Travel Tuesday: World Heritage Site Bucket List

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! This week the lovely link-up sponsors have come up with an awesome theme – share your travel bucket list! I can pretty much sum up that list in one word – “anywhere” – but that wouldn’t be much of a post (smile). I consolidated my Travel Bucket List when I started this blog as a way to prioritize my travel planning. However, I’ve recently gotten on board with tracking visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So I thought for today, I’d list my World Heritage Site-specific bucket list!

There are currently 1,007 properties listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. New sites are proposed every year and undergo a thorough review process before being added to the list. To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria.

By my count, I’ve been fortunate enough to see 25 of these amazing sites (admittedly, most by happy accident). Recently, however, I’ve decided to take a more active interest in the list and the sites that are included and/or nominated. Quite a few of these sites aren’t necessarily found on the tourist maps (some are), so it’s good to be aware in case I’m close enough for a side trip (smile). Here are my top 5 dream sites from the World Heritage List:

1. Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela, Ethiopia


2. Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany, Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine

3. Bru na Boinne (Newgrange), Ireland

4. Namib Sand Sea, Namibia

5. Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India

 Have you visited a World Heritage Site? Which one(s)??

Come join the fun with BonnieKaeleneSammy, and Van!!

Travel Tuesday


Around Town: Lake Pleasant

Most of the year, I really enjoy living in Phoenix. It’s a beautifully different city with its unique landscape and recreational opportunities. But if you ask me in July – or August, September, or the first half of October – I’ll tell you I’d move tomorrow if it weren’t so hot! Yes, I knew what I was getting into when I moved here, but I don’t think you can call yourself a true Phoenician unless you gripe and complain about the heat fairly regularly (smile). Needless to say, 110+ makes any sort of water incredibly appealing! One of my favorite retreats from the city heat is Lake Pleasant, just north of Phoenix.

Saguro, cactus, Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Cactus at Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Lake Pleasant covers approximately 10,000 acres and boasts about 116 miles of shoreline (give or take). That may sound impressive, but I can guarantee you that most of the year that shoreline is pretty well covered – especially on weekends! There are coves to explore, trails to hike, and all sorts of wildlife to avoid. My favorite local inhabitants are the wild burros that roam the shoreline. Their braying is definitely an eerie noise to hear first thing in the morning if you aren’t expecting it!

The lake offers superb options for boaters, anglers, kayakers, paddle-boarders, hikers, swimmers, divers, and pretty much anyone looking for a cool place to perch (smile). Lake Pleasant is a really popular spot with local scuba divers. It’s where I did my certification dives and several fun dives since. I’m always surprised at just how many dive flags you see in the coves, especially in the early mornings. A few of the local dive shops sponsor underwater clean-up days as well, which are both fun and useful. There are also several strategically placed “destinations” underwater, which keeps things interesting while you’re swimming about with the fishes (smile).

Lake Pleasant is a unique and lovely landscape any time of the year. I love that it isn’t necessarily what one would think of when you hear the name, and the irony of the giant saguaros next to a large body of water never fails to amuse me. The fact that it’s only half an hour away from where I live is just extra sunshine on the water (smile).

Lake Pleasant Arizona

Lake Pleasant Sunrise

Lake Pleasant Regional Park offers a wide variety of rentals, equipment, and recreational options. If you ever have an extended stay in Phoenix, it’s a great area for an escape!!


Goodreads Indeed

Hurray for hump day!! Well, except for being sick – in the summer – which sucks – big time. I’ve been hiding out in the A/C trying to figure out what book to read next. I haven’t been quite as prolific in my reading this month, partly due to the lack of inspiration, but now seems like a good time to pick that up. So I’ll be off to spend some quality time with my favorite literary source – Goodreads – as soon as I get this posted (smile).

goodreads logo

I don’t remember how I found out about Goodreads, but I’ve been a faithful follower for the last few years now. For any given book, Goodreads lists the general description, a rating based on reviews, and reader reviews. You can rate books you’ve read and keep a list of potential books you want to read (one of my favorite features). You can also add friends and track their reading favorites or browse through countless lists of books.

I’m pretty sure the site offers many other features I don’t take full advantage of – I feel like I’m consistently finding something new on there! Like any review site, you have to take things with a grain of salt – I’ve read some books where I totally agree with the rating and others where I felt the complete opposite. That’s just how it works out sometimes. If I’m trying to decide between two books, Goodreads is often the tie-breaker, and I can always save the book I don’t choose to my “want to read” list – win/win (smile).

