One year ago, we moved to Nepal

Monday, March 31

Today Kev and I went on a bike ride, and while the wind whipped through my hair and we chattered on about life, he suddenly turned to me with a large grin and said, "exactly a year ago we moved to Nepal"….
goodness! has a it really been a whole year? 

I'll never forget the feelings that struck my whole body when his family dropped us off at the airport exactly a year ago. We hugged and said goodbye, and then started to walk away from them, towards our terminal. It was a surreal feeling. Just months before, we had been contacted by an aftercare home in Nepal to see if we could come and partner with them to build the infrastructure of the home (I worked on policy/procedural work, and Kevin worked on the accounting and financial side).

We had NO idea what to expect. A million thoughts ran through my mind…"what is our apartment going to be like?", "will the girls like me?", "what do people eat in Nepal?". Kevin and I were all nerves, excitement/nervousness/BRING IT ON!!! We wanted to embrace life to the fullest in Nepal and embrace the beauty that it would bring to our marriage, our hearts, and our faith.

To say that our lives were transformed in Nepal just doesn't seem to do our experience justice. Those five months were incredibly healing, abundantly restorative, and epically inspirational!

For nostalgic sake, here are my top 5 favorite things about our time in Nepal:

1. Being with the Girls: The home where we worked housed a handful of the most precious girls you could imagine. These girls were once in horribly abusive situations, some trafficked across international borders, and had been rescued and brought to the home. Kevin and I had the incredible privilege of spending many of our days with the girls, teaching English, planning movie nights, taking them on excursions, playing games, and just listening to them. I cannot express the loveliness of these young girls. For all they had experienced in their short lives, they fought bravely to accept their past and make a new future. Being around them was a passionate experience, as embraced every song, dance, and cooking endeavor with such fervor.  The amount of times we laughed and giggled and cried with them will forever be engraved on my heart. They are my heroes.

2. Exploring a New City: We lived in Kathmandu, which is the capital of Nepal. And a colorful capital at that! It is a jam-packed, in your face, loud, crazy, fun, and colorful city. Every outing was an adventure, even the most mundane walk to the aftercare home each day was sure to surprise us. Some days we'd be walking down a path, and an elephant (with his master) would walk by us (um, HELLO elephant!), other days we'd have to shoo a cow away from the ATM to withdraw money. Some days Kev and I would hop on a micro-van for 15 cents and just get off wherever we wanted and set out on foot to explore {here}.

3. Meeting new friends: Moving to a new country can be hard, especially when you leave so many incredible friends and family members behind. However, in the same vein, meeting new people can be one of the greatest aspects to living abroad! God totally provided an incredible community for us in Nepal, as we met people so committed to fighting human trafficking and bringing freedom to the country! We met dear friends all around the world, whom we shared meals with, played in a volleyball league with, and just had fun telling stories and exploring the city with! I met 4 of the most lovely ladies whom I still keep in touch with from, that were from England, South Africa, Australian and the USA.

4. Spending every day with my Husband, working together for a cause that Mattered: This was a dream to me. Kevin and I love being together, and in the USA, we unfortunately had separate jobs that took us away from each other most of the day. But in Nepal, not only did we get to work together, but we got to spend our time on a mission that made a difference in the lives of the girls in the home. Kev and I got to dream, and pray, and read, and rest together. We laughed when the electricity went out all the time and we had to eat our dinner by the light of a candle. He supported me when I failed miserably in our Nepali language classes, and every day we set out together to figure out how to live in Nepal (like where to buy our produce, etc. {here}). My absolute favorite thing was watching my sweet husband with the girls in the home. You can read more about this {here}.

5. Seeing the Power of God's love: I have never seen the power of God's love in a deeper, more tangible way that I did in Nepal. In the home where we worked, all the staff members were committed Christians, however none of them ever "pushed" their beliefs on the girls. They just LOVED them fiercly and deeply. One day, a few weeks after a new girl arrived to the home, she pulled our house mother aside and said, "This is the first time i've ever felt loved. It's because your Christians, isn't it?". I was so moved by this statement. That this precious girl knew God's love, not because it had been forced on her, but because it had been generously given to her in the form of day to day care, in the hugs at night when she had nightmares, in the family dinners, in the smiles and warmth and affection that just flowed. God's love is powerful, and when it is lived out, it covers over so much. I saw this love, and experienced it, and it made me a new person.

