Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A Day in My Life - Day 30 @RRBC_Org 2023 #RRBC 30-Day #Blogging Challenge @YvetteMCalleiro #ADayInMyLife #RWISA @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #reflection #teacheroftheyear #writing #writingcommunity #poetrycommunity #bloggingcommunity #Blogger

Hello, beautiful readers! Today is the final day of the #RRBC 30-Day Blogging Challenge! With as busy as my life is, I met my goal of posting every day on my blog for the entire challenge! Woohoo!

Today was a normal work day, but it ended with the Teacher of the Year dinner. This year, I was nominated by my school to be the teacher of the year. Out of all the teachers in my region, I was chosen as one of five finalist for the Regional Teacher of the Year. I did not make it to the next level, but I am beyond honored to have made it that far. So, tonight, they held a dinner to honor all of us who were chosen to represent our schools, to celebrate the four regional finalists, and then to announce the district's teacher of the year. My principal reserved a table for our school and allowed me to bring three people, so my parents and my sister joined me. I had a wonderful time being there and celebrating excellence in education.

As I close out this challenge, I'm a bit relieved but also reflective. If you have been following my blog throughout this journey, you know I live a very busy life. Except for Sundays, I am nonstop almost every day. There was a part of me that hesitated in even making the commitment because I didn't know how I would fit one more thing to do into every day. Once I did sign on for the challenge, though, it was game on! I love challenges, and I hate breaking my promises. So, I stuck it through, and I'm proud of myself for doing so.

The title of the challenge was "A Day In My Life." Our instructions were to share what our day is like, and I've made sure to do that every day. When we first started, I remember thinking no one would want to read about my days. They are just wake up, work, rinse, and repeat. The first week was easy because I was on vacation and filled my days with great activities like scuba diving. Week two was fairly easy because it was my first work week, so I was able to show everyone how very busy my life actually is. Then, the rinse and repeat started since my work weeks are usually the same. That's where visiting my fellow author blogs helped!

By week three, I wasn't sure I would have much to talk about. Then, a few of the other bloggers shared a trip or two they had taken, so it inspired me to share my trips. I figured there would be some people who would enjoy reading about them and perhaps even use them to plan their own trips. Blogging about my trips brought back great memories and helped me stay in the challenge.

I enjoyed visiting the other bloggers, though it took a lot of my time to do so. I believe in reciprocity. If I'm asking others to invest in me and my blogs, it is only right that I repay the favor by visiting their blogs and promoting them to bring them more followers. I subscribed to those that had a subscribe/follow button so I would get email reminders. For those that didn't, I relied on the RRBC Member Chat page to send me their links. Still, with those authors and other authors I follow, I was visiting 10-15 blogs a day, which takes up a LOT of time. I fit a lot of it in during down time throughout the day. Two minutes here, four minutes there. Then, at night, I'd tweet everything out before I went to bed.

So, did this challenge serve its purpose? When Nonnie Jules put this challenge together, I believe her purpose was multi-fold (this is solely my opinion; she may have had other goals). 1 - Get authors writing again and show us that we do have time to write. 2 - Help us build/rebuild our blog. 3 - Assist us in attracting more blog followers. I'll take each of those separately.

#1 - This challenge definitely got me writing again. I'm back to writing poetry with my poetry community, which I missed greatly. I enjoyed writing the posts and interacting with other authors. Will it turn into writing stories? I hope so. Fitting in a few minutes here and there to create a blog post isn't the same as separating time to write a novel, but it has shown me that I have some time throughout the week where I can separate a half hour or hour to write. So, I'm hoping to find at least three times a week to work on my current WIP.

#2 - In 2021, I wrote 31 posts in the entire year. Last year, I wrote 47 posts for the whole year. In January alone, I've written 33 posts, so I would say this challenge is on its way to rebuilding my blog presence. The problem is I still don't know what my niche is for my blog. Most authors I follow have something specific they focus on, and I just haven't found that segment idea yet. I know I plan to continue posting my poetry, so that should be four posts a month. I'm thinking of sharing my book reviews each month, like some authors do. That will be another post. I just don't know if I have a regular "thing" to write about on a weekly basis, at least not yet. 

