Holiday Checklist

It's that time of year when everyone is running around like crazy trying to get everything they need to accomplish done by the BIG DAY, Christmas. :)

Here's a snip-it of what's on my to-do list:

1. Buy and wrap gifts for everyone.
2. Decide if we are cooking for the holiday and if so what will be on our menu.
3. Blog ahead for the week between Christmas and New Year's.
4. Finish planning for Canada.
5. Buy tree and decorate.
6. Ship any gifts that need to be mailed.
7. Design and send Christmas cards.
8. Go Christmas light looking. :)
9. Listen to a bit of Christmas music.
10. Enjoy time with family.

Parties, decorating, shopping, what is on your list for this holiday season?

Linking up with Tamara Gerber
of Confessions of a Part Time Working Mom 

for #TopTenThursday

What's New With You

Throwback to August 2013:

Back in August 2013, the furthest I had ever ventured from Atlanta was to NYC. My husband and I had only been married a little over a year and we were prepping for our first trip to Europe. I was overwhelmed, excited, and stressed. I had no idea how hard I would fall for the continent or in what ways it would affect my future (and blog).

Enjoy this throwback and then share with me how travel has affected your lifestyle? Did one trip stand out more for you than any other?

We had a bit of a crazy weekend. Apparently planning trips abroad can keep you a bit busy.

I managed to move up our appointment to get a passport to this Friday which meant I needed to fill out the applications, find Justin's birth certificate (which he didn't actually have), and get everything else in order (and settled away) for that. (You have to go to the Vital Records office if you lose your birth certificate, and even then they will only give you a copy.)

Then I started the application process for Global Entry. For future reference, you need a passport number to apply. You can register and start the application, but you cannot complete it until you have a passport number. Who knew? (I thought I read on a blog that you didn't have to have your passport. They were wrong.)

Justin got his ipad setup for wifi and using his phone as a hot spot. (Not sure how this will help us when traveling, but it's nice to know anyway.)

Then there was the shopping. While most people don't wear flip flops in NYC, I did. Having done so, I got tons of junk in the bottom of it (think road debris and construction) causing the shoe to fail prematurely. I'm not willing to pay more than a few dollars for flip flops, so off to Kohl's we went after noticing a $7 shipping fee. (No, thank you.) We used the Kiosk when they didn't have my size in stock to get free shipping! Yay!!

We also bought a $4 (normally $40) ipad mini case on Amazon with free 2 day shipping. When we get it, I'll review the company so you can get the awesome deal too (assuming it is awesome).

So that was our weekend: a party, travel preparation, shopping, rain, and all!

To see other posts from that first trip abroad, check out these:

The Important Parts
As You Wish
5 C's for Group Travel
My Ideal Getaway
Recommendations For Planning A First Trip to Europe
Trip Plans

My Favorite Part of the Trip
The Best Moments From Our Travels
What I Missed From Home While I was in Europe
What I Missed From Europe When I Returned Home
Things I was Thankful to Get Back to When I Returned Home
Air France vs. Delta
Germany vs. USA
10 Travel Tips for Visiting Europe
How Not to Do the Louvre

Holiday Inn Paris Notre Dame
Hilton Molino Stucky (Venice, Italy)
Hotel Belvedere (Portovenere, Italy)
Intercity Hotel (Augsburg, Germany)
Sheraton CDG (Paris, France)

If you could go back in time and relive your first travel experience (abroad or otherwise) all over again, would you? Is there anything you would do differently? … the same?

Understanding Exposure Book Review

Buy here.

The view from the top of the deck was astounding…

Justin's mom and I were holding some seats at Bowen's Island Restaurant in Charleston waiting for him and his father to finish purchasing food for us to eat while we watched the sun set. Only, as it turns out, we should have arrived much earlier. The line to get into Bowen's Island Restaurant was out the door and down the winding deck ramp. We had already been waiting in line 30 minutes to even get into the door, let alone find a seat. This was not one of those restaurants where the waitstaff seats you; if you want a view of the sun setting over the river, you have to wait until a table opens up that is facing the river and sunset. And, of course, once a person gets those prime seats, why would they give them up before the sun has set? Clearly, prime seats are meant to be sat in and the view of the sun set meant to be enjoyed until the sun has fully sunken beneath the horizon and the moon and stars have come out to play.

