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Surprising my husband with a trip to Swedish Lapland

So unfortunately last year when my husband was deployed, I forgot to call and wish him a happy birthday on the actual day. I know what you’re thinking, worst wife ever! I know…but to backtrack a bit, I had spent the month prior gathering items to construct a box of special goodies I could send to the Deployment location for him as a birthday and Christmas gift as well since his birthday is on the 22nd of December. I usually don’t lump them together but because these items were being shipped outside the U.S, it made sense to do it that way. I had also worked a streak of 4 or 5 12-hr shifts and didn’t even know what day it was, to be honest, so when he called me the next day to ask how and why I forgot to wish him a Happy birthday…I was slightly delirious and didn’t even know what day it was.

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Anyway, so this year I had to go above and beyond to make it special for him. He did make some demands haha and rightfully so…..so I worked around that “demand” and planned a trip to Kiruna Sweden, otherwise known as Swedish Lapland.

His birthday is on Dec 22, so it was hard for him to get enough time off at his work around this period due to everyone wanting the holidays off. I pushed the trip date to the following week.

First stop: Copenhagen Denmark.

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Since we were going to have a layover somewhere anyway, I decided that we should stay in Copenhagen for 2 nights and explore a little/do New Year’s Eve there. I was not expecting it to be as amazing as it was, and Ian was totally blown away by Copenhagen! I made a self-guided walking tour of the city and we spent a day exploring all the spots (11 miles walked on this day).

2nd stop: Arctic gourmet cabins.

Ian still had no idea what type of place this was, and as Johan (cabin owner & chef) picked us up at the airport, I could tell that Ian was mentally trying to put things together. I had to tell him everything once we checked in into the cabin because some of the plans were starting to fall through unfortunately. The first plan was to see and photograph the northern lights at Abisko National Park, but the company cancelled due to bad weather. I will say that after I told Ian that, and him seeing the sun set at 2pm and pitch black at 3pm, he seemed a little disappointed. I slightly felt bad since I had planned this trip and had been waiting for months! We sat in our cabin as Ian started to ask about our dinner plans. I didn’t have any because our now cancelled trip was meant to include dinner/drinks/coffee. Ian quickly yelped and suggested we get a taxi (Arctic gourmet cabins are further away from Kiruna town, where all the shops and restaurants are). I suggested we eat in our cabins since Johan the owner was a renowned chef and that was part of why I had chosen this place in the beginning – for the food. Ian reluctantly said yes but tried to counter with “maybe we should eat Thai” that night since Johan was cooking the next night for us, just to mix things up, I gently pushed him towards choosing Johans place for that night, and so we did.

At dinner, Johan started by talking about what he was going to serve that night, and I could see Ian perking up….. he started realizing that this was not your typical restaurant. Johan is one of the best chefs in Kiruna (and by far some of the best food I have had in my life), and he is also very kind and genuinely cares about the type of experience he is giving his guests. We had a 3 course meal with wine pairings – beats any Michelin star restaurant I have been in so far. During dinner, Johan talks and interacts with the guests, making it seem like having dinner at a friends house. Ian quickly asked Johan if he can cook us meals every night we are there, and he agreed. Even though it’s not free, Ian realized this is a once in a lifetime experience. After the first course, Johan asked us to go outside and see the northern lights…..say what?, we had just cancelled a tour and got refunded our money because of bad weather, and now we could spot a glimpse of the Aurora just outside our nice cosy cabin?. This was starting to become magic. Ian declared that night, that he was totally blown away! It was only day 1 haha. I was so happy things were starting to go as planned and even better!

On the next day, we had dinner and after dinner the Aurora appeared again, so we went outside and watched it move around. This night, the lights were so much more noticeable and we just stood outside for a long time just looking up. This was truly magic!

We stayed a total of 3 nights at Arctic gourmet cabins, had dinner and breakfast there and saw the auroras every single night, with each night becoming even stronger and moving around. During the day, we went snowshoeing from the cabins to the lake, did dog sledding, had an Arctic massage & spent a lot of time bouncing around from the Jacuzzi to the sauna to bed haha.

