Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Girls Trip to Nashville

Over Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for a long girls weekend with my best friends Megan and Kyla.

These gals were my roommates for 4.5 years in college, first in the women’s scholarship house, then out on our own. (They both took an extra semester and my first job was in our college town so that explains the extra half a year I got with them!) Megan and I were co-maids of honor in Kyla’s wedding, and even as we’ve all grown up and lead pretty different lives, their friendship continues to be one of the most important things I have.

A few years ago I got the idea that we should do a reunion trip every 5 years since we graduated college (May and December 2013), and it took no convincing to bring them on board with the idea. We chose Nashville because it was a new city to all of us and travel-wise it was about halfway for all of us.

We all got in on Saturday afternoon and stayed until Wednesday morning. We looked at a lot of options for where to stay, but finally settled on an AirBnB apartment that was across the street from Vanderbilt’s campus and right off of Music Row. We were so happy with it! It gave us the room to relax a bit each day, a kitchen so we could keep some snacks and drinks we picked up on a grocery store run and we even stayed in one night with pizza and a movie. The location was fantastic for the price and I was even able to do an emergency load of laundry for free (long story!). If you are planning a trip to Nashville and look at AirBnB, we highly recommend this one!

Our plan for the trip was to keep it pretty low-key. We wanted to explore the city, eat good food and just enjoy each other’s company without being on-the-go too much. We did some “Pinterest-planning” and thankfully we all still have quite a few of the same interests. I have a lot of pictures to share, so I decided to split up the trip by category instead of day-by-day.

Neighborhoods We Explored

Nashville has such a fun culture and so many little neighborhoods to explore!

12South
This was probably the neighborhood we heard about the most prior to our trip and now we know why. There are so many fun places to eat and boutiques to shop at, all varying in price, but all still staying true to the neighborhoods artsy, laid back culture. 12South is also home to MANY of the city’s fun murals! We walked about a mile to get here from our apartment and spent a good 5 or so hours exploring. Our favorite store was definitely White’s Mercantile, which is further down the street, so make sure you don’t miss it!

These stripes are on the side of the Draper James store, owned by Reese Witherspoon.

This place is on a side street right off of 12South, and was the perfect place for a stop when the heat got to be a bit much. They have a large, unique selection of beer, and we were all wishing that we could have taken a growler or two back home with us.

Hillsboro Village

This neighborhood was a bit closer to where we were staying and also home to a lot of fun food and shopping. We really enjoyed the store A Thousand Faces.

Downtown  // Broadway Street

Broadway Street in downtown Nashville is about as iconic as it gets. And it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, the place is always busy, but always has a pretty laid back vibe

The Gulch
If I lived in or around Nashville, I bet I would spend a lot of time in The Gulch. Just right near downtown, The Gulch has young and hip culture and a great mix of everything, but is still easy to get around in and feel comfortable at. It is also home to the Instagram famous “What Lifts You” mural, which were just right around the corner from where we took a workout class.

Vanderbilt
I don’t actually have much to share here, but since our apartment was right on the edge of Vanderbilt’s campus and the fact that it is also an arboretum, we decided to take a walk through part of campus. We didn’t make it over to see their stadium, but at that point pizza and getting off of our feet was calling our names. However, considering its location, I think Vanderbilt would be a fun place to go to college… and I say that as a Kansas State alum who thinks Manhattan is one of the best little places on earth 🙂

Fun Things We Did

Pedestrian Bridge

When we explored downtown during the day, we started on the other side of the Pedestrian Bridge that starts at Nissan Stadium (where the Tennessee Titans play) and crosses over the Cumberland River and ends just a block off of Broadway.

Yazoo Brewing
One of Megan’s friends from Wichita used to live in Nashville and recommended Yazoo as her “favorite brewery EVER.” So naturally, we went. We each got a DIY flight that allowed us to pick our 6 beers and spent the rainy afternoon chatting inside and working our way through some great brews. I don’t think any of us tried something that we didn’t like and we all loved the atmosphere of the brewery.

Dierks Bentley’s Whisky Row

Our first night (Saturday) we went out on Broadway and ended up spending the whole time at Dierks Bentley’s new bar. (Megan and I are huge Dierks fans!) The first level had a live country cover band and the other three floors, which includes the rooftop had a mix of live DJ’s and non-live music of all genre’s. For what is most likely their busiest night of the week, I felt like this bar was still manageable crowd-wise and clean enough all things considered. Don’t get me wrong, it was still packed, but you can tell when a bar puts a bit of thought into its flow and crowd control.

LA Jackson’s 
One night after dinner in The Gulch, our plan was hop around to a few rooftop bars in the area, but loved our first stop at LA Jackson’s, which is atop the Thompson Nashville Hotel, so we parked it there for the night. It had great views and a fun drink menu.

