A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #1: All the Views & Bonding

Simply amazing, is how I would describe what was already a week ago. Already over a week ago, I got home from a fun, mostly easygoing road trip with my mom, cousin Kirsten, and my aunt Corrine. They are lots of fun to be with, and Kirsten and Corrine are basically travel agents, and they scored us some amazing deals on hotels as well as found some great places for us to explore both on our road trip and in our main destination, Calgary, Alberta. Yes, I went back to Canada. But this experience was radically different from my experiences in Ontario, which you can read about here.

Before I get in to recapping this, some background information. First off, I’ve blogged numerous times about my cousin Kir on this blog, with the most recent post being here. I’m grateful I have her and that we have so many common interests, including driving our moms insane by taking ten thousand photos of us. Thanks so much, Corrine and Candi!!! Really, most of the photos you see here will be because of them, and Kir took some for me, also. I appreciate it so much. On that note, I literally probably have a good 500 some photos I want to share here on this blog, so instead of breaking my website and writing you all one big book to read, I’ve decided I think it will work best if I break this trip recap into four parts. The first part, which you’re reading now, will recap the road trip portion of our trip on the way up to Calgary, where we spent three nights. We spent two full days and a half driving up to Calgary. That is what this post is going to recap—our first two days. Then the second part will be about arriving at our hotel and going to see Banff, which was an amazing tourist town only a little over an hour away from Calgary. We spent two days checking out that place. The third part will be all about Calgary, from getting back from Banff to the full day we spent exploring the city. The last part will cover our trip back and hit hard on everything this amazing trip taught me.

I have always tried to learn something from my vacations because I think anytime you experience a different part of the world or take in new experiences, there is such a potential for you to grow as a person and become wiser if you let God speak to you through the experience. I also learned rather quickly that you can’t expect a vacation to go perfect, and you can’t expect it to be an escape. If you have crap thoughts at home, you’re going to have crap thoughts on vacation. I’ll write more on this throughout this post, but there were definitely some overall major takeaways I learned from this trip that I’ll share once I’ve recapped all of it. So stay tuned! We were so blessed by God to witness so many parts of His beautiful creation, and so many things worked out great. While of course there were still some hiccups because a vacation can never be perfect, as is true of life, God worked them all out, and I can look back on this trip with wonderful memories and thankfulness to Him for it.

Kirsten had been wanting to go on a trip for awhile, and when she invited my mom and me, I was ecstatic. We bounced ideas off each other for awhile and, at first, I didn’t think this trip was going to work out. I think it was something we all definitely needed, though, to bond with each other after our extended family had been hit hard with trials, and I think God blessed this time for us as a result. Sometimes it’s hard planning for four people who all have slightly different interests, and there were a couple times I didn’t think things would work out, but of course God is faithful, and everything had a way of falling into place. One thing I really appreciated about this trip was how it combined both nature and the city. My mom is definitely more of a nature person and loves things having to do with the outdoors or with history, and this trip had that. This trip also had the city, which was a dream come true for me, so it truly was the best of both worlds. I only feel a bit overwhelmed on recapping this as there is so much to share, so hopefully I haven’t missed any information.

Now, without further ado, let’s get straight into recapping this because there’s a lot, and I’m so excited to share it all with you!


The Day Before


Driving Up to Corrine’s House

We live about four hours away from their house up in Minnesota, which is also not too far from the Twin Cities. This is where our road trip was going to start. I didn’t mind the extra drive with my mom at all because we talk so much, and it seems there’s never enough time for that. We left later in the evening, after my dad had gotten off work. I was going to miss my boys, so we made sure we talked to them and said goodbye and made plans to be in touch throughout the trip. One of our cars doesn’t have air conditioning, either, which makes things brutal in the summertime, so that’s another reason why we left later. I know I’ve said this before, but I truly do love my state, so I enjoyed our mini road trip through Iowa as it was the last I would be seeing of it for a week.

Mom and I decided to have our supper at Wendy’s. We ate inside, at a Wendy’s off the interstate in Clear Lake, also home of the Surf Ballroom, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing when I attended a Hairball concert there with my family. Yeah, that was an experience in and of itself I need to write about eventually…

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What can I say, I love Wendy’s. We wanted to eat somewhere where we couldn’t easily at other times, and we don’t have too many Wendy’s around us, so I’m glad we ate there. One of the wonderful but dangerous things about this trip was all the eating out we did. I absolutely loved it. I’ll make sure I recap everything we ate, don’t worry!

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Target

The weather was mostly nice on the way up, but it started raining as we got closer to their house. I was so thrilled to see Kirsten again, even though it had only been a month since I’d seen her last. We had lots of fun talking to each other the night before on the phone as we packed. What we packed is a whole other story, haha. As we arrived, Mom realized that of everything she packed, she forgot a coat. There were a couple other things, so we wanted to make a run to Target, especially since we don’t have too many Targets nearby except for in our “cities” like Des Moines, Ames, or Iowa City. Kirsten adores Target, so I knew she’d come with us. Theirs closes earlier, like around ten, so by the time we arrived we basically had to pick her up and then head over.

