Sweet Home Alabama?

The topic for this week’s Travel Tuesday is “where you’re from and why you left.” I feel like I can sum that up in two words: Alabama + family. But that wouldn’t make much of a post would it? (smile)

sunset over Alabama field

Sunset on the farm

I am from the quintessential small southern town. We lived within 10 miles of the majority of my family, all of the neighbors were friendly (well, they knew one another anyway), schools were small, trucks were large, and church was supposed to be your second home. I grew up on a small farm with a variety of fuzzy creatures. I know where peanuts come from – and how to grow them. I also know how to castrate most any animal (TMI?). I can appreciate green fields and dirt roads just as well as any skyscraper or shopping mall. There’s a quiet, where I grew up, that is healing.

Alabama, outdoors, nature

From the dirt road

So why did I leave? Well, honestly, it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve been able to truly appreciate where I came from. When I left, all I could think about was conquering big cities, seeing the world, and hopefully gaining some anonymity along the way. I love my family, but I’m pretty independent and prefer my privacy. My family all seems to translate that into stubbornness – so be it. I was determined to go forth and make my own mistakes; something I’ve rather successfully accomplished. (smile)

The question I frequently ask myself (generally because my family is frequently asking me) is whether I would ever consider moving back. The answer is usually a very hesitant “maybe.” Truthfully, I would only do it under specific circumstances and even then I’m not sure it would be permanent. I love my dad’s place – it’s in its own little bubble and absolutely gorgeous – but I’m still not so sure about the people. Perhaps a vacation home? Moving back would be just that for me – moving backward instead of forward. Forward for me is moving abroad. I will always have a soft spot for Alabama, but it no longer feels like “home” in the traditional sense. My home, in my heart, lies across an ocean.

Home is not a place, it’s a feeling.


wpid-traveltueslinkup_zpsd47191b0-1.jpg

Weekly Photo Challenge: New…

Happy New Year!!

I hope everyone had a fabulous night to celebrate the coming of 2015! I can’t say I had a very happy holiday – at all – but I am nonetheless feeling that inescapable hope of a fresh start. No doubt there will be plenty of reflections and dreams here at some point, but not today (smile).

For the first photo challenge of the year, the theme is “new.” 2014 was a mixed year, but the birth of my niece was by far the highlight! Her arrival has been accompanied by a plethora of new experiences – including baby photography. I tell ya, it’s not a job for the faint of heart!

baby feet christmas lights

My new niece 🙂

Y*mmy: Pumpkin Streusel Muffins with Maple Glaze

You guys…we started our morning at the office with mimosas and these amazing Pumpkin Streusel Muffins! Seriously. Yum. There are definite perks to working in a small office with very laid back “bosses!” I thought it was only fair to immediately share the recipe with any of you guys that may be in the throes of must-have-pumpkin-everything-right-now like me (smile).

As so often is the case, I came across this recipe on Pinterest. No biggie. But here’s what makes these babies special – I made almost no adaptations to this recipe. For someone who is always changing something, that’s pretty major! I just added a bit more spice (I like the “pumpkin spice flavors” a lot) and changed the glaze a bit. The original recipe can be found over at DamnDelicious. Not only do I absolutely love these muffins, I adore that name! I can’t wait to check out more of her recipes!

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins with Maple Glaze

Cinnamon Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Combine flour, light brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add in cubed butter. You can either “cut” the butter in with a pastry cutter or just use your hands. Work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a coarse crumb mixture.

Pumpkin Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well (I recommend a sifter if you have one).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, pumpkin puree, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the top of the dry ingredients and fold mixture together until just combined (just until there’s no more flour hiding at the bottom).

Evenly distribute the mixture into a standard muffin tray with liners. Unlike cupcakes, I filled these almost to the top and they puffed up nicely! The original recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but my batch made 16. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Maple Glaze

  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (the good stuff)
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl whisk together sugar, butter, and syrup. Add milk a little at a time until mixture reaches desired consistency. Drizzle over the top of the cooled muffins. Allow glaze to set before serving or storing.

pumpkin streusel muffin recipe, baking

I feel like this should be one of those “Ahhhhhh….” moments 🙂

Travel Tuesday: Rocky Point Wedding

Happy Travel Tuesday!! This week has been so cr-aa-zy it’s hard to believe it’s only Tuesday! In the spirit of imagining my happy place, I figured a recap of this past weekend’s wedding would be perfect (smile).

