31-Day Blog Challenge: Why Do I Blog?

Day 31/31 – My final post of the 31-Day Blog Challenge!!

Well, it’s the 31st and final post of this month’s blog challenge – I honestly can’t believe I stuck with it!  Usually, by day, I don’t know, two, I would have already fizzled out and moved on to something else.  I’ve learned a lot about myself throughout this process and found myself getting exciting most days to sit at my computer and write for you all.  (I’m sure you could all tell the days I wasn’t excited!)

It’s interesting to me how I started this blog largely with the idea of it being a travel blog, but that it has turned into more of a philosophical one and I have posted, to date, like 3% about travel.  But, that’s OK!  This year is already shaping up to be another full of travel, so I have plenty of opportunity to mend that.  🙂

Why I blog:

  • To self-reflect.  Writing is therapy for me, and it’s how I best communicate.  Sometimes I can’t verbalize out loud the words I want to say, so my blog is my opportunity to do that.
  • To help others.  My friend and fellow blogger, Laura, encouraged me to write from the perspective that something I write could help someone out there who may be going through something, and stumbling across a post on my blog could impact them in a way I may never comprehend or know about.  When I share deeply personal experiences or moments from my life, this is for those people.
  • To inspire.  What if a post I write about a gorgeous lake cruise in Switzerland or the most delectable, to-live-for crepe in the world inspires someone to travel?  What if a review I post compels someone to pick up a book and read?  What if a recipe encourages someone to cook and eat healthier?  What if a tip I post helps turn someone’s life around or help them with a struggle?  What if a story or quote I post just makes someone, you know, just think?
  • To memorialize.  As I get older, my memory isn’t so great because I just keep putting stuff up there and can’t ever stop thinking and analyzing!  As such, this blog is my place to write down and permanently memorialize my thoughts, writings and photos.

If I have done all of the above, then I have succeeded.

Thanks to my ever-so-faithful followers and new readers for your likes, comments and reads throughout this month!  I printed out a a whole bunch of challenges and hope to cobble some of them together to keep this blog up and going when my “normal” inspirations and ramblings don’t quite cut it.  As I focus more time and energy on my art and passions – writing and photography, food and travel, to name just a few – I am eager and excited to share those developments with you.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

31-Day Blog Challenge: Where I’ve Traveled

Day 29/31

Have bags, will travel.

Have bags, will travel.  I sometimes think I’m more excited about the idea of travel and foreign locales than I am with the actual act.  The anticipation is a joy in and of itself.

Before I get started – Happy Birthday, Kansas!

OK, now that that is out of the way…

I am fortunate to have been able to travel as much as I have, and hope I can continue to do so going forward.  I owe this in part to parents who placed high value on travel, as well as my own desire to see the world.  I’m lucky because I’ve had opportunities to travel with groups from my community that others may not have, as well as the resources to travel – thanks to my job and (can I really apply this label to myself??) frugality.

As I move out (hopefully, later this year) and life gets in the way, I know that traveling will become more difficult and more sacrifices will be required to, in the words of Tim Gunn, “make it work.”  Everyone says, “Travel while you’re young!” and that’s true.  At this stage of our lives (I’m 21), we should be doing all of “those things” that we want to do and desire to do.  People are shocked that I want to do a trip abroad at least every other year, but what they don’t understand is that is why I have a job.  I really don’t see the point of a life that isn’t filled with travel, seeing and doing new things – this is different for each person, but that’s how I see my life.  That’s why I work!  Yes, I could have a fancy house and a fancy car (and, as you know, I would like both), but those are just so insignificant when compared to the joy of travel that I experience each time I get in the car or hop on a plane.

