About Me · California · Family · USA · Utah

We did a 12 hour road trip with our cats

“What are you doing about your cats?!” said about 100 people upon learning of our move.

Obviously we took them. We bought a little kitty tent on Amazon a few weeks ago and made a nice kitty fort in my back seat for them to snuggle up in during the drive from Orange County to Salt Lake City. While the tent was in our house, they loved it.


Obviously our plan didn’t work out in the car. Our cats DO NOT LIKE to be locked up. They cried and scratched incessantly. Hazel broke the zipper of the kitty tent and escaped in less than 20 minutes, although not unscathed. She was so desperate to get out that she tore up her nose on the zipper. Once out of her kitty prison, she howled and roamed all over the car, driving Erwann crazy, as he was trying to keep her from going under my brake and gas pedals.

Poppy was mostly chill from the start, but would also cry occasionally. Erwann had to pin Hazel on his lap the entire drive from Costa Mesa to Las Vegas. She would sometimes be calm, but every time she looked out the window she would start to howl again. She dozed off just in time for our first stop.

Along with the tent, we had also bought some kitty harnesses and leashes. I had tried to get them used to the harnesses to no great avail. However, crunch time had arrived. We stopped for gas just outside of Vegas in 108 F. I put the kitties in their harnesses and on their leashes to be able to give them some water and just get out of the car for a minute. They were not pleased.


Erwann and I were not pleased either, because we let Poppy out of the tent to discover that she had peed all over. We decided to ditch the tent all together and make them a little bed in the back. We blocked the seats so they couldn’t go underneath and gave them free roam. This worked much better. They settled in pretty quickly and spent most of the final hours sleeping on our laps.


We made one more stop in Fillmore with the leashes and harnesses. The girls still weren’t loving it, but it wasn’t as hot as Vegas, so it went more smoothly.


We rolled into Salt Lake around 7:30 pm, set up the kitties with their food, water, and litter box, and cleaned the cat pee out of the car as best we could. They are still on the traumatized spectrum almost a week later, but they’ll be fine. They have been drinking a lot of water because they refused to do so during the voyage and seem happy to have plenty of beds to hide under.

Poor kitties. We sure love them though, so I’d say they’re also very lucky.

About Me · California · USA

What I Learned in Grad School

My mom’s new favorite thing to make me repeat is, “It was worth it.” She seems to think that at some point in 2014 I said that a master’s degree wouldn’t be worth it. I’m pretty sure that never happened, so of course I’m happy to admit that, yes, it was worth it. I learned a lot, and it feels awesome to put “Master of Science in Education with concentration in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages” on my resume.

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Here’s some stuff I learned during this valuable process.

  1. Being a grad student doesn’t make you special. It makes you the system’s bitch for at least two years.  I’m also discovering that it doesn’t automatically prepare you to enter the workforce. Image result for funny grad school meme
  2. It’s much harder than a bachelor’s degree. MUCH HARDER. The study and learning methods I used during my undergraduate were not useful to me in grad school.  Image result for funny grad school meme
  3. It’s much less fun than ~college.~ No time for parties. No money for parties. No energy to make new friends.Image result for funny grad school memeImage result for funny grad school meme
  4. It takes a f****** toll on your mental health. I later found out I wasn’t alone in that. It’s not about avoiding it. It’s about endurance. Image result for funny grad school meme
  5. How to put theory into practice. I’m not sure how or when I learned that, but I did, and it’s actually cool. I see theory in my practice everyday. I find myself explaining things that seem like common sense. They’re not common sense. Apparently I absorbed something. Image result for happy surprised gif7. How to take better criticism. I’m a sensitive person. This is still tough for me, but I’ve improved and am generally more open to feedback. Image result for hurt feelings gif

My darling family drove 12 hours from Utah to attend the official ceremony today. Now we’re packing, packing, packing, and moving on Wednesday.

On to the next chapter.

