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Books I've Read & Listened to in 2020 So Far

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Top: Thrifted | Jeans: Walmart (old) | Earrings: H&M (old)

Anyone who knows me knows I love to read! Maybe it's the Introvert in me or the fact that you can get lost in a book and transported to another place, but books hold magic for me. I probably own over 250 books and I am continuously add more to my collection. 
Every year I set a reading GOAL on Goodreads. Since 2018 I have set a goal of reading 30 books, but have yet to achieve that goal until this year....this year I REACHED MY READING GOAL and READ/LISTENED 30 BOOKS by August! 
I thought it would be fun to share all the books I have read and listened to (so far) this year. 
My book selections this year have been extremely diverse! I made it a goal this year to read/listen to more diverse books, be it choosing an author whose background differs from mine, a unique plot, a book that focuses on important issues, etc...

Books in Blue are books I listened to on Chirp (chirp is a discounted audio book source/app! I buy audio books from Chirp when they are on sale for under $5...they run sales every week)

CLICK (book) to see it on Amazon in case you want to add it to your list or library (a lot of the titles are on sale right now for really great prices)! 

Read my FULL REVIEWS on Goodreads

For Everyone by Jason Reynolds - (book) This is actually a spoken word/speech. I had heard about Jason Reynolds from English teachers at our school and this short work of his sounded inspiring. Definitely enjoyed reading it. 

All The Bright Place by Jennifer Niven - (book) (chirp) I absolutely adored this book! I listened to it on Chirp and was totally captivated by the story. This book is now also a movie on Netflix (still need to watch it). This book isn't an all together happy book, it deals with depression an suicide and has a really sad ending. However, there is still a lot of Hope & "Brightness" in this book!

Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven - (book) (chirp) I own this book but I actually listened to it on Chirp. I loved Jennifer's other book, but sadly I didn't really love this one. I didn't connect to the story or the characters, but I still think it is a story that many people would relate to and be encouraged by. 

AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything by Kyle Idleman - (book) I always have some type of Faith based book that I integrate into my quiet time in the mornings and this was one of the books at the beginning of the year. Kyle Idleman is a fantastic author and I really loved the focus of this book on experiencing "AHA" moments where the real reality of God and his love changes your life! 

All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney - (book) (chirp) This book was definitely a title I would never have reached for before 2020, but I have to say I really did enjoy it! This was one of my first audio books of 2020 and I was completely captivated by the story and the characters. I learned a lot about the Muslim faith through listening to this book. 

The Want-Ad Killer by Ann Rule - (book) (chirp) Yes, I am that weird person who likes to read/listen to books about serial killers. It's strange to say that you enjoyed a book about a serial killer, but this book was really so good! 

Alex and Eliza (#1) by Melissa de la Cruz - (book) (chirp) If you are a fan of Hamilton you will LOVE this book! I actually listened to this book before watching Hamilton or listening to the soundtrack, which I think made me be interested in the history of Alexander Hamilton. Melissa did a great job writing about a historical figure in a captivating way that appeals to young adults. 

The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar - (book) (chirp) Loved this audio book! I have always been intrigued by WWII history, especially learning about the women who were a part of the war effort. This book followed multiple characters as they were a part of the Women's Airforce Service. If you like WWII books you will love this. 

The Year of Saying Yes by Hannah Doyle - (book) (chirp) This was a fun audio book to listen to. I finished this in two days. Definitely not a book I would have probably read, but it was like picking a movie because you know it will be entertaining, lighthearted and fun. I loved that it was British (which means it did have some British "language") because it also brought a charm charm to the story. 

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux - (book) (chirp) Probably one of my FAVORITE books of 2020! This isn't a work of fiction, or even really a personal biography....it was like a biography of a book (if that's even possible). I am a HUGE fan of Little Women (it's the only book and movie that will literally make me emotional every time) and I love Louisa May Alcott. If you love Alcott's works you absolutely have to read this book (I listened to it) because you will 1) learn things about Alcott you never knew before 2) learn why Little Women is one of the most important classical works of literature 3) fall in love with the story even more! Very educational and enlightening and makes you think about soooo many things and see Little Women in a completely different way (I have chills just typing this). 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead - (book) I started reading this in February for "Black History Month" because I felt that I needed to start educating myself about aspects of history that I wasn't familiar with and also learn about that through the lives of characters who walked through life experiencing things I have never experienced. The writing style of this book was very interesting (see my Goodreads review), but I did enjoy the story and it also had a unique twist at the end. 

