Wordless Wednesday #19

NYC skyline at sunset
NYC (July 2016)

Forgive my silence. I'm making a difficult decision today. Life changes are always hard. And complicated.

What are you doing on this beautiful, summer day?

Weekend Getaway Sale with Swagbucks & MyGiftCardsPlus (Ad)

I don't usually share ads with you all, but this one seemed fitting… 😊

You know how everyone is planning trips and getaways this summer? Well, what if you could save money on services you are already going to be paying for, anyway?

Like… with Delta for those expensive flights you have yet to book…

or Groupon when you find the most amazing hotel at a killer price…

or IHOP because everyone's gotta eat breakfast. (And breakfast for dinner is always a win!)

Well, Swagbucks is teaming up with MyGiftCardsPlus to help save you money and simultaneously help your money go further. You buy gift cards there and get cash back (in the form of SB points on Swagbucks) for your purchase! As a special Weekend Getaway Promotion, they're offering an additional $1 (100 SB) bonus through Sunday, July 16th when you get a gift card for: Hotels.com, Delta, Southwest, Groupon, or IHOP.

While I realize $1 doesn't get you very far (a soda from McDonald's perhaps?), I'm always striving to save every penny I can when I travel. And with this promotion, you can redeem the offer five different times: once for each one gift card you purchase on MyGiftCardsPlus from the participating retailers (Hotels.com, Delta, Southwest, Groupon, and IHOP).

So, let me break it down for you:

1. You go to MyGiftCardsPlus to sign up. (Also sign up at Swagbucks.com)

2. Find the ideal gift card from Hotels.com, Delta, Southwest, Groupon, or IHOP

3. Get a percentage back from your purchase. (Right now they are advertising 3% back for Delta gift cards.)

4. When your gift card is shipped, get an additional 100SB (the promotion from this post).

5. REDEEM on Swagbucks.com for more gift cards! #Win!

To learn more, visit MyGiftCardsPlus.

Have you finished vacation planning for the summer? Will you be taking advantage of this promotion?

Wordless Wednesday #18

Cinque Terre (May 2015)

With Bastille Day right around the corner, I can't help but think back to last summer when we were exploring the coast of Brittany, France and the city of Versailles. We probably shouldn't have gone (money, timing), but I don't regret it in the least. I remember how striking it was seeing crystal clear, turquoise water for the first time (The Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of the US can be kind of murky and not nearly as pretty.), eating delicious crépes, finding the world's most cooling gelato (It was hot!), seeing fireworks and fountains, exploring gardens, and getting Coldplay's "A Sky Full of Stars" stuck in my head.

It was amazing and completely different from every trip to France I had taken before.

Every time I return to France, it's a new experience.

And each time I return, it only seems to get better.

So, this is my reminder to my readers: go out and live your life. Accomplish the things on your bucket list. Be ready for new adventures. And look back not with regret but with contentedness. You only live life once.

Is there something you've done that, looking back, probably wasn't the best idea but is an experience you don't regret having? … Even knowing what you know now? 


July 4th

At the beginning of every month, as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, I take a look at my successes (not just in writing), share the ways I hope to improve in the next month, answer the IWSG question of the month, and provide inspiration (if I have any).

June Goals (I didn't have many…) –
✗ Stick to budget

✓ Read a book.

Additional Successes –
✓ Planned trip to Key West/Miami (checking a few things off of my 101 in 1001 list)

✓ Replaced the transmission in Justin's truck.

July Goals –
Read a book.
• Get caught up on blog comments.
• Decide/plan trip for the solar eclipse in August.
• Write email regarding my car.
• Get car fixed?
• Continue asking around for possible employment opportunities.

IWSG Question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

Just a life lesson really but WRITE FOR YOURSELF FIRST. I remember getting assignments in college both in writing classes as well as in art classes that I simply could not relate to. How do you write or create when you don't feel inspired? I found that if I turned the assignment around (perhaps upside down or inside out, just found a new way to approach it), I could frequently make the topic more relatable for me. If the topic was relatable, I was more likely to get a good grade, impress the teacher and please myself. (Not to mention how much easier the project was to complete!)

So, for example, when I went into the master's teaching program at my local community college, I decided to focus on two of my strengths: art + reading. Specifically, I began researching how early childhood reading and how the reading of Pulitzer Prize-winning books affected children in areas outside of the arts and language studies. Did it help them with math? history?

Even to this day, I love challenging myself with blog post "challenges". I may not have anything to say about "dinosaurs", but maybe I can talk about how one of the churches in Dresden, Germany was rebuilt over the past twenty years to become the magnificent and beautiful piece of architecture that it is today. The church is a "dinosaur" because of its age, even if it is not necessarily what you'd refer to if you were teaching children about the Mesozoic Era.