Country Music Hall of Fame

This museum was definitely worth the price tag (around $24)! We spent about 3 hours here, which was a sufficient time for someone like me who likes to read most of the signage. Right now it has temporary exhibits on Loretta Lynn, Shania Twain and one for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill together. My understanding is these rotate out for various artists throughout the year. The rest of the museum has a variety of permanent and other rotating exhibits that focus on different era’s and milestones of country music.

Grand Ole Opry

I was so, so happy that Megan and Kyla were both up for making a visit to the Grand Ole Opry a part of our trip! We went on Tuesday, our last night, and it ended up being a great way to round out our vacation. We had tickets on the upper deck and off to one of the sides, but the whole experience is still very intimate that we didn’t mind at all. On the bill for our night was Rascal Flatts, Dan + Shay, Carly Pearce, Chris Janson, Connie Miller and Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers. It was a fun lineup and except for Carly Pearce, this was the first time I’ve seen any of these artists live. One note to anyone using this post to help plan a trip of their own… the Opry House is a little bit of a drive outside of central Nashville. It’s not too bad at all, but when everything else is really close together, just make sure you plan for this.

Parthethon

This is the recreation of the temple in Greece that is dedicated to the goddess Athena, that resides in Nashville’s Centennial Park. It was originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, and now includes an art museum. We didn’t make time to visit the museum, but we did snap a few pictures and Megan (who is a certified yoga teacher in her spare time) couldn’t pass up the opportunity had to “stop, drop and yoga.” 🙂

Pure Barre and Shakti Yoga
If you had told me back when we were in college that we would actively seek to add a workout or two into vacation, I wouldn’t have believed you. Not that we didn’t enjoy exercising back then, but there was definitely a time when the words “vacation” and “exercise” did NOT go together. Megan went solo to a hot yoga class one morning (just a bit intense for us other two amateurs lol) and then we all headed to a 7 AM Pure Barre class together another morning.

Food

Barcelona Wine Bar
Spanish small plates, paella, cocktails & wine are offered in an intimate, late-night setting.
This is where we ate on our first night and it was sooooo good. I’m a sucker for good tapas, and both the mood and the service at this place was top notch. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit though, that I JUST realized that there are THREE locations near me in the DC/NOVA area. There was nothing that we ordered that we didn’t like, but we LOVED the Spiced Beef Empanadas, the Jamon and Manchego Croquetas and the Smoked Pork Belly!

Frothy Monkey
Food + Coffee + Wine
We had breakfast at the 12South location on our first full day. They have a great menu and we passed on the bakery items, but it all looked great. We got here a bit early and are thankful that we missed the big brunch/lunch crowd.

Adele’s
Farm-to-fork restaurant with a cool vibe offering New American dishes, cocktails & patio seating.
I am pretty sure without even confirming with the other girls that this was our FAVORITE meal of the trip! Adele’s is located in The Gulch, has a great atmosphere and also great service. It was a bit more on the spendy side but worth every bite! I usually take pictures of my food when I travel, but never actually share them with anyone or on the blog… but I had to this time! The presentation was great and I want to give you a peek at just how yummy the food is. And though they aren’t pictured here, you can bet that we also enjoyed fun cocktails, a summer squash salad as an app and shared TWO desserts.

My scallops entree.

Megan and Kyla both got the steak.

Fido
This converted pet shop features gourmet espresso drinks, elevated food & a funky coffeehouse vibe.
We stopped here for breakfast in the Hillsboro Village. I can’t remember what the other two girls had, but my chorizo, eggs and hashbrowns with tortillas was AWESOME!

Too Boots
Offbeat chain serving cornmeal-crusted pizzas with quirky Cajun toppings in a kid-friendly space.
We had pizza delivered here for our movie night in (watched The Greatest Showman!) and I loved their unique topping combos. Not sure if it was a random one-time perk, but our delivery was free! Can’t beat that.

Biscuit Love
Bright, spacious offshoot of a food truck known for locally sourced Southern breakfast & lunch fare.
This place was easily the most recommended place to eat at in Nashville on Pinterest and now I can confirm that there is a reason why! It was SO GOOD and I’m sad that I can’t become a regular. We went pretty early on a week day because it was right around the corner from the Pure Barre studio in The Gulch, but otherwise I would recommend getting there early and mentally prepare that you are probably going to have to wait awhile (luckily Nashville does have 2 locations). And I couldn’t review this place without RAVING about the “Chronic Bacon,” which is spicy AND sweet. To clarify, my first job out of college was working for the Kansas Pork Association, so I have tried A LOT of different bacon dishes, and this hands down is my new favorite.

