Oregon, Photography, Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Just Living – Golden Hour on the Farm

“I am tired.”

If you’ve spoken to me at all in the last two months, my bet is that this was said early on in the conversation. Usually I try to stay away from default answers like “I’m tired” or “I’m busy” when I’m catching up with someone, because the reality is we are all busy and tired, and we all measure those differently. Personally, I think we are all capable of being better conversationalists.

But the truth is in this case, when I finally made it home to Oregon for my vacation at home with my family, this was all I could muster up when my Grampy asked how my work meeting in Seattle, (that I had just traveled from) went.

My body was tired, my brain was tired and I’d even say my soul was tired.

Both professionally and personally, this season of life over of the past six months or so has really pushed me. Its tested me and even broke me a couple of times. And that’s all OK. These seasons come and go, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind. I believe that sometimes you just have to put your head down and work, and do what you have to do to get by.

That first evening when I got home I immediately jumped on my laptop to knock out a few things related to the meeting I had just traveled from. But the sun was starting to set and the scene I could see through my parent’s big kitchen window could not be ignored.

So I grabbed my camera and headed out to sit in the yard with our old family dog Jack and just paused for a bit.

It’s amazing how little things like that can refocus things for you.

It’s a beautiful world sometimes I don’t see so clear
Some days you just breath in
Just try to break even
Sometimes your heart’s poundin’ out of your chest
Sometimes it’s just beatin’
Some days you just forget
What all you’ve been given
Some days you just get back
And some days you’re just alive
Some days you’re livin’
Some days you’re livin’

Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part Three

Hey friends! I am back with my third and final post for my Travel Journal on my trip to London. Click below for Part’s One and Two

Travel Journal: London – Part One (all about Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, as well as St. James Park and Hyde Park.)
Travel Journal: London – Part Two (all about many popular historic tourist attractions.)

Today, my post pulls together all of the remaining details and sites of our trip, and then at the end I am going to round up some of my observations and tips for traveling to London.

British Museum

The British Museum was actually our first stop on our first day because Brandi’s work hotel was right around the corner. It was a fun (and very touristy) way to kick off our trip! Most notably, the museum is home to the Rosetta Stone and an impressive Egyptian exhibit. This is going to sound a little silly, but Brandi and I commented multiple times on the age of some of things on display. It’s not that we haven’t been to museums before, but many of the items were dated back to 2000 BC, which is just fascinating to wrap your mind around.

Doctor Who and Harry Potter

One can’t visit London without indulging in a fandom or two. For me that is Doctor Who, and Brandi didn’t put up any complaints when I asked to go out of our way to find this Tardis that sits outside of the Earl’s Court Station.

I also randomly found this Dalek, and lots of other smaller Doctor Who collectors items in this children’s bookstore.

Now when it comes to Harry Potter, I have to throw out a disclaimer. I watched all of the movies in college and I didn’t read the books until AFTER college. Even though I was a HUGE bookworm as I kid I was just never interested in reading Harry Potter and I don’t think any of my close friends did either. Fast forward to college and I made friends who couldn’t handle the fact that it was missing from my life, so I finally jumped in. And of course I loved it and am now a forever fan, but since I didn’t grow up with it, I am not quite as attached as those, like Brandi, who literally grew up with it.

I visited the Platform 9 3/4 area and Harry Potter store at Kings Cross Station with Brandi, but I opted not to stand in the 1+ hour long line for the photo opp. Brandi has already visited once with her co-workers earlier in the week so we just shopped a little in the store.

This theatre was just a few blocks from Brandi’s work hotel, which was fun to walk by.

The Warner Brothers studio where the majority of the movies were filmed are actually 20 miles northwest of London. When we looked into tickets, they were all already booked for the days that I was going to be there, but Brandi was able to extend her trip an extra day to fit the tour in, so these are a few pictures from her. I’ve been to the main Warner Brothers Studios in California, so I was bummed I couldn’t join because I knew this experience would be pretty cool. But I am so glad that she was able to make it work.

