When I Need a Break…

I answer pre-written questions about my life! :)

Today I am…

Remembering: every last bit of my Canadian trip so that I can share it with you! Seriously, I am going through all of the photos I have on my phone and editing all of the images I shot with my DSLR. It's super time consuming, but I'm excited to share! Hopefully, I will have enough images and detailed information to help you plan your own trip to Canada. And if you aren't planning on going to Canada, then maybe you'll just enjoy the images? I can hope anyway…

Planning: nothing right now.

We're trying to decide how and when to use my husband's vacation time. Mexico? Canada? the Grand Canyon? … return to Europe? or venture off to Hawai'i? Maybe we should tackle another continent like Asia? Do you have any recommendations? What's on your travel list?

Anxiously Awaiting: the end of the school year. I don't know yet if I will be working this summer and that always has me on edge.

Interested to Know: what to expect from this year's April A-Z challenge. With the hosts changing up the commenting and link-sharing, I'm wondering how different the whole experience will be and whether or not I will like the changes.

Listening to: 80's music, NPR, and the Beatles. I've also been "watching" (by which I mean editing images and putting together my A-Z posts) Trevor Noah from The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert from The Late Show. They give me a sense of comfort and allow me to laugh a little at the crazy things that are happening politically; it makes me feel less alone.

Keeping A Secret: I'm scared. Of politics. Of where my life is going. Of … snakes coming out of my car vent… :(

DIY'ing: I've been too busy blogging to DIY anything! In April, we have plans three out of four of the weekends, and with April A-Z coming up, I'm just trying to keep my head above water!

Reading: This goes for reading too. So much for that goal of one book per month!

What have you been up to this month? If you are a blogger, how do you keep to your schedule and still take a break? 

** #30Lists survivor! Are you ready for April A-Z?

Wordless Wednesday #10

Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre, Italy; May 2014

Right before I went to Europe for the first time in 2014, I bought a new $2000 canon lens. My husband and I put together credit card points and Amazon gift cards we had saved up for this purchase. I was so anxious putting so much money into this purchase. Was I wasting money? What if my new purchase was stolen while we were exploring Europe? The clincher: what if this new lens didn't actually improve my photography?

I spent a lot of time researching the lens before I bought it. I wanted a wide angle zoom lens that would allow me to capture a variety of scenes effortlessly. I wanted the Canon best of the best with the ability to shoot from as low of an aperture as possible.

You'll never believe it though. When the lens arrived shortly before Christmas in 2013, I found myself disappointed. I figured I would know I had gotten the best lens for me if I could shoot my whole Christmas tree in one shot. Guess what? On a canon 60D, 24mm simply wasn't enough. I needed to go lower.

My next lens was only 25% of the cost of the Canon. It was a sigma 10mm-24mm with the lowest aperture of f/4. This lens we didn't have money saved up for. I convinced my husband to let me get it anyway, because who knew when we would return to Europe again? Would we ever? … I needed to get my shots the first time.

When my sigma lens came in… it worked. I got the tree and the whole of our living room into the shot … just barely.

It's funny how you can spend tons of time researching a product, worrying, stressing about the purchase … when what you really need is something completely different.

Have you ever had that experience? Where you research and plan your whole life around one thing, but as it turns out you really should have done something else? …Or you bought something thinking it was the perfect solution only to find out that another product would have served you better?

* I'm participating in #30Lists. With only a few days left, you should join in before it's all over!

Five Items a Travel-Lover Loves to Travel With

What are some of your travel must-haves? I've already listed a few before, but, as I've traveled more, my must-haves have changed. Here's what I'm loving right now!

1. A Large scarf –

I used to carry around a blanket. I know, I know; I'm five. :) But it came in use more often than you would think! Especially when we were staying at AirBnbs.

One day, I got over it though. The thought of finding room when I was doing carry on luggage only? No. So, I sought out a thick feeling, wide scarf that could be used as a lap blanket on flights, would cover my shoulders as I slept at night, and just be something that would bring me happiness. I found it in this scarf. And it's sister, a blue one just the same.