Final destination: Ice hotel.

This was Ian’s only demand. That he sleep in an ice hotel. I booked one night (our last night) in the seasonal ice rooms and it was quite the experience. We checked in, saw our rooms and the rest of the rooms, which are pure art and insanely detailed, then we went to a Sapmi (indigenous tribe) village & met reindeers. The Sapmi village was very enlightening because I had no idea indigenous people existed in the Nordic countries. We fed reindeer & also rode a reindeer sleigh. The reindeer sleigh ride is nothing like dog sledding. Reindeers are incredibly strong and competitive, so it was very thrilling to see them compete at high speed as you held on for dear life! Our guide was very monotone so we didn’t quite get it when she said they can get competitive with each other haha, unless her plan was to just let us find out for ourselves…then well played. This activity was one of my favorites! We also rode on a snowmobile sleigh to and from the ice hotel.

Highlight of the trip: A 3 hour northern lights appearance! Behind the ice hotel is a frozen lake, so we went there and just looked at the northern lights move about. It was magical!

The night & trip ended with our stay in the ice room for the night. We were so sad to check out the next morning…

I think I nailed the surprise trip for Ian. The one year guilt of forgetting to wish him a happy birthday has worn off now.

Copenhagen – One day self guided tour.

I put this list together the night we got to our hotel, shared it with my husband, and we tag teamed to see everything. Copenhagen is the easiest city ever to navigate, and their metro is truly a luxury compared to many other cities we have visited. It was also very easy to buy tickets from the airport for the metro. If you get a pass, you can use the metro & buses for a few days.

Where to stay

Hotel Kong Arthur

Staff are so nice and they have a happy hour with free wine every night in the lobby. This hotel was absolutely gorgeous and very inexpensive.

Where to eat

On our way to the hotel from Nørreport train station, there was a food hall with food stalls inside (if you’re walking it’s hard to miss), but it was closing so we couldn’t buy food here. I however heard from a tourist I met in Copenhagen that the food is really good.

The food at Host.

At Aamans 1921 on New Year’s Eve.

Copenhagen was a joy to visit, even though for just a short while. I loved going into a coffee shop and people watching because everyone was so impeccably dressed.

We will be back in the summer for sure.

What to do in London – 4 days

I recently went to London and stayed for 4 days. To be honest I was caught by surprise by how expensive & how big London is. I wished I had prepared a little better but I think I made most out of the 4 days I was there. Here are some tips that will make your life easy!

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  1. Choose a good location hotel & read reviews of the hotel you are booking! I noticed that the hotel booking websites are very attractive but most of the hotels inside London are small, dirty & in very noisy locations. This sounds like most cities I know, but if you manage to find a good hotel in a quiet area & accessible to the tube, you are all set. It doesn’t need to be walking distance to what you want to see, because like i mentioned before, London in HUGE! if you’re there longer than 2 days, it’s most likely that your destinations of interests are far apart.
  2. Get an oyster card at the airport & top it with at least 80 – 100 pounds (this will be enough for 4 days). Avoid taxis & Uber (unless you don’t have any other choice) because the tube is very fast, efficient & easy to use. Trains are often late in the U.K though so always leave 10-20 mins before your actual time.
  3. Use google maps or city mapper to navigate the city & to check tube/train/bus times & destinations/numbers.
  4. If flying from Southwest Germany like me, Luxembourg airport always has good deals & is so much easier & stress-free to fly out of compared to Frankfurt. I drove & packed my car there.