And of course we got distracted right away. Right away, they had the cutest swimwear. I’d been wanting a Fourth of July bikini for awhile. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve always had a thing for the Fourth of July and it’s one of my favorite holidays, or maybe it’s because I still have my fantasies of being on a boat in Okoboji for the Fourth if that ever happens… Either way, they had the cutest bikini top but no bottoms left. But I bought it anyway. Kirsten got a new one piece there, too, that she ended up liking.

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It was also pouring rain while we were in Target. Mom ended up getting a denim jacket as her coat, but another thing about this trip we were so blessed with was nice weather. It was never too hot or too cold. I mean, there were a couple times I felt it was chilly, but I’m always cold so what’s new. We didn’t really have much rain, which would have basically ruined all our plans if we had since most of what we did on this trip involved being outside. I am so thankful to God for that.

While heading back, we stopped at a gas station to fill up our truck so it was ready for when my mom and I drove back home, and there was a guy in the gas station who dresses up like Johnny Depp in those pirate movies, so we just went on in there to get a picture with him. Kirsten had known who he was, and Mom is evidently not afraid of just walking up to people and asking for a photo, so that’s what we did. He was great, haha.

At the House

Once we were back, we talked with her family for awhile and carried our luggage inside. Thankfully the rain had let up by then. It was fun because we had gotten them some little gifts for our trip—my mom got Kir and me these adorable custom made notebooks—and Kir got us some things, too, like a hat for me we wore for one of our pictures you’ll see in the next post.

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It was also fun because we were down in their basement where Kir’s room is that my mom and I slept in, and her computer was down there, so she and her mom booked our first two hotels on the way up. We’d had our hotel booked in Calgary for awhile. They go through some awesome sites that find hotels for really cheap. I don’t think we ever spent more than a hundred bucks on any hotel, except for the one in Calgary, and even that one had a good deal. There was also not a bad hotel we stayed in, either. Some were better than others, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like any of them. But I love hotels!! It was heaven for me getting to be in that many different hotels in the span of a week. I’ll write on all of those, too. We had decided to break up our road trip into a couple different parts. For the first night, we were staying at a hotel in Dickinson, North Dakota. On the second night, we were staying in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and then we would drive the remaining distance after that to Calgary.

We went to bed somewhat early because we had to. To get our rental car, we had to be up at such an ungodly time in the morning. I don’t even remember what, I know it was before seven, and that’s too early for me.


Day One: Road Tripping to North Dakota

Getting the Rental Car

Yeah, so I don’t remember much about what I did in the morning because it was too early. All I remember doing is getting myself dressed and washing my face and making sure I didn’t forget any of my closet I brought with me, haha. All of us drove up to the place near the Cities in Kirsten’s car. Once we got that car, which we were thankful was a size small enough to be cheap yet a mid size car so there was room for all our luggage—which we each had a full suitcase just of our own clothes and then some, so it was a miracle everything fit in the trunk haha—Corrine and my mom drove it home with Kirsten and me following them. Kirsten and I enjoyed jamming to the radio. It also is worth mentioning that it cracked me up because I took a video of one of the songs on the radio, and Kirsten made the comment about making sure she recorded on this trip because she always regrets not doing that. Meanwhile, by the end of the trip, Corrine had driven Kirsten up a tree about everything she wanted her to record. It was hilarious.

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Breakfast and Leaving

It was also funny because we stopped at Target another two times before leaving as Corrine had to pick something up, so Kirsten joked that a couple hours later we would be on the road. Everything worked out really well, though, and we weren’t really in a hurry, which is nice. We picked up breakfast at some gas station. I had the breakfast of champions of course, a lovely donut, while the rest of them tried to be healthy, but I’m not about that life even though one of these days I really need to be.

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As we left the Cities, I admired all of their glass buildings and how one of them is a college. And I let everyone know about my dreams of having a career where they send me off to different cities around the country, haha. If anyone knows where to find these careers specifically with communication or writing or design, it’s not too early for you to give me much appreciated advice!!

See, like look at this. They’re rose gold buildings.

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Mom was really good about helping Corrine with directions, and Corrine was very gracious about doing most of the driving, especially in the city, which Mom can’t do. Once we got on the road, we started plotting our route and the things we could check out along the way.

Stopping for Lunch

I don’t know what town we stopped in to eat lunch, but we had KFC inside. And we were so rowdy, oh my gosh. That’s what being in a car for that long will do to you. Like we couldn’t stop laughing about things. Mom said there was this one cute guy sitting by himself Kir and I noticed that seemed quite amused by us… We kept poking fun at Kirsten because Mom said there was some pyramid attraction thing, and then we drove by one of those big piles of dirt that forms a pyramid shape, and Mom joked to Kirsten, “There’s the pyramid!” And Kirsten was like, “Is it really?” But then I had a moment at KFC when we got this biscuit with frosting or something like that, and I go, “It tastes different. It’s like…a biscuit.” Well, what summer does to your brain, anyways.