Lucky you, though! I bought it half price, but now it's on sale at an even bigger discount! Shop here or here or to get it in the $30/$40 range, and stack coupons to get an even better deal!

2. A Toiletry Bag –

Combine this with a set of packing cubes and you are all set and as organized as you can get! The nice thing about these bags is that you can pack just the items you use when you travel, and then never unpack them! If you do that, it makes life easier when you get home, because it's one less thing to do … and it's one less thing to pack when you are getting ready to go on a trip too!

One thing of note:
+ If you pack liquids, you will need to be mindful of travel and airline policies regarding those liquids. (i.e. In the US, you will need all of your liquids in a clear, plastic, ziplock bag and easy to pull out of your bag if you aren't checking it.)

3. A roll of Quarters –

This is specifically if your plans include city parking or driving on toll roads.

(It's also not a bad idea to have some smaller bills in your pocket as well for small businesses that don't take credit or debit cards.)

4. Back-Up Batteries for Iphones

Don't you hate it when your iphone goes dead? … What about when you are using it to find your way around the city?!?! Eeek! Or maybe you see that perfect thing to photograph … Or you are reading a great ebook! Whatever you are doing, you'll want to make sure you can keep doing that day, that hour, that minute. If you have a backup battery, you don't have to worry. :)

5. Magnetic Air Conditioning Vent Phone Holder For Car

We stumbled across these phone holders while we were in Hawaii, and I've fallen in love! It's so nice that when you are traveling you don't have to worry about smudges on the windshield implying anything to would-be thieves. Further, even when you aren't using the holder, it's so small that it doesn't block the air conditioning or heat. Finally, I love how easy these are to slide on and off of the vent. Other phone holders have stayed on my vent unnecessarily for days and weeks later, despite my not using it, simply because I was struggling to remove it. Not so for this type! Highly recommended!

Do you use any of these items when you travel? Did I share with you something new?

*A participant in #30Lists. Today's topic: Fave Supplies In My Stash.

Habits I Want to Form

Exercise is one habit that would make me healthier!

• Eating healthier
• Reading more
• Having a more consistent image editing style
• Sharing more videos of my travels
• And remembering more/taking notes while traveling so that I can provide more information
• Being a better friend :)

What are some habits you want to form?

* Today's post brought to you by #30Lists.

Wordless Wednesday #9

sunset in Portovenere, Italy
Cinque Terre, Italy; May 2014

One night during my first trip to Europe (and Italy), my friends, husband, and I bought snacks to enjoy while we watched the sun set. I think we bought salami, bread, and a bottle of wine. We continued to do that throughout the rest of our vacation leading to some of the most relaxing and best nights of my entire life.

While there are very few places in the US to enjoy a bottle of wine while the sun sets, I have continued the tradition with my husband of making sure that we see the sun go down at least once each and every time we travel. If travel, for us, were a science experiment, that would be our constant. :)

What is one thing you make sure to do when you travel? Do you have a constant? If you aren't a traveler, do you ever make a point of just stopping whatever you are doing and watching the sun set (or rise)?

* Today's #30List prompt was: If you put me in charge of snacks you can expect… a sunset. Duh. ;)

What is the best season to travel in?

When I think back, I'm pretty sure my love for travel began the moment I stepped off of my Delta flight in 2014 in Paris, France. I had known about this trip and saved for this trip for just over a year. In fact, planning for this trip brought up almost every possible emotion a person could feel. I was anxious about leaving my home country, I was worried about not being able to speak the language, I was concerned about making a fool of myself for not knowing or understanding the customs (and attending a wedding!). Some days I would cry myself to sleep while other days I was beyond elated to be planning this trip.

Planning was everything … and nothing.

During that first trip to Europe, we flew into Paris (because of cost), spent a night in the city of love then drove on to Stuttgart and Munich, Germany; Venice, and Cinque Terre, Italy; Marseille, Provence, and ended up back in Paris, France for a couple of days. Basically, we had a good overview of Europe.

As emotional as the first trip was, I was eager to return a second time … and then a third time!

