24 Places you should go, books you should read, and makeup you should try
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
In celebration of my 24th birthday today (woah, when did I become an adult?), I thought that I would share a list of some of places I have been, books I have read read, and makeup I have tried.
**All these pictures are my own.
1.) The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
This play signifies so many things for me. First of all, I think it represents who I am in the sense that I studied English literature for five years at the collegiate level, and I was pretty dang good at it if I may say so myself. I think it also shows that I really love witty and sarcastic humour. Oscar Wilde was the first classical author whose work I fell in love with almost instantly and I haven't looked back since.
2.) Ghent, Belgium
The first time that I travelled abroad in 2014, I was excited about every single city, town, and village that I encountered, but Ghent was the first place that I felt enamoured by. The architecture is classic, there are canals everywhere and the continuous water-ways makes the city feel magical, the first castle that I ever visited sits in the city centre and it is full of rich history, there are these little candies called cuberdons that you can only get in Ghent and they are delicious, and it's just the right balance of tourist attraction and active city. I truly believe this is a city where everyone needs to visit at least once!
3.) High-End Eyeshadow Palettes
The two palettes pictured above are the Lorac Pro One and the limited edition Too Faced I Want Kandee palette. These both changed the way that I look at makeup by making me aware that sometimes you feel like your makeup looks bad because it's not good quality, not because you are bad at applying it. Both of these palettes were worth the extra cash because they make application a breeze and I feel beautiful when I wear them. I used a combination of the two for my wedding makeup and would highly recommend both for men or women that prefer natural eye-shadow looks.
4.) Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
This is a book that I really need to buy for myself because the book you see pictured above is the edition that I got from the library. I have found myself recommending this book over and over again since I read it, and the fact that I keep doing that tells me that its one of those books that will never lose importance to me. Over the past few years, I have been finding myself more and more interested in history (I think I have my travels and literature classes to thank for that) and this was the first book that really threw me into historical fiction. It's YA, so it's not a really dense book, but it is still brutal and raw. If you are interested in historical fiction, but are intimidated by some of the adult books on the market, I emplore you to check this one out.
5.) Cologne, Germany
First of all, let me lament how hard it is to choose one photo to share from my travel collections, but this picture of me taken by my friend Kaimi still ranks high on my list of favourite photos. Cologne was such an incredible city. The girls that I travelled with that weekend didn't seem to love the city as much as I did (I think mostly due to the rain), but I still look back on it with such fond memories. The Cologne love-lockbridge is actually the original love-lock bridge before the trend moved to Paris, so that's a cool fact, and it's also right behind the breath-taking gothic cathedral that sits in the centre of the city, so the views are great. I also have very fond memories of the food and prices there including a pretzel, dipped in Nutella and rolled in sugared almonds. I mean.... take me back.
6.) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
For people who have never read Khaled Hosseini, I beg of you to do it now. The Kite Runner is also such a powerful story if that synopsis sounds more up your alley than A Thousand Splendid Suns. In fact, I think that The Kite Runner changed me even more as a person, but I think most of that was due to the time in my life that I read it and my growing awareness of cultures around me. If I were to just recommend one of his books, though, it would be A Thousand Splendid Suns. If you like stories that teach you an unfathomable amount about culture and acceptance and hits you right in the feels, this is the book for you.
7.) Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK
Not only is this town the birthplace of Shakespeare, but it's also one of the most traditionally English towns that I have ever been to. It's like part of it stayed frozen in time and that's amazing. That being said, this recommendation is definitely for those that have studied Shakespeare and have an interest in the man that single-handedly changed the way we view drama and literature today. You can stand in the exact room where Shakespeare was born, and when we were there, we even got to see his hand-written will which I had studied in class. It's where classic literature nerds go to have a good time. I even have pictures of me frolicking through gardens and taking selfies with Shakespeare cut-outs. If that sounds like something you would enjoy, then I recommend booking the full Shakespearean experience and heading out today. (The building pictured above is the home and garden of Shakespeare's daughter).
8.) Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
If you are cringing at the covers right now and wondering why in the world I would recommend this to you, or have seen the movie and thought it was so stupid, then join the rest of the book community. These poor books which are filled with one of the most engrossing vampire stories I have encountered (and I grew up in the Twilight fever zone) unfortunately have some of the most off-putting covers that I have ever seen. How cheesy does it look?! I promise you that if you give this series a real chance, you will fall in love with the love story, the politics, the friendships, and the action that this 6-book series has to offer. It was one of the reasons I didn't hate high school.
