Category Archives: Travel

Oh the places we’ll go!

Moonstone Farm

Moonstone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.comMoonstone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.comAs silly as it sounds, stopping by this little farm was one of the highlights of our trip for me. It was just behind the campground we were staying in, and Matthew’s grandmother had made friends with the owners. On our last day there, she insisted that we pop in and take a look.

At first glance, it looks just like any other small farm. There aren’t acres and acres of vegetation and an abundance of large equipment lurking about. Instead, it’s a few rows of this and that here and there. There’s a small shed right up front where the owner is working away. Turns out, she’s packing boxes for her subscription clients. Moonstone Farm offers a monthly subscription where locals can purchase a box of whatever the farm has ready at that time. The owner drives the packages into Anchorage where buyers pick up a box of fresh, home-grown goodies. I think that’s phenomenal.

Moonstone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.comFurther into the property, you come across a field of the most beautiful flowers you’ve ever seen. In addition to fruits and vegetables, they also grow and sell flowers to a local flower shop. This is where I took one of my favorite photos from the trip. As I stood gazing at these gorgeous flowers nestled just beneath the Alaskan mountains, I realized something. At first, I expected this place to be a traditional farm – one raising corn or peas or beans. Not even minutes into our tour, I’d already been blown away by a subscription system and a field of flowers. In that moment, I was reminded that not everything has to fit in a nice, neat package. Even a farm can take on a million different faces, so anything else in life could too. We don’t have to firmly be one thing or another. We can be a combination of the things most suitable to us.

Moon Stone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.com Moon Stone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.com Moon Stone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.comAfter hesitantly leaving the flower field, we walked on around to the chicken coop. The owners’ granddaughter excitedly pulled me further into the backyard to show me her cat and the baby chicks. She could hardly contain her excitement as she told me about them and showed me little tricks for doing this and that. I must say, watching those baby chicks line up for a photo was quite entertaining. As I sat and listened to story after story from her, I realized how important it is to let children be a part of the things we do. It was evident how much she’d learned from her grandparents and you could see that she was eager to learn more.

Moonstone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.comWe stood and talked with the family for a bit longer and although I was listening, it was hard not to get swept up in my surroundings. I wanted to sit there for hours gazing out at the simplicity of this lifestyle. I could imagine myself sipping coffee on their porch, overlooking the vegetables growing out front. I imagined enjoying that view of the mountains while tending the flowers. I felt the cool breeze and envisioned what the winters must feel like. It made me long for a similar lifestyle, even though I knew it was only temporary.

Matthew and I would be returning home later that day, and that reality sank in as we walked away. I was, of course, happy to return home for many reasons. Although, I knew I’d miss this place. I’d miss the limited cell phone service and mild temperatures of the Alaskan summer.  I’d miss the clean, crisp air and the beautiful views surrounding you every where you went. I’d miss a simpler life with easy going days filled with adventure. It was as we walked away from this little farm that I confirmed something I’d thought since we arrived — I want to make it a point to travel more. I want to be sure I see the world and experience all the things. I also knew that I wanted to start making some changes to my daily life back home. I wanted things to be simpler and more relaxed. It was at that point that I started making plans to ever so slightly alter the trajectory of where my life was headed.

Moon Stone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.comMoonstone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.comI tell this story not to make anyone jealous of exciting Alaskan adventures or quaint little farms. Instead, I tell this story to show that we can design the life that we want to live. If something doesn’t feel quite right or if you find yourself longing for something different, go after that thing. Make little changes here and there so that you life looks how you want it to. The months since I’ve been home from Alaska have looked very different than the months before. It’s not because I made any radical changes. Instead, I altered a few things just enough to feel a difference in my life. Most likely, no one can even notice a difference from the outside. Nonetheless, sometimes the smallest of changes can make a gigantic difference.

Moon Stone Farm. #mapinalaska pamelapetrus.comThe fact of the matter is, there’s nothing that we can’t do in this lifetime. Sometimes it’s about altering the big ideas such that they fit into our current lives, or sometimes it’s about going for that big dream to make it a reality. Whichever is better suited for you, do it! I definitely don’t have a beautiful farm back in Monroe, Louisiana. However, I do have a simpler life that gives me some of the same feelings I felt at Moonstone Farm. And I didn’t have to move mountains to accomplish that. What small thing can you do today to make you life just a little bit better? I encourage you to really think about that and see what you might can do to create a life that you love.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have had this Alaskan adventure. The trip to this farm made me look at my daily life a little differently and I’m just as thankful for that nudge as I am for the chance to see some different scenery. You can read the overview of our trip here.