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Well, KFC didn’t really work out for one half of us as we found out a couple hours later, and that’s all I’ll say about that, so we didn’t have that on the trip again.

“WHERE DA OTTER AT?” or Fergus Falls, Minnesota

My parents used to live here, so Mom asked if we could stop there for a trip down Memory Lane since we went right by it on our route. They had this giant otter structure by a scenic pond, so we had to get pictures. Kirsten is the author of that wonderful quote, by the way.

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I’m not huge on this photo of me below because I look wide for whatever reason, which reminds me of one of the most hilarious moments on this trip—to me, at least, because I don’t think Kirsten is going to appreciate this—but we were having issues with how we looked in the photos, and Kirsten made some comment about looking 500 pounds, and Corrine was flustered and said, “Well, you are what you are!” I about fell off the picnic table I was laughing so hard.

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I thought Fergus Falls was a nice little town, and I know my parents appreciated the memories because my mom was texting my dad about it.

Driving Through North Dakota

We stopped at some gas station in Fargo, North Dakota. Mom was looking at shirts, and at first North Dakota didn’t look much different than Minnesota, but that eventually changed.

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We had bags of snacks for the road, and Corrine and Kir introduced me to these little chocolates you can eat about ten of.

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Kirsten was our pro at taking selfies with all of us in them, and it was hilarious as we tried to get one in the car. I remember all the laughing the most, which is what is so special. Life isn’t meant to be stress, pain, stress, etc. Pain is part of life, but it doesn’t have to kill you. God wants us to have an abundant life, and you can know for sure that joy and laughter is part of that. Don’t take everything so seriously, that’s one thing I learned on this trip. Just relax and enjoy the moments of being with each other.

Jamestown, North Dakota and a Buffalo

Our first stop we made and decided to check out and that was free was this cute little town called Jamestown, and this hit on the history that my mom enjoys. They had this old town set up where you could walk around and read about past buildings and such, and this is where the “World’s Largest Buffalo” is. We enjoyed stopping to walk around and check out all of those things.

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This was our view of the interstate we had been on:

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More Driving Through North Dakota

For supper I had way too many Mike and Ike’s. I had way too many of these on the trip, but they were wonderful for the car rides…

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North Dakota could be extremely flat at times…

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I always enjoyed the radio playing, too, and we heard so much Kenny Chesney and Shawn Mendes from listening to Kir’s and my stations, and then Mom played some of her and Corrine’s music, too. We had a good variety, and I found quite a few new songs I liked. We got lost a bit in Bismarck, but it was okay because I enjoyed seeing one of their “cities.”

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Eventually, as our drive continued and we got closer to our hotel, it got a lot more hilly, and that was cool to see. I actually really enjoyed the scenery of North Dakota.

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I found it cool how they would put a bunch of power lines or towers on top of the hills. It reminded us all of communicating with aliens haha.

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Dickinson, North Dakota

I was very excited to finally arrive at the hotel. The hotel we stayed at in Dickinson was a Ramada and my favorite we stayed in on our road trip. It had a lodge theme and was very nice. I loved the style of the rooms, and all of the beds in the hotels we stayed at were heavenly. Dickinson was also a fairly good sized town, so it was nice to be around civilization haha.

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We really didn’t have trouble finding things too much thanks to Mom’s GPS on her phone, so it wasn’t too far of a drive to our hotel.

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We had to bring all of our luggage into the hotel because we needed mostly everything but then later figured out to condense some stuff, but in the meantime Kirsten and I had quite the time trying to figure out these carrier things and find our room. We only got lost like three times… I’m sure the people at the reception desk were like there they go again!

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We made a run to Walmart that night to get more snacks, and then while Kirsten and I wanted to eat at a restaurant, it got to be super late by that time, so we decided to just have fast food for supper. We ate at Burger King! It was wonderful to me of course.

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When we got back, Kirsten and I wanted to check out the hot tub. We didn’t stay too long, especially because it was packed with kids even though it was so late, but it was relaxing while it lasted.

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We got to see a lot of the lights while driving around from Walmart back to the hotel. The town reminded me of the size of Ames, so there was a considerable amount of city lights, my favorite thing.

The main thing I learned from this first day was to just let go of negative thinking. If I’m not careful, thoughts of how I should look or how things should be and other things I think I need right now can steal my joy out of moments like these. I typed lots of notes to myself on my phone for this reason. I knew I didn’t want to be thinking negatively on my trip, but you can’t just rely on the trip itself to fix that. You have to be intentional and seek God, which can also be hard to do when you’re so busy like we were on this trip. But remember it’s as simple as just telling Him your thoughts. Or taking some time while everyone is laying there in the hotel room falling asleep to stay up a couple more minutes and share what’s on your heart. And you’ll be amazed at how much that makes a difference.


Day Two: Road Tripping Through Montana and Alberta

Once we had our first day of driving down, it made things easier as we knew what to expect. We had to find a route, however, that had a station where we could cross the border into Canada. In the meantime, we were going to continue our road trip by going through Montana and then up to Canada.

