How to travel: Making traveling easier and more comfortable

In a previous post, I’ve written about some basic airplane etiquette rules. Today, I’d like to touch upon some tips and tricks I’ve learned that made my travelling life easier, more effective, or more comfortable.

As mentioned before, I used to be a frequent traveler and have collected quite some miles and hotel points in the process (most of which I’ve already used, sadly). This has given me a bit of experience, and over the years, I learned some stuff that I thought might be helpful for others as well.

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After all, this is what traveling is about, right?


Book early and check in early. Apart from some sensational last-minute offers, you can pretty much always benefit from booking as early as possible. Check multiple comparison websites, such as Kayak or Momondo, as well as airlines’ own websites, to make sure you get the cheapest fare (some people suggest to turn off cookies and delete the browsing history as this might influence prices as well). If the prices are not different, book directly with the airline, as this will give you greater control over your booking, and more security in case your flight gets canceled etc. I also sign up for mailing lists, airlines often have special offers for weekend trips or certain destinations. Checking in online as soon as possible is also an absolute must. My personal preference: Choose a seat in the front of the plane, and choose an aisle seat. The view isn’t that great above the clouds, and you’ll be free to go to the bathroom whenever you want. Plus, you’re out of the plane faster. If the flight is longer than an hour or two, you might want to opt for an emergency exit row, if available (although some airlines have started charging extra for those).

Try to book business travel times. Now this one can go both ways. If you’re travelling a popular (business) route, maybe it’s not the best idea as prices might be steeper. But usually, early morning travel times are less frequented, and queues at security and the gate are much shorter as people know what they’re doing. Plus, I like this sort of crowd much better than touristy groups (no kids!).

Join ALL the programs, and keep track of them. I’m a member of four different frequent flyer programs. Why would that make sense? Admittedly, you don’t need to join EVERY program as points are usually awarded in the same airline alliance (Star Alliance, One World, etc.), but you might face some severe point discounts, even when flying within the alliance. Even if you’re not travelling that frequently, I still recommend collecting points. Many airlines offer bonus flights from as little as 10,000 points, and you can spend the points for on-board food and drinks or shopping as well. Same goes for hotel points. Sign up for the program, because you can often already get some benefits purely from being a member (like free wifi or access to the gym), and the first status tier is normally not super difficult to reach. I use AwardWallet to keep track of my loyalty programs.

Pro tip: If you want to take it a step further, there are a number of blogs and websites on the topic of “point hacking”, and Nomadic Matt has even written a book about the subject!


Get that nice little trolley. Now, as a consultant, a cabin trolley is basically a part of the uniform, but I still think it’s the best option for short trips (max. 10 days). I recently tried borrowing my boyfriend’s weekender bag for a trip, but ended up hating it – it’s incredible how heavy things can get if you have to carry them instead of pulling them around! I did some research before I decided on a Rimowa cabin trolley, and opinions differ strongly on the questions of hard-case versus soft-case, and four-wheel versus two-wheel. I opted for a hard case to make sure things don’t get squished to death in there, and the two-wheeler, because that gives an additional 5 liters of room in there compared to the same model with four wheels.

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My favorite travel companion (apart from my boyfriend)

You don’t need to bring that. My number one rule for packing is to pack as lightly as possible, especially for a short trip. Strike that, for any trip! Planning your outfits in advance can be helpful to make sure you don’t bring four pairs of jeans but forget the dress for the fancy dinner you’re supposed to attend. I like to make piles: must-haves (underwear, socks, toiletries, favorite pair of pants, favorite shirt, favorite sweater, you get the pattern) and nice-to-haves (that other pair of jeans that fit a bit better with that shirt, a second pair of heels in case you spontaneously want to wear the dress, …). Wear the stuff that takes up the most space (shoes, coat) so you have more room in your bag or suitcase. Ladies, check here or here for some nice ideas on how to mix and match outfits from a few basics.

You absolutely need to bring this. I guess the essentials are passport, travel documents, and credit cards. Because really, you can buy everything else if you have to. But since that’s not how I usually plan, here’s my personal must-bring list for any sort of travel: Underwear. Toothbrush. Toiletries (bring the smallest possible containers!). Chargers for phone, iPad, camera. One comfy pair of shoes (likely the one I’m wearing for travelling). Cardigan or sweater. One pair of warm socks.