6. Sweet Rest: In moving to Nepal, I think I had the idea that we'd be "giving out" so much energy and time. And while this was true, I also found that the slow pace of life was restorative. For most of the day, there was no electricity so using the internet was out (which, leeezzz be honest, takes up a lot of our time normally, right?!). My Nepali phone was circa 2002, and was as basic as they come, so there was no distraction there! And I hardly knew anyone when I first moved there. This combination gave me a lot of time on my hands. Because of this, I did very revolutionary things….like rest, and read and pray:) There was so much healing when my heart and mind was forced to be still. God taught me so much about loving others, forgiving others, and choosing to always be positive. Those lessons lifted my spirits!

I will forever thank God for the experience Kev and I were gifted in Nepal. I look back a year later, and realize how the experience truly changed our lives!!

Happy Monday friends,
love Katie 

Sevenly- act because you care

Thursday, March 27

I heard about the brand Sevenly a few years ago, and immediately fell in love with it! It's an organization that has a number of lovely items for sale, and each week they give $7 of every item sold to a different non-profit organization.

This week Sevenly is sponsoring an organization called Not For Sale.

I read Not For Sale's book years ago in college, and it was the first book on human trafficking I ever read.

It changed me. 

It showed me that trafficking exists all around the world, even our own country!

Not For Sale works to fight modern-day slavery. They provide direct services to victims of human trafficking and people vulnerable to exploitation, and attack the root causes through education, skill development and job creation.

The bottom line, is that they are legit. 

Sometime's it's overwhelming to know how we can help stop human trafficking (a topic I wrote on here). Obviously for Kevin and I, this issue hits close to home as we lived in Nepal last year working with the most precious girls rescued out of trafficking. 

But today, you have a chance to give towards a beautiful cause, 
and walk away with some gorgeous items.  

Today i'm wearing a Sevenly tank top with the inspiring message that says, 
"No Act of Kindness is Ever Too Soon" 

I want to live by this message. 
The urgency to act kindly, even to people who live thousands of miles away from us! 

The way we live our life, 
the way we shop, 
the way we talk, 
what we write about, 
all has an impact. 

May it be a good one! 

To check out Sevenly, click here
To buy this incredibly soft and adorable tank top 
{which I will probably be wearing every day this summer!!!}, 
click here

Act Kindly today friend,
love Katie 

How to Travel while working a 9-5 job!

Tuesday, March 25

One of the biggest questions I get asked is "how do you find the TIME to travel?". You may have assumed that I have just been frolicking around the world with no responsibility to my name, but this just isn't so. Since being out of college, i've worked a full-time job for 6 out of the 8 years! So I can totally relate to your travel woes concerning time. It can be tricky, but it is absolutely do-able!!

Here are few tips and tricks to maximize the time you do have to travel:

1. Utilize Holiday Time
This might feel like a given to you, but if you do plan to travel abroad, you need at least a week, and every "day off" counts! When I worked full time, this enticed me to plan trips around Memorial Day in May, and Labor Day in September (Holidays where the travel expenses don't skyrocket like they do at Christmas, etc!). Kevin and I would plan a flight that would leave Friday night after work, and get back the following Sunday. Because Monday was a holiday, I only had to take 4 days off work! This certainly helps stretched those 14 vacation days further!!

2. Take Advantage of Comp Time
This was my biggest source of finding extra days to travel. My job at ELI required me to do a lot of out of the office work on weekends or after working hours. I spoke at churches on the weekend, conferences during the week, or college groups after work hours on the week days. This allowed me to accrue quite  a few comp days that I could use at a later date. When Kevin and I took our big 21 day UK trip, we went over Memorial Day (getting one free day) and I used my comp time, and ended up only officially taking 4 days off! If you are in a position that requires some out of the office work, save up your days to use for a bigger trip!