Breakfast

Things were slightly more laidback in the hotel. We had free breakfast at this one, so we got dressed and ready and headed down. I tried eating eggs and sausage for protein, but once again the only thing that really impressed me were the chocolate chip muffins… #ineedhelp

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And as far as packing for this trip goes…I think all of us agreed we overpacked a little bit. But you never know, and Kirsten and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, so we take our closets with us basically!

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On the Road

Before we got on the road, we stopped for gas. We didn’t have too far to go before we would cross into Montana. I was excited to see Montana because I’d heard it has beautiful views, but another thing I found interesting to see in North Dakota that you’ll all probably think is ridiculous were the oil rigs. The reason why is because of my favorite movie Twister, and if you’ve seen the opening scene where it shows all the clips of storms brewing, there’s an oil rig in one of them… Well, I’ve never seen one of those in real life, and I got to see tons, so I was quite happy about that.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We made one last stop before leaving North Dakota. This park looks like just a rest stop off the main road, but it gives an absolutely surreal view of the Badlands. We definitely stopped for a million photos here and took some for other people as well, since it was fairly popular. Mom cracked us up because Kirsten and I were first to discover the views—our moms were busy in the gift shop, and my mom bought a buffalo stuffed animal! His name is Buff. We did see a buffalo, by the way! It was laying down way out there, but it probably can’t be seen good in photos, and I don’t have the photos of it, but I’m sure my mom took some. These views are what we’d been hoping to see, and talk about humbling. It’s just amazing to know God created this and to take it all in and just wonder how He formed all of it.

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They had an awesome overlook perfect for photos! Kirsten is a photographer and was hoping to get photos of views like these, so she took a lot, and then we got some altogether, too!

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On the Way to Montana

After those views, we were all super pumped for the rest of the trip, as it was truly only the beginning. I ate more crap food and brought my favorite pop with of course.

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The Montana Sign

Yes, I’m not kidding when I said we were all pumped. So pumped we had to pull over to get a bunch of photos with the Montana sign. There’s even a little path along the side of the road for it. And we had quite a few people honk at us as they went by on both sides of the divided highway. I have such fond memories of this! It sure is fun being tourists, haha.

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Driving Through Montana

The pretty views extended into Montana for quite aways, too.

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Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum

This was the first stop we made early on in Montana. I LOVED THIS PLACE. We didn’t have the time to actually pay the fee to see all of this museum, but we perused the gift shop, where they had lots of neat items, from jewelry to other artifacts. They also had so many books I wanted. Why? Because this place has a distinctly Christian and biblical view on the creation of the world, aka the truth you never hear about in public schools… I’ve always despised learning about evolution in school. If they were going to teach it as a theory and also share these other views, that would be one thing, but instead this manmade idea of creation is considered and taught as a fact. It’s very reassuring to see places like this that accept the truth and share it. I wanted honestly like five books, but I just got one to start with, and I’m definitely excited to begin educating myself on the truth.

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Driving in Montana Some More…

Okay, here’s the thing about Montana: it is absolutely gorgeous in some areas and so very dull in others, haha. As our drive stretched on, there was basically a whole lot of nothing, and at some points we were the only car on the main road. But those speed limits though!!! You wonder why, haha. I remember we were all about to die because we were getting so hungry for lunch, but all of the towns we would pass through were so small and run down we couldn’t fathom them being a town, so we kept waiting and eating whatever crap food we had left. Finally we stumbled on a town that was more populated, and they had a Subway! We also found people who were very nice at a gas station and helped us with directions because we were trying to figure out if we were on the right track to cross the border. I don’t know what you would do if you ran out of gas there. It was also the beginning of the end of our phone reception. In more populated towns, you would have data, but way out in the middle of nowhere you didn’t get much of anything.

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However, we had so many funny moments and just times to talk with each other. My mom had said she’d always wanted to go on a road trip, so I’m very thankful we were able to do all of this together. There were points where it felt drug out, but really, everything went quickly in the scheme of things because of that. We were still able to contact our boys back home for awhile, too, which was nice. I couldn’t believe the amount of ranches out in Montana. Yeehaw, haha. It started looking more and more like the mountains…

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I mean, look how flat this is. But hey, it’s still beautiful. All of God’s creation is beautiful, and Mom kept telling us to imagine life as a cowboy and that’s what you saw. Kir and I were more like please find us a cutie cowboy but anyways, I probably shouldn’t because I don’t think I could do that life personally, haha. I did enjoy seeing and imagining what it would be like, though.

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Driving in Alberta

Oh, my gosh. So we thought Montana was bad. Alberta was absolutely nothing for MILES. And the speed limit made a rather steep drop. We couldn’t figure it out at first thanks to the lovely metric system and our rental car didn’t have conversions to kilometers, but Mom finally found a photo of our speedometer she had for some reason, and then we got to go a little faster. But we were going at a turtle’s pace for awhile and thought we were going to die. That final stretch did get long. We had aways to get up to Medicine Hat, where our second hotel would be. It did get hillier at some points, though, and at another point, I saw those trees that are littered abundantly throughout Ontario.

