Tag Archives: summer vacation

52 Things to Do This Summer

Last year I made a list of 51 Things to Do Before Summer’s Over. This year I thought, “Why wait?” Let’s get started on the fun when summer is just beginning!

52 Things to Do This Summer

1. Drink lots of Lemonade.

2. Plant flowers.

BegoniaI just got this begonia. Love her!

3. Sit in the grass. Have a picnic.

4. Clean out your closet. Donate what you don’t wear anymore.

5. Go for a bike ride.

6. Find a Little Free Library near you.

Little Free Library7. Visit your local Public Libary.

8. Make pudgy pies over the fire.

9. Host a movie Musical marathon of summer sing-a-longs: Mamma Mia, West Side Story, State Fair, Oklahoma…

10. Visit a cafe’ you’ve never been to before. Bring a friend!

cafe11. Go to a farmer’s market.

12. Lounge with a loved one.

lounging13. Braid your hair.

14. Seek summer scents – freshly mowed grass, fresh-picked herbs, going for a swim, grilling out.

15. Take a tour of a nearby brewery. Enjoy a pint!

beer16. Host a tasting of your favorite beers, wines, or liquors.

17. Try paddle boarding.

18. Take a road trip.

Bloedow's19. Wear flip flops.

20. Go stargazing.

21. Take a tour of someplace right in your hometown.

22. Start a journal. Or read an old one.

Journals23. Eat dinner al fresco.

24. Attend an outdoor concert.

25. Walk places rather than drive whenever possible.

Go for a walk26. Eat an ice cream cone.

27. Doodle.

28. Read a book.

Read a Book29. Make fun ice cubes – different shapes or colors.

30. Draw with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk Chalk31. Run around barefoot.

32. Let your hair air dry.

33. Practice taking the perfect peaceful selfie.

Selfie34. Pet sit for someone.

35. Paint a room in your house. Make it bold.

36. Read the latest issue of BookPage. Cover to cover.

read the paper37. And while you’re at it, add to or start a Goodreads account to keep track of all the books you’re going to read.

38. Make salsa with veggies from the garden or market.

39. Create a new smoothie.

Smoothie40. Build a sandcastle.

41. Play frisbee in the park.

42. Launch fireworks.

43. Go antiquing or hit up a rummage sale.

antiquing44. Take a ride in a hot air balloon.

45. Buy a handmade piece of jewelry from a vendor at a carnival.

46. Find a new piece of lawn art.


His name is Marvin. He lives here now.

47. Switch to iced coffee.

48. Celebrate the unique summer holidays.

June 1st – Dare Day

June 4th – Hug Your Cat Day

June 6th – National Doughnut Day

June 14th – World Juggler’s Day

June 18th – Go Fishing Day

June 19th – World Sauntering Day

June 22nd – National Eclair Day

June 25th – Log Cabin Day

June 27th – Sunglasses Day

June 28th – Paul Bunyan Day

June 29th – Hug Holiday

49. Stop and smell the roses.

Roses50. Bird Watch.

51. Attend BlogHer’14.

52. Reflect. And appreciate the little things.


What’s on your summer to do list?

*All photos are from my Instagram page. For more fun ideas of what to do this summer, follow me on Instagram! I always check out the pages of new followers. 🙂






Where in the World is Jess Witkins’s Happiness Project?

Hey Gang! I’m back in Wisconsin (or Canada, as Tiffany calls it). 😉

I had a fabulous road trip out east and so much fun sharing cryptic photos with you guys trying to guess where I was. Here are some of the highlights!


Our first stop was the Columbus Ohio Zoo, one of the best zoos in the nation. It’s the zoo where Jack Hanna works. I didn’t know this beforehand, but the Columbus zoo takes in many baby animals that other zoos can’t support, and those are the ones Hanna takes with him on tour, like to the David Letterman Show. While we were there we saw 2 baby snow leopards and a 12 day old gorilla.




Day 2 brought us into Cleveland to the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame!


Jimi Hendrix Stage Outfit

Jimi Hendrix Stage Outfit

John Lennon's Visa Card, Grammy Award, Passport and Glasses

John Lennon’s Visa Card, Grammy Award, Passport and Glasses

Elvis Presley's Studded Jumpsuit

Elvis Presley’s Studded Jumpsuit

Next stop was in Wheeling, West Virginia for a fish sandwich at Coleman’s Fish Market! Mmmm


Joe and his aunt, who was our wonderful tour guide in Wheeling

Joe and his aunt, who was our wonderful tour guide in Wheeling

P.S. This happened. And it was awesome.


