Paris: Stay There, Eat That

I don’t think anyone realizes how much input my husband puts into this blog. He’s not just the photographer/videographer, he’s an idea man as well. When we had our weekly content meeting last week, he suggested one of the topics for this very post. The conversation went like this:

JOEL (sitting on couch after work): “You should write a post about Paris next week.”

ME (walking up the stairs en route to bathroom): “What about Paris specifically? I have a lot of posts in mind.”

JOEL: “The food. Talk about the food in Paris…. I’m hungry. What should we make for dinner?”

FINE, JOEL. I GUESS I’LL TALK ABOUT ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS EVER: FOOD. But first…

The Paris of Joel and Sarah Blumer’s future is centered around the Four Seasons, Michelin Starred restaurants, and shopping at Christian Louboutin. It’ll be just like in that Bruno Mars song: “shopping sprees in Paris, everyday 24 karats”. The Paris of our present, however, is more along the lines of a pleasant hotel or Airbnb, cheap eats, and window shopping at the Christian Louboutin store (because shopping sprees in Paris would equal everyday 24 carrots because that’s all we’d be able to afford to eat). Although the future version sounds great, I wholeheartedly LOOOOOVE how we see Paris now!

This was, technically, the third time Joel and I have been to Paris (remember the first and second time?) and I make sure to casually bring that fact up in conversation as much as possible (yet somehow I’m not the most pretentious person I know). It’s a city that outdoes itself every time we see it. Paris really is the epitome of everything charming and beautiful.

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Normally, we’d pick Airbnb for accommodations in any city for more than 3 nights, but Hotel Panache was not only too cute, but way too much of a steal to pass up! At just over $100 per night, we got a room on the top floor with the best views of the 9th Arrondissement.

Boutique hotels combine the unique and charismatic elements that you’d get with an Airbnb with the simplicity and ease you’d get with a hotel. Win/win.

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With a sweet and knowledgable staff ready to drop recommendations about whatever tickles your Parisian fancy, Hotel Panache really has it all! Instead of pillow mints, you can expect fortune cookies with something funny written inside; Joel’s said “never make eye contact with another person while eating a banana”.

One thing you should know is that one of the toiletries provided by the hotel is body lotion NOT hair conditioner…. the label was in French and I made the mistake of assuming it was the latter, which will explain why my hair might start to look funky in a lot of our vacation photos.

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Fine. I guess we can talk about food now…

At home, we try to stick to a diet of mostly “plant-based” meals. When we do eat meat, it’s usually turkey, chicken, and fish and almost never beef or pork. In France though, that way of munching goes out the window. Not that it’s hard to find amazing vegetarian options in Paris, we just didn’t want to. We’re on vacation, damn it!

Before we went to Paris the first time around, I did a ton of research and asked people we knew who had been where the best cafés were, only to find out that when you’re on the streets of Paris, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a cute café. The hypothetical rock you’re throwing will probably bounce off of one cafe and hit two more before it slows down.

To save some dough whilst in Paris, we only ate at cafés, brasseries, pâtisseries, and my personal favorite: crêperies. These are all especially great options if you feel awkward making dinner reservations in a foreign country (we rarely go to places where reservations are needed stateside anyway). Just go in, find a seat, eat and enjoy! 

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A lot of cafés in Paris are not only charming, but come with so much cool history too! Le Consulat in Montmarte happens to be where Picasso, Van Gogh, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec used to all go to have a drink and shoot the shit, artist style. And Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole (located right by Notre Dame) was established in 1512, making it one of the oldest buildings still remaining in Paris! Just look at that wisteria growing, hiding it from the prying eyes of most tourists! C’est vraiment magnifique!

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Can we give a shout out to “mixte” plates, real quick?! It doesn’t get much better than a big plate of various meats and cheeses (sometimes with a side of pickles!) served with warm bread and washed down with cold beer. We ordered them a couple of times not really knowing what kind of meat or cheese we’d get specifically, but they never disappointed.