Mike’s Ice Cream and Coffee Bar
This bright ice cream parlor offers cones, sundaes & old-school sodas plus espresso drinks.
Two words: Espresso Milkshake…. i.e. a milkshake made with any flavor of ice cream they have with two shots of espresso added. I’m not really a milkshake girl normally, but I was 100% behind this afternoon snack. I got mine with my favorite ice cream, butter pecan, and have zero regrets.

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville
I probably should have left this off the list, but for the three of us it is somewhat a comical part of our trip. The short of it is that it was the last day of our trip to we were worn out, it was raining, we had all become pretty hangry in the span of about 10 minutes and we were on Broadway where most places have live music acts all day every day, which is normally great except that it was SO LOUD and just all a little more than we could handle. As we walked by Margaritaville, I practically yelled at the other two ahead of me to stop and come back because while there was live music, the volume was much more manageable. (My younger self is cracking up at this right now). To be fair, the food wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t anything special, except that it did the job. So my advice is to swing by for a fun margarita menu and skip the food… unless you are hangry and need to eat in quiet.

**********

If you have made it this far, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions about visiting Nashville. We had a wonderful time and filled our tanks with a much needed reunion and best friend time. And as for Nashville, I definitely plan to go back someday!

Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

A Week in the Midwest

This past week I made a trip back to the Midwest for a week full of learning and professional development, catching up with friends, fun and work. Other than the fact that there wasn’t much relaxing, I’d say that it was a pretty well-rounded (and very full!) trip.

AFA Alliance Forum

If you know me at all personally, chances are you’ve heard me talk at some point about Agriculture Future of America (AFA). This collegiate organization was a game-changer for my college experience, and continues to have a huge impact on my life today. Every year during the annual Leaders Conference for students, there is along a forum for the AFA Alliance, the organization’s alumni branch (but you don’t have to be an alum to join!) of which I am a lifetime member. I was so excited to be allotted the time from work to attend this year’s forum. Simply put, these are my “people” and I always leave my time with them feeling refreshed and with new ideas and tools to implement in my work-life and environment. This year’s forum focused on “Trust.” Trust between the agriculture and food industry and its consumers, trust in systems and working through what we don’t understand, trust between colleagues in the work place and more. We heard from speakers on time management, negotiating (on many levels), cultural intelligence and asking better questions. We also spent time chatting with each other about the high’s and low’s of what we are facing as professionals in the agriculture and food industry, which fostered opportunities to learn from each other.

If you are a professional in the agriculture and food industry and are looking for a opportunity for professional development I would highly recommend joining the Alliance and I would love to answer any of your questions!

I ALSO am very excited to share that my peers selected me to be a part of the Alliance Planning Committee, so in 2018 I will be serving as its Vice Chair and in 2019 I will be its Chair. So basically… be prepared to hear a bit more about all this in the time to come 🙂

Kansas City is one of my FAVORITE cities!



Boulevard Wheat is my FAVORITE beer so I was pretty excited that I finally had the chance to visit its brewery in KC. On the last evening of the forum, we had a joint reception there with the AFA Track 4 students (so primarily senior getting ready to graduate in December or next May.)


On Sunday morning, Michael, Ted and I joined Track 4 again for a panel discussion on “Pursuing Lifelong Leadership”…so basically chatting about our experiences navigating our post-grad lives and “adulting”, the importance of staying involved in things that fuel your interests and develop you personally and professionally and anything they wanted to ask about. And they really did have some great questions! I really enjoy these kinds of things because for me, having mentors that get me and a network of people whom I can go to with complicated questions or even chat with about the seemingly little things with has been something I certainly don’t take for granted. I hope that even if it was just for an hour, that something I said resonated with and encouraged someone else.

He wasn’t at the forum, but I was able to squeeze in a quick brunch with my friend Zech who is now living in KC. Zech is one of my sister’s good friends from high school, so it was great to catch up with someone from good old Eastern Oregon and hear about the really awesome stuff he is up to now. I love when we all grow up and my sister’s friends become my friends too, and vice versa.

Wichita

After I was finished with the Alliance Forum, I picked up my rental car and drove the quick 3 hours to Wichita, where Megan, my best friend and college roommate lives. Since I was in KC for the the forum Thursday through Sunday and then had a work event there scheduled for the following Thursday, it didn’t really make sense for me to fly back to DC again in between. I took one of the days off from work so we could get some quality time in together and then spent the other full day working out of her home office. Keeping up with friends when you live so far away from each other and have separate full lives going on is really hard, but so worth it when you have some great ones 🙂

Thank you Megan and Aaron for letting me crash for a couple of days!

Sonic is scarce on the East Coast, or at least in my area, so I went straight for the Route 44.

