Blog Post Compilations


I’m trying to weed out a blog I don’t post on often, so I’ll put up some of the crafts that I blogged about on there. Here they are:

Fraternity Formal Cooler

So living in the south during college is definitely an interesting experience. Greek life seems to be all the rage, and while I may not be in a sorority, my boyfriend’s fraternity loves the southern traditions. When I heard we were going to Nashville for formal, I knew I needed to step up and make a cooler. It was my first time making a cooler, so I went online for ideas and instructions.

It took me some time to get all my designs finished, but using the helpful instructions from Life in Pines blog I was able to make a fairly successful cooler!

See images below:

20130419_172033 20130417_180840 20130417_180906 20130417_180926 20130417_180951 20130419_172527


Card Making!

We’ve all had this experience– the day of a party or dinner you realize you have forgotten to get a gift for a birthday or graduation. You run to the store intent to find that perfect card, only to spend half an hour looking and finding NOTHING that says the right thing, that looks like something you’d be happy to present to the birthday/anniversary/celebration special someone. On top of that, lately you can’t even find a card without half naked men or women, a crude message, loud annoying songs, or a snide comment about age, let alone anything costing less than about $5.

Well, here’s the solution I came up with after time and time again of giving a substandard, expensive card: if you don’t like your options, MAKE IT YOURSELF! And that’s exactly what I did.

Making cards by hand is not only easy and fun, but it gives the cards a much more personal feel that tells the recipient that you care enough about them and their special day to spend your hard-earned free time to make something nice for them. They’ll love it to see the care and effort you put in to making their day that much more amazing!

To start out, you’ll need a ruler, sharpies/pens/crayons/paint/colored pencils/etc., scissors, and paper. I use scrapbooking paper, but you can use printer paper, card stock, anything you have on hand. Want more flare? Use different kinds of paper (thin sketching or tissue paper to decorate inside), ribbons, bows, or pictures.

Step 1: Shape.

Starting with a rectangular piece of paper, you can cut it down to make any shape or size card. Just make sure it’s folded and ready before designing. Be careful and try to fold it evenly– you don’t want your inside decorations to be seen before you want them to!

Step 2: Design.

Go crazy! I try to do borders on the inside and outside, then decorate with colors, shapes, etc. Take into account what kind of paper you have and what materials you are using to decorate– if the paper is thin, know that sharpie will bleed through to the other side. This can have a nice effect if purposeful; here is a Mother’s Day card that I made with the bleeding effect:

I always do a signature on the back as well, but it is up to you if you want to do that.

And that’s it! This is a simple and meaningful gift that is totally unique! With a little imagination and some bright colors, you can have a fun gift that will be appreciated and remembered!

Just a bit of crafty fun!

I am a swim coach in the summer, so working with kids can be… tough. But, one thing a fellow coach has taught me is that a surefire way to get kids to learn to behave well is to reward them. And with something big, flashy, and unique. As we are a swim team, a bit of sportsmanship is needed; cheering and a positive attitude during swim meets and practice is hard to come by. But for those kids that ditch the video games and cheer on their fellow team mates, try their hardest, and just smile, we like to show our support!

Every week we give out what we like to call a “Spirit Stick” to the two kids that were the most spirited and most positive at meets and practice. This reward, of course, can’t be some little toy that can be bought at a toy store. Since we need them in bulk, the easiest thing to do is make them ourselves!

To make:

2 ft long pvc pipe (one per stick needed) and end caps

Spray paint (whatever colors you want, we use our team’s colors: red and black)

Ribbon (again, color is up to you)

Dry beans

Leather cord

Colored beads


strong glue

Stickers, stick on gems, other decorations

Puff paint

So assemble your sticks by attaching the end caps to the pvc pipe, making sure to load the beans inside before sealing. Spray paint and let dry. Once dry, string beads on the ends of three long pieces of leather cord, then set aside. Using one color of ribbon, braid three long pieces together. Leave about three inches of ribbon at the bottom unbraided, then string with about 6 beads each and tie off the ends. Tie the ends of the leather cords around a small piece of ribbon, then tie it around the top of the pvc pipe, securing the braided ribbon underneath. Use the glue to secure the ribbon, let dry. While that is drying, cut three long pieces of another color ribbon. Tie them together at the top, tying into it two or three small “tight” feathers. Glue many “puffy” feathers to the back of the knot, and secure “tight” feathers with the glue. Once both the glue already on the stick and the glue on the feather decoration is dry, glue them together, using the feather decoration to cover the leather where it attaches to the stick.

Once completely assembled add dried, write the winner’s name on the stick in puffy paint and then attach the decorative stickers for a personalized, fun award!

Enchiladas, yes Please!