Just as an fyi, this isn’t a sponsored post. I actually have friends who have never heard of the site, so I thought it would be fun to share with you guys in case you hadn’t either. If you want to be friends, please look me up! I’m always on the lookout for friendly recommendations (smile). I do feel like I should warn you in advance though that I’m pretty sporadic about ratings/reviews though – too much to read, so little time (smile)!

 Do you use Goodreads??


Travel Tuesday: Yellowstone National Park

Happy [Travel] Tuesday everyone!! I’ve finally made it through most of my Yellowstone photos and whittled them down to a manageable amount (smile). So I thought today would be a good day for a formal introduction to Yellowstone National Park.

yellowstone national park sign

Welcome to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is located primarily in the northwest corner of Wyoming, although parts of it extend into Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone was the very first National Park, established in 1872 by President Grant – well ahead of the actual National Park Service (est. 1916). The park is also designated as a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere reserve.

Yellowstone is home to approximately half of the world’s geothermal features! According to the Park Service, there are over 10,000 thermal features and 300 geysers. Perhaps the most famous geyser – Old Faithful – is known for being one of the most predictable in terms of eruptions. The eruptions occur approximately every 91 minutes, give or take 10.

Of course we had to make a stop to see Old Faithful! We must have arrived just after an eruption as the benches set up for viewing were pretty empty. Luckily this gave us a front row view, a chance to rest, and time to meet some fellow tourists (smile). I will, however, say this – there are larger, more impressive geysers. Old Faithful is impressive mostly in its predictability (and the nice surroundings).

The park is home to bears – grizzly and black – wolves, bison, elk, and thousands of other species. We were lucky enough to spot most of the big ones (with the exception of the wolves) and quite a few of the smaller creatures (the ground squirrels were adorable). I was really surprised at just how abundant and obvious the wildlife was in the park. Literally everywhere you went you could spot something. As for the bear, I have no idea how people spotted some of them from so far away, but you could always tell what it was by the number of cameras standing along the road (smile).

The most remarkable part of the park to me was the contradictions of the park. In the same day we experienced sunshine, rainstorm, and hail/snow! Never mind that within 10 miles you could go from a geothermal landscape to lush, green trees to snow-covered mountains. As I explained in this post, you could find geothermal springs warm with steaming, boiling water right next to a lake that had just thawed enough to melt it’s winter ice. It’s hard to get bored or lose the wonder when you never know what’s coming next!

I would love to go back to the park and spend more time exploring off the beaten track. Considering the park covers over 2 million acres, something tells me I could do a lot of exploring (smile). In the meantime, more posts to come!

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? What was your favorite part??

Come join the fun with BonnieKaeleneSammy, and Van!!

Travel Tuesday


Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers of Knowledge

This week’s photo challenge is all about containers. I admit I may have over-thought this one a little bit (as I usually do with these challenges), but there are just so many directions in which to take such a challenge! I finally decided on one of my favorite types of “containers” – the containers of knowledge, libraries. These lovely containers come in all shape, sizes, and ages, housing countless smaller containers of letters strung together into words, phrases, and paragraphs meant to show us the meanings of the worlds. A bit poetic, but you get my point (smile).

Library of Congress Washington D.C.


New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Seattle Washington Public Library

Seattle Public Library

Happy weekend everyone!!



Book Review | Trapped: My Life With Cerebral Palsy

Over the summer, I’ve been participating in the 2014 Summer Book Challenge (check out updates from May and June). One of the challenge components was to read a book written by a blogger. In what I thought a stroke of luck at the time, the WordPress Daily Press had just posted an article about published bloggers where I found Fran Macilvey and her book Trapped: My Life with Cerebral Palsy. It sounded so interesting and so real, I couldn’t wait to get started. Unfortunately, I realized after the fact that the book doesn’t meet the 200-page requirement for the challenge (sad face). But I still wanted to share the book with you guys, so I decided to go for the proper review it deserves (smile).

Trapped book cover

I really enjoy reading a good biography or memoir and I was particularly interested in this book after seeing all of the glowing reviews. I was a little surprised when the book actually exceeded my expectations! I laughed, I cried, and I gained a new outlook on people with disabilities. This is one of those books that really draws you into the story and allows you to see the real person, for better or worse.

Trapped is a revealing and poignant book about Macilvey’s life with Cerebral Palsy. She writes about her difficult birth, struggling to fit in, her failures, and her successes. It’s a raw and honest look about life with a disability in a period in history where treatments could sometimes be worse than the disability itself. I admit I knew very little about Cerebral Palsy before I read this book, which is one of the reasons I picked it up. I feel like I now have at least a greater appreciation for the disability and for those I see with similar circumstances. It’s a good reminder that everyone has a story.

