Playlist: December

Happy New Year, everyone!! Here's the last monthly playlist of 2015, inspired by:

- The director of one of my schools saying that he's a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and that he wants to teach the kids The River in choir (all the teachers were like "director no" but I was like "DIRECTOR YES")
- Songs that we hold very specific memories and emotions for everyone who listens to them.
- Finally getting back into the mandolin madness of Judah and the Lion
- New music from The 1975
- Getting introduced to Grimes (thanks Beth!)
- Hearing a surprising amount of Édith Piaf in Paris
- And then just a bunch of Christmas songs I like

Shuffle and enjoy!

Lille Marché de Noël

There are a bunch of different lists that claim to be the "definitive list of Christmas Markets in France." Strasbourg tops every single one of them, partially because it's the oldest, partially because it's one of the largest, partially because it's really close to Germany and therefore has a leg up on everywhere else. But quite a few of these lists also include the Christmas Market here in my home-for-the-year of Lille. Some even rank Lille in the top five. These, my friends, are the lists you should trust.

There's even fake snow!

Lille has everything you want from a good Marché de Noël. It smells like sugar and pine, there are 83 different booths all nestled together in Place Rihour like a cute little village, there's a giant ferris wheel and a giant Christmas tree a few steps away at the Grand Place, and it's a five minute walk from the train station and literally right in front of a metro stop. It's perfect.

Review: Six Disposable Cameras Used in Spain

I like taking photos. I like to think I take good photos. I love to use sites like Instagram and Flickr and this blog to share my photos. It would be terrible for me if, say, I were to accidentally put my photo-taking apparatus, my iPhone, in the washing machine the night before a 10-day trip through Spain. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.

A trip that I'd hoped would include some wonderfully Instagrammable moments turned into a foray into the world of disposable cameras. And now, finally, after the three weeks it took for Carrefour to develop the film and the three more weeks I just flat out procrastinated writing this post, I can finally share that foray with you. This post is part "let me review something and help you if you're choosing to buy it" and part "I didn't get to post these on Instagram but I still need to feel validated so I'm posting them on my blog and forcing people to see them that way instead." I'm not even sorry.

I ended up using six different types of disposable cameras on my trip. Here's how they all fared.

Playlist: November

This is a shorter playlist than past months, because unfortunately some of the songs that defined my November (Taylor Swift's song 22 and Adele's entire album 25) are not available on Spotify. But I hope you enjoy the songs that are available! This month's music was inspired by:

- Hearing songs that I had listened to in French real life?
- Finally getting around to listening to Hotline Bling...and then not stopping.
- MADE IN THE A.M. (I like One Direction in case you hadn't noticed)
- Wondering if the All-American Rejects were still together and finding out they released new music LAST MONTH.
- Vitas becoming important in my life again.
- And Braden Holtby.

Shuffle and enjoy!

On the Attacks in Paris

I've been writing a lot over the past few weeks. In my journal. In this app on my phone called Collect. In multiple drafts for this blog. And I'm not going to publish any of it.

I feel somewhat obligated to post about the terrorist attacks in Paris. I mean, I'm supposed to be posting about my time in France, right? Well, this has really impacted my time here. Long after this program is over, I will remember where I was and what I was doing the night of Friday, November 13th, 2015. I will always remember how even with heightened security in the days following the attacks, I still felt the need to be more cautious than ever. I will always remember how I was still going to work and going about my daily life while just an hour north of me, Brussels was on lockdown.

But the truth is, I'm not ready. I don't want to just write verbatim what I was doing that night. Most of my night was spent around people who were distraught and terrified and heartbroken. I will be part of their memories of what happened that night just as they will be part of mine. Those emotions still feel so raw that I'm not ready to write it all down in an organized, reader-friendly format.

Maybe on an anniversary of the attacks I'll share more of the story. But for now, just know that I am okay, and Lille is okay, and I certainly had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

I'll leave you with a few articles I've seen or had shared with me over the past couple of weeks that I thought were interesting, and with something that one of my nine-year-old students said after mentioning the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year: "I hope next year isn't going to be like this."

Playlist: October

Hi everyone! As per usual, here's an end-of-the-month playlist so you can listen to what my October was like. It's weird--on the one hand it feels like I've been in Europe for a really long time, but on the other it feels like time is passing really fast. (Halloween is TODAY??? I'm turning 22 in FIVE DAYS??? WHAT.) But anyway, here's the mix of the month, inspired by:

- Songs that I heard in stores everywhere (yes, including the Madelyn Bailey cover of Titanium, which is strangely popular over here from what I've seen)
- The one English-language song performed at an open mic I stumbled into earlier in the month
- My "going to work" playlist which was mostly just Walk The Moon's newest album
- Watching Arrested Development alone on a Friday and feeling inspired by Lucille
- Being reminded of the existence of Naughty Boy
- Favorites off of Josh Ritter's new album Sermon on the Rocks
- Listening to a record of Paul Simon's Graceland at the AirBnB in Granada
- Much-awaited new music from Adele
- And selections from possibly the strangest mix of songs ever heard on Halloween.