As a swim coach of a country club league, there is a week that I both anticipate and dread– Coaches’ Appreciation Week. After a few days of tons and tons of brownies, donuts, cookies, and bagels, I don’t know what to do with all the food! Well, this year I took home about a few 1/2 pound cartons of cream cheese with some bagels, and didn’t know what to do with all the schmear. So what does one do with 3 cartons of flavored and unflavored cream cheese? Well, after doing a bit of research online with the keywords “cream cheese recipes”, I found you can do a lot, actually. After sorting through the sweets (after a weeks worth of brownies and cookies I wasn’t really wanting to bake anything…), I found a promising recipe– Beef Cream Cheese Enchiladas. Well, I am a vegetarian, so the beef was out, but the idea stuck. From, I found a vegetarian recipe so here goes!

I replaced the enchilada sauce with home-made salsa, used a can of tomatoes and a tablespoon of garlic chili sauce as a replacement for the canned chilies, and a bit of onion powder and frozen onions as a replacement for a fresh onion.

Home-made Salsa

1 small can chilies and tomatoes

2 tbsp garlic powder

1 cup seasoning blend frozen vegetables

1 cup frozen corn

olive oil

2 tbsp garlic chili sauce

lime juice

Saute frozen veggies and spice (incl. garlic chili sauce) with 1 tbsp olive oil. Add can of chilies with juices, then fill empty can 1/4 full with water. Turn heat to med-high and add the water. Cover and let sit until cooked down (5-10 minutes). Add in lime juice to taste, then stir and let coo;. Refrigerate.

I followed the directions from the recipe along with my substitutions. The cream cheese was a mixture of plain and veggie. I noticed that cream cheese was a little strong to taste before baking, so I might use less of the cream cheese in future batches.

790 Days…


…or 68,256,000 seconds, 1,137,600 minutes, 18,960 hours, or about 112 weeks. That’s how long I’ll be away from home in Belize, starting next week. I’ve been spending the past several weeks primarily with family and friends, preparing to leave and start my new life. I’ll be posting mainly on my travel blog,, and creating a blog to discuss the trials and triumphs of my long distance relationship with my fiance.

Wish me luck!

Projects: Cooking, drinks, and writing


I’ve been asked a lot lately what I’ve been doing since I graduated while I wait to leave for Belize. My usual answer: “Just sitting around.” In all honesty though, that’s not true (it’s just way easier than an actual explanation). I’m always doing something, whether it’s learning a new recipe, researching Belize, writing my story, or any number of the projects I cook up in my brain. There’s hardly a day when I’m not trying to get something done. And really, isn’t that the way it should be?

So lately I’ve been working on my April Camp NaNoWri Mo writing project. It’s going REALLY REALLY slowly. But I haven’t forced myself to sit down and write as often as I should, so it’s really my fault. I’ve gotten close to 9k words so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up 11000 words in the next ten days, but I doubt it.

On the other hand, another project I’ve been working on IS successful. Since I’ll be gone and my boyfriend will have to teach himself to cook, he asked me to write up a recipe book for him that can help give him ideas and pointers. So, after only about 4 total days of working on it, it’s over 9k words (longer than the NaNo project I’ve been working on for 20 days…) and around 70 pages of recipes. I’m excited to give it to him!

Finally, since I’ve been making a cookbook, I have been finding a bunch of new recipes that I want to try. So today I made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. They’re in the freezer solidifying right now, but the warm melty bite I got was delicious! Take a look:

PB&J Bars. After freezing them I’m still not super happy with the jelly texture– too liquidy. Need something a bit more substantial to hold bars together. Also needed to grease foil a lot more, took a lot of work to get them out.

And after dinner, I decided to make a big-kid drink (because… I can). This is my ‘Cup o’ Candy’; 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice, 1/8 cup lemon juice, and 2 jiggers of white rum blended with ice in a shaker, poured over 1/2 jigger of rum in a glass rimmed with chia seeds and brown sugar, drizzled with grenadine syrup and topped with 1/2 jigger of rum. You know those delicious dark red gummy lifesavers? It tastes exactly like that. This drink is dangerous!

Tasted amazing, especially chia seeds🙂

By the way, be looking out for more baby shower crafts– a friend is having her baby shower next month! I’ll also be thinking up graduation crafts (presents and party ideas) for my boyfriend’s graduation in a few weeks!

The Heartbleed Bug takes over your internets!


Mashable Article: The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now

Another craze has hit the web, and this time it looks bad for users of a LOT of common websites. The Hearbleed bug is the newest cyberthreat, or so says news outlets like the BBC (my go-to even for US news). This new cyber-threat has resulted in a breach of security of many major websites, resulting in news outlets to recommend a mass change in passwords. Check out the above article to see if any website account you have has been affected (most likely that’s a yes).