  • United States (traveling from left to right!)
    • Utah – My parents and I have been to Utah a couple of times while visiting friends we know who live in western Colorado.  We didn’t travel extensively, visiting mostly just Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.  I was shocked that you can’t get that postcard-picture-perfect view of Delicate Arch without doing a bit of a hike; as it was hot out and we didn’t have water or the other necessary supplies/apparel for a hike, we just saw it from a distance.  I was disappointed, but that’s just another reason to go back!  It’s a great place to visit.  I absolutely loved Canyonlands (even better than the Grand Canyon, dare I say) – it was such an amazing, incredible place that had a lot of variety and wonderful lookout points.  We were there when there was a storm brewing in the distance, so we saw a thunderstorm with lightning above part of the canyon – awesome!
    • Arizona – I flew down to Arizona for a long weekend in December a couple years ago while my brother was on a business trip for a training.  While there, we did a little nighttime driving around Phoenix, as well as drove through Sedona on the way to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.  We got into town just early enough to see the Canyon before the sun set for the day, which sounded like a great idea.  Mind you, it was freezing cold with winds coming up from the canyon after the recent snow.  I was so cold and bundled up that I just couldn’t appreciate it.  We went back the next morning after a delicious breakfast at The Galaxy Diner in Flagstaff, and although it was more enjoyable, I think the Grand Canyon is just a bit overrated; if not overrated, then at the very least, overhyped.  Is it pretty and amazing?  Yes, but I preferred the variety of Canyonlands, and seeing it first probably didn’t help matters.  Oh, and my brother going on and on about I had to see it and setting the bar very high.  🙂
    • Colorado – With my family, I’ve traveled extensively in Colorado – the destination of many family vacations throughout the years.  In particular, we love Leadville, Salida, Ridgway and Montrose.  Our friends live near Grand Junction in Fruita, and that is a beautiful place, surrounded by the Book Cliffs, fruit vineyards and Colorado National Monument.  I’ve also been to Aspen, Vail, Glenwood Springs, Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, Cañon City, Pueblo, Denver, Creede, and many other, smaller towns on the way to these places.  Colorado is such a gorgeous state, and it is always a joy to visit and explore the state – there’s so much to see and do, mostly dealing with nature – and it’s a relaxing retreat.  We’re lucky to be so close!
    • New Mexico – When we were younger, we used to visit friends in Santa Fe fairly often, usually by car but a couple of times by train (always fun!).  We also visited Taos and other places I can’t remember very well as it’s been a number of years since we’ve been.
    • Nebraska – My mom’s best friend from college’s family used to live in Callaway, so we used to go up for the Kite Flight.  I don’t recall very much from these visits.
    • Kansas – I do live here, you know!  I’ve traveled quite a bit throughout the state, but mostly South Central and Western Kansas.  I’ve actually been to Paris the same number of times as I’ve been to Kansas City, so that tells you how often I get out to that side.
    • Oklahoma – My mom’s hometown is Okeene, so we’d visit my grandparents there and occasionally (unfortunately) for funerals and other events.  One of my mom’s brothers and her sister live in or near Tulsa, and I always enjoy those visits.  My dad’s brother’s family lives near Bartlesville in a little town called Nowata – we always enjoy visiting them, and the pace is a lot slower in small-town America!  I’ve never been to Oklahoma City, but that’s on the list for this year!
    • Texas – One of my uncles used to live in San Antonio, but it’s been too long ago to remember much.  However, in full memory, I recently traveled to Austin for a training at Apple’s offices there – it’s a great city!  I’ve been to the airport in Dallas more times than I can count, although I’ve never stepped foot in the city otherwise.
    • Minnesota, Tennessee, Georgia – Do airports count????
    • Missouri – I’ve mostly just passed through Missouri on the way to Indiana, for example, but about a year ago, my team and I went to the National Quiz Bowl Competition in St. Louis.  STL’s downtown is one of the most boring, ever.  There is literally nothing to do after dark, and really even before.  I’m sure the rest of the city is more vibrant with the colleges, but I wasn’t super-impressed with St. Louis.
    • Arkansas – We have friends and family in Arkansas, so we have visited the area in and around Walmartville (Bentonville), as well as the Heber Springs area.  It’s a gorgeous state with lots of lakes and wooded forests.
    • Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky – We passed through southern Illinois and made a dip into Kentucky while visiting my uncle for his graduation from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana.  What a gorgeous and amazing, peaceful place!
