Red Carpet Fashion: 2015 Golden Globes

I fell out of blogging after classes ended last spring. Then summer came and I was working so much that I could not find the time to blog. Then it was all of a sudden fall and that brought about my most challenging semester of college yet. This semester is going to be a breeze (hopefully, fingers crossed). I wanted and NEED to get back in to blogging. So here I am ūüôā

Fashion seems like perfect topic to start my blog back up.¬†People’s Choice Awards got me in the red carpet mood last week. All the fashion buzz is so exciting.¬†The Golden Globes last night had some amazing fashion moments. There are so many incredible and beautiful women in the running for major awards this year so I was so interested in what they would be wearing. Here are some of my favorites and not so favorites from the evening.

Zuhair Murad Chrissy

Chrissy Teigan in Zuhair Murad Chrissy

I adore this dress. She always looks amazing in whatever she wears. She outdresses so many of the actresses we see on the red carpet. Love love love this dress.

Versace

Amy Adams in Versache

Amy Adams looks SO classy in this purplish-blue gown. Her style is very old Hollywood glamour from the hair to the sleekness of the dress. Perfect.

Versace 2

Kate Hudson in Versace

Envy of women everywhere. That’s all.

Vera Wang

Rosamund Pike in Vera Wang

She recently had a baby so props to her for showing off her amazing post-baby bod, but I just really want to pull this dress up. I usually really like Vera Wang, but something is just off with this one. It looks like it is falling down on her top half and it is uncomfortable to look at.

Saint Laurent

Jennifer Aniston in Saint Laurent

Jennifer never really goes all out with red carpet looks. She usually settles for something polished, sleek, kinda sexy–somewhere along those lines. This kind of fits in her usual style, but I am getting a late 90’s early 2000’s prom/bridesmaid vibe. That sequin halter is super awful in my opinion. You’re still my favorite though, Jennifer.

Ralph Lauren

Taylor Schilling in Ralph Lauren

I was torn between whether or not her hair was bad or the dress was bad…I decided that I don’t like either. Her hair is so harsh along with the makeup. The red gown is like HEY! HELLO! I AM RED GOWN LOOK AT ME. It is just SO intense. Maybe if her hair was down and polished like Amy Adams this gown would have looked a little better.

QUVENZHAN√Č WALLIS In Giorgio Armani

Quvenzhané Wallis in Giorgio Armani

She looks so adorable I can’t stand it. She dressed her age, yet it’s a little vintagey at the same time. It is such a fun, fancy little dress for her. Her hair to the side like that is also just perfect. Love it.

Michael Kors

Emily Blunt in Michael Kors

This is not awful, but I was expecting so much more from her. I know I always resort back to prom dress comparisons, but I am pretty sure I tried something on like this from Dillard’s 5 years ago, just sayin’. I can tell she was going for a classy, hippie vibe, but there’s just no wow factor here.
Mary Katrantzou

Kerry Washington in Mary Katrantzou

This dress is definitely interesting, but it stops there for me. It’s a little too Stepford Wives even though the attempt is a structured couture sort of look. The red in her shoes is really bothering me. Olivia Pope would never wear this. This dress needs Olivia Pope!!

Lanvin

Emma Stone in Lanvin

Love love love this look! She looks absolutely fabulous and you can tell how much she loves¬†the look, too. It’s comfy, yet classy and dressy all at the same time. Perfect for the Globes.

JENNA DEWAN-TATUM In Carolina Herrera

Jenna Dewan-Tatum in Carolina Herrera

I had no idea who this was until I saw her name, but I loved this dress so much so I put her on my list. The pale yellow is gorgeous on her. The structure along the bodice of the gown is so neat and makes this looks stand out.

Givenchy Couture

Julianne Moore in Givenchy Couture

I actually really love this on her. It’s very different and super edgy, but she is pulling it off. I hope for the Oscars she chooses something a little more sleek and timeless, though.

Giambattista Valli Couture

Lupita Nyong’o in Giambattista Valli

This woman seriously has never looked bad. I don’t know where she finds all her amazing red carpet looks, but they are simply stunning. The purple with her skintone is SO perfect. Love it. Love her.

chanel

Keira Knightly in Chanel

I would think that if anyone in the world could pull this dress off it would be Keira Knightly. However…..I don’t think she is. It really is just the dress. She looks gorgeous as usual, but this dress should have never stepped foot on the red carpet…or anywhere.

