The Playlist Shuffle Tag

I’ve taken part in the Playlist Shuffle Tag a couple of times before, but I love music almost as much as I love reading so I’m not complaining about being tagged again.  I was tagged by Meghan at Meghan’s Whimsical Explorations & Reviews. Thanks so much for the tag Meghan, I had a lot of fun with this one.

The Playlist Shuffle Tag

Rules:

  • Put your music on shuffle and list the first 15 songs to play (no cheating!)
  • Tag 10 others to do it as well

Continue reading “The Playlist Shuffle Tag”

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A Postcard from Croatia

Ever since one of my friends went a few years back and posted some truly beautiful pictures Croatia has been high on my must-visit list. Still I didn’t expect to actually make it there myself for a few more years at least, but when my sister’s original plans fell through guess who got a free holiday.

Well, I had to pay for my flights and spending money of course, so I guess it was a mostly free trip.

Croatia (1)

Croatia (2)

We flew into Zadar, and spent the day there. Zadar reminded me of Venice, and when you consider how close Croatia is to Italy that probably isn’t much of a surprise (it certainly explained the amount of Italian restaurants we saw in Croatia). Our hotel was in the centre of Zadar’s Old Town so we spent most of our time exploring the streets, and later we wandered along the coast to the Sea Organ and the Monument to the Sun.

Croatia (3)

Croatia (4)

The next day we hired a driver to take us to Dubrovnik, and on the way stopped off at Krka National Park. The waterfall there is probably one of the main images people associate with Croatia, so it was a must on our trip. Me and my sister ended up taking the boat to the waterfalls on the Sunday, which according to our driver is the least busiest day to visit, but it was still packed. We swam in the water around the falls and took plenty of pictures. I also ended up falling in the water, so my beach wrap got drenched, not ideal but it was so beautiful there I couldn’t complain too much.

Croatia (5)

Croatia (6)

We arrived in Dubrovnik in time for the World Cup Final. Even though Croatia lost the match you wouldn’t have been able to tell; when we went out that evening car horns were honking, people were hanging out the windows waving flags and cheering. I even saw one guy sat on the hood of the taxi while it was driving, waving a flag around.

Dubrovnik is where they filmed Game of Thrones and the second I stepped into the Old Town I could almost see the shots from the TV series, walking through the streets was like walking back in time or walking through King’s Landing. We walked along the Walls of Dubrovnik, which looked out over the top of the city and out to the harbour, and in the evening to make the most of our last night we headed up in the cable car to see the sunset.

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Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • Just because it’s a city break don’t forget the suncream…This is something I forget every single time and I never ever learn. No surprise I got a little sunburnt walking the Walls of Dubrovnik.
  • Wear comfortable shoes…Dubrovnik is the city of hills (not its official name just what I’m calling it). I didn’t take trainers, just my sandals so by the end of the holiday my calves were in agony and I had blisters on the bottom of my feet. I was not prepared at all!
  • You don’t need publish transportation…Everything in Zadar and Dubrovnik is within easy walking distance. However be careful because in the winding streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town it can be very easy to get lost wandering around.

A Postcard from Croatia (2)

While I’ve now been to Zadar, Krka National Park and Dubrovnik I know there’s a lot more the country has to offer, a lot more beauty to experience, so I will be going back again one day. Overall Croatia was a cheap holiday (which was very handy for me because it wasn’t a holiday I expected to be going on, and given how much money I’d already spent on Dubai and Mauritius I didn’t have a lot of spare cash lying around) so if you’re looking for a budget break there’s no better place (certainly no more beautiful place)!

A Postcard from Mauritius

After five nights in Dubai my sister and I took another six hour plane ride to Mauritius. Again our flight landed in the evening so even though we didn’t have to cope with the time difference between Dubai and Mauritius we were still shattered after a six hour flight and then an hour and a half drive to our hotel from the airport.

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I was shocked when I found that that in June and July it’s winter in Mauritius. I wouldn’t have guessed because the temperatures still reached the high twenties/early thirties, we had no rain while we were there, and we spent more time than not on the beach, but after the intense heat of Dubai the winter heat of Mauritius was a nice change.

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Mauritius (5)

Of course like Dubai Mauritius offered a lot more to explore than just what our hotel offered. One of the days we were in Mauritius we hired a car through our travel agency and were taken all over the island. We saw the volcanic crater Mauritius is famous for and went to La Vanille Nature Park to see the giant tortoises and crocodiles. We got to stroke and feed the tortoises, and even made it time to see one of the crocodile feedings (we didn’t get to stroke the crocodiles, but after seeing them feeding I wouldn’t have wanted to get that close). We saw the Seven Coloured Earths, the Black River and Alexandra Falls. It was a long day, but we got to see so much of island in that day.

