This year has ended on a really bitter note for me.  To be honest, I’m really ready for it to be over.  That being said, I don’t want to let the bad overshadow all the good that has come of this year.  Here is a look back at my 2017 in pictures:

























Here’s to hoping for a brighter 2018.


Sun Up, Sun Down


I might be a little biased, but I honestly think that the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen have been right here in the Kansas prairie.





Even the cloudy night sky is stunning.


It’s been good to be home and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit sad to be leaving next week.


Perfect Podcasts for Summer Escapes


Is anyone else out there addicted to podcasts?  I’ve mentioned this before, but ever since I taught Serial last winter, I’ve jumped straight down the rabbit hole and have done a lot of binge-listening.  I love how podcasts – unlike TV shows – allow you to multi-task since you don’t have to keep your eyes on a screen.  I started out just listening to them at home to have a little interesting background noise while I grade or do chores, but lately they’ve also become great travel companions.  Whether I’m on the long flight between Turkey and the U.S. or cruising the highway, I’m bound to be listening to something.  Since they’ve been such a game-changer for me, I thought it might be worth it to share a suggested list of podcast/rip pairings based on my summer listening…kind of like a list of wine/dinner pairings, except without the wine.  Or dinner.  Anyway…

For a trip near the water…


The Bridge

For the Deep South…

S-Town (my personal favorite of the summer!)

For a classic American road trip…

Alice Isn’t Dead


For a ghost town voyage…

The Tunnels

Return Home

For those who meditate…

Within the Wires

For anyone who doesn’t mind a little gore…

The Box

Darkest Night

For those who wish to transcend our physical world…


Archive 81

The Far Meridian

I’m always looking for new podcasts (because I’m obsessed), so I’m all ears (no pun intended) for any recommendations!!



New York City was a place I had always built up in my mind.  It was the backdrop to nearly all the sitcoms of my childhood, the land of Broadway, and a foodie paradise; I knew I had to make it there eventually.


One of my best friends since middle school recently moved to a suburb near the city and invited me to visit, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity – it had been two years since we’d seen each other (which was FAR too long!) and we knew we’d have a blast exploring the city together.



After a night of catching up and relaxing after my flight (which had spent 3 hours on the runway), we were up bright and early and ready to explore.  It was a little surreal to walk out of the bus station and right into The New York Times!



We started out by walking around Times Square and I could not have chosen better weather.  It was cool and overcast, but not rainy or humid at all – a far cry from the smoldering Kansas heat I had left behind.


We stopped for lunch in Koreatown and I will probably be dreaming of all the wonderful Korean barbecue for the next year now.





Next up was Central Park, where we spent several hours enjoying the beautiful weather.  I couldn’t believe how HUGE the park was!  I was also surprised at how many newly married couples were walking around nonchalantly getting their pictures taken.  The park is pretty enough in summer, but I imagine it’s stunning in the fall.




Our last stop for the day was the 9/11 memorial and Tower One, which was sad and beautiful all at once.



One of the things I was most hoping to do while I was in New York was to see a Broadway show, so I was pretty stoked when we scored some decently priced last-minute tickets to The Book of Mormon.  The humor was not for the faint of heart, but it definitely kept me laughing and the venue, set, and costumes were spectacular.



After the show, we decided to try to catch happy hour at a nearby rooftop bar, which offered fabulous views of the skyline.  Sipping on watermelon coolers to beat the afternoon heat was just the icing on the cake.


On Day 3, we did a little double decker cruising (touristy, but fun) and went to see the Statue of Liberty.






All too soon it was time to disembark and get ready to pack for my early flight back to Kansas.  I could easily have stayed for another week, but I was grateful for the time I had. It’s hard to be so far away from family and friends, and unfortunately, friends can often get pushed aside for the sake of family.  I’m so glad I made time for this adventure and hope to make a return trip next summer!



USA Roadtripping: The North Shore Scenic Drive


Minnesota is a seriously gorgeous state, bursting with huge pine forests, rolling hills, and rocky cliffs.  On our second day in Duluth, we decided to do the North Shore Scenic Drive, a beautiful drive along Highway 61 on the edge of Lake Superior.  The drive stretches from Duluth all the way to the Canadian border  and is full of old lighthouses, cute coastal towns, waterfalls, and secluded  beaches.