Olympic Park

The hotel we stayed at after we moved from Brandi’s work hotel, was the Moxy London Stratford, out in the Stratford area, which is also home to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park! Our last afternoon we walked over to the park and took a short boat ride on river which was led by a tour guide. He shared all about how the area was built up for the Olympics, how things looked and functioned during the Games and then what things are used for now. Brandi and I are both big sports fans so we really enjoyed this!

This tower of sorts is the large sculpture in the UK, and actually is supposed to be a different representation of the five Olympic rings. You can take an elevator or the STAIRS to the top. And, its a little hard to see from this angle, but there is actually a tube slide that you can take to get down! Or you can repel down with climbing gear. We didn’t allot enough time for it, but had we known I definitely would have planned to do the slide!

Tea Time

A trip to England is also not complete without doing tea! Brandi did the full tea experience with her co-workers earlier in the week, but I was content with the place we found in Soho, Maison Bertaux. They have been baking daily on the premises since 1871 and I learned later that it is the oldest patisserie in London. It was so cute, and SO GOOD!

The Lion King

Brandi and I never actually chatted about seeing a show until I arrived, which is kind of funny, because I think we both agree that it was our favorite part of the trip! We agreed on The Lion King pretty easily, so on Friday close to midnight we jumped online to see what tickets we could find for Saturday. We wanted to a little bit more than the nosebleeds so when we found two seats that included champagne and ice cream, that were labeled in the purple section, as two Kansas State grads, OBVIOUSLY those were the seats for us, and we sleepily bought them without dwelling too much on the price. When we got to will call the next evening we found out that the tickets also included access to a fancy lounge before the show and during intermission! And after all of that, the show was absolutely AMAZING! I teared up multiple times.

If you are planning a trip to London, seeing a show is a must, and honestly I would encourage you to let that be your splurge and let yourself get the all-around theatre experience. Obviously, there are a lot of great shows, but we highly recommend The Lion King.

Other Sites Around London

I always really enjoy going to markets in the different cities and countries that I visit, and since Brandi had never been to anything like that, I really wanted to take her. I had a lot of people recommend the Camden Market in Camden Town, so that’s where we went, but honestly I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t bad, and it was an interesting part of London to see, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for and we really could have skipped it. We did though, get our second round of fish and chips in this cute pub, called the “Camden Eye,” that had seating on the second floor that allowed us to look out and enjoy some good people watching.

I always like to buy paintings or other forms of art in the countries that I visit so we did some quick research and headed down to the Spitalfields Market, which was more of the artisan market I was looking for.

The first day that I arrived, I had the afternoon to explore on my own while Brandi was wrapping up her work responsibilities. As I walked through the Covent Garden area I discovered that London, or at least that area, is home to an endless amount of old bookstores, which are my favorite! I just couldn’t believe that there were that many. In many alleyways, and on the main street, there would be multiple stores in a row. And they all seemed to have a little bit of a different focus and range from first editions to new releases.

After an exhausting couple of days, we wrapped up the trip with good old pizza and beer.

Last Thoughts, Tips for Traveling to London, Etc.