3. Talk to your boss about taking unpaid time
Some employers allow you to take unpaid time off! If this is the case, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT *ahem* utilize it! Obviously, the down side is that you will not get paid for a few days, but the upside is that you will be having the time of your life exploring and making memories that last a life time!! HELLO! Not a bad trade off!! Remember, travel is all about priorities, so check with your employer to see if this is a possibility!

4. Ask about "working remotely"
Depending on your job, you may be able to work from a remote destination. A few years ago, my family took their annual family vacation to Santa Cruz. I so badly wanted to go for a few days, so I worked it out with my boss to "work-from-home" Thursday and Friday, and then stay for the weekend with my family. Even though I worked from 9am-5pm in the beach house those days, I was able to enjoy dinner and a lovely evening with my family that I wouldn't have gotten had I just arrived on Saturday! This can be a great option if it's available to you:)

5. Find a job where you get to travel
This for me was one of the greatest avenues for travel. Obviously when I worked as an English teacher in Thailand, weekends and school breaks were a great way for me to explore more of Asia. When I worked for ELI, I got to explore Africa on a deeper level. My trip to Africa was considered a "work trip" so travel and work meshed hand in hand. It can happen, so don't rule it out!!

6. Work part-time
I know this isn't available to everyone, but my last year of working at ELI, I moved from full time to part time, at 28 hours a week. Those 12 extra hours certainly gave me more wiggle room to help plan travel! I was off work on Fridays, and having one more extra free day was all I needed to stretch my vacation days farther! That year I was able to travel to the UK, Alaska, Germany and Greece, all because I had one less day a week I had to account for!

Know that it's so totally do-able to travel the world while working full time!! In my 6 years as a full-time employee, I was able to get about 16 stamps in my passport!  I'd love to hear how some of you have managed!! Happy Traveling!

love Katie 

If you love to travel, here's the latest in my Travel Series!! Happy Traveling:
How to Pay for Travel:
Part 1- Prioritize your spending
Part 2- Travel Credit Cards
Part 3- Food
Part 4- Teach Abroad
Part 5- Accommodations
Part 6- Transportation 

My favorite "Small"Cities in the World

My favorite "small" cities in the world

Thursday, March 20

So often, capital cities get all the attention with travelers. And for good reason…there are a slew of walkable sites, notable history, and a buzz and energy from city livin'!

But hands down, I'm a sucker for the small tucked away gems that seem to dazzle the senses in a way nothing else can. To walk into a city you've hardly heard of, with no expectation, is a marvelous, marvelous thing. It is though a canvas is being drawn before your eyes, and the painted scenes become real life.

When traveling, Kevin and I always try to mix big city life, with rural and "off the beaten track" towns. Smaller towns are generally fierce in preserving culture, and therefore, can show you a better slice of life for the locals than a metropolitan city. Some are just plain peaceful and relaxing, away from city craziness!

In all our travels {through 40+ countries} here are my favorites….

Sarlat, France 
About 5 years ago, my family spent the summer in France. My mom, who is a master planner, steered our family to some really stunning places, but hands down, our family favorite {and my personal favorite} was Sarlat. Sarlat-la-CanĂ©da, or simply, Sarlat, is located in the Dordogne region of central southern France. Sarlat is a perfect example of a medieval town, boasting the best representation of a 14th century town in all of France. The town has been impeccably restored, and is virtually car-free {which makes it perfect for walking around!}. My sisters and I had one of the funniest moments of our lives in Sarlat, but i'll leave that story to another day! One fantastic things about Sarlat is that besides the charm of the town, it is a perfect home base for other excursions in the area. Canoeing down the Dordogne river was my family's favorite day in all of France. The river boasts some breathtaking scenery, including medieval castles that you can get out of your canoe to hike up to. Ahhh, i'm already dreaming of going back to Sarlat and taking Kevin! {One of my favorite movies, Ever After, was filmed here!!}

