Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Paris, je t'aime

I took 733 pictures on my trip to Europe.

Only about 600 more than the last time I went, when I had a camera that had FILM in it and had to use my rolls of film wisely and without the benefit of a delete button.

And, of course, when I was snapping away and thinking about how exciting it was going to be to share my adventures with all of you upon my return, I never paid any attention to the fact that I was going to have to SORT through 733 photos to find ones worthy of sharing.

I have no idea how I'm going to tell you about my trip AND share pictures AND make it consistently interesting.

Because I have about 7 or 8 posts rattling around in my head right now. And who really wants to read 7 or 8 posts about someone else's vacation?


So there are probably a few stories I won't get around to telling you, and I'm sure you'll be just fine if I don't.

But for today, I decided to put together my Ten Favorite Pictures from Paris.

These aren't necessarily my favorite places/events/stories/activities. But just pictures that I really love and that, I think, give a nice snapshot of what we saw and did in the City of Lights.

(And yes, I know I should have watermarked them, but I didn't because laziness. People are going to steal them if they're going to steal them and it sucks, but that's just the way it goes.)

Oh, and these are not in order of preference or anything. Just in the order they came up when I uploaded them.

First: The Lips at Centre Pompidou.

I don't know what these fountains are actually called because, again, laziness. I could find out with a quick Google search, but I don't feel like it. Anyway, I just love the way the colors turned out in this photo, and the fountains are just something so fun to behold.

Second: The Eiffel Tower

What's not to love about this picture, amiright?

Third: This is from our dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant, 58. 

The first course? Lobster Bisque. Hells yeah.

Fourth: The Catacombes.

The only place I didn't get to see on my first visit to Paris that I was sorely disappointed about missing. Super creepy and amazing.

Fifth: La Jaconde, as she's known in French.

I fought hard for this photo. She's not easy to approach.

Sixth: Notre Dame de Paris.

The only picture I got of Notre Dame that doesn't have 7000 people in it.

Seventh: The view of Paris from Père LaChaise Cemetery.

There's just something I love about the contrast in this picture. I could try to come up with something profound about the dead watching over the living or something, but I'm sick and not brilliant today.

Eight: Sacré Coeur at dusk.

This is from our failed attempt to watch the fireworks off the Eiffel Tower from up at Sacré Coeur. It didn't work out so well and I'll probably tell you about that particular adventure, but it was a fun night and I love seeing all the people in this photo because it reminds me I'm not the only idiot who thought that would be a good idea.

Ninth: The Stained Glass at Sainte Chapelle.

The pictures don't even do justice to this 800 year old chapel and its incredible stained glass depiction of the Bible. But looking at this photo reminds me of what it felt like to stand in that space and take it all in. Breathtaking.

Tenth: Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland Paris.

Yes. I know. It made my list. But look at this picture. Doesn't it just look like a painting??

So what do you think? How am I doing so far on this whole recap dealio? Are you bored yet?

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Homeward Bound


As I write this, I'm sitting in a train station waiting for the Underground to start running so that I can catch the tube to the airport where I will wait a few more hours before finally boarding a plane to sit in the sky for some eleven hours, after which I will catch a shuttle back to Anaheim where I will finally be home.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Or maybe that's because it's 1:20 in the morning here in jolly old England.

It's been an amazing trip full of adventures and I can't wait to share them. I can't wait to sift through my 700+ photos and pick out my favorites. And mostly, I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again.

I love traveling, but I always miss my bed so much.

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures to tide you over until the barrage starts.

First, Kelli and I hanging out at the Eiffel Tower:

Second, a non-selfie in front of Westminster Abbey:

I'm so excited to get home. But I already can't wait to come back.


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Friday, July 18, 2014

Flashback Fridays: Family Vacation

While I'm off vacationing for the first time in I-can't-remember-how-long-but-probably-not-as-long-as-I-think, decided to dust off this post from a couple of years ago about family vacations.

I'm not with actual family. I'm with friends. Which are sometimes better than family because they CHOOSE to relate themselves to you rather than just being forced to by genetics.

So, anyway, enjoy:

There were two completely separate trips I was supposed to have to choose between last weekend.