Once Gone (Riley Paige Myster #1) by Blake Pierce - (book) (chirp) Another serial killer book, but this one was a fiction based thriller and it was soooo good! If you like Criminal Minds you will love this book and the ending is such a cliff hanger (I need to go listen to book #2). 

Love At First Like by Hannah Orenstein - (book) This was definitely one of my least favorite books of 2020. Pretty sure this was the lowest rating I have ever given a book on Goodreads, but I just didn't love it. If you want an easy and fun vacation read this book is great, but plausibly the plot is weak and the characters were very one dimensional. 

The Cases That Haunt Us by John E. Douglas - (book) (chirp) Ugh....another serial killer book, but this one was sooooo good!! I watched the TV show "Mind Hunters" last year and was totally captivated by the history of profiling and how it is used in criminal cases, especially those in regards to serial killers. This book was so interesting because it was written by John Douglas, who was one of the FBI agents who created the profiling division. The book walks you through crazy cases that were never fully solved, but Douglas uses modern profiling techniques, and it is just really interesting! 

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe - (book) I picked up this book at Barnes and Nobles in December because I had seen a lot about it and it looked super intriguing. Again, I am a huge fan of any book set during WWII and this book recounts the horrors of living in a concentration camp, but also focuses on the power of hope and learning in the midst of dark times. I really did enjoy this book, but at times the writing seemed a bit random and it went back and forth between so many characters it was easy to get confused...it was translated into English which is probably why the writing at times seemed odd. However, it was still a really great book. 

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord - (book) This was definitely an anticipated book of the year and it did not disappoint! This was the first book by Emma Lord and I can already tell she has a bright future as an author. There were so many things to love about this book, from the food, to the New York setting, to the almost "gossip girl" feel (at times), to the many layers of storytelling, tweets, and texts, it was just such a good YA! The best way to describe it, is that it is a modern retelling of "You've Got Mail" (see my Goodreads review)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds - (book) This was my second book by Jason Reynolds and it was such a unique work. Long Way Down is written in verse and tells the story of one elevator ride...it's such a unique plot and the way it is written in verse really brings the story to life in a different way. The ending is super interesting and makes you have so many questions. 

Normal People by Sally Rooney - (book) I went back and forth on whether I should include this book in the list because in full honesty and transparency I wouldn't recommend it to a lot of people because of its slightly mature content (in certain scenes)...so I'm not telling you to go read it because I know many people won't like certain scenes in the book. All that aside though, it was a fantastic story & written in a very unique way. I really enjoyed the way Rooney wrote her characters to be very authentic, because they had a lot of issues, which I think made them so relatable. (This book was also made into a HULU series, but I will say the series is way more mature than the book.)

The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman - (book) (chirp) This was another audio book I listened to. I probably wouldn't have read the book, but I did enjoy the audio book. It follows a nurse who travels to Hawaii, hoping to start a new life and carrying a secret. It has the perfect amount of romance, but what I really enjoyed was learning about events that lead up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor....there were a lot of details I never knew before and that was super interesting. 

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley - (book) (chirp) Super fun and enjoyable audio book....again, probably wouldn't have read the book, but I really liked the audio book. If you like high school theater and Romeo and Juliet this is the book for you. 

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld - (book) Anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE Jane Austen fan and that I adore Pride and Prejudice. I picked up this book at a thrift store and was intrigued by the fact that it was a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Overall I did enjoy it, but there were also a number of things that bothered me in the book. If you enjoy retelling of classic work you might enjoy this, but it is definitely not in the YA genre. 