Alaska in a Nutshell

Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!It seems like yesterday that Matthew and I returned home from our fantastic trip to Alaska. Naturally, I have a million photos and experiences to share. To start, I thought I’d give you the condensed version of what we did. I intend to share more in depth details and more photos of some of our favorites. I’m going to spoil the ending a bit though…we didn’t see even a fraction of the wildlife that I thought we’d see (not even one bear!!) AND we tried several times and didn’t even get a glimpse of Mt. McKinley. Luckily, our other experiences made up for the lack of signature Alaskan events.Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Day 1: Our first full day in Alaska was Thursday, June 24. This was also our longest day and we spent quite a bit of time riding in the truck and on a bus. We rode up to Denali National Park where we took an 8 hour round-trip bus ride through the mountains up to Eielson Visitor Center. Ideally, this is where you’d get the best view of Mt. McKinley. You’d also see a multitude of wildlife as you travel through the park. Didn’t happen. We did see a few caribou, ravens, and lots of ground squirrels. Not one moose or one bear. We also didn’t see Mt. McKinley. The clouds blocked it entirely. Apparently, it had only been seen three or four times so far this summer. I had no idea that it was so tricky to get to see it. Later in the week, I saw photos from someone else’s trip and they’d seen the mountain the entire time they were there. I must say, I was blown away by how large and majestic it was! After seeing the photos, I was slightly disappointed that we were unable to see it. Maybe next time.

Even though we didn’t see as much wildlife as I’d hoped or the mountain, it was still a good experience. After the bus ride, we made the 4 hour trek back to Wasilla where we were staying. If you’re counting, that’s a whopping 16+ hours riding on our first day!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!

Day 2: On the second day, we made the trek over to Seward, Alaska which is a quaint little fishing town. The drive down Turnagain Arm was one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip. We saw 7 swans, eagles galore, and my first moose! (It was the only one I saw with antlers and was too far in the brush for a good photo.) We hiked up to Exit Glacier and I ate my first bit of fresh, grilled fish. This day was one of my favorites!

Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com! Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com! Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com! Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!

Day 3: We stayed in Seward the previous night, so we spent a bit of time exploring the town this morning. Matthew and I went to the Alaska SeaLife Center, which was a bit smaller than I thought. I had the best time watching the sea lions though! I think I could have sat there all day watching the sea lions and seals swim. The puffin is a native Alaskan bird and we got the chance to watch them, as well. I even bought a piece of art done by painting the bottom of a puffins feet and letting them walk around on a canvas. Silly, I know. I thought it was cute, though, and I’ll always think of Alaska when I see it. On the way back to Wasilla, we stopped by a local pottery shop. This sounds like it might have been a basic experience. Not quite. We parked at a gas station, walked probably a mile down a private, winding dirt road, and showed up to a quaint little cabin in the forest. We let ourselves in, shopped a ton of handmade pottery, made our selections, and put the appropriate funds into a box. The entire process works solely on the honor system. The potter was not present, and you simply followed the directions on the signs. To me, this was commerce in the simplest form, and I longed for a studio/shop that operated this way. I was truly amazed at the simplicity of it and thankful that Matthew’s grandparent were aware of its existence. The average tourist surely wouldn’t have known about this little gem.Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Day 4: This was another one of my favorite experiences. We went to Hatcher Pass and climbed to the top at a whopping 4,800 feet! This was my second mountain to climb, (Click here for the first.) and I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful the view was. We had a great view from the top to the bottom, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. After the climb, we went around the corner and explored Independence Mine, an old mining town. Hatcher Pass is absolutely one of my favorite experiences from the trip. That scenery will forever be burned into my mind, and I’m certain that I’ll long to return.Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Day 5: I started my morning with some reading and coffee by the fire. (Yes, a fire in June.) We went to church and then headed to Anchorage for the Anchorage Market. The market wasn’t quite as large as I’d hoped. It was still rather fun though! We ate a reindeer dog (Sorry, Rudolph.) for lunch and spent a bit of time walking around the souvenir shops downtown. I could have bought so many things!

Day 6: On day 6, we climbed to the top of Flattop Mountain. If you’re counting, that’s my third mountain to climb! I didn’t enjoy the sights quite as much at Flattop as I did on Hatcher Pass. However, Flattop brought with it my first attempt at mountain climbing! Literally, there were times where you had to use all four limbs…hands and feet…to get up the rocks. I loved it! I also got the bug to try parasailing, and ate halibut for the first time!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Day 7: One day, we made yet another attempt to see Mt. McKinley that was unsuccessful. It’s hard to believe that we went to Alaska and didn’t even get a glimpse of the tallest mountain in North America.  We drove up to Talkeetna, which is a quaint little tourist town. We ate on the patio at the Wildflower Café, which was delicious and lovely. The fresh salmon Caesar wrap and their french fries were amazing. After leaving Talkeetna, we drove up to the Matanuska Glacier where we saw three moose! This is where I finally got my close up photo of these furry friends. We enjoyed the Sheep Mountain Lodge for dinner where I had more fresh fish and took my funny photos with the stuffed moose. Unfortunately, these are the only photos of a moose with antlers that I got.Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Day 8: This was our final day in Alaska. Before heading out, we visited the Moon Stone Farm, which was just behind the campground we stayed at. They grew vegetables, flowers, chickens, and other various items. The owner packages fresh goods that can be purchased through a seasonal subscription. Subscribers pick up boxes of fresh picked goods once they’re ready. As simple as it was, visiting the farm was one of my favorite stops and it made me crave a similar lifestyle. We spent the rest of the morning driving around the valley area and seeing some of the farmland. We also drove by the reindeer and muskox farms. After returning to the campground to get our luggage, we ate delicious BLTs and played a bit of horseshoes.Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!Matthew and I boarded the red eye home around 8:30 pm Alaskan time. We flew all night and made it back to Monroe around 10:30 the following morning. We were certainly exhausted and a bit jet lagged. However, we wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. I’ve never seen anything quite like the Alaskan landscape and loved the crisp air and the chance to unplug. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend it.Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com! Alaska Vacation 2015. See more at pamelapetrus.com!