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Arriving in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat was another fairly good sized town. It was my first time seeing a “normal” Canadian town because you don’t see too many of them in Ontario, that’s for sure. Corrine spotted a Dollarama there, which is their version of a Dollar Store or something, and she is in love with those the way I’m in love with a lot of my stores. We saw like three of them throughout our trip, and we stopped at most of them except one was closed. Kirsten was thankful. But the first time we went, Kirsten got a Canada t-shirt, and I got one, too, which we wore in photos I’ll recap in a later post. The hotel we stayed at here was still nice but probably one of my lesser favorites of the trip. It was a lot older, but for the price, it still was nice, had a comfy bed, had a hot tub, and we got free breakfast, so no complaints from us. This is one of the structures Medicine Hat had, and actually we had a funny moment later that night at the hotel because Kirsten said, “I don’t really know what people would stay in this town for,” since we quickly figured out it wasn’t a destination for tourists primarily. And Corrine goes, “They can go see that teepee!” We all cracked up, including her, and she ended up spitting out her water, which just added to the humor. It was neat looking, though.

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Corrine and Kirsten took a pass on the hot tub, but my mom wanted to go to relax our muscles, so her and I went while they went to pick up some things, and we ordered pizza, so they were going to stay for its delivery. Those hot tubs were the perfect thing to look forward to after a long, full day of being cramped up in a car. This hot tub was much more tame compared to the other pool. There weren’t as many people with their kids.

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We ordered pizza from Papa John’s, and it was delicious, especially after being in the hot tub. It was such a great feeling to come back from that, get dressed in comfy pajamas, and then eat pizza on the bed with Kir.

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This time at night to just relax and talk with each other was also fun because we started generating ideas for what we wanted to do in Calgary. Kirsten had seen pictures of the mountains and lakes in Banff, which wasn’t far from Calgary, so she wanted to go there and get pictures. We also wanted to go shopping, I was dying to go up in a skyscraper so we saw the Calgary Tower was something we could do, there was this awesome bridge that went over a river by the skyscrapers we wanted to get pictures at, Mom wanted to see the Saddledome and get a picture for Hunter (home of the Calgary Flames!), and so on. We started browsing through ideas of things to do both in Calgary and Banff, and it was a lot of fun looking at photos of all the attractions and getting excited to soon be doing those things.

This is Buff. His full name is Buff Shawn Trip because we heard Shawn Mendes constantly, so now we named him after Shawn, but it only seemed fitting because Shawn is from Canada.

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And here’s all of us with Buff!

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All my energy and excitement must have finally gotten to me, proven by like five different things I wrote down on my phone that I thought were funny. I was driving my mom nuts because we shared one bed while Corrine and Kir had the other, and Mom goes to bed too early just like my grandma and I kept laughing, and it’s hilarious because I took a selfie of us where she’s, like, about knocked out, and you can tell she’s just about ready to strangle me, and then there’s me, wide awake and loving life. I’d post the selfie, but it’s really not that flattering of either of us.

And that’s about how I feel now about being able to share this first recap post! These days were truly just a glimpse of what was in store for us. I was so thankful for all God blessed us with and also for helping us through other times in the trip when some things didn’t go as smoothly. I’m so thrilled to share all of it! Stay tuned for the next post that should be out soon! I don’t know if I’ve ever had this much fun writing blog posts, even though I was irate with my photo app because evidently uploading 500 photos at one time is too much to ask. But it’s all coming together! The next post will recap driving to Calgary, our wonderful hotel there, and both our days in Banff! Thanks so much for reading about our adventures and the thoughts I have along the way as well as how God is continuing to grow me. There’s much more to come!!

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My Daily Essentials

I've been wanting to do a post for awhile over all of my "essentials" and favorite things that help me to be productive on a daily basis or just some things I love to use or have each day. Some of these are actual products, but I've also included some things and activities I like to do on a daily basis that help keep me going and stay positive and focused on my ultimate life goal which is to glorify God in the way I live. So here's my round-up of all those things!

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my first phone...the iPhone 5c—I was thrilled to get one in a coral color haha

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the phone I have now...an iPhone 6s in the gorg rose gold color

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gotta have cute cases, too :)

1. My iPhone

My iPhone is without a doubt the thing I use most. You can do just about everything on it, although there are some things I prefer to do on my laptop any day, like writing, for instance. But I'm very thankful for what a resource it is. I love Apple products. I'm somewhat biased though, since I grew up using those, but I think personally they're the most straightforward to use. I have various different apps I use on a daily or consistent basis.