Mexico, sunset, beach

#NoFilter

The wedding weekend took place in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (aka Rocky Point to the gringos), which is located on the western coast of mainland Mexico along the Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California). It’s known as Arizona’s beach due to its relatively close proximity (only about 4 hours – closer than the California coast line). We all stayed at Las Palomas, which is a owner/rental resort along the shore. It’s a beautiful location and the staff at the resort are absolutely amazing!

I’ve been going to Rocky Point for several years now with a coworker who owns a condo at Las Palomas (#lucky). Her family has been going down for years and are very active in the local community. They sponsor some of the local children at school and have helped build homes for the locals, one of which I was able to help with – such a rewarding experience! Needless to say, it felt a bit strange going down with a completely different group of people just to celebrate (I’m not good at this “relaxing” thing).

Mexico, wedding

Beautiful Ceremony 🙂

The bride and groom were kind enough to sponsor shuttles for those of us who didn’t want to make the drive. We had plenty of time to relax and get to know everyone in the group in between various wedding activities, which was really nice. And then it was time for the main event…which unfortunately had to be moved inside due to high wind gusts (sad face). Nonetheless, the transition indoors went smoothly and the ceremony went off with the usual hitches (smile). Part of the ceremony was a poem from their dog (who couldn’t attend sadly) and a friend took the liberty of blowing up a life size photo to act out the poem – it was so true to the couple, everyone was in tears (of laughter) by the time it was over! The reception was super nice and even the staff got in on a bit of the fun (smile).

Overall it was a fabulous weekend and welcome memory during the craziness of this week. I have my fingers crossed that maybe I’ll get some additional officiant requests from some of the engaged couples who attended (smile). If it’s a destination wedding, I’m definitely there! And if you’ve never been to Rocky Point – I highly recommend if if you ever have the chance!!


Come join Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for more adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

On Becoming a Minister

Oh my gosh, how is it Wednesday already?! Time flies when you have something to prepare for and so little free time to do it – such as laundry for this weekend’s adventure (oops…). My friends are getting married down in Mexico – and I’m officiating!!!

I admit I’m one of those people that got “ordained” online. The whole idea started out as a running joke with my dad – that I would get ordained and marry him and my step-mom. It’s pretty easy to get my dad a bit worked up, so we all had fun with this one (smile). So when the time finally arrived, imagine my surprise when they both agreed to actually let me officiate! The joke was rather tidily turned right back to me. Not one to back down from a challenge – and being rather excited about the prospect in truth – I immediately went online to figure out how this ordination thing worked. My next item of business was to call several legal entities in Alabama to make sure it was indeed legal – check and check! The ceremony was in my step-brother’s front yard and all rather lovely and personal. And now I get to enjoy the look of slight confusion on everyone’s face when I say that I married my dad!

Wedding ceremony

My first wedding!

I was also lucky enough to officiate the ceremony for my friends in California last year. It was fun to be a part of the wedding without the necessity of buying the funny dress (smile). That wedding was also gorgeous and personal. I’m thinking that this one in Mexico will be likewise!

Why?

I get this question a lot. I don’t adhere to any particular religious affiliation – or rather I adhere to my own personal blend of them – so I think it’s nice to have a neutral party. Familiarity also plays a big part. As I know my wedding party (or at least this has been true to date), it’s super easy to sit down and come up with a very personal, hand-tailored ceremony. I enjoy talking with the couples – a requirement – and looking at different options for the vows, rings, etc. I love building something that makes the couple relaxed and – most importantly – happy! So really the question should be why not?

How?

I got ordained through the Universal Life Church (The Monastery). You go online, fill out the application, pay the fee, and there you go! It’s relatively easy and painless. I take my duties very seriously, so I try to adhere to all of the guidelines given. I think that makes it more fun as well (smile).

Credentials of Ministry

Official Credentials

Lessons learned?

1) If the ceremony is to be performed in a church, there are church rules to be followed. In some instances ministers outside the official faith may be allowed to perform part of the ceremony, but it is a process. If you want to have a friend involved in a church ceremony, consult with the local minister at the very beginning.

2) Check the state law. Most states allow digitally ordained ministers to marry couples, but not all. You can check the website where you signed up, do some googling, and/or call the local magistrate’s office and ask. Either way, be sure to check before anyone gets their hopes up or ends up needing to be remarried!

3) Come up with some ideas and options for the bride and groom. Unless they have a specific idea of what they want (this couple does thankfully!), they may need some help getting started. Most people know the standard vows, but they tend to forget about all the other parts that can be included.