Arriving at our main destination, we parked in Washington D.C. where my longtime friend, Amy, showed us around the area!

The Lincoln Memorial - Still has scaffolding up as they remove the paint from a recent vandalism attack.

The Lincoln Memorial – Still has scaffolding up as they remove the paint from a recent vandalism attack.

Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

At the Capital

At the Capital

We took a day trip over to Baltimore, Maryland and Guess. Who. I. Met!!!!

Misty Laws and Me - Bonding over Gremlins!

Misty Laws and Me – Bonding over Gremlins!

And then Joe’s cousins taught us how to shell and eat THESE!!!


Day trip to Mount Vernon, touring the Washington’s Home!


DSCN0655DSCN0662We also humbly walked the paths inside Arlington National Cemetery to honor our brave soldiers from past and present.

The eternal flame at President Kennedy's gravesite.

The eternal flame at President Kennedy’s gravesite.


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Making our way back towards the midwest, we hit “The Strip” in Pittsburgh as well as Kennywood Amusement Park!

Joe's Idea of Heaven - An olive bar in the Pittsburgh Macaroni Co.

Joe’s Idea of Heaven – An olive bar in the Pittsburgh Macaroni Co.

Riding the ski lift into Kennywood

That’s our trip! All happily hosted and fed along the way by Joe’s family across the country! Wonderful hospitality! We hated to say goodbye.


Last but not least, the announcement of the From My Bookshelf to Yours contest winner is: Amber West! I’ll be touch soon for you to claim your book title of choice! Congrats, Amber!

Fill me in! What were you up to while I was away?

On the Road Again…

Road Trip

Hello Mates,

I know it seems like I just got back from my travels. Or have you forgotten this?

Boston Harbor

Ah yes, the vacation with my parents. What a treasure that was!

But I have other plans this time. Joe and I are off on our own adventure for 2 weeks! So you might say I’m taking a “Blogcation”.

We’re roadtripping east this year and you can catch my edition of “Where in the world is Jess Witkins’s Happiness Project?” by following me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook where I promise to post pictures from the trip!

Until then, please keep yourselves occupied by crossing off some of my summer fun suggestions in 51 Things to Do Before Summer’s Over and entering to win a FREE book From My Shelf To Yours.

See you later, alligators!


The Road Trip Chronicles: Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse

Hello Travelers!  Last week on The Road Trip Chronicles, I left you all in Wall, South Dakota.  I’m so sorry about that.  I’m here now to welcome you back in the car and take a trip to the Badlands with me!

Badlands National Park:

The Badlands lie between the White and Cheyenne Rivers in southwestern South Dakota.  Claimed to be one of the most breathtaking and architecturally surreal sites by geologists, and even Frank Lloyd Frank, the Badlands don’t disappoint.  The park consists of ravines, ridges, and cliffs in a variety of colors shown in the sedimentary stripes.

The Badlands are also home to a wide population of bison, coyotes, bighorn sheep, deer, fox, eagles, pronghorns, and prairie dogs.

To be honest, I’m not sure what this animal’s name is.  We found a herd of them trekking down the cliff.  It might be the bighorn sheep, more likely just a mountain goat.  Here’s one up close.

Here’s one I talked off the ledge…literally!

And yes, of course we have cows in Wisconsin, but this one just begged me to take his photo!

These critters were EVERYWHERE!

Our first bison sighting!!!

I promise we get a lot closer in Yellowstone, but this was a big deal at the time!

A Swift Fox – Isn’t he cute?

More shots of the beautiful Badlands!

Next stop:  Keystone, South Dakota – Mount Rushmore

Keystone was established as a mining town, known for the Holy Terror Gold Mine, discovered in 1894.  Lovely name don’t you think?  The discoverer/owner of the mine, William Franklin named it such for his wife.  I just love romance stories!  Still, the mine brought in $70,000 worth of gold per week, so not such a bad present after all!

It wasn’t until the early 1930’s that Gutzon Borglum started working on the models that would become the four presidential faces that now look down over the Black Hills.

Fun Fact:  Did you know that in the original sculpture model, Jefferson’s head was to the left of Washington’s?

