The Land of the Long White Cloud

In March of this year, I crossed off my first international adventure list items!  I think going to New Zealand for my first overseas trip set the bar pretty high.

The flight was long (I think around 10 hours from San Fran to Auckland?), but I passed some of the time by watching The Desolation of Smaug (The Hobbit), which I think was appropriate.  And plus, it’s always fun to travel with K as he makes new friends everywhere we go.  :)  All of K’s family lives in NZ, so it was great to spend time with them.1977311_10202028443254932_34556646_n

Here are a few of the adventures we had…

13. Tour Hobbiton in New Zealand.  This was just as exciting as I thought it would be.  I’ve always been such a big fan of LOTR, so it was kind of surreal to be here.  The only downside was the tour groups were too big.  Being the introvert I am, I would have preferred to wander around with just a couple other people there.


With K and his mum


Having some drinks at The Green Dragon Inn. So cool!!


My favorite part of Hobbiton. It was super exciting to see Bilbo’s house.

72. Go to Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand.  This was the most magical, beautiful place I have ever been in my life.  The tour ends with a boat ride in complete silence as you look up at the star-like ceiling (well, semi complete silence…there are always those people on the tour who are obnoxious and loud).  Once again, the only thing that would make this amazing sight better is a private tour.

I didn’t take this photo as pictures weren’t allowed in the cave, but I wanted you all to see what it looked like. Breathtaking.


103. Try surfing.  If you remember reading my post last summer about water skiing, well, surfing was about like that.  K was a very good teacher and I did finally, briefly, stand up on the board and ride a wave in.  However, once I had accomplished this feat, I was done.  This was only my second trip swimming in the ocean, so I found the waves to be a bit intimidating.  I definitely preferred to be closer to shore.  K is a very good surfer and spent much of our trip surfing – I don’t know how he does it!


Since K and I were both in the water while I was learning to surf, we have no proof that I actually did stand up on the board in the water. But I did!

And we had adventures that weren’t even on my list…(but aren’t those some of the best ones anyway?)

Bridal Veil Falls.  We took a picnic lunch and ate at the bottom of the falls.  This was a very scenic, beautiful place and I will never forget it..because…


At the bottom of the falls, K proposed!


Perfect day.

Climbing Mt. Karioi.  The mountain was very scenic and I loved hearing the tui birds sing.  I was not sure I would make it to the top, though.  It was quite a hike and very steep at times.


Here’s the mountain we climbed.



Nearly to the top…


We made it!

Exploring Maungatautari Ecological Forest.  Once again, another beautiful spot!


Yep, we climbed this.


Paddleboarding.  This was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  So fun and relaxing.

1896760_10152684161484062_783317507_nWhakarewarewa – Living Maori Village.  Very interesting and historical spot.


Rotorua Boiling Mud Pools.  Doesn’t smell great, but was so cool to see.


Lots of new food.  I tried mussels (which I LOVED), Hokey Pokey ice cream (only the best kind of ice cream), meat pies, lamb, and cockles.  And of course, I had fresh fish and chips.  It was all so good.


It was such a great trip and I can’t wait to go back again.


Where was your first international trip?  Anyone else been to New Zealand?  I’d love to hear about your experiences there!



Don’t let your dreams be dreams.

It’s been awhile…  But I’m back to blogging!  I’ve been in a bit of a motivation rut the past few months.  It’s far too easy to put off your dreams and goals, telling yourself, tomorrow.  However, if it is important to you, why not start today?  There are only so many tomorrows.I’ve decided to break my adventure list down into some smaller, yearly goals.  I definitely want to accomplish this entire list in my lifetime, but setting specific goals for this year will make it more likely that I will be able to accomplish them.