This one is a very inspiring story, and I got the impression on some level that the author herself was re-inspired in the telling of it. The thing I appreciate the most about this book is the notable air of perseverance and positive attitude through great hardship. Macilvey wasn’t just a naturally happy child who overcame her disability through sunshine and rainbows. It was a hard fought battle with plenty of ups and downs. I don’t claim to understand what she has endured in her life, but I saw bits of myself in her personality. I could only hope to have her resilience and determination should I ever find myself in a similar situation.

Perhaps it’s putting them into a perspective such as Macilvey’s story, but I found a new appreciation for the positive words she has to share. They don’t seem trite or strategically placed to “lighten” the mood. They seem like a real-life application of a positive outlook. As Hemingway put it, “the world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” It’s clear from her story that Macilvey’s one of those people. I respect her for that, and for being strong enough to share her story with the world. It certainly gave me a lot to think about, especially in terms of making excuses for not chasing life (smile).

I certainly encourage anyone looking for an interesting and realistically inspiring read to check this book out. Macilvey also has a blog where she posts her thoughts on life.

Have you ever read a book that inspired beyond expectations??



Travel Tuesday: California Dolphin Watching

Happy Tuesday everyone! I admit today was supposed to mark the beginning of the Yellowstone sharing adventure, but well…I hate Photoshop photo processing. I try to see the task as solid encouragement to take better photos to begin with – it’s an ongoing battle (smile).

Long Beach California boat

Our boat for the day

Anyway, I’ve had California on the brain lately so I thought I’d share another SoCal post today. I was visiting the BFF back in February when we had a brilliant idea over dinner to go on a whale watching boat tour – the next day. [How did anything ever get done before Google and smartphones?!] Thanks to Yelp and TripAdvisor we found a suitable option nearby and booked the early tour with fingers crossed it would be less crowded and “luckier,” even though we were near the end of the season.

We arrived at the Long Beach dock and headed out into the fog in search of whale tales. We saw a lot of birds and a few fish, but the water was otherwise remarkably quiet. Somewhere along the way my friend and I started to question the brilliance of our idea – no sea creatures and no stomach for boats (….yeah). Luckily, right about that time we came across our first dolphin pod (smiles all around and a proper distraction).


Pacific Ocean California dolphins

Pacific Ocean California dolphins

I’ve always had a soft spot for these lovely, friendly creatures. There’s just something so magical about the way they move and seem so eager to interact. We saw several hundred dolphins that day of differing species – some that I had never heard of before! We ooohed and awwed while these happy little guys played in the wake of the boat and dove up and around the boat showing off for the cameras. On our way back into port, someone claimed to spot an actual whale tale, but I can’t vouch for the validity of that claim. Personally, I was equally content with the show we got (smile).

Dolphin, Pacific Ocean, California

West Coast Dolphin

Have you ever been on a dolphin/whale watching adventure??

Come join the fun with BonnieKaeleneSammy, and Van!!

Travel Tuesday


Weekly Photo Challenge: Relics

A relic is defined as an object having interest by reason of its age or its association with the past. [Well, at least one of its definitions (smile).] For this week’s photo challenge, I decided to go with a few relics found on my travels.

Rotary phone, hotel room key

Who remembers how to use one of these?

Skeleton key

I love these old keys!

 Happy Weekend Everyone!!

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Pondering Authors: Diana Gabaldon

Happy mid-week everyone! I admit to some difficulties finding my positive work attitude this week, but I’m blaming that on a long and happy weekend. Those always make it just a little more difficult to refocus. Luckily with my schedule I have Friday off so technically this is almost Friday a day early – winning! (smile)

I spent a portion of my long weekend reading the new Diana Gabaldon book, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. I won’t give anything away, but so far so great (smile)! I was actually lucky enough to meet Mrs Gabaldon a few weeks ago at an author discussion/book signing. I’ve been a big fan of her Outlander series since well before I was old enough to start reading such book (oops!). [The books themselves have inspired me in so many ways they deserve their own post.] I’ve seen Gabaldon at book signings here and there while diligently working on completing a signed set of books (about halfway there – yay!). Fortunately for me she actually lives here in the Phoenix area so it’s somewhat easier to see her at events. Or at least it’s pretty much a guaranteed stop on her book tours (smile).

