Travel Stories + Blog Awards


A while ago I got a message from Amy of Creatrice Mondial, who said she’d nominated me for a Liebster Award. Amy’s site is one of my absolute favorites, so it’s been a real treat to exchange so many good conversations on our blogs, and it feels like her interview questions are just a continuation of that conversation.

So in the interest of spreading the conversation {because that’s what good social media folk do, right?}, I’d like to share my answers to her questions today, and tomorrow, I’ll share a few nominees of my own and a few questions! Then you’ll not only get introduced to some of my favorite bloggers, but we’ll all get to discuss fun topics for all involved {or I’m assuming, since these topics seem to draw y’all to this blog the most!}.

So here we go!

When and to where was your very first travel experience?

The first time I actually remember getting on a plane was when I was three and we were moving from California to Texas. It’s a pretty fuzzy memory, since three was a long time ago, but I vividly remember the smartly dressed flight attendants ushering us around and the plane being a glorious place full of sunshine, as only an early morning flight can be. Safe to say my addiction to travel and flying started early!

When to and where was your very first international travel experience?

My mom took an exchange teaching offer at the University in Wollongong, not too far outside of Sydney, so we all took the opportunity to spend some quality time in New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania. We weren’t there for a huge amount of time, but it was just long enough in our formative language period that a little bit still creeps in from time to time. I still have one of our Christmas cards from that year, where my sisters and I are all crouched around a wallaby that hopped through our backyard and we decided to pet.

What is your favorite aspect about the travel blogging community, or blogosphere in general?

It’s the stories. The stories, the adventures, and the bright-eyed enthusiasm keeps me reading travel blogs. If I just wanted to know what to see in Venice or Buenos Aires, I could just buy a Lonely Planet book.

If you could only choose one more big bucket list worthy experience, what would it be and why? Budget and time are not factors.

I want to be able to say I’ve stood on all seven continents, so I want to jump on an Antarctica expedition. If it happens to be on the tail end of a food and wine tasting expedition through Argentina and Chile, preceded by hiking Machu Piccu in Peru, then I’ll have hit all my big goals.

What has been your biggest takeaway from traveling and/or living overseas?

Self-discovery. Every time I travel, I learn a lot about the place I’m visiting, but I learn even more about myself. I went through a lot of self-doubt and a period of shaky confidence in my early twenties, after my first marriage ended in a pretty nasty divorce, and I was able to find the cure during solo travel expeditions to Greece, Rome, Japan, Palau, and other marvelous, beautiful places that taught me how to find pleasure in my own company and how to value myself as a person.

What is your favorite travel memory? Feel free to include the top 3 if you simply cannot choose!

Taking my husband exploring with me.

Wandering through Greece with my mom and sister.

Athens | Challenge Accepted

Wandering around the world and coming home to whatever place is home at the moment, and having it feel like home.


What advice would you give those who are just starting to spread their wings and think about venturing out into the world?

Go in with eyes wide open and let the world amaze you. Don’t script out just how you want the adventure to go – gather a whole bunch of options and see what happens. But however you go, go. Dream. Discover.




Big Easy Shrimp

Big Easy Shrimp | Challenge Accepted

Maybe to you, summer means bright summer lipstick and umbrella drinks and all things cute and covered in anchors. Maybe it means cool breezes and dipping your toes in the sound and wine spritzers.

If it does, I have a few choice words for you, but I’ll mostly blame them on the sweat dripping down my back because of the massive humidity we’ve been suffering from the past few weeks. This is no Hawaii summer we’ve been having out here. It’s straight up bayou summer, and I’ve spent enough summers in the bayou to know exactly what that feels like.

But that’s the beauty of Cajun cooking. Break out some good spice and some pepper and some shrimp and wash it down with some fresh berry sangria and you can banish the feel of just about any hot, muggy, awful summer.

I learned Cajun style cooking from my father, who learned how to cook from my grandmother. She was a hotel chef in Miami – back in the day when women weren’t chefs, mind you – and my father learned how to cook by following her around the kitchen both in the hotel and at home, so he got the perfect mix of haute French cuisine, the bayou cooking my grandmother grew up with, and Miami spice.

This dish takes all of that and mixes it together with a Hawaiian twist: giant tiger prawns.

These beasties are no joke. They’re huge. And they’re fresh fished out of the island waters around here, so you just can’t beat the flavor, especially when you’ve woken it up with some local sausage, some brandy, and some fine spices.

But you can’t just throw them into any old gumbo. So what I have here is a kind of deconstructed gumbo, served up and plated nicely over a batch of buttery Lou’sana rice. Mmmmm-hmm!

Big Easy Shrimp

Serves 2.