Shuffle and enjoy!

Update: I'm Going to Spain

This isn't Spain. This is still Lille. Just to clarify.
Weeks "on the job" so far: Two
Weeks I now have off for vacation: Two
Where I'm going: Seville, Granada and Madrid
How long I'll be gone for: A little over a week
Chances that I'll be posting during that time: Slim
Number of days I was sick with a cold (yes, Mom, even though I am taking all my vitamins): Three
Blog posts that I've been wanting to write but haven't gotten around to: Four
Times the fire alarm has gone off in my building since I've moved in: Five
Times I've played One Direction's latest single "Perfect": More than I care to admit

Saint Maurice

They say the best adventures usually happen close to home. Actually, that might be what they say about car accidents. Either way, I found an adventure close to home in one of my first days here by going to Église Saint Maurice. 

It's a church that's really close to where I'm staying here in Lille. I can actually see it from my window. And if you think the outside is beautiful, check out the inside. 

TAPIF: Week One

I didn't know what to use for a photo so here's a map of the town where I teach, Loos. 

I'm done with my first week as a teaching assistant, although I didn't actually assist with teaching anything. TAPIF has us do two weeks of observation at the schools we've been assigned to before we get into full gear.

My schools have taken this as a chance for me to learn about the French school system. I haven't necessarily been observing English classes, but I've gotten a chance to sit in on a class in every primary school level: CP, CE1, CE2, CM1 and CM2. I'll mostly be working with CM1 and CM2 kids. I've gotten to see pretty much every subject, too, from math to geography to gym and art (where I learned that if you have twenty two students doing a project involving mixing paint, there will be at least one spill).

Reykjavik: Dos and Don'ts

This picture (aka me trying to capture the beauty of Iceland through the #artsy filter of a rainy window) basically sums up my stopover in Reykjavik. 

I made it to France with a little help from Iceland.

Icelandair allows stopovers with no additional airfare cost, so I broke up the trip with a day in Reykjavik. I stayed at the Reykjavik Hostel Village, which was a great place. Central location, friendly reception, nice beds, good water pressure in the showers, and an optional breakfast--what more can you ask for?

I was in Iceland for about 36 hours, and I actually think I managed to do a lot. I feel like time moves slower in Iceland, not only in that people didn't feel very rushed but also in that I could look at my watch (ok let's be honest my phone) feeling like I was short on time and see that I actually had hours left to explore.

I also arrived in Reykjavik knowing very little about the city itself. And when I got there, I realized that maybe I should have prepared more. So, in my efforts to help you prepare for a trip to Reykjavik, here's a do and don't list.

Playlist: September

It's officially the end of September, and I'm officially in France. Funny how things change in a month. Well, here's the soundtrack to my September, inspired by:

- A newfound love of Nicki Minaj (seriously, "Grand Piano" though)
- Watching Ken Burns' The Civil War (or like, two parts of it. Still need to watch the rest. Bt any excuse to listen to "Ashokan Farewell")
- Dad's Sunday morning "wake up" playlist
- Switching it up and listening to country instead of top 40 while washing dishes...and discovering I liked some of the songs
- Also finding out that Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum plays not only the mandolin but also the bouzouki?!
- Iceland's apparent obsession with American late 60s/early 70s music
- Visiting Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace Tower
- The few Icelandic songs that Shazam was able to recognize
- Of Monsters and Men (because Iceland)
- The music that came on shuffle as my plane was landing in Paris and therefore sums up how this year will be
- New Josh Ritter music
- The Ryan Adams version of 1989
- And I think you can guess why the last song is on there

Shuffle and enjoy!

Update: I am in Lille

From a festival last night. Still not really sure what we were celebrating but whatever it was fun.
Full days spent in Lille: 4
Hours in transit to get to Lille (plane/cab/train): About 11
Hours spent waiting in airports and train stations: About 7
Days in Reykjavik for stopover: 1.5
Snapchat stories that failed to upload due to lack of wifi: upwards of 20
Average number of hashtags per Instagram post: 3
Time spent worrying about lost retainer that I actually just left at home: too much
Baguettes eaten: 1...okay 2.

Ready or Not

Here's a picture of Tyler Clippard, because his walk up song when he was on the Nats was "Ready or Not" by the Fugees. Also because I miss him. And look how happy he was in a Nats uniform!