  1. Brandi and I are both Type A and super planners… but for this trip we didn’t actually do a lot of planning ahead of time for this trip other than what was necessary. I am not saying that this is best way to do this trip but it worked for us. We did some exploring on Pinterest, asked friends for recommendations and  discussed what were a few things that each of us of interested in. But for the most part we were both content with exploring and seeing where that took us. After our first full day we had a much better idea of how we wanted to spend the rest of our time and planned that out.
  2. London can be expensive and you can spend a lot of time just getting from one place to another. I don’t say all of that to deter people from visiting, but it is important to factor in. We decided to stay further out from central London and got a great rate at the Moxy London Stratford, and then took the Underground in everyday, which was about a 20 to 30 minute ride to wherever we were going. We did  A LOT of walking, which we were personally OK with and had planned on. When it came to spending, there were a lot of extra tours that we could have spent money on, but luckily we were on the same page about what things we were OK with skipping and what we wanted to spend more on.
  3. Speaking of the Underground (London’s subway system) I would recommend buying a Visitor Oyster Card IN ADVANCE. Ordering it online, pre-selecting a balance and having it mailed to you before your trip saves you a bit of money and once you are there, Oyster cards have a daily cap in Zones 1 and 2 (central London and more), meaning once you reach a certain amount, it doesn’t charge you any more that day. Learn more HERE.
  4. Overall for getting around I would recommend downloading two apps. First, “Tube Map – London Underground,” the official app for the Underground. I spent sometime studying the map to better aquaint myself and that was really helpful. The app will give you up to date train schedules and you can map out your trip right in the app. I would also recommend “Citymapper.” I discovered this right before our trip but it actually works for any city you are in! It’s basically a one-stop shop for all things transportation and commuting, including walking. I’d explain more, but its best if you just check it out yourself! Its already become my main app back in DC.
  5. As far as money goes, I just always find it easier in other countries to convert my U.S. dollars to the local currency. With that said, I do have a credit card that doesn’t charge extra fees for international transactions, and I felt completely comfortable using it there the few times that it was necessary.
  6. I didn’t really talk much about food because I never really saw London as a “foodie” destination, so that was never a focus for us. (Note… neither of us like Indian food so that was never something we sought out.) Of course, we got fish and chips a couple of times, and then I’d definitely recommend planning on doing tea.
  7. Two FYIs… first, Heathrow Airport is 30 miles or so out from central London. I had a direct flight both ways and Brandi was traveling with colleagues, so Heathrow was still the choice for us, but I would just take that into consideration and maybe look at Gatwick as well. Second, not all of the Underground stations are handicap accessible, which means if you are using it as your main mode of transportation, be prepared to haul your suitcase up and down the stairs.
  8. Overall the locals were really friendly, and as two 20-something women practicing common sense, I don’t think we ever felt unsafe.

There is so much more I could share, but for the sake of length I am going to stop there. If you are planning a trip to London though, definitely let me know if you have any questions!

Lastly, thank you Brandi for letting me tag along and making this such a fun girls weekend! I loved going on this adventure with you (even though we never saw ANY corgis) and am so thankful for your friendship 🙂

*****

And just for fun here are some of my other Travel Journal posts:

Estes Park, Colorado

Thailand and the Philippines

Tumon Bay, Guam

New York City – Girls Weekend

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Antigua, Guatemala

Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part Two

I’m back with Part Two today of my travel journal for my trip to London with my friend Brandi.

If you missed Part One and all of the background on the trip you can read it HERE! In it I shared all about Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, as well as St. James Park and Hyde Park.

As I mentioned in part one, I am splitting up my blog posts for this trip based on highlights, so I can average out the amount of pictures in each post as much as possible.

Today’s post features a lot of popular historic tourist attractions. I’m definitely a history junkie, and thought it was so cool to see so many iconic sites that I learned about as a student growing up.

Trafalgar Square

So even though I just said I was a history junkie, I am also a Doctor Who fan, and I’ll admit the only reason I knew what Trafalgar Square was because of that show. There are actually a lot of real-life locations throughout London that are featured in Doctor Who, but for whatever reason this was one of the main ones that I remembered the scenes from.

Anyway, I actually came to the square twice, first when I was just wondering around on my first day in London while Brandi was finishing up her work engagements, and then again with her on our first full day. It such a great hub for people watching!

The building featured above is the National Gallery, which has portraits and other pieces of art.

Street acts always creep me out, and this one did too, but I was also fascinated. What is their secret?! Is that an actual person standing on a platform that is anchored through the sleeve? Or is it a remote control of some sort?

House of Parliament, “Big Ben” and Westminster Abbey

Trafalgar Square, House of Parliament, “Big Ben” and Westminster Abbey were all a part of our first day, which I talked about in Part One. We put in 13 miles that day!

Parliament and “Big Ben” were unfortunately being worked on so they were under a lot of scaffolding. I’ll be honest though, I really thought that “Big Ben” (whose name is actually the Elizabeth Tower) was smaller than what I had imagined based on pictures and TV. Still impressive though!