Megan’s pups Ned (german shepard) and Luna (corgi mix) were never far from the new excited person in their home…

Trade Talk

After a few quick days in Wichita, I drove back up to Kansas City for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) annual Trade Talk event. This event is a part of a larger conference, but essentially it is a day where organizations and companies across the agriculture and food industry set up booths featuring their spokesperson(s) and broadcasters from across the U.S. cycle through and record interviews all day long. That gives them a bank of content they can use sooner if the topics are timely or they can save it for the next few months when they need to fill in their programs. It also allows us as an organization to focus on a few topics and talking points that are at the forefront for us right now. It was a long, but fruitful day.

I decided the booth needed a bit more flair this year so I made two of these arrangements while I was in Wichita. I was pretty happy with how they turned out 🙂

So I’m back in DC now for a few weeks… until I travel back to Kansas (Manhattan this time!) for another work trip at the beginning of December. Lucky me!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Megan

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

**********

If you read this blog even occasionally, then you probably already know who today’s guest is. But in case you don’t… I met my best friend Megan at the beginning of my freshman year at K-State when we both lived in Smurthwaite Scholarship House. We quickly became inseparable and the world hasn’t been quite the same since (dramatic I know, but we are the first to admit that we can be pretty obnoxious together).  We lived together for 4.5 years,  and even as we’ve “grown up” and I moved across the country again, we’ve been really fortunate that our friendship has only grown and evolved to best fit where each of us are at in life. Most of my best memories since 2009 involve this gal.

But this post is really about Megan and her story. First and foremost, what you need to know about Megan is that she has such a kind, thoughtful heart and she REALLY loves food. She has a loud, but warm and contagious personality that makes people feel welcome and like an old friend. She is naturally curious, fiercely committed to what is important to her and isn’t afraid to own who she is, mistakes and all. Because we are so close, I have had a backstage pass to every part of Megan’s life, and I am honestly so proud of who she is and what she has accomplished so far in life. I know I am a better person because of her.

-Amanda 

Name: Megan Torline
Age: 27
Hometown: Derby, KS
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): BS in Food Science
Current Location: Wichita, KS
Current Job: Research and Development Food Scientist at BlendTech, Inc.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a vet. I was always the animal lover of my family and asked for a dog for every birthday and Christmas. In high school, I worked at a vet clinic my junior and senior year. This gave me a bit of experience in the environment and as my mom put it, “made sure I could handle blood.”

When choosing a college, K-State appealed to me because it had a vet school. There were a lot of perks of doing my undergrad there, plus in-state tuition made a lot more sense to me. My first semester really dove into animal science courses that exposed me to the agriculture industry that I really knew nothing about. Growing up in a more urban area, a lot of the concepts that were part of growing up for most people in my animal science classes were brand new for me. (Amanda here… pretty sure it was studying for ASI 102 our first semester that really solidified our friendship!)

I took a food science course as an elective thinking, “I like food,” and it really opened my eyes to new career options that I didn’t even know existed. I swapped my major to Food Science/Pre-Vet and continued to take more food science classes. Eventually, I dropped the Pre-Vet all together and stuck with Food Science.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I had various jobs all through college, so I feel like my involvement in college groups was significantly less than it would have been otherwise. I lived in Smurthwaite Scholarship Leadership house with Amanda for my freshman and sophomore year of college. Smurthwaite had a lot of house activities that kept us busy and we also had various events with the men’s scholarship house, Smith House. I met some of my closest college friends through time spent in the scholarship houses.

Right before my last semester of college, I interned at BlendTech Inc., a spice and seasoning blend company, in Wichita, KS. As a research and development intern, I helped develop seasoning blends for various companies within the meat industry. This internship was a great fit for me and at the end of the summer, I was offered a full time position after I graduated that next December. I was extremely lucky in that I went into my last semester of college with a job already lined up.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I think one of the biggest struggles for me in college was saying no to the fun activities like spending time out with friends, tailgates or hanging out in Aggieville. I think there are definitely times I would have been significantly less stressed, if I had just stayed home and worked on homework or caught up on sleep. I was also (and still am) a fairly good procrastinator. When I wasn’t feeling like doing homework or studying, I was very good at finding any sort of distraction to do instead (which let’s be real, what college student isn’t?). Again, I know that if I had just buckled down and done the work, I probably could have saved myself from a few more late nights and stressful weeks.

I don’t think I would have it any other way though. I know that a large part of all that is just my personality and isn’t really something I could change anyway. But I also think that by choosing to spend an afternoon at a tailgate or staying up a little too late on a weeknight chatting and hanging out with friends, I really cemented in some of the friendships I still value today. And in the grand scheme of things, what’s a few stressful semesters compared to some lifelong friendships?

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?