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Mauritius (7)

On our last day we went on a boat trip, and it ended up being my favourite part of the holiday (in Mauritius at least). We stopped off for snorkelling, had barbeque on board for lunch and ended up at Ile aux Cerfs, which is the largest lagoon in Mauritius and the image you will see pretty much on all the postcards. It was gorgeous, and basically a perfect way to end the holiday as well.

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Mauritius (9)

Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • Tailor your own excursions…While our travel agency offered a lot of excursions the best way to make the most of the day is to do what me and my sister did and rent a car. Our driver was incredible; he took us all over, showed us everything we wanted to see plus much more, and it was just me and my sister rather than a busload of other tourists along for the ride.
  • Research what part of the island you want to stay in…Mauritius doesn’t look like a large island, not if you look on Google maps or if you look at the measurements, but it’s bigger than it seems. If all the attractions you want to visit are in the South then try and find somewhere on that side of Mauritius to stay.

A Postcard from Mauritius (2)

People keep asking me which holiday I preferred; Dubai or Mauritius, but it’s impossible to choose between them. Dubai is a lot more commercial, despite the time me and my sister spent by the pool or on the beach it felt like more of a city break than anything else. Mauritius was much more relaxing, and it’s beauty was more natural. It was the perfect relaxing way to end our trip before flying home.

A Postcard from Dubai

This was my big holiday of the year, and the one I’d been counting down the days until ever since I booked it last year. Back mid-June my sister and I flew out to Dubai for five nights, and then travelled onto Mauritius for another five nights before flying home again.

It. Was. Amazing.

Dubai (1)

Our flight didn’t land until the evening so our first evening in Dubai we didn’t do anything other than eat a quick dinner and crash for twelve hours. After waking up at 3am to get to the airport on time, flying for six hours, and dealing with the time difference when we finally landed we were beyond shattered when we finally arrived at Atlantis, The Palm where we were staying.

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Dubai (4)

There was plenty to do in our hotel so a lot of our time was spent either by the pool or on the beach (when I posted my June and July recap a couple of days ago people wondered how I got so much reading done in those two months, the answer is I spent a lot of time lying on a sun lounger on holiday with nothing else to do other than read). We also spent a day at the waterpark Aquaventure, which was so much fun but left me very sunburnt.

Of course we explored outside of our hotel as well.

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Dubai (6)

Our first stop was the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa is (please correct me if I’m wrong because I’m not too sure about this) the tallest building in the world, and while my sister and I didn’t make it all the way to the top we did go to the 124th floor which took us higher than we’ve ever been before. The views were beyond impressive.

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The Dubai Mall is one of the largest malls in the world. It’s very very easy to get lost inside but walking past the shops the Dubai Mall seemed more like a contained city than just a mall; as well as the shops it has its own aquarium you can visit, and waterfalls and fountains you can see.

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Dubai (9)

For food and nightlife two places that were recommended to me was the Dubai City Walk, which is close to the Burj Khalifa, and the Dubai Marina, which is close to the Palms. Both were impressive enough in the day, and offered plenty of things to do to make a visit before it got dark worthwhile, but they really came alive during the evening.

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Dubai (11)

Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • Spend time exploring your hotel…Depending on where you stay the hotels in Dubai are pretty much their own city. At the Atlantis where I was staying there were more restaurants me and my sister could eat during our holiday, an aquarium and the waterpark which were both free for guests of the hotel, and plenty of shops and even a mini souk for souvenirs.
  • Book ahead for brunch…On Friday’s brunch is a big thing in Dubai, and while you can get some good spots showing up on the day the best places fill up fast.
  • Use cabs…Dubai does have a public transport system, there’s a metro line and bus service (I think), but depending on where you want to go it will be quicker, easier, and cooler to just hop in a cab.

A Postcard from Dubai (2)

This was pretty much the holiday of a lifetime, and now I’ve been to Dubai I can cross it off my list. When me and my sister were in Dubai it was beyond hot (temperatures reached 40 degrees and for two English natives that was nearly too hot to handle) but we had a brilliant time. Dubai is one of those places everyone seems to be talking about and travelling to, and after being there myself I can see why it’s one of those must-see travel destinations.

