Planning an Impulsive Road Trip to Utah

Is it an oxymoron to use impulsive and planning both in a sentence?  Well thats sort of how I live my life.  First I’m impulsive then I plan.

We were camping a few weeks ago and this thought popped into my head: Utah.  Hmmm… Utah.  Yes!  Utah!  I brought it up to my husband and he said “Utah?”.  I mentioned the idea to my daughter and she said “Utah?”.  It was too late though – I was already on the track to planning this and there wasn’t much their skepticism could do to stop the train.

By nature, I’m a very impulsive person.  I try so hard to keep myself organized and focused but sometimes I become so compelled to do something that I can’t stop myself.  This is how I ended up packing my family into a rented (yellow) Hyundai Veloster and driving 2500ish miles over the course of 9 days.

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Part of the reason for the trip is that I am serious about maintaining my bucket list.  I believe deeply that life is meant to be lived and the best way to experience the world is to get out there in it.  One of my key US bucket list items is to visit all 50 states (22 to go!) so I set my sights on Utah.

Utah has five national parks so I knew that there would be a lot of incredible scenery to explore.  Before I started to do any research, I was sure that I wanted to visit Arches National Park and Zion National Park so I built the trip around these destinations.  As I started to map the trip out, I realized that I would be near Antelope Canyon in Arizona so I had to include it.  I’ve been to Arizona before but Antelope Canyon wasn’t yet on my radar.  More recently, I’ve seen a lot of photos of this slot canyon that was absolutely spectacular.  The colors and shapes of the canyon were amazing so I added it to my bucket list.  Then we also added the Grand Canyon for good measure (I mean, its the Grand Canyon).  Once it was mapped, all that was left was to find hotels near the destinations and figure out any delicious food we had to eat.

Then we were off.

It might be time to quit your job

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From the time that other kids were fighting over who got to be the mom while we played house, I knew that having an awesome career would be important to me.  Instead of being “mom” I always wanted to be the older sister who had a cool job and traveled a lot.  True story.  I started working when I was 14 and have been working steadily since then.

I’ve been very fortunate to work my way up in large corporations and have had opportunities to learn many areas of business across multiple industries.  So many times, people have asked me about my career path because I was so young for my role.  I thrived while working for consulting firms (which are notoriously challenging and competitive).  I was honestly making good money, traveling to some really fun places and I was making fantastic connections.

The catch is that I was deeply unhappy.  I was constantly anxious and depressed.  Even when I wasn’t working, I had this awful feeling in my chest.  I couldn’t sleep.  I wasn’t eating healthy.  On the surface, I was happy but it was all fake.

Then one day, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and we had the talk.  My blood pressure was high and climbed higher every time I came in for an appointment.  My weight was becoming unhealthy.  Bottom line is that I had to make some changes.  Not only was this job hurting me emotionally but I could see the actual effects to my health.  That is what finally pushed me to make changes.

If this story resonates with you, I want to encourage you to join me in making a change.  We have to choose the path that is best for our health, well-being and livelihood.  Some of the signs that it might be time to make a change are:

  1. You’re sick more often.  Maybe you are sleep deprived and stressed.  Or have you found that you are going on doctor’s visits for more conditions?  Harvard and Stanford released a study that indicates workplace tension can cut up to three years from your life.
  2. Toxic work environment.  Are your coworkers hostile?  Maybe your boss is a backstabber.  If you are constantly surrounded by this type of negativity, it can be difficult to want to go to work and do your best every day.
  3. You hate going to work.  Dig deep and figure out what is really bothering you.  Is there a specific task or is it the people you are working with (see #2).
  4. You’re concerned about the financial stability of your company.  Sometimes the writing is on the wall and you need to protect yourself.
  5. You have no time for yourself.  Work-life balance is really important and if you aren’t getting it, it might be time to find a job that will.

Sautéed shishito peppers

img_2166I love to shop farmers markets! They are such a fun source of inspiration and new ingredients. I also really like giving my money directly to hard-working, passionate farmers. Since my daughter was born, I have been bringing her with me. I want to make sure she understands where her food comes from. I also think that when kids have a say in selecting food that they will be open minded so I pretty much give her free reign with purchases.

These little shishito peppers were one of my daughter’s purchases. I had never seen them before so I sure didn’t know what to do with them once I got home. They are mild, thinned walled peppers. I found a couple recipes online that either sautéed or roasted them with salt or soy sauce so I decided to try a really simple recipe. My whole family loved these peppers sautéed like this. We just ate them whole (except the stem, of course). I can’t wait to pick some more up at the farmers market.

 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb shishito peppers, washed and thoroughly dried
1 T olive oil
salt, to taste
Instructions

Toss the peppers in the olive oil and set aside.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.
Once it is warm, add the peppers and cook them. As they cook, turn occasionally so they cook evenly. They are done once they start to char and blister.

James E McNellie’s in Tulsa

I recently drove to Kansas City to spend some time with my family.  I already know that the drive from Austin to Kansas City is just short enough that it seems drivable in one day.  It is actually just long enough to drive me batty being stuck in the car for that long so we always break the drive up into two days when we do it.  This time, we stopped in Tulsa for the night as I like to get most of my driving done the first day.