Things to do:

  1. If you like group activities, I highly recommend a free Strawberry London city tour or food tour on day 1. The tour is “pay what you like”, or tip at the end, but if you did not enjoy it, you are not required to pay. Doing a tour on the first day helps you get your bearings in a new city & the tour guides are extremely helpful in giving you tips on where to eat or things to do in the city.
  2. The shard restaurant for breakfast & watch the sunrise if it is a good day. You have to book it a few days in advance.
  3. Changing of the guard & Buckingham Palace. I saw a lot of Londoners say that this wasn’t a must-do for a tourist but I highly disagree! This bit was my favorite thing to watch because I had never looked it up before and didn’t know what it entailed. Having a tour guide made it even more fun because he was giving us history about Buckingham palace & the Cavalry. Very interesting.
  4. Westminister abbey & big ben area. Walk down from Buckingham palace thru Trafalgar square & towards Westminster abbey.
  5. Tate Modern – I could have easily spent a whole day in here going from room to room admiring the art!
  6. River Thames, London Bridge, Tower Bridge & London eye. You can also opt to take a cruise on the river during the day or at night & the see the city from a different view.
  7. Parks. If you need a day to slow down, go to Parliament hill in Hampstead heath. Hampstead village is on the opposite side & there are coffee shops & restaurants to grab a bite in. We spent half a day here people-watching in the park & later had a late breakfast in Hampstead village.
  8. Other parks – Kensington gardens & Hyde park. They are right next to each other & are perfect spots inside the city to just relax as you walk around & feed the birds. There are swans, ducks, pigeons, & a multitude of other birds flying about as people feed them.
  9. In the evening or even late afternoon, go to the west end & watch a show. Shows are much cheaper here, and if you purchase same-day tickets, it can be even cheaper (like 20pounds to see wicked!)
  10. Walk through markets window shopping and eating very good food. My favorites were Borough Market & Camden Market. If you are in the Thames river/Tate modern area, you can easily walk to Borough Market. I also bought some really good tea here to bring home.
  11. SHOREDITCH! – This neighborhood is very hip & trendy but also has some of the best curry in London. If I hadn’t been flying back home, I would have bought so many things here. There is a large Indian/Pakistani population that settled here in the 1950’s, so brick lane has a whole assortment of Indian food to choose from & it’s so much cheaper & better here. If I go back to London, I may just spend 4 days here walking down the streets looking at street art, eating, shopping at Boxpark (this areas version of Camden Market) & window shopping. It is also a good area to book a hotel in.
  12. Outside London: Harry Potter studio (I heard this is great & I will definitely look into it next time since I grew up a Harry Potter fan). Bath, Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Costwolds. The latter you can book a trip that combines all of them in 12-14 hours or plan your own travel by car or train at your own pace.

There are so many other things I left out, because it is impossible to enjoy everything in London in 4 days, but these are my highlights after my first visit!

Home alone on Christmas

 

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Christmas is my favorite time of year but since moving away from home 9 years ago, I have found myself alone on Christmas Day a few times. Some have been by choice and some not. My favorite Christmas Day celebrations have been with friends over the years, and on some I spent at work. I found that spending Christmas with other people’s families makes me quite homesick, so I often decline family invitations. On the other hand, spending Christmas with friends is fun, light, no strings attached sought of time, and I have come to really enjoy this. Ian works on most Christmas days unfortunately but when he isn’t working, it’s nice to just make a meal and stay home together.

This year in Germany, Ian was able to get time off for his birthday (Dec 22) and New Years + new years eve, so he had to work on Christmas. We had several people reach out, inviting us for dinner, but I declined because I did not want to attend without Ian there. I opted instead to go to Strasbourg, France and walk around the streets and explore the city. It’s supposed to be nice and quiet since most things will be closed for Christmas. I am joining a historical walking tour in the evening for 2 hrs, so my plan is to have a nice Christmas breakfast with Ian before he leaves for work, then leave for Strasbourg in the afternoon. It’s only a 2hr drive from my house and the weather will be nice so am excited.

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If you’re ever alone on Christmas or Christmas Eve, don’t sit and ponder why you’re alone, get out of the house and explore a new place or join an activity with others who are alone on the same day, whether by choice or not. This year I am just grateful we are not in Missouri, but instead, we are in beautiful Germany, and that I can choose from an array of exciting new places to go visit.

Happy holidays! I hope you had a good one.

Crowds admiring the Strasbourg cathedral.

update: Since I didn’t post this when I was supposed to (before Christmas day), it’s only right that I update you. Strasbourg France was NOT EMPTY LIKE I THOUGHT it would be!!. I met some nice people from Argentina, Chile & China, and we ended up going to the bar later and trying some Alsatian beer. I made a vlog too.