My favorite apps—

  • Notes: this is built into the iPhone, and I use it so much that at one point I had over a hundred notes... I get a little disorganized, but I love how I can easily jot down thoughts like when I'm in the car or at school.
  • Bible: I love this app because it makes it super easy to read the Bible with multiple selections of which version you can read in, like the NIV, KJV, etc. There's also "plans" that are like little devotions over a multitude of topics you can choose from—they have just about everything and make it very easy to find what you're looking for. I use this when I need a quick boost of encouragement, or sometimes when I'm doing a Bible study where I already take notes in the book, I'll use my phone app to look up the verses.
  • Squarespace Blog: I love this app! I've already talked about that here! I can very easily work on drafts of blog posts, go back and see old ones, and read and approve comments. I don't typically write full posts on my phone, but this app is great for when I need to reference an old post or go through and look at my drafts or write down some ideas or a beginning of a new post when I'm away from my computer.
  • Google Photos: This app is a lifesaver. Or a phonesaver, because mine explodes with all the photos I take. And this lets you upload YOUR WHOLE CAMERA ROLL. FOR FREE. WITH UNLIMITED STORAGE. ISN'T THAT AMAZING. Plus, it makes it super convenient for me when I'm trying to get photos on my computer; all I have to do is back up my photos onto this app, and then I can go online to the website and easily download them to my computer. It's holding all 5,000+ of my photos and videos for free. I LOVE IT.
  • VSCO: This is a cool photo editing app. I use this app a lot, sometimes just for fun and other times to try and edit a photo because they have a lot more options for photos than the camera options that are programmed on my phone. Just recently I figured out how to make my own pink filter that still looks natural! I also use them to try and fix photos that are too dark or have awkward lighting. A lot of the features are free, though a lot of the filters cost money.
  • Spotify: I love Spotify for streaming music, so I have the app on my phone that I listen to all the time.
  • Of course, I'm able to manage my social media from my phone, which is convenient.
  • Evernote: I use this app as a place for me to "dump" my ideas for books, mainly, or to keep track of different things I will want to reference later. I also have the app on my computer, so it makes it easy to keep track of those things I will use for my books or blog. It's also easy to organize, as there are "notebooks" that you can group different notes into.
  • I also have like three email accounts synced to my phone, so it's super easy for me to check all of them. I have like five email accounts, honestly, between school and my personal email and emails for my writing. It's nice to be able to have one place where I can check all of them at once.

2. Relaxing time

I try to always make time to just relax and not worry about any obligations with school, writing, or whatever it may be. For me, this consists mostly of laying in bed while on my laptop, either reading things for fun, taking a million random quizzes, or watching a movie. It could also be me reading a book I've been wanting to. Now that it's summer, I've probably been engaging in way too much of this to the point where I don't do anything, but hey, self care, haha. ;) Bonus points when Mom makes me her ah-mazing cheeseballs!

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3. Time spent with people you love

This is also hugely important, as life is clearly about relationships. I try to make a point in texting people that I am close to like my cousins or going out to do things with people. Just the other day I went to some swimming/fitness classes with my grandma that I've enjoyed, and we went shopping and ate out, too, and that was a blast. I also love my dog; sometimes when I'm getting ready for bed and just laying down looking at my phone or reading, he'll just plop down by my legs and snuggle against me. <3

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4. Devotionals/Bible studies

I love to read devotionals. They have Bible verses with meaningful, applicable ways to apply it to your life. I try to read something in the Bible everyday whether that's a Bible study or devotion. Sometimes I do both, but usually I do one or the other depending somewhat on my mood and what I need. Like for example, if I'm really struggling with a certain topic, then I might read a devotion over that to help me. Or if I want to learn about a certain topic, I'll go do a Bible study over that topic. Like I said, I try to do both or at least one, a devotion or Bible study, each day, usually at night since that seems to be the best time for me personally because with school, I barely have enough time to get ready in the morning...which is mainly my fault, and if I were more of a go-getter I would wake up way earlier to make time for everything...but to be honest, I think way better at night (RIGHT GRANDMA?!!). I'm in more of a reflective, calm mood, and usually if I'm going to be upset it hits me later at night, so it's better timing for that anyway haha.

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Anyway, my favorite devotions—

  • 365 Days to Knowing God for Girls: this one has practical advice that is always encouraging and that helps you learn to apply different truths about who God is to your life and relationship with Him. I've enjoyed it.
  • It's been awhile since I read the devotional pictured, but I remember liking it! I also remember it had call to actions with specific things you could do, so if you like that sort of thing, it'd be really good.
  • Soul Surfer Devotions: Okay I love this one. I was reading some devotions out of this one a few weeks ago, and everything I read I just loved; I agreed with all of it, and it was so relatable. It had just the words I needed to hear.
  • Jesus Calling: another great devotional book. I took notes on this one. The perspective this one is written it, like it is Jesus actually telling you this, was a perspective I'd never read before, and I enjoyed it so much. It felt truthful to Scripture and what He really said. It was definitely one I recommend for anyone at any stage in their relationship with God.
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As for Bible studies, I have many different ways I go about studying the Bible—in fact I plan to write a whole post on it, so I will try to keep this part short. Sometimes I use books to help me study, or sometimes I just read my Bible and take notes myself.