Hang in there!! It’s so easy to get caught up in the “almost done” mindset and focus so much on being done that you don’t even enjoy parts of your senior year. My last semester of college was definitely stressful, but it was also included some really fun classes. I wish I had spent a little less time focusing on how stressed I was and more time focusing on the enjoyable classes I got to end my college career with and the great people I got to live and hang out with.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I have been at the same job since I graduated college almost 4 years ago. I work as a Research and Development Food Scientist at BlendTech. BlendTech is a spice and seasoning blend supplier. We work primarily within the meat industry and supply dry rubs, marinades and injects food companies across the country. We also work some within the snack food industry, supplying seasonings to sunflower seed, chip and other snack food companies. My average week consists of a couple of meetings with current or new ingredient suppliers to stay up to date on ingredients that are currently on the market, developing and testing new seasoning blends based on customer request, current market trends or my own creativity, and creating and updating technical documentation for each of our blends for our customers. I have been extremely lucky to have a job that is always challenging me and every day is different than the one before it.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
In college, I was convinced that once I didn’t have classes, homework or studying to do, my life would be so much easier! I’d have plenty of time to do all the things and my stress levels would be practically non-existent. Adulting is hard. And I know people (jokingly or not) say this all the time, but I never really understood it until I graduated college. I also believe this is something that no matter how prepared or experienced you think you are, it will always throw you for a loop, because you just don’t know until you experience it. There have been many other challenges along the way, but the biggest challenge that I wasn’t ready for has been learning how to deal with new stresses and to sort of figure it out as I go.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I actually don’t use a ton of new and exciting technology at work besides my email. Outside of work, the calendar on my phone is the only way I can keep track of anything. Player FM podcast app gets me through my commute. I also use a meditation app daily. My current favorite is Stop, Breath, Think.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a rock star at forming habits. Whether it’s remembering to take my vitamins, sticking with my bedtime or maintaining a workout schedule, I know how my brain works and what steps to take to cement them in for good. However, I’ve always struggled with managing my time. The main cause of this is a combination of thinking things will take much less time than they actually do and trying to switch from project to project, which makes everything take longer.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I’m a pretty big fan of to-do lists. When things get crazy or stressful, the first thing I like to do is get organized. I prioritize my things to get done, I try to minimize potential distractions (lately that means putting my phone in airplane mode so notifications don’t even show up), I pour myself a cup of coffee and pick out some jammy music. I’ve learned that a positive work environment is crucial to getting me in the zone to get stuff done.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
One of the main things I have really stuck to my guns on since graduating college is leaving work at work. I don’t bring my work home with me in the evenings and I don’t check my work email at home. Of course there are always the exceptions (waiting for an important email to come through, or on a work trip and work carries into the evening), and sometimes when there is a ton to get done or I’m behind, I’ll stay late or go into work early, I don’t mind that, sometimes it has to be done. But my line is drawn at working on work projects in my home. For me, that gives me permission to shut my work-brain off and enjoy my evenings. This gives me the space I need to do things that I love like yoga, hanging out with my friends or having dinner with my family. As long as I’m making time for these things, I feel like I’m much less likely to get burnt out at work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Earlier this year, I started a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training to become a certified yoga teacher. I started doing yoga more seriously in college, not necessarily because I loved yoga, but mostly because I knew I needed to be doing some form of physical activity and the thought of cardio and weightlifting sounded terrible. After college, I joined a gym and kept up with the yoga practice and eventually grew to love it for more than just the physical benefit. Starting the training at the beginning of this year has proved to be a huge, unexpected learning experience. Yoga helps me to clear my head and get grounded. It challenges me to focus on myself and my practice and not compare myself to others. The training has been a huge time commitment and a lot of hard work, but so worth it! I’ll finish my teacher training in October. The plan is to find someplace that I can teach others a couple pf evenings a week. I love the idea of introducing people to yoga and sharing the benefits and the joy that I get out of it. It also feels like a great way for me to give back and help me spend a little more time doing something I love.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Life consists of a LOT of yoga (see above question – 200 hours is a lot). Other than yoga, I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend and his 4-year-old daughter. Hanging with a 4-year-old means I get to release my inner child and do things like play on a playground and build blanket forts to watch Disney movies in. My two dogs, Luna, a 3-year-old Corgi, and Ned, a 9-month-old German Shepherd, also do a pretty good job of adding to the chaos (and fun) of life.

I also just started my own blog as well, called Her Inspired Adventure!” My 27th birthday this month marked the start of My Year of Mindfulness. I am using this year to approach all aspects of my life in a mindful and curious way. My goal is to dig deep and really figure out what it means to live an authentic life and speak my truth. As a way to document my year, I started my blog. I’m really excited to dive into this new adventure and see what this next year has in store.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
During the summer months, I start my mornings by walking a couple miles with the dogs. This does all of us some good by getting us out of the house and getting our blood pumping to start the day. In the winter, that’s a little harder, because it’s so much darker in the morning and I’m not about to willingly spend time outside in single digits. Winter mornings usually include dog cuddles on the couch under a big warm blanket instead. Coffee is also involved somewhere in the morning process too. But starting the day with two happy pups has become an essential start to my morning.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Coffee is always a must. I get THE WORST caffeine headaches without it. Yes, I do realize that means I have a problem.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
All limitations aside, I would be a Pinterest tester. Which technically I think is a thing. I think people are probably out there making a living off of testing ideas and things on Pinterest. I feel like that gives me the option to do so many different things. I could test recipes, do craft projects, clean my house, workout, DIY all the things, travel, pick up new hobbies…the possibilities are endless!