Dear Martin by Nic Stone - (book) (chirp) Listened to this book on Chirp and it was so good! It tells the story of Justyce, a boy trying to reach his goals of joining an Ivy League school, but having an unfortunate run in with the law and struggles to understand where he fits into the world as a young black man. He relies on the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. for guidance and writes MLK Jr. letters in a journal. This book touches on a lit of great topics and discussions about race and is super relevant for our current times. 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson - (book) (chirp) Absolutely fantastic book! I listened to this on Chirp and then also watched the movie (which is also good). Just Mercy is written by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and social justice advocate who tells about his work about working for the wrongfully imprisoned. This book shines a light on issues within the justice system when it comes to race and mental illness. 

March: Book One by John Lewis (US Representative) - (book) This book (the whole trilogy) is written by John Lewis who was one of the key figures in the civil rights movement. The March trilogy is a graphic novel series that tells about his life work in the civil rights movement. The story is compelling, captivating, and educational and the fact that it is a graphic novel bring the story to life even more! Book 1 focuses on how John Lewis first met Martin Luther King Jr. and tells about the "March on Selma". 

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass - (book) I adored Kiera Cass's "Selection" series, so I was really looking forward to her new 2020 release of "The Betrothed" (I actually pre-oredered this book). Sadly, I didn't enjoy it near as much as her other books. The story fell a bit flat for me and I will admit the beginning of the story started off slow. The ending was definitely a shock and did make me like it a bit more, but it just wasn't as strong of a story. However, if you like books with settings of castles and knights, forbidden romance, and lots of drama you would enjoy this book. 

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch - (book) This was the perfect summer read! Especially considering I that it is set in Florence Italy and I was supposed to travel to Florence this summer. This book really captured the essence of Italian adventure and you feel like you are walking through the streets exploring with the characters. I loved the plot and the themes of discovering the true meaning of family, dealing with grief, etc. Highly encourage this book, I really loved it! 

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - (book) The last time I read Mere Christianity was in High School and I don't think I really appreciated it then. I am a huge fan of C.S Lewis's writing, his style, and his way of talking about life and faith in intellectual ways, but yet in ways that make since. I really enjoyed re-reading this book and definitely got more out of it the second time. 

The Magicians Nephew by C.S. Lewis - (book) I decided to start listening back through the Chronicles of Narnia because they are brilliant books and it has been to many years since I read/listened to them. I totally forgot about all the symbolism of The Magicians Nephew and really enjoyed listening to it again. 

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl & Melissa De La Cruz - (book) This was probably my second FAVORITE book of the year (so far) and keeps in theme with my love of Little Women. This book was co-written, and Melissa De La Cruz actually wrote the Alex and Eliza books also. I absolutely adored this book! Jo & Laurie is a romantic retelling of Little Women where Jo and Laurie actually end up together.....Now, I was never one of those people who was mad that they didn't get together in the original work, I respected Alcott's reasoning, but I have to say that after reading this book I might have changed my mind :) This book was expertly written in a style so reminiscent of Alcott's that I felt as if Alcott actually wrote it. I loved how it stayed true to the original story, but also changed it to have a different ending. If the fact that I cried at the end of this book says anything about how AMAZING it was, then that is proof enough you should read it! 

March: Book Two by  John Lewis (US Representative) - (book) This was the Second book in the March Trilogy by John Lewis and I really enjoyed this second one because it talked about so many aspects of the Civil Rights movement I never knew about before, like all the peaceful protests and sit ins to change segregation laws across the country. Highly recommend. 

With the way life is right now, there is a lot of extra time at home, which means there is extra time for reading. I hope that by sharing the books I have read this year you might have discovered some new titles that interest you. 

HAPPY READING!!

Have you read any of these books?
What was your favorite book so far this year?