California · USA · Utah

Goodbye, California

It’s official. Our bosses know. We had a goodbye party. We are leaving California. We are moving to Utah in three weeks.


I miss my mommy, duh. No but really, I just miss my family way too much. It’s become too difficult to be out here without either my or Erwann’s family. We don’t really plan on living in a one bedroom apartment forever and can’t imagine ever being able to afford anything bigger. We also don’t love that we have to drive two hours and fight through hosts of people every time we want to escape civilization.

Of course, there are things that we will miss.

A handful of really good people, for starters. When we’ve been far away from our families, some awesome friends have always stepped up to help us move and celebrate Christmas and birthdays. We’ve also taken lots of fun trips to places we’ll probably never see again. And, I know we will miss California this winter when we’re scraping the ice off our cars.

Do we have jobs?


Aren’t we scared?

A little? Not too much, though. We’re mostly excited. The job market in Utah is pretty good, and we have an awesome support system if it takes some time to get settled.

Where will we live?

With my grandma and grandpa until we find jobs.

When are we moving?

“Unofficially” on May 24th, we will pack up everything we haven’t sold and drive up to Utah with our kitties. But, the “official” moving date is really later in August, because we’re spending the summer with Erwann’s family and doing this:


Stay tuned…

California · USA

Birthday in Joshua Tree

I knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday this year. We are pretty spoiled in Southern California with mild winters, but they are not so mild that we can camp in December or January, so when my birthday began to approach we started planning a trip into California’s best desert:


The 14th fell on a Friday this year, so Erwann and I took the day off work to try to beat the weekend traffic. Not remarkably, we were not (nor are we ever) the only ones to have this idea. Between Easter and the weekend, the park was packed.

We stayed at Hidden Valley Campground last year and loved it, so we tried there first. No luck. The next closest was Ryan Campground, which was also beautiful. No luck. The next was Jumbo Rocks Campground, the park’s biggest. We wanted to avoid Jumbo Rocks for this reason, because it’s where the LA party people tend to go first, and the last thing I want when I go camping is to be around other drunk people. Everyone knows that the whole purpose of camping is the get drunk ALONE in nature.


Or, it’s at least about getting drunk with a few people you actually like, which is what we did with our friends Kirt and Eleanore.

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We intended to do a bit of hiking as well, but we had the wild, beautiful, empty desert literally right behind our campsite. Although the desert is stunning in its own bizarre way, it’s not ideal for hiking. It gets real hot real quick, and it starts to look the same after a short time, so we stuck to meandering off the beaten path with all the hares. We were excited about the hares. Otherwise we stayed in the tent or under the sun reading. I finished two books during the trip.

I was also stoked on the adorable family who camped right next to us. They had three curly blond-haired, green-eyed boys of 8, 6, and 4 years old. The 8-year-old immediately offered to help us set up camp. We played soccer with the 6-year-old using the wood bundles as goal posts. The next day he told Erwann he wanted to play soccer with him again before they left. The 4-year-old showed off his glow stick and attempted to impress us by rolling around in the dirt.

To summarize: nature, bunnies, munchkins, friends, and reading. Quite a productive camping trip.


California · Family · USA

First Anniversary: Yosemite National Park

Erwann and I have been married for one year. August 2015 was a whirlwind; we didn’t even have a honeymoon. In September I went back to school, and Erwann went back to work. In October we “celebrated” Halloween at home with the cats, then we returned to Utah to party turkey style, and for Christmas we returned to Europe. Then the new year came, and we watched fireworks on the beach in Portugal. I have no memory of February. During my spring break, I went to the East coast. When I came home, Erwann was at work but he had surprised me with flowers, cookies, and a love note (*heart eyes emoji*). In April I turned 25 and Erwann spoiled me even more. We also had a great visit from Valerie and went camping in Joshua Tree. In May we went camping again. I had a week off of work in June and went to Utah alone to hang with the Metcalfs. In July we planned our anniversary trip. We got back last week. Did all of that happen in a year, or in a week? The latter seems more plausible.