For the shrimp gumbo:

  • Aidells pineapple and bacon smoked chicken sausage or similar, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • About 1 lb medium tiger prawns, butterflied, peeled, and deveined

For the rice:

  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 3-4 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to make it:

1. First, you have to get in there and make sure the prawns are peeled and deveined. Fortunately, the ones we had were already deveined and butterflied, so all I had to do was strip off the shell. That didn’t take too long – peel back, twist off the tail, and drop the shrimp into a bowl, ready to go.

2. Next, let’s do the chopping. There’s a fair amount of chopping that has to happen here – garlic, onion, tomato, and the sausage. Getting everything ready first makes the rest of this a whole lot easier.

3. Start the rice simmering in a little olive oil in a saucepan to open it up, and then throw in the water. Let that keep bubbling merrily as you go about the rest of your business. Sure, you could use a rice cooker, but come on! When the water has bubbled down, throw in the butter and let it simmer. Keep adding water by the 1/4 cup until the rice is soft, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Now let’s cook the chopped sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it’s just starting to get a little crispy. Then, scoop out the sausage with a spoon and throw it into the rice in the saucepan for some extra flavor. Mmmmmmm!


5. In the sausage drippings back in the skillet, cook the onion, pepper, and garlic for about five minutes or until it’s starting to get tender. If it starts to look dry, add a tablespoon of butter to the mix {if you don’t already know, Cajun cooking is unapologetically non-diet-friendly}.

6. Add the tomatoes, juice included, and the bay leaf, pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and brandy. As soon as it starts to boil, reduce to a simmer and let it bubble for about 20 minutes or so. You want the juice, sauce, and brandy to reduce down to a nice thickness like you’ll find in gumbo.

7. Toss in the prawns at the end of all this and cook, turning the prawns until they’ve gone from gray tiger-striped to hot-pink tiger striped and opaque. It’s pretty easy to tell when they’re done, especially when they’re butterflied, because the butterflied section opens up into a nice double puff.

8. Toss the bay leaf {sadness} and serve the shrimp over the rice in a nice bowl. And be shocked, because this whole thing is under 400 calories.

There really is nothing that invigorates the senses like good Cajun cooking, and it only seems to get better the more I try to fuse other elements into it. The tiger prawns are the perfect thing to round out this really tasty and surprisingly healthy dish.

Dine happy, my friends.


Why You Should Book That Ticket

After a nice long weekend of catching up with my sister, who booked herself a ticket out here to Hawaii from Louisville, Kentucky, I was paging through my favorite blogs, trying to catch up, and came across this awesome post from Casey. Undaunted by all the reasons and excuses she’s heard from people who say they can’t travel, she touched on all the reasons you should go out there and book that ticket, and take that trip you’ve always wanted to.

I touched on one of my own biggest reasons for seeking adventure now and not later back in this post, but in reading Casey’s post and talking to my sister, I realized that there is one other very important reason for booking that ticket and going to see that sight or doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

You are the one who decides what is important to you.

We human beings are powerful, persistent things. We are capable of overcoming many obstacles and difficulties that try to keep us from doing the things we want to be doing. We have no trouble convincing ourselves that we can still complete our projects or make those calls or do whatever needs doing after catching up on the latest installment of Scandal or House of Cards. We have no problem making time for catching up on social media during our lunchtime rather than going out for a much needed walk or run or, you know, mindfully eating our lunch or being social with friends and co-workers.

We are the ones who decide what is important to us. And yet we keep telling ourselves that we can’t go see the things we want to see or can’t go do the things we want to do because of a multitude of reasons. We can’t leave work just then. We can’t afford it. We don’t have the time to plan it properly. We have other responsibilities. We should be responsible with our resources.

Maybe all of that is true to some degree, but we have to take responsibility! All of these excuses are things that we have decided take priority over travel. No one has forced us into that “responsible” decision. We have simply decided that work or savings or time or any of the other barriers we’ve allowed to get between us and what we want are more important than what we want.

Maybe it is. Maybe we’ve decided that a future of financial security and doing our best to avoid uncertainty is more important than grabbing that last-minute deal flight to Bali, but if that’s the case, own it. Don’t convince yourself as if you’re being cheated out of something you really want to do. Because then you’re cheating yourself.

Worse, we may have decided we have time to have it all. We don’t. We don’t have all the time in the world. We have to use what we have wisely, and we have to think long and hard about what “wisely” means.

To my sister, to my family, to me, work is great and is usually something we enjoy, but “wisely” means we spend the time we can soaking up the beauty of the world, seeking to understand different ways of doing things, traveling to enrich our lives, and whenever possible, spending time discovering wonderful things in the company of the people we love.


I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them.


Luau Time

While I love having my family visit just for their company, their visits also have some secondary benefits – like feeding my local tourist habit! Showing people around is always a good excuse to either revisit things we enjoy doing or a chance to try new things. When my sister Karen came to visit, we did a little of both – but her visit resulted in both of us getting our first big luau experience.