Calvin Klein

Reese Witherspoon in Calvin Klein

I read that the this gown took hours upon hours to make with all the beading. She was also wearing $1.5 million dollars worth of Tiffany jewels. HOLY BAJESUS. Just for all that I mean you have to say she looks amazing and she does because she’s Reese Witherspoon.

Atelier Versace

Jessica Chastain in Atelier Versace

This was my favorite look of the entire night. Her hair against the brown/gold shimmer of the dress is SO amazing. Her and Amy Adams both rocked the side swept old Hollywood hair. This dress though is not easily worn, but she looks so so great in it. The color and style is so unique and Jessica Chastain looks absolutely stunning.

I can’t wait for the next red carpet looks! Yay for award season!

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The Veggie Life

I have been a vegetarian for about 5 years.¬†(I still eat fish on occasion because of its health benefits).¬†Being a vegetarian does not get brought up that often though. I am not a preacher of this way of life/food choice. People can eat what they want, it is not my place to tell people how to live their life. There is never a reason to bring up vegetarianism unless someone notices that I am not eating meat at dinner or something and then proceeds with a long list of questions, most often including¬†“Why are you a vegetarian?”¬†So I would like to go in depth as to why I am. I will start out simple and then get into the stats and facts that I have researched over the past few years that have stuck with me.

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Before I get into the list, here is a book that I got in 2011. It was written by John Robbins, the heir to the Baskin-Robbins empire. It has everything, literally EVERYTHING there is to know about the meat industry in relation to your health, animal cruelty, and the environment. John Robbins also touches on world hunger and genetic engineering. I like that he doesn’t blame people for eating meat based on how they were raised. Instead, he investigates the industries that lie to us for more¬†money, power, and greed. It’s just an awesome book. BUY IT AND READ IT PEOPLE.

 6 (Broad) Reasons I am a Vegetarian

1. Even when I still ate meat, my favorite foods were always everything but meat.¬†I have always loved pasta, salad, beans, fruits and veggies. The transition was extremely easy for me. So I thought, why not just take out meat entirely, it can’t be that difficult.
2. I was not raised in a hunting family. We are not heavy heavy carnivores. Meals¬†without meat were common at the dinner table. While it may have been annoying that I didn’t eat my dad’s steak or mom’s chicken enchiladas, my parents did not really mind going out of the way to cook something else for me (at least they didn’t show it). Often times they are even open to trying new recipes that are vegetarian friendly. It is also super easy and cheap to eat meatless. People who say it is expensive to eat healthy have no idea what they are talking about. Excuses, excuses.
3. I consider myself an animal lover even though I have never had any dogs, just a couple cats when I was really young. But anyway, I DO¬†care about animal rights and yes I have watched Food, Inc. and Meet Your Meat. I am not a crazy, loud PETA activist shouting from the rooftops, but like I said, I do love animals. I wouldn’t eat my cat or a dog, so why would I eat a pig? Not to mention the horrific conditions they are ‘raised’ under before slaughter.
4. As the years passed, I gradually became grossed out at the thought of eating meat. I think about where it comes from and how that animal is tortured and killed. Then about all the hormones that are in the meat, as well as links to disease. I always think about that little note at the bottom of a¬†menu that warns you that¬†raw and undercooked meat may lead to foodborne¬†illness. I just have no desire to put anything like that in my body anymore. I don’t even eat a ton of meat alternatives because the taste of meat is just¬†not as satifysing to me anymore.
5. Not eating meat greatly lowers your risk of heart disease and cancer because you are cutting out animal fat and a whole lot of cholesterol. You are replacing it with antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables and excellent sources of protein like grains and beans. According to the CDC, heart disease is the number 1 leading cause of death in adults in the U.S. I don’t know about you, but if eating meat means I am likely to die sooner, I am not about that life.
6. Global warming is very real and meat production is a large contributor. A Prius driver who eats mainly meat is contributing more to global warming than a Hummer driver eating low on the food chain. Raising livestock for meat consumption aids in air pollution, loss of biodiversity, species extinction, climate change, water shortage, water pollution, and overall degradation of the land.

So I touched on health, animal rights, and the environment. Those are the three main reasons people choose not to eat meat. There is not really one area more than another that I lean towards. I believe in a healthy life for myself, animals, and for the Earth. Here are some other facts and statistics that are very eye opening and hopefully will make you think twice about the meat on your plate.