I think I've packed everything I need.
I think I have all of my paperwork.
I think my photo for this long stay visa looks better than the last long stay visa I got.
I think.

All that I know is that in a few hours I'm leaving to start an eight-month adventure teaching English in Lille. No turning back. No changing my mind. No chickening out. This is happening.

I think I'm ready.

Playlist: August

Hey team. So. There aren't going to be many posts in the coming weeks. Not because nothing's happening--actually, quite the opposite. This whole "I'm moving to France for a year" thing is hitting me full force. There are some things that happened in August that I still want to write about. Maybe I will, maybe I won't, maybe I'll save them for some future throwback Thursday post. Until then, you can get a glimpse of what my August was like through this here playlist, which was inspired by:

- New singles from One Direction and Josh Ritter that were released on the same day (and the freakout that ensued)
- More new music, from Josh Ritter again and Imagine Dragons
- Seeing Fun Home on Broadway (All the songs are good but I just put the ones that I've had on repeat on here)
- More songs I heard on the radio or saw the video for on TV or danced to while dishwashing
- The best of the Washington Nationals' walk up music (in order of the lineup from 8/24)
- Reading Louise Penny's How The Light Gets In (and then going to her tea and book signing!)
- The VMAs (of course)

A Cat Café: Clearing up the Misconceptions

During my trip to New York a few weeks ago, I ended up going to the new cat café, Meow Parlor. I guess cat cafés have been a thing for a while now--I know my host dad in France really wanted to go to the one in Paris back when it opened in 2013. 

As a Buzzfeed proven dog person, I never really had any interest in going to a cat café, but I tagged along to the New York one to see what all the fuss was about. And, well, I didn't do my research. The idea of "cat café" in my head was very different from what it actually was. Here's what I found out: 

Review: "Fun Home"

I entered "Fun Home" on a whim after standing in the cancellation line and finally getting a ticket five minutes before the show started. I left Fun Home feeling extremely emotional. Not just emotional in the sense that it made me cry, which it did, but also because I was trying to process everything in this hilarious, tragic, and loving musical. 

"Fun Home" came to Broadway back in April, just a week before the Tony nomination eligibility period ended, and in June the musical was awarded five Tonys, including Best Musical. It's the adaptation of Alison Bechdal's graphic novel memoir of the same name, where Bechdal explores her complex relationship with her father and how both of them come to understand their sexualities, each in drastically different ways.

A Morning at the Met

Fun fact: I lived in New York until I was 6, but I really grew up in Maryland. I still go to New York a lot, but hard as it is for me to admit, I'm not a New Yorker. I lack aggressiveness and have too much of a taste for Old Bay.

I do love the Metropolitan Museum of Art, though. It's my mom's favorite museum, and she actually had her wedding pictures taken on the steps. Now that we don't live in New York anymore, most of our visits to the Met are around Christmas, so we can see their tree.

Last week, I was in New York to visit family, but I broke off to hang out with friends in the city. We agreed to meet at the Met on Tuesday morning right when it opened at 10, so naturally we all strolled in around 11:30 in desperate need of coffee but ready to start the day. Still early enough, right? Wrong. I don't remember the last time I'd been to the Met when it was

a) not Christmas
b) so crowded

Review: CVS Motion Sickness Bracelet

I'm not exactly the best person to take a road trip with. Part of this is because I don't have my driver's license and am therefore unable to take over any leg of the driving. The other part is that I sometimes get a bit motion sick. I can't read in cars. I can't watch movies in cars. Sometimes even looking down at my phone is enough to make me a little queasy.

I have stories of times motion sickness has gotten the better of me. And what's worse, so do other people. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and get some of those motion sickness preventing bracelets from CVS. And I thought I might as well talk about my experience with them on here, because if it's going to be a travel blog, why not talk about all aspects of travel?

Playlist: July

Okay, so I know July isn't over for a few more days, but for me July ends when the DC Grays' season ends, and that was on Sunday. Also, I'm leaving for New York tomorrow and I figured I should post this before I go. So here it is!

This playlist was inspired by:
- Songs played between innings at the ballpark, including tons of country songs I didn't know existed and some pop songs I knew very well
- Songs my dad likes and therefore played a lot in the car
- The Fourth of July
- Going to an Irish pub on the Fourth of July and seeing some live music, which consisted of both Top 40 and traditional Irish tunes
- Seeing Far From the Madding Crowd and Trainwreck 
- Seeing the trailer for Paper Towns too many times
- Getting introduced to the band Years and Years (thanks Elisabeth)
- Jamming to the most random selection of songs in the car with Alicia
- Songs that I heard on the radio so many times I thought they were following me
- Songs that I didn't hear as many times on the radio but that I listened to and liked anyway


Finding Paris in Washington, DC

I've been dreaming of France lately. Specifically, I'm having stress dreams where I'm leaving for my teaching assistantship and I haven't packed or I got the wrong visa or the plane crashed. Minor details.