Although I’m from the midwest, I’ve never been to Tulsa and didn’t really know what to expect.  I imagined a smaller biggish town (yes, that totally made sense).  I knew that I would be ready to sit down for dinner and drinks after driving across Texas and most of Oklahoma (read: I would need a reward).

I picked James E McNellie’s after spying their beer choices and reasonably priced food.  We are totally beer people (maybe even beer snobs) and love checking out new brews when we travel.

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The outside of McNellie’s is a brick building with large windows showing off the eating area and the bar. Inside, the exposed brick walls continue (love!) with dark, hardwood floors and butcher block tables. There’s an area with a pool table and bar shuffleboard games.  I thought this place had an upbeat atmosphere with a British (maybe Irish?) pub feeling.  The decor had quirky trinkets covering the walls.  The vibe was really cool and everyone was having a good time.

Unfortunately, our server wasn’t great.  He was prompt when we needed him but not a big communicator and definitely not very personable.  So he did the job  but wasn’t helpful with questions or suggestions.

They have over 350 beers on the menu so there is something for everyone.  I started out with a Boulevard Tank 7 because I love Boulevard and needed a thinking beer to figure out what to order.  I also ended up doing the Oklahoma flight to get a sampling of beers from the area.  They weren’t all winners for me but I enjoyed trying them.

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For the appetizer, we ordered the spinach artichoke dip.  This was pretty good but I thought that the parmesan really overpowered the other flavors in the dish.  For dinner, I ordered the cottage pie.  It has Guinness marinated beef tips topped with mashed potatoes and cheese, and served with a side of veggies. The cottage pie was delish.  My husband ordered the sausage dish and was happy with it also.

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Overall, we enjoyed our meal and would certainly return if we ever find ourselves in Tulsa again.

My Beach Bucket List

Obviously summer has me like “Let’s go to the beach”.  I can’t help it, I’m dreaming all day long about blue water and warm sand.  I put together a bucket list of all the beaches that I need to visit before I die because a girl has to dream, right?

Rabbit Beach, Italy

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Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

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Matira Beach, Tahiti

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Whitehaven Beach, Australia

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Maya Bay, Thailand

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I did my best to pick my five top beaches.  Of course there are tons and tons of amazing beach options.  What is on your beach bucket list?

Summer Basics

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My goal with my summer wardrobe is that it be comfortable, cute, versatile and light (I do live in Austin, after all).  These are my must have pieces for summer clothes.  I can mix and match these pieces all summer long to meet my clothes goals.

  1. White t-shirt – such a classic piece.  I dress them up and down but feel comfy no matter what.
  2. Converse Chuck Taylors – a black pair or white pair really go a long way.  I think they look really cute with pants, skirts and shorts.  There really isn’t much that they won’t do.
  3. Maxi dress – perfect for wanting to look nice in something cozy.
  4. Maxi skirt – Maxi skirts are the leggings of the summer lol.  They are really great with t-shirts or with a dresser top.
  5. Denim shorts – another classic.  Whether they are cutoff or cuffed like this pair, they make getting dressed a breeze.
  6. Strappy tank top – Seriously great for summer concerts or days out with the family.
  7. White denim – this just feels like summer to me.  I love wearing white capris with a patterned top and some cute sandals.
  8. Striped tank – Perfect for a casual outfit paired with literally every bottom on this list.
  9. Sandals – I will wear a pair of sandals like this all summer.  I have a pair of black and a pair of brown that I will live in until September.

Is there anything you would add to the list?

Port Aransas Scarlett Lady Dolphin Tour Review

The first day that we were in Port Aransas, someone told us that you could see dolphins from Robert Point Park. My daughter is a budding (7 year old) animal biologist so we knew this was a must for our vacation agenda. Plus, dolphins are cool (how could you argue with that rationale?).
Sure enough, from the pier at the park you can see dolphins swimming all over the place. It was really neat so we decided to find a dolphin tour. The first one we called was Scarlett Lady Dolphin Adventures. They were located nearby so we booked an afternoon tour with them. The cost was $25 for ages 12 and under and $35 otherwise.  

Upon boarding the cruise, they take the obligatory group pictures to sell you later. I’m sure the picture was fine but I take a lot of pictures so it wasn’t necessary to spend $10 on it.  

The staff on the boat was fantastic. There was a captain, a bartender and the guide. Our guide was a marine biologist and was seriously informative. She was also gracious when my daughter tried to steal the spotlight to answer questions and even let her field some about the dolphin eating habits. The captain and bartender were both really personable, they willingly answered questions about passing boats or the island in general.

The whole cruise was pretty casual and the boat was really clean (this is a big deal for me!). Once we got out of dock, we were able to move around the boat freely. They had drink options (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) but we only ordered waters.  

We saw a lot of dolphins and the captain would work to move in as close as possible so we could get a good look. We even had a couple dolphins jump completely out of the water which was seriously amazing.  

The whole cruise was about an hour and a half so plenty of time to watch dolphins and enjoy the ride.  

I would recommend the Scarlett Lady tour to anyone interested in getting a closer view of the dolphins and learning about Port Aransas.