To celebrate these 12 months of matrimony, we took a long weekend trip up the California coast towards Yosemite National Park. We were disappointed in Big Sur because the weather was yucky. Disappointment made us both grumpy, and we spent most of the first day snapping at each other. It was just in time to make us start regretting the jewelry on our ring fingers. Ha! Just kidding. A darling little gopher cheered us up. A few other people stopped and said it was so cute, but Erwann and I were the only ones happy to sit there and watch the little guy pop in and out of his hole for thirty minutes. Love at first sight (of a cute animal) sums up our relationship pretty well.

We crashed in the glamorous metropolis of Merced that night and rose early to take off for Yosemite. We were ecstatic to see blue skies the whole way, and they continued for the rest of our trip. Luck smiled upon us again, and we found a spot to camp right away. We set up the tent and left to hike the famous mist trail. It was packed with European and Asian tourists, but gorgeous nonetheless. We made friends with another cute rodent and decided that only people who can sit and watch a squirrel for 30 minutes should be allowed in national parks. We also saw a rattlesnake, which was equally as exciting although not as fun.

That night we returned to our temporary home, ate dinner and smores, and went to sleep in the coziest double sleeping bag you could ever imagine. We had planned to wake early and hike again, but at 6:00 am after a nine mile hike, I was not having it. We went back to sleep and woke up when the tent became too hot. We decided to take it a little easier and spent the day lounging by the river and swimming in the perfectly cool water. It was so dreamy. We enjoyed our final night with drinks in the wilderness behind our campsite and more dinner and smores. The next morning we sulkily packed up, saw a few more sites, and hit the road.

We were happy to see the kitties again, but man. The vacation blues hit us so hard. Spending time in a godly place like Yosemite makes you realize how dull and ugly suburbia is. This weekend we’re planning another return to the mountains for one last hurrah before my LAST SEMESTER of grad school. That’s right, folks. I’m almost a master! I wouldn’t have been able to get through any of the school, health, or work related challenges life threw at me this last year without my husband. He gives me strength. I am an extremely sensitive person, but in a way, that also makes Erwann stronger. The Hickels are a great team, and we’re ready for another year. Let’s do this!
Here’s our video from the trip:
About Me · California · Uncategorized · USA

Butter me up

I have a very important message for all 10 people who read my blog. Stop everything you are doing immediately and head straight to Trader Joe’s, because you really need to get your hands on their salted French butter.

Oh, P.S., hi, I’m having a love affair with butter. It started at my grandma-in-law’s (is that the right way to refer to her? “my husband’s grandma” sounds so distant) during Christmas when she put fresh baguette and butter on the table with dinner. I was so stoked on the baguette that I was gobbling it up “dry,” which was a big no no to my grandma-in-law. So at her prodding, I paired the delicious French baguette with some butter. Even fresh out of the fridge, it spread smoothly, and melted quickly in my mouth, with the perfect amount of saltiness, and I fell in love.

In Portugal, we also ate butter with toast every morning, and I was smitten again. My poor in-laws’ butter wasn’t lasting the week because of me. Eventually I fessed up about my obsession and told Erwann I was actually blown away by how much better the butter was in Europe. That’s when he said, “You know we can buy good butter in the U.S. too, right?”

WHAT?! There are options other than the rock hard cubes of tasteless lard? Yes, and it will change your life. It’s about $3 for a big block, which for us is kind of steep, especially considering that it doesn’t last us much more than five days, but it has turned my life upside down. Knowing that there is delicious butter to be spread on toast with fig jam (another side love affair) and dipped in tea (sounds disgusting, isn’t) is what has been getting me out of bed the past few weeks.

In order to continue slathering salted butter on every meal, I’ve also started easing back into the gym. I did ab stuff yesterday, and my shoulders are sore…? So yeah, that’s how that is going.