Health

  • Animal protein has actually been found to decrease bone health. Consumption of meat is associated with decreased bone mineral density.
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables increases survival rates in women with ovarian cancer and reduces the risk of breast cancer.
  • Those who eat poultry four times a week compared to those who abstain are at a 200-300% greater risk of colon cancer. Americans who are aware that eating less meat reduces colon cancer risk: 2%.
  • Soy intake decreases the risk of hip fractures, breast cancer, and lung cancer.
  • Blood cholesterol level of vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians is 14% lower.
  • Vegetarians have only half the risk of heart disease compared to meat eaters.
  • Fat in a Burger King Whopper: 40 grams. Fat in an average veggie burger: 3 grams.
  • Annual medical costs in the U.S. directly linked to smoking: $65 billion; linked to meat consumption: $60-120 billion.
  • Antibiotics given to people in the U.S. annually to treat disease: 3 million lbs; given to livestock annually for purposes other than treating disease: 24.6 million lbs.

Animals

  • Newborn male calves born to dairy cows are chained at the neck and caged in such small spaces that they barely move at all during¬†their short life. Their muscles often never fully develop since their neck and body can often never move. They are unable to walk, denied sufficient mother’s milk, and trucked off to auction at only a day or two old before being slaughtered for veal.
  • Length of time that baby calves suckle from their mothers in a natural environment: 8 months; length of time that U.S. dairy calves are routinely taken from their mothers and transported to veal stalls: 24 hours.¬†90%¬†of U.S. dairy calves are taken after 24 hours.
  • More than¬†99% of the hens who lay the eggs eaten in the U.S. are debeaked and caged. Forced to stand on wire, they often become entangled resulting in the workers¬†cutting off their toes and claws.
  • 75% of chickens are subjected to “forced molting” in which they are starved and denied water. This shocks the hens into losing their feathers.
  • Birds are being systematically bred for obesity. They suffer from congestive heart failure because their lungs and heart are not fully developed enough to support the rapid weight gain.
  • Mass of breast tissue of an eight week old chicken today compared to 25 years ago: 7 times greater.
  • 65 million¬†of the 90 million pigs that are raised for meat in the U.S. are in total confinement where they never see daylight until they are trucked off for slaughter.
  • 70%¬†of pigs have pneumonia at time of slaughter.
  • Pigs become so packed together that they become violent and bite one another’s tails and bodies. The industry responds by chopping off their tails and chipping their teeth.
  • 90,000 cows and calves are slaughtered every 24 hours in the U.S.
  • 14,000 chickens are slaughtered every minute in the U.S.
  • 10 billion food animals (not including fish and other aquatic creatures) are slaughtered every year in the U.S.

Environment

  • Water required to produce 1 pound of beef according to the University of California Agricultural Extension: 5,214 gallons; wheat: 25 gallons; lettuce: 23 gallons.
  • In California today, it has been noted that you may save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you would by not showering for six months.
  • More water is drawn from the Ogallala aquifer every year for beef production than is used to grow all the fruits and vegetables in the entire country.
  • America’s grain belt produces more grain for factory farm and feedlot animal feed than bread for humans.
  • The hog waste produced by a single plant in Utah is equal to the volume of human waste produced by the entire population of the state.
  • Livestock waste goes into soil and then runs into the water that many people ultimately bathe in and drink. Catastrophic cases of pollution, sickness, and death occur in areas where livestock farms are heavily concentrated.
  • Because of animal waste pollution, in the Gulf of Mexico there is now a ‘dead zone’ of nearly 7,000 square miles that can no longer support aquatic life.
  • 70%¬†of the American west is used for grazing livestock.
  • Livestock compact the soil and trample plants making it harder for soil to absorb water freely. This leads to contaminated runoff.
  • Livestock impact on the soil has done more to alter the vegetation and land forms of the West than all the water projects, power plants, freeways, and subdivisions combined.
  • 55 square feet of tropical rainforest are destroyed for the production of every fast-food hamburger made from rainforest beef.
  • Members of 30 different plant species, 100 different insect species and dozens of bird, mammal, and reptile species¬†are destroyed in the production of each fast-food hamburger.
  • Methane is 24 times more potent a greenhouse house than carbon dioxide. Methane’s concentration in the atmosphere is triple than what is was a century ago due to beef production.
  • Livestock account for up to 20% of overall global methane emissions.
  • Cattle, goats, and sheep graze half of the planet’s total land area. They, as well as pigs and poultry, eat feed grown on the the majority of the world’s cropland.