One was to Northern California with some old friends I haven't seen in more than ten years.

The other was to Texas to hang out with Jennee.

(Yes, she lives in Ohio, but it turns out that Dallas is almost exactly halfway between us. Isn't that weird?)

Instead, I stayed in Southern California. At home. Doing responsible and important stuff. Which is good and even fun. But it was not the out-of-towning that the weekend was supposed to entail.

Center of the World--Felicity, California 
This summer has been the busiest and most productive I've spent in a very, very long time. Possibly even ever. And it's starting to show in the bags under my eyes, the constantly disheveled hair, and the fact that I've worn flip flops to work every single day for the past three weeks even though I almost never wear flip flops anywhere except to the pool.

Somewhere in the Anza-Borego Desert, California
I'm in desperate need of an excursion. Just a little getaway. Somewhere. Anywhere.

Lake Tahoe, California 
Well, maybe not quite anywhere...

Reno, Nevada
In addition to the crazy and exhausting work load in which I've become so thoroughly immersed, my few minutes of free time now and then has been spent glaring with envy at Facebook statuses and Instagram photos because practically everyone I've ever met is on freaking vacation.  

Blaine, Washington
And here I am, working. Not a single bit of vacation planification in sight.

Asuncion, Paraguay
One thing I've really been thinking about A LOT, though, is that it's not just about vacation. It's not just about getting away, exploring new places, visiting old stomping grounds, and taking lots of cool photos while doing really relaxing/crazy/adventurous/stupid things.

Las Vegas Strip--Las Vegas, Nevada
Last week, as I gazed longingly at photos of my brother's family trip to Hawaii and one friend's family trip to Disney World and another friend's family trip to the Midwest and two other friends' family reunions, I was caught up by an unexpected sadness. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Why looking at pictures of other peoples' family vacations full of joy and joyness would make me feel so down.

And then it hit me.

St. George, Utah
It has been YEARS since I've been on a family vacation.

In fact, the last time I can remember going on anything even resembling a family vacation was the time we all flew out to Missouri for my mom's wedding in 2003. And since it was full of weddingness, there was very little vacationing and quite a lot of not-quite-family.

Northern Utah
I have some truly great memories of family vacations from my childhood. Memories of camping trips and road trips and cozy mountain cabins and a pilgrimage to Utah. Memories of hours spent in the car, reading books and writing books and playing the Alphabet Game and taking turns choosing what cassette tape to listen to next.

In my adult life, I've been on some amazing adventures too. I've traveled to foreign countries and different states. Mostly with friends. Almost never with my family. And once or twice by myself. There's a lot of good about traveling with friends. There's a lot of good about traveling alone.

But there was just something extra special about those old family vacations. Even when we were fighting about elbow room and scaring each other with stories of bears in the woods. 

Vacationing with friends is fantastic. When the trip is over and you've had just about enough of each other, you get to go to your separate houses and take a break. With family, it's not quite like that. You're stuck seeing those very same faces tomorrow morning when you wake up. Or on the weekend. Or whatever. 

(Unless your family is like mine and we see each other about once every three months even though we live within 30 miles of each other.)

Pismo Beach, California
So...yeah. I want a vacation. I NEED a vacation.

But what I need even more is some quality family time.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Karen's Well-Oiled World

Hey, friends! 

Today I'm searching for Mr. Darcy at Pemberley, and my friend Allena is here to help introduce something I started awhile ago: Essential Oils!

Essential oils are all natural oils derived from mainly plants.  There are hundreds of single oils and blends and they date back to biblical days (think Frankincense and Myrrh) to help heal and cure all sorts of illnesses and ailments.  The oil is taken from the most important part of the plant, its "blood" basically.  It is the part of the plant that, for example, protected it from disease or insects and healed it when the plant was injured.  Without this part of the plant, it would die, and so it is compared to our blood.   It is SUPER concentrated, anywhere from 10,000-100,000 times more concentrated than herbs!  So, one drop can
do amazing things.  Some people can put a drop of essential oil on their feet and taste it within 30 seconds.  Pretty impressive stuff!  