A Message to Inspire Women to Lead from Julie Foudy, Morning Edition on NPR

A few weekends ago, my husband and I took my father-in-law out to eat for dinner and some grocery shopping. (Don't ask.) At the meal, he commented on how he was going to print out all of his images from his travels with his wife. I asked, kind of condescendingly (because I'm against wasting paper), what will you do with all of those pictures once you print them out? Thankfully, he didn't take offense to my comment. Calmly, he asked me … "Well, what do you do with all of your pictures?" Taken aback, I commented that the printing process for me is usually a bit more complicated than merely sending my images to print. I edit them, print them, and then edit them again, hoping I will get it right the second time. Printing pictures, especially the same pictures, over and over again gets expensive and feels like a waste of time, money, and paper. So, eventually, I give up. I mean – yes, sometimes I don't stop until I get it right, but sometimes I stop prematurely because I'm frustrated. Then, my husband's dad said something I've been told frequently but never taken to heart. He asked me if I have seen all of the crud people sell at festivals as good "art". He said "if they can sell that, you can sell your work" and he encouraged me to keep trying, keep printing, and not be so hard on myself.

Of course, the same goes for writing. Mine and yours. :) Keep doing your best, keep working at it, keep producing. The more you practice, the better you get.

I especially loved reading this article from NPR so soon after hearing my father-in-law's encouragement. We (or perhaps more specifically I) tend to overthink everything I do. I want to put my best foot forward always. If you show that you aren't good enough, if you post or share something that isn't your absolute best, you won't get the job, the praise, or the recognition. But in this article, Julie says to produce your work, do your thing, lead the way you do, anyway. Don't let your worries about being imperfect keep you from playing the game. Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. It is not a position (like a boss) but a state of mind.

Your Turn

How is your summer going so far? Are you enjoying lazy days or have you found yourself surprisingly busy? Did you have a wonderful and enjoyable July 4th?

Click here to learn more and
link up with IWSG!

Wordless Wednesday #17

Cinque Terre (May 2014)

This week my husband and I are prepping to go out of town for July 4th. To get ready, so far, we've washed our sheets, vacuumed, charged the camera batteries… Next on the list: cleaning the bathroom and packing. I prefer to leave the house clean so that when I get back there is less to do. I can focus on washing clothes and getting extra sleep (because I always need a bit of time to recover, a vacation from my vacation, if you will).

How do you plan and prep for a vacation or long weekend away from the house? … Do you just get up and leave? Or do you plan and prepare like I do?

… And speaking of long weekends, for those of you that celebrate July 4th, will you be going anywhere this weekend for the holiday? For those of you that don't, do you have any major (or minor) vacation plans for the summer?

What to Eat, Where

Over the last three years, I've had the privilege and joy of traveling to a number of different places and trying food combinations that were beyond my imagination. I've learned that just because you've had a certain food or tried a certain activity in one place doesn't mean you will dislike it another. In fact, food, for me, has been a way of breaking out of the mold and learning to try things that I otherwise might pass up. Luckily, my husband is a foodie and has very little that he won't try … which inevitably spurs me on.

Below, I have listed for you the foods and food combinations I have learned about through my travels. Maybe some foods you were already aware of? Maybe there are some new ones for you? Perhaps, you are currently planning to travel to one of these locations?

Whatever the case may be, let me take you away to food paradise … one city (and in some cases, country) at a time…

Pineapples are delicious in Hawai'i.

1. In Hawai'i…

Get fresh fruit. Maui pineapples, passion fruit, guava, coconut, mango, apple bananas. (Yes, apple bananas are a thing.) The fruit I had in Hawai'i was some of the best I've ever had. :)

Kona coffee. Every island has a different flavor, and, according to my husband, it's all delicious.

The Mauimosa is a fun take on the more traditional mimosa. It's made with pineapple wine.

Macadamia nuts grow on multiple islands in Hawai'i. You can get them without all of the additional preservatives, so that's nice. I'm kind of in love with the Hawaiian Host chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Add a bit of caramel and … mmm mm good! :)

Banana bread. Aunty Sandy's banana bread on the Road to Hana in Maui is pretty amazing especially right out of the oven.

The "plated lunch" in Hawai'i is pretty unique. You get a meat of your choosing + macaroni salad + rice. It sounds weird and makes you wonder where the vegetables are, but it's actually really good.

And for dessert be sure to grab some shaved ice. To do it right, you need it layered with vanilla ice cream on the bottom, sweetened condensed milk on top, and a handful of mochi. With the right syrup flavors covering the ice, on a hot, sunny day at the beach, this treat is delicious!