    • Pennsylvania – On one of our trips to the D.C. Area, we visited Gettsyburg.  One thing I vividly (weirdly??) remember is eating at the Lincoln Diner in Gettysburg – what a dive, and the bathrooms were disgusting.  I want to visit the battlegrounds again as an adult so I can appreciate the site more, as well as visit Philadelphia.
    • Maryland – Baltimore and Annapolis.  Baltimore is great because of the harbor, and Annapolis is a beautiful, historic town that was great to visit for part of a day.  It is a wonderfully walkable city.
    • Delaware – I visited Delaware with my uncle on one of my trips to D.C. and we visited Smyrna and Dover, where we visited the state capitol building.  Earlier in the day, we came across a field of snow geese – my uncle honked his horn and I got some greatly-composed shots, but alas, they were taken with a crappy camera.
    • District of Columbia – I’ve visited D.C. I think six times over the years – two times with the whole family, once for a leadership conference in junior high, once for a journalism conference in high school, once by myself for Christmas Break, and then again with my parents for my birthday last year.  I always enjoy visiting the area as it is the seat of politics and history in our country, the museums, theaters and restaurants are great, and it’s a very nice place to visit.  My aunt, uncle and cousins live in a suburb in NoVa, so it’s great to visit them and be able to see these places as well.
    • Virginia & West Virginia – Since my aunt and uncle live in Virginia, I’ve visited it fairly frequently and have been fortunate to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, as well as many battlegrounds and other historic spots (Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown come to mind), as well as Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Occoquan (where I had my first wine tasting and bought my first bottle of wine!) and Shenandoah National Park.  I heart Virginia.  I visited Harpers Ferry in West Virginia as part of the leadership conference in junior high.
    • Florida – I’ve visited Florida twice now to visit my friends, Laura and Charlie, who live in the Fort Lauderdale area.  I’ve been to Kissimmee/Lake Buena Vista to visit Disney World, as well as several beaches and the Coral Springs/Boca Raton area.  I’ve already written recent posts on these, so I won’t go into too much detail here!
  • Europe
    • United Kingdom – I visited London in 2011.  It was the first place I visited in Europe, and of course, the first after a long international flight.  I was just a bit crabby, and look forward to giving it a better chance in the future.
    • France – Paris. Paris!!  Awwww, Paris…  As Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea.”  Paris is where I fell in love with Europe, and, really, with travel.  There is so much to eat and do, it is gorgeous and stinky, and I love it.
    • Spain Barcelona.  Barcelona isn’t the first place I think of when daydreaming about exotic lands, but it is a fairly relaxed and cosmopolitan city – great to finish a trip with!
    • Germany – Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Dachau, Füssen, Munich.  I am part German, so it’s natural that I would love that country.  Berlin is a place still trying to find its identity, and the afternoon Third Reich Walking Tour we took made the city meaningful and helped bridge a lot of connections in my mind.  In Dresden, a teacher friend and I met up for lunch with a foreign exchange student I’d had some classes with at the high school in Kansas and who lived a few hours away.  Nuremberg – the history and the flowers and the pretzels…pretty amazing.  Füssen – this is where we made the wet, long trek up the hill to Neuschwanstein Castle – amazing inside but I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the traditional view of it and it was covered in scaffolding.  Munich – super clean and the food/beer scene is unbeatable – wonderful place to visit and I definitely want to go back.
    • Czech Republic – Prague.  Oh em gee.  The rooftops, the spires, the history, the architecture, the FOOD – we were fortunate to have been shown the city from a Southwest Kansas native.  Prague is one of my favorite cities and I have a number of great memories from there, all as vivid as if they’d happened yesterday.  One standout – eating dinner at a great restaurant in the Old Town Square while the Fan Park for the World Cup was a festive meeting of people and music just steps away.
    • Lichtenstein – Vaduz.  I almost wouldn’t count it, but we did stop for a bathroom break and hot chocolate (it was misty, cold and foggy as hell!), so count it I will.  Particularly since I likely won’t be back.  🙂
    • Austria – Innsbruck.  We made a quick visit to the Swarovski store in Innsbruck and saw remnants of the Winter Olympics on our way in and out of the city.  Unfortunately, the Golden Roof was covered and we couldn’t see it, but that’s travel for you!
    • Switzerland – Lucerne.  This region is the most naturally beautiful place I have ever visited – the greens, the blues, the forests, the lakes, the mountains…  The city of Lucerne is so incredibly clean and the trip up and down Mt. Pilatus and across Lake Lucerne are standout memories and made for stunning photo ops.

