Posts Tagged ‘photography’


Death ValleyZabriskie Point

Beauty can be found everywhere…even in a place called Death Valley.

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For all those soldiers who bravely serve (or served) our country, and for those men and women who sacrificed their lives in the name of American freedom…we thank you.

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Nishinomiya Japanese Gardens

Tranquility, peace and mystical beauty await you at the Nishinomiya Japanese Gardens in Spokane, Washington.

This was one of the activities my sister had planned for us when I went to visit her 3 weeks ago…she knows me well!  Before we left, she said, “Bring your camera!”  I knew I was in for a treat.

The Nishinomiya Japanese Gardens is just one of 5 lush gardens in the beautiful and expansive Manito Park, one of Spokane’s top attractions.

Breathtaking does not do it justice!  It was one postcard moment after another.

Restful green waters, sun-kissed foliage showing the first signs of Autumn, hidden alcoves, charming bridges, pagodas, colorful koi, secret pathways, serenity, tranquility…perfection.

What places do you escape to for peace and tranquility?

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So I want to move here…right away!  Can you blame me?

When my husband and I honeymooned in Santorini over 2 years ago, I fell in love with this breathtaking Greek island!  With 2 more countries to visit, I would have been perfectly content if we just stayed there for the remainder of our trip…or permanently!

The first two nights, we stayed in Santorini’s capital, Fira.  Everything about the capital was amazing!  From the whitewashed buildings with blue doors perched high above the cliffs…to the surreal landscapes overlooking the Mediterranean…to those romantic, idyllic sunsets that put others to shame…to those winding cobblestone roads that take you from one charming place to another.

Is it any wonder I’m spellbound by Santorini?

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So on July 11th, I turned 39, & it wasn’t as painful as I anticipated!  As a matter of fact, it was quite liberating to leave 38 in a cloud of smoke way behind me.  38 was my time to make some big changes in my life, but alas…it wasn’t meant to be.  I could either beat myself up over it or start anew, and so I’ve decided to start fresh during the last year of my 30’s.

Don’t get me wrong, some good things did happen while I was 38:

  • I enjoyed a wonderful second year of marriage with my hubby.
  • My best friend got married…and recently had a baby!
  • I started this blog.
  • My hubby and I had a great trip to New York, Washington D.C. and Virginia
  • We repainted the bathroom and added some great accent pieces…looks 100% better!
  • My husband’s two cousins had a baby each.
  • The Olympics!  How amazing was that?
  • I volunteered at a soup kitchen…very rewarding experience.

Since 39 is my age to accomplish things that I’ve put on the back burner, I’ve decided to make a list of 39 goals I want to achieve before turning the big “4-0.”

So here it is…my list in no chronological order:

