Dmitri’s in Philadelphia

One of the best ways to adventure while you’re stuck blessed to be able to stay in your city is to check out the food scene. Philadelphia is, of course, no exception to this rule. Although, it’s not one of the cheapest ways…so my last post is disappointed in me! But everyone deserves a little love sometimes. Mine just has to be in the form of delicious Greek food.

Dmitris Philadelphia

We went to 23rd and Pine! Website here.

This post can only be about one location, though I wish I could say more about all of them! Down on Pine street, they have outdoor seating available. Something about outdoor seating automatically rates a place higher on my list. Unfortunately, my boyfriend who is easily plagued by the heat does not agree. So we were stuck inside for this one!

Because this was back in the days of that insane heatwave, we were both in the mood for something light. They brought out a basket of bread to start with, but other than that, we went pretty light. The awesome thing about Dmitri’s is that the plates are easily shareable. It’s a table-wide dining experience for sure. We only got two plates to share, but that even filled us up!

Dmitris Hummus

Hummus plate as big as my head. Definitely more delicious, though!

Dmitris Grilled Octopus

We went out on a limb and tried the grilled octopus! So good. Paul’s shadows: not so good. 😉

Dmitris Shrimp Pil Pil

The Shrimp Pil Pil was by far my favorite! Bring on the garlic!

We decided to pass on dessert because we were both just absolutely craving frozen yogurt. And when a craving arises, it’s never good to ignore it! One awesome thing about Dmitri’s is that it is right on Filter Square and really close to Grey’s Ferry! Both of these are excellent spots to enjoy a post dinner walk. And frozen yogurt…

Filter Square

Beautiful Filter Square fountain.

Filter Square Turtles

Turtle statues in the square!

The Igloo

The Igloo’s frozen yogurt. Good, but doesn’t have Cap’n Crunch. A must for me!

Overall, we both really enjoyed the evening! The food was delicious and left you satisfied, not with that overstuffed and gross feeling. Dmitri’s is in an awesome area too, so it was fun to walk around after! It was a little loud for some people, I suppose. But then just go sit outside. Or you could enjoy it with everybody else. 😉

The one semi-negative about this place we felt was the service. The waitress and hostess just seemed a tad cranky, but it’s no trouble to me. Once you work with people, you understand that sometimes you just get cranky! It’s a smidge confusing when you walk in because there’s not a designated hostess stand, but just smile and ask!

Overall: 3.5/5 Star Rating

I would definitely want to bring a big group back and try more of their dishes!

Have you ever been to a place like this? Or tried octopus? Definitely first-timers here, but it actually tasted wonderful! I loved the salty flavor.

Any frozen yogurt topping musts? Seriously, most of the time I just crave the Cap’n Crunch!

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Money Woes: Starting A Travel Budget

If you ask me what my most talked about subject was, it would probably be how money is stressing me out. I am my father’s daughter, and I’m a money worrier for sure. It’s not difficult to see why with how much tuition and general living expenses in Philadelphia are. But it would be nice to not worry about it so often!

High School Grad

High school graduation. We’re probably thinking about money. 😉

One thing that’s made my worry a lot better recently is having a travel budget. I’ve had a budget before, but I was just saving for the all-elusive “someday” when I would need a big chunk of change. As with most things in life, having an end goal is super helpful. And if I want to enjoy all of these travel plans brewing in my brain, whether they’re near or far, I’m gonna need some moolah to get it done.

The question then came up of how to actually get money in there. There are many travel budgeting posts out there (this one from Kate was one I found to be very realistic!), but not all of them applied to me! Many, many, many of them mentioned selling possessions on eBay or selling your car. But what if you don’t have nice things to sell to cushion your savings fund in the first place?

Rome Biking Sunset

My preferred mode of transportation. If only it were always at sunset in Rome.

I’m going to share some things that I’m doing to try to save money. I’m not going to break it down by specific expenses (yet!), because technically I don’t know if I’ve been successful or not yet! Keep in mind, I don’t have kids or anything. I also rent an apartment and don’t own. I don’t have a car. Etc. Etc. I’m already budgeting. 😉


Break it down. The first thing you have to do is to actually get a handle on where your spending is going. Excel spreadsheets are my boyfriend’s favorite things in the whole world, but they don’t really do it for me. I use Mint.com and all of their apps to keep track of what my money is going to and then adjust a monthly budget off of that.

