USA Roadtripping: The North Shore Scenic Drive

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Reflections

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***I can’t believe I just finished my second year of teaching in Turkey.  Time flies like crazy here.

***I can’t believe how many of our friends are leaving this time around and I’m so sad about it.

***I got to teach some seriously amazing kids for two years in a row and I feel like the luckiest teacher in the world.

***I feel like I grew a lot as a teacher this year and I hope to do so even more next year.

***I helped start a lit mag at our school this year and I’m pretty stoked about it.

***I think I’m going to buy a dishwasher to celebrate.

***I can’t wait to FINALLY get to work on some creative projects now that my workload will be a little lighter for a few months.

***I’m looking forward to doing a little traveling through Turkey and Europe before heading back to the States.

***Speaking of which, we finally got our tickets!  It will feel good to go “home” and reset.

***Year 2 has been pretty good.  I hope Year 3 is even better.

Türkiye’de Çok Kedi Var: Round 4

As I was looking through my photos, I realized I hadn’t posted one of these in a long time. I also realized that I take a lot of photos of cats.

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Diggin’ this guy’s vibes

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The only kind of cat fights I have to break up regularly…thank goodness

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This cat reminded me of a clock

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Also, there’s this.

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And who can resist a photo like this? ❤

I’m certain I’ve said this more than once now, but the cat culture is one of the things I have always loved most about Turkey.  I’ve always wanted a pet cat, but feel that my living situation isn’t stable enough to make that kind of commitment.  In Turkey, I feel like I can love, pet, and take care of cats without the responsibility of being a pet owner because they are such a big part of every city and not completely wild.

Tides of Change

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How the hell is it already May?

The sun is brighter than ever, often waking me up well before my alarm clock.  The weather is more bearable, the flowers are blooming…change is in the air and it all seems so sudden.

I feel like this second half of the school year has been blazing by at thrice the normal speed.  There is a part of me that is happy about that because all teachers naturally rejoice at the thought of summer, but there is another part of me that isn’t ready for all the change that comes with it.

Being an expat means that you have to learn to say a lot more goodbyes than most people.  Goodbye to friends and family in the motherland.  Goodbye to fellow expat friends who move on to other adventures.  Of course, being a teacher also means a lot of goodbyes.  Goodbyes to teachers and staff who leave or retire…and to all of the students who are off to do bigger and better things.

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Escape the room shenanigans in Istanbul…we succeeded, of course.

This year is no different.  We have quite a few goodbyes in our near future and are trying to soak up the present while it’s still here.  We’ve been sticking around campus more often than usual and going on adventures with friends who will soon be leaving.

As for us, Turkey is stuck with us for at least one more year.  We signed on for a third year at the school and are looking forward to what next year will bring.

In the meantime, we are trying to enjoy what’s left of now.

Quiet Adventures: Bookworming

20170212_182948[1].jpgIt’s always so hard to adjust back to the grind after a long vacation.  It honestly felt a bit like Narnia; we stepped through a portal into this magical land full of adventure and sunshine, and then came back as if no time had passed.  If it weren’t for the photos and massive piles of laundry, I might be convinced it was only a dream.

After coming back and hitting the ground running with grading, lesson planning, and duties, we have honestly just wanted to relax and lay low the past couple of weeks.  We’ve been cooking (for a change), rearranging the lojman, playing  video games, keeping the coffee pot going, and diving into some good books.

I hate to say it, but being a teacher can really kill your desire to read.  When you have to read so much to prepare for lessons, the last thing you want to do when you’re off work is read some more.  Still, I realize that my Goodreads list isn’t getting any shorter and it felt good to lay back on my carpet and escape without moving an inch.  My husband and I even decided to read a book together, something we used to do in college (especially in the summers!).  We settled on The Alchemist because we both have our hearts set on Spain for Spring Break!  So far, so good.  I’m also on the second book of the Miss Peregrine’s series after months of my students urging me to read it.  The premise is pretty cool and they are quick reads!

It seems I’m slowly recovering from my reading allergy.  Has anyone out there read anything good lately?  I’d love some recommendations.   

 

Counting the Days

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It’s been cold, gray, and rainy more than it hasn’t lately.  I’ve spent far too many hours grading essays, preparing exams, and planning for next semester.  I’m super  behind on laundry, yet I’ve hardly left the house in the past month.  Everyone at school has been passing around illnesses like candy.  In a matter of days, my home country will be accepting an evil orange clown as its new leader.  To say I’m done with this month/semester/season would be an understatement.  It’s time to hit the reset button.

THANK GOODNESS the semester break is just around the corner.  This year, I need to escape winter rather than embrace it.  In less than a week, I will be trading depressing gray skies for sun, sand, mountains, and adventure.

New Year, new me, and all that jazz

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Most people recognize me by my long, uncontrollable blonde mane…but no more.  I just got my first “real” haircut in Turkey and it feels so good.  It may sound silly, but it takes some guts to go get your hair chopped off in another country (and to have to give directions in another language!)

Politically, 2017 feels a little bleak, but personally, things are looking bright.  This year, I feel more courageous than ever and ready to open myself to whatever adventures come my way.  I feel committed to my career, to my students, to myself, to the ones I love (and even the ones I don’t), and to the thousands of goals I will inevitably set for myself in the coming months.

Quiet Adventures: Of Puzzles and Podcasts

20170112_184149.jpgOne thing that I often find hard to explain to my friends and family back  home is that I’m not jetting off across the world all the time, living out of a suitcase.  I feel like many people have the impression that my job is really easy and I’m actually just on one long vacation when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I won’t deny that I get a lot of vacation time – certainly more than the average American….and you better  believe I’m going to take advantage of every second. What most people don’t see are the 70+ hour work weeks I spend at a boarding school teaching classes, meeting students after school to discuss assignments or complete make-up work, sponsoring activities, study halls, doing my weekend patrol duties, planning lessons, preparing for performances…the list could go on forever.  Trust me; I work plenty.

Sometimes I recover from the stress by leaving it all behind for the weekend and heading to the city or hopping on a plane; other times, well…I veg.

My go-to lazy hobbies have always been video games and TV series, but lately I’ve found video games to be too mentally draining (which should give you an idea of exactly how tired I am at the end of a work day) and I can’t seem to get into any TV shows lately.  One lazy weekend morning, I decided to break out one of the puzzles my grandma sent me for Christmas.  As I was sipping on my coffee and putting the pieces together, I decided I needed a little background noise.  Instead of turning on music, I opened up a podcast.  Needless to say, I got hooked.

In the past week, I have put together five puzzles and listened to four podcasts in the process.  If you’re looking for a little lazy weekend fun, here are some recommendations:

Serial

If you follow the medium, this is the podcast that made podcasts cool.  Serial is a brilliant piece of investigative journalism that digs into the case of a teenage boy convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend…17 years later, he still claims his innocence.  Every detail is enticing and I’m not gonna lie…I’ve listened to every episode at least twice.

Limetown

Perfect for sci-fi nerds (like myself).  I binge-listened to the entire thing in one evening and found myself desperate for more when I finished the first season.  I really hope the second season is coming soon.  It has a similar feel to Serial, but with fictional content.

The Truth

The Truth isn’t a series, but a collection of short stories that can be listened to in any order.  There is a range of genres and the stories are very well-crafted.  The episodes are short, so it’s  perfect for easy listening.

The Black Tapes

This is for anyone who likes a good ghost story.  The Black Tapes is fiction told as non-fiction, documenting a reporter’s study of various claims of paranormal activity.  It gets pretty amazing as it all comes together.

If anyone out there reading this has any other podcast recommendations, please let me know!  I need more!

Happy listening!