Check out my recipe for a healthy Mexican inspired vegetarian dish here!

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SOURCES:
Vegetarian Times magazine
CDC
Robbins, John. The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help save Your Life and Our World.

 

 

5 Spring Trends I Am Loving at the Moment

Lists are a fun read and easy to write so I am going to try to do more on my blog. No one wants¬†to read long and boring paragraphs, at least I don’t. So with the weather starting to actually feel like spring I am SO excited to put my chunky sweaters and boots in the back of my closet. I have been wearing sandals for the past two weeks because I cannot stand boot socks or anything like that anymore. It is April! We have been in winter fashion mode for almost 5 months! That is almost half a year! So here are some spring trends that I am loving at the moment.

1. The Colored Blazer

I just bought this ‘hot orange’ blazer from Target last week. I wore it to an interview for an internship (which I got! yay!!!). I used to wear a black blazer all the time a few years ago and then I just got bored with it. I paired this blazer with navy crop pants and brown flats. It would also look great¬†dressed down with a floral shirt and jeans.

 

2. The White Blouse

You can never have enough basic items. You can wear them so many different ways. A white top is no exception. I find my closet lacking in dressier white tops to wear with denim shorts/crops or leggings. I need to find some nice tops to wear with bright, chunky necklaces or a light scarf. I found these ones on The Chriselle Factor.

The Chriselle Factor

The Chriselle Factor

3.  The Nude Boot Sandal

I probably have over 15 brown sandals. I have a little bit of an obession. But I do not own a truly nude color. They would go great with pretty much every outfit, just like nude heels do. I love the higher, boot looking sandal like this one I found on Pinterest.

4. Boyfriend Jeans

Just once I would like to try on a pair of boyfriend jeans and have them fit me the right way. They end up looking like bad mom jeans on me unless they have a short inseam. These slouchy pants have such a relaxed and casual look that you can wear with sandals.

5. Print Mix & Match

Florals have always been a spring trend, as well as every other kind of print. Why not wear them all together for a fun and unique look? As long as the prints have a similar color or shape, they will have a sort of match quality to the outfit and you can pull it off.

 

 

 

25 Things I Learned After My First Year of College

I have recently seen numerous blogs and Buzzfeed posts with lists of things people learned after their first year of college. I have agreed with many and I decided to make my own! My younger sister will be going to college in the fall so what better time to make my own list. I am finishing up my third year right now. I have no idea where the time went. It really does fly by. Here are my 25 Things I Learned After My First Year of College.

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Photo source: The Viewer’s Commentary

1. Live on campus your first year wherever you go.

You are guaranteed to meet new people and find your nitch group. RA’s will talk you into going to building events in order to meet more people and get more involved. Everyone leaves their doors open a lot as a friendly gesture to just say ‘hello’ as you walk by. It is like a giant hotel and you can always find someone to hang out.

2. Do your research before and after having an advising appointment.

Do not trust your advisors. I repeat, do not trust your advisors. They see so many students throughout the day and there is no way they can assist every student perfectly. They often open your file for the first time right when you sit down. My advisors, for example, do not just see Mass Communication students. They also see every other major in the College of Arts and Sciences. That is a lot to keep track of. Many will try to tell you that you need more electives and other classes when you really don’t. You CAN graduate in 4 years if you plan everything out correctly.

3. Do wake up super early and sign up for classes right when they open.

Make sure you are somewhere with really good Internet connection. I have found out that campus is usually better than my apartment complex. One semester I could not get onto the portal and I was locked up for over 2 hours. I ended up missing out on about 3 classes because they filled up.

4. Pay attention to events where there are free things.

So many events are catered to freshman to get them involved on campus. From water bottles to t-shirts to food, take every opportunity there is when you see the word free.

5. Get a part-time job if you have the time.

Whether it is off campus or on, get a part-time job. Not only will it add to your resume, it will also show that you can balance work and school to future employers and internships. You also get a break from school friends and school in general. Spending money is also nice to have.

6. You will be homesick and feel lonely during most of your first semester.

The first day of move in is super exciting and then your parents leave and it starts to set in. If you luck out with a good roommate the transition will be easier (which I did!). The first few weeks will go great then you will hit this middle slum where you feel like you have fake friendships with some of the new people you met. Then all of a sudden after Christmas you are finally falling into place and realizing where you fit in.