I forgot something! It happens to the best of us. There are a few things that you just HAVE to bring (like a passport or other ID, credit cards, phone). But if you forgot something important, don’t panic, because chances are you can get a replacement quite easily. A couple of examples: Make use of other people’s forgetfulness! Hotels usually have a box of phone chargers that people have left, so unless you have a 15 year old Nokia 3310, you can probably find one that fits to borrow. I’ve also been helped out with toothbrushes, toothpaste and sewing kits at hotel receptions. If you need to buy something, ask hotel staff if there’s a cheap option around.

Look your best when you arrive. Packing and unpacking doesn’t make clothes look better. But there are some tricks on how to minimize travel “damages” – check out the video below for some cool packing hacks. Some more upscale hotels provide fabric bags for shoes, so I always make sure to take them. Shoe trees are also a good investment. One of my favorite tricks for wrinkled shirts and blouses: hang them in the bathroom when you take a hot shower (or just let the hot water run) – the steam will remove the worst wrinkles and you might get around ironing them.

What are your best travel tips? Do you follow any specific blogs on the subject?

How to travel: Basic airplane etiquette

How to travel: Airplane etiquette

To me, travelling is a part of the expat lifestyle. Usually, this involves flying – at least for me, since my family lives about 10 hours by car away. The same is true for other expats whose home country is even further away. Before I started my job here in Denmark this year, I worked in consulting, and I accumulated quite a few frequent flyer miles working on and travelling to projects across Europe. And I thought I’d share some thoughts on general airplane etiquette, and some tips on how to make airplane travel easier and more comfortable. In today’s post, I’m focusing on the first part.

Now, a lot of these will probably make you go “how is this news – this is basic knowledge/ human decency”, and honestly, it should be! But sadly, at least in my experience, so many people really, really lack in this department, and I’ve witnessed things on board of planes that made me question my general faith in mankind. No matter how cultivated, nice, or reasonable someone is on the ground, as soon as they step on a plane, many people devolve into egomaniac savages with no respect for others. So here are some of my basic guidelines on how to not be a giant jerk on a plane.

It’s kind of a long post, so here are my key points:

  • Security control is not that complicated – just be prepared.
  • When boarding, go about it smartly instead of just pushing and shoving.
  • Five huge bags is not “carry-on”.
  • Be nice to your seat neighbor – just act like a human being!
  • Don’t order ALL the food and drinks just because it’s free.
  • Don’t start a war over reclining seats.
  • When travelling with kids, try not to let them ruin other people’s flights.
  • We’re not at the circus, so don’t applaud after landing.
  • We’re not animals, so disembark in an orderly fashion.


Before the flight

What do you mean, no fluids? I’m regularly baffled by how stupid some people can be when it comes to security control (no, you can’t take that huge bottle of shampoo with you!). To me, security control is a hassle, but it mainly is because there are way too many people who are either clueless or careless or just basic idiots. It’s not that hard. Take off your belt. Take your laptop out of your bag. Have your fluids ready in a Ziploc bag on top of your suitcase or bag so you can quickly take them out. If I’m wearing high-heeled shoes or boots, I usually take them off as a precaution, it makes things so much quicker. And when you’re through, take your stuff and move away from the goddamn line! You filled four boxes with your belongings, and now you’re taking five minutes to lace up your shoes, so I can’t reach my stuff. Basics, people!

Engage your brain during boarding. Do you have a seat in the back of the plane, or are you travelling without any carry-on? Then be my guest and board early. Otherwise, just take a chill pill and wait! There is no reason for you to jump up from your seat and run to the front of the queue as soon as boarding is announced, especially if you have an aisle seat in row 4. I usually check in early and select and aisle seat as far in the front as possible, so I’m usually one of the last passengers to board. Once you’re on board, quickly put your luggage away and sit down to let others pass. There will be time for you to rearrange your stuff and get your phone out of your bag, but there is nothing worse than some guy blocking the aisle for all the passengers behind him because he needs to wrestle his suitcase and giant backpack into the overhead bin. Trust me, they are not going to leave you behind if you’re not the first in line!