9. Wet n' Wild Makeup
I am not going to get all of my makeup out for a picture of this due to the fact that I didn't think about how long it was going to take to write an in-depth list of 24 things that I love, but I can assure you that a large chunk of my makeup collection does come from this brand. I think a lot of people think that it is garbage because it is even considered cheap for drugstore, but I promise you that there are some real gems there. Their eyeshadow palettes are some of the best at the drugstore, I adore how smooth and long-wearing their lip-liners are, their catsuit liquid lipsticks are an amazing price if you want to try out the liquid-lipstick formula, and their blushes are my favourite formula. Definitely give them a try, whether or not you are on a budget.
10.) Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
I will never understand why this city isn't talked about more, I mean look at it. This is one of the most unique places that I have ever visited. The city is super clean and everyone is almost too nice. You have a mix of greenery and beautiful nature, but you also have structures that hold tons of history, and one of the more complex shopping areas that I have encountered on my travels. If you want to visit someplace that has a lot to offer, but is still incredibly scenic, Luxembourg is what I would recommend to you.
11.) Oxford, UK
While the campus is so beautiful, and the architecture throughout takes your breath away, the reason that Oxford left a handprint on my heart is because of the history of literature here. You can see the buildings and alleyways that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as well as the pubs they used to write in. You can see the courtyard where Lewis Carroll first penned Alice in Wonderland. You can see pages from Mary Shelley's journal and a court summons for Oscar Wilde when he lived in Oxford. It's just magical. That, plus the fact they have one of most famous libraries and bookstores in existence, makes this a must-visit city for book lovers.
12.) Beauty Outside Your Doors by UNI's Environmental Literature Class 2017
While this book is something that I recommend you read, it is not important to me because it's contents changed my life. This book means the world to me because it is the first book that I assisted in publishing! I took Environmental Literature my last semester of university because it fit the requirements that I needed to fill and I liked the professor, but when I found out that I would actually get to help publish an anthology, I was so excited. I audio-typed one of the interviews inside and helped edit a lot of the stories that were submitted. There's even a little paragraph inside that I wrote about what the class meant to me. Definitely one of my larger accomplishments. Also, if you are interested in reading about Iowa and the relationship that Iowans of all ages have with the environment, I think you'll enjoy it!
13.) Brussels, Belgium
Brussels is such a confusing city to me. In the last couple of years there have been multiple tourist attacks there, it's really quite the dirty city, and it's the definition of a tourist trap, but it was also my home for three months and the centre of so much action. This is the city that taught me what waffles are supposed to taste like, the city where I had multiple glasses of the delicious Kriek. This city introduced me to real country pride when Belgium made it far in the World Cup and Belgians flooded the streets in tears, wearing the flag across their shoulders. This is the city that taught me to be independent and figure out troubles on my own. I have so much to owe to this city, so even though there's a lot of garbage everywhere, and their main attraction is tiny little sculptures of buildings, I could not make this list without it. Brussels is part of who I am.
14.) The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
Not only did this series introduce me to the amazement that is magical realism, but it also introduced me to friends that I needed at the time. I remember when I was reading these books in high school and a girl came up to me and told me that she had loved the books when she read them. I still consider her a friend and am amazed that this book brought us together. My copy of A Great and Terrible Beauty (pictured above) was found at a library book trade in Brussels and it brought me closer to my co-worker when she said that she had loved the books and never found anyone else who had read them. It's like a friendship glue. It's so unique and it taught me that YA doesn't have to be cliche. Highly recommend.
15.) Amsterdam, Netherlands
We already know how I feel about canals, so we can skip over the monologue about how much I loved the waterways. However, I do want to preface this by saying that Amsterdam has kind of a reputation as a "party city" and I want to squelch those assumptions. Of course, you can seek a party if you would like. There are coffee shops where you can get marijuana and there is the infamous Red Light district, but that isn't all that Amsterdam is. Amsterdam to me is a pancake house built around a carousel, a vast park packed full of old couples and kids running after frisbees, the historic Anne Frank house early in the morning, and getting to wear my shirt with little bikes on it while looking at wooden clogs. It's such a diverse and picturesque city and there's a reason why it's well-loved.