7. You can get by without joining a sorority.

Do I judge sororities? Maybe…yes. You basically pay money (SO MUCH MONEY) in exchange for friends. Do it the hard way and make your own friends through classes, your dorm, at parties, etc. However, there are numerous academic and service sororities that are promising. I have made long lasting friendships in college without joining a sorority. So have many of my friends from other schools. Do not feel obligated to join one.

8. Always make a friend in every class.

You don’t need to be best friends, but find someone who takes decent notes and comes to class regularly. It can be a nightmare to get the notes you missed from a day you were not in class, especially if the professor doesn’t post the notes online.

9. Don’t let guys (or girls) upset you like silly relationships in high school.

You will meet people at¬†parties that you think are awesome and attractive and so on and then they forget about you by the next day. When it comes down to it, a lot of people in college are just trying to have fun and see who’s at there. Bad relationships will only make you stronger. So be confident and love with find you. Don’t go looking for it.

10. It’s okay to take naps.

Take as many naps as your schedule allows. This is the only time in your life you can do this.

11. Have double of everything.

It is too much work to carry around a purse and a backpack at the same time. So make sure you have chapstick, pens, lotion, hand sanitizer, bobby pins, flash drive, gum, and so on in each. It is way too complicated to switch things back and forth all the time. Your whole day will be ruined when you realize you forget to switch your chapstick out of your purse, believe me.

12. Your tolerance level goes way up.

Vomit in the dorm bathroom, loud neighbors during quiet hours, 7am fire alarms, trash overflowing in the hallway dumpster, dirty microwave, snoring roommate, the difficulty of shaving your legs in the small shower……you eventually just stop caring about everything.

13. Learn what local businesses give a student discount.

It’s usually just 10%, but hello, money is money. Everywhere you go ask if they do a student discount.

14. Invest is a good umbrella and waterproof shoes.

It seems to rain more on campus than ever before in your whole life. Walking around with wet tennis shoes or ruining your new suede boots will result in a really crappy day.

15. High school drama does not stop in college.

Girls are still poosty and guys are still jerks. There will always be drama. Try to stay out of it, but sometimes it’s impossible. Always be the bigger person and get over it. Hopefully your friends will follow suit and admire your mature personality and eventually the drama will be less and less.

16. Do all the extra credit you can.

Extra credit is super rare in college so when a professor offers it DO IT. There are barely any grades in your classes. Most are just a few exams and a paper. Extra credit can make or break your grade.

17. Take deep breaths when you have a do a group project or look over a classmate’s paper.

So many people in college seem to lack basic writing skills, not sure why this is but..I don’t even know, it baffles me. Try your best to correct grammar issues if you have to look over each others work. Also pray that you get through dreaded group projects. You will probably have to get together at 9pm on a Sunday because that is the only time all of you can get together. You will end up doing the whole project. Oh well, at least you got an A.

18. Follow the parking rules on campus.

Workers are out constantly writing tickets for those parked in the wrong lot or for their meter running up. Tickets usually start at about $15. May not seem like much, but a week’s worth of food can be bought for $15. Priorities, people.

19. Your checking¬†account will see the lowest of lows sometimes but that’s okay.

From food to laundry detergent to extra supplies for classes, getting to that next Friday payday will seem like lightyears away. Keep a small cash stash somewhere in your room for when the money gets low. If all else fails, call mom and dad. If they are nice they will lend you a few dollars.

20. Procrastination cannot be avoided.

You will be slammed with projects and papers and end up putting something off to the side to finish later. Next thing you know it has to be uploaded on TurnItIn by midnight. Suddenly you just broke the world record writing a 5 page research paper in an hour and a half. It can be done.

21. Your hunger will find you at night and not let you sleep until you make that Easy Mac.

Taco Bell runs, Jimmy Johns deliveries, the local Chinese restaurant. They all sounds so delicious at 11pm. It’s okay, go ahead and order it. Just go to the fitness center tomorrow.

22. It’s college, you are 99.99999999% likely to drink underage.

You will give into peer pressure and most likely drink at parties. Just be smart. Make sure your phone is charged. Go, stay, and leave with friends. Have a friend who can give you a ride home if you need to. Do not get behind the wheel and potentially ruin your life or someone else’s forever.