On the flight

Is that really carry-on? Yes, you might have succeeded in squishing your suitcase into one of those testing containers to check if it’s suitable for carry-on. But you also carry a massive backpack and a huge bag full of liquor from duty free. That’s about half of the overhead bin filled with your stuff. I hate waiting at the conveyor belt for my luggage, too, but if you have so much stuff that it’s hard to maneuver on board, consider checking the largest item. Most airports have gotten better with baggage handling times, and it might even add to your relaxation factor if you don’t have to drag five bags across the entire airport! Or, if you absolutely must have all your stuff within your reach, at least put one bag under the seat in front of you.

Carry-on luggage can be dangerous.

Respect thy neighbor. Chances are, your seat neighbor doesn’t want to engage in a long conversation with you, listed to your music, or read your newspaper. He most certainly doesn’t want you to take a nap on his shoulder, either! So whatever your in-flight entertainment, try to keep it to yourself and your own space. Fold your newspaper. Turn your music down to an acceptable volume – that’s better for your ears anyways. Don’t choose the window seat if you have to get up and pee every ten minutes! If you have the window seat, you’re in control of the blinds, but if you see your neighbor sleeping, maybe don’t rip it open every ten seconds. Also, think for three seconds before taking your seat if there’s anything from your carry-on you need during the flight, and take it with you, so you don’t have to climb over your neighbor fifteen times. If you have the aisle seat, get up if your window neighbor needs to leave his seat – don’t make them climb over you! And PLEASE don’t start a war over the armrest! If you want it, ask nicely. That can go a long way.

This applies to the people in front and behind you, too.

Don’t be greedy. Especially on short flights, more and more airlines have started to charge for food and drinks on board, which I think is fair enough, especially for low-cost airlines (not so much for the supposedly high-end ones – I’m looking at you, SAS!). I flew from Luxembourg to Frankfurt a couple of times with LuxAir, a flight that takes all of 40 minutes, and the flight attendants had to rush through the cabin, basically throwing snacks at people, so that they would be done before they had to buckle up again for landing. I didn’t really need the crackers that badly. But when drinks and snacks are offered, people tend to get greedy, all in the name of “I paid for this!” Nobody likes that guy who orders a beer, a coffee, a water AND a coke – dude, are you expecting guests?! Just ask for a glass of what you need and be done with it. PS: It is also totally acceptable to say no.

To lean back or not to lean back – that is the question. A controversial topic! It’s no secret that leg room is scarce, especially in economy class. Seatbacks are one of the main sources of conflict on board, as in the recent case of a United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver that was diverted to Chicago to kick out two passengers who got into a fight over a reclining seat. We’re at the point of physical violence here, people! I’ve read and heard comments from both ends of the spectrum: there’s the “I’m tall and the person in front of me is restricting my personal space, so I’ll enforce my leg room, if necessary, by pushing my knees into their back really hard, that’ll teach them!” fraction (really mature, dude, wow!). And on the other side, we have the “I paid for the seat including its reclining abilities, so I will enforce that right no matter what, even if I have to slam the seat back with full force – that’ll teach them!” fraction (exactly as mature, hope you guys are all proud of yourselves!). Here’s my personal approach, which has served me well so far: Generally, I don’t see how it’s that big of an issue, because at least on short-haul flights, the seats don’t recline more than a couple of centimeters anyway. I believe that it is your good right to recline your seat, but for God’s sake, go about it in a decent way! Just turn around real quick and let the person behind you know in a friendly way that you’ll be pushing your seat back, so they can re-arrange their legs if necessary. If they make a fuss or even start the knee-pushing thing, just politely ask them to stop. If they don’t, alert a flight attendant. But don’t engage in a pushing back-and-forth game or even get loud and abusive. You’re an adult, for crying out loud, so act like one!

