What I Wore: Miss America

Target jacket and t-shirt (the shirt is Josh’s), DIY tie-dye corduroys, and Payless boots

Yes, we’re still wearing jackets here in Avila. Sometime full-blown winter coats. I think this particular freckle on the face of Spain is a little confused when it comes to the seasons, because it reached sunny and 70 in January here while it is now rainy and (if we’re lucky) 50.

On the other hand, I could really care less, because in a little over three weeks, I will be enjoying Rochester‘s balmy spring weather. And you know what? I really couldn’t care less if it wasn’t sunny in my hometown right now. I’m so excited to go back to my busy life.

Not that the break hasn’t been absolutely lovely and the experience of a lifetime. It’s as if Josh and I got to have a gap year and work towards our college degrees at the same time. How many young married couples get to do that? No, we’re really at a place right now where we’re excited about everything. We can’t wait to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of our last few weeks in Avila, every drop of knowledge out of our last few Spanish classes, and every memorable moment out of our final trip–our friend-filled trip to Sweden; but of course, we also can’t wait to return to the US.

I may be a world traveler now, but I am also an American girl. 

While I wouldn’t trade the mind-opening opportunities I have encountered here in Europe for anything, I miss the breadth of opportunities my home country has consistently provided for me all of my life. I am thrilled to be able to return to take advantage of them with new appreciation.

Take that, Avila weather!

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: Vive la France!


  • The usually breathtaking Palaise du Longchamp being under construction the one day we’re in France. I had basically dislocated my hip walking up the hill to this castle in heels, so I was pretty disappointed. Guess we’ll just have to go back sometime!
  • Also, my hip. I am way too young for this.
  • Being happy about getting holes in my clothes because it means I can throw them out instead of trying to pack them back up next month!
  • The combination of head cold and throat cancer that is the French language. I . . . I mean, yes, honey, of course all languages are beautiful . . .
  • Remember how I just said in last week’s A&A that I hadn’t had an IC flare-up in forever? I guess they were saving up, because Saturday night marks the worst flare I have ever had in my life.
  • Getting up at 5:30am to catch a 6:20 train that would get us back to Avila in time for 4.5 hours of classes.
  • Not a single street light on the street where our hostel was located. Sketchiest ever!
  • The look of disgust we got from every French person who realized we a) did not speak French and b) were Americans.
  • The blasted cold weather here while Rochester basks in 80-degree rays!
  • Forgetting to post this awesome list of creative, must-try date ideas to Facebook and Twitter yesterday.

  • Taking a romantic day trip to France with my hubby. A day trip. To France. For just a day. Just because we can!
  • The couldn’t-have-wished-for-better weather in Marseilles while it was raining here in Spain 🙂
  • Seaside cities/towns. I can’t get enough of that salty sea air.
  • A tourist train around the coast of France and up to the Notre Dame de la Garde. Such beautiful Mediterranean views.
  • Growing up without TV. Now I feel so spoiled whenever I stay anywhere that has cable!
  • Interview with Eugenio Merino today! (via email, ho-hum) Would ave been nice to meet him in person. He’s causing quite a stir here.
  • Shorts. When I can wear them.
  • Getting offered a job as a writing tutor back at Roberts. I’ve wanted to do this for so long!
  • The lovely Maria letting us crash at her place in Madrid while we waited to catch our mad early train. Hope to see you again really soon, girl!
  • Gourmet dinner on the French Riviera Tuesday night. Yeah, that happened. 
  • Going home to our loved ones in less than a month 🙂

The Art of Dating: 100 Cheap/Free Dates

This is an update/repost from a piece that I wrote almost a year ago when Nine to Phive was just a baby blog. It has then grown exponentially since Josh and I have found ourselves living in a small Spanish city with little to do and even less money to do it with. Let’s just say we’ve had to get creative . . .

And we have! The wheels in my head haven’t stopped a-turnin’ since arriving in Avila with my sweetheart whom I hope to never stop dating as long as I live

I now present as our gift to you a true treasure, our list of 100 Cheap and Free Dates. Please note that those date ideas marked with an asterisk (*)  are dates Josh and I have tried. Ones marked with two are the dates that we absolutely loved and continue to do every now and then. 

We will still have so many great dates to try when we get back the the States!