True.  There are several theories about the change in arrangement of the presidential faces including that Hugo Villa, an assistant sculptor blew away too much rock around Jefferson, thereby requiring the men to start over – a setback that cost them roughly $10,000.  Or perhaps the granite they were working on had too many fissures in that section.  Some speculate Borglum overheard a woman complain that “Mr. Borglum would never carve two men snuggled up to each other like that,” causing him to blast the mountain out of political correctness.  But more likely, Borglum didn’t like the design and adapted his creation.  

-Trivia information from Mt. Rushmore and Keystone by Tom Domek and Robert E. Hayes

I wonder what it’d be like to have my face on a mountain…

If you check out Mount Rushmore on vacation, I highly recommend checking out the Visitor’s Center/Museum.  Great photograph collection and info on the construction of the monument and the crew that helped to build it.  It was both daring and dangerous for the miners that helped Borglum construct his vision.  One of my favorite sections of the museum included old interviews with some of the crew years after the opening of the monument.  One miner talked about climbing up the face, literally, of the mountain and having to lean back and straighten your legs to walk up while others at the top helped hoist you with a rope around the waist.  Instinct would have you lean forward, for fear of heights, that would cause you to slip.  He said many fellows were dragged by the rope, scraping their very noses against the mountain!

Crazy Horse Memorial:

The Crazy Horse Memorial was one of my favorite things this day.  The story behind its creation is a deeply moving one full of dedication and hard work.

It was a Polish immigrant raised by foster care named Korczak Ziolkowski who met with the Lakota Sioux Chief Standing Bear in 1948.  Korczak was a self taught sculptor, and after winning a contest at a fair, was contacted by Chief Standing Bear to construct the memorial that would tell everyone, “We have heroes too.”

Korczak was in his 30’s when he began the memorial, and he worked on it until his death.  His body is buried at the foot of the mountain, and it is his wife and children who continue to progress on the mountain’s transformation.

To give you an idea of its size, all four of the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore could fit within the head of Crazy Horse!  In the 40’s when Korczak started the blasting, there was a 90+ step staircase he would trek up and down each day.  Occasionally, the generator he used to power his tools would wind down as he climbed halfway up the steps with 50+ pounds of tools on his back and in his arms.  One day, Korczak recalls, he had to climb up and down those stairs nine times to continue his work!

This is what the memorial will look like when it’s finished.  You’ll have to forgive the awkward photo, normally this is pulled out on the deck of the museum and shops, but it had poured rain right before we got there and they had it covered under this awning.

You can see there is MUCH work left to do.  The foundation actually measures the work in decades and tons of rock removed.  The newest improvements included blasting out the hole beneath his arm and much of the rock in front where the horse’s head will be.

The project is a slow moving one requiring great skill, and safety, with the dynamite blasts.  And it will take longer still because Korczak, and now his family, refuse financial assistance from the government.  The memorial is entirely funded by public donations.  Korczak was a true believer in the American Dream, a place where anyone can start a project, work hard, and accomplish something truly great.  The family now abides by this dream.

I love the story behind this mountain.  A story of grandeur all around.  Crazy Horse was a nobel warrior who fought for his people during some of the most difficult times in American Indian history.  His memorial now points to the land “where his people lie.”  The Black Hills.  His likeness is not actually known, and Korczak created it with the help of Chief Standing Bear and other tribesmen who knew him.

Thanks for sharing in my travels and mini history lesson!  Have any of you visited these places?  What did you think?  What did you love about the stories behind their creation?  Or if you haven’t been to see them, which one do you want to see first?

Still more to come!  Stay tuned for tales from Deadwood, South Dakota, the old time – and possibly present day – haunts of Wild West characters like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane!

Travel Necessities: What Do You HAVE to Pack?

Joe and I have been together for almost 6 years now.  That’s a lot of time to bum around new places with someone!  In just 3 days, we’ll be hitting the road and making our way west toward Yellowstone National Park!  While I’m gone, expect some guest posts and photo check-ins, and I’ll be back along the way to chat with you all in the comments section.

For this round of Guilty Pleasures Friday, I started thinking about the things that become travel companions.  We’ve all got some, right?  That pair of worn in shoes you wore backpacking, that old college alumni sweatshirt that’s got holes in it, a favorite fragrance that makes you feel confident?  We may not realize or admit it, but our clothes make us comfortable.  And sometimes, there’s a story behind them.