But one thing I've found is that every time we go, every season we go, we get to explore Europe in a whole new way. There is nothing quite like seeing snow on the ground in Germany and Paris and comparing that to the beautiful florals of spring! Then in France, you've got gorgeous Christmas displays in shop windows during the holiday season followed up with stunning fireworks over the Eiffel Tower on July 14th. I mean – is there really a best time of year to travel to these places?

You tell me. 

Whether your love for travel began in Europe or your own back yard (or maybe you don't have a love of travel at all?), what is your favorite season to explore somewhere new?

* I'm participating in #30Lists. Today's prompt is: You know the seasons are changing when… Unfortunately, none of these images are mine. :( My images are currently going through a two-day backup process onto a new hard drive. All of these images came from various websites at The Stocks and were provided free for commercial use with no attribution required.

Are you ready for April A-Z?

Is anyone else still exhausted from the time change? Why do we even have to live through that anymore?

Anyway, I'm currently blogging and editing my life away preparing for April A-Z where I will detail in depth my travels to Montréal and Québec City. So far I have five posts written, and I'm in the middle of editing images for a sixth. Slow going, but at least it's going…

Next month you can expect to see:
+ Hotel reviews for all of the places my husband and I stayed at during our trip including LOTS of pictures! (I think first-hand accounts on blogs with lots of pictures are some of the best resources for picking hotels when I'm planning trips.)
+ Images from the only ice hotel in North America, Hotel de Glace. (Preview above.)
+ Ideas for fun activities to do and places to eat within Montréal and Québec City. (There will be a little bit of NYC fun thrown in there too!)
+ My thoughts on Amtrak and Via Canada Rail, plus the intricacies involved with US/Canada border crossing (which may have changed in the time since we last did it…).
+ And more! (If I told you everything now, you wouldn't return in April to check it out, would you?)

Excited yet?

Maybe I will be once I recover from the time change… Time for bed, I think. :)

* This post is brought to you by #30Lists. Keeping blogging life simple so that the rest of us can blog ahead for April A-Z.

Wordless Wednesday #8

Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre, Italy; May 2014
I will always fight for…

+ my right to travel anywhere I wish.
+ the rights of those less fortunate or different than myself.
+ children and animals.
+ the environment.
+ education and the arts.
+ equality.

What is in your heart? What will you consistently fight for?

*Today's post was a response to the #30Lists prompt: I will fight for…

When Travel Leads to A Spring Closet Cleanout

Today's post is less of a 'how to' and more of an 'I should'. Remember this post from last October? I've been working on checking off 101 things in 1001 days. I thought the hardest bit would be cataloguing each item. But no. The hardest part has actually been sticking to my list and checking off things one by one. As it turns out, months down the road after creating a 101 in 1001 list, you change your mind. Maybe you would rather check off making delicious ice cream over homemade cheese? Maybe your Jawbone can't be replaced because you accidentally ordered it from a seller on Amazon rather than Amazon proper? Maybe you just don't like the things you have on your list.

One category I am not scrapping no matter how much I would rather do something else is that of 'home' where I have decided to 1) sell my unused clothing 2) sell unused household items (which is suppose to encourage me to find a use for the ones I want) 3) sell or donate books and 4) trash/sell/read my unread pile of (photography) magazines. My ultimate goal being: the prospect of living more simply with less 'stuff' and hopefully using any money we get from selling for paying down debt and traveling.

So far Justin and I have been dragging our feet with regards to going through our things, though. We've been busy traveling, staying involved in politics, and being social, which I can't really fault us for. I mean what would you rather do? 

But the time is now. Spring has arrived.

Argh. Anyone want to do it for us?

Do you struggle with cleaning up your home like we do? Do you have priceless keepsakes from years of collecting? Or do you have years of junk packed away, when really it just needs to go in the trash? … Do you have any spring cleaning tips for me?

* Today's post is brought to you by #30Lists. Nothing like a good kick in the butt that has me realizing I need to work on my 101 in 1001 list.

I'm Saving for…

What paying bills is like for me…
And you'll notice that these aren't even American coins!

The last time I did a budget update (aside from the big new year's budget update) was May 2016.


Do you know how much has happened since May of 2016?