Young Living oils are 100% pure, and we control the process from seed to seal insuring that there are no chemicals used, the oil passes quality standards etc.  Because of this, you can ingest Young Living oils, where other brands they don't recommend it.  So, you can use essential oils diffused, applied topically or by ingestion.  

Essential oils can be used for everything!  I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite oils that all come in the premium starter kit (which I’ll talk about more below).

To avoid sickness and help get well faster, I use Thieves, which is highly anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-microbial.  It goes on topically (the feet usually) to help boost the immune system and can be diffused to kill 99.96% of airborne bacteria in 20 minutes!  Anytime there is a party at my house, Thieves is diffusing to keep germs at bay.  There is also a cleaning product line made of Thieves oil that is non-toxic {perfect for those babies that want to lick everything} and as effective as Clorox wipes!

You can diffuse oils to improve your mood {think aromatherapy without the chemicals in candles}, even helping people get off anti-depressants just by using essential oils!  Peace & Calming is a great oil for
this.  It is awesome at helping people fall asleep faster and sleep longer.  It’s also been shown to help people stop snoring and others with teeth grinding!

One of the most well-known essential oils is Lavender.  If you look in the baby aisle at Target, lots of lotions and baby washes include Lavender to help with sleep and relaxation.  But Lavender is great for so much more.  A friend cancelled her daughter’s tear duct surgery because using Lavender unclogged her tear duct! And it is amazing at knocking out allergies too!

Peppermint is another great one for lots of uses.  It lowers fevers naturally and helps with nausea, headaches and congestion.

I have found essential oils so helpful because they are a virtually risk free way to help sicknesses especially before you try conventional meds.   These oils have changed my life and so many others that have bought these oils.  

But, of course, we don't expect you to just take our word for how amazing these oils are. We want you to try them for yourself! So, we're having ourselves a little giveaway!

There are several ways to enter, and you can follow the directions in the rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. The winner will receive a set of three of our favorite oils.

If you are interested in learning more about essential oils, we will also be hosting a webcast on Wednesday, July 23 at 7:00PDT.

Click here to register – there is no cost to join, and I promise it will be 1 hour or less!  Joining the webcast
will also earn you 5 extra entries into the giveaway!

However, there is even a better deal if you sign up now.  For the first 10 people that sign up, I will send you a free bottle of lime essential oil.  Think margarita, yum.  The smell of lime and lavender in that new diffuser of yours is also heavenly.  Sign up now to get this free oil!

Happy oiling! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things I'll Never Do: A Guest Post

Hi, friends!

As you read this I am either in jail for attempting to steal the Crown Jewels or am riding on the London Eye. Either way, I'm having a great time!

Today's guest post comes from one of my recent new favorite bloggers, Lauren from Lot 48. She's awesome and I know you will love her too!

good morning my dear!!! how was your fourth of july weekend??? mine was great.  i swam in the lake, played with alllllll of my nieces and nephew, did fireworks, an, of course, good food!! i even got to spend some time with my best friends to catch up.  if you follow my instagram you will know what how much seeing them meant to me!  it really was just such perfect weekend. 

so i know that i am a little late to the party, but i am really loving this whole "blog everyday in july" linkup {more on that later} and wanted to join in on the fun!!! so here are some things that i will never ever do.

ok, you guys, feel free to hate me, but i just really, really hate nature.  it is beauty and God created that for us and that is really beautiful and everything, but i just really hate it.  i don't enjoy it at all.  maybe i'm a princess?? i just really hate camping and the outdoors.  so! you will NEVER find me camping. just, no. ever.

I'm not sure where it all started, but i really don't like cheese.  the taste has just never tempted me before, i just don't want to eat it.  maybe i'm allergic to it or any something?? i don't know.  whatever its just something that you will never find me eating.

totally not basing on anyone right know i promise!! i just find all that stuff boring  and i have never read comic books and i just don't care.  but if you do, good for you! i just will never be found at conicon.  just never. no. sorry!   can we still be friends???

its like that part on Parks and Rec when Ann was talking to Chris about their relationship and about how much she hated it when he made her run with him and his response was "it's healthy!" and ann said "i know it makes you healthy chris, but man, at what cost?" 
that is exactly how i feel about running.  i just don't get it! please, someone explain to me why other people love it so much! so i can get it! because i just don't.
but can still be friends, right???
be sure to linkup with FaithJuliette, and Allie to join in on the fun!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gatsby: A Guest Post

Hello, friends!