Strasbourg

Magical Strasbourg at night

 

Heidelberg Christmas Market Weihnachtsmarkt.

Heidelberg’s weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas market, has been my first and only Christmas market so far. The last 3 months have been a little crazy for me, trying to balance school & social/home life. The latter includes spending time with my husband, exploring Germany since we just moved here and the big one ( making our house feel like home).

I decided to take a Saturday off from studying and went to Heidelberg’s weihnachtsmarkt. I did some research beforehand and had a friend joining me, so it was easy to navigate and plan on what to do without wasting too much time.

Should you drive or take public transport?

If you live close, public transport can be quicker, cheaper and stress-free. Go to DB.com and get a ticket/ you can also get a ticket at the train station.

If you live farther & haven’t booked your ticket way in advance (at least 30 days out) it may be more convenient, faster and cheaper to drive.

Parking?

Heidelberg city has a website with all the parking garages there. Map whichever is closest to your destination and go there.

The Christmas markets are spread out on the Main Street in the old town. We took our time and strolled leisurely trying different food, gluhwein and window shopping in all the little shops.

If you want to get away from the crowds like we did, go to the old bridge or the castle and stroll around. You can also get a great view of the old town and even see all the lights on Main Street.

I hope you enjoyed this post and are looking forward to your trip. I have posted a link below to my Heidelberg Christmas market trip.

Holiday recipe

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving if you live in the U.S & celebrate it. We were planning on just cooking for two, watching a movie & spending time together on this one, but we got an invite to go over to a friend’s house and nobody says no to a thanksgiving dinner invite.

We didn’t want to go empty-handed so I decided to whip up my favorite appetizer dishes, cranberry-pomegranate bruschetta & Bacon wrapped Brussel sprouts that I have posted the recipe for before.
I will take no credit for this one, because it’s all Pinterest. I, however, made a video of the bruschetta recipe because I love it so much and every year someone asks me about the recipe.

Here’s a quick rundown: You’ll need a food processor but can use a blender too

What you need for the relish:
– 1 cup pomegranate seeds – you can buy a 2 pomegranates & scoop the seeds out or buy the seeds in a cup.
– 1lb or 450g Cranberries – fresh or frozen
– 1/2 tbsp Ginger – fresh/chopped
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup honey
– 2-3tsp siracha sauce / can use a hot sauce you like if you don’t have siracha
– 1 bunch of fresh cilantro/chopped – leave a little aside for garnish
– Zest from 2 orange – separate into two, for relish & some for garnish

What you’ll need for the crostini:
– 1 good french baguette, then slice it up into 1/4 inch thick slices
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Salt & pepper
– Cream cheese

What to do:
– Pulse all the relish ingredients apart from the cilantro & pomegranate seeds
– Make sure the cranberries are chopped coarsely but don’t let them become mushy.
– Then add cilantro & pulse once just to have it mix but still be chunky
– Put the mixture in a storage container & refrigerate it for a minimum of 2 hrs, the longer the better, you can even do this a day ahead.
– Now preheat the oven to 350 degrees Celsius or 175 degrees Fahrenheit & place a baking sheet (lined with foil or parchment paper)
– Drizzle some oil onto the slices of bread & spread evenly, sprinkle some salt & pepper, then put in oven for 15 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges
– While the bread is in the oven, use a fork to light beat the cream cheese so its fluffy & soft
– Lastly, spread the cream cheese onto the slices of bread & evenly spread the relish
– Garnish with cilantro & orange zest. Enjoy

Nostalgia

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Today is Ian’s and I anniversary (we met on a rainy 2012 Halloween night) and I found myself mentally going back to the good ol’ days in the pacific northwest. Tacoma will always have a special place in my heart because nothing beats the memories we had there, good or bad. I miss driving downtown via the scenic route so I could look at cute homes and drive by the water (Ian was not a fan of this but I never backed down, and we always took the scenic route haha)
We now live in Germany and so many things about the weather here remind me of the PNW. I love waking up to a foggy morning with a good view of the forest, and the current autumn-air is rather refreshing, and I have been told that winter gets gloomy and rainy here; (and even though its not considered great weather) this delights me and I can’t wait! haha
US.