  1. Get 10 photos or vector art accepted in per month.  It’s harder than it sounds.  Shutterstock only takes the cream of the crop, and although it can be frustrating to be rejected, it’s just further motivation for me to do my best and provide my best work.  I started contributing to Shutterstock about 6 years ago, and not only is it fun, but it provides a little side income which helps in my goal of telecommuting.
  2. Work in the travel industry.  Working in an industry that I love would be a dream come true!
  3. Learn how to be fit while having an injured knee.  I used to love going to the gym until I started having pain in my knees.  I’ve learned that pushing myself to the max is not always a good idea.   So now I’m trying to figure out what exercises I can do to strengthen my knee and maintain what’s left of my figure.  It’s very frustrating, but I plan on finding a way to still be active.
  4. Start a family.  God willing!
  5. Have a travel article published.  I’ve only been saying this for the past 8 years.  I think it’s time!
  6. Declutter & simplify.  Gosh I look around my place, & there are so many things that I just don’t use, but I’m sure there are people out there who could find value in it.  So Goodwill, here I come!
  7. Walk a 5K.  Luckily my bum knee hasn’t totally put me out of commission.  Thank goodness I can still walk!  Although I’d love to run a 5K, I will just walk my heart out instead!
  8. Learn a new vegan recipe every month.  For inspiration and ideas, I will consult my favorite website,
  9. Get over my fear of cooking meat.  My fear is that I don’t cook the meat thoroughly enough and then either I or someone else will get violent food poisoning.  Maybe that’s why the vegan lifestyle interests me!  I have cooked meat before, but it’s usually charred, black & extra crispy!  lol!  And so that’s why #10 is so important…
  10. Take a cooking class.  I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile now.  It’ll be fun to learn techniques and get over some fears I have about cooking meat.  Maybe I’ll even be able to wow the hubby in the kitchen!
  11. Work through body image issues.  They’ve only gotten worse since my knee injury.  I need to be more understanding and realize that I’m not in my 20’s anymore, and that my body doesn’t respond as kindly as it once did to the exercises I enjoyed in my early years.
  12. Volunteer more.  I always say this, and my heart is in the right place, but I need to put my words into practice.
  13. Redo our balcony.  We’ve talking about this for the past 1.5 years.  The goal is to put up some kind of wood canopy and decorate it with beautiful plants.  Right now there are 4 chairs, 1 small table, 1 bbq, 1 dying tomato plant & 1 small grape vine.  It needs help…badly!
  14. Clean out computer.  I need to organize photos, files & folders and delete old emails.
  15. Go to dentist.  My teeth need some love!
  16. Count my blessings.  Even though 38 wasn’t the best of ages, I have many things to be thankful for, and I need to stop and remember all of those reasons.
  17. Grow out my hair.  It’s getting there, but when I turn 40, I want long, luxurious hair…like in those shampoo commercials!  Then I’ll probably get frustrated when I try to style it & want to go back to my bob!
  18. Take more time to pray.  Sometimes my life goes a million miles a minute that I forget to pray.  That needs to change.
  19. Look forward to 40!  And why not?  I get another year to enjoy this world.  40 is the new 30, after all.
  20. Go to Hawaii.  Yes, it’s a goal!  I’ve been there once, but it’s time to go again.  Give me that island fever!
  21. Don’t stress over not having a clean house all the time.  I would love to have one of those model homes where nothing is out of place…but how realistic is that?  After getting married, it seemed like there was twice as much stuff to put away or clean, and when I come home from work, the last thing I want to do is clean!  When I have the energy or time, yes, I will tidy up, but I need to stop stressing about every little thing that’s out of place…or I will go crazy!
  22. Write more in my blog.  I love to write, but sometimes I just don’t have the time or I’m lacking inspiration…or maybe I’m just cleaning the house!  haha  🙂   (see #21)
  23. Finally start my Italy travel scrapbook.  I’ve got the photos and all the cute scrapbook materials…so why haven’t I started my scrapbook that I intended on doing almost 5 years ago?  No clue!! But now is the time!
  24. Finish a website I started 1.5 years ago.  What is it with me and procrastination?  If there was a set due date, you better believe it would be done early!  NO excuse though…I need to finish it!
  25. Continue to update my Graphic  Design skills.  Technology is always changing, and luckily that’s something I keep on top of.
  26. Try hot yoga.  I’m a little nervous because of the intense heat, but someone mentioned that it could help my sore joints…so hot yoga here I come!
  27. Have more dinner parties.  We usually go to other relative’s houses for family gatherings since our place is so small…but small can be kinda cozy.  So next dinner party – Mom’s birthday in October!
  28. Take more photos!  I love photography, but lately I haven’t really indulged my camera like I used to.  Even if it’s a drive to downtown, there’s always something to be photographed!
  29. Prepare lunches the night before.  I love to hit snooze every morning, and so I’m always in a rush to get my lunches made so I can run out the door.  It would be nice to enjoy some relaxing time before work and not feel so stressed.  With my lunches already made, I can do just that!
  30. Reach out to my friends more.  With everyone’s lives going in their own direction, sometimes we lose touch with each other, so it’ll be nice to catch up with my friends.
  31. Sell stuff on ebay or amazon.  In addition to donating to Goodwill, I also want to sell some products online to make some extra cash for a rainy day.
  32. Know that things happen for a reason.  Even if I don’t understand why!
  33. Go to Croatia!  Ok, I DOUBT that’s going to happen, but Croatia fascinates me, and it’ll always be on my to-do list until the day I actually go!
  34. Visit my sister!  Yep – happening in 2 weeks…and I can’t wait!
  35. Take my daily vitamin…daily.  Even when I press snooze too many times…I can always grab my vitamin & take it at work if I need to.  Diligence is key!
  36. Laugh more.  I used to laugh all the time, but this past year my laughs have dried up.  I can’t let negative people take my joy away from me…so I’m not going to let them anymore.  Just because they’re bitter doesn’t mean they’re allowed to drag others down with them.
  37. Forgive.  Ugh…that’s a tough one…especially for people that do wrong to others, but having that burden of anger on my shoulders isn’t worth it either.  So I will try to rise above it and forgive.
  38. Dance!  Even if my knee bothers me, I can still move other parts!  And I used to love dancing, zumba…anything with motion.  Heck, I used to dance in my car all the time!  Bring on more dancing!
  39. Live life vibrantly!  Life, I discovered, is way too short to not live it to the fullest.  39 may be the end of a decade, but I can’t wait to see what lies ahead, and I plan to live life vibrantly from here on out!!