  1. See who can come up with the best dinner out for under ten dollars**
  2. Make a craft project. Try a collage, mobile, or holiday decoration*
  3. Attend an auction* 
  4. Rent a video, pop some popcorn, grab a blanket . . .** Like going to the movies only you can talk and cuddle!
  5. Prepare a formal dinner at home, candles and everything** 
  6. Make and fly a kite. Bringing out the inner child can show a lot about a person. 
  7. Plant a tree or garden*
  8. If (and only if ) you are both of age, mix up creative cocktails at home instead of springing to go out for drinks
  9. Attend a local school sporting event.*  
  10. Cook a fancy foreign dessert together**
  11. Go horseback riding 
  12. Make chalk drawings on the sidewalk. Maybe play hopscotch.**
  13. Pick strawberries or other fruits and eat them with cream**
  14. Roller-skate, ice-skate, or bowl*
  15. Create a mini golf course in the backyard and play through it
  16. Go tubing, sailing, or canoeing**
  17. Organize a treasure hunt
  18. Interested in photography, salsa dancing, Italian cuisine, or something else? Take a class together.
  19. Do a long overdue  project around the house.* Repaint, install a new shelf, use your imagination.
  20. Make a bonfire and roast marshmallows*
  21. Order Chinese takeout (or sushi) complete with chopsticks* 
  22. See a high school or community play**
  23. Eat a picnic outside or even at home on your bedroom floor*
  24. Have a traditional teatime with a unique flavor of tea and scones or cookies**
  25. Visit an outdoor market or festival with street performers and food carts**


  1. Dance. At a party. At a club. At home with the radio turned up. Whatever.**
  2. Go to a park and bird-watch, play tag, dodge sprinklers, play in the grass . . .**  
  3. Visit a cemetery to look for funny epitaphs or do rubbings of old headstones
  4. Do photo shoots of each other**
  5. Fish using borrowed equipment
  6. Go window shopping in a classy neighborhood*
  7. Take a moonlit walk** 
  8. Many museums and art galleries have free admission after hours.** Check it out.
  9. Watch the sunrise and eat breakfast together on a weekday.** I recommend smoothies. 
  10. Go to a pet store and hold a puppy 
  11. Play computer or video games at his house** 
  12. Raid your attic or basement for long-lost memories*
  13. Take a drive to a place with a great view**
  14. Visit an old bookstore or library and see who can find the strangest book* 
  15. Tour a historic site in your area** 
  16. Learn the rules to an obscure card game**
  17. Visit a relative or friend you haven’t seen in awhile*
  18. Have your own ping pong or air hockey tournament** 
  19. Write a poem, short story, or musical piece either together or for each other**
  20. Get a blanket and some bugspray and gaze at the stars**
  21. Watch a parade or look at Christmas lights depending on the season**
  22. Challenge his or her parents to a board game** 
  23. Play charades**
  24. Sneak into a hotel pool or hot tub
  25. Give each other massages**
  26. Go for a jog**
  27. Make a scrapbook with pictures of the two of you*
  28. Play “Name That Movie” or “Name That Song” 
  29. Read and discuss a book, article, or the comics*
  30. Brainstorm for solutions to a world problem** 
  31. Watch TV. Game shows, mysteries, and comedies are always fun.* 
  32. Wash a car on a hot day* 
  33. Play the dictionary game with friends or family** 
  34. Go swimming at a pond, lake, or public pool** 
  35. Make up ‘Mad Libs’*
  36. Volunteer at a church, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter**
  37. Hunt for rocks, toadstools, arrowheads, etc. 
  38. Hike or backpack on a nature trail
  39. Get out your camcorder and tape a homemade short film to post on YouTube** 
  40. Play the Price is Right in a supermarket
  41. Go shopping for new threads for him*
  42. Talk about your favorite boy and girl names.** Probably only for pretty serious couples 😉
  43. Visit a local farm 
  44. If you are both in school, study together at a cafe**
  45. Go for a bike ride.** Super romantic if you can get your hands on a two-seater!
  46. Practice sports skills*
  47. Learn tricks on a trampoline*
  48. Attend an outdoor movie.** Especially if you are in college, these are often free.
  49. Play ultimate frisbee*
  50. Visit a lake and throw bread to the ducks and geese**
  51. Have a grass, pillow, water, or snow fight*
  52. Put a jigsaw puzzle together
  53. Teach each other something new.** Can you play the ukelele or sink a slam dunk? Share!
  54. Tell ghost stories in the dark* 
  55. Write public confessions of love in sidewalk chalk
  56. Go to an open house in a fancy community
  57. Play hide-and-seek*
  58. Play at a playground and ignore the stares.** But don’t ignore the kids. You might trip on them.
  59. See who can make the best design for a paper airplane* 
  60. Climb a tree and read together 
  61. Interview each other with silly questions and videotape it to watch later
  62. Test-drive a sports car
  63. Visit shut-ins or hospital patients*
  64. Spend a day at the beach
  65. Hitchhike or couchsurf**
  66. Cuddle by a fireplace and tell stories about favorite memories
  67. Practice saying romantic phrases in a foreign language**
  68. Babysit your friends’ kids for an evening.* Surprisingly fun to do as a couple.
  69. Draw portraits of each other
  70. Walk a dog and maybe teach it some tricks. Borrow a friend’s if you don’t have one!
  71. Volunteer together as models at a beauty, hair, or art school for a free pampering*
  72. Play Truth or Dare*
  73. Visit a costume store and try on their wares for major laughs
  74. Have a YouTube party.** “You have to see this one!” “No, you have to see this one!”
  75. Write a bucket list together**