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?

  • Aggieville, the food, the people, the hilarious stories…
  • The fact that everyone around you REALLY FREAKING LOVES K-State.
  • Living with my best friends and having late night life chats that cause sleep deprivation.

*****

Thank you Megan for sharing your story! I am so thankful for our friendship and excited to follow along on your own blog (Because obviously I don’t get enough of you out of our bi-weekly 4 hour long phone calls. 

Cheers!

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!

Family, Friendship, Oregon

#MeganFINALLYGoestoOregon Part 1: Hermiston

Last week I traveled home to Eastern Oregon for a long-awaited vacation and this time around I had a tag along join me.

If you’ve read my blog before (or know me in real life), chances are you know or have at least heard about my best friend Megan. We met on the first day I arrived at the scholarship house at K-State, quickly became inseparable, and went on to live together for 4.5 years. Friendships as an adult when you live across the country from each other can be rough, but we’ve managed pretty darn well.

Since we met I have always wanted to share Eastern Oregon with her, so about a year ago I basically told her that she was expected to come with me the following summer.

The first part of our week was spent up at my family’s cabin, but we took a ton of pictures up there on both our phones and my DSLR that still need a bit of sorting, so we are going to jump around on this  Part 1 post 🙂

Reunited! Megan’s hair has always been pretty short, but I just cut my hair shorter than its been since I was a kid, so this picture kind of looks strange to me.

Our first night in Hermiston, my sister took us out to a new-ish local winery nearby. Echo Ridge Winery has been around a few years, but this was the first chance that I have had to try it! I will always love small towns, but I also love seeing how Eastern Oregon is growing in fun ways that highlight what it has to offer, while maintaining its small town culture. We did a tasting, and after agreeing that the Syrah was our favorite, we bought a bottle to take up to the cabin with us the next day.




We packed a lot into the week, especially since Megan was leaving a few days earlier than I was. I showed her the high school and the flower shop, since those are basically the main places where I grew up. Of course we grabbed food at my favorite taco truck for lunch and we drove out to the house I grew up in (my parents moved a little less than a year ago.) We also spent an evening with my childhood best friend Richole, (and saw her beautiful new house!) I love that my favorite people from different stages of my life know each other. Richole’s little boy Wesley (who is a regular “guest” on my So There’s That posts), is officially in the toddler stage and is just as shy and cute, as his mama was when she were little. I can’t believe that I didn’t take any pictures that night!


Didn’t take any pictures with the grandparents throughout the week, but this Snapchat that my sister sent me definitely made me smile.


On Megan’s last day I took her to the Umatilla County Fair and the Farm City Pro Rodeo. These are two of the things that she has heard me chat about endlessly over the years so it was fun to share that with her. We had a blast with my sister to round out the end of her visit.

Megan and I are definitely “soul sisters” in every way, and a large part of that is that she has also become friends with my family. My family is VERY close, so they have always made the effort to get to know and invest in the other important people in my life. Believe me when I say that I know that combination is really special.





Visiting home during the country fair and rodeo has its ups and downs. It’s great because I get to see a lot of people in one location. But there are drawbacks when your family is still involved in many ways behind the scenes. I love that we were able to round out each of the nights during the second half of the trip by going to the rodeo together.


But the star of the trip was definitely Miss Sawyer June (sorry Megan). She was just 3 weeks old when I arrived and I really could have spent the majority of my time snuggling with her. As I mentioned in a post soon after she was born, it’s been 23 years since there was a baby in this part of my family, so basically she’s the shiny new toy that no one can get enough of.


Even her Uncle Tom and Uncle Jay slowed down for some Sawyer time.

So that’s Part 1! I will be back soon with Part 2 and an overload of pictures from the cabin!

Cheers!

Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Staying Present

Sometime last year, my best friend Megan told me about a daily inspirational text service called “Shine Text” that she subscribed to for free. Essentially everyday at whatever time you designate, you get a text with a short motivational message that focuses on one of the focus-areas that you indicated you were interested in when you signed up. It also usually includes a fun image/meme and links to articles and videos that further discuss the topic and provide action steps and advice.

Is it sort of cheesy? Definitely. But I do believe in the power of positive thinking, and with so many negative distractions that most of us have to overcome or try to ignore from day to day, trying to make a habit of reading my Shine Text each day is a goal that really has improved my attitude and mood.