Control your offspring. On the topic of crying out loud – my worst nightmare are kids on flights. Whenever I see kids at the gate, I pray they’re not sitting near me. Not because I have something against kids, but because I think most parents are handling this all wrong. Flying with kids requires a bit of planning, in my (inexperienced) opinion. I don’t mean to say that kids should be quiet as a mouse and not move during the flight, I get it, they’re kids! But I see it as your parental duty to have a little foresight, for example, don’t give your kid coke or other caffeinated beverages – they are already pumped up and restless, probably also a bit nervous or even scared of flying. Don’t hype them up more. Bring some entertainment – let them play with your phone or iPad, if necessary. Often, flight attendants also have a little box of books and toys to give to kids, so just ask for that. Finally, stop your kid from behaving inappropriately! I once spent an entire flight from Vienna to Copenhagen being kicked in the back non-stop by a little Russian boy whose father pretended not to understand English when I repeatedly asked him to please stop this behavior. The flight was fully booked so the flight attendants couldn’t even put me in another seat.

If you want your kid to live to graduate high school, don’t let her do this to me.

At the end of the flight

A quick word to my fellow Germans out there. In my experience, it’s usually Germans who do this, and usually on the charter flights down to Mallorca, Spain, or other popular vacation destinations. For the love of God, stop it with the applause after the landing! It just outs you as a socks-in-sandals, fanny-pack tourist who’s on a plane for the first time in their life. The pilots don’t really hear it in the cockpit anyway. Do you applaud your taxi driver, too, when he’s driven you home? Pro tip: The flight crew will often stand at the cockpit door when people disembark, a personal thank you to the pilot is a much nicer touch!

“Sir, please stay seated until we’ve reached our parking position.” Does this sound familiar? The plane has literally JUST touched down and is still taxiing to the gate, when the first overeager people start jumping up from their seats and rummaging through the overhead compartments. They stand in the aisle or crouched down over their seat for the next 15 minutes, until the doors open and they can disembark. For getting off the plane, the same rules apply as for boarding. First off, RELAX. You will get off the plane. But are the 45 seconds you save by squeezing past three people while hitting a fourth one in the head with your backpack really worth it? Just wait until the people in front of you have gone out, then quickly take your stuff and leave the plane. Let people in seat rows before you exit first. And don’t put your fricking jacket on! There is no room, and you’re about to walk into the airport building, why do you need to wear your coat?

This concludes my rules on plane etiquette - what do you think? What’s the worst thing people do when flying, and how should they do it differently? Looking forward to hearing your comments and anecdotes!

A maritime weekend in Oslo, pt. 3

Ah, Oslo. You were truly wonderful! If only you could have given us slightly better weather, we would have lost our hearts completely. But you know that saying “any city looks great in the sun” - Oslo can even pull off rain and still be stylish and pretty. Upon waking up on Sunday, the first glance out of the window was still promising, but as we were sitting down to stuff ourselves at the lovely breakfast buffet, it was already raining cats and dogs! We laughed at tourist groups in matching rain coats and then grabbed our umbrellas to brace the weather and head down to the harbor.

Our plan was to take a ferry out to Bygdøy, a peninsula where a lot of museums are located. After completely leaving out muesums in Helsinki, we felt it was high time for some culture and learning, and also, museums are (usually) an indoors activity, hence no rain! We hopped on the adorable little ferry boat and chug-chug-chugged away on the stormy seas towards the island.



The first museum we headed to is called Fram, a museum about polar exploration, which houses the famous polar vessel by the same name, as well as tons of information about polar explorers and the trips they took, especially the race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen of Norway and Robert Scott of Britain. You can go aboard the ship and go under deck (a slightly claustrophobic experience, and the air in there is really bad - I have no idea how they actually managed to live on the ship for so long!), and read up a lot about the polar expeditions, the North and South Pole, and the explorers, who, without fail, had a strong mustach game going on!



From the Fram museum, it’s only a stone’s throw to the Norwegian Maritime Museum. Norway as a whole is so strongly dependent on the sea, and the museum has a great selection of exhibitions that showcase the different ways the ocean influences the life of Norwegians. My personal favorite was the selection of maritime paintings. They also have an interactive section, where the boyfriend and I spent about 20 minutes playing a computer game simulating the shipping industry. He won, even though I got the cars to Norway faster and my clients were really happy… but I digress. It was a fun museum, and they had a very delicious apple pie in the cafeteria, which made up for my unfair defeat.


We needed some fresh air, and the timing was perfect because the sun had just decided to peek out from behind the clouds, so we sat for a bit in the park and enjoyed the weather.