I also have learned that Blogger isn't user friendly for some of my visitors. I'm sure there is a solution, but I'm not the greatest at searching the internet for solutions. I prefer speaking to an expert, but there doesn't seem to be anyone I can call. Before I decide to become an avid blogger, I need to learn more about how to enhance my blog so it's more user-friendly. I've considered switching to WordPress, but I have so much already invested in this site, and I'd hate to lose it all.

#3 - I'm not really sure this challenge has helped build my followers. That number has stayed the same, though that may have something to do with my Blogger issues. On most days, I had maybe 3-8 people comment on my blog. The only exceptions were my poetry posts. There, I have over 15 visitors. There were a few visitors who shared my posts on social media, but it was just two or three people, and there weren't many retweets. 

My stats show a little bit of a different picture, though. (Thanks, Nonnie, for letting me know there are stats! I'm still learning this blogging world.) In the past 30 days, I have had:

  • 4,307 views, including views from USA, Germany, Canada, France, Belgium, the UK, and other places. This shows me that hashtags made a difference. Even though the likes and comments don't reflect these numbers, it still shows readers are stopping by.
  • 497 comments. This includes my comments, so it's more like half of this. Again, most of these comments are on my poetry posts, but it does look better than the 3-8 I listed above.
  • My top three posts were: Day 11 (399 views), Day 19 (219 views), and Day 8 (202 views). 
  • The top referrers were t.co (not sure what that is), Rave Reviews Book Club, and my poetry community.

So, while there have been more visits than comments, I don't know that I'm using my time wisely. For now, I think it makes more sense for me to spend that time working on my stories and creating 2-4 posts per month.

All in all, I don't regret participating in this challenge. It has reminded me how much I miss writing and that I need to make the time to write more often. I've enjoyed visiting the blogs of my fellow authors and supporting them through this challenge, and I look forward to continuing to support them in their posts. 

Thank you to those of you who came by to visit me, even if just once. A special heart of gratitude to those of you who visited me on every post and left me comments and words of encouragement. I truly appreciate it. 💗💗💗

Did you enjoy my posts? Do you have any suggestions on what you'd like me to write about? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, January 30, 2023

A Day in My Life - Day 29 @RRBC_Org 2023 #RRBC 30-Day #Blogging Challenge @YvetteMCalleiro #ADayInMyLife #RWISA @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #fooddonations #classcompetitions #flagfootball

Hello, beautiful readers! Today is Day 29 of the #RRBC 30-Day Blogging Challenge! I can't believe I've almost completed it. Only one more day to go!

I didn't win the lottery, and I owe, I owe, so off to work I go! 😉 Last night, I stopped by my local food store to pick up bakery items they have to discard every night. Did you know that stores have to throw away bakery items when they reach their sale date? The food is still good for another week or so, but they are not legally allowed to sell them. There are a few local organizations that pick up the food to take to the homeless or nursing homes but not nearly enough, so good food is trashed every day. 😢

Luckily, my local food store manager allows me to pick up some of the bakery items on a day when he has no other organization scheduled so I can use it to reward my students for reading. I mentioned earlier that I have competitions between my classes to encourage them to read and learn vocabulary. At the end of the nine week period, the class who has read the most words (on average) gets a desserts party. For this past nine weeks, it was my 8th period.

We have a food pantry in our school for some of our students who are homeless or whose families are struggling. I always leave some of the food at the pantry before going to my classroom. There is always more than enough to share. 

My students were so excited today when they saw the amount of food I brought them. They swore to me they could eat it all, but as always happens, there was food left over. I will share the leftovers with my classes tomorrow so they can have motivation to strive to win for the new nine weeks.

After classes ended, I watched our first middle school boys' flag football team play their first game. It was so fun to watch them, especially since my son is one of their coaches. They tied 7-7, but it was a fun game to watch. Afterward, we went home. I cooked dinner, and we watched a show together. Then, I responded to other author blogs. 

So, I've taken you all around the United States on my trips, but today I wanted to talk about exploring the state in which you live. So many people don't even know how awesome their home state is, and it really doesn't cost a lot to wander a little bit. I have seen a LOT of my home state, Florida, and I'm nowhere near done exploring!