Pretty butterfly at Stony Point

There are many great things about the North Shore route, among them the fact that there is something to pull over and look at at least every ten miles. Travelers can stop and look at their leisure…or just keep driving; there is no right way to go about it.


We chose Stony Point Beach –  just a few minutes outside of Duluth – as our first stop.  It’s calm, mostly secluded, and a great place to hunt for agates -a popular pastime in the area.


Once we’d gotten our fill at the beach, we drove another ten miles to the cozy town of Two Harbors to check out the lighthouses and walk along the pier.  There were also dozens of adorable shops and restaurants along the way, though we made time for only one:  Betty’s Pies.


I wasn’t particularly hungry that early in the morning, but I’ve always been a huge fan of pie, so I wasn’t about to pass up this stop on the itinerary.  Betty’s offers a huge range of delicious flavors, though my personal favorite was the plain blueberry; the blackberry peach with the crumble topping was a close second.


Can you spot me?

Next up was Gooseberry Falls State Park, a good place to do a little hiking and burn off the pie we had just eaten.  The park boasts several beautiful waterfalls and miles and miles of trails.


After some hiking and splashing around, we moved on to the next stop, which was my personal favorite:  Split Rock Lighthouse.


We loved this spot so much that we ended up staying a couple of hours, walking along the pebble beach and enjoying the views of the pine-covered Ellison Island in the distance.  After a nice picnic, we walked up the cliff to get a look at the beautiful little lighthouse for which the area is best known.



Our final stop was the Black Beach at Silver Bay, though it was by no means the end of the route along Lake Superior.  I so wished my family had had their passports on them so we could have crossed into Canada.  Perhaps next time!


The beach was not so much black as it was a dark reddish color, but it was still a decent beach.  I particularly enjoyed climbing the rocks and admiring the view down below.


It was a wonderful way to spend the day, and while at the time I had wanted to go a little farther along the highway, I was later grateful to have returned when we did because we got back to our hotel just in time to avoid the crazy thunderstorms and flash floods.


I don’t often miss having a car, but after this little road trip, I’m thinking I’m going to have to rent them more often on our trips so we can do more scenic drives – Minnesota was so lovely!

USA Roadtripping: Duluth, MN


We’ve done a good bit of traveling over the past few years, but to be honest, neither my husband nor I have traveled much within the U.S.  Part of this is because the U.S. is huge and not the easiest to travel through logistically and the other part of it is because we are still pretty fresh out of school and didn’t really have the financial means to do a lot of traveling until we got our first “real” jobs.


When my mom asked about taking a road trip while we were in town for the summer, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see a little bit more of my native land.  We decided to head north to catch a break from the blazing temperatures throughout much of the Midwest.


We based ourselves out of Duluth, an ADORABLE little town on the edge of Lake Superior. We only got to spend a few days there, but I easily could have spent a week enjoying the lake, the FOOD, and all of the cute downtown streets.




My little brother, husband, and I wanted to hit the ground running after the long drive. Our first order of business was to check out the Aerial Lift Bridge while enjoying some ENORMOUS ice cream cones.




Next on our agenda was the Lakewalk, which went along the shores of Lake Superior and led up to some pretty rose gardens.  The view of the city at sunset certainly didn’t disappoint.




Dinner consisted of a fabulous artichoke/basil/garlic pizza and some tasty local brews.  I would have loved to have had a few more days to explore the thriving food and craft brew scene there, so I guess that means I’ll have to go back.


Of course, we couldn’t leave without a little dip in the beach, although the water was way too cold for swimming.


Duluth is such a great little gem…totally worth the 12-hour drive!  I’m not in any rush to leave Turkey, but if I ever did come back to live Stateside, Duluth just might be a contender for a new home.  At the very least, I might be able to convince my mom to move there so I can visit every summer.


In the Land of Oz

IMG_0035.JPGWe’ve been back in Kansas for about a week now hanging out at my grandparents’ place. Lingering jet lag means lots of morning walks and snapping photos of a place now foreign and familiar all at once.





IMG_0044.JPGIt’s been a full house with my dad, stepmom, sister, aunt, uncle, cousins, and a whole slew of other relatives visiting.  It’s also been a sweltering 100 degrees almost every single day, which means it’s been the perfect time to get reacquainted with air conditioning, play lots of late night card games, and eat as much American junk food as I can handle.