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!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 31

{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 not-so-glam 20-something life. See past posts HERE}

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London

I just returned from a long girls weekend in London with one of my best friends Brandi! Stay tuned later this week or next for a few blog posts all about our adventures!

In Case You Missed It On the Blog in March

  1. Favorite Things I Need to Tell You About Right Now – Vol. 2
  2. Friday Jam Session: Post Break Up
  3. Third Work Anniversary and 10 Things I’ve Learned
  4. So There’s That Vol. 30
  5. Friday Jam Session: 90’s Country
  6. Guest Feature on Whimsical September’s Saturday Sit-Down

Mom and Dad Visit DC

My parents visited me in DC at the end of March. We had a wonderful time and I wrote all about it on the blog here.

Sawyer June

This sassy girl just turned 9 months a few days ago and her personality is really starting to show. Snapchat videos and FaceTiming with her is my favorite! This particular round of pictures is EXTRA ADORABLE.

I mean SERIOUSLY!!!

Guest Blogger Saturday Sit-Down

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger for Whimsical September. Since I discovered her last summer, Erica has become one of my favorite bloggers to regularly keep up with, so I was thrilled to be featured in her Saturday Sit-Down series. She did a fabulous job at doing her research and personalizing questions for me to really showcase what my blog and I are all about. You can read it here (and check out the rest of her blog while you are there)!

Wild Love

Having been a dancer growing up, I could watch dance routine and choreography videos ALL DAY LONG. Kyle Hanagami has become one of my favorites to follow on Instagram. This is video is one of his most recent choreographed routines, which also features one of my favorite dancers, Julianne Hough, and music by another favorite, James Bay.

Winter Sunrise

Mark Alan Andre Photography

I can never get enough of beautiful DC photography. And even though I am hating this eternal winter we seem to be having, I was practically drooling over this photo and the full series.  The photographer is a fellow K-State grad too 🙂 Great work Mark!

Life is Too Short for Fake Cheese and Fake Friends

This article was technically written for moms, but even though I am not at that stage of life yet, I can still relate on many levels. More and more, I am seeing and experiencing the equal difficulty, stages and crucial importance of adult friendships.

“I want friendships that fill me up, because no one is ever satisfied after eating fake cheese.”

Amen, girl. Read the full article here.

National Ag Day

National Ag Day was March 20, and in DC that means a series of special events and guests in town. I spent one evening speaking with college students attending the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Policy Institute, and shared a bit about my job and path to living and working in DC. AFA also invited me to join them for an event at USDA, where Vice President Pence spoke and signed an official proclamation for National Ag Day. I had never heard Pence formally speak before, and was happy to hear most of his comments. There continues to be a lot of uncertainty right now regarding trade, so personally I think that part of his speech was a bit sugar coated.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Instagram stories) of life lately.

Going on my resume: Winning the office March Madness bracket 2 of the 3 years I’ve been working here.

My Life in Memes

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

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So, There’s That.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Jade

“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.

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This next guest has been on my wish list of people to feature for a while now, but I’ve been trying my best to feature people from a wide variety of colleges, jobs and areas of study, so when people like Jade fall into the two categories that I know the most people in — K-State grads and people who studied agriculture communications/journalism —  I feel like I need to at least try to spread them out.

But those people also tend to be some of my most eager participants 🙂 so here we are. Jade’s story is such a fun one to feature. I met Jade while we were students at K-State, though I don’t know if I can quite pinpoint when I first met her. We both studied agriculture communications, lived at neighboring women’s scholarship houses, were both ambassadors for the College of Ag and we had quite a few mutual friends. Overall though, most of memories with her go back to when we were both taking “ag mag,” which is a production class for our college bi-annual magazine. I was the lead editorial designer and she was the lead photo editor so we spent a lot of hours in the lab together. Jade is a self-starter and betters herself by plunging right in and learning along the way. She is sincere, driven by her faith and so incredibly creative. Personally, I think Jade and I have similar personalities in a lot of ways, which might be she’s one of my favorite “creatives” to look to for inspiration.

