My 10 Favorite Travel Photos This Year

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We’re doing things a little differently today and in lieu of a new recipe, I’m going to share something just as near and dear to my heart. I thought I’d put together 10 of my favorite travel photos from this year and share them with you! I’ve had a whirlwind summer, 5 countries, countless cities, and that’s not even including my January – April, which included 4 US cities and two Southeast Asian countries. I’ve had an amazing year so far traveling and it’s not over yet. I still have 5 more countries to visit this year and a few more cities to check off my list too.

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Probably the most rewarding part of traveling the globe isn’t just the fact that I get to tell stories of the places I go or meet with people who’ve lived in a world entirely different than mine, it’s getting to photograph everything I see. When I can’t find the words to sum up an experience, I don’t, I share a photo. Photography is a rather new passion of mine, but it’s become as engrained in me as writing. Not a day goes by that I don’t use my camera or my iPhone. I’m constantly looking at the world through a photographer’s eye. This has opened me up to new experiences and adventures I never would have even though about (The Giving Lens, for example).

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Even though I’ll always be a writer, I wanted to share pieces of my photography passion with you too and show you some of my favorite photos taken in Thailand, Singapore, Peru, Iceland, England, Kenya, San Francisco and Canada. I hope they inspire and excite you to visit some of these magnificently beautiful places.

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The elephants in the Amboseli National Park, Kenya. It was one thing to get super close to the elephants in Thailand at the sanctury, but it was another to be this close to them in their natural habitat. When this photo was taken, there was a family of at least 50 wondering around both sides of our jeep. We got so close to them, an 8 year old male elephant actually touched the face of another travel writer with his tusk as he explored the jeep. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

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The Snaefellsnes mountain range in Western Iceland. We got to hike and drive around these majestic mountains on one of our last full days in Western Iceland. Even though I only got to see a small portion of this country, every single corner held something beautiful to see, whether it was a gushing waterfall, an iconic glacial hot spring, a black sand beach or a sea of snow capped mountains. 

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When I was working with The Giving Lens in Thailand, we spent a few days at COSA, a non profit outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand that helps girls who have been victims of sex trafficking. After that, we visited a few hill tribes where many of the girls came from, and where many who are sold into trafficking are taken from. This little girl had such sad eyes, it was almost as if she could see what might be coming in her future. This image is hard to look at, even now.

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On a much happier note, this is one of my favorite photos from my trip to San Francisco. This was taken at Silver Oak, one of the most beautiful wineries and vineyards in Napa. It was a perfect day with my family celebrating my older brothers birthday and I think that’s why this one makes me so incredibly happy. I only get to see my entire family once or twice a year, so having those few days with them was awesome. That and Napa Valley is just breathtaking.

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I fell head over heels in love with the zebras in the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. I’ve always been fascinated by these stunning animals, but to see them running, nursing and grazing in their own habitat unobstructed by cages or zookeepers was incredible. These moments left all of us speechless and we sat in silence as we watched this completely natural and beautiful act happen right in front of us.

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Alberta, Canada is easily one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, and this photo inside one of the many parks only further defines my point. This small waterfall is right inside Johnson’s Canyon, a set of hiking trails and waterfalls that’s right outside of Banff National Park. I took over 150 photos inside this canyon alone.

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This list wouldn’t be complete without an iconic photo of Machu Picchu. I took over 1,000 photos of very short time in Peru, and this is my absolute favorite of Machu. There was this mystical fog rolling over the hills and the light was coming in perfectly on the left side, giving my photo these amazing rays of light and speckles of lens flare. It adds such a dramatic and enchanting element to this completely magical place.

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So this photo was actually taken on my phone, surprisingly enough. Bath, England is one of my favorite places in the entire world. The city is so quirky and unbelievably beautiful. All of the buildings are made with this iconic Bath limestone that dates back to the Roman times. There is so much history steeped in every stone and around every corner, it’s hard not to feel transported back in time when you walk the cobblestone streets.

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This was taken in an alleyway of Haji Lane, the Arabic and Middle Eastern corridor of Singapore City. Singapore, and this area especially, is constantly bustling with traffic, people walking around and noise everywhere. This little alleyway though was quiet and still, and all you could hear was the sound of traffic behind you. It was a rare moment of tranquility that I just had to capture. That and the colorful buildings made for a beautiful photograph.

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Last, but certainly not least, is one of the most incredible places I’ve seen, Stonehenge. What made my time there so unique was the fact that we got to see this world wonder for sunrise. Not only that, but there was this epic fog that added to the mystery and the beauty of these prehistoric stones. We also got to walk around inside of the stones, which is an incredibly rare experience. Being next to these pieces of art that have been around for thousands of years was a truly special feeling.

Isn’t it amazing how just one photograph can transport you to a new place entirely?

Chocolate Tofu Pie

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This creamy, decadent and delicious chocolate tofu pie will be the next big hit at your Labor Day party, that is if you can bear to share it!