Perfect the art of income. I totally TOTALLY understand that the job market sucks. I worked a very minimum wage job serving various forms of frozen treats for a few years. Sometimes, the income just isn’t as great as you want it to be! If you want something badly enough, you’ve got to take something out there. I’m lucky now to have a job that I love that gets me by! But it wasn’t enough. I got chosen for a peer teaching job at school that will give me a little extra dough. I recently begged asked Kristen how to jump into the art of freelancing. Sometimes, you have to be overworked get creative.

Manage those paychecks. I pay for rent/utilities by taking half out of two separate paychecks. I pay off my credit card balance (hello groceries) or any loan payments as well. Then I move it ALL into my travel fund, saving $300 for emergencies (that I’m considering moving back down) in my checking account. If I don’t think I have it, I don’t spend it. Boom.

Don’t pay for something you can do yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard, “Don’t eat out. EVER!” Well…been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I am a huge fitness junkie. I refuse to pay for a gym when I can get creative and workout at home or at school/work. I run because it’s fairly cheap (and I like it, yada yada yada)! Sometimes I splurge on races, but I’m trying to cut that down. I’m also a book lover. Goodbye Barnes & Noble and helloooo Public Library. I don’t even buy books for school anymore. Even this blog is an example. Sure, I’d love to be self hosted and have a designer do all of my work for me. But I’m sure trying my hardest to get it done myself so it’s cheaper!

Don’t ever shop at Whole Foods. Seriously, though. It’s the closest grocery store to my house, but I refuse to do my shopping there anymore. I’ve got a friend at work who orders all of her bulk stuff off of Target’s website and/or Amazon and she saves a TON! Highly considering that! I also buy my produce locally, which really helps me out.

Look for discounts. I don’t care if you aren’t a student anymore. If you’ve got a student ID that looks vaguely like you with no expiration date, USE THAT SUCKER. Coupons/special promotion codes are also a big help. Just make sure the place you shop accepts them (see above)!

Wait to buy big travel items. I’m not talking about airline tickets or anything, because I am NOT well versed in that yet. But I’m talking about a camera, a backpack, clothes, etc. Black Friday and huge ginormous end-of-season sales will be around eventually, right? Be a smarter shopper!

Lastly, a word of advice from my parents when I showed them my new “don’t spend anything” budget. Don’t get crazy. Don’t spend so much time and effort saving for a trip (or anything, for that matter!) that you lose sight of what you’re doing today. Many people travel to enjoy life. It’s a heck of a lot easier to enjoy life when you allow yourself to enjoy life where you are right now, too. And sometimes, that just takes money to happen. Allow it, embrace it, and don’t feel guilty.

Mickey Mouse Ice Cream

Never feel guilty, for instance, about Mickey shaped ice cream sandwiches.

Share your favorite budgeting tips! Have you seen any great posts about budgeting? Isn’t money fun? 😉

Learn A Language At Home (For Free!)

I have had this potential post on my list since I started this blog. I was going to tell all of my readers (all 2 of you! ;)) about this awesome site called Duolingo. And then yesterday, I spotted a hashtag on Twitter and followed it around. I ended up at a blog called Almost Fearless.

#bilingualsummer

And then I realized I wished I would have found this hashtag long ago! From Memorial Day to Labor Day, people all over are learning a language on this website. That’s what I was doing, but I’d have a heck of a lot more motivation if I knew other people were doing it too!

Piazza del Popolo

Friends don’t let friends learn Italian alone! At Piazza del Popolo in Rome.

Through college, I always had this burning desire to learn Italian. And when my number was up for studying abroad, I ultimately chose to go to Rome because of that desire, even though my program at the time was “supposed to” go to London. Now that I’m back in the U.S. (and two years away from studying abroad…), I don’t want to let those Italian skills that I learned go to waste. While it may not be the most “useful” language to learn, it most certainly is the most fun for me!

Italian Studying

Breakfast in Italy. Greek yogurt with a piece of Nutella-slathered bread. All while studying Italian!

How do I plan to learn Italian in Philadelphia, you ask? Well you know I’m going to tell you. And you can bet they will be super cheap or free. The broke college student over here understands.

