main with no time limit kind of night, and really, it was perfect!

Christopher made his signature dish gnocchi with sundried tomato pesto while Greg wowed us with a homemade Indian-style butter chicken. OMG. They were both so delicious. Although, the guys didn't really understand our instructions on making it a tasting-sized portion, so everyone was more than stuffed at the end of the night.

Fun Reads: September 5, 2014

Another week down… happy Friday! This week's Fun Reads photo inspiration came from a local bocce ball club in Oxford. We snapped it our first week here and have since been plotting how we can join. I mean, just look at how cool those people look! And the matching uniforms? Dying!

So, in honor of the bocce ball pic, I decided to focus on sports-related links for this week's roundup. If you know me at all (which you probably do because you're reading this blog), you know I'm not exactly a sports enthusiast. BUT I'll admit sometimes they can be fun.

We've really gotten into Friday Night Lights while over here (well, we stopped at season 3--I'm kind of over the Smash story, and why is Mrs. Taylor the principal after one year working there?? Maybe if Tyra went back to her cute haircut from Season 2, I'd consider continuing. Does it get better?) And my Facebook newsfeed is full of college football status updates so I feel like if I'm going to do a sports-related anything on this blog, now is the time. Here are some fun links I found:

If you like laughing at the expense of others, these gifs of people attempting slam dunks are pretty funny.

Is BubbleBall the sport of the future?

Fantasy Football drafts are becoming more and more mainstream -- want to start your own team? Here's a pretty basic guide. But if you're just not into the NFL, there's a celebrity version too.

Looking to play a winter sport? I took this quiz from Seventeen (I didn't write it) and got skiing. I've never skied before in my life, so that should be fun.

Speaking of Seventeen, when I worked there years ago, I met my now good friend Tammy Tibbetts (you might have seen her in the latest issue of Marie Claire as one of the 20 women who will change the world… I mean…!!!) She is running the NYC marathon in November to raise money for her organization She's The First. If you donate, you're not only helping to motivate Tammy to run 26.2 miles, but 100% goes directly to its scholarship fund, giving girls the chance around the world to get an education.

Hope you guys have a great weekend! Maybe we'll go play frisbee or mini golf in the park. It's supposed to be warm here. What are your plans?

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Grocery Games: What's It Called In England?

As I've previously mentioned in some of my cooking posts, grocery shopping in Oxford is a hilarious experience. We all speak the same language, but I often find myself getting the most confused looks from the store employees when asking for normal everyday ingredients like cilantro or pickle relish.

If only every aisle in the British grocery store was like this...
The other day I went grocery shopping with my next door neighbor (I have a real friend, ya'll!) and I was telling her about my Ritz Cracker chicken recipe (I swear I'm not obsessed with it, I just sound like I am.) Luckily Ritz exists over here but they must be an import because she had no idea what I meant by "cracker." How does one even describe it? I finally came up a lackluster description of it… "A buttery bread-like thing that crumbles really easily and is a little salty." After a few more questions and answers, she finally understood, and I feel like we broke the language barrier together. It's the little things….

But I'm still learning every time I go shopping. And if I can help even just one future expat, I'll know I've accomplished my mission. Here are a few things I've figured out so far during my bi-weekly shopping trips:

American Term = British Term

Pepperoni = Salami - They have frozen pepperoni pizzas but I can't seem to find it called that anywhere else

Cilantro = Coriander - I thought it just didn't exist here, but thanks to a fellow expat, I found out the truth

Infographic: When You Should Actually Book Your Next Vacation

Can I just take a moment to squeal with joy?! I am so ridiculously excited about our latest upcoming travel plans. We're heading to Barcelona in November!

As you know, Christopher and I are trying to make it a point to travel as much as humanly possible this year while it's easier and cheaper to get around Europe. So, last night as we were trying out this amazingly delicious recipe for homemade sloppy joes (try it--so good!), we decided on Barcelona and booked our flights all while the joes were simmering. It was kind of on a whim -- we knew we wanted to go somewhere in November so I just started looking up prices for the tickets and these were so inexpensive (we could probably spend the same amount of money if we just took cabs in NYC for one weekend.)

But it got me thinking, is it always this cheap from London or did we just pick a good time to go? I decided to look into when the best time to book flights were, and of course, those brilliant people at BuzzFeed packaged the info in a beautiful graphic that was just calling me to share it with you guys.

I know most of you guys are in the US, so this is perfect since it's geared towards travel from America. Take a look and find out the secret to booking cheap flights!

Do you have any other secrets for finding good deals on flights? Tell me in a comment below (I can use all the help I can get this year!)