My sister and I love to go camping with the kids. We have gone to the following campsites: Fish Eating Creek, Lion Country Safari Campgrounds, Port Canaveral Campsites, Westgate River Ranch, Peace River, John Dickinson Park, Highland Hammocks State Park, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. When choosing where to go, we go to the Florida State Parks Camping site. Then, we look for sites that have hiking and biking trails because that is what we enjoy doing most. If they have kayaking as well, that's a bonus. We also look at how far the location is from us, especially if it's just for a weekend trip.

We also enjoy visiting the Florida springs. We have gone to Rainbow Springs, Silver Springs, Wekiwa Springs, Ginnie Springs, Silver Glen Springs, Rock Springs Kelly Park, Alexander Springs, and Blue Spring State Park. We are still exploring. We also enjoy biking riding in our local area and have started using All Trails to find new places to visit. 

I enjoy visiting local state parks as well, such as Oleta State Park, Everglades National Park, Tree Tops Park, and others. I've visited our local zoo, science museums, ice skating rinks, Jungle Island, the Miami Seaquarium, Vizcaya, Wynwood, and many other local spots. And of course, I've visited our beautiful beaches on both coasts.

I have taken my son to Sea World, Disney World, Busch Gardens - Tampa, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Legoland. We have visited Key West and St. Augustine. I've also been to the west coast and visited St. Petersburg, Siesta Key, and Naples. I've been as south as Key West and have visited many of the islands in between. 

It saddens me when my students tell me they have never even been to the beach, and we live less than half an hour away from it. Step out of your houses and wander. Explore your local areas and venture a little further each time. If you have children, give them the gift of wonder by visiting new places instead of constantly going to the same place. Expand their experiences. Give them (and you) the gift of exploring. You never know what great places you will discover! 😊

Have you explored your home state? Did you find any gems? I'd love to hear from you!


Have you missed one of my blogs? Here is a recap:

Day 28 - budgeting and financial planning

Day 27 - travel planning

Day 26 - visiting Vermont

Day 25 - visiting Arizona, Nevada, and Utah

Day 24 - road trip to Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina

Day 23 - a senseless death and holistic medicine

Day 22 and recap of week 3 - Alaska cruise tour

Recap of week 2  

Recap of week 1 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Day in My Life - Day 28 @RRBC_Org 2023 #RRBC 30-Day #Blogging Challenge @YvetteMCalleiro #ADayInMyLife #RWISA @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #budgeting #livingonabudget #Excel #Excelsheets #budget #financialplanning

Hello, beautiful readers! Today is Day 28 of the #RRBC 30-Day #Blogging Challenge! It's also BEACH DAY! For those of you who are just joining my blogging journey, Sundays are beach days for me! (And welcome to my blog!) :-)

So, after I woke up, I had breakfast and read/commented on a few author blogs. Then, I got ready for the beach. I spent the entire day there with my friends, as usual. Once I got home, I showered, washed and blow dried my hair, made dinner, and watched a show with my son - a typical Sunday for me.

Toward the beginning of this blogging journey, I shared that when I got divorced, I was drowning in debt. Luckily, I had been raised by a dad who insisted we have family financial nights once a month. My sister and I hated sitting at the dining room table and listening to him go on and on about what money came into the house and how that money was spent for the month. 

Now, as an adult, I am beyond grateful for his lessons because it helped me save my house and pull me out of debt. It has also helped me become financially stable enough to enjoy trips.

So, how did I do it? Excel became my best friend. I created a spreadsheet where I listed every large expense I had, the money coming in, and the money I needed to send to savings (first to pay bills during the summer because I don't get paid in the summer as a teacher, later to save for trips). Then, I subtracted my bills and the money I sent to savings from my income to see how much money, if any, was left over. Here is a simplified example of the spreadsheet I created:

During my debt days, there was no money for the aquarium, nails, landscaping, or pest control, but slowly, I was able to incorporate them back into my life. I broke it down even further to see which bills I could pay with each pay check. I get paid bi-weekly, so by looking at how far each check would go, I was able to make sure the bills got paid on time. The orange boxes below indicate the costs that go onto my credit card. I do this to earn points for specific rewards. 

I take it even a step further and keep track of every penny that enters and leaves my house with a spreadsheet similar to the one below:

The picture above is similar to the one I live by. For many years, there was nothing in the "Other Spending" column. I was living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to pull myself out of debt. Eventually, I did. 