I’ve been to plenty local cookouts and pig roasts in Guam and American Samoa, but never any of the large “tourist” luaus, though I’ve always wanted to see what the shows are all about. Scott has been to several, for various work functions and showing family around, and he recommended that we go check out the Paradise Cove Luau – so last Saturday, before the rain swept in, that’s what we did.

We had plenty of pictures taken, with dancing wahine and kane and with these bright and cheerful parrots – and this is as good of a photo of that photo as I have right now, thanks to my lil sis’s Instagram account.


We did a little shopping to pick up some souvenirs for Karen from her trip – and one or two for us as well – and then we heard the conch shell that signaled the shows were starting. Paradise Cove does a great job of preceding dinner and the main show with smaller cultural shows, and we actually got to take part in a hula lesson – which, naturally, I don’t have pictures of.

But I did snap a shot of the coconut climbing “villager” and the shower of flowers opening ceremony.


And the throwing and hauling in of the nets.


And the hula dance and digging up of the kalua pig.

We took a moment to snap photos as the sun set over the beautiful leeward side of the island and over the Ko Olina Lagoons before heading over to our seats. Yep, this smart girl wore her stretchy maxi to hide the amount of dining that was going to take place.

Drinks were passed around and then we headed up to the buffet.


I think any local buffet should be preceded by a lesson in elbows-as-a-weapon-system. You need to know how to properly defend yourself, and attack to reach your dinner, as the case may be. Or else you will get severely trounced. However, we were pretty successful!

There was plenty of salad and green stuff, thankfully, to counteract the amount of meat and fried food I was about to consume! There was delicious pulled kalua pork, pulled pork sliders, seasoned local fish, and fried local chicken – all of which I grabbed a little taste of. The little containers on the side are lomi-lomi salmon and poi, and dessert consisted of German chocolate cake and fresh, fresh, fresh Maui gold pineapple!

So far, I’m doing well at knocking things off my Hawaii bucket list at this event – going to a luau and learning how to dance a hula – but I had to add one more thing. Poi.


Poi is a native Hawaiian dish made from fermented taro root {similar to a potato} that has been pounded into a paste. Basically, it tastes a lot like chilled potato soup – which can be really good but can also be really bland. I now know that when people ask what poi tastes like, I can at least be honest when I say I don’t really know – because it doesn’t really taste like anything.

It is, I discovered, pretty darn good though when poured across kalua pork. It’s like that extra little burst of flavor you get when you take a bite of sweet potato mash and steak together.

After dinner, we were treated to an amazing tropical sunset – which usually heralds a storm – and then the dinner show kicked off. We were treated to several different styles of traditional dances from throughout Hawaii and from around the islands, including Samoa and Tahiti.

My favorite, though, is the Samoan fire dance. Nothing gets your blood pumping like war chants, pounding war drums, and a lot of fire.

And that’s as good of a picture as I could get.

I’m really glad we had a chance to get out to a luau, even if it is kind of a “touristy” thing to do. Even if a lot of it is overdone for tourists, it still helps to keep up and share cultural traditions from throughout the islands and gives those who wouldn’t ordinarily see it a look into the rich art and music of Hawaii. I loved my luau experience, and am looking forward to more!


Sunday Currently, vol. 23

Clockwise from top left: 1) Picking up my little sister for a visit at the airport – you can’t come visit me and not get a lei! 2) A gorgeous sunset over Paradise Cove. 3) Getting our toes in the sand at Bellows Beach Park after some great food at my office’s annual picnic. 4) Paddleboarding up the river from Hale’iwa and looking for sea turtles.

My sister’s in town for a little while visiting, and so far, we’ve been able to get out and do a few activities – like a luau, stand-up paddle boarding, beaching it up, visiting a coffee farm, and going out to some fabulous restaurants. Who gets a good big sister award, huh? #fishing #shameless

And now, here’s today’s…


Reading. Here are some of my favorite links from this week.

Listening…to “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Word Crimes.” Because it’s fun and because it’s Weird Al and because grammar. Random trivia – Weird Al is a hometown boy and went to the same university where my mother teaches.

Writing. Here are this week’s posts:

  • The Fault in Our Facebook – it’s not really Facebook, it’s how we use it.
  • Office Space – we finished with the office redo and it’s looking pretty sharp!
  • The Shorebird – restauranting it up at a favorite beach-side grill where you can grill up your own meal if you like.
  • The Power of Story – sharing a new project I made for my office that’s full of interesting stories.
  • Try – taking a look at Colbie Callait’s excellent marketing job – and equally excellent message.

Feeling…reinvigorated. Taking a little time to hang out with my family and to play tourist this weekend was exactly what I needed. I’m not quite ready to hit the ground running Monday, but I’m getting there.

What’s on your mind, currently?


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