Diana Gabaldon Tempe speaking event

Phone Photo :)

What made this particular experience so different was hearing her actually talk – about her life, her writing process, and a few other random topics thrown in for good fun. I’ve heard her read and I’ve seen her sign, but this was the first time I’ve just heard her speak. I always find it quite remarkable to find someone who can speak as well as they can write. The jealous part of me feels it’s somewhat unfair (grin), but the more sensible bit is simply inspired. Gabaldon possesses the same sharp sense of humor in her oral delivery as her written efforts, which I think is part of why her stories seem so realistic. A really great book requires the personality to compel the reader forward, and I feel like she does one of the best jobs of any contemporary author.

I don’t admit this very often ever, but when I was younger I wanted to be a writer. Perhaps a small part of me still does. But I feel like I’ve lost the creative drive necessary for such ventures somewhere along the way. I normally blame it on law school, but clearly there are plenty of writers who went to law school or into science (such as Gabaldon) that are best-selling authors. So I’ve stopped using that excuse in favor of the current truth – I just don’t know where to start or if I really want to right now.

Writing is a task that requires a certain level of commitment, just like any other endeavor. Listening to Gabaldon’s story of how she began writing her first novel and the time commitment she was willing to submit to in light of her everyday life was a bit daunting. It’s inspiring to know that it can be done (obviously), but also somewhat discouraging, as I have to admit I’m not sure I have that drive at this point in my life. Maybe when I’m in a different place in life I’ll try it out. For now I have my other outlets that keep me thoroughly entertained (such as this blog) and are slowly but surely bringing that dusty, moth-ball-smelling creativity cloak to the front of the closet once more. Small steps…

I will say that the most inspiring part of the discussion was hearing about Gabaldon’s writing process. I’ve read so many interviews with series authors where they say that the story came to them as a whole, waiting to be properly divided and dispersed into the world. Gabaldon’s not like that – she writes in pieces and parts then stitches them all together as they match up. A bit like life, the story is written as it comes then it somehow all aligns to make something amazing. I like that concept. I never rarely write anything in any sort of order. Even if I have an outline, I start with the fun parts first as a warm up, then find that the rest finds its way out on its own. There’s much less anxiety in this method vs. forcing the issue up front. If I did that then my writing style would be even stiffer and I’m desperately trying to loosen things up a bit so everyone can have more fun (smile). It’s just really nice to know that everyone has their own writing style, and I’m not alone in my organized chaos (big smile)!

If you’ve never heard of the Outlander series, I highly recommend checking it out. I call it “historical fiction,” but it really doesn’t fit any particular genre (which makes it that much more awesome – smile). Starz is turning the books into a series (a la Game of Thrones). I have mixed feelings on watching this (because let’s face it, the characters never quite match up with the mental image), but I’ve little doubt I’ll cave at some point. I’ll need a replacement for Tru Blood (smile).

Have you ever met/heard a favorite author speak??



Travel Tuesday: Mission San Juan Capistrano

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone!! I hope a good time was had by all this past weekend, whether you were celebrating the 4th or just the weekend itself (smile). Independence day is by far my favorite holiday primarily because it’s laid back and has all of the essentials – friends, family, food, fireworks – without a lot of the obligations of other holidays.

I was fortunate enough to be able to drive over to California to visit the BFF for the weekend and we had an amazing time! The fireworks along the coast were simply spectacular and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate (unless maybe with a few of my own…smile).

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Welcome :)

In addition to the usual holiday festivities, we also made a short trip over to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. I had spotted this gem on TripAdvisor, but had no idea just how much it had to offer! We arrived a little late to take full advantage, but we were able to take a full tour and spend some quality time on the lovely grounds. Historical and beautiful – always a winning combination! (smile)

The Mission is located in present-day San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, southern California. It was founded in 1776 by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order. The “Great Stone Church” was unfortunately leveled in an earthquake in 1812, although portions of the remaining ruins are accessible (and rather impressive still).

The Mission has the distinction of being home to the oldest building in California still in use – Serra’s Chapel, which was built in 1782. A special prayer room is dedicated to Saint Peregrine, patron saint of cancer sufferers and may be accessed from Serra’s Chapel.

grapes Mission San Juan Capistrano, California

Mission Grapes

The Criolla or “Mission grape” was first planted at San Juan Capistrano in 1779, producing the first Alta California wine in 1783. I would guess this was very convenient for “communion” purposes (smile).

Perhaps my favorite part of the Mission grounds was the central courtyard garden and koi pond. The colors were absolutely gorgeous and the fish seemed happy enough to pose for photos (with minimal inducement really). Overall, it was a genuinely peaceful and glorious afternoon! (smile)

Did you go anywhere over the weekend??

Come join the fun with BonnieKaeleneSammy, and Van!!

Travel Tuesday

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