I am now in London!! Woohoo! And I'm sure I'm loving every minute of it and I probably already miss Paris.

But I'm back with another awesome guest post from the super adorable Katie from Something Winnderful. Take it away, Katie!

Hey there A Peek At Karen's World readers! I'm Katie from Something Winnderful and I'm covering for Karen today while she's off enjoying herself in London and Paris (so jealous). She asked for a story/get-to-know-me type post so I thought I share how I came about meeting my biggest love. No, not my husband, I'm talking about our dog, Gatsby.
Something Winnderful
Yes, I am one of those people whose dog is their child. I feel no shame. Even after having children, Gatsby will remain our first child. Our path to owning Gatsby is not as simple or as happy as you might expect. We learned a lot about adopting from a shelter and what to look for when choosing who to adopt through. At the end of the day, I will always support shelter adoptions over breeder adoptions, but there are many things to consider. Before I share those tips, first you must meet Gatsby and our first love, Daisy.

Our first puppy was an adorable little boxer/lab mix we named Daisy. Our "we're just going to look" visit to our local shelter turned into an "OMG we love her, ok let's get her," visit. I'm sure some of you out there have had similar shelter visits. She was a little sweetheart and our first few days with her were so much fun. However on the fourth day she became lethargic and began vomiting. We took her back to the shelter's vet and had to leave her there. By the end of the week she was gone.


Ultimately she passed away from a virus she contracted before coming to the shelter. In fact, her whole litter passed away from the virus, majority of which had already been adopted. Her litter had been at the shelter for less than 48 hours before being put out for adoption and were around 5 weeks old. We were told that at that age, it's hard for a puppy to fight an illness.

We were lucky enough to have met a worker at the shelter who knew how wrong it was to adopt a puppy out that young and potentially sick. He promised that once we were ready, he would help us find another 100% healthy puppy. I went back to the shelter a week or so later to leave our information for him when he saw me. All he said was, "you are exactly who I was trying to find." At that very moment a puppy had come into the shelter that he felt was perfect for us.

I walked in and saw the fat, wrinkly, butterball of a puppy. He was so awkward and pathetic. Carl and I went back after he got off work and it was decided, this was our new baby. It didn't take long to decide he must be named Gatsby (of course). We knew he would eventually grow into all that skin and be a strong dog. At 120 pounds, you can definitely say he grew into his skin and is most certainly strong. And also very awkward, but he's still young.

Gatsby-Guest Post

In the end, I think we ended up with the dog we were meant to have all along. He's fun, sweet and really really weird and awkward. He's our Gatsby and I'm thankful we were able to give him a home. Adopting through a shelter presented challenges, but I believe it is worth it to give an animal a home. If/when you adopt from a shelter keep these tips in mind.

1. Know how the shelter operates. Look into the reviews for the shelter and see how honest they really are. You can look up nonprofits on and see how they rank.

2. Visit a few times before you adopt from a shelter. Do they keep the facility clean? Are the animals wells cared for? Shelters are constantly filled to capacity and doing their best to take in every animal the shows up, be sure that they are keep the health of the animals in mind.

3. How old are the puppies and kittens they are allowing to be adopted? Generally a puppy should not be adopted until it's 8 weeks old. There are exceptions, but an older puppy is more often than not going to be a healthy puppy.

4. How long are animals kept at the shelter or in foster care before being adopted? If an animal comes off the street, do they just give it a once over and send it on out for a child to fall in love with? They didn't know Daisy was sick because she was adopted within a day of being found, if they had only cared for her litter a few more days, they would have known they weren't healthy. Granted keeping them there longer could expose other animals to the virus, but a week of foster care would have saved a lot of families heartache.

5. Know that things happen and shelters struggle to make ends meet. There are way more animals needing homes than people willing to adopt. Some shelters are great at balancing the capabilities of their facility while others are not. The shelter we adopted from took in more animals than they could manage and sometimes it just didn't work out for people and animals. We're glad our adoption helped the shelter and the animals, but our path to Gatsby could have been better.