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Pictured above is a Bible study I was doing at church, and I had a notebook I would write things in dedicated solely to my Bible study. The only book I have for a Bible study is Living So That, and I LOVE it. Yeah, this one I wrote about here... The one I got four years ago... And still haven't finished... That's embarrassing. But I was doing other things in my Bible besides that, which I'll get into more in depth in a later post. But I'm really enjoying that book; it's the study I'm currently doing.

5. Bags

I always use some sort of bag on a daily basis: in the summer, it's my purse; in the school year, it's my backpack.

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I used to have a gold crossbody I really liked because crossbodies are by far my favorite type of purse, but unfortunately as I got older I needed to fit more stuff into my purse, and the crossbody I had just wasn't big enough for all of it. So now I'm using this purse I got at Okoboji (I actually blogged about that here), and I really like it despite it not being a crossbody. I have this dream Michael Kors crossbody I want... I don't think that's happening anytime soon, though... I could always ask for a Louis Vuitton purse though, haha!

I LOVE my Under Armour backpack, though. It's a bright neon pink, and it is so durable; it has been through years of hauling around my laptop, books, and everything. I've taken it on trips to Estherville and to Canada and everywhere. I love it, and actually I'm sad because it's getting kind of dingy and faded. But I've had it for three years—since the end of sixth grade, jeez—so I'm definitely using it. But I looked up new backpacks from various different places, and honestly, I can say I don't care for any of them. I like my bright pink backpack—you know I'm all about that pink—so yeah, I don't WANT a new one, so pray I can get this one cleaned... If you have any tips please tell me...

6. Mom's cheeseballs ;)

I WISH I could have these everyday, though this summer I practically have. She's going to make them for me tonight though YAY...! *At the time of me publishing this, a day later, I ate them all last night. :(

7. Photos

I try to take photos daily, but I also don't like forcing them either, so I don't all the time, but one thing I do try to do everyday is look through some old photos. There is something about that that really gives your mood a boost; I love looking back at old photos.

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8. Pens

I am addicted to stationary. I have millions of notebooks and many pens to accompany them. I do write a lot, though, about different things, and so I need different colors of pens and styles of notebooks for each purpose because I am OCD like that and because it's more fun that way. BUT THESE PENS... <3 They are my all time favorite; I always go through so many of them, and the black and pink are usually the first ones to die... Surprise surprise... :) These are Paper Mate felt pens, and I love the way they write and the array of colors they come in. I use them for literally everything.

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Look closely at this photo below and you can see for Christmas that I got all those pens in a limited edition with the tropical colors, which I love. <3 <3 <3 And you can also see my dog in the background with his huge rawhide he got, haha.

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9. A diary or journal that is special

I like to pick out a special journal just for my own journaling and diary. I like for it to be pretty obviously, and I also like it to be more like a journal than a notebook. I don't always journal everyday—I used to be way better at this, but when I need to dump my thoughts I will. I have this journal I'm using right now, and it is the prettiest journal I've ever had in my life. I'm not exaggerating whatsoever; it's my favorite, and therefore I feel like I need to be extra careful with what I write in it because I like it so much I don't want to waste it, and so far I feel like I'm doing just that! But I know that's what it's for, so I need to quit worrying about it. Anyway, it's gorgeous. I don't think I'll ever be able to find another one like it.

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In fact, it's kind of funny, actually, because in my first novel I wrote about a journal my character kept, and I described it the way I pictured my ideal journal to look, and part of that description was that on the pages there would be bokeh in the background...

LOOK AT THAT. BOKEH IN THE BACKGROUND ON THE PAPER. I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW SUCH A THING EXISTED EXCEPT FOR IN MY MIND.

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10. A million other notebooks

I love notebooks, but that's merely stating the obvious. And I really do have purposes for all of them—or most of them, but trust me I will find purposes for all of them. I usually prefer composition books for my writing; I have a composition book for notes on each novel I write. For my idea recording and organizing, I use journals. Those I put all of my ideas in just one journal though instead of one journal for each idea because that would be overkill. But yeah, I love notebooks, and I'm really good at finding a million of them and all the pretty ones there are.

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Sometimes I even use matching colors. ;)

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I always love creating new systems with each notebook of how I'm going to color code, haha.

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I'm serious, I have a million notebooks. These photos are only scratching the surface.

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11. Keyboard cover

For my laptop, I consider this a necessity. I learned this the hard way, unfortunately. When the squares light up you can see the dog hair that has floated into the keys. What a view! So yeah, that's probably never coming out, so buy one of these if you don't want that or other things like crumbs getting stuck in your keys. That, and it's pretty and feels awesome to type with, so why not?

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12. Music

I LOVE listening to music everyday. It lifts my mood and even gives me inspiration to write—I have playlists for each of my books. Not a day goes by where I don't listen to music.

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My grandparents have this awesome TV station that plays music nonstop with NO COMMERCIALS and has pictures and facts about the artist singing, and ugh I wish we had that station!!!