Will I make a list at 40?  I sure hope so!  Maybe my goal will be to run a 5K next time!  We’ll just see how many of these goals I can cross off by July 11th.

Until then, here’s to all of you accomplishing your dreams and goals!

Speaking of which, what are some of your goals for this year?  (Which is quickly coming to a close!)

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As the train pulled up into the station, I wondered if, in my broken Italian, I was able to explain to Leonardo two hours earlier that I missed my connecting regional train to the small town of Magreglio & that I would be an hour late.  With my luggage in one hand and an umbrella in the other, I stepped off the train into the downpour searching for someone who I emailed a total of five times.

A few people walked by, but no one was purposely looking for me…until I saw a man with a small child walk by.  Our eyes locked, but he just kept walking.  He took a few steps more, but stopped in his tracks & came back to where I was standing.  “Jennifer?”  A wave of relief swept through me.  “Leonardo!!!”  Martino, his little boy, looked up at me.  “Ciao!”

My host family had arrived.

My wonderful host family: Leonardo, Mita and Martino

As we walked up to the entrance of his home, Mita, his lovely wife, opened the door to greet me.  As I walked out of the pouring rain and into their home, the inviting aroma of warm pasta, spices, breads and vino filled the air.  Before my eyes was the most beautiful spread of food laid out on a table decorated with a red tablecloth and flowers.  I was overwhelmed at the trouble they went through to make their guest feel welcome and at home…and they really did!   So this is what Servas International is all about.

When I first started traveling solo, I discovered how liberating & exciting it could be!  I loved the freedom to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  But what I craved was something more meaningful.  I wanted to really get to know the locals, their culture and their daily life.  Sure, I would engage in casual small talk with the locals, but it was usually short lived, and I was on to the next destination.

So before embarking on my second solo journey to Europe, I decided to do more than just sight see.  I wanted to be a part of a host family and join in their everyday life.  Through my research, I discovered Servas International and  decided to join their worldwide hospitality network.

Servas is purposeful travel. Travelers and hosts are united by their desire to help build world peace, goodwill and mutual understanding by participating in visits with individuals and families of diverse cultures and backgrounds.  –

Applying is as easy as it was 5 years ago:

  1. Apply online
  2. Receive Application Packet in the mail.
  3. Fill out Traveler Application. (Included in your application packet.)
  4. Choose your Servas interviewer. (A list of interviewers is included in your application packet.  You can also look them up online.  There are many to choose from, but I just opted for the one closest to my home. )
  5. Meet with your Servas interviewer & be approved as a traveler.  (New travelers and host families are always interviewed.  I felt better knowing this because it gave an extra sense of security for both parties involved.  They also require you have two letters of reference.)
  6. Fill out a Letter of Introduction.  (Once you’ve been approved as a traveler, you are given a validated Letter of Introduction that is good for 12 months.  The host family usually requests that you email the letter to them once they agree to host you, or they ask that you present it to them upon arrival.  The Letter of Introduction asks for things like your name, passport number, email address, phone number, occupation, permanent address, dates of travel, languages spoken, description of yourself and your trip, what learning goals you have for your travels, interests and hobbies, previous Servas experience, involvement with any peace movements, etc…)
  7. Pay your yearly fee.  (For an adult, it’s $85.00)
  8. Get a borrowed host book list.  (Host books give you the information on the host families in the country you want to visit.  They usually provide contact information, their hobbies, location, etc…  This needs to be returned upon completion of your trip.  )
  9. Contact the host family you’re interested in.  (Sometimes they may not be available during the times you request, so just keep looking – you’ll find that perfect host family!)
  10. Get to know your host family.  (I emailed Leonardo a few times before going to Italy just to get to know him and his family a little better.)
  11. Travel to your destination & HAVE FUN!