The third and final museum we visited was the Kon Tiki Museum. I hadn’t actually heard of this before, but the boyfriend was adamant in his wish to visit the museum, so I came along, of course. In case you, like me, aren’t aware, the museum centers around the work of Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian adventurer who wanted to prove that contact between ancient cultures was possible. He did so by constructing boats and floats using materials and techniques that would have been available to those ancient cultures, and he managed to cross the Pacific Ocean on such a vessel (see Kon-Tiki Expedition). His other explorations took him to places like the Easter Islands. The museum shows the original vessel from the Kon-Tiki expedition - insane to believe that six men spent 100 days on that tiny float (picture shows Ra II, used for another expedition)! A very interesting museum, as also evidenced by the entries in the guest book.



Then it was time to head back to the hotel, collect our stuff and head out to the airport, where we decided to spend some quality time in the lounge before boarding. I may or may not also have bought a handbag on the way to the gate - oops!




All in all, a great weekend, and I can’t wait to go back, maybe in the spring? I could imagine Oslo is lovely in the spring!

A maritime weekend in Oslo, pt. 2

After arriving in Oslo last Saturday morning by boat and slightly hungover, we headed right on to the hotel, which was about a 15min walk through the inner city. Luckily, my boyfriend had been in Oslo before and remembered a lot, so that spared my poor hungover the excessive strain of actually having to process a map and directions, something I naturally suck at. The weather was a bit odd, like it couldn’t quite decide whether it should be rainy or sunny, or both at the same time. We arrived at the hotel, right off of Karl Johans gate, at the Esplanades, with the royal palace and the harbor in immediate walking distance. The hotel itself was already very nice, but after the dreadful cabin on the ship seemed like pure heaven! They scored so many points by having our room ready for check-in at 10:30am already, and for upgrading us to a beautiful executive room with a sitting area, a huge, comfy bed, and a massive rain shower. We freshened up and relaxed for about an hour, before heading out to do some exploring.




We strolled back down Karl Johans gate and to the opera house, which is located right at the waterfront. A very fascinating arcitectural structure, and a stark contrast to the otherwise very classic, old-timey Oslo building panorama. We climbed all the way onto the top (not that easy when you’re still not feeling 100%!) and enjoyed a nice view over the city center and up to the ski jumping hill Holmenkollen for about five seconds, before it started to rain, so we decided to head back.



Back up Karl Johans gate (there are probably other streets in Oslo, too…) and then down the Esplanades, all the way towards the royal palace we strolled, as the rain shower luckily ended as quickly as it had appeared. We even got the occasional ray of sunshine! I really love the colorful, whimsical buildings - Oslo must be one of the most universally beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. Helsinki had its charming corners, but in Oslo, you’re hard pressed to find a building that isn’t amazing.



I had been told ahead of the trip that Oslo would be “dead” and there wouldn’t be any people in the streets. I have to disagree - the streets were filled with beautiful Scandinavians on a Saturday shopping trip or enjoying a coffee in one of the cafés along the Esplanades, and of course with tourists snapping picture after picture (including me!). It was a really nice atmosphere, the kind that makes you wish you were one of those young, hip, Oslo people that just promenade up and down the city center.

After a short hike up a hill - in truth, it was more of an elevation, but living in flat Copenhagen for two years has made me soft! - we arrived at the royal palace. I love that it’s in the middle of the city, but still manages to give off that imperial vibe,  sitting there on top of the hill surrounded by beautiful gardens.



We strolled through the park and enjoyed the flowers and the sunshine, which had by now broken through the clouds. How cute is that little gazebo? I would like to think the royal family comes down there to drink a cup of tea every once in a while, but that’s probably not what usually happens…




From the gardens, we headed down to the harbor and went to the Nobel Peace Center, which is definitely worth a visit. We also took some time to sit down, rest our tired legs and feet, and enjoy some well-deserved refreshments!





Luckily, the museum and the harbor were very close to our hotel, so we headed back to relax for a bit, before heading out again for some pre-dinner drinks. I’d made plans with Alina, a blogger friend of mine, and her husband, at the roof top terrace at the Grand Hotel (across the street from ours). It was great meeting her in person, as I’ve enjoyed her blog (Life in a Bubble) and her Instagram pictures over the past months, and we had a great time. They’re coming to Copenhagen soon, so hopefully we can return the favor. Here’s a very rare picture of the boyfriend (in the center) - he usually doesn’t let me put his photo on the blog, but made an exception (photo credit is to Alina).