Take Joe’s UW-La Crosse T-Shirt:

Joe and I in Seattle, WA 2009

Joe and I in Boston, MA 2010

And you know there’d be a 2011 photo, except I’m vain I’m detailed and said he couldn’t keep wearing the same shirt on every vacation we had!

But then, I’m guilty of it too…

Jess’ Adidas Jacket:

South Korea, April 2012

Me with my Book Club, June 2012

And you can be sure there’d be more snaps of this coat too, except I wore it back in 2003 on my trip to Ireland!  Those photos were still developed on film!

I had to laugh when we were both packing for our road trip this week because I didn’t want him to bring the t-shirt, and he doesn’t want me to bring the jacket!  (Shh – It might be going along anyway!)  

I’m also partial to a particular Fossil bag:

New Orleans, LA 2011

Toronto, Canada 2011

N Seoul Tower, South Korea 2012

See, my handbag and spring jacket have been international passengers with me!  They hold a dear place in my heart because maybe sand from the Sokcho, Korea beach is still in my pockets.  Or perhaps that warped leather was from the hail storm I got caught in while in New Orleans.

I never would’ve said I was sentimental about my clothes, but I guess I am.  Maybe when I get back and post pictures from Yellowstone, we can all play a cyber game of Where’s Waldo – only it’ll be where’s Jess’ Adidas jacket cameo?

What travel items do you have to take with you?  Does your partner have one?  Do you love it or hate it?  What makes it sentimental?

A ROW Review

How can another week have possibly flown by again?!  I’m losing my summer days much too quickly!  This past week and the remainder of it has been CRAZY!

The Goals: 

  • Finish First Draft of Women’s Fiction Piece – Write at least 4x week and complete 4-10 pages at least each day.
  • Read On Writing by Stephen King– First book of my Catch up on Craft Initiative
  • Read 2 Fiction Books a Month
  • Prepare for Summer Vacation – Joe and I are planning a road trip out west in 5 days, so I will need to get blog posts prepped ahead, stock up on sunscreen, do the laundry that is mounding in my closet, and corral all the camping gear up in the next weeks.
  • Read Suze Orman’s Women and Money– I’s working on my savings!!!  *jingles piggy bank*
  • Be a Role Model and Cheerleader in my ROW80 Sponsor Role

The Progress (or Lack Thereof…)

  • No writing on the WIP.  I did however do SOME writing in my limited free hours to get blog posts prepped ahead AND exciting news:  prepare the ceremony for my best friend’s wedding!  Yep, you heard me right!  Yours truly, is an ordained minister!  I’ll be performing their wedding 5 days after I get back from vacation!

(Considering I made her cry when I read her what I’d written, I’d say I’m on the right track!  Let’s just hope I don’t cry, or I’ll be dubbed the Blubbering Vicar of Wisconsin!)

Me and my bestie, Cat, at our co-hosted Oscar Party last February! She’ll be the one in white at the wedding. 😉

  • I started On Writing by Stephen King, but then it was due back at the library and I couldn’t renew it.  So, I’ve decided to just go buy that one sometime this week!
  • I did finish reading These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf and I loved it!  So I definitely finished 3 books this month.  I’m now starting American Rose and Girls in White Dresses, which you can see on Goodreads by clicking their images in the sidebar.
  • In regards to preparing for summer vacation, that’s what I’ve been doing in most of my free time this week.  I did laundry, am 85% packed, practiced setting up the tent with Joe, went grocery shopping, and made a trip to Madison, WI where I picked up a really nice camera from my brother so I can bring you all back some sweet photos from Yellowstone!  (And oh yah, for those of you who think I’m accident prone, I made my own First Aid Kit!)  
  • No progress on the Suze Orman book.  HOWEVER…This must go announced:  I am officially DONE paying my student loans!!!  I got my confirmation e-mail yesterday!  Thanks to all of you who sent me congratulatory tweets!!!
  •   I’m of the opinion that one can always do more, so I will keep trying to get to more than just my assigned ROW blogs.  I’m loving meeting all of you and am SO IMPRESSED with your tenacity and unyielding determination towards your goals.  Keep it up, peeps!


How is your ROW week going?

A Journey to the Center of the Earth

ROW Check in!

The To Do List: 

  • Finish First Draft of Women’s Fiction Piece – Write at least 4x week and complete 4-10 pages at least each day.
  • Read On Writing by Stephen King– First book of my Catch up on Craft Initiative
  • Read 2 Fiction Books a Month– I have 3 books going right now, so I need to skedaddle!
  • Prepare for Summer Vacation – Joe and I are planning a road trip out west in two weeks, so I will need to get blog posts prepped ahead, stock up on sunscreen, do the laundry that is mounding in my closet, and corral all the camping gear up in the next weeks.
  • Read Suze Orman’s Women and Money– I’s working on my savings!!!  *jingles piggy bank*
  • Be a Role Model and Cheerleader in my ROW80 Sponsor Role

The Rundown:

I’ll completely fess up that the whole page count goal and specific titles to read did not happen.  Not for lack of want, but just other interferences.  You might let me off the hook if I told you I led 4 full day trainings, made two trips out of town and worked a 15 hour day to complete a Fine Jewelry reticketing project.  Basically when I got home, I ate and then fell asleep on the couch in my work clothes.

I promise to have new pages to show by the next check in.  If I don’t, you have permission to publicly flog me.

What I Did Accomplish:

  • I was reading!  I finished both Blessings by Anna Quindlen and Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich.  Got 2 entries in my library’s adult summer reading program!  Made great headway on These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf and started American Rose by Karen Abbott!
  • Also managed to cross off one more thing on the Summer Bucket List!  Joe and I visited Niagara Cave in Harmony, Minnesota!

Look how excited I am!!!

Excuse me, your flow rock is invading my blog post…

  • I am working on blogging ahead so when Joe and I are on vacation you won’t forget me!  I’ll be able to read and comment from my phone easily enough, and with 5 hours in the car, I’ll have time to hit up more blogs, which means more ROW cheerleading!!!
  • Other big news for the week is my fangirl dreams came true when New York Times Bestselling author Karen Abbott agreed to do an interview with me on my blog!  I would love for you guys to pop over and meet her; she’s been fabulous to work with!  Plus, she’s offering a FREE copy of her new book American Rose:  A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee!  Leave a comment here and enter to win!

Your turn!  How have you kept busy this past week?

#ROW80: Embarrassing Family Photos, Founders Day Appreciation, and Goal Update

First week check in for ROW80!  Round 3 has begun.  How are you all doing?  If summer’s got you down, feeling like you’re behind in your goals or missing out on all the barbecues, check out my guest post at the ROW blog this week on balancing family and friends along with your writing.  I titled it:  I Love You.  Forever.  Now Get Lost!  Go read it, you get to see a funny picture of me with my parents.  They don’t know I posted it!!!

For all you ROWers, how well do you know our ROW founder, Kait Nolan?  Test your Kait knowledge and learn even more in Kait’s fantasy revealing interview with me and about her single serving guilty pleasure!  Both posts are filled with trademark Kait Nolan banter, you’ll love it!

And Now Back to Business:

The Goals: 

  • Finish First Draft of Women’s Fiction Piece – Write at least 4x week and complete 5-10 pages at least each day.
  • Read On Writing by Stephen King– First book of my Catch up on Craft Initiative
  • Read 2 Fiction Books a Month
  • Prepare for Summer Vacation – Joe and I are planning a road trip out west in a month, so I will need to get blog post prepped ahead, stock up on sunscreen, do the laundry that is mounding in my closet, and corral all the camping gear up in the next weeks.
  • Read Suze Orman’s Women and Money– I’s working on my savings!!!  *jingles piggy bank*
  • Be a Role Model and Cheerleader in my ROW80 Sponsor Role

How’d I do?  Great!  On the goals I worked on this week.  I actually gave myself permission to enjoy summer for a few days and just catch up on reading and vacation planning (plus I knew I had some late nights at the day job, so this way they didn’t interfere).  Therefore, no writing on the WIP, just blogging occurred.


But, I finished reading Blessings by Anna Quindlen and will get a review up soon.  I made headway on the Janet Evanovich book too, and I did some research on the sites Joe and I are going to visit on our vacation in a few weeks.  And oh yah, I went and visited blogs again!!!  It was so nice chatting with all of you again!

This week it’s back to the grindstone.  Blogging ahead, work on the WIP at least 4 days, and keep reading, reading, reading!

How are you guys doing?

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