For our anniversary we decided to visit Saarbrücken (a German town with a french accent) – a town near the border of France & Germany. It is in the 2nd-smallest German state, known for its wines and Michelin star restaurants. We hope to just unwind, enjoy some good food & see what Saarbrücken has to offer.
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I have posted some photos I took in Tacoma that I really loved capturing and that bring back lovely memories. Enjoy!

Photos taken outside a greenhouse in Downtown Tacoma, WA.

Heidelberg

View from the Schloss (castle).

These last few weeks Ian has been working non-stop and I have been immersed in school work & unpacking our endless household items. I had promised myself that I would run at least 2 miles 3x a week or maybe do a daily long walk on one of the trails near us, but I found myself stuck in PJs in the house putting furniture together, cleaning, making meals and just attempting to read a chapter here and there & also attend my weekly classes.

Anyway, this weekend we managed to get away, get on an early morning train to Heidelberg and just spend all day walking around and discovering beautiful Heidelberg. I had underestimated the potential that this city had, and I was pleasantly surprised by how charming it was.

First stop – Schloss (castle)

This castle area is huge. You can hike up the cobble stone path or go up the 300 steps, or take the cable car up. We walked up the cobblestone path, saw the garden, viewed the city from the top, and made our way around the castle and down the stairs. You could pay to go into the courtyard and there’s a restaurant in there too, but we opted out of this.

– Apothecary museum : it is next to the Schloss

Altstadt : we then made our way to the old town or Altstadt and strolled around looking for food. There are endless food options and all look so delicious.

Philosophenweg or philosophers walk:

After stuffing ourselves with Korean food near the old bridge, we crossed the bridge and walked over to the Philosophenweg. It consisted of a million and one steps (jokes..but it did seem like it), so be ready to work those quads. The path is beautiful and the views are breathtaking.

After the hike/walk we decided to check into our hotel because we were both really tired.

Next on the list before we leave:

Get cocktails at a rooftop bar/restaurant with a view of the city & river

River cruise on the Neckar river

Stroll around the oldest university in Germany : Heidelberg University

Maybe shop/window shop in the city

We have fallen in love and can’t wait to come back and visit again!

Life in Europe

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It has been exactly 2 years since my last blog post so let’s catch up.

What has happened since Oct 2018 – I was waitlisted for CRNA school and eventually didn’t get in. This actually makes me happy looking back because I think I am in a better path now; something that I will enjoy doing for the rest of my life and be able to balance family life & career.

– Ian and I moved to Germany
– I started graduate school – nurse practitioner

Life in Germany has been a very good change for us, initially stressful to get settled and try to learn some passable German to get by, but I think we are both doing good. Since coming to Germany (it’s only been 2 months) we have become more active since it is very walkable i.e – the grocery stores, restaurants and train stations are all less than a mile from our house, and yet it is a very quiet neighborhood.

Typish Brugge
Things we both love about Germany:

1. Access to the rest of Europe and the ease of traveling​
2. How walkable it is
3. How beautiful Germany​ is and the amount of trails & forests all around
4. How environmental conscious German people are
5. Amount of bakeries & delicious bread everywhere

Things we are adjusting to so far in Germany:

1. The amount of smokers everywhere. I seriously feel like I will get addicted to nicotine just by inhaling all the cigarette smoke
2. Autobahn speed limits – They literally change so quickly, so you have to slam on your brakes because you know there is a hidden camera somewhere behind a bush ready to capture!!! Ian already has been flashed 😦

Ok. That is it for now. I am planning on being a more consistent blogger so please come back every week 🙂

Blumen en Brugge

Enjoy some photos from our trip to Brugge!

CRNA SCHOOL INTERVIEW TIPS

What better way to break the ice on my blog than this?
So, a lot has happened since I last blogged and life has been busy, exciting, tiring, all the above. I took a blogging hiatus after graduating from nursing school and just focused on my career and living life in a different state.