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For burgers in Paris, Mamie Burger is THE BEST (also conveniently located right outside of our hotel)! If you don’t want to be an asshole or an “américain stupide,” be sure to order your burger medium. Yes, there will be blood, but it’ll be worth it. Trust me.

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I can’t look at the pictures below without drooling. The street food in Paris is so. freaking. good. My last meal in France was a gyro with spicy cheese sauce that I ate at 10 p.m. and had the worst heartburn from, but couldn’t get enough of! The pizza and garlic knots were also so very tasty.

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We Blumers are all very big fans of Belgian beers. Belgium is France’s adorable northern neighbor, so drinking a good Belgian beer in France is as easy to do as going anywhere in the U.S. and drinking a Bud Light or any other trash beer. Hooray! We also had a few cocktails and a few bottles of wine because, like I said before, vacation.

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Ah, crêpes. The quintessential king of all street food in Paris. Try one with butter and sugar or Nutella and strawberries! Whatever you get on them and wherever you get them from, you’ll be satisfied by crêpes. I have so many photos on my phone of just crêpes. I love crêpes. crêpes. crêpes. crêpes.

Say crêpes one more time…

Crêpes.

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Pastries in Paris are an art form. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s a fact. Macarons (NOT Macaroons, there’s a difference, okay?!), croissants, croissants aux amandes, pain au chocolat, eclairs, etc… each one is better than the next. It might literally be impossible to eat a bad pastry in France. Just sayin’.

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Ugh, crap. Now I’m drooling again…

Mrs. Steel Yo POPS

I know where your brain is going. No, I’m not referring to your “Pops” as in your father! I’m talking about “Pops” as in POPSICLES!

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I met up with my friend Jadie for lunch today and we both had our toddlers with us. If any of you have kids, you know going to a restaurant with kids that isn’t a Chick-Fil-A is a huge stress. There is only a certain amount of time a kid can handle coloring on the same paper with only a 2-color crayon choice. If you add on a popular restaurant during lunch hours, you’re looking at spending a good 45-60min. For a toddler, that time is an eternity.

Not too much time passes before bribes are made and 2 magical words slowly exit your lips. “I C E – C R E A M”. Bam. Automatic 5-10 minutes of decent behavior added to your meal.

I’m not one to not follow through with a promise. After we left the restaurant, we looked up nearby ice cream shops and came across Steel City Pops around the corner. Jadie and I were both immediately impressed with the atmosphere and vibe of the shop. Steel City specializes in gourmet Mexican Paletas, commonly known as “pops”. As I was struggling to decide on the perfect flavor, I asked the cashier about the company. She told me the story of how it was started by a husband and father from Alabama who followed his dreams to own a restaurant. Today, that 1 restaurant has turned into over 20 locations and continuing to spread through the United States.

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Finally, I made my decision. Are you ready? Might want to loosen your belt buckle and let out that top button on your pants. Cookies & Cream Cookie Pop dipped in dark chocolate, drizzled with fresh caramel and toasted coconut, and dredged with sea salt. I can get pretty vocal when I eat something satisfying and to be clear, I was NOT silent. Treating yourself once in a while is a must. Do yourself a FLAVOR and don’t waste that “treat” on something that won’t fully satisfy you. Take the plunge and go for it all. Your heart will thank you… but your slim fitted jeans might react a little differently.

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All in all, if you’ve never had a paleta, I encourage you to try one out. Follow your heart.

 

 

Goodbye, My Friends.

An accessory that I can’t live without: sunglasses.

An accessory that I, apparently, can’t live with because I lose almost them all too often: sunglasses.

Now that Summer (aka Sunglasses Season) is officially ending, I thought it’d be the perfect time to eulogize all of the sunglasses I’ve loved and lost over the years. Click here for background music while you read this post.

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Ohhhh Oversized Matte Cat Eyes, you were the best. Why, oh why, did I have to sit on you when I got into my car, crushing you in half?! There is a happy ending to your story though, you were under $10, so I ordered the another pair. The memory of the first will live forever through the second pair (as long as I don’t sit on them too).