I learned the importance of saving money when I was young. During my "get out of debt" years, there was very little saving happening. Once I paid off my debt, I immediately started saving again, and I save a LOT. Every time I get a pay raise, I add that to my savings. I buy my car and keep it until it can't be repaired anymore, saving me thousands of dollars in lease money. I do everything I can to keep my costs down.

There are a few other things I do as well to make/save money, but you get the idea. I also have several savings accounts. Each one has its own purpose. When my check gets direct deposited, money automatically gets transferred into each savings account, and I pretend it doesn't exist. I live on the money in my checking account. By doing this, I have the money I need to travel every summer. 

A little bit of organizing helps me to see when and how I spend my money, and that allows me to make changes that help me enjoy my life. And I truly live a full life! :-)

Do you keep track of your expenses? Have I inspired you to try? I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

A Day in My Life - Day 27 @RRBC_Org 2023 #RRBC 30-Day #Blogging Challenge @YvetteMCalleiro #ADayInMyLife #RWISA @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #travel #RoadTrip #tripplanning #planning #travelplanning

Hello, beautiful readers! Today is Day 27 of the #RRBC 30-Day Blogging Challenge! After waking up when my body wanted to, I had breakfast and worked four hours at my part time job. Then, I completed my food shopping and dropped off some items at my parents' house. I had a late lunch and started to read and comment on author posts when I realized the time. It was already 5pm! 

So, I jumped up and got in a 20-minute interval workout. Then, I dyed my hair. While it set, I worked on my finances and put some Brussel sprouts in the oven to bake. When my hair timer went off, I showered and washed my hair. I didn't bother blow drying it because I'm going to the beach tomorrow. I went back to going through emails and blogs until the Brussel sprouts were ready. Then, I baked some fish and ate dinner while watching HGTV (my son is with his dad this weekend).

In the last post, I told you my son has one more state to see. Any guesses? *drum roll* Yup, Hawaii! I'm doing some serious saving for that trip. Tomorrow, I'll go more into how I budget, but today, I thought I'd spend some time sharing with you how I plan my trips in case I've inspired any of you to plan a road trip of your own.

The first thing I did was print out a map of the United States. I also bought a map of the world for my son. It's a scratch off map so you can reveal what's underneath once you travel to that place. Each time we visited a state, he and I scratched it off his map, and I highlighted it on mine and put the year of our visit. This not only motivated us but also helped us visually see where we had yet to visit so we can plan our trips.

Then, I used a Word document that my dad created to plan our trips. 

Usually, we took my dad's truck, but for those trips that required us to fly, we researched the costs of the flight and the car rental. After the trip, we filled in how much we spent on dinners and purchases, including gas. We also put the total money spent on hotels. This helped us with our budgeting for our next trip. Keeping track of the mileage was just fun for us.

The chart above is where the real planning took place. We decided what states we wanted to visit first. Then, we searched "things to do in..." on Google. Usually, something like this would show up:

We would click on the first 3-4 links and start looking for things of interest. We would pay attention to the cities in which they were located and jot them down. We did that for each state we wanted to visit.

Once we had an idea of attractions that interested us, we then started planning where we wanted to go and in what order. Our first couple of trips had us backtracking at times because we didn't plan the route well. We once again used Google. We typed in "distance from a to b." We looked at how many miles it took and the approximate time it would take. The time is always an estimate because we needed to add rest stops, food stops, and traffic build ups. Still, it gave us an idea of how long it would take. 

We tried to keep the driving down to less than 5 hours, but there were some days that were driving days only. Those were sometimes 7-8 hours of driving. My dad and I would take turns driving every time we filled up the tank. If the distance between two destinations was very long, we would go back to the map and look for an interesting place in between. When we found our halfway(ish) mark, we would search that area to see if there was anything exciting to see. That's how we discovered some of our stops.