- Madison

Family Cruise (Circa Summer 2019)

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Dress: Modcloth  |  Shoes: Ross  |  Headband: Wallmart  |  Earrings: Walmart

Dress: Homemade  |  Wrap: Charming Charlie's  |  Shoes: Goodwill (Chaps)  |  Purse: Marshalls

Swimsuit: Shein  |  Headband: Target  |  Sunglasses: Five Below (similar on Amazon) 

Dress: Papaya  |  Shoes: Target  |  Earrings: Sugar Fix (Target)


First Port: Cozumel
Swimsuit: Rey Swimwear (old) 
Dress: Homemade  |  Shoes: Ross 

Second Port: Grand Cayman

Third Port: Jamaica


This post is definitely very LATE in coming, but apparently the trend here on my blog is writing/blogging about a trip a YEAR after it happens....LOL! 
However, with all that being said, I thought I would take some time to share about our family cruise we took last summer (summer 2019). This was our first cruise and it was THE BEST VACATION EVER!!! We seriously had soooo much fun and made so many memories that we still talk about to this day!
We planned our Cruise about 6 months in advance and booked our 7 day Cruise with Royal Caribbean along with the help of a travel agent. This was actually a trip that I didn't have a lot of hands on experience planning, since my mom took care of most of it, but the great thing about a cruise is so much is included. 
Our cruise was 7 days and we stopped at 3 different ports: Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. In each port we planned excursions with a private excursion company who offered more options than Royal Caribbean. There is truly soooo much to share about our Cruise so I am going to share some of my FAVORITE things about it and what we did in each port. You can also watch my Vlog which details every days adventures. 

FAVORITE THINGS:
1) All you can eat food 24/7..... for breakfast and lunch we ate from the buffet which always had so much to choose from and for dinner we had the fancy sit down where you get to choose from the nights menu (and it was all delicious). They also had a pizza parlor that served pizza all day long!!
2) We loved the different shows and entertainment that were offered every night. Our favorite was probably the British Piano player in the jazz lounge who would play any song you suggested. We also went to a comedy show, a dance performance, and a musical and all were fantastic. 
3) Relaxing & reading at the pool! There is nothing quite like sitting on a lounge chair and looking out at a never ending ocean. 
4) I loved dressing up for dinner every night! While dinner was "fancy" attire and one night was formal dress, you can easily stay within the "dressy" category and be fine. 
5) I loved all of the ports that we stopped at and the excursions we had planned (see below)
6) If you like "People Watching" a cruise is definitely your "cup of tea"!
7) Dancing at the night clubs! Ever night they had "nigh clubs" in different areas of the shop and I went to them on two of the nights with my brother and sister and had a lot of fun...definitely not my ideal atmosphere, but it was still a lot of fun :)

PORTS & EXCURSIONS:
Cozumel - Cozumel definitely stole my heart and I cannot wait to go back! I have a whole new appreciation for the ocean after my experience in Cozumel. My mom booked us a private snorkeling excursion in Cozumel and it was amazing! We took a boat out into the middle of the ocean and got to snorkel in the crystal blue water. The crazy thing is that I hardly ever go in the ocean because I don't like not knowing what is around me, but it's so different when the water is clear all the way to the bottom. We got to hold starfish, swim with fish, and it was just amazing! 
After our snorkeling adventure my brother and sister got to swim with dolphins at the local aquarium, and that was super cool. 
Grand Cayman - Our Grand Cayman excursion was definitely an adventure! We booked an jet ski excursion where we all got to ride jet ski's out into the middle of the ocean to a place called "Sting Ray City" which is essentially a sand bar where Sting Rays congregate and we all got to hold a Sting Ray (see picture above). Taking Jet Ski's into the middle of the ocean was a bit nerve wracking, but it was also exciting :)
Jamaica - In Jamaica we booked an excursion to Duns River Falls. We loaded up on a bus with other families from our cruise ship and rode about 45 minutes to the Falls. While the bus ride was long, it gave us a chance to see a lot of Jamaica and hear about its history from our Tour Guide...I have a completely different perspective and appreciate for Jamaica now! Once we arrived at the falls, we got to climb the giant waterfall. After the Falls we had a traditional Jamaican lunch at a local restaurant and got to experience "Jerk Chicken" which is their version of barbecue and it was delicious. 


We are counting down the days until we can go on another cruise, but for now I will continue reliving it in pictures! 

Have you ever been on a cruise?
Have you visited Cozumel, Grand Cayman, or Jamaica?