The next couple of days with my host family were wonderful!

They drove me all around Lake Como and showed me hidden scenic spots since they knew I loved photography.

Mita kindly let me borrow her rain boots because I wasn’t expecting rain.

We went shopping, took a cruise on Lake Como and went to quaint lakeside villages.

I spoke of my life in California, and they talked about their love of Italy and of being a host family.

We gave each other language lessons – Italian for me, and English for them.

Leonardo knew I’d be traveling to Paris at the end of my trip, so he offered me travel tips, a map of Paris and the best way to navigate the city.

The days went by so fast, and at the end, it felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends.  I really felt like we were all bonded by our love of meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and spreading peace and friendship through traveling.

On the last day, Leonardo and his family drove me all the way to the train station in Lecco and treated me to coffee as I waited for my train to arrive.  They made sure I was at the right terminal and that I had my ticket in hand with the right regional train number – they sincerely cared.  We said our goodbyes and gave each other one last hug, and with a heavy heart, I boarded the train.  As it pulled away from the station, I looked back at my lovely host family, & they waved to me for the longest time.  My heart was full.

I will always remember and hold dear to my heart my first Servas experience with my Italian family, Leonardo, Mita and Martino.  ♥

Have you ever hosted a traveler or been hosted by a family?  What was your experience like?  I’d love to hear about it!

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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”     -Confucius

How many of us wake up in the morning and spring out of bed with enthusiasm and excitement ready to do what we love?  I’m not one of those people…yet…but instead, I’m on a journey to find out how to incorporate all (or a good majority) of my passions into my daily life and career.

I’ve been thinking about my ideal job for as long as I can remember.  I’m currently a full time Graphic Designer, and it’s been great, but through the years my interests and passions have increased and changed, and I wondered if I’d ever be able to combine all of my loves into a job that would provide me with an honest to goodness living!  Maybe there’s not one single job that contains all of my interests, but I’m keeping an open mind to the possibilities of multiple small jobs.  So without further ado, here’s a brief look into the attributes of my perfect career(s):

Design & Creativity

Being a Graphic Designer is what I’ve done for over ten years, and I really love it, so it will always play a part in my career(s).

Travel Writing/Creative Writing/Blogging

When the travel bug bit, I enjoyed it so much that I had to document my adventures.  Since then, I’ve submerged myself into creative writing of all kinds, and blogging has inspired me to continue my passion.

Travel Photography
Travel photography brings me so much joy.  I’m still learning the ins and outs of my camera, and I’ve enjoyed contributing photos and illustrations to for a few years.  It’s provided a very tiny income stream, but to know that there are people out there who find my work valuable enough to purchase it is really exciting…and humbling!

Traveling…of course!
Traveling and getting paid for it…yes please!!!


Can you tell I like traveling?  Aside from the obvious, here are a few more things that would enhance my dream job(s):

  • Working with friendly & professional people
  • Set my own hours / flexibility
  • Meeting people from around the world
  • Telecommute occasionally
  • Time to exercise in the morning
  • Be the best version of myself
  • Adventure
  • Be inspired by my work
  • Writing about health/wellness
  • Inspire/help others
  • Respect among peers
  • Time for family
  • Not behind computer all day
  • Be among nature occasionally
  • Use my passport!

So until that day comes, I will continue to pursue my dreams and hopefully one day spring out of bed excited and enthusiastic to do what I love!  ♥

So tell me, are you living your dream, or are you in the process of getting there?  I’d love to hear about your journey and what steps you’re taking to achieve your goal!

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