My advice: If you’re like me and don’t change your passwords that often (I do really like having them memorized…), then it’s probably about time you change your passwords anyway. As daunting and tedious as it sounds, spend a couple of hours going through all your accounts and making new passwords. I understand that it’ll take a long time, I did it this morning. What did I get out of it? Other than a major headache (or possibly my first migraine?) and a bunch of websites that I can’t remember my password to, I now am content to know that (at least for today.. probably) my secure accounts will remain secure.

Don’t know how to make a secure password? Google it. Or just click here: Tips for creating a strong password–

If you’re like me and want to have a little more information about this cyber heart-breaker, check out these BBC* articles about the Heartbleed Bug:

Heartbleed Bug: What you need to know

Heartbleed Bug creates confusion on the internet

*I shamelessly promote using the BBC as your new source, even in the US. It’s got great international news that covers worldwide, and is a very reliable, fairly unbiased and well-written source. Here’s there homepage, check it out.

Photos of projects


I promised some photo updates of the projects I’ve been up to, so here they are:

Jello Shots in Clementine Peels

Made with peach flavored jello and 1/2 cup of silver rum.

  • Jello mix made according to package instructions (replace 1/2 cup of cold water with 1/2 cup of rum or vodka)
  • 6 clementines, halved and insides removed
  • Place clementine halves in a muffin tray cups, then fill with jello mixture
  • Refrigerate until solid, then slice in half


Jalapeno Poppers

Jalapeno Poppers

  • Followed recipe from culinaryconfessional.
  • Substituted cream cheese for herb goat cheese and didn’t use bacon.

Inside of the jalapeno poppers.


The “House Party” Pizza

  • Easy to make– get Publix (or any grocery store that does it) pre-made pizza dough from the deli/bakery section, your choice of meat/veggie toppings, your choice of meltable cheese, and pasta/tomato sauce.
  • Refrigerate dough, follow instructions on preparation.
  • Prepare toppings- I chopped up onions, bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and pre-cooked Canadian bacon.
  • Stretch the dough and form to a well greased pan. Preset oven to temp specified on dough instructions.
  • Put a LIGHT layer of sauce on the dough, then put in the oven to pre-bake for 10 minutes.
  • Get pre-baked crust out of the oven, spread toppings. Cover with a light layer of shredded cheese, then bake until cheese is melted and crust turns golden brown.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Towel Robe

Towel Robe

  • Reverse-engineered the robe my mom made me a few years ago (not nearly as well).
  • Used 4 oversized towels (from Walmart).
  • Towel 1: back. Cut a slant at the top for shoulders and half-circles on each side for half the arm circles.
  • Towel 2: Cut in half (long way). Cut one arm hole half-circle in each half, as well as one shoulder slant. Match with the back, each half should be the front sides.
  • Sew the front pieces (towel 2) on to the back piece (towel 1) leaving the arm holes open.
  • Towel 3: Cut one 3 in strip on the long side. This will be the belt once folded in half and sewed. Cut the remaining towel bit in half (long way). These are the arms.
  • Cut arms to length desired, then sew the sides of each arm piece together to create the sleeve. How sew the cuff of the arm, then attach to the armholes of the robe.
  • Towel 4: Pockets and collar. *This is the part I had trouble with*. Matching the right length between chest level on the front of the robe on one side, around the back of the neck and to the same point on the other side, cut from the 4th towel the collar. it should be curved on one side and flat on another, thicker around the back of the neck and thinner at the chest. Attach this carefully to the correct places on the robe.
  • *Optional*: Cut 2 pockets (about 3in square). Attach to robe.

Playing House


It’s been a while since I’ve done a serious “Life Lessons” post frankly because I couldn’t think of anything to add. Sure, I’ve been keeping myself busy with little projects here and there, but I don’t want every post on this blog to be about a new cooking adventure, my writing, or the craft projects I’ve been doing. This started out as a blog to talk about advice and my own learning about how to “be an adult”, and I want to make sure it stays true to that topic.

To tie up some loose ends:

  1. No I did not meet my March writing goal. I didn’t even get halfway there. I’m having some existential issues with books two and three and also rethinking my editing of book 1, so I got sidetracked from the writing part. I signed up for Camp Nano this month, so we’ll see if I can meet my 30k word goal.
  2. I have been busy with projects. Cooking is the main one; I recently prided myself on making jello shots in clementine skins, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, and a veggie pizza that actually holds together. In the crafts department, I made a towel robe out of oversized towels for my boyfriend, but after sizing it to him I need to go back and cut it WAY down (apparently when I don’t see him I think he’s a giant…). ** I’ll post some photos in another blog**
  3. I am currently house/pet sitting for my parents while they are out-of-town. Which is the inspiration for this blog.

The Grown-Up Test aka House-sitting.