"Come Back to Camden" (London, England)

Well, Josh ad I may be headed to France today, but I’m sure you all know that I’m sitting on heaps of England and Ireland pictures waiting to see the light of day. I think I might make it a tradition over the summer to post some neglected travel pics every couple of weeks. We could have a “Travel Tuesday”or something like that so that my blog’s interestingness doesn’t drop of dramatically the minute I set foot on American soil.

That being said, welcome to Camden Lock! This is a super-artsy community in London’s charming neighborhood of Camden Town. The Lock is a sort of bohemian Times Square where London’s classy past and trendy present coexist in perfect, bustling harmony. Camden is populated by open-air markets, picturesque canals, quaint cafes, street performers, and more hipsters than you have ever seen in your life. It was awesome!

You don’t know how much self control it took to keep from snapping up the indie clothing and crafts or any number of the global cuisine stalls lining the streets. Also, they really seem to like donuts in Camden. Every other stall was advertising fresh, hot ones. I don’t think I’ve ever ever had a hot donut before . . .

Title from the song of the same name by Morrissey

Hookah lounge, anyone?

More pictures of the Camden Lock community after the jump!

Amidst the tents and street carts, a mini skyscraper nightclub

Josh was hating on this guy for wearing his shirt

Spain in the News

Photo credit

I’ve been reading the New York Times lately. I feel that’s a good hobby for an aspiring author to pick up, don’t you? Well, it just so happens that when I went to the NYT website (yeah, we’re on a nickname basis), the first post under “Travel” was about Spain, the first post under “Art” was about Spain, and the first post under “Most Popular Right Now” was about Spanish!

I figure it’s a sign. You should all read (or skim) these articles to learn about the waves that little old Spain is making in the world at large.

Prado Researcher Finds Insights Beneath Copy of Mona Lisa

The Benefits of Bilingualism

Minorca: Off the Coast of Spain is a Tranquil Biosphere Reserve

I really do love this country, but in a sense very different from how I love the US. The cultural, economical, and academic activity here is buzzing and exciting but relaxed and in no rush.

That being said, I would never live here, haha. More specifics about these sentiments after we get home.

"Whatcha Doin’ Down in Shantytown" (Howth, Ireland)

This seaside town fifty percent of which is located on the village’s not-to-terribly-touristy pier is the part of Ireland that I too easily forget for some reason. My mind immediately flies to green fields and rolling hills, forgetting that, as an island, Ireland has no shortage of quaint coastal communities. This small town is called Howth (pronounced “hooth,” or something like that), the community where Kristen and I enjoyed a nice fancy pot of tea after a day of hiking.

Well, here is where we were hiking.

Title from the Johnny Cash song “Shantytown”


Rob, an Australian mate, and I climbed down to the water’s edge (which I’m pretty sure was illegal)

This picture speaks volumes

Flowerpot tower

Elisa, a feisty Canadian working in Scotland for the year

More beautiful pics after the jump!

Seagull hangout spot

Kristen, Rob, and Max, a mate from Hamburg, Germany