I’ve also gotten back to work and school, which have been surprisingly painless so far. Work is an absolute joy. ESL is the best thing that has ever happened to my self-esteem. At 5’10 with blonde hair, I really don’t look like a normal human to some of my students from Asia, but more like a cartoon character. Someone tells me I’m beautiful literally everyday. They are all so sweet. To reward them, I try to teach them as much English as I can. It’s hard to say for sure, but I feel like I’m doing a good job. As cliche as it sounds, I truly feel like I’ve found my calling.

They even sometimes give me snacks, and I got a bunch of Christmas presents too!

As for school, I’m in my last year!!! My classmates and I remarked how we are like seniors now. We know the ins and outs of the program and of its professors. This semester I have my favorite professor for two classes, and at the moment I’m feeling ready to knock another semester out of the park.

I also have a lot to look forward to during the next little while to help get me through. My bestie Margaret just left last week, my mom is coming to visit for a long weekend starting on Wednesday, I’m going to Chicago, Kentucky, Virginia, and D.C. to see my besties in March, my mother-in-law is coming on my birthday in April, and my bestie Arin is planning a trip out here in May. So yep, 2016 and “Snowpocalypse” are off to a great start.

California · Family · USA · Wedding

Catalina: 3 Years, 2 Cats, 1 Ring Later; Engaged!

A few weeks ago, Erwann asked me what days I was working that week. I told him I had to work Friday and Sunday but I did have Saturday off. He asked me the same question several more times over the next few days, but I didn’t pay any attention to it because boys often need to hear these kind of things a lot before they retain them. When he asked what days I was working I forgot to mention that although I wasn’t working Saturday, I did have a mandatory work meeting that morning. Fast forward to that Thursday night, when I complain about having to go to a meeting on my day off. “You can’t go,” responded Erwann. I found out that he had a nonrefundable surprise planned for Saturday. So, I ruined not only my own surprise (and I LOVE surprises), but we would also have to lose part of our morning since I had to go to my meeting.

Come Saturday, Erwann told me to pack for one night and said he’d pick me up right after my work meeting. Thankfully the meeting was short and we were able to hop right on the 405 towards Long Beach and ended up getting on a boat to Catalina! I texted my good friend Margaret to let her know what the surprise was, and she said, “Omg is this an engagement surprise? I will be so happy!” I responded, “Noooo I don’t think so…”

Catalina is a very small island a few miles off the coast, and it’s BEAUTFIUL. There is a tiny harbor, a cute little city center and a few small beaches. There are hardly any cars, and the island is mostly just gorgeous hills and sapphire ocean. So we rented a golf cart and took a tour of the island. Afterwards we checked into our hotel and headed downtown for dinner. We went the whole nine yards at a restaurant on the water with drinks, appetizers and dinner. What Margaret suggested earlier had been at the back of my mind all day, but I had figured if she were right, that it would have happened when we were on our own exploring the island. If it were going to happen at dinner, I would have thought he would ask at the beginning, so I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind. Just as I did, and just after I suggested we leave the restaurant, Erwann pulled out a little black velvet box and said, “Alors ma chérie, est-ce que tu veux m’épouser?” Translation: WE’RE GETTING MARRIED!

In the past three years, we met at a party, survived 8 months going back and forth between Utah and France, moved to California, adopted two baby kitties, moved into a bigger apartment and now are happily engaged! It took me awhile to realize what this really means- soon Erwann will be getting his green card, and one day I might get to be French! This means the end of our visa troubles. We will never again have to worry about how to live in the same country! We can finally start building our life together, and I could not be more excited that I am spending my life with my most favorite souvenir from France.

The big day is August 9, 2015. We are throwing a party in the mountains, and we can’t wait! Since it’s in Utah, all my oldest friends and family, all my closest friends I met in France and a lot of Erwann’s friends and family are coming, so it’s going to be a celebration of our new life together AND a big reunion!

Now if only we could find a way for our fur babies to make the wedding…