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Marbled frames with blue mirrored lenses. Quay Australia. You were the most beautiful sunglasses I ever owned. Too bad my sister “accidentally” punched you off of my face in the Gulf Of Mexico this summer. Don’t worry, sunnies, we got our revenge when she got stung by that jellyfish soon after.

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Sunglasses with an eyelet lace pattern on the frames? How unique you were! Too bad you had some screws loose and kept jumping off of my face. I wasn’t surprised when your lenses just popped right off and shattered. Nice knowin’ ya.
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Wait… These clear acrylic frame sunnies aren’t even mine… I hope you’re still making Christina as happy as you made me for the 15 minutes you were part of my face.

 

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Ohhhhh oversized mirrored Quays. You made me look like a super sexy fruit fly. You met your fate when I sat on you too. You’ve been on life support in my center console because I plan on super-glueing you back together someday. Don’t lose hope, I still love you!

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Not really sure how you made it onto this post, $4 Forever 21 Light Blue glasses. You were crooked soon after I bought you and I don’t even care that you’re gone. #BYE.

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Red Mirrored Quays. I tried you on at the store and Joel said “don’t buy those, they look weird” but I did anyway. According to my Instagram photos from 2015, we did everything together, sunnies! You were with me in The Netherlands, where the Dutch would whisper “look at that cool girl and her red mirrored sunglasses” as we’d stroll by. And remember when we went to Kennywood and decided we hate rollercoasters, sunnies, do you? You don’t. Because you’re lost. Claimed by the Caribbean Sea, when we were in the Dominican Republic for our friends’ wedding. I still think about you all the time.

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I had all the heart eyes for these heart eye glasses… Where the hell are you, heart eye glasses? I can’t find you.

Not pictured in this post: the two pairs of Ray Bans I lost in Canyon Lake.

Note to self: stop wearing your good sunglasses in bodies of water, you fool.

Ice Ice Iceland

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When Joel and I were in the beginning stages of planning our latest European rendezvous, my mom called me and in a typical “mom fashion” asked about a bajillion questions about our upcoming trip. Of the questions, there was one particular, two-parter that made me LOL. After inquiring where exactly Iceland is located, my goofball mom added “and what IS Iceland exactly? like, what’s its deal?”

As far as replies go, I could have said anything from “it’s this cool little country that was made by volcanoes” or “it’s where the Vikings settled”. I definitely should have sent my mom a link to the History of Iceland on Wikipedia because it’s fascinating, but instead I said “remember that weirdo who wore the swan dress to the Oscars? She’s from Iceland.” (disclaimer: Bjork is awesome and “weirdo” is always a term of endearment in my book)

These map screenshots show the location of Iceland in relation to other places, mom:

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I didn’t know much about Iceland until recently. My curiosity in the country began when my blogger friends went in 2015, and it grew from there. We now know quite a few people who have been (my artist friend, Courtney, got married on a cliffside in Iceland)! Even after visiting, our interest in Iceland hasn’t piqued! We definitely left a lot to explore for next time, so it’s great that it is soooo cheap to get there…

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Hey WOW Air!

Yes, the getting there is cheap… once you’re there, though, “cheap” pretty much ceases to exist, but for good reason. Iceland depends on tourism (your country would too if you couldn’t grow anything because your “soil” is actually just volcanic rock). Also, almost all of the food you eat in Iceland has to be shipped over from elsewhere (with the exception of seafood), so you can expect to pay more for it.