London 2018 House of Parliament

London Big Ben 2018

I love seeing the different architecture of cathedrals and churches, and Westminster Abbey was beautiful. We opted not to do the tour just based on the lines and cost, but it was probably the one thing that I wished we would have planned better for ahead of time to do.

Tower of London

The Tower of London was one of the main highlights of the trip for me. I’ve always vaguely known what it was, but knew very little of its history. First and foremost, we were there to see the Crown Jewels (#basicwhitegirl), but the rest of it was really interesting too and we could have spent way more time there than we did. But back to the jewels… this is where most of the Crown Jewels stay (and are guarded) when they are not being used. The exhibit, where we weren’t allowed to take photos, did a really thorough job of sharing the history of all the pieces and coronations in general. Brandi and I chatted about the fact that since the last coronation was in 1953, it will be really interesting to see both the differences and similarities of a modern. We also pointed out that our generation is unique in the fact that we’ll live through two.

Two travel notes here, the Tower of London does require a ticket, and it wasn’t cheap, but I would still definitely recommend it Like I said, we went through some of the other exhibits, but we could have more time. There are also guided tours you can join, but we bought a guide book that was really thorough and something I wanted to keep afterward. My other note is that there are a few really great shops here. On this trip I really wasn’t in the market for a lot of cheap souvenirs or gifts, which is what we saw in most of the other shops we stopped in around London. But the shops at the Tower of London were much more unique, including the official Historic Royal Palaces shop. Growing up, I collected tea sets that my grandparents usually gave me for my birthday or Christmas, so I was really happy to get a tea cup and saucer that is a copy of a set that the Queen uses.

Tower Bridge

Right next to the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, which we took a walk across. We spent the whole weekend calling it the London Bridge, which I guess is a common mistake. I read somewhere that it lifts for water traffic an average of 1,000 times a year, and only does so with 24 hours notice.

During on of Brandi‘s work dinners, she was up in The Shard, which is pictured in a few pictures below, and got to take in this great view!

London Eye and a few other sites

The famous “Eye” from the Westminster Bridge.

The pointy building above is “The Shard.” I always think its really cool to see the contract between historic and modern architecture in the same place.

The Wellington Arch sits on the corner of Hyde Park and Green Park, along the route from Buckingham Palace to Kensington Palace.

Also near the Wellington Arch is this World War II memorial above and an Australian War Memorial pictured below. The Australian one was being repaired, but was really unique and apparently normally has water running over it.

Admiralty Arch which marks the beginning of “The Mall” which is the road way that leads up to Buckingham Palace.

This building is for the Queen’s Horse Guards, and the open area is where the ceremonial parade takes place. This is also where beach volleyball was played during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

We also opted not to do the tour for the Churchill War Rooms, but I was interested to see it proximity to Buckingham Palace.

Alright, that’s it for today’s post. My third and final post will be in the next few days, and in addition to sharing about the rest of our trip, I’ll also be sharing any final observations and tips about traveling to London.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friendship, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: London – Part One

Hey friends! Last week was a bit of a blur after an 8-hour flight on Monday and then jumping into a busy work week. But after a relaxing weekend I am ready to start sharing all about my trip to London!

So back in January, my friend Brandi told me that she was going to London on a work trip, and I somewhat jokingly suggested that we make a girls weekend out of it. I can’t remember the exact conversation, but a few days later we both asked each other how serious the other one was, and both answered with a resounding VERY SERIOUS. I’ve traveled with friends domestically a little, and only in the last few years have I started traveling more internationally in general, but this trip was a whole new experience.

More and more, I see how important adult friendships are, but also how hard they can be to cultivate and maintain. This was a one of a kind opportunity to really focus on a friendship I value so much, and while I don’t get to see her nearly enough these days, I am so grateful that we went on this adventure together.