Learn A Language

  1. Duolingo. Since this post was supposed to be about Duolingo in the first place, it only makes sense that it’s first on my list! It’s kinda/sorta like Rosetta Stone, only more fun. And you can compete against friends. And make an owl cry when you didn’t retain enough Italian information. It has an app for your phone or tablet too, so you can learn on the go. You can also learn Spanish, German, French, and Portuguese on here! Is it crazy to want to know them all?
  2. Facebook. Yeah, not many of my friends on there speak Italian. If at all. But you can change the language on it! And while some things get mighty confusing, I generally figure them out! Finally, using the language tool for good and not for Pirate or Upside Down.
  3. News Articles. The age of technology these days, am I right? Wikipedia to the rescue, and I’m sure this would work for any language. A lot of other sites I’ve found are translated into English, but I’m going to find a good one in Italian. I’m determined!
  4. A Pen Pal. I’ve always dreamed of having a pen pal. And while this hasn’t been put into action yet, I think it would be so awesome to find an Italian pen pal/travel blogger/anyone to practice with! If I could find a live person in Philadelphia, that would be ideal. But alas.
  5. Life is Beautiful. Movies in general, I suppose. But La Vita è Bella is my absolute favorite movie. Sure, it’s got English subtitles. But my ultimate dream is to be able to watch it without needing them. I am on the hunt for other Italian movies, but I don’t think they will ever compare!
  6. Take a Class. I know there have to be Italian classes in Philadelphia. I live right down the street from the community college, so it wouldn’t be an impossible task. However, I’m also paying regular college tuition currently…so this one won’t fly for me! But I shall live vicariously through others!
  7. Read a Book. Christine made this suggestion on her Bilingual Summer update post. Reading a book in another language is going to be a task, but I assume it would help so much! Perhaps a fun one like Harry Potter would be really exciting. I just have to find a way to do it cheaply. My library has it in a bunch of languages…just not Italian!
  8. Podcasts. A quick search on iTunes confirmed that there are a BUNCH of “Learn (insert language here)” podcasts. While I’m running, I don’t really listen to anything. But longer marathon training runs mean I may need distraction. Language distraction!
  9. Music. For all of you auditory learners out there, check out the music! I’m a life-long dancer, so this is an excellent and enjoyable way for me to be exposed to the language. You may not pick up on vocab words unless you know the song in your native tongue, but this definitely helps with the general sounds, pronunciation, and stresses of another language! Plus it can be really fun.
  10. Plan a Trip. When all else fails and I’m having a tough time sticking to my learning, I turn to travel blogs and plan a trip to Italy (feel free to insert your own country here!) where I can use the language I will learn. Having an end goal in sight is always helpful (so says my boyfriend/parents/counselors/etc…), and planning a trip seems like a perfect activity!

The best way of learning a language is always going to be sending you off to a country that only speaks that language. If you want to eat, you learn a language faster than you could ever imagine. The main thing here is that you have to want it. If you just think it’s cool because everybody else is doing it…chances are you aren’t going to succeed. Do it for yourself!

Italian Market

I started learning it so I could survive in Italian marketplaces and be happily fed!

Are you learning a language? Have you successfully learned a language? I always excelled in language classes throughout school, but once I get out there, my brain panics and forgets everything! I’m hoping to avoid that from now on…

Share any ideas you have in the comments!

The Oval in Philadelphia

Now that we’ve finally got a bit of reprieve from the 1000% humidity here in Philadelphia (it’s only supposed to be 74° today!), I think it’s about time to let you know about what’s happening right down my street. Sitting right in front of the famous Art Museum, there’s a parking lot/fountain/traffic circle area that comes together to form Eakins Oval. And until August 18th, it’s been transformed into a “park on the parkway,” thanks to Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.

The Oval Philadelphia

Perfect little place to chill out after a long day of BLAH.

Complete with sandboxes, giant game sets, music, and food trucks…this place is an excellent summer spot to relax. And the awesome part is that it’s right near a bunch of places in Philadelphia you’re likely to be if visiting. Art Museum? Well, you couldn’t get much closer. Franklin Institute? Yeah, you’re pretty much right there. If you’re in Old City checking out the historic part, just enjoy the weather and take a quick walk up the parkway. Bam, you’re there.

The Oval Twister

Twister boards included! My coworker actually helped paint all of this!

I’ve only been down there once, but each day there are different themes. And a lot of them try to get the whole family involved! (These are as per the website, so don’t get mad at me if they’re incorrect!)

Tuesdays: Wellness

Wednesdays: Arts & Culture

Thursdays: Environment

Fridays: Food & Flicks (yes! they have outdoor movies!)