I did a mini-portrait session with her for my college graduation, and I guarantee you that if I am back in that part of the country when I need professional photos done in the future, she will be my first choice! I hope you enjoy reading a bit of Jade’s story!

– Amanda

(headshot photo by La Brisa Photography)

Name: Jade Comstock
Age: 29
Hometown: Fall River, KS
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Communications & Journalism
Current Location: Salina, KS
Current Job: Missionary for Christian Challenge Salina & Photographer/Owner of Jade Creates
Background Story: I grew up in a family of five on a small horse farm in Southeast Kansas. I grew up loving being outside and loving agriculture.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I was heavily involved in FFA in high school, so that meant we traveled to Manhattan a lot for events and I fell in love! I originally majored in Ag Education, but soon figured out it wasn’t for me. I loved to College of Agriculture and didn’t want to leave, so Ag Communications was an easy switch that ended up being perfect for me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
My first few years I lived in the Alpha of Clovia Scholarship house. I also loved being a part of Ag Ambassadors. But the most impactful was being a part of Christian Challenge my senior year.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I can look back and say I was way too focused on friendships and relationships and school was very secondary to that. It even led me to leave K-State for a while to get away. While I love the people I met and grew with, I do wish I would have focused a little more on classes!

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Be open to anything! This is a scary time of life, but you never know where the next year will take you. Have fun with your friends and be open to new opportunities! Also… take a fun class. Wine tasting was one of my favorite classes and I actually learned things that I still use today!

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
It’s been a little crazy! I moved to Salina to do photography full time. After a year of doing that, I knew I needed to be doing more. I started a job with a non-profit here in town where I was able to mentor and work with eight high school girls. I loved it so much! Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to join Christian Challenge Staff in Salina. The organization made a big impact on me in college, and I really felt like this is where God was leading me, so I made the switch. While all of that was going on, I was continuing to build my photography business and have started to branch into baking for events!

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Being an Ag Comm grad has helped me so much! I was able to get ahead with my photography by knowing how to market myself well and use social media to my advantage.

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?
The not so fun side of running a small business… taxes and such! I still feel a little clueless on this stuff, but am learning every year.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
A good old fashioned planner is my best friend! But outside of that, I love using social media to market myself and my business. (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) I use wordpress to run my blog. I have an awesome app called Pocketsuite that keeps all of my contacts, contracts, calendars, billing and more all together. And.. back on the not fun taxes and such..Quickbooks Self-Employed helps me keep my business and personal finances separate. I really could go on and on… I love apps and technology. There are so many that help me run my business!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
As you can probably tell… I love doing lots and lots of things. This is a strength as I get to do lots of different things and really experience life. BUT sometimes I get my plate overloaded and I get stretched too thin and drive myself a little crazy.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
People! My jobs all revolve around people. Getting to make a difference in peoples lives helps me see that it’s worth doing and I can keep going.  And, obviously, my faith. Above all trusting in God to lead me and give me peace and keep me going

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Again, putting God first helps me stay focused. But outside of that, i am working on being healthier, so working out daily has really helped energize me. I love getting outside and traveling. Seeing new places is very exciting and pushes me to be more creative in my work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Probably having a business that hasn’t flopped!

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I am currently single and living with my dogs. This past summer I got my first house, so I have spent a lot of time trying to channel my inner Joanna Gaines and make it look pretty. I also love love love baking. Getting to do that for my coworkers and students is so much fun.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
I have recently rebranded my business. I am looking to expand outside of photography. I want to offer baked goods and just more creative insights to people.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Coffee and Jesus. Every morning. 🙂

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I need music. It keeps me creative and focused!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Hmm… maybe a baker in a big city… or an adventure wedding photographer… or an interior designer. I could go on and on.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
The people. They are awesome. I miss them so much. Oh and of course Taco Lucha. Gimmie all them tacos.

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Graduation – May 2013

Thanks for being my guest today Jade! I love to see how you are growing personally and professionally since college, and I am excited to follow along and see how you expand your brand! Good luck!

For quick reference, I listed all of the ways you can connect with Jade’s business online. I would definitely recommend checking out her Instagram, it’s so pretty!

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest

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!