More photos from the South


I got a chance to edit a few more of my favorite images from my Presidents Day trip to New Orleans and back.


I’m really excited to see that my digital camera with its new lens served me really just as well as my favorite film cameras. Of course, the resolution isn’t as high as the medium format negatives I’ve grown used to, but without access to a super high-resolution scanner, it’s a moot point anyway.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m really satisfied with digital for the types of photos on this type of on-the-move photoshoot. As usual, I wish I’d pulled over to make even more!


New Orleans, Louisiana







Indianola, Mississippi




New Orleans, Louisiana

Road trip photography from the South

Road trip photography from the South

I had President’s Day off last Monday, so I decided to take off Friday too and make it a long weekend. I have been working on a rural Iowa photography project for about two years now and people are always telling me that my work reminds them of photos of the Southern United States. So Ethan and I went on a road trip, taking our time and stopping at any small towns that looked interesting on our way down to New Orleans, Louisiana.

More images to come as I continue editing!


Somewhere across the Missouri/Arkansas border


Tunica, Mississippi
Cleveland, Mississippi
Bentonia, Mississippi


New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana

300 words a day

For one week, I tried to write an hour each morning before I went to work. Setting a minimum writing time, though, didn’t work for me. After a few days, I was bored and still not satisfied with how my creative nonfiction piece was progressing.

The next week, after I finished reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, I decided to try a word count goal instead. I considered trying to write 500 words a day. But I realized that I am a fairly concise writer and would struggle to hit my goal often. I opted for 300 words a day instead.

I was a little embarrassed—300 seemed so small. But I remembered that I had never written on a daily basis before. A year ago, when I was in college studying journalism and creative nonfiction writing and I never had a routine at all. Mostly, I procrastinated until one or two days before a first draft was due, wait around for inspiration, then ended up forcing 1,000 or 2,000 words in the three hours before the class where it was due.

The first few days, it actually took me an hour to write 300 words. I would go back and delete extraneous words and phrases from my draft before I started writing. I know this goes against all writing advice. I know your writing and editing brain are different and should be activated in separate sittings. But at least I was hitting 300.

Again, I looked toward Anne Lamott’s book for guidance—the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter in particular. By Saturday, I was able to stop myself when I went into editing mode. When I wasn’t going back and deleting material, I was able to write over 500 words in an hour.

But I’m going to stick to 300 words.

Setting a goal I won’t always achieve works for a lot of the things I do: running, healthy eating, reading. But it doesn’t work for writing. I need a goal I can achieve every day, even when it’s hard and I don’t feel like working on it at all. To many, 300 words per day probably sounds very small. But this requirement ensures I produce 2,100 words every week at a minimum and at least 109,200 words per year. Even when I’m sick or it’s a holiday or I’m traveling, I know I can produce 300 words.

Read what you want

I read 29 books in 2017 and five so far in 2018. Some were incredible. Others were not. But in the process of reading so many different books (about one per week since June 2017, when I started my Alternative Grad School project), I’ve learned so much about the books that draw me in.

Throughout much of last year, I obsessively read self-help books. I had just graduated from college and was looking to figure out how I wanted to live the rest of my life. I read almost 10, but they left me without answers. I read about authors who lived alternative lifestyles, traveled a lot and worked for themselves. They seemed to have everything they wanted and so I set a goal of being like them. Still, the books felt repetitive to the point of being cliche and I grew bored.

I later shifted toward reading memoirs of people I admired. Their books showcased their successes but, more importantly, they exposed the long series of missteps and failures happened came first.

Since January 1, 2018, I’ve read four absolutely incredible books: The Lonely City by Olivia Laing, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coats, Just Kids by Patti Smith, and Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur. Each one of them taught me more than 10 self-help books could.

In the past, I tried not to read books simply because they were popular (these all made the New York Times Bestseller List); I mixed fiction and nonfiction equally (as someone with a background in journalism, I’m naturally drawn to nonfiction and I’ve started to just accept that); I read books on a wide range of subjects, trying not to read too many on one subject (reading topics that interest me creates continuity and keep me reading).

I am trying to say that you should read what you want. Disregard what and how you think you should read. Seek out books that keep you reading and keep you learning. That is all.


A complete list of books I read in 2017

The following is a complete list of books I read in 2017, separated by category and then ranked. Books I consider must-reads and would recommend to just about anyone are in bold.

Nonfiction books/books that taught me a lot:

  1. Art & Fear, David Bayles and Tedd Orland
  2. Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
  3. Upstream, Mary Oliver
  4. Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy
  5. Utopia for Realists, Rutger Bregman
  6. Postville: A Clash of Cultures in the American Heartland, Stephen G. Bloom
  7. Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, William Deresiewicz
  8. David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell
  9. Everybody Writes, Ann Handley
  10. The Creating Brain, Nancy Andreason
  11. The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin
  12. The Gig Economy, Diane Mulcahy

Books on living your best life/productivity:

  1. Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed
  2. The Art of Non-Conformity, Chris Guillebeau
  3. Deep Work, Cal Newport
  4. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki
  5. Born for This, Chris Guillebeau


  1. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
  2. The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
  3. The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy
  4. The Bright Hour, Nina Riggs
  5. Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays, Paul Kingsnorth
  6. Tell Me If You’re Lying, Sarah Sweeney
  7. South and West, Joan Didion


  1. The Butcher Boy, Patrick McCabe
  2. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  3. The Gangster of Love, Jessica Hagedorn
  4. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  5. The Gathering, Anne Enright