63729d6d81693eb4fbd1acc2fd6b87cdI’ve picked out 26 things off my adventure list to cross off this year before I turn 26.  There are a couple that I actually did earlier this year, so I will be posting about them soon.  I’ve got about 5 months left until my birthday to cross off the rest.  :)

26 before 26

1. Tour Hobbiton in New Zealand (crossed this off in March 2014, post soon to follow!)

2. Take an oil painting class (crossed this off earlier this year, post soon to follow!)

3. Try surfing.  (crossed this off in March 2014, post soon to follow!)

4. Go to Waitomo Glowworm Grotto Caves in New Zealand. (crossed this off in March 2014, post soon to follow!)

5. Read ten of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels.

6. Read every book by my favorite author, L. M. Montgomery.

7. Learn how to make sushi.

8. Become financially literate.

9. Learn how to sew.

10. Learn how to drive a manual car.

11. Learn some geography.

12. Become an early riser.

13. Become financially self-sufficient.

14. Host a dinner party.

15. Be completely debt free.

16. Take a week break from TV/Netflix and all social media.

17. Dig for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.

18. Visit a blues bar in Chicago.

19. Break a pinata.

20. Order ice cream from the ice cream truck. (crossed this off in May 2014, post soon to follow!)

21. Move in with the love of my life. (crossed this off in May 2014, post soon to follow!)

22. Read five autobiographies.

23. Visit 15 new places/towns/cities.

24. Brush up on American and World History.

25. Run a 5k.

26. Complete the 100 Happy Days challenge.

f296f7fbecfc38e70121d320aa8690daWhat are some of things you have always wanted to do?


A Year of Crafts

Time to cross Number 38 off my list – make one Pinterest craft a month for a year.  Although I made more than twelve crafts, I didn’t always make one per month.  However, I am still counting this one as complete since the point was to craft more (instead of just pinning pictures of crafts on Pinterest).

Back in January, my first craft was to make a jewelry stand.  The next month, I made a bucket list board.

And then I got behind on posting my crafts on the blog.  :)  So here are my other crafts for 2013.  Some of the things I made are very similar to something I pinned, and some I changed quite a bit.  Check out the links to see the original pin.  I love each thing I made and rediscovered my joy for crafting, so I’d say this item on my list was a success.

Craft Number 3 – Card Keepsake Album


At my old apartment, I had a wall where I put up special cards and notes I received throughout the year. What started off cute, ended up being an explosion of mess as you can see here. So…


I took all of it off the wall, bought a photo album (and hole punch), and put everything in the album.


All organized and pretty – yay!

Craft Number 4 – Our First Christmas Tree ornaments


First, I sawed a couple pieces off the end of K and I’s Christmas tree.


I used a permanent marker to write on the wood, a screwdriver to drill a hole through the top, and some red string to make the hanger.


Other side

Craft Number 5 – Dave Ramsey cash envelopes


I got the pretty paper at Hobby Lobby. The blue is for K and the purple is mine.


I used a template (click on link above)  – worked great!

Craft Number 6 – Framed Jewelry


I had some old jewelry that belonged to my grandma and great-grandmother and I really wanted to display it. I may eventually move these to a shadowbox, though.

Craft Number 7 – First Car Key Ornament


My car got totaled earlier this year. :( I had that car since I turned 16, so it was sad to let it go. I decided to make a Christmas ornament out of the key, because I’m sentimental. :)


The top beads say My First Car and the second set of beads says Lizzie, because that’s what I named my car (after Elizabeth Bennett, of course). I used nail polish to make the top of the key sparkly and the rest of the key red.

Craft Number 8 - Canvas Art Quote


I used scrapbook stickers on a blank canvas (I reused some of the letters as I painted). The stickers did not stick well to the canvas, so I painted with one hand and held the sticker down with my other. Also, I used oil paint instead of acrylics because I already had some.


All finished! I used some white paint for touchups, but overall, this worked pretty well.

Craft Number 9 – Glitter Mason Jars


This one looked a little better in the original pin, but I still like it. Very easy – just painted glitter and glue/water on the inside of the jars, then added a tea light.

Craft Number 10 – Cat Food Tin


Silver spray paint and gold/blue acrylics. I got this tin at a thrift store for super cheap.


Kitty food area! I hand painted the letters rather than using a stencil or stickers.

Craft Number 11 – Mod Podge Quote on Canvas


As you can see, I had two helpers. ;) I had an extra copy of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so I mod podged some pages on this blank canvas, then added scrapbook stickers. I used gold acrylic to paint over the letters.


Peeled the stickers off and voila! Love it.

Craft Number 12 – Custom Name Plaque


I found this plaque at a thrift store – it was exactly what I was looking for! It already had the gold chain hanger, which was perfect. I painted over the previous picture on the plaque. Took several coats, as it was quite dark before. I got the wooden letters and apple at Hobby Lobby. Painted them, added some glitter to the apple, and then glued everything on. I also brushed some gold around the sides of the plaque. I made this for my sorority little sister, who just graduated and will be an elementary school teacher. :)

Craft Number 13 – Workout Shirts


I took these old shirts and followed the linked tutorial.