These two steps started formulating our plan. As we found our route and the places we wanted to visit, we then began determining how many days we wanted to stay in each area. Some spots were just one nighters; other places warranted staying for a few nights. So, this is what it started to look like:

We would include phone numbers and links if we knew we would need them later. We also included admission fees or things we paid in advance. Here is an example of that:

The last thing we did was look for hotels. I like using Hotels.com. Every ten nights, they give you one night for free, and since our trips were always longer than two weeks, it came in handy. We tried to get hotels close to the expressway to save time getting to and leaving from the areas. Of course, there were places like the Wigwam Village that we were willing to drive to because it was such a unique place to stay. In the hotel section, we listed the name of the hotel, the address, the phone number, and the price.

This process has never failed us. It helped us make the most of every place we visited. I encourage you to try a road trip of your own, even if it's for a weekend. You just might fall in love with exploring!

Have you ever taken a road trip? I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, January 27, 2023

A Day in My Life - Day 26 @RRBC_Org 2023 #RRBC 30-Day #Blogging Challenge @YvetteMCalleiro #ADayInMyLife #RWISA @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #travel #RoadTrip #Vermont #hiking #waterfalls #Fallseason #mindfulness #poetry

Hello, beautiful readers! Today is Day 26 of the #RRBC 30-Day Blogging Challenge. Yesterday, in addition to writing my blog, I also wrote a poem for the #TankaTuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge. Colleen Chesebro gave us a painting and asked us to write a poem inspired by it. My mind hooked onto one part of that painting, so I focused only on that. If you'd like to read my poem, you can find it here.

My morning routine was the same until I got to work. Today, I had a Zoom workshop on mindfulness to assist me in my role as the Mindfulness Champion for my school. We completed a body scan which was so relaxing and then discussed ways to bring mindfulness into our classrooms to help our students become more aware of their present moments and how to pay attention to their lives with kindness and curiosity. My school is starting a mental health club, and we are hoping to incorporate mindfulness to encourage students to become more mindful and to learn ways to manage their stress.

After lunch, it was back to teaching as usual. I came home and worked out. Then, I used my sauna, took a shower, had dinner, and caught up on commenting and reading other authors' blogs.

I have one more road trip to share with you. That's correct! By this point, we had gone through 48 of the 50 states. This next trip focused on Vermont. On our road trip to Maine, we had somehow missed driving through Vermont. It turned out to be a blessing because we had to plan a trip to go see it, and what better time to visit Vermont than in the Fall! Living in Florida and always traveling in the summer, my son never had the opportunity to see the changing of leaves in the Fall season, so we planned a weekend trip for him to experience that.

My son has had perfect attendance since pre-K. So, I wasn't about to let him miss a day for a trip. Luckily, students are given full attendance if they are in school for at least two hours. Originally, I had our flight departure planned for 11 am.  Unfortunately, it was the same weekend where a hurricane was going through the state of our connecting flight, so I had to rearrange our flights to get a connecting flight in a different state. 

Because of this change, my son got in a bit over three hours into the school day before I picked him up to get ready for our trip. Because of the new connections, we didn't arrive in Vermont until after 11 pm and then had to drive to our destination about 45 minutes away (In pitch darkness. They don't have street lights on the highway. What!). Had the hurricane not disrupted our plans, we would have arrived around 6 p.m. and would have been able to explore a bit. Instead, we got to our hotel around midnight, but we were there and had every intention of making the best of it.

It's hard to plan a trip to see the changing of the leaves. One week, it can be all green and some yellow, and a week later, it can be all reds and browns. We used the Fall Foilage Map & Nationwide Peak Leaf Forecast site to pick our weekend. We were between two weekends, but one of those Fridays had a football game that my son did not want to miss, so we picked the first weekend. The leaves were still more on the green and yellow side, but there were pops of color everywhere. My son loved it!

Since we arrived very late on Friday, we took full advantage of Saturday. After breakfast, we drove to Underhill State Park in Mt. Mansfield State Forest to do some hiking. We completed the Sunset Ridge as well as a bit more. It was quite chilly for us, so we had jackets with us, but the skies were amazing! We hiked past streams and climbed rocks. We were in our element! The hike was so worth it because at the top, we saw miles and miles of beautiful foliage.

We drove a bit of State Road 100 and Route 108 and took in the scenery. 

We stopped at Bingham Falls at Smugglers Notch State Park and hiked to see that waterfall. 