Saturdays: Live Music

Sundays: Family Fun Day

The Oval Lights

It closes around 9, but still time to enjoy the pretty lighting!

I had such a great time with some friends enjoying this pop-up beach. We grabbed a bite to eat and just enjoyed the atmosphere. Granted, when we did it, it felt like 106 degrees. So we can pretty much promise it will be great. The food trucks rotate and you’ll likely never go wrong. But just in case, I’ll give you some insight as to the ones I visited. You can always find them in their natural habitats too. My stomach HIGHLY recommends them.

Vernalicious Philadelphia

So nice to their customers and the food didn’t disappoint in the least. Lamb Greek sandwich, yes please! Twitter and Facebook.

Lil Pop Shop

Popsicles are a PERFECT summer treat. I had the Coconut and Hibiscus and swooned. Twitter and Facebook.

So grab some friends, yourself, your coworkers, your family…anybody! And head up to this nifty little space for a great showing of Philadelphia. And let me know, because I’ll just come down with you. 😉

The Oval Beach

I can be your lifeguard on duty! Experience: sitting in this chair.

Have you been to a pop-up park anywhere? I’ll admit, this is my first one! But I like what I see.

Blog School > Regular School

I’ve gotten into this groove where I wake up around 6, actually get up around 6:30, make my coffee, and then spend some quality time with my blog. It’s been nice because I can really dedicate some time to building my blog the way I want it. This may be a (free) wordpress blog, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means I don’t have the hugest income in the world and tuition is insane. Honestly, I’m not sure how long I can hold out not jumping ship back to self-hosted. But that’s a story for another time.

In this development time, I’ve been hopping around the world wide web (is it lame to still call it that?) in search of design help, logistical pointers, creativity activities, ANYTHING. When I went self-hosted last time, I hired a designer and someone to switch everything over for me. This time, I’m determined to do it myself for me and to save money.

Better Blog

Some things I’ve found?

  • The SITS Girls: They’ve got a forum and a blog going on that really caught my attention. So many resources and clicks to take you to OTHER places with resources. I’ve spent many a minute on here.
  • Entrepreneurship Life: I read this article about how making money as a freelancer can actually be legit, and my mind took off in a million directions. Very inspirational and makes me want to kick my blog up 1 million notches.
  • The Thinking Closet: More than just a blog resource (even though it’s got an awesome ‘About Page’ guide!), this site is FULL of creativity. And I love it!
  • Skimbaco Lifestyle: Is it more inspiring articles you’re after? Check out this one to remind yourself that you follow your own path. Simple to forget, difficult to remember!
  • Click It Up A Notch: I’ve been trying to get my photography up to par, and this blog is AMAZING. Amazing. My cousin suggested a camera I’m now lusting after, and this blog doesn’t make it any better!

But do you know what’s really just done it for me? Have you heard of the Blog Genie? Perhaps you know her by Rita. Either way, she’s an amazing blog designer and human being in general. And she has a blog school. Enrollment starts on August 13, so check that out! Right now, she’s doing a three-part training series called “Build Your Remarkable Blog” for FREE to get the ball rolling. You know I’m all over that.

The three modules include “Are you blogging in the right niche?“, “The Art of Getting Things Done“, and “Believe You Can.” Only the first is out so far, but I loved it. It’s general enough to help any type of blogger, yet specific enough to actually be helpful. And yes, it comes with homework!

Blog Homework

It held priority over my “real” schoolwork. That’s how you know I care!

It can be tough to sit down and really break down which direction you want a blog to go in. This homework, for me, consisted of a lot of brainstorming and self doubt that I tried to ignore dreaming. But honestly, it solidified my choice to start this new blog from scratch and throw the “old blog” out the window. And anything that solidifies my choice gets an A+ from me! 😉 One of my favorite lessons:

Part of being successful is realizing that you can’t and shouldn’t write your blog for everyone. You’ll simply end up with a watered down version of yourself that isn’t interesting to anyone – you included.

Helllllo, true life!

Also: her e-mail mentioned to be on the lookout for Blog School scholarships. I would (and will!) definitely keep an eye out for that via her Facebook page.

Honestly, I would sing her praises for days. Check it out yourself and see what all the hubbub is about! Even if you’re already an established blogger, it’s always nice to spend some time making sure you’re staying on point for YOU!

Have you dedicated your time to a sort of “blog schooling?” Do you have any resources that should be added to my list? I’ve got a growing list of Photoshop tutorials for my re-design that I don’t know what to do with!