Last month I received the image above and this message below, that has REALLY stuck with me lately:

“Our minds are expert time-travelers; bypassing the present to harp on the past or future 47% of the time… We get so caught up in the shams and delusions of the mind that we miss reality – what is happening now and here.”

The concept on focusing on what’s right in front of us and not dwelling on the past or anticipating what is to come too much, is not new. But lately it is something that I have struggled with a bit, so this Shine Text was perfectly timed.

I’ve always struggled with having too-specific expectations for things to come, and then have to deal with being very disappointed when it doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would. So regardless if the present is still good and positive, I sometimes miss out on appreciating those moments because I am stuck being upset about how it didn’t turn out instead. Another thing is that often, while I am counting down to something that I am looking forward too, I will measure the time based on all of the things both at home and work that have to be done in the meantime. This affects my attitude toward my “present” and belittles other day-to-day moments that deserve their own spotlight. Not that its bad to be excited for something in the future, but this is definitely different then setting a goal or even daydreaming about what we hope for.

I think these are easy patterns to fall into that are sometimes harder to identify. The Shine Text also shared this article, “3 Simple Steps to Stop Mental Time Traveling,” which didn’t necessarily present any groundbreaking advice, but instead broke down the challenge in a practical way that is a great reminder for how to approach each day.

I am a very observant and intuitive person. I know that those are two of my strengths, so I know that I am at my best when I shift my attention to the present moment, whatever that might be.

Being present makes me better appreciate what I have, rather than dwell on what I think I might want. It encourages me to get to the gym and say yes to spontaneous girl’s day trips. It helps me be more intentional with my conversations and commitments, and how I invest in “my people.” It makes me less anxious about what is ahead and better able to go with the flow. And it makes me notice the little moments like a stranger letting me use the last washer in the community laundry room, a new favorite jam or a flirty wink from my boyfriend.

Being present is better.

How do you focus on being more present?

And because this was a more word heavy post, here’s a jam that I have had on repeat lately. This is the slower version, but the upbeat version is great too!

Cheers!

 

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 20

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

These “So There’s That” posts really have become my favorite thing to blog and are essentially the core of what I share on here. I love that it allows me to properly journal what is going on in my life in a straightforward way and also share what’s making me laugh and influencing my life at the moment in various ways. Unfortunately, I went a little too long without posting one again… the goal is at least every 3 to 4 weeks. So I apologize if this post is a tad long, I’ve been busy since my last series post in mid-December!

**********

DIY New Patio Furniture

To know me is to know how much I hate the winter and being cold, and how much I LOVE sunshine and being outside. My family has always been all about creating spaces outside that are perfect for comfy evenings (or mornings) spent enjoying the weather and good company. All through college and afterward when I lived in Manhattan for 2 years I always had a porch/patio/balcony that allowed me to create that, but my first place in DC didn’t. I moved to my current place almost a year ago now, but by the time I found some extra time last summer it was almost too late to worry about furnishing my new balcony.

So fast forward to this spring, which I have been impatiently waiting for so I could tackle this right away. I did a lot of looking around to determine what I wanted to buy but finally decided that I wanted to go the difficult direction and make a project out of it.

This below was my inspiration from Pinterest. (Original link here.)

I used (14) 8x8x16 cinder blocks and (6) 4×4’s cut to 5.5 feet.

It was actually pretty easy to put all together. It was the loading onto the store cart, then into my car and then 9 trips from my parking garage and up into my condo (I did use a cart for the blocks) that really did me in. Eventually I will take it back apart to stain and seal the wood, and I might end up using nail glue on the top upright blocks.

I splurged a bit too much on the decorative pillows, but I couldn’t help it. Once I saw the crab pillow it all came together quickly! I do need to get rid of an extra coffee and end table set that I was stashing out on the balcony, but once those are gone I will do some planning for small table/rest of some sort and possibly some other decor and something to hold my plants that are currently inside on my window sill.

Soul Sisters

img_1288

I originally shared this picture a few months ago on Instagram, but I wanted to bring it back around because really, how cute and PERFECT are these mugs! They come as a set (obviously) and I gave Megan hers for Christmas. You can find them on Etsy from “The Sister Studio.” I love so many of her items!

FAIL

img_1241

This picture is also a few months old… You see I am always building on these posts so that they are supposed to be easier to pull together and edit once I’m ready to publish. Anyway, I couldn’t not share this photo. That drive way leads into my old apartment complex and I still can’t believe that a bus driver thought it could manage it.

Travel Journal

The biggest thing that has happened in 2017 so far is this little adventure I went on in February and have been busy posting just a few posts about….

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Travel Journal: Karon Beach Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Candid in Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand

Sister Act

These are all photos and videos with Jancz during my visit home in December. We love to send silly Snapchats back and forth to each other using the selfie filters, but doing them together ended up being really funny… well at least to us.