So my parents are off in Europe for two weeks to do the second part of the Camino de Santiago. They walked the first part last year and will do the last part next year. So, while they are gone, I essentially am the caretaker of the house; care for the cats, make sure the house doesn’t get destroyed by the cats, do all the cooking, cleaning, and maintenance, and in general keep things going like normal. Here are some things I’ve been learning in the past week or so:

  1. Going to the grocery store is actually fun. I can honestly say that I usually HATE grocery shopping. It’s always crowded, the prices are always more than I want to pay, I always forget to buy something, and I always feel slightly judged by the cashier for buying beer (plus the inevitable “you can’t be old enough for this, can you?” before I pull out my ID, and then the awkward “well, you’ll always look young for your age” comment). It’s just an ordeal. But after you’ve been stuck alone in the house for a few days with only your cats to talk to (I do realize how lame that sounds), going ANYWHERE with people is fun. And to get the ingredients for the recipe you’ve been wanting to try for days? Amazing.
  2. Just because you’re at home with nothing to do doesn’t mean you do nothing. So I kind of blew off my own advice for a few days. I had just gotten back from a vacation with my boyfriend when my parents left, and all I felt like doing was sleeping and watching TV. But after a couple of days watching TV and not changing out of my PJs, I realized how lazy I was being. And it wasn’t just my conscience scolding me for being a bum, I felt terrible. I was always tired, but I didn’t sleep well at night. I felt like I was gaining weight. My brain felt fuzzy, and no matter how bored I felt I couldn’t get myself to do something productive like read a book or write. No matter how cool it may seem of be able to sit around watching TV all day in your PJs, eating junk food, etc…. it’s not. I stopped that pretty fast and set a loose schedule for my days.
  3. Time flies when you’re doing things. So before, when I was just watching TV and doing nothing productive, it seemed like the day took forever to go by. It was one crappy daytime TV show after another, and it was boring. But once I started to actually do things with my day, the time went by faster. Morning breakfast, exercise and shower took until almost eleven. After lunch I either read, work on a puzzle, or work on some craft/cooking project. Before I knew it, it was dark. Then it’s dinner and then  I can allow myself to veg out by the TV for a few hours before bed.
  4. Animals are a HUGE responsibility. This is really something I already knew, but wanted to emphasize it even more. Our pets are like family, and we make sure they’re taken care of. But it’s constant hard work. I know a lot of people who adopted pets before realizing how much of a responsibility they were, and the pets don’t get the proper care because of it. Honestly, I’d recommend waiting until at least after you graduate college and have a job to consider a pet. They need food, water, toys, and care products that take a lot of money. They need constant attention (even cats) and love. If you’re not ready to dedicate your time, money and attention to them, don’t adopt them. I love my cats, but my mom is really the one that cares for them usually. And when my parents left, I was shocked at how much attention the cats needed– the first few days they kept me up at night because I didn’t play with them enough to tire them out (that and they were worried about why my parents had left them). I love the cats, but they are a lot of work. (Also, it makes me sympathetic for mothers everywhere. I find myself constantly yelling “Don’t scratch that!”, “Don’t eat that!”, “Stop fighting with your sister!”)
  5. Being safe doesn’t mean being crazy. Being alone in a big house at night is never very fun. Besides the cats being noisy and annoying when I tried to sleep, I was constantly worried about the house. My parents moved into the house last summer, so it’s still pretty new to me and I’m learning all the normal bumps and creaks of the house at night. I’d get myself worked up over some little noise that was probably a cat, and go downstairs with all the lights on to recheck the door locks and the alarm. Yes it’s important to check the locks before going to bed and make sure the alarm is on. But every little noise is not someone breaking in, just relax and go to sleep.
  6. Screening your calls makes life a lot easier. So I do this already on my cell phone. If I’m not expecting a call and I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. If it’s important, they will leave a message. I have been doing this at the house while I’ve been here alone, and out of the 2-3 calls a day we’ve gotten, only 1 (total) has bothered to leave a message. Obviously the others were telemarketers and not worth my time on the phone.

Now obviously this experience hasn’t given me insight into everything that I’ll have to do and worry about as an adult. There are bills and taxes and those pesky jobs… but I have learned that if I decide one day to become a stay-at-home wife/mom, I can not only manage it, but have fun doing it. I love cooking for my boyfriend (he stayed over the weekend so I cooked him pizza and jalapeno poppers) and I can manage my days to be productive. It’s all about self-discipline, structure, and the drive to have an adventure everyday whether with a new craft, a new recipe, or just continuing a project.

Projects: Chromebook, Writebox, and Writing on the go!


It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and it’s because I’ve been gone the past week on a ‘spring break’ trip with my boyfriend (his spring break… I guess just a normal week for me!). He was invited to interview with a company in Florida, and we were able to make an almost week-long trip out of it.

Now, for anyone who writes often, taking vacations can be difficult. You have to decide if you’re willing to take a break from writing or not, how you want to write while you’re gone, and how to save your writing. I prefer to write using my laptop, but it’s old and has only about a 20 minute battery life at this point, so not ideal for long car rides or days without guaranteed electricity access.