I learned that I’m not great with scissors. All three shirts are wearable, but didn’t turn out as nice as the tutorial.


However, this will still work great as a yoga shirt.

Craft Number 14 – Scrabble Art

This one is a Christmas gift that hasn’t been opened yet, so I will have to hold off on posting a picture.  :)

Craft Number 15 – Acrostic Poem Art (didn’t have a Pinterest inspiration for this one)

Also a Christmas gift, so I’ll post a picture after the holidays.

Anyone else do any fun crafting this year?  :)


Baked with Love

Number 51 on my list is to make one new recipe per month for a year.  I have been bad about blogging recipes every month, but I have definitely made at least one new dish every month.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Key Lime Pie (used this recipe for the crust and this one for the filling)


I’m not a huge key lime fan, but it is my boyfriend’s favorite so I made it for him.

Apple Pie (Unfortunately, I can’t remember what recipe I used.  I did use one recipe for the crust and one for the filling.  I also used Pink Lady apples instead of the apples called for in the recipe.  This helped me figure out how to do the lattice crust.  Turned out delicious!)


Whole Wheat Rolls


So, so good!

Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding


I have made this several times since. What a great comfort food, especially warm from the stove.

I also tried a single serving hot chocolate recipe, which was pretty good, and Sour Cream Bacon Chicken.  A couple weekends ago, I made Buffalo Ranch Chicken Dip – yum!  K and I made Grilled Cheeseburger Wraps last week, which we really liked.

I did try one recipe that I didn’t really care for – Brownie in a Mug.  I never thought I would say this, but it was too much chocolate.  I could only eat a few bites.

Stay tuned for my next post with an update on Number 38 on my list – make one craft a month for a year!



You Raise Me Up

Last night was the best so far when it comes to crossing things off my adventure list.  I saw Josh Groban live, Number 48 on my list.

I’ve realized lately that there are some things in life that don’t end up being as great as you thought they would.  So many things that I was really looking forward to this year, like graduating with my Master’s degree, finding a real job, and moving in with a close friend, have ended up being not just anticlimactic, but utterly disappointing.

Josh Groban was not one of these things.  His concert was everything I ever hoped it would be, and more.  After the summer/fall I’ve had, I needed something to remind me that some things are as wonderful as you always dreamed they would be.

1380323_10200994899696989_1808042387_nHe sang my favorite songs, Remember When It Rained and February SongStarry, Starry Night was amazing, too.  And I am really falling in love with his new song Brave.  Oh, and he sang The Prayer!  And of course, You Raise Me Up.  Lip quivering tears happened, multiple times, but at least I didn’t full on sob (dangerously close, though).

1379723_10200997007509683_1883231259_nNot only was his music beautiful, but he was funny as well.  I think K had a surprisingly good time.  I mean, at one point Josh (we’re on a first name basis now =P) imitated Gollum, congratulated Kansas City on our football team, joked about the protestors outside (Seriously, he is like the least offensive person ever.  Why would you protest Josh freaking Groban?!) and he made fun of Bieber.  Josh, please take me (sorry K, I mean us, of course!) to Dublin.

1385150_10200997004789615_1973967876_nThis was my first real concert.  I’m still a bit A LOT excited.  Thank you to K for getting the tickets and taking me.  Major brownie points!

1379776_10200997020630011_1447751434_nAnd Josh, thank you for raising me up and lifting my spirits.


P.S.  I need another week for my One Week challenge.  This week was better, but there is still work to be done.


Small Steps to Inner Peace

After coming across an inspirational blog recently, I decided to start another project in addition to my adventure list.  I will be making small changes in my life by subtracting something negative (e.g., excessive worry, distractions such as TV/internet, etc.) and adding something positive (e.g., mindfulness, writing, exercise) for one week at a time.  I think that this experience will help me learn about myself and grow into the person I want to be.

ded414e7dc8fb293d1444cc344a165f7Read more about this project, and my One Week ideas, here.