Photo Journey: London

I’m sure the whole world by now has heard the news of William and Kate having a baby boy. The coverage on American TV is in heavy supply. Watching all of it is exciting, but it definitely has me wanderlusting away for the time where I was abroad. And so today I’m going to share some pictures of my trip to good old London.

Phone Booth

Had to do it! Who could blame me? Lost on our way to our friend’s apartment.

Peter Pan Statue

Cheesin’ it up at the Peter Pan statue.

Kensington Gardens

Lounging in Kensington Gardens. Who said London was gray in November?

Big Ben London

Checking out the Big Guy for ourselves. Big Ben!

Wicked West End

Before we saw Wicked, West End style.

Platform 9 3/4

Harry Potter approves.

London Olympics Countdown

Countdown to London Olympics in Trafalgar Square. With my love for all things Olympics, this is an awesome picture.

As you can see, posed pictures were a thing during our trip. One of the goals I have for my travel photography is to really delve into candids, as well as embrace the landscape. I’ve always been wary of landscape pictures because mine turn out awfully boring, but with practice I would hope that goes away!

Photography step 2: Capture the moments, not the poses.

London Eye

I promise I don’t only take pictures of people. London Eye in the evening!

Your Turn!

Have you ever been to London? It was a total whirlwind trip for me, but we definitely got lucky with the weather!

What do you photograph more often? People or places?

Disney Anniversary

I have a way to make life more exciting. Granted, I can’t take all the credit for it. And it’s not exactly new, per se. But it rocks and it definitely makes life more exciting. Simple solution: celebrate an anniversary. Of anything! For example, today is my two and a half year anniversary with Paul (of dating, let’s not get crazy). And so we’ll celebrate by making some delicious food and choosing something fun to do.

Two months ago, we just so happened to be in Disney World for Paul’s graduation trip. And since I’ve got this new thing about being a travel blogger, I’m going to tell you about our anniversary day dinner.

Bride Mouse Ears

The picture I sent to my dad to try and trick him that we got engaged. It didn’t work. Smart cookie.

We chose to go the Disney Dining Plan route this trip because we have a tendency of ordering the cheapest thing on the menu, even though we really REALLY want something else, because we’re budget obsessed money smart. We didn’t want to feel guilty for going on vacation. And so as soon as we decided to go dining plan, we also decided to go to Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian for our anniversary.

Narcoossee's

The sign! Hooray!

We chose to head here because of two main things.

  1. We could get a spot to see the fireworks show, Wishes, from our table. This was big because when I watch Wishes, it’s a feat if I don’t get teary-eyed from loving it too much. They also have a wraparound porch if you want a better view.
  2. 2 pound lobster. Paul and I love lobster. Maybe more than we love each other. It was bound to be a great evening.

Usually, Paul and I don’t buy drinks when we’re out. It’s that money thing again. But tonight was special, and so Paul got a fruity concoction and I enjoyed a white wine sangria. Because I’m not sophisticated enough to enjoy red wine.

Narcoossee's Drink

His lit up. We thought it was hilarious.

We spent a lazy three hour dinner there, fully enjoying our waiter. He was an expert lobster-lover from Maine, so we trusted his opinion greatly. Paul and I spent a good amount of time deciding which part of the lobster we liked most. The lobster also came with this delicious vanilla butter sauce for dipping that really took it over the top.

Narcoossee's Lobster

I’m drooling just looking at it. It also came with whipped potatoes and some broccolini.

Just before dessert we got to enjoy the fireworks. They turn the lights off and pump the music through the speakers of the restaurant. It was definitely a different way to see my favorite fireworks display. While sitting directly under the castle is preferred, munching on lobster (Do you munch? Should I say delicately enjoy?) is a VERY close second. We even got to see an engagement, which is always fun!

Narcoossee's Dessert

Dessert was almond crusted cheesecake for Paul and baked mousse for me!

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed this dinner. Beyond the usual Disney hospitality, our waiter was wonderful and the overall experience was just great. I highly recommend it, although I can’t speak for any of the food besides the lobster!

Narcoossee's

It looks empty because we were there so late! Dress from Tobi. It was 50% off for my first purchase!

Overall: 5/5 Star Experience

The only bad part about this is that our other month-iversaries will be nowhere near as exciting!

What’s your favorite way to celebrate a special occasion? We don’t usually go out to eat, and usually we’ll do something outdoors!