For graduation, I was given a Chromebook. I love the lightness and the long battery life, and have been working on how to adapt my writing to more easily use the Chromebook (I really only love using my laptop because it has all my documents saved to it and I don’t have to alter my formatting). So here are the pros and cons I’ve found to using a Chromebook:

Chromebook Pros:

1) Long battery life. You really don’t need to worry about a charging cable unless you’re going to use it for more than four or five hours, and that’s with doing a lot of internet surfing and keeping the screen brightness up. If you were to turn off the wi-fi completely and turn down the brightness (plus other battery-saving habits), you can get even more time out of it.

2) It’s light, so easy to carry around with you. I walked two miles from my hotel to the beach with it in my shoulder bag. I shudder to think of the back pain I’d get from doing that with my 17 in. laptop!

3) Easy access and upload to Google Drive. As long as you have wi-fi, the Chromebook syncs automatically with your Google account, which allows easy access to documents on your Drive. You can also set up specific documents to be able to be viewed offline.

4) Offline functions. I haven’t fully explored these because I almost always have internet, but the Chromebook has an assortment of offline options. You can compose emails, documents, and do an assortment of other activities once you’ve fully set up your offline features. Here’s a full list of the offline functions: Use your Chromebook offline.

Chromebook Cons:

1) Formatting issues. I’m used to using Microsoft Word to write in. I love all the options I have for formatting and editing, and just got used to it. As far as I have found I can’t really get an offline version of Word for my Chromebook, so I’ve had to look at other word processing application options. Google Drive tends to mess up any Word formatting if it’s converted to a Drive document and while I can view a Word document in its original formatting, I can’t edit it. In addition, since all my previous work has been saved as a Word document, I have to transfer all my Drive documents to Word on my laptop later.

2) Original Apps. The Chromebook comes with an app called Scratchpad, but it’s not so much a word processor as a note-pad. I knew I couldn’t use it for writing anything of length.

After using my Chromebook for a few months, I love it! I still prefer the ease of saving and organizing my documents on my laptop, but as for just writing, I love to use it. And now that I’ve been exploring word processing apps, I can say that my love for writing on my Chromebook has only increased now that I use Writebox. For some reason I really dislike writing with Google Drive; it just seems slow and the formatting always seems to mess up somehow. I have started using Writebox to do my word processing, and it seems to work a lot better. Here’s why:

Writebox Pros:

1) Offline access. No matter where I am, I know that I have access to a blank Writebox page. Saving is a bit tricky without internet, but you can write however much you want.

2) Syncing to Google Drive and Dropbox. The way Writebox works is you compose in the application, then use the syncing feature to save the document to your Google Drive or Dropbox account. You can manipulate the file name and saving location within each account, and it shows up immediately. I like to use this to copy-paste into a Google Drive document for future editing, while saving the formatting structure that can easily transfer to Word.

3) Simple and Distraction-free. Maybe the reason I don’t like to write with Google Drive is because it’s too busy for me. I’m used to the business of Word. Somehow, I don’t see all the little buttons and features while I’m trying to write. But put me on a Google Doc and I keep having to check to see when it last saved, click through several buttons to find the cord count. Also, my go-to font, Times New Roman, looks different both in spacing and design on Google Docs, and that throws me. But Writebox is absolutely no-frills. There is a small toolbar at the top that gives options for opening a document, creating a new document, seeing recently created documents, a preview button, a short menu (save, download, settings, etc), and the sync button. At the bottom of the screen is a breakdown of word count, characters, and lines. Nothing else. I LOVE being able to see the word count as it grows (which you can’t do with Google Docs), and I’m not distracted by anything else. The text looks the same as in Word, and it’s easy to use.

Writebox Cons:

1) A bit too simple. There’s not real option to alter the formatting. I like it, but anyone who doesn’t like the Writebox formatting is SOL. You can’t double-space, you can’t center any text, and you can’t change the font at all. Again, not a big deal for me, but it might be for someone else.

2) Saving. From what I understand of it, you have to either have a Google account or a Dropbox account to be able to save anything. Not really a problem; who doesn’t have a Google account anyway? Both are free and easy to set up, and if you don’t have one or the other for document saving you probably should. (If you don’t know about Dropbox, check it out here. It’s a great file storage and sharing site.)

So for my readers here’s a question: What are your opinions of the Chromebook? And if you’re a writer, have you used a Chromebook and/or Writebox? What are your favorite online file sharing/saving/editing websites and apps?

Happy Friday night, and GO SHOCKERS, JAYHAWKS, and WILDCATS!

Edit: Thanks to twitter, I found this blog post about the Four of The Best Text Editors for Your Chromebook. Check it out and tell me what you think of the two alternate options that Mr. Price discusses.