For my first week (Oct. 10-16), I will be going one week without negativity and one week with random acts of kindness.  I have really been struggling with seeing the glass as half empty lately.

fce4d393dbfedcb2e010102d78642129But what will happen if I stop dwelling on my own frustrations and help others instead?

My plan is whenever negativity strikes, I will turn things around by doing something nice for someone else.  Read more about how good deeds help relieve depression, anxiety, and stress here.

daliai lama

I’ll post next week about how my first One Week challenge goes.


Keep Calm and Lean Back

I crossed Number 33, try water skiing, off my list this past weekend.  And there is video documentation.

I knew it was going to be a struggle when I couldn’t even get the skiis on my feet in the water.  Luckily, that didn’t get caught on tape.  But there is this photo…


Disclaimer: I didn’t really do any water sports growing up.  I’ve been tubing a couple times and knee boarding once, but that’s about it.  Also, I am not very athletic, coordinated, or graceful.  What you are about to see is proof of that.

My first attempt:

My friend B giving me tips…

Most of my attempts ended like this.


But hey, I did make it up!  Briefly, but it counts.  :)  I love K’s increasingly enthusiastic vocalizations.  It gets funnier the more you watch.

And….that’s as good as it got.  ;)

I tried wake boarding for the first time, too.  It was also a struggle, and the videos are even more embarrassing than the water skiing ones, so I’ll just leave you with this one photo.

wake boardWe did a little cliff jumping as well.  Even though I have done this once before (and it was higher – 30 feet!), that was many years ago.

969415_10200673891271979_1045398136_nI was pretty scared, but I finally did it.531892_10200673892192002_1189430351_nIt was a great weekend.  Do you remember your first time water skiing/wake boarding?  Any pointers for me?  :)  I’d love to hear from you!


Death in the Dustbowl

I completed Number 49 on my list, attend a Murder Mystery Dinner, earlier this month.  I have wanted to do this one for a long time, so it feels nice to check it off my list.

As soon as we arrived to the Mystery Train (not actually a train, but we were supposed to pretend it was), we were advised to take aliases.

Olivia and The Foreigner

Olivia and The Foreigner

Mr. and Mrs. Carlos Sanches (aka my brother and his wife)

Mr. and Mrs. Carlos Sanches (aka my brother and his wife)

We were seated among the suspects, which made the experience all the more fun.  The cast chose a few people from the audience to have parts.  Although we were not chosen, one woman at our table was picked to be Ethel and she was hilarious.  Another older man who was assigned the character of Hector kept forgetting to read his lines when it was his turn.  It was pretty funny.

bunny-whodunnit-108658-480-480_largeThey served an appetizer, salad, the main course, and dessert.  They performed acts in between the courses, and while you were eating, the main cast would walk around and interact with the audience.

One of my favorite parts happened when one of the characters, Gilly, who was pretending to be a waiter (he was actually a hobo on the train) asked my brother for tips on being a waiter.


My brother told him to put one arm behind his back and use his towel to do Wax On Wax Off with his other hand.  Gilly continued to do this as he went around to other tables.

wax_on_wax_off_cards-r79ecd264a7a24c45a56f3d2fdf8dcec6_xvuak_8byvr_512We were given some fake money which we could use to bribe the characters for information.  We were also given one “clue” after each act, but the clues didn’t clue me in on anything.


Bribing Bucks and the program

After the final act, we wrote down who we thought committed the murder, and why.

787cb50b4424356856df9fa36d6ee9dfI had no idea.

detective2fe1So I took a wild guess.  It was wrong.  Guess I’m no super sleuth, but this Murder Mystery Dinner was super fun, and I can’t wait to go again!


Have you ever attended a Murder Mystery Dinner?




I crossed Number 30 off my adventure list a couple weeks ago.  Ziplining!

I was a little (okay, a lot) nervous just to do the practice zipline where you can still touch the ground.  After making it through that, K and I climbed a seemingly endless shaky spiral staircase.  adventure-ziplines-3After that, there was no turning back.  I think being in the tower was almost as scary as the actual zipline – it was very wobbly!

Adventure-Ziplines-of-Branson-Rope-Bridge-CanopyBefore stepping off the ledge for each of the seven ziplines, I did something crazy according to our guide.  I looked straight down.

lolcats-oh-noes-i-is-scared-of-heightsI told him I wanted to know exactly what I was getting myself into.

But you know what?


And it was pretty awesome.