ANYWAY… Brandi arrived a few days early on Monday for work, and I took a direct (hallelujah) red-eye flight on Wednesday night, which put me in London at 10:30 Thursday morning. After I got to Brandi‘s work hotel (which we were staying in the first night) and said hi during her lunch break, I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around and exploring on my own. Now I’ve changed my mind about five times, as to how I wanted to organize my blog posts for this trip. It’s always easiest to do the chronologically, but on this trip there were some stops where I took A LOT of pictures and others where I took maybe one or two. On the other hand, because the number of pictures varies so much I also struggled with doing individual posts based on one or two highlights at a time. So I think I am going to split everything up into three posts that hopefully average out in length, and attempt to group things together by highlight as much as I can. On the third and final post I’ll round up any last thoughts and tips I have for traveling to London!

Buckingham Palace

Our first full day ( Friday), was by far our longest and most tiring. But based on where everything we wanted to see was located, it made the most sense to pile it all into one long trek. We started out walking from our first hotel, which was in the Covent Garden area and walked to Trafalgar Square, the House of Parliament (and Big Ben!), Westminster Abbey and past the Churchill War Rooms. I’ll be sharing all about those in tomorrow’s post though 🙂

The next part of our trek was through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.

I was somewhat surprised that it wasn’t busier, but happy that we had plenty of time and room to take it all in.

I hate to admit this, but I had slight lapse in memory, and while we were walking by Westminster Abbey (where Will and Kate got married), I kept looking for the Queen’s Balcony where the royal family always famously stands and waves to the public after weddings and other special occasions. When we got the the palace, I realized my error.

St. James Park, Hyde Park and the Princess Diana Memorial

St. James Park is the park that leads up to Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park leads up to Kensington Palace. Since I took a lot of similar pictures throughout both, it made sense to just group them together. St. James Park is by far smaller than Hyde Park, but both are beautiful and so well-curated. Both had great walkways, restrooms, paddle boats for the ponds, cafes and more. Like I said above, it makes sense just to do the whole thing at once, but I will say, Hyde Park was much bigger than we were anticipating. Altogether, we put in 13 miles that day!

I also didn’t know that the Queen or the English in general (?) had such a fondness for birds or water fowl. But both parks were full of them, including the pelicans below that have lived in St. James Park for a long time.

This used to be the official Bird Keeper’s cottage. Now I think it is used for a number of other things, but they were putting in a new garden in the front yard when we were there.

As the third generation in a family of florists, I am usually pretty good at identifying flowers. This unique one stumped me though, much to Brandi‘s amusement. I later learned from my Mom that it is known as an “Imperialist” or “Crown Imperial,” which is very fitting that it is in the Queen’s park.

In Hyde Park, we saw the memorial fountain for Princess Diana, and were really impressed. That might be a bit odd to say, but I live in a city full of memorials and this one was just so different and I loved its simplicity (please no one take that disrespectfully). If you can’t tell from the video below, it is one large circle and the water it pumped up at the top of the hill and comes down both sides. The stone is carved in different ways to change the flow of the water at different points.

Kensington Palace

We finally made it through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace, which is home to a number of the Royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) and Prince Harry.

We considered doing the tour, as part of it is open to the public, but we were pretty tired at this point and still had to go back and get our luggage at the hotel and go to our new hotel, which was a bit further out from the center of London.

OK! That’s it for today! I’ll be sharing more throughout the week!

Photography, Year in Review

Top 20 Favorite Pictures From My Camera in 2017

This post was actually something that I had thought of doing at the end of 2016, but never made it happen. But after another year of fun experiences behind my camera, I decided I needed to make it happen this time!

I always want to make it clear to others that I don’t think of myself as a photographer. I know a few things from practicing and being a communications professional, but I have way too much respect and admiration for both friends and strangers who take photos for a living, to claim to be anything more than an amateur.

For example, I took my camera out with me when I was feeding cows with my Dad when I was home for Christmas. Dad was taking a bale out with the tractor, which meant that the cows would let me get pretty close. Plus, it had snowed the day before and around mid-morning it was beautiful and sunny, so I just knew I could get some pretty good photos!… And guess who didn’t realize until JUST LAST NIGHT that I never had an SD card in camera the whole time, so all those photos were gone the second after I took them #notarealphotographer.