Then, we went to Moss Glen Falls to see another waterfall. We climbed a hill and saw it from a distance. My son saw some people below so we backtracked until we saw a trail which led to a stream with boulders running through it. Yep, you guessed it! The only way to the waterfall was across those boulders. 

My son said, "Come on, mom! You've got this!" So I pulled up my big girl panties and followed his every step across that stream. I almost fell in once, but I caught myself just in time. I am so glad I did because the place was breathtakingly beautiful and the energy was incredible! In total, we hiked almost 8 miles on Saturday. We made the most of every minute.


On Sunday, we had a little bit of time to spare before our flight home. We went to the original Ben & Jerry's factory. They were closed, but we still took some fun pictures there.

Then, we went to ECHO, the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. We walked along the lake and enjoyed the beautiful day. Then, we went inside ECHO and enjoyed science for a bit. Soon enough, it was time to come home.


It was the shortest "road trip" we have ever taken, but we enjoyed it to the fullest! Now, my son has only one state left, and that will happen this summer! (Vermont was actually my 50th state, so I have seen every state now.) I'll share more on next trip later. ;-)

Have you ever been to Vermont? Do you enjoy the Fall season? I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

#TankaTuesday Weekly #Poetry Challenge #Ekphrastic #poem #winter #art

Hello, beautiful readers! This week, Colleen Chesebro is challenging us to write an Ekphrastic poem for the #TankaTuesday Poetry Challenge. Here is the painting she provided.

Now, the poets in this challenge have come up with phenomenal poems that you can read here. Yet, for me, when I saw this painting, there was only one thing I could think of. Try as I might, my head wouldn't let go of it, so I gave in and had some fun.

I decided to use a new form created by Jules called the Inchworm. Colleen included it in her list of new poetry forms created by fellow poets here. It contains four lines with a 2-4-6-8 syllabic pattern. So, here is my poem:

Winter Delight

cold days
bring excitement
she can venture outside
days like these let her hide her hook

That's all I've got for you today. But seriously, look at the size of that muff! Tell me that you aren't wondering now what she's hiding in there! 😂 

A Day in My Life - Day 25 @RRBC_Org 2023 #RRBC 30-Day #Blogging Challenge @YvetteMCalleiro #ADayInMyLife #RWISA @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #travel #RoadTrip #Arizona #Nevada #Utah

Hello, beautiful readers! Today is day 25 of the #RRBC 30-Day Blogging Challenge. My work day was more of the usual. I practiced new vocabulary words with my students since we are starting a new unit. After work, I had my annual thermography appointment. For those of you not familiar with thermography, here is a site you can visit to learn more. Basically, thermography uses infrared imaging to detect temperature changes in the body. Each person has a unique infrared map for their body. By comparing the yearly scans, they can see if something abnormal is developing long before a cyst shows on other scans.

When I was younger, I had a doctor tell me he felt a lump. A mammogram confirmed three lumps, and he insisted I remove them to prevent cancer. I was young and didn't know anything. The words 'breast cancer' scared me, so I went under the knife. It turned out to be benign. 

Later, I found out I just have very dense, fibrous breasts, as does every woman in my lineage. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. I do not have the BRCA gene. I do regular self-checks and see my gynecologist every year for yearly check-ups with her. And I get a yearly thermography. Unless I feel a massive lump or the thermography shows something, I will not get a mammogram again because I do not want to compress my tissue or shoot radiation into my body. 

After my appointment, I picked up my son from his practice, went home, cooked dinner, and watched a show with my son.

So, let's get back to my travels! Last year was the first year my son and I traveled on our own. My mom had to have knee replacement surgery, and unfortunately, it was a horrible experience. Three surgeries later, she is in constant pain and can barely walk. So, my son and I traveled by ourselves to Arizona for two weeks!

We flew into Phoenix, Arizona, and drove to Tuscon, AZ. We visited the Saguaro National Park and hiked through the cacti, another first for my son. It was very hot with heat advisories everywhere. Arizona heat is different from Florida heat because it is a dry heat. Because we are avid water drinkers, we had little difficulty with the temperature. Every time we hiked, we took a backpack with four big water bottles filled with water and pH minerals to replenish our electrolytes.