- Madison 

Thrift Flip: I Turned a Skirt Into a Dress

Friday, July 24, 2020

Dress: Goodwill Thrift Flip  |  Shoes: Wallmart (old)  |  Jacket: c/o Madewell  |  Purse: Thrifted (Fossil)

I made a dress out of a skirt!!! This project was seriously soooo much fun and I am so happy with how it turned out. If you know me, you know that I LOVE thrifting and that most of what I wear is thrifted, but recently I have been trying to stretch myself creatively, especially when it comes to thrifting and so I have decided to start doing "Thrift Flip" projects!
Basically a "Thrift Flip" project is thrifting a piece and then flipping it to be something else or a different style (I have a swimsuit thrift flip coming soon). I decided to start with an easy project after finding this skirt (see "before" above) at Goodwill (see my Thrift Haul HERE). I got this skirt because I loved how unique it was, it reminded me of something that I would find at Anthropologie or Freepeople and because it was 3 sizes larger than my typical size, I knew I would have plenty of fabric to work with and decided to turn it into a dress. 
The design process was super easy, I just removed a section of the skirt, while making sure to leave enough fabric to sill fit my waist for the skirt, and then turned the removed section into the bodice and straps. I filmed the whole design/thrift flip process so if you want to see how I did it or try a project like this for yourself, you can check it out on my YouTube & watch below:


Have you ever Thrift Flipped something?

- Madison

3 Days In London: What to Do, See, & Eat

Thursday, July 23, 2020


 

I had always dreampt of visiting England, and specifically visiting London and it did not disappoint (read my post "Love Letter to London"). While our time in London was short, we did manage to see a lot of places and get a good taste of all that London has to offer the "anglophile" traveler. 
Day 1: 
Day 1 in London consisted of us taking a bus from Oxford to London. The bust ride was about and 1.5 hours....but it was the worst 1.5 hours of my life because I very unluckily was nauseous the entire time (not a fun way to start off a day of travel). 
We had tickets to Kensington Palace that we had bought the night before, so we had a specific time slot for entrance. Because we had luggage with us and were not checking into our air bnb until later in the day, we used "Nanny Bag" to store our luggage. I had previously used "Nanny Bag" when I was in Paris, but in London we had some issues finding the location, but were thankfully able to find another place around the corner, just in time to get to Kensington. 
It also happened to be a very rainy day in London, which kind of put a damper in our plans to explore Hyde Park more in depth. However, we were able to walk to Kensington in plenty of time, grab Lattes and Scones to recharge (we seriously lived on lattes and scones in England) before we started exploring Kensington. 

Kensington Palace: This was definitely high up on my list of places to visit because I ADORE Queen Victoria (I was kind of obsessed with her in high school), so seeing where she grew up was pretty amazing, not to mention that many other royals have lived there throughout the years. 
Tea At The Palace - There is a lovely tea room at Kensington that we were planning to have lunch at, but they were closing early for a private event, so sadly we didn't get to have tea. Since we were famished and didn't get to have tea, we stopped off at Pret a Manger a block or so from Kensinton to grab sandwiches before we picked up our luggage. 
Transportation - After we picked up our luggage we opted to take an Uber to our air bnb instead of maneuvering the trains with suitcases. 
Groceries - after we checked into our Airbnb (see my post: How to Book an Airbnb) we walked to the Sainsbury grocery store a block from our apartment to grab food for meals. I made sure to book an Airbnb with a kitchen so we could save money by cooking a few meals. Sainsbury's is my favorite grocery store in the UK....if you are ever there you have to get their mini boxed chocolate cake...seriously sooooo good (checkout my Travel Vlog to see what I am talking about) 

Would have Added - British museum

Day 2:
Our second day in London was definitely packed! We had a good idea of the places we wanted to visit on day two, but we figured out our official schedule and plan the night before. 