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13. Beauty products

I always use a variety of different beauty products on a daily basis. I'm not big on makeup yet, and I don't know if I ever will be, though I do have some things like eye shadow and a couple lipsticks on hand. I have yet to use them, but one day... Haha. What I do use everyday though is some sort of body mist or perfume. I also have a Scentsy thing in my room that I love; it's not from the actual Scentsy brand, I think I got it off Amazon, but it works great, and it gives my room a nice boost of light. My favorite scent that I have for this that I just got at Walmart and have been using currently smells like the ocean and beach, and it reminds me of the books I reviewed here because the series I loved was set at a beach house, so now I always associate that smell with those books, haha.

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What I love even more than this are the body mists I've accumulated. I spray one of those on everyday—I LOVE THEM. I've gotten all of mine so far from Victoria's Secret or PINK just because I have yet to find a scent of theirs I didn't like, so I just keep going back for more. I love to just go through and smell all of them; I have them all set out on top of my bookshelf as decorations because of course I pick out scents by how pretty the bottles are! :)

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My favorite scents:

  • PINK Fresh and Clean: I got this one for a Christmas gift many years ago and finally started using it about a year ago after gym class, and I just love this smell. I think it's my favorite ever, but unfortunately it's almost gone. :(
  • Victoria's Secret Aqua Kiss: I love the fresh smell of this one!
  • PINK Warm and Cozy: another favorite of mine, I bought a hand lotion for this shopping with my friend when we were like 11, because that's really all we could buy from Victoria's Secret at that time, and I always loved the smell, so recently I just got a body mist with it, and it smells just as amazing as I remember it.

I also have a cute little rollerball that I keep in my purse from Victoria's Secret called Crush, and I love using that when I'm on the go!

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Also from Victoria's Secret, I have a cute metallic pink beauty bag that is big enough to hold my lipsticks and eye shadow, the rollerball above, and my millions of hair ties but is small enough to fit in my purse, so I use that a lot. I also have a pink bag in a similar shade of pink as the makeup bag with black polka dots that I love, and I store my tons of nail polish in there. That definitely doesn't fit in my purse, but it's still small enough that it's convenient to take when I travel.

14. Sunglasses and case

For sunglasses, I have gold Aviators that I love. I got them from American Eagle, and so far they've held up pretty well. I also have a pink, glittery case to put them in while they're in my purse. The case came with this cloth for the lenses that is also pink and glittery, but it also has a picture of Marilyn Monroe on it...? I didn't really want that but it came with the case, and I wanted the case...

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15. Laptop

Obviously I use this a ton daily, my laptop that I love. I can do just about everything on this, plus it's synced with my phone, so I can even respond to texts on it!! My favorite apps that I have on my laptop are Evernote, Spotify (which is even better on the computer because you can skip as many songs as you want or just click on the song you want to listen to!), and Photoshop. Okay, I don't have Photoshop, but I had a free trial of it that has since expired, but I LOVED IT. Whenever I get money, I definitely want to invest in that. The websites I use the most are obviously social media and my blog, but I also use Dropbox consistently to back up things, and Wishbin is another cool site I use to keep track of all the things I want, and that definitely comes in handy around the holidays when I can send that to Mom, and she can shop for me easily!

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16. Planner

Last but not least, I love staying organized, so I always have a planner. In high school, this becomes a necessity to keep track of homework and due dates. I'm not even involved in anything yet, and I still use them, so I definitely recommend using a planner. My new planner I talk about in this post has been working great for me!

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Bonus: pop

Okay. I didn't think I was one of those people who needed caffeine to function everyday, but oh my gosh, as I was looking through all my photos to pick out the images for this post, I WOULD SAY LIKE HALF OF THEM HAVE POP IN THEM. Just when I think I'm healthy... ;)

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Seriously. I could make a compilation of all the photos I have with pop in them the same way I could make a compilation of all the times my Grams Marjean has fallen—literally, a conversation I had with her last night. But as she said, I'm still alive! Hahaha.

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An Okoboji/Arnold's Park Photoshoot + Tipsy House

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Today I had a great day in Spirit Lake and Okoboji. And I crossed another thing off my bucket list: The Tipsy House! Last year listed here on #4 I went in the Tipsy House, and it was so.much.fun! Last year I also got what would become my new little headshot taken by the lakes, and so I figured I would go again this year and get some more pics taken! I took a whole bunch so I would have options, not because I am conceited... One of these is my welcome image, others will go on different social media pages as my profile picture, and others will appear on blog pages. Tell me which ones you like best - preferably the posing and lighting and all that. I won't ask you how I look...

It was a really hazy but humid day, and I actually kind of liked that better than beaming sunshine for the pics! I wore my pink specifically for today, and just for the record, these aren't professional. Not that I thought you'd think they were. My Grams and Gramps took them on my iPhone. But I'd say that they turned out nice. Oh, I love my iPhone. Okay, here's the pics already. If you make it to the bottom, there's more details on the Tipsy House.

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Okay, that's all. Now as I promised, here's some pics from the Tipsy House. I love that place, and Grams and Gramps did it with me, and they made it! Here's some pics from the top.

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Hope you're all having a fun summer!

sparkles, ashlee