Now, if there is one thing I can't stand, it is watching the sun set and being stuck to a single spot completely unable to move. ESPECIALLY when there is an umbrella obstructing my view. So sitting with my mother-in-law watching the sun set helping to hold seats until my husband and his father were done purchasing food was very nearly torture.

After ten minutes of sitting, watching the colorful sky disappear, I had had enough! With one swift movement I jumped off my stool, grabbed my camera and headed to the edge of the dock where there was no obstructed view commenting only to my mother-in-law that I would be "right back". Remembering what I had read only days before in Bryan Peterson's book Understanding Exposure, I played with my white balance for the first time. I set the white balance to shade, to flash, to daylight; which white balance would give me the gorgeous color I was seeing in the sky? What would bring out the contrast and capture my image the way I envisioned?

As it turns out, the image I captured with a different white balance than expected turned out to be one of my favorite sunset pictures ever! And Bryan Peterson's book Understanding Exposure has become a favorite.

Peterson provides a lot of insight on how best to use one's camera. He offers tips for both the burgeoning photographer as well as the professional. Whether you shoot for fun or for pay, you are sure to find some tips in his book that you had not considered before.

Follow along with Peterson's book and you will learn about exposure, aperture, shutter speed, light, special techniques, and flash. If you attempt the experiments he provides for bettering your images, you will gain insight into "the sky brothers", how to use your palm as a gray card, what the "who cares" aperture is and when to use it, and even how to capture the look of rain.

Even though I approached Peterson's book thinking I wouldn't learn anything new, I was glad to find I was sorely mistaken. I can't wait to try one of his many experiments and get even better with my camera!

With Christmas coming, I highly recommend getting your hands on Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure. Not only when you be able to brush up on skills you already have, but perhaps you will learn something new!

* I received this book for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Thanks for all the Fish!

Movies the husband takes me to with opening sequences that simply cannot be unseen.

While most of the world spends their day working, the US will spend its day eating.

And being thankful.

Here are a few things I am grateful for this year:

1. Good friends
2. Loving family.
3. Beautiful art.
4. Strong writing.
5. Delicious food. (You didn't think I'd skip this one, did you?)
6. Pretty clothing.
7. A computer that hasn't committed suicide.
8. Being married to a pretty terrific guy.
9. Sleep.
10. Blog readers. :)

With that being said, I'm going to spend time with my family and eat delicious food! So, so long and thanks for all of the fish! :)

What are you thankful for this year? Have you seen the movie (or read the book) Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?

Linking up with Tamara Gerber
of Confessions of a Part Time Working Mom 

for #TopTenThursday

Moulin Rouge

People talking, laughing, waiters juggling champagne bottles and menus: this is what the Moulin Rouge dining room looks like to a foreigner before the show begins.

But let's back up a bit.

It's 2001 and the internet is still a free-for-all. There are no worries about what "stalker" might be on the end of the network trying to take advantage of you. Fake news networks don't really exist. And social media hasn't happened yet. In fact, Napster (a music sourcing network) has only recently been sued by Metallica, and music, so long as you don't share what you download, is still free to those who know what they are doing.

And my computer is filled to the brim!

So, my friend from up the street comes over and suggests I download a new song by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink called "Lady Marmalade". I've never heard of the song. I don't listen to the radio much and I don't follow movies. It's just not who I am. And frankly, I'm surprised she is as aware of pop culture as she is; not having a computer herself, how does she know all about pop culture?

That was my first introduction to Moulin Rouge: the movie, the pop music from the movie, and the awareness of the Parisian club altogether.

Of course, it was only time before I took art history and learned of the famed artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

discussion of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting

But still, this was the extent of my knowledge when I first saw the famed red windmill on my first jaunt to Paris in 2014.

So how did I find myself milling amongst the patrons, having my bags checked at the front door, and drinking champagne at a table with my husband whilst half clad women danced the can-can and performed acrobatics in front of us on a rainy January night in 2016?

Well, first I must admit that Montmartre, France is one of my favorite areas of the city. If you climb to the top of the hill, you get a magnificent view of the city from just outside the beautiful Sacré-Cœur (which I hear offers an even more beautiful view if you manage to climb to the top). What seems like tens of millions of shops cater to the tourists selling mini eiffel towers, glittery postcards, and a large assortment of junk that seems almost like it originated from a cheap mass-manufacturer in China (not that I've ever been to China to compare! 😮 ) And then, there is La Poutre, the restaurant where I first fell in love with raclette.