23. You will often have more fun sitting in your dorm singing to 90s music and taking Mac Photo Booth photos than you will at that party off campus.

Sometimes you show up to a party thinking it will be the most fun night of your life. But in reality, you know no one there and the music is so loud that the cops will probably show up within 30 minutes. There is also never an even balance of guys and girls. You will either feel creeped out by all the guys checking out every girl that walks through the door or you will be constantly judged by every girl because girls judge everyone. Stay in your dorm and hangout with your small group of friends.

24. You will have let downs.

I got a C my freshman year in a random Anthropology course. Guess what, my GPA is a 3.8. You will do awful on exams or homework assignments sometimes, but I promise life will go on. You will change your major, hate your roommate at one point or another, forget to set an alarm, not get into a class you want….this list could go on forever. Your good times will out number the bad times.

25. It’s okay to do absolutely nothing.

You do not need to go out and do something every single night. Sometimes you just need a night in where you binge eat ice cream and watch reruns of Friends all night. What? I have never done that… There will always be another party or event or concert or movie or anything. Sometimes the best way to deal with stress is to just have some alone time to think and clear your mind.

I feel like I could write for days, but I am forcing myself to stop at 25. College goes by so quickly. Live every moment, have fun, make new friends, take every opportunity that is thrown your way.

 

Tangled Up In Frozen

I believe I was about four years old when my parents first took my older sister and I to Walt Disney World. I¬†lived in the blue Cinderella nightgown they bought me for weeks after the trip. When I met Cinderella, my parents said I cried and gave her the biggest hug ever. Each time I have gone back I still tear up when I see her. The whole place makes me tear up–it truly is magical. When TinkerBell flies out of the castle at the end of the night, the World Showcase light show over the water at Epcot, seeing Peter Pan running around FantasyLand and by the time you¬†notice him he is gone…this list could go on forever.

I am always reading up on the secrets of the park and I have used research papers and presentations for school as an excuse to learn more about Disney. One of my favorite papers I wrote about Disney was called “Feminism in Fairytales.” I discussed how I believe Ariel, Belle, and Mulan are independent and confident young women who act as good role models for¬†girls. So many people bash Disney for ‘too good to be true’ story lines or submissive and powerless characters. True Disney fans know that it is just not the case.

Last weekend I had the privilege of being Rapunzel from Tangled for the night. I work at the Edwardsville YMCA and we had a princess themed night for little girls. All of the Disney princesses were there for the event and we read stories and took photos with everyone there. It is so fun to see the youngest generation still watching the older classics like Cinderella and Snow White. I surprised myself with how much I got into the character. I was probably an awful actress but the 4 and 5-year-old girls really thought I was Rapunzel. I felt like I got more hugs that night than I ever have in my life.

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I also recently recorded ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen. I had been meaning to record this song for weeks. I finally saw the movie over spring break and it has such an awesome storyline. Anna and Elsa are strong female roles that do not succumb to the typical ‘end up with Prince Charming love.’ They realize that the true love needed to bond them together and to break the winter curse is the love they have as sisters. The music is AMAZING. I knew all the songs before I even saw the movie. Here is my cover of ‘Let It Go.’

 

While Out West

3 weeks. 3 states.  1 National Forest. 2 National Parks. 1 National Memorial . 1 National Monument. 1 rock concert. 5+ cities. 1000+ photos.

That pretty much sums up my vacation last summer out west. It was the most eye opening and awe inspiring trip I have ever taken. You can take a million vacations to the beach and have a relaxing, sun-filled week, but how many times can you say you’ve seen three waterfalls in one day. Or a herd of 500+ bisons crossing the road right in front of you. Or 5 moose in a week, each about 20 feet away from you. Or cowboys trying to get a ton of cattle up the mountain by herding them with horses up the highway causing traffic to stop. Or spent the morning in the historic gambling town of Deadwood, South Dakota and then drove a few miles to see Mt. Rushmore and Badlands National Park all in one day.

The west is where America’s beauty lives. It’s not in St. Louis. The real beauty isn’t on the east coast or in the south. All of these places are too populated and urbanized. The beauty is in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and all the other states in that area. This is where the last bit of untouched nature lives. Mountains, waterfalls, rock formations, canyons, geysers, hot springs, rivers, wildlife, forests, history…the list could go on forever.