Regardless, photography is something that I really do enjoy and from time to time some of the pictures that I take aren’t half bad for an amateur (especially when the location is gorgeous).

So, in no particular order, these are my top 20 photos that I took in 2017. I originally tried to just pick 10 photos but it was impossible because of my big trip to Thailand where I saw so many beautiful things!

Enjoy!

“Docked” at a private island on the Andaman Sea near Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Karon Beach in Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Karon Beach in Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

On the Andaman See near Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

An island snack in Thailand (bananas and purple potatoes). (More photos like this.)

Elephant in Phuket, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand. Thompson played a big role in revitalizing the Thai silk industry after World War II. (More photos like this.)

Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand. Thompson played a big role in revitalizing the Thai silk industry after World War II. (More photos like this.)


Flowers at the Pak Khlong Talat flower market in Bangkok, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. (More photos like this.)

Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok, Thailand. (More photos like this.)


Touring a cookie and cracker manufacturer (that uses U.S. wheat flour) outside Bangkok, Thailand, with the 2017 U.S. Wheat Associates South Asia Board Team. (More photos like this.)


Paul Bunyon’s Foot on the hike to Gem Lake near Estes Park, Colorado. (More photos like this.)


Nothing spectacular about the quality of this picture, except that it is hilarious. Thanks Mom 🙂 (Up at Gem Lake near Estes Park, Colorado) (More photos like this.)


This was NOT on zoom! (Up at Gem Lake near Estes Park, Colorado) (More photos like this.)

Hard Red Winter Wheat Harvest in North Central Kansas. (More pictures like this.)

My family pup Jack. (More pictures like this.)

Early morning walk around Phillips Reservoir near Sumpter, Oregon, in the Blue Mountains. (More pictures like this.)

My best friend Megan in the Blue Mountains in Oregon. (More pictures like this.)

Obviously I didn’t take this one myself (thanks Megan!), but I wanted to include it because I really like. In this picture I know I was relaxed, in my happy place (my family cabin in the Blue Mountains) and surrounded by my family and best friend. It is certainly not a perfect picture in many ways, but its very me 🙂

Family, Friendship, Oregon

#MeganFINALLYGoestoOregon Part 2: The Cabin

Earlier this month, I traveled to Oregon for a much needed vacation and visit home.

As I shared in my Part 1 recap last week, my best friend Megan (from Kansas) tagged along so I could FINALLY share my home with her.

My previous post shared about the time we spent in my hometown of Hermiston, and today I’m sharing all about taking her up to my family’s cabin “The Diggins” (my happy place) near Sumpter, OR.

We did a lot of relaxing, went on walks, played with my pup Jack, took the kayaks out on Philips Lake and Megan kept up with her daily yoga pose challenge. We explored nearby Sumpter, where Megan learned all about gold mining, and had dinner at the historical Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City. We also hung out with my grandparents, who were also up for the weekend.

And of course, we took a LOT of pictures.











Megan, I am so happy that I finally got to share my home and my happy place with you. And if you weren’t considered part of the family before, you definitely are now.

And to The Diggins, thanks for always being exactly what I need.

Cheers!

Agriculture, Kansas, Photography

{2017} Kansas Wheat Harvest

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson

I have heard this quote many times before, but since I came across it again a few weeks ago, it has really stuck with me.

Happiness, yes. Tom was certainly right about that one.

No matter what is going on during my day, month or season, so much of who I am is rooted in agriculture and the happiness that it brings me is an anchor that I can rely on. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but I strongly believe that a job and your life’s work shouldn’t just be an 8 to 5 that pays the bills.

Over the past couple of days I have been back in Kansas to attend the National Festival of Breads (more on that in a future blogpost), and I had the chance to accompany the Kansas Wheat Commission and their baking contest finalists on a farm tour during the start of wheat harvest.

Everyone knows my happy place is in the Blue Mountains, but I think a Kansas farm with dirt beneath me and blue skies above comes in close second.

In my mind there are few things more beautiful than amber waves of grain, and that afternoon was just the medicine that I didn’t know I needed.

Thanks to the Kejr family for hosting us.

Enjoy!

Cheers!