The Giving Keys

This is my original post from Facebook:

“I spent yesterday afternoon enjoying the DC weather in Georgetown and we stopped for some food and to watch the end of the Masters. A family of four walks up and asks if they can share the other two seats at our high top. Later as they are getting ready to leave the 8 (?) year old girl turns and hands me this necklace and says, “Thank you for being so nice, I want to give you my Giving Key.” Then she explains that you are supposed to wear and embrace your “word” and then pass it along to someone else when you feel ready or when you feel that someone else needs the message more than you. Dear sweet Luchina, thank you for making my day and the little lesson on love. Check out The Giving Keys movement my friends. We certainly need a bit more of this in our lives. #BeTheKey

Happy People

Currently obsessed with this tune. Really in my mind, Little Big Town can do no wrong.

Happy Thursday

Thursday’s are friends, fellowship and impromptu celebratory ice cream cakes.

Administrator of the Year

Back in January my Dad was recognized as Administrator of the Year for the Hermiston School District. I am proud to see him recognized for all of this hard work!

Read HERE —> http://hermiston.k12.or.us/blog/tom-spoo-2016-17-administrator-of-the-year/

Inauguration

Since I moved to the DC area one of the top things on my bucket list was to attend a presidential inauguration and was so thankful that my friend Logan signed us up to get tickets through Senator Moran. I did have a few people question and even shame me for wanting to go. I simply explained to them that 1.) You have no idea who I voted for, nor is it really any of your business to know or make guesses and 2.) I was definitely going to go REGARDLESS of who was being sworn in because I was there to experience a really cool and important part of history.

ANYWAY…
Aside from the 6(ish) hours that we stood in the misty weather, it really was a cool experience.

*Stole this picture from my friend was working the event up close.

Friends Are Part of the Glue

There are a couple of blogs that I read regularly, and one of those is a young teacher in Texas who mostly falls into the “mom blog” category. A while ago she had a friend pass away from cancer and shared this quote that I cut out of her Instagram comment. The quote resonated with me in so many ways that I immediately took a screenshot.

I didn’t want to share her whole personal post, so I sincerely apologize that I am not properly crediting it. You can find her blog here though: http://www.momfessionals.com/

AFA Alumni Spotlight

My best friend has a pretty unique job and I was so proud to see AFA, an organization I love so much, feature her in its spotlight! Go Megan!!

Read HERE —> www.agfuture.org/meganalumni


AFA Policy Institute

Speaking of AFA, the organization brought students to town for National Ag Day and I had the opportunity to join these fellow alumni for some round table discussions with the students about career paths and our own experiences. No matter what the event is, I always leave feeling refreshed and a bit more centered when I surrounded by the people brought together by AFA.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.

Girls Night Out = Korean BBQ and Karoke

img_1163

capture

img_1229

Snaps from Janci on the family farm are my favorite.

#Bromance

Last minute free tickets to Red Hot Chili Peppers? Why the heck not?!

Watched my Portland Trailblazers while they were in town to play DC. It was a pretty disappointing loss but great company!

My sleepy puppies back in Oregon.

Original caption from Facebook:

“Nicole and I always joke about how we practically have the same life story. Both Northeast Oregon girls with roots in the Oregon FFA Association who went to K-State Ag to study ag comm and had internships in the grain industry. And both of us ended up on the East Coast where I eventually hired her to do freelance work for my organization… which happens to be part of the grain industry. And that doesn’t even cover all of the other interests we have in common. But while we laugh about it when people ask us how we know each other, its actually the perfect example of how important it is to cultivate and invest in meaningful relationships, both personally and professionally, because you never know where that connection might lead you to or how that person might impact your life many years down the road.

On Sunday, we were able to share that together with Agriculture Future of America (AFA) students visiting DC for National Ag Day. We shared that we are better people and better ag communicators because we blend our personal and professional relationship. We support each other’s careers, the successes and DEFINITELY the challenges, but we are able to do that because of our friendship and respect for each other. And as a BONUS, it is just plain fun to have people to continue to share those life experiences, like #AgDay with.

This is year’s theme was “Food for Life” and I choose to think of that in terms of the relationships and my network in the agriculture industry, and how that fuels my life in every way. Without that network of people that makes me want to always strive to be better, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am in a job and industry that I absolutely love.”

My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.

img_1172

img_1170

14731283_1235416193174026_381418600574763698_n

Gilmore Girls  GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Wesley and Robin

Obviously I was long overdue for an update on my favorite two little kiddos who both celebrated their birthday’s in the last two months.

Robin: At Christmas time wearing her new bow from me!

Robin: A new one year old!

Wesley: Fortunately my trip home over Christmas meant I got to spend lots of time with him!

**********

So, There’s That.

Cheers!