We had lovely drinks (but boy, is Oslo expensive!) and headed on to a small cozy vinyl record store with a bar on the second floor, where we had another glass, before heading to dinner. Again, I thought I really have to get some speakers for my old record player, which is currently only collecting dust in the closet. Records are awesome!

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After all of that action, we were just tired as hell, so we made use of the small dinner buffet at the hotel and turned in very early with some TV, so we’d be fresh for Sunday. The rest of the weekend is coming up, so stay tuned!

A maritime weekend in Oslo, pt. 1

This summer, we’ve been doing a lot of weekend trips instead of one big vacation. Had my Stockholm weekend not sadly fallen through, I would’ve gotten all Scandinavian capitals under my belt this summer! After a great weekend trip to Helsinki two weeks ago (read part 1, part 2, part 3), we boarded the DFDS Crown of Scandinavia last Friday afternoon to head on up to Oslo - a city I’d never been to, but heard great things about.

First things first, once we had managed to board the ship, amongst troves of mostly Asian tourists, we headed under deck to find the door with “5613” on it. You will notice I didn’t use the word “cabin”, because what we found behind that door certainly does not deserve that name! We had been a tad bit late with the booking, and there were no more cabins with windows available. So we thought, well, it’s just for one night, how bad can it be? The answer may surprise you… It could be WORSE. We found a tiny little hole in the wall with two fold-out bunkbeds and a bathroom that seemed to be carved out of a single piece of plastic… So we did what any reasonable and responsibe adult would do: start drinking!

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For departure, we headed up to one of the on-deck-bars and started the afternoon with a cocktail and a beer, but when the winds on sea got too strong and chilly, we headed to one of the bars under deck and continued with some delicious champagne.

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Once we got a good buzz going, we decided to catch some fresh air and take some pictures against the beautiful ocean scenery. Turns out, it’s not that easy when you’re buzzed and it’s windy! These two shots were pretty much the only ones where I didn’t have hair in my face or my dress was flying up, Marilyn Monroe-style.


Then it was time to head to dinner, for which we’d chosen the “Explorer” steak house. We commenced by sharing a starter of crab cakes with mango salad and a red pepper and chili sauce. Absolutely delicious! I really need to learn how to make crab cakes…


For the mains, we dug into some nice meat - I got a tenderloin (in the picture), which was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and my viking boyfriend selected a good ol’ manly sirloin. They came with crispy fries and some delicious herbed butter that complemented the meat perfectly. I also stole about two thirds of the boyfriend’s bearnaise sauce for my fries! Mmmmh…


I didn’t even need a second glance into the dessert menu before the decision was made - peanut butter cheese cake? Yes, please! As soon as the first spoonful hit my tongue, I made a mental note to find a recipe for this deliciousness. It might even earn itself a spot on my “mini-cakes for Thanksgiving”-list…


We were lucky enough to be seated at a window table, so we could enjoy the beautiful sunset while eating dinner. In between courses, I even raced up on deck to take some real pictures - together with pretty much all the other passengers… There is just something incredibly beautiful about the sun slowly melting into the ocean at the horizon, isn’t there?

After dinner, we headed back to the bar to try some of the cocktail offer, which all in all was quite good (no Hendrick’s gin though, major minus!). We ended the night in the ship’s own Irish pub-like bar, with some live music and some more drinks, before retiring to our tiny hellhole of a cabin.

Somehow, we managed to make it through to morning - despite me waking about seventeen times during the night thinking I was about to roll off my top bunk, which I luckily didn’t - and, eager to leave the cabin and actually see some daylight, went upstairs to grab some breakfast. On deck, with the fresh, cold wind and a nice hot coffee in my hand, the world looked much better already! And the view sailing into Oslo is just breathtaking, despite the gloomy weather that morning.


We made our way off the ship and walked to our hotel - just a 15min walk through the streets of Oslo, which were pretty empty that early on a Saturday. But more of that to follow later!

Hope you all had a great start to the week. Don’t forget to check back soon for parts two and three!