Tofu chocolate pie

Dude. This pie. It’s what legends are made of, what other pies dream to be when they grow up. It’s the pie other man pies tape on their walls and oogle. It’s the “cool kid” pie that every freshman pie wants to be friends with so they’re invited to all the cool ragers. This pie? It turns heads, my friends.

chocolate chips

So clearly, ya’ll need to make this chocolate tofu pie for every single special occasion until the world ends. Okay, that might be cocky, but you should at least make it once, probably for Labor Day, so your family, friends and the weirdos at the picnic table next to you sing compliment after compliment about how good your pie skills are.

Luscious tofu chocolate pie

Really though, how can you go wrong? Chocolate? Mousse? Pretzel crust? To some of you, the addition of tofu might sound strange, but trust me, you don’t even know it’s there. All the tofu does is add creaminess and texture. Your pie will not taste like soy beans, I can assure you that. It’ll just come out tasting like the heavens opened up and decided to let you in early.

Ultra creamy tofu pie

Even though I’m in sure-fire denial that this weekend is Labor Day, I will say that this tofu pie is a great choice for any picnic and BBQ. I know I’m going to be making it when I go up to the lake this weekend.

Whether or not the pie will survive the 6 hour car ride, is a different story.

Chocolate Tofu Pie

Easy tofu chocolate pie

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 10.
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours

Ingredients: 

For the crust:

  • 2 cups pretzels
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

For the pie: 

  • 1 package firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons pure clove honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons milk
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Fresh strawberries for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Place the pretzels and brown sugar into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Pour into a bowl. Add the melted butter and applesauce; stir until it all comes together. Pour the crust into the prepared pie plate and press it down with a spatula, being sure to press the crust up the sides too.
  2. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely for about an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a copped bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Once melted, remove from  heat and pour into a food processor. Add the tofu, honey, vanilla, milk (start with 2 tablespoons), salt and cocoa powder. Pulse until smooth. Add additional milk if necessary (I ended up using about 3 1/2 tablespoons). Scrape the sides of the food processor and pulse again until creamy.
  4. Pour the tofu mixture into the cooled pie crust and spread it over with a spatula. Chill in the fridge for about 2 – 3 hours, or until firm. Serve with strawberries and whipped cream.

Nutritional information per serving:

Calories: 300
Fat: 16 grams
Carbohydrates: 32.6 grams
Fiber: 1.3 grams
Protein: 8 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 8

Banana & Chocolate Chip Waffles

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These banana & chocolate chip waffles are the perfect breakfast for those mornings you want something a little more indulgent than boring oatmeal.

waffles

Friends, the writing well is a little dry today, I’m sad to say. I wish I had an “after school special” worthy lesson to bestow upon you or some thrilling and exciting trip filled with life-changing details to regale. But alas, I don’t. I woke up and thought it was Friday, realized it was Thursday and then proceeded to have an adult temper tantrum.

Stack of waffles

That’s the extent of excitement in my life right now.

amazing banana waffles

I don’t want to say I’m in a rut, because someone who travels as much as I do really can’t, but I’m in something very similar. Since taking the past month and a half off for mental health, marriage rebuilding and family time, I’ve found myself stuck to a rather hum-drum, boring routine. We wake up, El goes to work, I sit and write things on my computer, then cook things, then photograph said cook things, apply to jobs, take dog out and then wait for El to get home. Sometimes I throw in a workout and a trip to the store, but that’s about it. The weekends are of course exciting though, filled with winery visits, cookouts with friends, fairs, dinners and the like, but the boring weekday regime is starting to get to me.

Double chocolate waffles

But this is often what happens before a big trip. I get really restless and pick apart the normal day to day tasks that I miss more than you know when I’m halfway around the world. I complain to my husband that we’re boring and need excitement, only to crave those quiet moments with him on a Tuesday night when I’m alone in a hotel room. As normal as it is, I know we do need to add some spice, some flavor to our weekdays. I’m not always going to have a trip coming down the line, and I’d love if our weekday life (not including sexlife, which is currently off the charts amazing) was just as exciting as a trip somewhere.

Triple stack of waffles

I know that’s damn near impossible. But a girl can try, right? In the meantime I’ll just add variety my own way by making fun breakfast treats, like these banana & chocolate chip waffles, and then eating them with my eyes closed, pretending I’m in somewhere thrilling, like Paris.

Banana & Nutella Waffles

Best chocolate chip waffles

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8.
Prep time: >5 minutes
Cook time: 5 – 6 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 cup low-fat milk (I used 2%)
  • 2 tablespoons light cream
  • 1 medium banana, smashed
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • whipped cream for garnish
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons nutella*

*optional

Directions: 

  1. Spray a waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray and preheat. (If your waffle maker has a setting, set to 3 – 4).
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together. Make a well in the center and mix in the honey, milk, cream, smashed banana, applesauce, oil and eggs, stir to combine.
  3. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour 1/2 cup of the batter into the center of the waffle iron. Close lid and cook until green indicator lights up (or for about 3 – 4 minutes, or when waffle is golden brown). Carefully remove from waffle iron and set aside. Repeat with remaining batter until you have about 8 waffles.
  5. Top waffles with whipped cream and 1 tablespoon or so of nutella.