I sort of rushed towards the end and have a sinking feeling I used a lot of words repetitively and lost the great opportunity to post travel pics, but it is what I’ve made it…  Where have you traveled?  Share below!

31-Day Blog Challenge: What I Look Forward To

Day 28/31

We never know how much time we will have on this earth, but here is what I look forward to…

  • Seeing my niece grow up into a beautiful, smart, capable and strong young woman (as I know she will).
  • Traveling and living a life full of adventure, food and fun throughout the world.
  • Writing that novel I’ve been putting off for years.
  • Growing old and wise and sharing that wisdom and advice (solicited or otherwise) with others.
  • Having a place/space that is mine and enjoying life there.
  • Making a difference in the world and others’ lives, even if it’s in smaller, less grand ways.
  • Continuing to keep up with and post on my blog.
  • Taking more (and better) photos and sharing them more frequently, quickly and with more effort.
  • Focusing more on the important aspects of life and eliminating sources of distracting or negative energies.

What do you look forward to?  Share below!

31-Day Blog Challenge: My Favorite Recipe

Day 27/31

Three-Bean Vegan Chili, made non-vegan with the addition of some shredded cheese.

Three-Bean Vegan Chili, made non-vegan with the addition of some shredded cheese.

Many thanks to my friend, Laura, for making this recipe for me while I visited her in Florida, which I’ve slightly adapted for what me and my family best enjoy!  It’s perfect for a winter eve, and it will serve around 6 people with good-sized bowls.

Three-Bean Vegan Chili


  • 3 Cans Tri-Bean Blend Beans (or 1 can each of following:  Dark Red Kidney, Pinto, Black)
  • 2 Cans Italian Recipe Stewed Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano
  • Vegetable Broth (I need to find out the amount – I could have sworn I posted this recipe.  Can I find it??  NO.)
  • ~1 1/2 Medium White Onions, chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I can’t remember the specific amount, but I used closer to 1)
  • 1/2 – 1 Tablespoons Cumin
  • Crushed Black Pepper & Pink Himalayan Salt


  1. Heat broth in a nice, big soup pot and add onions, cooking until they get to that nice, brown color.  Go ahead and add in those spices so the onions and broth can soak it all up.  Don’t forget to add your garlic!
  2. Lightly rinse and drain the beans in-can and pour the beans and tomatoes in the pot.
  3. Simmer and make that baby cook!
  4. Serve over corn chips or with cheese and a dash of sour cream.  Or, you can eat it by itself – delicious!  (Shall you serve it with a nice red wine??  Sure – why not!)

*I recall posting this recipe somewhere else.  As I feel like I’m forgetting something as I’m going off a note on my iPhone, I will try to fill in the inconsistencies later.  Enjoy!!

31-Day Blog Challenge: An Old Photo of Me

Day 26/31

photo (1)


Bonus:  You get to see not just one – but two – old photos of me!  Apparently, in the first photo, denim jackets were “in.”  I shudder in horror at this, but it is what it was…  I was big into Legos when I was younger, and built that blue house with my dad – fun!  On the opposite side of this spread in my Moleskine are some film negatives of photos I had taken many years ago that I found.  I cut them into a few pieces (in hindsight, the arrangement didn’t really work  – oh well!) and wrote about my experiences with photography from the beginning with a small, simple, silver point-and-shoot camera I received for my birthday.  It’s gotten a lot more fun (and expensive!) since I started…  So, there you have it – old photos of me!

31-Day Blog Challenge: Favorite Blogs

Day 25/31

Today’s prompt is to write about a “minimum of 5 favorite blogs.”  I think I’m going to hold off on that post for a while as I continue to immerse myself in and embrace the blogging community.  As selfish as it may sound, it’s true that I have taken this month and this challenge to focus almost solely on my blog, with only the occasional visit to other blogs.  Once the flurry of this blog challenge is over, I look forward to perusing my Reader and catching up on all of my favorite bloggers – I haven’t forgotten about you!  This has been such an incredible community to be a part of, and I look forward to becoming a more active user in the coming days, weeks, months and years.