Honestly, the whole of Montmartre provides an incontinuity that I love. The people of Montmartre are laughing at tourists with their full restaurants and junk souvenirs, and yet the tourists flock in mass to Montmartre anyway. Because why not?

And beyond that, part of me wanted to experience the history and beauty of Montmartre that Toulouse-Lautrec found within the encaged walls of the Moulin Rouge. While there may be a million other (less-touristy) cabarets to be found in Montmartre, I felt there was only one that would satisfy and fulfill my desire to see history in the making, the world as it was to a beloved artist and history before cabaret and the infamous can-can was a thing.

The Moulin Rouge opened it's doors in 1889 in the Jardin de Paris, at the foot of the Montmartre hill. The idea behind Moulin Rouge as created by its owner Joseph Oller and his manager Charles Zidler, was to enable the wealthy to "slum it" in what they considered a fashionable district. The club was a place for people from all walks of life to mingle and be entertained. The first shows were circus-oriented and the performance only later began pushing boundaries and challenging status quo.

Preview of the show (NSFW)

Féerie, the show being performed the night Justin and I attended the Moulin Rouge, is a mixture of many different acts. As listed on their website, you have The Moulin Rouge Yesterday and Today, The Pirates, Au Cirque (circus theme), The Moulin from 1900 to… (including the cancan), and, of course, various "international acts" such as swimming with a snake, a roller skating act called "The Roller Pilar", and stunning acrobatics to take your breath away.

Now, let's talk about what you really came to know: Is this show safe for kids?

Let me put it to you straight: the majority of this show features topless women. I'd give it to you in percentages, but I just don't remember the percentage. Either way, it was high. In fact, high enough, that photography is not allowed in the theatre. There are signs on every table proclaiming this, and I would not be surprised to hear of someone getting kicked out of the auditorium for taking pictures. After all, this is meant to be a private show for a paying audience. And given the amount of hard work that goes into putting this show on, as a paying audience member, I recommend respecting these agile men and women for all that they do and are capable of. It is truly astounding. :)

The Moulin Rouge offers two nightly shows; one at 9PM and one at 11pm. If you come at 7pm, you can have dinner in the theatre, but, for this added benefit, you pay quite a bit extra. You also will get seated before anyone else that is attending the 9PM show, so for that it may be worth it to you to arrive early and have dinner. Your seating definitely depends on how soon you are in line, so arrive early for your ticket, no matter what show you attend.

When Justin and I arrived at the Moulin Rouge for our 9pm show, the dinner crowd was just finishing up and preparing for the show to begin. Wait staff was scurrying about attempting to meet everyone's needs and get the drinks served. A small glass of champagne was quite an extravagant expense for … what some might consider an extravagant night. Prices for the Moulin Rouge show can be had for approximately 100 Euros per person. If you add on a bottle of champagne, dinner, or even drinks during the show, I think you can see how expensive a night at the Moulin Rouge can be.

Our seating for the show was off to the left side of the stage on the very edge with only two rows from the front. We were able to see well-enough, but I could see how a center-view could be beneficial. (Sometimes it's hard to tell how extravagant the acrobatics are when you are viewing from off-center.)

image from

Overall, Justin and I had a great time at the Moulin Rouge. It's probably not something we will ever do again, but we are glad that we went once. It also probably didn't help matters that our French skills are sorely lacking, so we didn't always understand what was going on or being said. There isn't much speaking anyway, so for that you can count yourself lucky, if you don't speak French. The ticket takers, bag checkers, and wait staff do speak English though making it easier for a tourist to navigate this fantasmic "tourist trap", so don't worry about that.

If you do go, you will be amazed and amused for the full hour and a half performance. The beautiful costumes and dances will distract from the performer's nudity, and you will be transported to a world where anything is possible.

HOWEVER, if nudity makes you squeamish, you have young children that won't understand, and/or you are low on money, don't feel like you will be missing out if you don't see a show at the Moulin Rouge. Instead go to Cirque du Soleil in the US (never been but it seems similar?), or for a more traditional style cabaret (in Paris), check out Au Lapin Agile (25-30 Euros approx.), where French comedians and musicians jump on "stage" to share their unique work (great for those who speak French, not so much for those of us who don't).

Having read more about what Moulin Rouge is and is not, what are your thoughts? Would you go just to say you had been? Would you pass it up for something a little more decorous?