4) Read your script – and not just at rehearsal! I try to start a couple of weeks ahead of time and just read over it every so often so that on the big day I’m prepared. I don’t mind public speaking, but it’s not my specialty so I do get nervous. A familiarity with the script ensures less fumbling on the big day. Also, try to persuade your couple of the importance of a run through rehearsal – it’s not always clear to everyone who goes where, when.

5) Get a book and paste your script in. There’s nothing that says you can’t just hold up notecards (other than perhaps the bride), but I find that a plain black book looks nice and works well. I print the script in large font with plenty of space in between lines so I don’t have to squint to read it. Then I cut it out and paste it into my book. This is also a surefire way of creating your very own ministerial scrap book!

6) Request a microphone. No matter how loud you are, a microphone almost always helps. I’ve now done one ceremony with and one without – I know beyond a doubt that if there’s a beach involved, there has to be a mic!

7) Relax and enjoy! It’s such an honor to be asked to perform such an important duty. I won’t bother lying and telling you that I haven’t teared up once or twice during the ceremonies. I also try to add in a little personal story or phrase to surprise the bride and groom (keep it appropriate!), which usually gets a nice laugh. It truly is so much fun to be on that side of the “altar,” make sure you relax and enjoy your duties and your friends!

Have you ever thought of being ordained??

Travel Tuesday: Tips for Traveling In Another Language

Black and white clipart, world continents

Fact: There are 7 continents, 190+ countries, and over 6,000 languages spoken on this planet Earth.

Fact: I fluently speak 1 of those 6,000+ languages – English (mostly American English to be precise). I speak a bastardized version of 7 or 8 languages (including other versions of English).

Fact: Traveling as a “monoglot” often leads to some very interesting…”conversations”.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Thanks to a holiday on Monday and the usual (every other) Friday off, I have a 3-day week and I’m thrilled! As it’s the last Tuesday of the month, we have a theme this week – languages. As noted above, I only really speak English with fluency, so today I thought I’d share some of my tips for traveling to those places in the world that don’t speak your native language.

greetings in different languages

1. Learn a few key phrases before you go. I promise this can save you many headaches as you travel along. At a minimum I usually try to learn the common greeting (hello!, etc.), yes, no, please, thank you, and sorry/excuse me. There are phone apps that will give you the correct pronunciation or you can even find some examples on Youtube. Ah technology, you leave no room for excuses. (smile) Knowing these words – and using them no matter how bad the pronunciation – lets the locals know that you respect them and you are trying. Combined with a sheepish look/smile and a great deal of patience, these phrases can also take you places you wanted to go and others you never knew existed.

2. Give yourself time to get acclimated. Even when conversing with other English speakers, I may not always catch the dialect/accent immediately. I’ve generally found that I have a 1-3 second processing delay while my brain computes what it heard into my American English. It’s frustrating at times, but getting frustrated is the number one way to get yourself into trouble/ruin an experience. When someone speaks to you, give yourself a moment to process. Chances are, even if it’s a language you never even knew existed, you can figure out the general meaning by putting together context, voice inflection, etc. This isn’t always 100% foolproof, but it’s certainly better than walking away complaining about how not everyone in the world speaks your language.

how to speak frog in different languages

3. Leave the dictionary at home – bring pen and paper instead. I’m the first to admit that I have a section of foreign language dictionaries on my travel book shelf. Please note that I am making a distinction here between guide book, phrase book, and actual translation dictionaries. The first two are helpful, the third is just outdated. I’m sure the dictionary may come in handy once in a while, but on the whole I’ve found that a blank piece of paper and a (not-on-purpose) comical stick figure drawing can be just as, if not more, effective than standing around flipping through pages. Not to mention that those dictionaries use the “proper” form of the language, which may not always translate the way you want it to depending on who you’re trying to converse with. I usually have the person write down the word I’m looking for with the picture for posterity – once I have the association, it tends to stick better!

4. Don’t be afraid to look silly. When traveling with my friend, we had the perfect tag-team system going – I could usually make out what the local was saying so I translated the sentiment to her. She then communicated our response back to the local (my dear “Southern Belle” accent just adds to the confusion). By playing on each of our strengths, we were able to get around many places where there wasn’t an English speaker in hollering-distance. I’ll grant you there was a lot of miming (and drawing), but it worked out – and usually seemed endearing to the poor local that had to deal with us. The best mannerism I picked up from my friend was eye contact and a smile – not a stare and a clown face, but a very brief acknowledgment of our gratitude for the other person’s willingness to help us out. Besides making us experts at charades and pictionary, it also gave us many fun stories to share (smile).

How do you navigate language barriers??


Come join Bonnie, Kaelene, Sammy, and Van for some language fun!

Travel Tuesday