Hoi An, Vietnam
I spent a good deal of time raving about this INCREDIBLE little haven {here}, but just thought i'd take the time to reiterate my love for Hoi An. If you love a tropical oasis where you can relax in crystal clear waters and under palm trees galore, Hoi An has it. If your taste in travel revolves around an epic and dazzling food scene {with celebrity chefs teaming the city}, Hoi An is your oyster. Or if you are intent on history and architecture, you will surely win in Hoi An. The city has it all, and Kevin and I a few times have blurted out "let's just move to Hoi An"…yes, it's that good! {For all you Bachelor fans, the infamous Juan Pablo, took a few girls on dates in Hoi An just this past year!}

Siena, Italy

A little known fact about me is that I studied Italian in college, and spent time living in the most quintessential Tuscan town of Siena. Friends, I loved this dreamy season of my life. Siena was the perfect mix of history, tradition, delicious food and wine, all wrapped in a romantic ribbon. It was small enough that the pace of life was slow and pleasurable, but big enough to do and see many wonderful things hidden in the gorgeous alley ways that wound so gracefully on cobblestone around the city. Eat a gelato {or 2!} and sit in the famed piazza called Il Campo, and imagine the glorious horse race that happens twice each a year here called Il Palio. If you want Italy at it's most romantic, in my biased opinion, go to Siena:) {So many movies have been filmed here, but Letters to Juliet, is one I love}

San Luis Obispo, California, USA

I gotta throw in a local favorite to this list! Kevin and I are both California natives, and there's one place we LOVE to go every year, San Luis Obispo. Many members in both our families went to college here at Cal Poly, and it was voted the "happiest place in America" by the Today Show. It is sunny almost every day of the year, has incredible outdoor activities, is a few minutes from the beach, and is just refreshing to the soul! If you visit California, consider making a quick trip though "SLO", as we call it:) {Remember our childhood favorite movie, "Little Giants"? It was filmed just a few miles from SLO in Arroyo Grande, where Kev's Grandma lives!}  {SLO pics, click here}

Dingle, Ireland

Soon after we were married, Kevin and I took a three week trip through the UK and Ireland. Dingle, Ireland was our favorite place hands down! This small, recently sheltered town, is all culture through and through. The town of Dingle sits on the Dingle Peninsula, which we spent a day driving around, stopping every mile or so to get out and explore the cliffs, the ancient forts, the abbey ruins, and many a local pub. Gaellic is very much alive and active, spoken by the locals. Each night we walked into town, shimmied up at the pub and listened to some incredible music. I felt as though I had been transported back in time. It was perfect! {The movie Far and Away, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman was filmed here!}  {Dingle pics, click here}

Railay Beach, Thailand
Railay is not an island, but it is so isolated on a peninsula by steep cliffs, that the only way you can get to the beach is by boat. And that, my friends, is what makes it so great! Never have Kevin and I felt so excluded from the world and relaxed as we did on Railay Beach. The beach is absolutely stunning, with huge rock formations jutting out of the ocean, warm refreshing crystal water, and a funky island vibe that hasn't been turned into a party mecca, yet. We met so few people on the beach, it was rather remarkable. My soul was revived here in this little oasis, and I will forever return to the memory of our time on Railay Beach. {Just a few miles from Railay is Maya Bay, where they filmed the movie "The Beach"} {Railay Beach pics, click here}

Bruge, Belgium
4 years ago, Kevin and I spontaneously decided to spend a few days in Bruge. The day I woke up in Bruge I literally thought I had plain well walked into a Grimm fairy tale. Friends, EVERY way you turn, there is a postcard moment awaiting you. The city, once a great trading  port, became a back water sleepy town when the main port dried up, and for hundreds of years, nothing in Bruge changed. There is so much to do in Bruge, and it will leave your senses completely tantalized. They are famous for their chocolate, and my personal favorite shop is called The Chocolate Line. They also serve up a mean plate of fries, my favorite being sold in the little cart right under the bell tower. Stop into the brewery for a tour and a glass of the famous local beer. The architecture will stop you in your tracks, the gorgeous colors of the canals and flowers and buildings will mesmerize you, and the people are truly wonderful. Kevin and I loved it so much we've gone back twice!! It's just that great a place:) {Did you see the recent movie Monument Men? The altar piece in Bruge is a huge part of the story!}