I am at the point of my life where I am planning to go back to school, and have been researching a lot about how to get into CRNA school, which is my ultimate goal in my career.

So, since graduating, I have been preparing for this moment. I got into an ICU right after college and focused on learning and being the best nurse I could be, and man! it was hard initially and I almost lost focus. The challenges weren’t in the job itself but the people I worked with. I met some amazing nurses and learnt a lot from them, and even created friendships, but I also had to put up with some really difficult personalities in the work place, and eventually that led me to leaving that job.

I have however stuck in the ICU and my current job has been very fulfilling and a good fit. The confidence I have gained from this job as a nurse is unbelievable, and that is what led me to consider advancing my career from a bedside ICU nurse to a CRNA.

So far, I have been to 2 interviews, have 1 more scheduled for next week, and have also received a rejection letter from the first school I had applied to, which is a bummer, but I am still hopeful.

Interview tips from my experience:

1. Research the program, the faculty and the curriculum before hand.
2. Write down a list of why you love this school (they will ask you this)
3. Study up on your CCRN information and ICU drugs, pathophysiology of diseases you see on a daily basis in the ICU and hemodynamics.
4. Prepare before the interview by reviewing potential questions you might be asked. (Nurse Nelle has an amazing list on her blog)
5. Look good on the interview day (nice conservative business suit, minimal makeup and hair)
6. Last but not least, be on time. This means be there at least 15 minutes early to the interview room, and give yourself an extra 30-45 mins to find the building or if driving in an unfamiliar​ location.

I hope this tips make your interview preparation easier, and feel free to ask any other burning questions down below.

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Distressed denim outfit

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Hello friends, did you guys have a great weekend?, whether just unwinding at home or doing some fun activities?
The outfit am posting was my favorite this weekend, I wore the comfiest American Eagle distressed jeans and my black and white peplum top from forever 21. I am not big into jeans so I had never honestly bought anything from AE, and the first pair I happened to get are like a dream. I usually wear leggings mostly and this pants feel like leggings honestly, so comfy.
brogues and denim
stripes and denim
Black and white peplum top: f21//Distressed denim pants: American Eagle//Shoes: Brogues from Amazon//Gold watch: Target//Earrings and necklace: F21
This weekend my fiancé and I got to go see Pippin the play and Oh brother! it was amazing. The broadway actors and actresses on the play are so talented and the plot was amazing, I was hooked from start to finish (just so you know the last play I saw…I fell asleep….am not naming names haha). So if you guys like plays or are looking for something fun to do, Pippin is highly recommended.
distressed jeans
natural hair
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Have a lovely Monday ladies and gents, and thanks for stopping by.

OIL PULLING

OIL PULLING

What is oil pulling? : It is an ancient holistic dental care practice that involves putting a small amount of oil in your mouth and swishing for 5-20 mins.

What are the benefits? :  From my own experience of oil pulling for more than a year, my gums stopped bleeding when I brush my teeth – (I grew up with bleeding gums and this was normal to me but when I saw that oil pulling would help with this, I quickly jumped into it and I couldn’t be happier), whiter and stronger teeth, fresh breath and clear sinuses. Other benefits: Less plaque, reduces headache for those with constant headaches, clears skin, boosts immune system reduces PMS and detoxifies the body

What oils can I use? : Coconut oil – use pure/safe for consumption not hair coconut oil haha, sesame oil and olive oil. (some people use essential oils too)

How is it done? : I use coconut oil, which is solid at room temp, so I put it in my mouth and let it melt, then I swish the oil around for 5-20 mins, usually do it while am taking a shower. Spit it out in a trash can since the oil will solidify and clog sinks or toilets
Lastly, rinse your mouth and brush teeth as usual. Oil pulling is best when done before eating or at least 30 mins after eating.

How often should I do it? : It is not necessary to do it daily. I do it at least 2x a week and at most 4x

I did a video talking about oil pulling, so click if interested in more info 🙂


I hope this was good info, I don’t know why it took me so long to share.