All of that being said, I do feel the urge to give a shout-out to my friend Laura (who I frequently reference in this blog!), who encouraged me to pick up again on my blogging and to really give it a go this time around.  It is in part because of her own inspiring blog, Where the Gold Bees Dream (and her new blog, Girl Birder), as well as her encouragement for me to keep my creative fire going, that I am blogging today.  Thank you for being my creative and life mentor, Laura!!  Friends and readers, please check out her blogs – even though she doesn’t post as frequently as she used to (nudge, nudge!), I promise you will be inspired to create more and live a better life.

31-Day Blog Challenge: Fave Childhood Book

Day 24/31

arthurI was a big reader when I was younger…  I think I read more back then than I do today!!  Gosh, that’s sad…  Anywho.  My mornings and afternoons were filled with storytime, whether it was at home or a few blocks away at the public library.

If you’ve spent any time on this blog, you know how important I think reading is, especially for young people.  You will also know that I have a horrible memory concerning events that happened prior to yesterday that don’t involve travel or work.  Because of this and the sheer quantity of “first loves” I had in books – it’s difficult for me to pick one.

I read Shel Silverstein, for sure, but Marc Brown’s Arthur is most vivid in my mind.  Arthur, Francine & Buster’s daily life and adventures with all of their other friends were so much fun to read about and watch.  As a matter of fact, I know what I’ll be searching for on my Roku tonight…time to reminisce!

Have a great weekend, everyone!!


31-Day Blog Challenge: Dream Job (Or, A Business Manifesto)

Day 23/31

Well, as some of you may notice, I didn’t post yesterday – eek!  I decided I’d sleep instead.  And, after the day I had (I think it was a bad week for everyone??), I’m glad I did! Now, dream job…  We’ve all been there.  We’ve daydreamed (while at our current jobs) about what we would rather be doing, where we’d rather be doing it, and the gobs and gobs of money we would make.  It’s interesting how, after different life experiences and experiences in our everyday work life, our “dream job” doesn’t become as cut-and-dry as “travel writer and photographer,” “hotelier/restaurateur” or “magazine editor” (three of my dream jobs), but instead they graft into what might be better considered as an “ideal job,” with very specific details and requests:

  • A job where employees:
    • take ownership of their tasks and areas of expertise,
    • don’t pass their work off onto others because they are happy and proud to do what they do,
    • are passionate about working for and improving the company,
    • have vision and are excited to work both as a team and as individuals to accomplish a common goal,
    • are infectiously positive, optimistic and are respectful in attitudes and actions towards fellow employees, and
    • are talented, skilled and great at what the do.
    • Bottom line:  employees who can’t practice the above (or are incompetent in general) would just not be around.
  • A job that:
    • fairly rewards and compensates employees according to level of effort, successes throughout the year, and what they’ve truly contributed to the company (whether that’s good or bad),
    • provides a calming environment for elimination of extraneous distractions (I wish I had a quiet space where I could eliminate other distractions easily – whether it be calls on my cell and desk phones, coworkers paging me every five minutes or coming over to my desk to ask me questions, and the like.  My dream job would be being able to just do my job with a moment or two of peace and quiet!),
    • allows for travel of some sort (getting out of the office does wonders for morale, and continued learning, networking and taking the temperature of the industry are all super-important), and
    • inspires its employees – every day – to do better, to be better.

As I first wrote this list, I thought of gripes I have about the workplace and said where people don’t do this or where this or that doesn’t happen…  I changed these into positive statements, which I think says a lot about what I want my workplace to look like.  I think we can all relate to the bickering and gossip that go on, and it’s even worse that we let ourselves get sucked into it.  If a place could create an environment where that wasn’t necessary, that would be so incredibly amazing.

You could look at the above as a mission statement, perhaps, or maybe even a manifesto for just part of how I think a business should be run.  Either way, I think most places of work could benefit from taking a look at how they do business, and foster an environment that encourages passion and purpose.  But, who knows…  Maybe I’m just dreaming!!

31-Day Blog Challenge: Best Thing to Happen This Year

Day 22/31

With the notion that I am feeling very uninspired (although optimistic), and actually quite tired, I’m going to cop out a bit on this one…  I’d like to think the best thing to happen this year hasn’t happened yet!

Have a great rest of the week, everyone, and make great things happen!