We heard from friends that Iceland is expensive, but didn’t realize how expensive until we got there. Try not yelling “$25 for a medium pizza from Domino’s?” or “OMFG IT’S $17 FOR ONE DRINK AT THIS BAR” the first time you see it. But don’t forget about how much money you saved getting there, okay?! And it’s for sure worth it to visit Iceland, you just have to figure out which way is right for you…

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3 WAYS TO SEE ICELAND

  1. The Layover– using an Icelandic airline to get to other European countries will save you money AND you’ll be contributing to the Icelandic economy. You’ll just be a big dummy if you don’t leave the airport.
  2. The Stopover– you can have your herring and eat it too! This is the option we chose because if you’re going to be stopping at the airport in Iceland anyway, you might as well stay a night or two! That’s plenty of time to explore Reykjavik and do at least one excursion. And you can save some money on food by eating your complimentary hotel breakfast, Icelandic hot dogs, and Domino’s.
  3. The Stop, Drop (your bags), and Stay Over– My brother, Brennan, made Iceland his sole destination and spent a week exploring the entire country. His photos are AMAZING. He really explored the crap out of Iceland! Even though our time there overlapped by a day, we weren’t even mad when he didn’t attempt to hang out as he was so busy climbing glaciers and getting blown by geysers.

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Reykjavik is such a cool city!

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It’s nice, too, because if you do get tired of being in the city, just walk along the coastline and before you know it, you stop hearing the cars honking and it’s nothing but beautiful mountains ahead of you.

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We can’t wait to go back to Iceland, rent a car, and road trip the whole dang thang.

Oh, WOW! (an honest review of WOW airlines)

If you’ve been asking yourself “WTF IS WOW AIRLINES?!” ever since reading either the title of this post OR the first of my recent travel posts (it’s right here, dummy), don’t worry… First of all, you’re not alone, WOW Airlines is relatively new (founded in 2011), so not many people know about it. Secondly, I’m about to tell you, so read on.

Have you heard of discounted, cheap-o domestic airlines, such as Spirit or Allegiant? Well, WOW is like those, but, to Europe and Asia. According to their website, “WOW air is a happy low-fare, long-haul airline based in Iceland. The airline serves 38 destinations across Europe, North America, and Asia. WOW air is committed to providing the cheapest flights to and from Iceland and across the Atlantic while providing a memorable service all the way.”

YOU HAD US AT CHEAP FLIGHTS TO EUROPE, WOW!

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When WOW announced that it was adding Pittsburgh to its list of airports it flies out of, Joel and I got pretty excited. So $99 flights to Iceland? YEP. $189 to Copenhagen? FOR SURE. I can fly to Tel Aviv for $139?! YOU BET YOUR ASS YOU CAN! We can go back to Paris for $149?! YAAAAS.

Woah woah woah, pump the brakes. This all started sounding too good to be true. When I typed “wow airlines reviews” into a google search, I wasn’t really shocked to see that they were rated pretty low (a lot of “one star” ratings). But as I read on, the reasons they were being given such low ratings, were pretty dumb. If people had done their research on why they were able to fly at such a low rate beforehand, they wouldn’t have much to complain about.

We booked WOW Airlines despite their reviews because the deal was too sweet to pass up. Here’s the thing: If you like to be spoiled on transatlantic flights with pillows, blankets, meals, and entertainment provided by the airline, DO NOT BOOK WOW. If you don’t care about any of that and just want to get to your destination, THEN THIS IS THE AIRLINE FOR YOU! Wouldn’t you rather save money on transportation and spend it when you get there (wherever “there” may be)?

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Since we have now successfully used WOW, we can fully endorse and recommend this airline, but there are some things you should know…

BOOKING

  • $99 is the base price. At the very, least you’ll end up spending $10 per flight to reserve your seat. Example: we flew to Iceland, then to Paris, then back to Iceland, then home and had to reserve seats on each flight costing $40 per person.
  • Flight costs will vary by date. Duh. It was significantly cheaper for us to fly home on Friday than it was on Sunday, so that’s what we did.
  • You get one free personal item (purse or backpack) all other items will cost you per flight. This factor made me nervous at first because we really crammed our backpacks full and I was afraid they wouldn’t fit the allotted “free” size, but it turns out I could have squeezed stuff into all of the other pockets and it would have definitely fit the bill.
  • We did end up sharing one paid carry on bag which is the way to do it! It’s such a breeze to get through customs when you don’t have checked luggage because it’s one less step to take (plus, with WOW, you pay more for checked luggage than for a carry on). Read their baggage FAQs here.
  • The grand total for both Joel and I to fly to both Paris and Iceland, with one paid for carry on bag, was around $1400. THAT’S INSANE. A roundtrip ticket to/from Europe for about $700 per person!!! Please tell me you realize what a steal that is! And you could definitely get flights for less than that.