Anyway, I guess I'm kind of on the lookout for French things, since I like to look for symbols in my life and then pretend they appeared spontaneously, and on Monday, I ended up having a mini Parisian experience here in DC. And it didn't even involve going to L'Enfant Plaza.

It involved going here!

Playlist: Post Grad

The idea for this playlist came to me the day after graduation, when I was driving away from Kenyon for the last time. I knew where I was leaving, I had no idea where I was going. I was scared. I was excited. I was ready. This playlist has some songs that I think express those feelings. Listen and enjoy!

How To: Celebrate July Fourth in DC Without Being a Total Tourist

I live in Washington, DC.

Okay, that's a lie, and I promised I wouldn't lie here so here's the truth: I live .3 miles from the DC border. I work in DC. I went to school in DC. I spend a good chunk of my time in DC. But I live in Maryland. And I've lived here long enough to know that it's probably not the best idea to head downtown on the Fourth of July.

Usually, my family and I go see fireworks up in Rockville and watch the Capital Fourth ones on TV. But this year, my friend Hanna was visiting me, and I figured she'd rather see the Nation's Capital than the town that inspired this song.

Throwback Thursday: Paris

Yesterday, I got my assignment for the exact city I will be teaching in this fall. I'll be in Loos, a suburb immediately outside of Lille. I'll be an English teaching assistant at the primary school level in three different schools. Am I excited? Yes. Am I nervous? Also yes.

I tend to make myself more worried about things than I need to be. I know this is going to be one of the best opportunities of my life, but there's still a part of me that keeps asking, "What if I completely fail at this? What if I forget how to speak French? What if the kids don't like me?" I'm trying to let another part of me take control, though. The part that says, "Relax. You've done this before. And you loved it."

That's right. I was here.

Playlist: June

One of my friends told me a while ago how every month or so, he puts the songs he's been listening to a lot into a Spotify playlist. If he goes back to listen to it, he associates the music with memories of that time. I thought it was a neat idea, so I started a version of my own. 

I've been keeping this playlist/music journal/memory thing on Spotify going for about a year, and now that I'm also keeping this blog, I thought I could share the monthly playlists on here! But be aware: it's always a really weird mix of songs. 

This month's playlist was inspired by:
- Of Monsters and Men's new album
- The Tonys
- Songs I jammed to on the radio while washing dishes
- A certain Usher song that I decided to pluck along with on the mandolin as a joke but then it actually sounded kinda good
- Between-inning music at baseball games for the team I intern with
- Baseball players' walk-up songs that I have now heard almost 40 times and will probably hear 40 more times before the season ends.

Shuffle and enjoy!


I never really thought that I would be the type of person to keep a blog, but I guess it's just a natural progression of things. I've been writing about myself ever since my handwriting became legible. Which was actually a result of my hands getting stronger from horseback riding. Thank you to my brother's occupational therapist for suggesting I start what became a lifelong passion. But I digress.

When I was younger, my dream was to be an author. I always wrote stories, but it was basically just fan fiction of my own life. I would write myself into a group of popular kids, or have a boy realize that beneath the bangs and the frown, there was a girl waiting to be noticed. In high school this turned into journaling, chronicling the Life Of An Outsider for what I assumed would later be the basis for a bestselling young adult novel. Well, that won't be hitting the shelves anytime soon.

It took me until college to understand that I was terrible at writing about my life. My main problem was that I always wrote myself as a victim, which isn't a good method. Reason one is because it gets old, fast. Reason two is because it's not true. Nobody is completely faultless in their life story. Everybody's made bad choices. Everybody's been mean or selfish or lazy. Everybody's hated someone. Everybody's hated themselves. I had to come to terms with this in my introductory creative nonfiction class. At first, it sucked. But then it led to me producing better work.

One of the weirdest things for me to see was that people tended to like stories where I was the "bad guy" more than stories where I was the "good guy." Now I'm trying to view it less as "bad" vs "good" and more as "real" vs "idealized." My goal for this blog is to not be an idealized version of myself. Which will be hard, because it's so easy to make your life look better on the internet than it actually is. But I want to be real.

So hello. My name is Anna. I just graduated from college and I have no idea whether I want to be an author or a sports journalist or a teacher or a translator or a world famous mandolinist. I like bad puns and cheeseburgers and washing dishes, but don't tell my mom about that last one. I start a lot of projects that I don't end up finishing. Hopefully this won't be one of them. I probably sleep too much. My life choices have been greatly influenced by Alex Ovechkin. I prefer clouds to sunshine, apples to oranges, and biking to walking. And this is my blog.