10-day vacation for TWO with only ONE carry-on bag

 I love budget travel. I ride the cheapest airlines, sleep in 12-bed rooms, and use the hostel kitchen to cook half my meals. Some people might look at it as giving a lot of things up, compared to how they typically travel. And it’s true, I sacrifice a lot of comforts and sleep to do things this way.
At the same time, though, I think taking cost-cutting measures is rewarding. One of my favorite ways time and money is to travel minimally, packing only what I really need to get by.
For our 10-day trip to Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Berlin, my boyfriend and I flew with WOW, a super cheap airline that doesn’t offer a free carry on or a checked bag at all.
Of course, for a trip that long, especially in November we needed at least one piece of luggage. We opted to keep things cheap and simple by sharing this hiking backpack between the two of us.
Here is a complete list of everything I brought along, including everything I was wearing and what was in my free hand item, a pretty average size leather purse. My boyfriend brought a laptop bag (without a laptop inside) as a hand item and filled the remaining space in the backpack with clothes.


Carry on (including what I was wearing): 
  • 1 QT liquids bag: Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, BB cream
  • Deodorant, makeup (mascara, lipstick, eyeshadow, eyeliner, BB cream), toothbrush, ear swabs, chapstick
  • Power converter, cell phone charger
  • GoPro, GoPro charger, mounts
  • SIM card tool
  • Water bottle
  • Laundry detergent, dryer sheets
  • Prescriptions, ibuprofen
  • Padlock
  • Clothing
    • Socks (3 pairs)
    • Tights (2)
    • Underwear (4)
    • Plain black Leggings (1)
    • Skirts (2)
    • Black dress
    • Shirts (3)
    • Sweater
    • Sports bra, bra
    • Coat
    • Balaclava
    • Winter hat
  • All of Ethan’s clothes
Hand item:
  • Passport
  • A book
  • Journal, pen
  • DSLR camera
  • Phone with “phone wallet” for cards and cash
  • Earbuds
And that’s really everything!
Sharing a majority of the bathroom products and our chargers saved a lot of room. But I would say the real secret was reducing the number of clothing items we brought. We saved a lot of space by doing laundry during our trip. Both of us ended up pretty sick of wearing the same few outfits but we felt it was worth the sacrifice not to be burdened by big, heavy bags wherever we went. I would recommend traveling this way to anyone. It’s shockingly stress-free and keeps you super mobile so your stuff never holds you back.


Ethan and I found super cheap airplane tickets to Europe and did a 10-day tour of Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Berlin late this month. Here’s a post I wrote about my experience in Berlin on the flight back to Chicago.


Budget hostel with a bar

We stayed at Wombats City Hostel-Berlin in a six-bed hostel room. It cost about $12 per night and interestingly included a free drink at the rooftop hostel bar at arrival. They also had €4.50 unlimited (and good) German breakfast in the morning and €2.50 Berliner Pilsner pint-sized beers at night. I met quite a few people there from different English-speaking countries that went out with us later that night.
And the bar had a great (though misty) view of the city.
Coffee everywhere 
I loved the fact that Berlin had coffee shops everywhere. I didn’t love that the cups were so small! I’m used to drinking relatively huge coffees in America so learning to savor a single shot of espresso was a challenge. I typically drink Americano-style plain black coffee, which isn’t very popular in Europe. I grew to really appreciate espresso macchiatos by the end of my stay, though.
Free historical sites 
We visited several free historical sites including the Brandenburger Tor, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and preserved portions of the Berlin Wall.
berlin wall
Thrift shopping in a trendy area near Eberswalderstraße
I met a young German woman about my age on the bus from Hamburg to Berlin who recommended the Eberswalderstraße area to me. I ended up just off Eberswalderstraße on Oderberger Staße and found the best thrift stores. I bought a tiny glass bottle there that was made for a pharmacy in Berlin–way better than anything that could be bought in a tourist shop. Then I checked out some of the vintage clothing stores and got some new-to-me clothes.
thift shopping berlin
Vegan burgers, vegetarian restaurants 
 Again on Oderberger Straße, Ethan and I stopped at a restaurant named Burger World. It was an unfortunate name for such a cute, boutique style place. I ordered a delicious vegan burger. The atmosphere was beautiful, complete with a tablecloth, candle, etc.
 burger world berlin
Across from our hostel, we also stumbled across a great organic/vegetarian-focused restaurant called Rose Garden. Their foods were seasonal, healthy, and ethically sourced. We had pumpkin ravioli there the first time then went back there a second time for coffee and some very generously piled avocado toast.
Craft beer berlin
At Burger World, Ethan and I had tried BRLO beer on a whim. It was great and made in Berlin, so we decided to see if it had a tap house. It turned out to be newly opened, in a building made of 38 international shipping containers and one of the trendiest, top-rated new restaurants in Berlin. I’m not crazy about expensive but very small meals, so Ethan and I shared one, drank a variety of their beers and picked up some falafel sandwiches on our way back to the hostel.

Back at it

Back at it

I graduated from the University of Iowa in May, which caused me to lose access to a lot of their amazing film equipment… but I just bought a Braun NovoScan 120 film scanner so I can finally make digital copies of my images again.

I’m still getting used to it, and I’ve been having trouble getting the colors right. The scanner makes almost all of the adjustments automatically. Ektar is so saturated, I’m sure that’s throwing off the colors completely. Or maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always had this issue while scanning Ektar.

I won’t write a review of this scanner until I try using it with some other (more scanner-friendly) films. I just wanted to get some images posted on my blog to celebrate the fact I’m back in action.

All of the following images were created in La Porte City, Iowa using a Mamiya 645 1000s camera and Kodak Ektar 100 film.


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