16.) Primer and Setting Spray
Once again, no picture, but I use the Mary Kay Foundation Primer and the Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray. These are things that are relatively new to the beauty community and I think there is still a bit of a debate about whether these work or not, but from my experience, they definitely work, and I can't imagine doing a full face of makeup without them. Primer not only keeps your makeup on for longer, but it creates a smooth or hydrating base for you to set our makeup on and makes it look more seamless. Likewise, setting spray keeps makeup in place for longer, but also "melts" your powder into your skin so you don't look cakey. They are both miracle products, and are worth the investment.
17.) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
If you know me at all, then you know that Harry Potter is a big part of who I am and that I owe a lot to the series. However, we all have a favourite HP book, and mine just happens to be The Half-Blood Prince. I think a lot of my interest with this book is the excess of Dumbledore appearances. He is my favourite character to have ever been developed inside of a book. He is brilliant and thoughtful.... and flawed, and I love him dearly, therefore his presence throughout is definitely part of what makes the book. I also love that we get to see a bit of Tom Riddle's background and therefore get some motive from him which makes Voldemort such a more complex character. I know everybody's is different, but the sixth book is the best in my opinion!
18.) Dinant, Belgium
I bet you have never heard of Dinant before, and if you have, then come talk to me because I bet we would be friends. Dinant, Belgium is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. There are sax's all over the town, so if you really love the saxophone, then this is the place for you. That's not why I love it though, as I am a flute girl, myself. This little town pushed me SO outside of my comfort zone. It's not a big touristy city, it's this little place where almost nobody speaks English, where the train station is almost non-existant, where they have delicious cookies that are almost impossible to bite into... it's just an "almost" adventure from start to finish. It's one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been, and if you want to go somewhere that is pretty off-the-map, then please check it out.
19.) Anything by Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss was not only a huge influence in my childhood, but I used his books with a lot of the younger kids that I have babysat and worked with in my life. His stories are catchy and teach important lessons about yourself, the environment, originality, and other topics. They also encourage reading at a young age with the rhymes. I can't believe that in the UK, most people don't even know who Dr. Seuss is, let alone celebrate his birthday and read his books every night to their children. Such an important author!
20.) London, UK
I have been to London five times now and it's still just as exciting as the first time that I went. It is still unbelievable to me that the first time I went to London, I met the man that I would marry and move across the world to be with. That is an important city in the history of me and the history of us. For those of you who don't know, I knew Jonathan as a penpal from high school, so when I was in London for the weekend, we decided that we would meet up at Trafalgar Square and... well, the rest is history. London had everything in it. Museums, history, Big Ben, classic British pubs.... and without it, I wouldn't be where I am today.
21.) Children's Writer's Notebook by etc.
For those of you out there that want to write Children's or YA fiction in the future, this is one of the best writing-prompt books out there. Different well-loved authors inspire prompts to get you excited about writing. For someone like me that really struggles to just sit down and write without any sort of inspiration, this is a god-send that gets your brain moving. So, after going through all of my writing books, this is the one that I want more people to know about!
Iowa is such a big part of my history that I can't just leave it off of this list. It is not the place that I would recommend that you visit most, but I have to give credit where credit is due- it helped form who I am as a person. This is the state where I spent the most years of my life, this is the state where I went to upper elementary school, middle school, high school, and university. This is the state where most of my family live. So, if you are in the area, give it a chance! Go to Le Mars for some delicious ice cream, visit a local library, visit the Sioux City museum, or just count all the cows that you see when driving through.
23.) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
If any of you have lost someone or know anybody that is struggling with grief, this is the most accurate and helpful book that I have ever read which helps someone through it. I lost my dad almost fifteen years ago, but when I read this two summers ago, it opened some hastily stitched wounds, and helped me to sew them together properly (if that makes sense). Even if you haven't lost someone important to you, though, this book is still unmistakeably powerful and important. It's one of my highest suggested books.
24.) Preston, UK
I have written about many places now, but the most recent chapter in my life has brought me to reside in Preston. Jonathan and I will be moving house in a few weeks, and when we were looking for places to live, we kept coming back to Preston even though Jonathan wanted to be closer to work. This is where he has lived his whole life, and he can't imagine living anywhere else (not to mention he's one of the most loyal Preston North End fans i've ever encountered). So, Preston is now home. Need a reason to visit? I am here!
If you made it to the end of this list, you deserve a huge round of applause! Thanks for sticking with me through this post and through these past 24 years. I look forward to see what the future has in store.