+ We went on a road trip from Charleston, SC to Asheville, NC.
+ Then, we celebrated July 4th in New York City!
+ I loved exploring Brittany, France for my birthday and being in Paris for July 14th!
+ August was filled with beaches: first at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina with family, then at Clearwater Beach in Florida with friends.
+ We loved the road trip concept so much that we decided to check out the small towns near Callaway Gardens before heading east toward Savannah for our nephew's birthday.
+ There were a few trips to Asheville, NC thrown in where we went to see the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway when it was at its peak in colorful leaves.
+ Finally, we went to Canada following Christmas and Hawai'i for Valentine's Day.

Busy 10 months, right?

Anyway, here's looking at how all of that affected us…


So, five out of six months we've done absolutely horrendous at sticking to a budget AND spending less than we did the year before (green = this year; yellow = last). I am a bit surprised to see that December spending wasn't quite as bad as I expected, but all of the other months we went on big trips, specifically July and February look awful. And with regards to February, that was WITH me trying to balance out the spending for Hawai'i in the months before.

With the categories, you can see where our money is going. The big one being food. This includes groceries, restaurants, food eaten while traveling, drinks from bars, etc, etc… The next big category being travel. Because travel. #I'mAddicted

Over the next year, we expect to see auto and transport expenses go down since we are no longer paying for insurance on one of our three cars … or any expenses brought on by that third car, which kept breaking down on us … (We sold it!)

…and we are expecting to see our 'bills and utilities' expenses go up since we have one new bill. Argh. (Donations will probably go up in expense as well.)

Maybe I can continue to keep shopping to a minimum? I don't wear half of what is in my closet anyway and given our current circumstances, it's not like we need anything extra for the home.…

Let me break down a few additional categories for you:
+ Financial = life insurance for Justin (mine is separate).
+ Personal care = hair cuts, nail salons, etc…
+ Fees and Charges = charges for owning a credit card, nothing additional (like interest being charged or fees for bounced checks)
+ Uncategorized = money we've taken out of ATMs; usually spent on things like food, tips, or other various small expenses

MONTHLY NET INCOME (Are we spending more than we are making?):

Compared to last year's net income monthly average, we are saving approximately $541 now than we did then. In fact, last year we were barely staying above "water" compared to this year. So yay for that! :) I'll take any little bit of financial improvement.


• Net worth: -$55,000 (So don't sue us.)
• Nov. 2017 credit card payoff date
• May 2021 student loan payoff date
• Jun 2019 car loan payoff date
• Emergency Fund: $9,342 of $12,000 goal
• Retirement: $20,000


While I know that absolutely none of my readers are interested in my finances, I appreciate you reading to the end (or skipping to the end). Seriously, it helps me to write posts like this so that I can stay accountable. (Because, you guys, I suck at finances. I think there is a reason I'm not a banker, an investor, or anything of that nature. I just spend and spend and spend…)

So, tips and tricks anyone? I know there is Dave Ramsey and the envelope method, but are there any apps out there to help conquer budgeting? Any mind tricks that encourage you to save more and spend less? Please share! Don't leave me in the dark! I really do need to get better at this! :)

* the reason for this post? #30lists. I mean dang it! I thought I had given up on being financially accountable. I was living the good life for a few months! Oh yeah, and in case it wasn't clear: we are saving for retirement, saving in an emergency fund, attempting to pay down debt, and … traveling when I see fit. :) Because #addiction.

Wordless Wednesday #7

North Carolina; May 2016
In preparation for April A-Z, I started going through all of my "old" pictures on my backup drive. This particular one is from one of our drives last spring as we went from Charleston, SC to Asheville, NC during a potential hurricane weekend. We left the rain and drove toward the sun, and my handy dandy GoPro captured this shot along the way. Don't you just love the clouds? :)

Even though the trip was thrown together haphazardly with very little money last minute, this was one of my favorite vacations we took in 2016. Sometimes it's fun just to get on the road and drive.

