Monday, May 22

Quick Trip to Tampa

Itinerary for a 2-day weekend in Tampa

If you're looking for a quick weekend getaway, Tampa is an awesome place to explore, get a little sand in your toes, and taste some of that authentic Cuban flavor. I recently flew down to Tampa for a quick trip, and really loved this laid back but totally filling itinerary.


I landed in Tampa during mid afternoon and rented a car for the weekend. To find a good deal on a rental car, I use to search and sort for the best options for my trip. Instead of going to the hotel to check in, I decided to drive around Tampa to get a lay of the land. I drove downtown by the convention center and found this fun area by the water called The Sail Pavilion. There were tons of people there for happy hour sipping on fruity cocktails, playing life-size Jenga and corn hole as well as people sitting on the dock and paddle boarding.

Photo credit: Facebook
Tip: Parking is limited by the Pavilion. There is a parking garage by the Convention center and a parking deck by the hotel across the bridge. You can pay to park at either of those locations and it's a short walk to the Sail Pavilion.

After having a cocktail and soaking up a few rays, I went down to Ybor City which was just about a 5-minute drive from 'downtown Tampa'. It's definitely got a Cuban flare. It's really seeing an up-and-coming vibe with lots of bars, restaurants and clubs at night. Don't venture too far off the main drag though, it can get a bit dodgy.

Ybor City Streets

I parked on the street and just walked around the streets absorbing it in. You can definitely tell there is a college presence in the town, very geared towards partying and drinking but nonetheless, there are still some cool spots to stop and snap a picture of some photo murals and random roosters running around.

I decided to come back to Ybor City for dinner but wanted to go check into my hotel and change. For dinner I'd suggest to head to the famous Columbia restaurant for some classic Cuban flavors and entertainment.
Columbia Restaurant
Gaspar's Grotto
 Or if you're looking for something a little more casual with live music, check out Gaspar's Grotto. You'll find your typical bar food with a Cuban flare- definitely sit outside for some chill vibes and sounds. 


One of my favorite spots for brunch in Tampa is the Oxford Exchange. It's absolutely charming inside and the food is fabulous. I had the lavendar earl gray lemonade last time and it was like springtime in a drink. Get there early though, as they are quite popular and get full quickly. 

Photo credit: Google
After brunch you can spend time shopping around the Oxford Exchange and stock up on unique and ecclectic items such as books, jewelry, kitchen towels, candles and local-made goods. 

After a little shopping and bumming around, it'd be a perfect time to go back towards the Sail Pavilion and rent a paddle board, a 2-passenger boat, or hitch a ride on the water taxi for a view of Tampa by the water. 

Once you've worked off your breakfast-- it's time to eat again! If you want an authentic and local Cuban sandwhich, look no further than Brocato's. Whenever we come to Tampa, we have to stop here. It's truly a whole-in-the-wall-nothing kind of place but there is always a ridiculously long line. Order inside and then grab a bunch of napkins and a picnic table under the shaded shed and enjoy. 

After lunch take the short drive to Clearwater Beach and soak up some sandy rays. Clearwater is an adorable ocean town. Be patient getting onto the island because there is always traffic. Grab a public parking spot, your towel, a water bottle and sun screen and park your rear in the sand. 

After hanging at the beach in the afternoon, head back to your hotel to change and for dinner head to Whiskey Joe's. It's a tiki-inspired restaurant with an awesome view. You can have dinner inside or on the outside deck and then after dinner head down to the sandy tiki pit for a spot by the firepit on the water. It's the perfect way to end an evening! 


Grab a coffee and some fresh fruit and head out to the Manatee Viewing Center in the morning.
Physical address: 6990 Dicman Rd. Apollo Beach, FL 33572
It's literally right next to a power plant, so it may seem like you're driving into a place you're not supposed to be...but you'll be ok! Depending on the time of the year you may or may not see the manatee's in action but it's still a pretty view and hey, it's free (donations welcomed). There is a nice little walking path around the area to spot nature and learn more about the Florida ecosystem that is worth a leisurely stroll!

Finally before your flight in the afternoon, go to the Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple and food market. It's one of the coolest things I've stumbled across while visiting Tampa over the years. It's a Thai temple but on Sunday there is also a Thai food market right on the river. Tons of Thai vendors are there with traditional food, drinks and crafts for you to enjoy. Bring cash! 

Enjoy your time in the Tampa area! Let me know if you have hit up any of these spots. 