If I had to make a list of my top three experiences, I’d have to say it was hiking at Hatcher Pass, the beautiful drive down Turnagain Arm, and visiting the pottery shop. Stopping by Moon Stone Farm would also be a strong contender. I am truly thankful for all of our experiences and for the chance to travel the way we did. We looked forward to this trip for so long, and it did not disappoint.

Where shall we go next??

La Mariposa – Magnolia, Mississippi

La Mariposa - Magnolia, MississippiOne of my favorite things to write about here on the blog is stories of interesting places we’ve found on our travels. Traveling regularly is one of my big life goals and every new spot that we visit gets me a little closer to that big dream. As we see new places, I’m always looking for something cool and different to experience and most of the time I’m thinking about it from the perspective of a potential blog post. I do this mainly because this blog will be how I look back and reminisce. I also love sharing my experiences.

When we walk in to a new place, I immediately look about the room in search of potential blog photos. I’m usually already writing the post in my head, and I’m searching for things that I’ll want to remember or share. Most of the time, I’ll immediately know whether an experience will be one that I share or not. This day, I was wrong.

I snapped a quick photo of the exterior of this quaint restaurant in Magnolia, Mississippi before stepping inside. It looked promising. Shortly after walking in, I changed my mind. I actually said to Matthew, “I won’t be blogging about this one.” Something about the erratically scattered butterfly décor and plastic tablecloths just didn’t give me the warm and fuzzy, I’ll-blog-about-this feeling. We were starving and in the middle of nowhere, so we sat down to eat anyway. Shortly after sitting down, I realized that this was indeed going to be an experience that I wrote about. Not only that, it was going to be an experience that I never forgot and probably told stories of for years to come.

La Mariposa - Magnolia, MississippiLa Mariposa - Magnolia, MississippiThese wouldn’t be stories of that “adorable little spot with the cool, artsy vibe.” We wouldn’t reminisce of “that quiet place on the corner.” Instead, we will always think of and remember that bad ass restaurant owner that said exactly what crossed her mind. Before you read any further, I’ll warn you – there’s a lot of profanity involved. If you have sensitive eyes, you’ll probably want to skip this post. That was your warning. Read on at your own risk.

Not long after we were seated, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation from a nearby table. There was lots of laughter and you could tell that a thick, Columbian/Cajun accent was the source of the comedic relief. I missed most of the conversation. However, I was fully tuned in after hearing her say:

“He said, ‘Aren’t you scared?’ I said, ‘Shit, I ain’t scared. I’ll chop your asses in a heartbeat.’ I tell you dis cause I don’t play.”

At first, I couldn’t tell who this lady was. I thought that surely she must be the owner. Who else could get away with saying such things so loudly and matter of factly in the middle of a restaurant? After listening a bit longer, I realized that she was indeed the owner, and she was also one of the funniest and boldest people I’d ever meet.

La Mariposa - Magnolia, MississippiHer name was Mercedes. She swam across the Rio Grande to America as a young girl. She actually said that she was afraid at first because she was a young, pretty virgin and she thought the group she was traveling with might sell her into prostitution. She worked at the fairground for thirteen years and that’s where she learned the skills she has now. She also worked in a restaurant in New Orleans and ended up opening her own restaurant in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She’s lived in Magnolia and ran this restaurant ever since. She’s actually a local elected official now and her stories of fighting in politics were more than humorous. I could have listened to these stories for hours and her no-nonsense view of the subjects was empowering.

Matthew and I sat and listened to Mercedes tell stories for as long as we could. I’m certain that we could have listened for hours on end. Without further ado, here are some of the hilarious (and vulgar) things that Mercedes said during our short visit. She also showed us the gun on her hip, to give you a bit of perspective on the situation.

“Shit, all this government bullshit. This one says I went to school and I know how to do this shit.” (As she stood behind me taking down numbers from a collection of permits hanging on the wall.)

“I’m not much on computers. I tell everybody, the only thing I know how to do on the computer is get to my porno site.”

“Do I look like your waitress?? I’m the dishwasher. (When people come in asking for things or wanting to see the owner.)

“I intended to open a whore house but ended up with a restaurant.”

“I was Catholic until I found out how much Episcopalians drank. Then I switched.”

“Look at all these flies. You’d think there was a Mexican in here.”

“Shit, I better watch my language or I’m gonna get deported.”

“Shit, that’s right in front of my store. Bitch, I’ll fix you. I went in the attic and cut that line. I don’t get that money. You don’t get that money.” (When talking about how the original owner of the building kept the proceeds of the payphone out front.)

La Mariposa - Magnolia, MississippiSay what you will about her delivery. (Actually, don’t say anything. This post isn’t about people’s individual thoughts on profanity and such.) Even if you don’t like people who speak in this manner, I couldn’t help but be a bit inspired by her bravery. Not only did this lady literally swim the Rio Grande to get to America, she also has the courage to live her life unapologetically. (For anyone who is concerned, she is a US citizen. We won’t go down that road either.) What I’m concerned with here is that this lady who would seem to be at somewhat of a disadvantage, stands up for her individuality regularly.

Mercedes runs a business, serves through her local government, and makes shit happen every single day. She never once said, “I’m sorry.” She never apologized for being a bit rough around the edges. Instead, she lives her life how she wants to live it. People can either stay or go. Love her or hate her. I got the distinct impression that Mercedes would say and do what she felt to be right, regardless of what others thought. I think you would always know exactly how she felt about a topic and never have to wonder where you stood. In my opinion, there’s something to be said about that frankness. Honestly, I’d like to be around more people like that.

La Mariposa - Magnolia, MississippiLa Mariposa - Magnolia, MississippiEven though the food was delicious, I won’t remember this place for the BLT. I will probably remember the excessive use of butterfly décor. However, my most distinct memories of La Mariposa will definitely be of Mercedes and her intense comments. I’ll never, ever forget her and part of me hopes to be a bit more like her someday.

I share the story of La Mariposa in hopes that you might enjoy a laugh like we did, and more importantly, that you might be a tad inspired to be a bit more of a bad ass today. Say what you want to say and do what you want to do, unapologetically. It’s the Mercedes way.

If you’d like to see a bit of Mercedes in action, check out the restaurant’s facebook page. 

Apple Juice

apple juiceMatthew and I just returned home from Alaska. I haven’t yet had time to sort through the hundreds of photos or put the magnitude of our trip into words. Don’t worry though, I will share details and photos from our trip very soon. (If you’d like a head start, you can check #mapinalaska on Instagram @pamelapetrus.) In the meantime, here’s a few thoughts that I had as we began our wonderful Alaskan journey.

There truly is something that I love about flying. Let me be clear. I do not like turbulence or stale air or sitting next to the one person on the plane that didn’t bathe today and has gas problems. I don’t like the migraines that I often get from the pressure or having to sit in one place for so long. I do, however, love the random bits of inspiration that flying gives me. I have written a large chunk of blog posts while flying, many of which have never even been shared. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed that sitting silently on a plane almost always makes me think about life or people or my dreams and goals, and often makes words flow from my mind almost effortlessly.

I’ve also noticed that I drink apple juice when I fly. As soon as the flight attendant brings out that rickety cart with the loud, locking brakes, I begin to taste apple juice. I couldn’t stand apple juice for the majority of my life. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve begun to drink it, and I do so understanding that any second I could wake up from this dream and remember that I don’t like apple juice. Since I’ve begun exploring this new land of juice, I’ve noticed that I primarily drink in on a plane. There may be one or two times a year that I drink it somewhere other than 30,000 feet in the air, and it’s usually shortly after a trip. Primarily though, it’s on an airplane. I’m not even sure when I decided that apple juice should be associated with flying. Regardless of how, when, or why, flying now equals sipping some juice. (Did you start singing “sipping on gin and juice??” No? Ok then.)

On this particular flight, something smelled like it was burning. I smelled it as soon as we began to move on the tarmac. My husband said he smelled it to and dismissed it almost instantly, in his usual fashion. I decided not to think much about it. After all, you could so very easily find some sound/smell/motion to be alarmed about while ascending into the sky riding in a big chunk of metal. My typically plane mentality is that if no one else around me seems concerned, then I shouldn’t be concerned either. (I could live out this scene from my all-time favorite movie. Better not though.)

I decided not to worry about the burning smell, even though I smelled it for the majority of the 7 hour flight. I figured if we hadn’t burst in to a ball of flames yet, we were probably going to be alright. Still though, there was this smell. It smelled somewhat like an old curling iron that had been on for a while, burning away years of caked on hairspray. There were times when the smell made me reminisce of getting ready for high school proms…a time when I didn’t even know how to “get ready.” (Seriously, I literally had no idea what to do with make up or how to manage this hair of mine.)

The longer I rode, I thought more about burning curling irons and apple juice. I have such a keen sense of smell (not usually a good thing on an airplane) and it’s very common for me to get catapulted back in time because of a familiar smell. The more that I thought about the new correlation between sipping apple juice and flying, the more inspired I became. Some of my best writing and business ideas have come from long, muffled flights. This is actually a great time for this flight, as I have something new up my sleeve. (Like how I just slipped that in??) Maybe someday I’ll be flying here and there for lunch or random excursions, just so I can take advantage of the inspiration that comes from these flights. If that’s the case, I want to be sitting in first class. Go big or go home, right?

It also made me think about what would happen if this plane crashed. My first thought is that this iPhone note would be backed up somewhere and maybe that’s how they would determine the cause of the crash…something burning. The headlines would read – “Young Blogger’s iPhone Note Cracks Plane Crash Mystery.” Clearly, I’m being a bit silly. Although, it made me think about the notes I have saved on my phone. A few grocery lists. Some useless passwords. Many are unpublished blog posts. Some I just haven’t gotten around to sharing. Some, I’ve decided are too random. Or too “raw.” Would anyone read those? Would I want them to?? As I’ve mentioned before, this blog is much like a journal for me. When writing for this space, it means that a lot of what I write doesn’t actually go live. Instead, those posts live on my iPhone, serving as an expression of my thoughts and feelings. They are very much so my journal where I write through my own thoughts and feelings. It just so happens that I’m writing them from a story-telling perspective rather than an introspective one. Even though they’re not shared, they still live on in my iPhone. They tell my story. Would I want someone to read all of those? I’m really not sure. I do know that I’m thankful that they’re there.

For now, I’ll continue to write more posts, much like this one, that may or may not get shared. I’ll sip some juice and smell that burning curling iron smell and dream and reminisce and make plans. Most importantly, I’ll think. I’ll think about anything and everything, often simultaneously. I’ll have good ideas and not-so-good ideas. Some of them I’ll act on. Some will fade into the distance. No matter what, I’ll be thankful for the opportunity to think and plan and dream.

I’ll have another apple juice, please.

Off to Alaska we go!

Anchorage, AlaskaIn just a few hours I will be on my way to Alaska with my husband, with family waiting to greet us there. This is a trip that we’ve planned and eagerly anticipated for over a year. I distinctly remember how far away it seemed when we first started discussing it. I remember it feeling like the actual trip was so far away. Well, it’s here now!

Matthew and I will be traveling most of the day on Tuesday and will arrive in Anchorage late on Tuesday evening. I wish I could tell you what we have planned for the week…I don’t even know though! Matthew’s grandparents lived in Alaska for a bit and they’ve made these summer voyages back for many years since moving back to Louisiana. They’re our trusted tour guides and we’re luckily going to see the best of the best through the help of well-traveled and experienced former locals.

Am I nervous about not having some sort of agenda? Certainly. Do I have the slightest idea how to pack for Alaskan summers? Not at all. Am I eagerly awaiting to board that plane, despite my uncertainty? Most definitely!

I’m sure that I’ll share bits and pieces of our trip on Instagram and probably Facebook as I can. You can follow along with #mapinalaska (Matthew and Pamela in Alaska).  At this point, I’m not even certain how much cell service or Internet access we’ll have.  I’m assuming that it might be a bit spotty, depending on where we are and what we’re doing that day. (Don’t worry, I’ve made plans for work while I’m away.) I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least somewhat looking forward to an opportunity to unplug for a bit.

I don’t have many expectations for this trip since I don’t really know much about what’s ahead. However, I am expecting to see some of the most beautiful scenery that I’ve ever seen. Everyone who’s ever been to Alaska raves about its beauty. I simply can’t wait to see it!! I am expecting to be somewhat taken back by my surroundings, and I bet I struggle to take it all in. I bet I’m immensely inspired. I hope to approach this trip with the enthusiasm of a small child, seeing something amazing for the first time. I’m also looking forward to breathing the air there. (And drinking lots of water so I don’t dehydrate from altitude differences.) I can’t wait to see how the air feels. I also just recently learned of the Anchorage Market. I did a bit of perusing through Google images and I’m suddenly very excited to hopefully see this. The wares look very different from any market I’ve ever been to and I must see it! (I also must make a plan for getting lots of souvenirs home!)

I’m sure it’s very easy to pick up on my excitement over this trip. My enthusiasm easily overtakes any uncertainty that I feel over what to pack and not knowing a “plan.” I have lots and lots of work to do today in preparation for being away. However, I’ll be subtly counting down the hours to myself. I’m one of those people who love to travel. I love seeing new things and having all of the experiences. One of my more recently set “goals” is to eventually travel for at least 3 months out of the year. (I haven’t put this goal “out there” yet, so you’re the first to know!) I feel like there’s SO. MUCH. to see out there in the world, and I absolutely want to see as much of it as possible. I want to be that lady sharing accounts of my overseas adventures and stories of little restaurants here and there. I am thrilled that Alaska will get to be in my list of stories to tell. I also can’t wait to get home and mark it on my travel map!

I plan to share the highlights of our trip here when we get home. In an attempt to truly be present and experience this trip, you’ll miss a few posts from me. I’m truly taking the next couple of weeks off, so I’ll be back here on My Neck of the Woods on Monday, July 6. While I’m away, do something fun! And make plans to do something exciting soon…like go to Alaska!

Also, I just stumbled upon this article about  how vacation is a mindset, not a location. Great read!

(The above photo is from our United Airlines eTicket. Thanks United!)

 

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Brick Streets Natchitoches LaNatchitoches LaMama's Oyster HouseNatchitoches LaCane River Natchitoches LaCane River Natchitoches LaCane River Natchitoches LaNatchitoches LaOn Saturday, Matthew and I made somewhat of a spontaneous trip over to Natchitoches, LA for dinner. Matthew had tagged along with me to show a couple of houses, with the last one being on Caney Lake in Chatham. As we were driving to the lake, I had the thought that we should have made plans to go over to Natchitoches after and stay the night. Natchitoches is quite known for their large selection of adorable bed & breakfasts, and I’ve been dying to try one. After showing the house, we decided to head on over to Natchitoches even though we didn’t make prior plans. We weren’t prepared to stay the night. However, we could still grab a quick dinner before heading back home to Monroe.

We were only in Natchitoches for a few short hours, just enough time to grab a bite to eat and walk around Front Street. One of my favorite things about Natchitoches is the beautiful brick-paved streets. They add such character to the Front Street area. It’s also hard to miss the beautiful Cane River running right alongside the shops and restaurants.

Matthew and I had a quick dinner at Mama’s Oyster House and then walked along the river a bit before heading home. Live music was set to start at Mama’s at 8:00 and we just missed it by an hour or two. We’ll certainly make plans to go back for the music soon. After soaking in the scenery for a bit, Matthew and I headed home. We took a different route back to Monroe than how we’d came and thoroughly enjoyed driving our new car. This was the first time we got to really drive the car…curvy backroads and hills and such. We truly enjoyed the evening!

Spontaneous adventures like these are what my dreams are made of. For me, making memories of this sort are the stories that I’ll tell for years to come. I simply love doing something unplanned and adventurous. Have you taken a spontaneous little trips lately? Where should we go next?? If we head back to Natchitoches soon, which bed & breakfast should we try? I’d love to hear suggestions!

If you’d like to see some of the other places we’ve been, check out the travel category!

Sherman’s – Greenville, MS

Sherman's (7)Matthew and I headed out on a spontaneous weekend trip to Nashville and decided to take the Memphis route instead of our usual trek through Birmingham. We ended up in Greenville, MS around lunch and stumbled upon Sherman’s. When we saw the full parking lot, we knew we must be on to something. From the outside, we expected a mom-and-pop-type lunch place, full of local working folks and a limited menu. Not quite.

Sherman's (5)

(That’s totally not my car.)

When we walked in, we were immediately taken back by how large the place was. I expected 20 tables covered in plastic gingham tablecloths. Instead, it was much larger and had more of an Italian dinner restaurant vibe. The menu was rather large, and they offered several daily lunch specials to chose from. I opted for a grilled pork chop, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and a salad. Matthew had the crab cake, green beans, baked squash, and cabbage.

Sherman's (2)The most impressive thing about this place was the fact that EVERYTHING was delicious. Usually at a place like this, you’ll get one awesome item and the rest will be so-so. Typically, most of the menu is edible but nothing to write home about. Not at Sherman’s. With each item we tasted, we were amazed at the amount of flavor. I was most impressed with the green beans and meat sauce. Yep…you read that right. I had never before heard of green beans with meat sauce, but they were surprisingly yummy! Matthew described them as green beans with spaghetti sauce, whereas I thought they had more of a salsa taste. Either way, I’ve never seen anything like it and would definitely recommend you try them.

Sherman's (1)

(I also took this opportunity to make an offer on a house!)

After stuffing ourselves with a main dish, three sides, and rolls/cornbread, they surprised us with a piece of coconut cake. I say surprised because we were unaware that it was part of the daily special. For the record, if you ever want to surprise me with cake, I’m totally down with that. Even though neither of us particularly care for coconut cake, this piece was great! I am literally amazed and the fact that Matthew and I liked every single thing that we were served. That’s impressive!

Sherman's (4)(By the way, how many tank top problems do you think they had before having to have a special sign made??)

Sherman's (6)
If you’re ever passing through Greenville, I’d recommend a stop at Sherman’s. Greenville is also the home of the famous Doe’s Eat Place. We now have a Doe’s in Monroe, so we opted to find something new to try. It looks like Greenville might be the home to some great, local restaurants…my fav!

Speaking of local restaurants, I plan to launch a new series here on the blog highlighting some local favorites around our hometown of Monroe, LA. I’ll mainly show our favorite local restaurants, but I might also include some of my favorite shopping spots and local attractions. Any requests??

MAP Does Dallas

MAP Dallas (13)One of my goals for the month was to make a weekend trip over to Dallas and spend a bit of time with the husband. Done! What started as a trip to IKEA, ended up being an excuse to get away and celebrate Matthew’s graduation.

Most of our trips revolve around food. Picking a cool restaurant is of utmost importance. Here’s where we ate on this trip:

MAP Dallas (14)MAP Dallas (15)The Dairy Palace (Canton, Tx):
This is one of my favorite burger joints of all time. We stopped here on the way to Dallas and on the way back. The burgers are some of the best I’ve ever had. They’re world famous and open 24 hours. If you’re passing through Texas on I-20, make a plan to stop here.

MAP Dallas (3)MAP Dallas (2)MAP Dallas (16)MAP Dallas (1)Cane Rosso (Deep Ellum):
This was our first stop when we made it to Dallas, and it did not disappoint. The selection of brick oven pizzas is mouth-watering. No need to order an appetizer here because it only takes 75 seconds to cook a pizza! My favorite thing here was the decor. The restaurant was in an old building that had been very tastefully and eclectically redone. My favorite part was the fringe lights. You better believe that I’ll be purchasing one of these if I ever come across one!

Fluellen CupcakesSol Ilandes (Downtown):
This place was in walking distance from our hotel, which is half of the appeal. What started as just picking a convenient place to eat turned into a fantastic meal! They played old country music and the place was filled to the brim with happy folks and high energy. There was a patio with roll up windows on the side that would be a great place to enjoy in warmer weather. The food was pretty great too. The menu was diverse, and the food was flavorful…something that you don’t always find outside of Louisiana. It’s definitely a place I’d recommend to anyone in Downtown Dallas. After dinner, we walked around the corner to Fluellen Cupcakes. The carrot cake cupcake was amazing and my favorite thing about this place was that they’re open late!

MAP Dallas (9)MAP Dallas (11)MAP Dallas (10)Buzz Brews (Deep Ellum):
This might have been one of my favorite stops on the trip. It was across the street from Cane Rosso and had a very artsy vibe. It featured a self-serve coffee bar. (The peanut butter coffee was a crowd favorite…we even order a 1/2 pound to bring home!) We were also incredibly impressed by the food. My banana nut pancakes were off the charts! I was in love with the old faucets in the bathroom…so cool! The  bathroom itself is something to talk about. I heard a girl say, “It’s two doors, but don’t let that confuse you…its one bathroom.” I thought that meant you had to go through two doors to get in. Nope. It’s two doors (one for men and one for women), but they lead into the SAME bathroom. There were individual stalls/rooms on each side with the cool sinks in the middle of the room. I’d never seen anything quite like it!

MAP Dallas (12)MAP Dallas (6)MAP Dallas (7)MAP Dallas (5)One of the highlights of this trip was that I got to go ice skating for the first time! Matthew has quite a bit of experience, but I had never been on skates. I’m happy to report that I didn’t fall, not even once! They say that ice skating is a lot like rollerblading, which I can agree with…if you’re roller blading on baby oil!

MAP Dallas (4)Another highlight was our visit to the Look Cinemas. This is one of those movie theaters that have recliners, serve food, etc. Actually, they offer four different experiences to chose from. (Check out their website…it’s pretty cool.) Matthew and I chose the Look & Dine experience. My favorite part of this theater was the chairs…they were grouped in sets of two, were incredibly comfortable, and reclined! That only thing missing from this experience was a cozy blanket!

The day we headed home, we spent 7+ hours at IKEA. My birthday present from Matthew was to finish out my closet room, so we ultimately went to get some storage solutions for that. We also bought shelves for my office, a new rug, and several other goodies that you’ll likely see around my house soon. As always, it was a fun (but exhausting) day of shopping. Never ben to IKEA? Go! There’s nothing else like it.

All in all, we had a fun trip. We met up with Amanda and her sister Rachel here and there and enjoyed lots of quality time together. I also got two houses under contract while on the road, which is seriously one of my favorite things about this career.

Want to read more about our travels? Check here! Where shall we go next??

Family Reunion 2015!

KW Family Reunion 2015KW Family Reunion 2015KW Family Reunion 2015I spent most of last week in Orlando, FL at Family Reunion. Family Reunion is one of the largest real estate conferences in the world, if not THE largest. Keller Williams agents from around the world converge once a year to discuss results from the previous year and insight for the current year.  We spend most of the days in classes, learning new strategies for growing our businesses, and this year was no exception….I learned A LOT and left with a TON of ideas!

KW Family Reunion 2015The biggest announcement for 2015 is that Keller Williams is now the #1 real estate company in the world!! In 2014, we were pleased to announce that we were the largest company in the US, but this year’s announcement was even larger! It is honestly so humbling to sit back and think of what a magnificent company it is that I work with. The Keller Williams company was started in 1983 in Austin, TX. In just 32 short years, it has grown to #1 in the world. Such substantial and sustainable growth in such a short period of time is a large testament to the culture and vision of this company. I am very proud to get to work with such a fantastic, progressive-thinking group of people.

KW Family Reunion 2015KW Family Reunion 2015We also announced that we’ll be welcoming our peers to our neck of the woods next year. Family Reunion 2016 will be in New Orleans!!

Over 11,000 agents attended this annual conference. If you ever need perspective on how small your corner of the world is, sit in a room of 11,000-12,000 like-minded people who do the same exact thing you do all across the world. It’s an invigorating experience and offers an ample dose of perspective.

KW Family Reunion 2015KW Family Reunion 2015Now that I’m home from the 2015 conference, I’m ready to take this year by storm! It’s so easy to return home and get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle and never implement any new ideas. However, I’m committed to taking steps to implement the things I’ve learned and ideas I’ve had. I plan to set aside time for dreaming big and planning for my business. After all, these are the things that will set me apart and guarantee my success.

Whether they’re personal or professional, I hope that you’re setting big goals for this year, and I hope that you’re committed to making them a reality. Don’t forget…you and you alone are in charge of what your life looks like and where you go. Don’t let the routine of daily life cloud your focus. Here’s to a happy and successful 2015!

KW Family Reunion 2015Want more information about becoming a realtor? Click here! You can also email me at pamelapetrus at gmail dot com!

Related: Family Reunion 2014 – Pheonix, AZ

Keller Williams Family Reunion – Phoenix, AZ

In front of the Keller Williams sign

I wrote this post after returning home from Family Reunion in Phoenix, AZ last year, but I never got around to sharing it here on the blog. In honor of being in Orlando for Family Reunion 2015 this week, I thought I’d finally share the post. Enjoy!

I spent five days in Phoenix for the Keller Williams Family Reunion last month, and I’m totally fired up about what 2014 will hold for my career. (For the record, Family Reunion is an annual conference where our agents get together and discuss trends, ideas, the past year, and what’s new for our company.) There were over 10,000 agents flooding downtown Phoenix for this event!

There were 16 of us from Monroe/West Monroe, and I loved getting to know our team a little better. Even though we work together on transactions and see each other around the office every day, you don’t really get to know someone until you spend a solid 5 days with them!

Unfortunately, my brain was on real estate overload most of the time so I didn’t even snap many photos. We were in back-to-back sessions every day and any free time we had was primarily spent eating. If you’re ever in Phoenix, you must try the key lime pie at Fuego. It was simply delicious. It wasn’t like your regular key lime, and if I ever make it back to Phoenix, I will definitely be stopping by for a slice.

Old Spaghetti Factory

The atmosphere at The Old Spaghetti Factory was fascinating. After making our reservations, we found out that it’s known to be haunted! One of the A&E shows came and agreed that their were indeed spirits present there. The decor was very cool but also a tad creepy considering the place is supposedly haunted. I have several photos from this place, so I may make a separate post soon. Believe in spirits or not, I didn’t go to the restroom alone!

Touhy Family

My other favorite, non-real estate experience was hearing from the Touhy’s, the real-life family from The Blindside. I’ve always found that movie to be so inspiring, and it was great to hear from the real family. The mom, Leigh Anne Tuohy, talked about how she keeps some cash in the console of all of their family’s vehicles so that they can easily give a couple of dollars to someone on a street corner. (For those who say they’ll just buy drugs or alcohol, she says that you’ll be judged on the kindness in your own heart. Let them be judged for what they do with the money.) The biggest take-away from their presentation for me was that you don’t have to adopt a neglected, homeless kid to make a difference in the world. (However, that would help.) I’ve talked about this several times, but even the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference. I’m sure you can think of instances where someone has said or done something to completely turn your day around. It was such a powerful experience.

While I am more than happy to be home to my fantastic husband and my normal work schedule, I am thankful that I had a chance to attend this event. I found some much needed motivation and came home full of ideas for better serving my clients. I am thankful for the chance to be “in the business of making friends,” and I look forward to knocking it out of the park in 2014!

Have you ever thought about a career in real estate or do you have any general questions? I’m willing to help in any way that I can, so feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email or text!

My Tweet: Are you using your time to make a mark or are you just marking time? #kwfr