Go to New York City and not get a bagel? Hardly!

2. In NYC, New York…

Grab an egg cream soda. It comes in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors, though not all flavors are always available at the same place. And no, you won't get sick and die from drinking raw egg, because there isn't any in the drink!

Pizza is next. Just any street vendor will do.

And some people claim the bagels are the best. Something about the New York City water?

Is it a Boston Cream Cake or a Boston Cream Pie?
Photo credit: edwardkimuk via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

3. In Boston, Massachutus…

A Boston cream pie/cake is a MUST. My preference? Mike's Pastry in Little Italy. Trust me: this treat served anywhere else in the world will never be the same.

Shrimp and grits is a southern staple!
Photo credit: greg.turner via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

4. In Charleston, South Carolina…

Shrimp and grits are a staple. I don't eat fish, but that's what they say, anyway.

Peaches are the Georgia state fruit.

5. In Atlanta, Georgia…

Try the fried chicken. Ideally with a lot of sides. Think mac and cheese, cornbread or drop biscuits, fried green tomatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, coleslaw, fried okra, baked beans, and collard greens. A new thing I've only recently been introduced to is red pepper jelly which goes great on a biscuit! The jelly is sweet and tastes nothing like you (or at least I) would expect.

For dessert, be sure to get a peach cobbler (also can be made with a variety of other fruits including blueberries, apples, and strawberries) or fried peach pie. Peaches are the Georgia state fruit.

A popular drink, one that would be served with your fried chicken at grandma's house is sweet tea. If you've never had sweet tea before, take it slow. Southerners tend to like their iced sweet tea made with ALL of the sugar. Another option is lemonade, which is almost completely different from the European style. In the US, we use still water, sugar, and (yellow) lemons. Obviously, you can substitute with (green) limes, if you want, for a completely different flavor.

You can't have Oktoberfest without German beer!

6. In southern Germany…

Käsespätzle is my thing. Minus the onions.

Currywurst is also a thing; it's one I didn't come to like until my husband made it at home… It's almost sweet tasting and doesn't remind me at all of the curry flavor found in Indian food.

Maß beer is also a standout. I don't drink it, but how can you not associate those large glasses of beer (especially during Oktoberfest) with Germany?

Sweet crepes are good any time of day!

7. In France…

You have crêpes and galettes. As much as I have tried to like savory galettes, I just don't. I prefer sweet crêpes instead.

The French omelet (not served as breakfast) is absolutely amazing and unlike any American omelette that I've ever had. It's more light and airy. And they serve it with fries!

My husband is a fan of the mussels served in a cream broth and served with fries like you find in the Brittany region of France. I dislike seafood, so … there's that. :)

Hot chocolate is a must, though. I cannot leave without having a cup of Angelina's, even in the heat of summer!

Another delicious sweet is the salted caramel found in the Brittany region of France which is also pretty amazing. I wouldn't go out of my way to get it, but if you happen to be there anyway, why not?

In Europe, you can have salami, bread, and wine picnics just about anywhere!

8. In northern Italy…

My favorite meal would be salami, a delicious baguette (I know – French!), cheese (even Parmigian Reggiano is acceptable!), and a glass of wine looking out over the ocean with friends as the sun goes down. #win! I'm also a huge fan of their balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Nothing I can buy in the states tastes anything like it!

Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed in most other foods I tried while there – gelato, pizza, spaghetti. Could it be my American taste buds interfering? … Or did we just choose all of the wrong restaurants?

Syrup tastes good on more than just waffles in Canada.

9. In the Québec region of Canada…

How can you not have poutine?

I'm also a HUGE fan of Michel Jodin's iced cider in the Québec region.

Then there is the Canadian syrup which is found in almost everything … from hot drinks to candy to breakfast "sauces". While the syrup itself is very good, I have to say you haven't really tried "Canadian syrup" until you are eating it served in a mug or spread out on snow as a sticky candy to be wrapped around a stick.

Good luck making Trdelník, a delicious pastry from Czech Republic.
Photo credit: akimapilot via VisualHunt / CC BY-ND

10. In Prague, Czech Republic…

Trdelník, a delicious street food pastry made with cinnamon and filled with Nutella. I hear in the summer you can add ice cream to it too! How fun would that be?!

Is Key Lime Pie really better in Key West, Florida?

11. In Key West, Florida…

To be determined.

In a few weeks, my husband and I will be making the drive to learn more about what foods are served there. They will be hosting a key lime festival (wherein they drop key lime pies from lighthouses and the person who keeps it most intact wins?), and you can bet I will be drinking a tropical drink and soaking up the sun. Am I crazy? Well, that too is to be determined. It's possible.