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So you’ve booked your flight on WOW and you’re off on your next adventure, but keep in mind, from here on out, nothing else is included in the price you already paid for your flight, seat reservation, and luggage (if you brought any).  Here’s how we got by on our first WOW flight and what we’ll do differently next time.

FLYING

  • Food/water isn’t ridiculously overpriced like I assumed it would be on WOW flights (I was expecting $11 for water because an airport employee said it would be that much, but it was $3 per bottle). We ate dinner in the terminal beforehand and brought snacks from home and big water bottle to share anyway.
  • You can pay extra for more leg room, but it won’t make the seats comfortable.
  • You can pay extra for comfier seats, but only on certain planes.
  • Holy shit, the seats are so uncomfortable. Bring an inflatable butt pillow and a neck pillow. Wear a jacket and use that as a blanket. Better yet, pay the little extra cost for a carry on bag and fill it with pillows & blankets.
  • DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT sit in the seats in front of the exit row. Not only do they not have a lot of leg room, but they don’t recline. Chances are you’ll throw your back out trying to get a little bit cozy…. trust me.
  • Bring books. Download movies and podcasts. Make playlists of your favorite jams. Pack a travel journal and pen. You like adult coloring books? bring one. You have at least 5 hours ahead of you, plus connecting flights, and nobody can twiddle their thumbs for that long. And good luck sleeping without that butt pillow we talked about!

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Although none of our four flights actually boarded when they said they were going to, the most we were ever delayed getting to a city was 15 minutes. The only other slightly annoying thing about WOW is the seats, which as I said above, are not cozy. Still, the prices can’t be beat and the customer service is great! And I didn’t even mention that the planes are magenta and the flight attendants are beautiful Icelandic babes who wear old school stewardess outfits THAT ARE ALSO PINK.

WOW Air gets a solid 4.8 out of 5 in my book.

Since we know some people who have also flown WOW, I asked them to give me quotes about their experiences.

“First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. The WOW flight attendants and pilots won the genetic lottery. I’ve never flown on such an attractive vessel before. I found the service to be hospitable and relaxed. I had ordered a special vegan meal ahead of time (falafel salad – highly recommend) and they got it to me no problem, which isn’t always the case. When we flew direct from Pittsburgh to Reykjavik, we upgraded to the extra legroom seats in the front row because my husband is tall; having a bit of space to spread out was nice on a longer flight, but I’m not sure it was worth the cost. Lastly, I loved the throwback vibe of stepping onto the tarmac and taking a bus to the terminal when arriving at the airport in Iceland. It felt very Hollywood glam, except I was sleep-deprived and wearing a windbreaker.” –@EndlessWeekend

“They’re good.” –@NMalburg

“I would use WOW again for their flights, yes. It beats $1200 round trip [on any other airline]… But I wish we didn’t get in trouble for drinking the alcohol we bought at the duty free store…” –@Uncle_Bam467

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My cozy travel outfit. Do I not look a bit like Spinelli from the cartoon Recess? Any other 90s kids out there?
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Beanie/Amazon, Glasses/Amazon, Leather Jacket/Zara, Gingham Top/Old 

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Believe it or not, this is NOT a sponsored post, I just really like traveling for cheap. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our experience with WOW.

With new cities being added to the ever growing list of WOW routes, European and Asian travel is no longer for just the mega rich or those who have been scrounging and saving airline miles. Soooo where to next?!