Bhaktapur, Nepal 
Bhaktapur is a gorgeous, very well persevered town just miles outside of Kathmandu, Nepal. We visited Bhaktapur with friends a few months before we moved, and I fell in love with it. It is a hub for artisans in the area, and you can try your hand at throwing some clay, or watching the ancient art of Nepali painting. For generations, families have been creating in this little city:) {to see our time in Bhaktapur, click here}

Honorable mention goes to Oxford:England, Vernazza: Italy (Part of Cinque Terra), Santa Cruz: California:USA, Hania, Greece and Delft, Holland.

What are YOUR favorite small towns that we MUST see?
I want all your suggestions!
Kevin and I are planning our summer trip, and so far we have our eyes on
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, and Colmar, France.
Can you convince me of a few other places we need to go?

Happy Thursday friends,
love Katie 

A Downton Abbey Birthday Party…Welcome to the 1920's!

Monday, March 17

"One cannot have too large a party" -Jane Austen

I love parties, I do.
And themed, parties...oh goodness, all the better!

My friend Chelsea and I share the same birthday,
and for the last 3 years have hosted a joint birthday party together
{see our Mad Men themed party from last year, here}

This year, the theme was So EASY, as we are both head over heels for the show Downton Abbey.
England...swoon, 1920's...double swoon...
it was meant to be:)

But remember, Chelsea and I are RATHER intense when it comes perfecting the theme. 
Here are a few fun things we did to usher Downton Abbey and the 1920's into our party...

1. Costumes! We made everyone dress up, and it made all the difference:) Chels and I also made our own "head pieces" by buying elastic bands and feathers from Michael's, so easy! We also had a costume contest which was quite fabulous!

2. Dancing! One of our close friends is a professional dancer, and she came prepared to teach us the Charleston and a bunch of other moves! We had that Great Gatsby soundtrack on repeat, and honestly, it was so so much fun. Everyone was a gem and got into it!

3. Fancy Names! You can't be at Downton without an air of status, now can you!?! At the door, we had everyone fill out a piece of paper that helped them figure out their "Fancy name". You picked a title {Countess, Duchess, Princess, or Lady, or Count, Duke, Prince, or Lord for the men}, then wrote your middle name, the street you live on, and the city of your birth. So, my fancy name was "Duchess Emma Pound of Chico"! At the end of the night, I read everyone's fancy name off, and people had to guess who was who! It was so fun!

4. Guessing Games! I had two guessing games up on the walls. One was called "Who's Who 1920's" and I had printed out a bunch of famous people from the 1920's. Everyone had to guess who was who! The second game was called "Who Said It- Downton Abbey Style". I took a bunch of quotes from Downton Abbey characters and everyone had to guess who said it! Our avid Downton fans got really into it!!

5. Telegrams! Chelsea found a template for an old telegram, so we printed them out and had them around so people could write telegrams to the birthday girls:)

6. Downton Drinks! We set up a little "speakeasy" where you could order one of three drinks... the "Lady Mary", the "Lady Edith", and a "Lady Sybil". Our caption on the sign read "If you consider yourself beautiful {or handsome} with a sharp edge, you may enjoy the Lady Mary. If you're a bit bland but well intentioned, try the Lady Edith. If you're sweet through and through, delight yourself in a Lady Sybil". So fun!!

It was a fantastic night, and a few friends told me it was the most fun they've ever had at a birthday party! {score!!}  Chels and I were so grateful for the fun, the friendship, and the festivities!!

Happy Monday,
love Katie 
or shall I say, Lady Kathryn? haha

{It's a family affair…our brother and sister in law!} 

{Chels made these fabulous "Cruella DeVille" cigarettes for ladies to take upon arrival!}

 {voting for best dressed above, and the winner, sweet Amanda, below!}

Now on to my FAVORITE part!! The Dancing!!! 

{our AMAZING teacher Meki, below}

 {The Fun details and Games}

{fancy names, below}

{finishing out the night with good friends!}

  {love this last group shot, for those that hung in there until the end!!}