A Postcard from Romania

At the end of January I went on a short city break with my friend – my very first holiday of the year in the very first month of 2018 – to Romania. Unlike all my previous holidays this was a tour, and instead of staying in one city for the five days we was in Romania we travelled from the capital city of Bucharest, to Peles Castle in Sinaja, to Brasov, to Bâlea Lake, and finally to Bran Castle in Bran.

Was it a lot to pack into five days? Yes, but was it an amazing holiday? Also yes.

Romania (1)

Romania (2)

Bucharest is like plenty of capital cities I’ve seen before, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have something unique to offer. Most of our time there was spent wandering around the winding streets of the Old Town and seeing what hidden gems we could find. We saw the Stavropoleos Church and the Old Court where Vlad the Impaler used to reside. After Bucharest we headed off to Peles Castle, which is probably one of the most gorgeous buildings I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

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Given we went to Romania in the middle of January the further into the country we travelled the more snow there was, and the colder it got as well, but it really added to the fairytale atmosphere the city of Brasov had, which was our next stop. If I had to pick between Bucharest and Brasov for my favourite city Brasov would win.

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Romania (5)

The highlight of the trip for me had to be the time I spent at Bâlea Lake. We took a cable car up the mountain and most of the day was filled with the various snow activities the lodge hosted; I went tubing, snow mobile-ing, rode a raft and banana boat around on a frozen lake until the hood of my coat was covered in ice. That evening dinner was served in the ice restaurant amazing, food but really cold considering I was sitting on a block of ice, and at night I slept in the ice hotel.

If you have a chance definitely definitely try to go to the ice hotel in Romania. While absolutely freezing (and honestly I can’t emphasise that enough; even wearing a pair of thermal socks and a pair of slipper socks under my boots I still lost all feeling in my toes) it’s the experience of a lifetime, and the views at the top of the mountain simply cannot be missed.

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Our last stop was Bran Castle, the famous home of Vlad the Impaler (or Dracula). More of a fortress than a castle I can’t say Bran was as gorgeous as Peles Castle was, but it was still a great part of the trip. After all when you think of Romania Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, is normally one of the first things that comes to mind.

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Romania (10)

Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • If you are going in the winter, take sunglasses…When I saw this advice in the brochure I laughed; travelling somewhere in the middle of January, when there is going to be snow on the ground and below freezing temperatures, sunglasses are the last thing you’d think to pack. However in all seriousness you will need them, and possibly sun cream too, if you’re going up into the mountains and it’s a clear day.
  • Make sure to try the local food, especially the desserts…Papanași is a traditional fried Romanian dumpling/doughnut and it is beyond yummy, I’m tempted to travel to Romania again just to get another one, also the kürtoskalács (chimney cakes) cannot be missed. I’ve had them in Prague and Budapest now and they’re probably my favourite food ever.
  • Make sure you have good shoes, and wrap up well if you’re going in the winter…Take thermals, take multiple pairs of socks, take plenty of woolly jumpers. The temperatures get really cold, and while inside any building the heating is cranked up high outside it doesn’t take long before the freezing cold starts to affect you.

A Postcard from Romania (2)

Like Krakow and Budapest Romania is a good place to go if you’re on a tight budget. Everything there was quite cheap and you get a lot for the money you’re paying as well.

The tour me and my friend went on, if you’re interested, is called The Ice Hotel Experience and it was all arranged through Untraveled Paths. I would highly recommend this company; they did an amazing tour and it wasn’t expensive to book either. We got to see so much more of Romania with them than we would have if we’d gone and arranged everything ourselves.

A Postcard from Vienna

After two nights in Budapest my sister and I hopped on a train and travelled to Vienna for a further three nights. As much as I was excited for this holiday I didn’t have any expectations for Vienna; Budapest was the city I had always wanted to go to, the city I was the most looking forwards to exploring, Vienna was just another holiday destination but it turns out I actually ended up preferring Vienna to Budapest. Of the two cities I will more likely be going back to Vienna than Budapest.

Maybe holidays work better for me when I have no hopes pinned on them. Vienna joins cities like Krakow and Amsterdam, cities I had no expectations of before going but cities that are favourites of the ones I’ve travelled to so far.

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If Budapest was full of history then Vienna was full of culture; art and music. There are plenty of incredible museums you can visit if that’s something you enjoy doing on holiday; the Sisi Museum inside of Hofburg Palace or the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is as impressive outside as it is inside, are only two of many. There’s even the Vienna Opera House for the music lovers.

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Vienna (5)

Even if museums aren’t really your thing the one I would highly recommend visiting is Kunst Haus Wien. It more of an art installation than a traditional museum, focusing on the works of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. I don’t really have the words to describe Kunst Haus Wien, but it was incredible, unforgettable, and well worth a visit.

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One of the first things my sister and I did in Vienna was travel to Schönbrunn Palace which, even knowing very little about Vienna before travelling there, was a place I was aware of in the back of my mind. While the palace itself was impressive the main attraction were the gardens. I was lucky in that we had incredible weather while we were in Vienna, which just made the gardens all the more beautiful. We spent probably an hour walking through the gardens, and I know we didn’t discover everything they had to offer.

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Vienna (9)

Another attraction heavily associated with Vienna is the Wiener Riesenrad, the giant Ferris wheel, so that’s something my sister and I did our second and final full day in Vienna. We made it there just as the park was opening so there was very little queuing time, and the views we saw when we reached the top were not to be missed.

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Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • Take a horse and carriage ride through the city…You’ll see them everywhere, and the drivers give you an unofficial tour of the city as you travel around a small part of it. There were plenty of things me and my sister learnt we wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise.
  • You don’t have to pay to enter the Schönbrunn Palace gardens…There are two entrances to the gardens around either side of the Palace. If you go left you reach the Priory Gardens, which you have to pay to enter, but if you go around the right you can see the bulk of the gardens for free.
  • Again be aware that tickets in Vienna need validating the same as they do in Budapest…While you can walk to most sights in Vienna some, like the Schönbrunn Palace and the Wiener Riesenrad, are a little further out and it would be very easy to get caught out by this.

A Postcard from Vienna (2)

Vienna was a lot more expensive than Budapest was, so it’s not the best place to go if you’re looking for a budget holiday, but if you’re an art or music love then I cannot recommend travelling to Vienna enough.

I fell in love with the city immediately, and really want to go back one day to experience it all over again. There’s plenty to see and do and while going in the summer (or when it’s warm and sunny) was nice I imagine seeing the Christmas Markets during the winter would be even more incredible.

A Postcard from Budapest

Budapest is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit. Everyone who’d travelled there before me had nothing but good things to say, and after hearing so many of their stories I wanted to experience the city for myself.

This was my summer holiday for the year, despite travelling in mid-October, and luckily the weather was gorgeous. My sister and I flew to Budapest, staying in the city for two nights before taking the train to Vienna for a further three nights there. This is the first half of my ‘A Postcard from’ series, the second half will be posted next week.

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Budapest (2)

The first day in Budapest me and my sister wandered up to the Liberty Statue – which is quite a walk up hill but the views of the city at the top are more than worth it and in my opinion cannot be beat – joined a tour that took us all around Castle Hill, and found our way to Heroes Square where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier rests.

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Like most European cities I’ve been to so far Budapest is full of history, but despite that the one thing people recommended to me above all else were the thermal baths that Budapest is famous for. There are plenty to choose from, and I feel like no matter what one you go to you’ve made a good choice, but I ended up at the biggest and most popular one; Szechenyi Bath.

After half a day of walking all over the city, a city that has a good few steep hills, stepping into that first thermal pool was like stepping into a warm bath, and there was nothing more relaxing for my abused feet than that.

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Budapest (7)

The other highlight of my time in Budapest was the Danube Legend river cruise. This was something else that was recommended to me, and I had to choose the best part of my holiday it would be this. The Danube runs through the centre of Budapest, and the hour-long river cruise showed us all the sights lit up after dark. On one side we saw the Castle District, where Buda Castle and the Fishermen’s Bastions sit, and on the other we saw the Parliament building, which is even more impressive lit up at night than it was to see during the day.

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Budapest (9)

Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • Check the weather before you go…I have a really bad habit of underestimating how hot it will be. While packing for Budapest I assumed it would be a few degrees colder than England, so jeans and t-shirt weather paired with a light jacket, but in reality I could have wandered around wearing shorts and sandals.
  • Book excursions at your hotel…Chances are whatever hotel you’re staying at will be able to sell you a ticket to one of the thermal baths in Budapest, and maybe even the river cruise if you’re interested. It saves you queuing on the day and the prices are the same so really there’s no reason not to.
  • If you decide to use public transport make sure you validate your ticket…This is something me and my sister could have easily got caught out on because when you buy your tickets you need to valid them at a separate machine before boarding the train, if not you will get fined.

A Postcard from Budapest (2)

If you’re looking for a budget holiday Budapest is a place I’d highly recommend (another is Krakow where I went earlier this year). There’s plenty to see and do, and it’s possibly one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve travelled to; full of cobblestone streets, old buildings and castles with plenty of stories to tell, and incredible views.

A Postcard from Krakow

My first holiday of the year took me to Poland for a short weekend break. I never really thought of Poland as a place I wanted to visit, or a place I ever would, but my sister suggested it, my mum and aunt wanted to visit Auschwitz, so I thought ‘why not?’. Krakow ended up being better than I thought it would be, and alongside Amsterdam I can safely say it’s now one of my favourite cities.

Krakow is a beautiful place. I went in the summertime when it was sunny, hot and incredibly green, but I’m sure if you went in the winter it would be just as beautiful. We stayed in the heart of Krakow near the Main Market Square so that’s where we ended up most nights. It’s full of shops to buy souvenirs, restaurants and cafes to grab a bite to eat and/or drink, and gorgeous architecture. With cobblestone streets and buildings which look as if they’ve been standing there for centuries already Krakow is a city full of history.

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There are winding streets and plenty of directions you can walk in, meaning you’ll likely get lost more than once but end up finding something you’ll never would have otherwise. One night, while wandering around the Jewish Quarter, we stumbled across the Bridge Between the Water and the Sky, which as well as having a name that could have been pulled out of a fantasy novel, is gorgeous.

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Like I said earlier the main reason we ended up in Krakow was because of Auschwitz. We travelled there on the only full day we had in Krakow and it was a long trip but this is somewhere I think everyone needs to visit at least once. Everyone knows about the history behind Auschwitz but it’s one thing reading about it and another seeing it with your own eyes. The size and scale of both camps is something that is literally haunting, and you don’t realise how much until you’re standing there.

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Krakow (6)

We also visited the Wieliczka Salt Mines, and it’s a place I cannot recommend visiting highly enough. It may sound uninspiring but you travel down 135 metres underground and there is so much to see; incredible carvings done by the miners themselves, underground chapels, and lakes so pure you can see all the way through them. It’s an incredible experience but tiring after walking down 800 plus steps.

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Krakow (8)

Advice (a.k.a. learn from my mistakes)

  • Go to Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines on the same day…It makes for a long trip, it took us eleven hours from beginning to end, but you can get it done on one day and if you’re travelling outside of Krakow for one why not fit the other in as well. Also, speaking of…
  • If you get a choice, visit Auschwitz  last…It’s important to visit  but emotionally draining, and after walking around both camps you’ll unlikely be up for a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
  • Wear comfy shoes…This relates to the first two points I made about Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mines. There is a lot of walking in those two places alone and it can be challenging if you don’t have comfy shoes.
  • You don’t need publish transportation…Everything in Krakow is within easy walking distance. However if you find yourselves in the Main Market Square you could always go for one of the horse and carriage rides, which are a very fun way to see some of the city.

A Postcard from Krakow (2)

Krakow is so much more beautiful than I thought it would be, and it’s a city I’d love to go back to one day for a little longer. There’s so much to see and do and I know what I saw was only a small part of what the city has to offer. It’s also not expensive at all, so if you’re looking for a budget holiday Krakow really is the place to go.

We ended up being in Krakow for the Grand Dragon Parade, which happens at the beginning of June, and which is a very fun time to be in Krakow for.

Update #2: Re-Design and Goodreads Account

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, judging from the comments on my last monthly recap. My new blog design for Reading Every Night has been unveiled and is now live on WordPress.

Re-Design

Ever since I started blogging back in November 2015 my design has stayed the same, so it’s about time it got a little bit of a make-over. I wouldn’t say there are any huge changes in terms of the content of my posts; the format is still the same and I’ll still be posting the same things. My book reviews and the Top Ten Tuesday feature I take part in each week have been exempt from this new design simply because at the moment I think they’re fine as they are.

Continue reading “Update #2: Re-Design and Goodreads Account”

The Happiness Tag

I like to think I’m a generally happy person. I mean I have my down days, doesn’t everyone, but compare the me of today to me the me of three years ago and I can admit I am so much happier now than I was then. I was tagged by Izzi at Ravenclaw Book Club. Thanks so much for the tag Izzi, I had a lot of fun with this one and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much.

the-happiness-tag

No rules for this one, it’s just a couple of lists of things that make me happy.

Continue reading “The Happiness Tag”