Writing Update: Word count rising!


I was so sure not two days ago that I had finished book 2 of my series (the first draft). I spent hours yesterday writing out my chapter-by-chapter plan for book 3 and brainstorming a working title. But then last night I realized… book two isn’t done yet. It was close, so very close, but not yet complete. I brainstormed for  a while sitting in bed, and resolved to figure everything out in the morning. Luckily, I was so engrossed with planning that somehow I continued thinking about it in my sleep. And by the time I woke up, I knew what I needed to do.

I had to edit through the plans for book 3 to fit in the changes that my addition in book two would make on the plot, but all in all, I love the new bits! I’ve just finished adding on the two chapters that I needed in book 2, and will continue on to book 3 later. Super excited!

With the writing I’ve done today, I managed to catch up my word count to past where it was supposed to be to complete 50k this month. Honestly, 1.6ish thousand words a day is not difficult once you’ve actually sat down to write. Getting yourself focused long enough to actually write is the hard part.

Here’s the updated word count as of now:

Traveling: To Go or Not to Go


If you’re getting close to graduation, you’ve probably heard people talk about taking trips to Europe or taking a year to backpack around the world. I know when I first heard that people ACTUALLY did that, I was flabbergasted. And it wasn’t surprise that people wanted to go abroad or take a year off to ‘find themselves’, I was more shocked at HOW CAN YOU AFFORD TO TRAVEL FOR SO LONG WITHOUT A PAYCHECK???? Because I’m frugal and I hate watching my bank account diminish with each credit card payment, the idea of traveling and spending so much money scared me to death!

Thanks to UltimosLibros for the image.

However, once I was given a ‘job’ offer with the Peace Corps and realized that I’d be living pretty much without personal expenses for two years, that savings cushion seemed to look a bit more tempting. I wanted to do something special with my boyfriend, a kind of ‘Thank you for letting me leave you for 2 years’ thing. I mentioned earlier that we had thought about going to Europe. He’d never been, I wanted to go back, etc. Well, traveling to Europe is a bit hard without a passport. I had to turn mine in to get a new PC specific one, so going outside the US was nixed.

Limited to staying within the US, my boyfriend and I decided on New York; he’d been once, I’ve never been. Once we finalized our decision about New York, I realized that we were planning VERY close to the birth of my nephew, so I modified our plans a bit: I’d fly up to stay a week with my sister, her husband and my new nephew, my boyfriend would fly up to meet me, then the two of us would take Amtrak to New York, stay there for a few days and then fly home. It definitely complicated arrangements a bit– we had to buy two one-way flights instead of one round trip, and we had to add in the expense of Amtrak. But all in all, not too bad.

Thanks to for the image.

But here’s where it get’s hard: actually booking things. I hate booking things. I had to do it while I was in England, and it’s one of those grown-up things that is just time-consuming and annoying. I mean, who wants to spend time and hassle figuring out the best way to spend money? Not me. But I have to be a grown-up now; mommy and daddy can’t book my flight or tell me which hotel to stay at.

After doing all this, here’s what I learned:


Check out this post on Y Travel Blog for more on how to plan longer trips.

Just like with everything else, I will spend hours if not days researching before I buy anything. Especially with travel arrangements, it always seems like you can find something better, something cheaper. But then, cheaper doesn’t always mean better and then you’re back at square one! It took my boyfriend and I about 2 weeks to finally make our final decisions. Granted, we made most of the decisions in the few days we were actually together  (he lives at school still and I live at my parents house 45 minutes away). But it still involved a lot of research and number crunching on my part.

If you’re wanting to travel, pretty much my favorite site to search flights is It’s fast, it’s simple, and seems to be reliable. I like being able to easily change dates or airports, and it keeps each change saved under a new tab so you can compare quickly and without hassle. I haven’t used it for anything else (hotels, car rental, etc.), but I’m sure it works well.

Thanks to A Hopeful Traveler for the image!

Another amazing site I like to use is Especially if you’re a student or recent grad and want to travel cheap, this is the place to look for hotels, hostels, B&Bs, apartment rentals, and campsites. I used it when I was traveling in England and found an AMAZING hostel in Edinburgh. I’m using it now to find hotels in New York (my boyfriend doesn’t like the idea of a hostel). The site is reliable for booking and very easy to use!

A word of warning on booking your hotel though: make sure you check out the area you’re booking in to see what kind of transportation is available, what the area is like, etc. We almost booked a B&B in Newark, but were warned that Newark isn’t a great city to be in. While I’m sure the B&B there is excellent, we decided we’d rather pay the extra money to be in New York City close to the metro, and also know we’re in a safe area (as safe as any part of New York is at least).