Honestly, if you asked me if I would recommend adopting from the same shelter, I would say yes. All shelters need support, but be smart about your decision and the animal you take home. If you aren't ready for a pet, consider volunteering your time to help a shelter run smoother. Offer to be a foster parent to an abandoned litter or a dog that needs a little bit more training. The biggest issue a shelter deals with is too many animals and not enough money or help. Volunteering your time is the best way to improve a shelter and give more animals a home.

Regardless of where you adopt from, animals are in need of a home, so know that any shelter you choose will have a loving pet for you to spoil.

How did you meet your pets?
A little bit about Katie: Katie Winn is a blogger, social media master and feisty little ginger who shares her happy, (sometimes) crafty and every day winn-derful life on Something Winnderful. When she's not posting on Something Winnderful you'll find her working as a social media marketer for a fabric company in Greenville, SC as well as helping other bloggers step up their blogging and social media game. She's a newlywed and one of those people who is way too obsessed with their dog. You can follow Something Winnderful on Bloglovin or stalk Katie on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Flashback Fridays: Life Lessons I've Learned as a Good Mormon Girl

I'm a little in the game this year, but I'm bringing back Flashback Fridays.

This is a thing I do during the summer to introduce my newer readers to older posts, and also so that I have one less post to write each week.

Plus it's fun to see what my hair looked like back then. So to speak.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about my faith, and it reminded me of another conversation I had over a year ago. So I decided to bring it back for another viewing.


"Your Mormonism kind of freaks me out a little," he said.

I laughed. I couldn't help myself.

There have been many reactions to my choice of religious affiliation, but that one was new.

It came as we talked about our wild college days. His involved underage drinking and recreational drug use. Mine included cosmic bowling and Dr. Pepper and wearing out copies of the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. - I'd love to do all those things from my favorite college movies but it turns out they're felonies

He went on to explain that much of what he learned about getting through life came from doing things wrong. From making bad choices. Sometimes dangerous ones. How could someone "good" like me have possibly learned similar life skills?

It's a valid question.

I said just because my experiences were different doesn't mean the lessons were.

And as I said this, I thought about the varied things I've seen in my life. Some light. Some dark. But all of them full of learning opportunities.

Except that time I got knocked over by a giant wave and flashed some of the Young Men at the church beach party. I'm pretty sure there was nothing to be learned from that experience...

(Well, okay, maybe the importance of double knots.)

So I've been thinking about my life and the things that have happened, and that being a "good Mormon girl" hasn't saved me from one bit of the heartache and pain that my friends have gone through.

A partial list:

My parents' divorce when I was 9

Deciding on my own to become a Mormon at age 11

Being bullied

Being a bully

Watching friends destroy themselves with drugs

Moving away on my own

Living on little more than top ramen and spaghettios

Unrequited love

Love that went wrong

The fear of layoffs

Waiting for a doctor to make a diagnosis

Dragging myself through college

Saying good bye to my grandparents

Losing a friend to suicide

Finding out I'm crazier than I thought

Watching nearly everyone close to me fall in love and get married and have kids while I wait for a turn that will probably never come

The miracle of being an auntie

The great happiness that comes with truly forgiving someone

That going through one airport does NOT mean you've been through them all but you will probably survive anyway

And that sometimes you will be unjustly accused of something that ruins your reputation and your only recourse is to turn the other cheek and walk away.

Of course, there are a lot of things I've never done. Like get wildly drunk and crash a car, or vote for a Democrat for President.

But that doesn't mean I am naive about the ways of the world. I know what that creep in Paris wanted.

There is sometimes a misplaced belief that living a good and moral life means living a sheltered life.

I disagree.

Time and time again I have had to make choices between right and wrong. Sometimes between right and very, very wrong.

I believe lessons can be learned from what we choose to do, just as much as from the consequences of our actions.

I also know from personal experience that being "good" doesn't mean being perfect. Because I am FAR from perfect. So very, very far. I'm guilty of all sorts of things. My sins aren't less than yours. Just different.

Besides, when it comes right down to it, there are exactly two basic lessons we all need to learn:

Be good to others.
Be good to yourself.

How we learn those lessons (or whether we do at all) is pretty much up to us.

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