Then, we visited Biosphere 2. This unique place houses a glass enclosure where scientists created an experiment to recreate Earth's atmosphere within a dome to measure survivability. They made five different biomes within the dome: ocean, mangrove wetlands, tropical rainforest, savanna grasslands, and a fog desert. The scientists lived within the dome, growing their own food and maintaining their own electricity and air. We had a great time learning about the experiment and all they discovered because of it.

Our next stop was Sedona, AZ. I absolutely loved this area. We went stargazing our first night with a company that had professional telescopes preprogrammed to show us various constellations and systems. Unfortunately, there was a full moon on the only night we could go, so it wasn't as dark as I would have preferred, but we still had a great time. The picture of the moon below is from my iPhone looking into the telescope's eye piece.


Sedona is filled with the most beautiful red rocks. The next day, my son and I climbed Bell Rock. We didn't make it to the top because it became steep and slippery, and my son's shoes did not have the best traction. (I drew in how far we got on one of the pictures. It's further than it seems.) We also visited the Church of the Red Rock, which is built into the rock.



Then, we went to the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park. It is a beautiful outdoor area for prayer and meditation. The wind chimes created a calming effect. They have different levels and areas to meditate or pray. I enjoyed it immensely. 


The next day took us to Cathedral Rock where we actually made it all the way to the top! Cathedral Rock is one of the powerful vortexes in Sedona. A vortex is a location where energy vibrates at a higher frequency. As someone who is sensitive to energy, I can tell you I felt quite at peace on top of this mountain. I spent some time meditating at the top and enjoying my moment of being one with nature. Unfortunately, right before we reached the very bottom, I stepped on a loose rock and severely twisted my ankle. We ended up in an emergency room a few hours later. Thankfully, it wasn't broken. They gave me an ankle brace, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the trip.

From Sedona, we traveled to Boulder City, Nevada. We completed a 12-mile kayak trip that started at the base of the Hoover Dam. During the trip, we stopped at several locations to enjoy some hot springs and take a dip in the freezing river. It was heaven for my ankle!

The next day, we road on top of retired railroad tracks with Rail Explorers Las Vegas. They use electric quad-bikes on the tracks. Because of my ankle situation, my son had to do all the pedaling to power up the electric battery. Luckily, he's an athlete so he handled it like a pro. We also took a quick drive to the strip in Las Vegas so my son could see the hotels, but we didn't stop. He can go back and explore when he's older.

We took a tour of the Hoover Dam the following day. We also walked along the top rim to the state borders of Nevada and Arizona. We got to see one of the turbines out of its base because they were working on it. 

The Grand Canyon was next on our tour. We had a fun time walking the perimeter and seeing the different angles of the canyon. 

Then, we visited the Meteor Crater National Landmark in Winslow, AZ. This is a crater that was created over 50,000 years ago when an iron-nickel meteorite, about 150 feet wide, crashed into Earth's surface. We enjoyed learning about it and seeing the crater that was left behind. We arrived right before a storm moved in, so it was quite windy outside. Luckily, by the time we saw everything inside, the storm had passed.

We left Boulder City and traveled to Page, AZ. This is a little town with very little to do, but it is in close proximity to the places we wanted to visit. Our first stop was Horseshoe Bend. It was incredibly windy, but seeing it in person was a great experience.

The next day was all about the Antelope Canyon. We visited the upper and lower portions. One of them required us to wear masks while the other did not. The land is owned by the Navajo Native Americans, so we followed their rules. Our guides were amazing and helped us get the perfect shots! I loved walking through this canyon. It was so peaceful and majestic for me.

(Patty, this is for you!) 😉

We decided to cross into Utah and visit Zion National Park since we were so close. There is a hike called The Narrows where you hike over stones through water as the mountains get more and more narrow (hence, the name). We bought hiking sticks to give us more balance, and we paid attention to the tide because it becomes more difficult when the tide starts coming in. As it was, there were places where the water came up to our thighs. We didn't go as far as we normally could have because of my ankle, but we still were able to see a lot of it.

We then went back to Phoenix where we visited the Hole in the Rock in Papago Park and saw a little oasis. We had wanted to go to the zoo, but by 11 am, it was so hot that they closed the zoo to take the animals inside to protect them from the heat. Then, it was time to head home.

Have you ever visited any of these places? Have you added any to your bucket list? I'd love to know.