Finally, you can’t plan a trip without knowing things you’re going to do. And for my boyfriend and I, that means planning out FOOD. We’re foodies; we love watching the travel channel and food network, anything like Man vs. Food or Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives is amazing. So we made sure to check out our options! Two great sites for this: TV Food Maps and Nomadic Matt.

(Rule #2) BOOK EARLY, BOOK CAREFULLY. Once you’ve got your trip all planned out, you’re probably getting ready to book. I like to have all my researched prices laid out on an excel template so I know what I should be paying, it helps calm the cheap-o in my brain a little. Be ready to book well in advance, but keep your eyes open for price changes; especially with airfare, prices will fluctuate pretty regularly, and will change depending on day of the week.

Here’s a tip to a cheaper flight: book a flight for a Tuesday-Thursday. They’re significantly cheaper than the rest of the week.

Your research should have found the cheapest options for you. For my boyfriend and I, flights actually turned out to be overall cheaper doing one-way tickets. We have to add in the price of Amtrak, but even with that it comes out to almost the same price as a round-trip airfare would have been.

Now, here’s where the BOOK CAREFULLY comes in. Buying plane tickets was easy. Find the airfare, hit purchase, fill in some info about yourself, and your done. Hundred dollars spent. Easy-peasy. Buying Amtrak, not so easy. Technically it should be just as easy; the process is similar, you even fill in less information. BUT, that’s if their website is working.

Unfortunately, it was my job to buy the Amtrak tickets (my boyfriend bought the plane tickets from New York, so it was only fair), and even more unfortunately I happened to try to buy  them while Amtrak was having a miniature crisis on Monday. As far as I can tell, for poor Amtrak it was the day that NOTHING went right. The snowstorm caused train delays and cancellations. The website crashed, which meant the phone lines were swarmed, and all their potential and current customers were angry. I tried to purchase tickets and kept having problems getting through the website, which should have been a warning to me to stop and try again the next day. But I was impatient. Finally I got to the payment page and was able to enter all my payment information and click “purchase”, only to receive a website error. I was worried. Did they have my payment info? Did the tickets get reserved? Would they bill me? I stressed all day, sent an email to them, checked my credit card account, checked the Amtrak twitter, tried to call (gave up on the 110 minute wait), and finally gave it up for the day. They hadn’t billed my card hours later, and I still hadn’t received a confirmation or a reply to my email. Who knew what was going on? Next day (today) I still hadn’t received anything from them and my card still wasn’t billed, so I felt a little more confident and a little more annoyed. Honestly, this seemed like too much of a hassle. If my boyfriend didn’t get motion sick, I could have bought two Megabus tickets for $9 total (check them out, they’re cheap, reliable, and did I mention cheap??)! I sent another email to Amtrak, which also went unanswered. I tried to call, and was given a 49 minute wait so I hung up. I finally was able to contact Amtrak through twitter, and they answered that without a confirmation there is no reservation. That’s all I needed. So I booked the train (again) and this time I received a confirmation, and my credit card did get billed. What an ordeal! I’m thankful to Amtrak’s Twitter people, but frustrated with their other forms of customer service failing. I know that they’re busy, but I gave them a whole day to answer an email! Now don’t take this as me telling you not to buy Amtrak. They seem like a great service, though a bit pricey. I will reserve judgement until I ride the train, but don’t expect to be displeased. If you’re willing to pay the money and don’t need to bother with customer service, give them a try!

(Rule #3) KNOW WHY YOU WANT TO TRAVEL. I’ve read the advice books that say everyone should travel in between graduation and settling into a job. I’ve gotten so much advice from friends and family to ‘just go’! Well, it’s not that easy. And if you feel the same way, then don’t go! If you want to step right into working, do it. If you don’t think it’s the right time for YOU to go out and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and weeks or months traveling, don’t do it. Yes, it’s a great time for you to travel because you’ll never again have as much free time or as little responsibility. But will you enjoy it as much if you’re constantly worried about running your bank account dry?

The way I see it, the decision comes down to what you value. If you travel now you’ll have the time to see whatever you want and be gone as long as you want. But, you may have to sleep in train stations or in a 12-person dorm in a crappy hostel, and you may have to eat at fast food restaurants or out of vending machines, all to save money. If you travel after you’ve been working and saving up money your time may be limited to a week or two, but you’ll be able to stay at a nicer hotel and actually get some sleep, you’ll be able to eat out at nice local restaurants and participate in more activities without worrying about draining your bank account to zero. So weigh your options and make a decision. This is your life, don’t listen to wayward advice if it’s not right for you!

Good luck in your decision or planning, now I’ve got a hotel booking to figure out!

Questionnaire and a Question to YOU!


I found this questionnaire via Jodie Llewellyn, who got it from The YA League. I loved it so much, I wanted to type up my answers for my own blog. I promise I’ll get out a ‘real’ planned post soon!

Writing Habits 

1. Typed or Handwritten?

I prefer to type. It’s easier to save and review than paper; I like to write and save by chapter, so then I can go back easily to change bits or search for accuracy in future (I can’t imagine searching through pages and pages in a notebook to find the chapter I ‘think’ something is in, and having to repeat that over and over.) I also noticed when I did have to write by hand that my writing couldn’t keep up with what was going on in my head, and I’d get lost! Typing is much better for me.

I do use a hand-written journal for notes and planning. Since it’s just for me and I am not planning to send bits off to my brainstormer/critic (aka, my boyfriend), I can keep it on paper and in a pretty leather-bound journal.

I love my journal– handmade paper and leather bound. Sure, my cat knocked nail polish remover on the cover, but my notes and planning stayed safe inside!

Even in my journal I can’t resist having some things typed!

Notes and plans in my journal. I’ve got everything from character bios to location ideas to timelines to chapter-by-chapter (roughly) guides.

2. Cursive or Printed?

Kind of a rough mixture of the two. Another reason I don’t write by hand– my handwriting is terrible, especially if I write fast (which I do when writing my story, see my explanation about keeping up with my brain!) and it all jumbles into a bunch of loopy, messy chicken scratches. For a perfectionist like me, this won’t do at all.

3. Show us your favourite pen.

Don’t have one, I just use whatever is near me. If I’m writing in my planning journal a fountain or gel pen works best. Ballpoint doesn’t write too well on handmade paper.

4. Where do you like to write?

When I was at school my writing space was my desk. I had to have everything cleared off except for my writing journal and my laptop, but it worked well. Now that I’m home I can’t use my old desk because the chair has no back and is uncomfortable (firstworldissues much?) so my writing spot is either on the living room couch or at the kitchen table.

5. Who are your five favorite authors in terms of authorial style?

I am in the middle of the Divergent series and I love Veronica Roth. I have issues with the first-person style, but Roth and Suzanne Collins both are great and have made me enjoy reading books in that style. I prefer writing in third person limited, my favorite author in this style is of course JK Rowling.

6. What are you your three favourite books on writing?

I haven’t read much on writing. I should probably do more so I can perfect my writing style. I did win a copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It’s a good resource, but I haven’t used it much since I developed the characters for my current book years ago. I’ll be referring to it when I start my next book!

They also have The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Emotion Thesaurus. Check them out!

7. Have you ever competed in NaNoWriMo?

Yes. My first time competing was way back in 2007, and I failed miserably. I thought I couldn’t possibly ever write a novel after that. Fortunately, I tried again in 2011, and have been participating ever since.

8. Have you ever won NaNoWriMo?

Yes! After my disaster in 2007 I took a few years to mature as a writer (I was in high school back then and had neither the time or the discipline to write 50k words). I tried again in 2011 and won, and have won each year since then!

9. Have you ever had anything published?

No. I’d like to eventually get the series I’m currently working on published. I’ve got 2 of (hopefully) 3 books written for the series, one edited through once. I’m getting some other people to read and critique them (my boyfriend, bless his heart, isn’t a good critic. He gets some grammar edits and tells me when something doesn’t make sense, but that’s it). Hopefully before I leave for Belize I’ll be able to start the query process.

10. What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on a YA/NA series. I just finished my first edits of book 1, As the Blood Moon Rises, and the first draft of book 2, Ice on the Horizon. Now to start book 3 (no name yet)!

11. What is your soundtrack to writing?

I have a concentration problem when I write. Not that I don’t love to write, but I also love to sing along with music. And the two do not mix well.

12. Do you have a writing pump-up song?

However, if I need help with inspiration to START writing, Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole is a good one.

I also love Arctic Snow  and Heart Full of Black by Burning Brides. Thanks to my friend Alyssa for giving these to me in high school on a CD with other ‘pump up’ music. We had created a story about ourselves as assassins, and these were part of the soundtrack.

(ONE OF MY OWN Q’S) Do you plan your work ahead of time or are you a ‘pantser’?

I am a planner. Strictly. I’ve decided my downfall during my first NaNoWriMo was due to the fact that I had nothing planned out. Beginnings and endings are easy to write. Middles are hard. That’s why I must have everything decided. That’s not saying that while I write new things don’t come up; my original plan for book one of the series I am working on was 20 chapters long. The first draft was 67.

As I said before, I use journals to plan. I have one for the series I’m working on, and I have one for this blog. It’s a place to write down notes, ideas for future posts/chapters, and help my brain stay organized.

I want to hear from you!

If you’re a writer like me, I’d love to hear your answers to these questions! I don’t care if you’re a blogger, a novelist, or a professional tech writer, all are welcome to comment. I’d love to hear from you!


Also I just got into twitter (sigh) and I use it to send out tidbits about my writing and my blogging. If you’re there, follow me @k_smith007!