The Trip

If you’ve been following me around on Instagram, talking to my mom, or are my friend IRL, then chances are… you totally already know that Joel and I spent last week traipsing around Paris and Reykjavik, Iceland. I can’t speak for myself, but my dear husband has been in serious need of a vacation. Not only had Joel been working hard, 10 hour days for the weeks leading up to our trip, but homeboy hasn’t taken any vacation days since our honeymoon last May (whereas I’ve had plenty of time off and have gotten to go here, here, and here).

When we learned that WOW! Airlines was opening up shop in Pittsburgh, we decided to take a trip back to one of our favorite places, Paris, as well as check out Iceland, you know, while we were “in the neighborhood”.

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Sometimes you just have to take a time out from real life to eat (meat and cheese), drink (alcohol!), and be married.

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Although I’m the last person I know “in need of” a vacation, I’ve been in such a creative slump lately that I wanted to take this amazing travel opportunity to gather material to write about while spending quality time with my hot, nerdy guy. I can say with the utmost confidence that I accomplished all that I set out to do! *high five*

I can hardly believe how much inspiration I got from merely a week away from home! From people watching in Paris, to learning how to correctly pronounce “Reykjavik” from local Icelanders, I made sure to take lots of notes in my travel journal and have quite a few blog posts lined up for the next few weeks. As an added plus for me, it is clearly stated in clause 16b of our (unwritten) marriage contract that Joel has to be my personal photographer until the end of time (HA! Got ’em!), so you can expect a lot of cool photos to accompany each post. And before you start feeling sorry for Joel, or making over/under bets about how many times I said “babe, like, take my picture in front of the Eiffel Tower”, know that he loves it. Joel is more than just an Instagram Husband, he is a photographer by nature and he even got a new toy out of it- a Sony RX100 III, the best travel camera ever, SO THERE.

Are you not entertained yet? Well, we’re just gettin’ started…

Ohio Is For Lovers*

*Ohio is for cheap wine loving residents of Pennsylvania.

I used to feel like Joel duped me into moving up to PA from Texas for the lone reason that Pennsylvania has some whack AF laws regarding alcohol. “What do you mean you can’t buy beer or wine with the rest of your groceries and have to go to a separate part of the store? TRADER JOE’S DOESN’T HAVE WINE AT ALL? HOW WILL I LIVE WITHOUT MY OTHER BOYFRIEND, TWO BUCK CHUCK?!”

But, being a serial optimist, I can always find that silver lining….

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THEY TOTALLY SELL WINE EVERYWHERE IN OHIO (fun fact- most of the people who willingly visit Ohio are just thirsty Pennsylvanians)! Last weekend, Joel and I embarked on the fifty minute journey out of PA, through WV, and into OH for the sole purpose of buying cheap wine. We’ve both been feeling the itch to travel again, plus there’s totally a chick-fil-a on the way. Three birds, one stone, dead.

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We took a break from being Plant Based to share 30 nuggets #becauseweareworthit

Joel heard on the streets that Aldi sells an “award winning” rosé, which everyone knows is the drink of the summer as well as a key ingredient to frozé (frozen rosé). So with bellies full of chicken and NPR on blast, we embarked on an epic…. “oh, we’re already there? cool…”

And whatdya know, they were sold out! Instead, we got:

  • a white zinfandel (it’s pink too, so close enough)
  • cheap Aldi champagne
  • a box of Chardonnay (it’s not good)
  • a 6 pack of Amber Ale (also pretty bad)
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oh, don’t mind me, just getting photographed behind an abandoned building in Ohio.

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When we got home, Joel made some champagne ice cubes, which we later mixed with the White Zinfandel and some frozen raspberries, and you know what, it was one of the most refreshing alcoholic beverage I’ve ever had (suck it, frozé).

It’s funny, when I lived/worked in Ohio for the 9 months leading up to our wedding, I felt myself harboring this childish resentment toward the whole state, but it really isn’t that bad. I swear, people from Ohio are the nicest, so I’m hoping they don’t get too offended by my lighthearted teasing (lookin’ at you Leann and Rachel)!

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a blog BY ladies FOR ladies