Have you ever taken a road trip? Maybe you planned it last minute like I did or maybe you got on the road and just drove not knowing where you were going… Tell me about it in the comments! I'd love to hear! :)

More posts from our Memorial Day 2016 Roadtrip:

Nine Delicious Dishes From My European Travels That You'll Want to Make

+ Trdelnik (Czech Republic): a pastry cooked over fire and filled with Nutella and sometimes ice cream; street food in Czech Republic.

+ Classic Käsespätzle (Germany): Basically handmade macaroni and cheese, usually with onion.

+ crepes (France): super flat pancakes often filled and served with something on top.

+ French bread (France)

+ macarons (France): two cookies sandwiched together with a filling

+ Raclette (France): cheese. Typically served with potatoes, meat, and pickles. Great for parties.

+ Currywurst (Germany): curry sausage. It's got a bright flavor to it (like ketchup?) and doesn't taste anything like Indian curry. Often served with fries.

+ Galettes (France): essentially a sandwich made with a crepe.

+ Moules à la Crème (France): mussels served in cream sauce usually with fries for soaking up the leftover cream.

Hungry yet?😉

Justin and I enjoyed these dishes so much during our travels that we had no choice but to come home and make them. Which of these dishes would be on your must-make list? Are there any foods you've tried during travels that have inspired you to come home and cook?

Today's post was inspired by #30Lists prompt: I am good at making…

It's Time To…

Clearwater Beach, Florida
Clearwater Beach, FL August 2016

edit all of my old images and blog ahead for April A-Z. To help me prepare, I'm participating in #30Lists for March, a low-key approach to blogging, that way I don't get out of the blogging habit and yet the blogging topics are easy enough that I have a chance to get ahead on blogging and stay caught up on comments!

Thank you to all of my readers for your understanding this month as I prepare. Hopefully, my lists will continue to entertain and inspire…


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).

February Goals
✓ Read a book.
✓ Finish getting through Hawaii travel guides.
✓ Complete Hawaii planning.
✓ Blog ahead.

Additional Successes –
✓ Watched a German late night tv show! Yes, it was in Denglish, but still!

✓ Language accountability partner ftw!
✓ Got through two books. Yes, they were both travel guides, but that counts.
✓ Checked off more items on my 101 in 1001 list. (Total count right now: 24! Only 77 more to go!)

March Goals –
• Read a book. (Preferably two, but I won't make that a goal since I will be blogging ahead this month.)
• Finish planning D.C.
• Reserve a rental car for Boston.
• Blog ahead and get prepared for the April A-Z blogging challenge!

IWSG Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Do you know how much time I spend on editing?!?! … Or maybe the better question is: do you know how much time I could spend on editing?

So, no. I don't pull out old stories and rework them. I occasionally rework blog posts, but I even struggle with that. At what point is the "rework" too much? You can edit and edit and edit, but at some point, you just have to publish.

Let me give an example. (This is a non-writing example, but it still works.)

Up until I traveled to Hawaii two weeks ago, I was researching every second of every day in which I had any amount of free time. Heck, I would stay up late just to give myself more free time to research. But then the trip came. Now, one part of the trip involved spending a day driving the Road to Hana. Rather than enjoying the drive, I could have continued researching for the rest of the trip. And I won't tell you that I was completely opposed to doing that either. I definitely had guide books in the car with me that day. But, if I had spent the day researching I might have 1) found myself carsick and 2) not enjoyed the drive as much as I did.

Now tell me which you would rather do: let something go and just enjoy the ride … or bring it back up, constantly doubt yourself (which I already do enough of!), and miss out on the "now"?

I'm not saying that reworking a story is always a bad idea, especially if you know going into the rework exactly how you want to alter it, but I am saying that sometimes you just have to let the past remain in the past. If you spend all of your time "fixing", you will never move beyond that.

Your Turn

First and foremost, if you are a blogger, are you participating in April A-Z this year? If so, have you already started preparing? If not, do you anticipate beginning to prep soon? Will you blog ahead for this event?

If you aren't a blogger (or aren't participating in April A-Z), are there any situations in which you have spent too much time prepping or worrying and not enough time actually enjoying an experience?

Click here to learn more and
link up with IWSG!