My sister and I spent a week and a half on our own with our Aunt in Buffalo and Sheridan, Wyoming. They are very small towns, but full of natural beauty and the old west feel. It sits in the Big Horn National Forest. Crazy Woman Canyon is in the area as well, which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

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Crazy Woman Canyon

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Moose in Big Horn Moutains

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Overlook of Big Horn Mountains

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Veteran’s home pond looking out at Big Horn Mountains

From there we went to Montana and visited Yellowstone National Park. There are so many things to see in the park. We saw the main sites like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. The park is full of natural wonders that are nothing like you have ever seen. Bubbling hot springs that plunge into darkness some 100 feet deep, waterfalls in the middle of the forest or off a canyon, and herds of bison and numerous elk around every turn. The amount of tourists there are also overwhelming. It was always a struggle to take my photos without having people in them.

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Near the Grand Prismatic Spring

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Grand Canyon

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Mammoth Hot Springs

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Tower Falls

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Hayden Valley

Devil’s Tower was another sight unlike any other. It takes over an hour to walk around the giant rock formation and each step you take you become even more in awe of how this formation occurred over time. It literally looks like it was pushed out of the ground with the vertical lines down the sides and the millions of rocks surrounded the perimeter.

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Devil’s Tower

Mt. Rushmore should be on everyone’s bucket list. I thought I wouldn’t like it that much. I figured I’ve seen it in photos and I get it, some presidents carved out of stone. I’m not dying to see it. Well I was wrong. It was amazing to see in person. The heads are much more massive than they appear in photos. Learning about the construction of it was so interesting.

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Mt. Rushmore

Badlands National Park was probably the most obscure park we saw all trip. The whole area looks as if you are on a planet in Star Wars. There is really no other way to describe the park other than the photos.

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Badlands

If you love the outdoors, traveling, hiking, sight seeing, nature, wildlife and pure amazement, then you MUST plan a trip out west. See if you can do it all in one trip. It was a challenge, but my family did it. Then again, we are a bunch of vacation freaks. We drove straight home to Shiloh without an overnight stay from Badlands National Park in South Dakota. But that’s another story.

Smartphones Cause Disconnections Between People

I literally feel like I am the only one on the planet without a smartphone. My phone was free with my plan. It slides open to a pretty sweet texting keyboard and makes calls. That’s really about it. It was the hottest thing in 2007. I understand it is 2014 now and I have a lot of catching up to do. I’m up to date in pretty much every other area of technology. I have a Kindle, MacBook Pro, Canon EOS Rebel, and a Smart TV. I have just not come to that point yet to pay the extra $30 or so per month for a smartphone. I would rather be spending that on food, gas, or a night out with my friends.

I am glad, however, that it is impossible for me to fall into the trap of being mesmerized by my phone screen when I am hanging out with people or trying to have a conversation with someone. There is nothing for me to look at on my phone. It doesn’t do anything. I am sure you have encountered at least a couple of these scenarios today already:

  • You are in the middle of a conversation with someone and they pull out their phone. They clearly stop paying attention to you, but they pretend like they are still are by nodding and saying the occasional ‘mhmm’ or ‘yeah I know.’
  • You are seeing your favorite band in concert and your view keeps getting blocked by the guy in front of you who has been recording the entire show.
  • It’s Friday night and you and are friends are out to eat. You just paid $10 to sit in silence with one another while everyone scrolled through the latest happenings on Twitter and Instgramed their dinner.
  • You invite friends over to hang out and play games, but the game is taking forever because everyone keeps playing Flappy Bird and not paying attention when it is their turn.
  • You are taking notes in class and really enjoying the lecture your professor is giving today. You look around and see people staring at the phones. You wonder why they even bother coming to class at all.

This video called “I Forgot My Phone” is amazing. It hits on everything that I see everyday with smartphones. It is so well done and so accurate to the lives we live.

The field I am going into is Communications. Communications must keep up to date with technology. Would I get great use out of an iPhone right now? Yes. So many of my classes suggest different apps that I cannot take part in. My bank has a great app for making transfers and even taking a picture of a check and depositing it. Many of the stores I shop at have mobile coupons that I have to waste paper to printing out. Keeping up to date with Twitter and other news has to wait until I have access to my laptop or tablet.

I am not against smartphones by any means. If they are used for a purpose other than playing games and using social media instead of communicating with people face to face right in front of you, then yes, I do have a problem with that.

Look around you. Put the phone down. Don’t charge it when it dies. There is a huge world out there waiting for you to live in it.