Tuesday, April 25


When you can't control what's happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what's happening.  That's. where your power is.:

You only have control over three things in your life— the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take. — Jack Canfield:

When you see someone who needs power and control and will not stop until they get it, you are actually seeing someone who is deeply afraid of life. Fearful people can only have things their way.:

"Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't." - Steve Maraboli // #words #quote:

Quotes Of The Day - 14 Pics:

Fruits of Self-Control: Mastering of moods, watching your words, restraint of reactions, sticks to a schedule, manages money wisely, maintains good health. #FruitOfTheSpirit:

Pastor Steven Furtick quote from Crash the Chatterbox.:

100 Encouraging Bible Verses                                                                                                                                                                                 More:

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Letting go of control:

I started to explore how control played out in my life in order to get clarification on what was holding me down. I asked myself where this need for control came from.
I narrowed it down to three things: my ego, perfectionism, and lack of trust.

My ego was telling me that things needed to go exactly as I wanted them to or else I was a failure, and it was telling me that people should do exactly what I wanted. Perfectionism was putting me into a place where I felt there was only one way to do things. Lack of trust reared its ugly head when I was afraid things would fall apart if I did not force them to be a certain way.

Part of the problem was that I wanted to make other people happy. I was forcing myself to do things because I wanted a specific reaction from people. I essentially wanted to be in control of their reactions. I forgot that focusing on myself doesn’t make me a selfish, unkind, or uncaring person, it just means I’m not forcing relationships or prioritizing other people above my own needs. I started to realize that it’s not my responsibility to take care of other people, nor should I be trying to change anyone.
So how can we let go of wanting to be in control? How can we stop focusing on the outcome we want and instead let things flow as they are supposed to?
By focusing on the things you can control. Remind yourself that you are in control of your own life, and believe that things will happen as they are intended to. Of course you can set goals and strive to get a particular outcome, but do not force something that doesn’t feel right. Realize that there needs to be space to flow.
In figuring out the role control plays in my life, I’ve come up with three tips that have helped me tame my inner control freak. Here they are:

1. Make a list of the things you can control.
Think about a time when you felt totally in control of your life. What was happening? What were you in control of? This is one exercise that really helped me realize that I do have power over many aspects of my life. Here’s what I came up with:
My health: I can eat more fruit and veggies, less cheese, and less bread. I can drink more water. I can choose how often I workout. I can choose how much I sleep (it’s hard, but it is ultimately a choice). I can choose my skincare routine.
My appearance: I control what I wear. I control the makeup I put on my face. I control the way I style my hair and the nail polish color I wear.
My mental stimulation: I can read a book when I want to. I can learn something new every day.
My productivity: I can decide if I want to snooze my alarm or not. I can decide when I take breaks from tasks. I can decide if I want to follow a routine or not.
My emotional well-being: I can choose what I focus my thoughts on. I can choose how often I meditate or practice mindfulness. I can choose to write when I feel upset and need to clear my head.
And most importantly, I can choose how I react to situations. This is probably the most powerful thing you can ever learn. The next tip explains how to do this.
2. Break the reaction pattern.
The way we react to situations ultimately leads to either harmful or beneficial consequences. When we are feeling like we don’t have control over something, we are likely to experience anxiety, mood swings, and frustration. All of this comes from the thoughts we have about the situation we’re in. In order to break the reaction pattern that often leads to harmful consequences, we can learn how to change our reaction patterns.
Typically a stressful reaction pattern looks like this:
Stressful trigger -> Stress reaction -> Negative thoughts -> Negative feelings -> Reactive harmful behavior -> Harmful consequences.
In order to break this reaction pattern, there are a few things we can do:
  • Be aware of the trigger.
  • Breathe when you feel your body start to tense.
  • Practice self-compassion when your thoughts begin to turn negative.
  • Recognize that your thoughts and feelings are nothing more than thoughts and feelings.
  • Avoid over identifying with your thoughts.
The next time you feel stressed out because of something you can’t control, try practicing the things above.
3. Write down or recite affirmations.
One powerful tool you can use to help you feel more in control is to write or recite affirmations. I find these are most powerful in the morning to get your day started on the right foot, but they can also be helpful if you’re in the midst of mini-breakdown. Here are some affirmation ideas:
  • I am 100% in control of my own life.
  • I go with the flow and accept what comes my way.
  • I focus my energy on what is most beneficial for me.
  • I am safe and secure in myself.
And there you have my tips for dealing with an inner control freak! Though I haven’t quite perfected the art of letting go, I know what I need to work on and how I can cope a little better. I’d love to hear from you about the role control plays in your life. 