What are some foods and drinks you associate with different locations? Have you ever tried a food in one place only to discover that it tastes completely different elsewhere? Are there specific foods you have to get every time you visit a specific location or place?

Share! And link-up with Top Ten Thursday!

Wordless Wednesday #16

Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC (May 2015)

For #WordlessWednesday, I have had a friend request that I join in the 30 Question Blog Hop.

Here you go… 😀

1. What did you want to be when you were a kid? A teacher, a marine biologist (because dolphins!), a graphic designer, a writer…

2. Which “Friends” character do you relate to the most? Why? The Buzzfeed quiz told me I'm Chandler. Because I'm funny?

This quiz also says I'm Chandler.

I could definitely see myself more as Rachel. Shopping for a living? Heck yeah! Of course, I'm probably also somewhat of a ditz like Phoebe and a control freak like Monica. I don't really relate to Joey or Chandler at all. Well, maybe I'm sarcastic like Chandler. I don't really remember anything specific about Ross… I guess it probably doesn't help that I've only seen approximately one or two seasons worth of episodes.

3. Do you like your name? Why? Sure. Why not? I have to have one.

4. Are you messy or neat? A mix? I hate cleaning, but I like it when my living quarters are clean. Combine that with a messy husband … and we've got a mix.

5. How tall are you? Short. It's great when I need to get through crowds, but I'm not quite as good at finding people, in those same crowds, as tall people.

Try traveling with tall people. See how many times you are offered the kids menu. 😉

6. How tall were you when you were 10? short. I haven't grown much since.

7. What is your guilty pleasure? sleeping, watching tv shows I watched as a kid, reading young adult fiction… eating ALL of the ice cream!

8. What are you saving money for right now? I'm not. We are paying off student loans, paying off a car loan… getting a car fixed and paying way more for car insurance than should ever be allowed. 😕

If I were to be saving money, first it would be for my emergency savings account (need $3,000 more), then it would be for a new computer, then a house, then it would be for a car (to replace a 2006 model), and, finally, it would be for travel.

9. How many Pringles can you eat at once? a whole can. Of course, the last time I tried I was a lot yonger.

10. Tea or coffee? French breakfast tea is my favorite!

11. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Definitely an introvert. I can go days without talking to someone and not notice or care.

12. What will be your Halloween costume this year? I don't dress up for Halloween. I avoid the holiday altogether and go out to dinner with my husband. The restaurants are empty so it's a great time to try a new one!

13. Sweet or salty? Can I have both?

14. Favorite social media? Twitter! I may be an introvert but I love twitter chats!

15. Who is the last person you kissed? My husband probably. But it's been three weeks. We've both been sick.

16. What is your favorite breakfast? Right now? Peanut butter toast and a glass of orange juice. I get on "kicks". I eat the same thing everyday for a while until I want something completely different. Next week I may be in love with muesli. You never know.

17. When is your birthday? In the summer.

18. When did you start your blog? I've been blogging since at least 2004. This particular blog was started sometime in 2011.

19. What is your opinion on the Kardashians? Not a fan. Couldn't care less about them.

20. How would you describe your style? Free People + Anthropologie. I like dresses, frills, and lace, but I also like being comfortable. Glitter flats are me. Sparkly, fun, girly … not extraordinarily grown up, but super comfy. Also, I live in the south, so flip flops are dressy casual, whatever that means.

21. What color is your hair? brown.

22. What color socks are you wearing? n/a. I live in the south US, remember? Nobody wears shoes when the temperatures are 80/90/100ºF outside. Instead, you go get your toenails done and call that your "sock" color.

23. What is your dream job? Travel writer/editor would be ideal. I also love my current position as a nanny.

24. Dogs or cats? Dogs.

25. What makes you weird? So many things. Aren't we all unique?

26. Celebrity crush? Right now, given the current political climate in the US, let's change it to political crush! Jon Ossoff is leading followed by Angela Merkel (seriously swoon when she says or does something amazing!), Emmanuel Macron (inviting American scientists to work in France!!), and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Prince William, Prince Harry, and the Queen are on my radar too.

Seriously. Smart people are hot. 😊 Add a smidge of kindness and … ❤️

As for actual celebs, I'm currently loving Mayim Balik, a science nerd that is actively fighting for women's rights.

27. Opinion on cigarettes? Dislike.

skipping 28-30. Too personal.

(For reference they were: 28. Do you want children? how many? 29. Favorite boy names. 30. Favorite girl names.)

So, your turn. Do you have the patience to answer 30 questions?

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