Nutritional information per serving (1 waffle):

Calories: 285.5
Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 37 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 6.8 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7

Muddled Raspberry & Orange Spritzer

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Looking for a refreshing and delicious summer cocktail? Try this ALO inspired muddled raspberry and orange spritzer!

muddle raspberry cocktail

Maybe it’s a recently revelation, but I’m completely obsessed with cocktails lately. I think it’s the closet hipster in me trying to break out, but I can’t stop shaking up vintage cosmos or old fashions or buying copper mugs for Moscow Mules. I am excited and in love with bitters and have more tarnished mint julep cups than I care to admit. When it comes time to arrange my concoctions, I plate them on a rustic tray or a scratched up piece of silver adorned with pieces of parsley or swirly straws.

ALO cocktail

The only thing missing from my hipster at home bar is a twirly mustache, a plaid shirt, overalls, lots of tattoos, a lumberjack looking sidekick with a long, twisty beard and a record player. I’ve even toyed with the idea of naming my cocktails something like “The Hemingway Shaker” or the “Twist and Shout.”

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I know, I’ve become someone Anthony Bourdain would publicly shame on Twitter.

I can’t help it though, the act of creating the perfect libation brings out this crazily creative hipster that just can’t be hidden anymore. And as much as hipsters annoy me, with their poetry slams, crazy beards and rejection of conformity, they also do some pretty rad things for our food and cocktail culture.  How many amazing restaurants and bars exist now thanks to the “local food, speakeasy” movement brought on by our anti-mainstream youth?

raspberry orange spritzer

If I was to own a hipster bar or pub, this muddled raspberry and orange spritzer made with ALO would definitely be on the list.  For those who don’t know, ALO drinks are a new product that combine real aloe vera (from 100% organic pulp) and natural fruit sweeteners. There are 14 flavors in total, from ALO original to mango and cucumber to coco exposed. Each bottle is also not only low-calorie and naturally gluten-free, it’s good for your body too! Learn more here on the  ALO Website or on ALO Facebook!

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A drink that gives back to your body and the environment? My inner hipster totally approves. For a chance to win your own batch of ALO to release your inner hipster, enter the giveaway prompts below!
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Muddled raspberry and orange spritzer

raspberry orange spritzer

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 2.
Prep time: >10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 bottle ALO Mango & Mangosteen drink
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cava orange juice
  • Ice
  • Fresh parsley

Directions:

  1. Muddle the raspberries in a jar and set aside.
  2. Fill two glasses halfway with ice. Pour 1.5 ounces of vodka into each glass and top evenly with ALO Mango drink. Pour ½ tablespoon of honey into each glass and stir to combine.  Mix in one tablespoon of cava orange juice to each glass.
  3. Separate the raspberries into each glass and top with orange slices and parsley.

Nutritional information per cocktail:

Calories: 216.5
Fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrates: 54 grams
Fiber:  >1 gram
Protein: 0.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 5

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Classic Chocolate Ice Cream (with Peanut Butter Cookie Sprinkles)

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Sometimes nothing beats a classic, and a bowl of this classic chocolate ice cream (with peanut butter cookie sprinkles) is the perfect dessert to enjoy while you soak up the last of these summer nights!

ice cream

It’s been a busy, but incredibly rewarding, exciting and life-changing summer. Although our vacation was post-poned until next year and we STILL haven’t made it to a beach yet, I have to say, it’s been a really fun few months anyway. Now, with just two weeks left, I’m trying to plan little moments that will allow us to soak up the last bits of summer before life gets a little crazy.

ice cream cones

As you know, I’ve been interviewing for full-time jobs, so it’s only a matter of time before I have to put my big girl pants back on (in the form of tailored fit, skinny work pants), pack a lunch and schlep myself to an office. That and I have 5 more trips to round out this year, two of which are on the complete other side of the world (hello Fiji, New Zealand and Australia!) I’m thrilled to be traveling again, but it’s hard to jump back into the swing of that once you’ve taken a month and a half off.

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With those long trips and a new job prospect, I’m trying my best to enjoy what we have left of this beautiful summer. That means lazy afternoons by the pool, dinners outside, day trips to the fair, wineries and beach and one last hurrah over Labor Day at my family’s lakehouse. Plus as much of this classic chocolate ice cream I can physically stomach.

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Thank god for one-piece bathing suits, that’s all I’m saying.

Classic Chocolate Ice Cream

creamy ice cream

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 8.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • + Peanut butter cookies for garnish

Directions: 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder, sugars, milk, heavy cream, light cream and vanilla extract together until sugar dissolves completely. Cover with saran wrap and chill for at least an hour.
  2. Once chilled, pour into a frozen bowl (fitted for your ice-cream maker) and attach. Turn on your ice cream maker and let churn for at least 20 minutes, or until the consistency of custard. Freeze for about 10 minutes for firmer ice cream.
  3. Serve in waffle cones with cookie pieces or enjoy on it’s own!

Nutritional information per serving (1/2 cup):

Calories: 204.12
Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 18.25 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 2.75 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 4

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