Wednesday, April 19

Facing the Mountain

Image result for facing a mountain

Standing at the foot of a mountain is daunting. The incline is steep and treacherous, the rocks posing a possible threat to security and safety. The mass that is in front of me appears so ominous and dark; it feels so terrifying and discouraging- how will I ever overcome this mountain?

Yet looking behind me I see the long journey I have trekked to get to this point and although what lies ahead of me is scary, going back down the same worn and rugged path is depressing as well. I have two ways to go- I can either try to walk around the mountain or I can climb the mountain little by little. 

I am definitely scared that I will fail; that I won't be able to make it up the mountain- that it will kill me trying. The mountain seems so big to tackle, what if I can't make it? The journey will be long and potentially emotionally and physically exhausting. Another fear that grips me is the fear of the top. Getting to the top of the mountain is an exhilarating moment; it's a moment where you can see the accumulation of your dedication and hard work pay off for the epiphany and glory of defeating the beast of a mountain. Yet, what fear that holds me captive is what is on the other side of the mountain? What if I get to the top of this mountain only to find that the mountain just continues, or worse, there is a bigger mountain ahead? The fear of the unknown is sometimes scarier than the fear of the known. 

I've made the decision to climb the mountain, no matter how small the steps may be. As I climb this gigantic black mass in my life, I need to take each step as a victory and a step in the direction towards the top. When I get to the top, I'll deal with the top and what I may see; it may be another scary mountain of darkness or it may be the prettiest sunrise I've ever encountered. Only God knows. 

Image result for top of the mountain

Monday, February 13

Minneapolis Winter Trip

Minnesota is where this traveling cupcake was born and raised. I've since moved away and have been traveling since, however I still try to make it "home" several times a year. Fall is one of my favorite times to go back because there's nothing quite like home in the fall. Yet, don't discount the winter! It may be chilly but it's a gorgeous and refreshing time to visit Minnesota (and rather affordable). If you find yourself in Minneapolis for a little 2-day weekend, here's my suggested itinerary: 

Friday Night

Fly into Minnneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) airport

Getting into Minneapolis on Friday late afternoon, you should definitely go to Mall of America first. It's close to the airport (less than 5 minutes) and after all, it's the largest mall in the United States! You could spend an entire day here and still not see everything but definitely check out some of the unique sights:

- Nickelodeon Universe at MOA 
- Sea Life Aquarium 
- LEGO Land 
Grab a bite to eat at the touristy Rainforest Cafe or Crave or the Cedar + Stone in the JW Marriott attached to the mall.

After a few hours shopping, grab one of those great outfits you just bought and head out for a night out in the Westend.

Punch Bowl Social is a fabulous hangout on the weekends complete with retro-inspired bowling lanes, been bags, darts and multiple bars. Grab a table, put your name on the list for a bowling lane, have a few drinks and enjoy the night scene.


Grab brunch at French Meadow Bakery which also has a wonderful gluten free menu! Get the blueberry cornmeal panacake or the GF griddle cake- yum!

After a filling breakfast and a few cups of tea, lace up your boots and grab your gloves to head to Minihaha Falls. There are several trails throughout the park but make sure you definitely see the falls which if you're there in a very cold winter month, should be majestically frozen over!

Next warm up at the American Swedish Institute. The stately manor is located in downtown Minneapolis and offers beautiful history and art of the Swedish culture. 

After a little culture and a history lesson head over to the Midtown Global Market. The Midtown market is an internationally-themed public market with great food, unique gifts, groceries and live music. So yummy!

End your day at the Minnesota Ice Castle which is an amazing sight to see! Bundle up because it's quite cold, but there is plenty of hot coco and bonfires to keep your toes toasty.


If you have a little bit of time on Sunday morning before your flight, grab a Caribou coffee and walk around Lake Harriet! Full of wonderful walking paths and winter activities such as sledding and skating, Lake Harriet is a great way to end your trip.

I hope you enjoy your time in the land of 10,000 lakes!

Wednesday, February 8

Dear Single Friend

Is it just me or is everybody getting married? It's not a lie when I say almost every single one of my friends is married; anybody else in the same boat as me? Every Saturday from March-June was packed with a wedding, bridal shower, bachelorette weekend or dress fitting. Now that everybody is hitched or on their way to tying the knot, so begins a new season of life: the life of the single friend.