Tower of London - An iconically historic tourist destination, but a foundation to British history nonetheless. The Tower of London is an incredible place to visit because it holds so many unique stories about British history, royal espionage, famous prisoners, etc. The crown jewels are also housed at the Tower.
Tower Bridge - Just across from the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge (often mistaken as the London Bridge)....this is the bridge that everyone takes pictures on (#instagram spot). There are walkways on either side of the bridge so you can walk across to get a view of the city as well as snap a few pictures. 
Sky Garden (tickets online) - This was a cool place we found when researching places to visit in London. Sky Garden is essentially an indoor garden at the top of a sky scraper, there are tons of plants along with multiple bars and a restaurant. It is a great place to take pictures and also to get a view of the city. Sky Garden is free to visit, but you do have to sign up for a ticket slot online. 
Covent Garden - An iconic shopping destination, Covent Garden is fun to wander around. This is where you will find street vendors, pastry shops, along with all of your designer store fronts....this is where you want to shop (or window shop)
London Eye viewing - If you want to get a good view of the London Eye, it is just a short walk from Covent Garden. The London eye is actually across the water from where we viewed it, but it was a great spot to take pictures of it along the river. You can book tickets to ride on the London Eye and get a view of the city, but the tickets are expensive and  I have always heard that it is overrated. 

Day 3:
This was our last day in London and we wanted to fit as much in as possible! Day 3 was definitely heavily focused on food and cool cafes/bakeries. Additionally, we spent a lot of time on the underground going back and forth around the city. London't underground is a great transportation system and something that we LOVED about it (compared to places like NY) is that once you hit $7 of fair you get to ride free for the rest of the day, so we definitely took advantage of this our last day! 

ELAN - ELAN is one of the cafes that will come up if you research instagrammable spots to eat in London :) We definitely chose to go there specifically for that reason. Something to keep in mind is that there are different ELAN locations in London and each looks different inside...we went to the one that had the hearts on the wall (it was the Hans Cres, Knightsbridge location)  
Victoria and Albert Museum - Fun fact...all the museums in London are FREE!! Some of the museums have specific exhibits that you have to pay for, and many of them have a place for donations, but you don't have to pay an entry fee. The V&A museum is the world largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, while also having sculptures and many unique objects on display (they even have Beatrix Potter illustrations). They also have a wonderful permanent fashion exhibit that goes through styles throughout history and I really enjoyed it. 
Buckingham Palace - Buckingham Palace is one of the places you absolutely HAVE TO VISIT while in London! We quickly stopped by the palace to peak through the gates and get a few pictures before heading to our next stop. We didn't go at a time where there was a changing of the guards, so if you want to see that you would have to look up the times that happens. 
Sketch / Egg Pods - One of the most #instagrammed spots in London (in my opinion)!! Sketch is a multifaceted restaurant with different types of dining including a bar/lounge, tearoom, and dinning room....however, it is well known for it's famous bathrooms known as the "Egg Pods" because they are quite literally eggs that have toilets. 
We mainly went to Sketch because we wanted to see the bathrooms and take pictures of them, but you have to dine at one of their restaurants to gain access....we didn't really have a plan for how to get in (surprisingly) because we didn't want to pay 50 pounds per person at the Gallery (the pink tearoom) so we basically just told the hostess at the door that we wanted to take pictures in the bathroom (he wasn't even fazed) and he told us that we had to dine in to do that...all the dinning rooms require reservations (which we didn't have) but thankfully he was super kind and gave us a table in the lounge/bar where we ordered tea and juice (and were hard core judged)
Peggy Porchen - This is another one of the very Instagram worthy spots in London! It's a bit of a walk to get there at the closest underground station is a good five or so blocks away, but it's definitely worth it! Peggy Porchen is known for their baked goods, pastel colors, and season door decorations (which everyone takes pictures in front of). You will probably have to wait in line to order, but they do have seating outside. 
Westminister Abbey / Parliament Buildings - You can't be in London and not make a stop to see Westminister Abbey and the Parliament Buildings (whose architecture is so beautiful). This is also where Big Ben (the iconic clock tower is), but it was sadly under construction and covered in scaffolding. 

Would have added - Harry Potter Platform

I can't wait until I get to be in London again! There is definitely so much to see and do, everything from British History to Instagrammable Places. I was actually supposed to be in London for two days this summer back in June, but sadly that trip had to be rescheduled to next summer in 2021 (fingers crossed it works out). 

If you haven't seen my England travel vlog, you can check it out on YouTube and see everything we did in Oxford and London! 


Have you been to London? What was your favorite place to see?

- Madison