I love every one of my friends. I loved being apart of their special day in some way, whether it was as a guest or standing by their side. Each dear friend had such a different wedding, uniquely perfect for each woman. They say that after you get married everything changes. I know what they mean now. It's kind of like when you graduate high school and college; you say you're going to stay just as close as you were back in school...but inevitably life changes in different ways and things have to change..because that is life. If life stayed the same forever it would get boring and stagnant. They move. You gain new friends. They have to worry about in-laws. You worry about keeping your dog alive. They join a couples bible study and you're in a women's study group: these things aren't right or wrong, they're just the inevitable ticks of life that happen when people get married and you're still the single friend. 

That doesn't mean they love you any less. It doesn't mean you're not as good of a friend. It doesn't mean that you can't still find time to hang out with your friend. It means that you are both evolving, maturing and growing in your walk and in your friendship. 

Being the single friend in a sea of married friends has been a touch lesson inn offense. I've had to learn to not be offended. My friendships used to be a priority, and now they're not. Our coffee dates used to be a priority, and now they're not. I can't lie and say I've never been offended by a friend who suddenly goes MIA and completely checks out of my life. I constantly feel like I'm putting in 99.9% of the effort in most of my married friendships. I call and text and try to schedule times to meet only to be met by silence and "I'll check my schedule" texts. It takes two to make a relationship work and I get so frustrated when it constantly feels like a one-sided affair. However in my annoyance and offense, God reminds me of a little lesson: grace

I'm learning to have grace with my friends. I'm learning to have grace when a friend doesn't text me back for five days about getting together for dinner. I have to have grace when they cancel on me last minute because their husband is sick. I'm learning to have grace because I need grace. 

However to my married friends out there, don't forget about us. Yes, your priorities have changed and you may not have as much disposable time or income, but you still need us. You still need your girl time over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. You still need your mini getaways to invest in your friendships. You still need relationships outside of your marriage because God created us to be in community with one another. So don't forget about us. Don't neglect us forever. 

 So for those of you out there in this new season of life, the life of the single friend, don't stop reaching out to your married friends. Don't be offended by their new priorities. Love the moments you do get to spend with them. Rejoice with them at their wedding. Pray for them when they struggle and forget why they took vows. Don't be afraid to venture out and meet new friends. But always know who you true and deepest friendships are and continue to pour into those friendships.

You make time for the things you value. If you value a relationship, invest it in.

Saturday, August 6

Peru Mission: Day 4

Our final day in Peru has arrived, the past five days have gone by so quick. I wish we could have gotten here on time to spend the full week with more kids, but whatever God's plan was for this trip-- I don't know. Last night was a super late night because we met up our full team including the medics and our ground team in Peru for a family meal. We shared laughs and stories over dinner and coffee until like eleven o'clock. Pastor Pablo also informed us that a member of his church had invited the WHOLE team over for a traditional Arequpian breakfast so we had to be up and out early.

We arrived at this sweet couples house around 7:30 a.m. and their house was warm and packed with chairs and tables for our large team. After the blessing we sat down to break bread with one another- literally and metaphorically, ha. Our breakfast consisted of a special soup that many people in Arequipa eat on Sunday. The best way to explain it is a spiced broth with a huge pork chop in it and then you use this special local-made bread to kind of soak up all the liquid. Directly after finishing the soup then you drink this special tea with this licorice that supposedly is good for digestion. The soup was absolutely delicious and something hot was so nice especially for the cold Peruvian mornings. I can't say I've ever had pork chop soup for breakfast, but it was good. Finishing it off with a hot cup of tea was super warm and yummy and I absolutely loved the tea how it was. It was so sweet of them to invite our big team over for breakfast and it was such a blessing.

Next we headed back to our hotel to finish packing up our belongings and check out of the hotel. It was a mad dash to get out of there quickly so we could spend as much time with more kids that day. The rest of the day we spent with more children; loving on them, teaching them, playing with them and doing crafts. They especially loved the songs and coloring pages! Their sweet temperament and joyful spirit was so adorable and so humble. 

We spent the rest of the day playing with the kiddos until we had to head to the airport and start our long journey home. It has been a whirlwind few days but it has definitely been a life-changing and eye-opening experience. I don't know what the future holds in regards to future mission trips but it has been a blessing to get to know the Peruvian people and spend time with these wonderful children. Thank you to everyone who has contributed in prayers and finances to this trip, it has been an honor and a blessing. 

Friday, August 5

Peru Mission: Day 3

Today Pastor Pablo wanted us to take the morning to rest a little from a long day yesterday and then show us around town a little bit today. We had breakfast on the top floor of our hotel today before heading out into Arequipa. We used today to connect as a team and get ready for another day of mission work tomorrow. 

Here's a little virtual tour of Arequipa: