Tag Archives: writer’s notebook

36 Things That Make Me Happy

Today is my birthday, and I am spending it in Thailand. Last year’s was in Albania, the year before that in China, and next year it’ll be in Indonesia (where I’ll spend the next few birthdays, I hope!). Tonight’s celebration will be low key, something I haven’t done in a while. I usually throw big birthday parties, typically with a theme that involves me and my guests dressing up in ridiculous outfits. Last year’s bash was a prom-themed pub crawl ending in a 90’s prom. It was pretty epic! But tonight, I’m going to dinner at one of my favorite local joints with a few close friends I’ve made in Thailand. It’s going to be perfect! This weekend, to celebrate my birthday and Lauren’s (on Sunday), we’ll stay in a posh hotel in downtown Bangkok for a staycation. The plan is to shop at Chatuchak Market on Saturday, grab drinks Saturday night, and get dressed up for a badass brunch on Sunday. Again…perfection! 🙂

I had so much fun making my list of 35 things last year that I thought I’d do it again! So, in honor of my 36th birthday, here’s my list of 36 things that make me happy (in no particular order).

  1. Quality time with friends and family
  2. Giving the *perfect* gift…the one that the recipient totally loves, but never knew they wanted
  3. Planning…currently I’m planning my month in the states this summer and my impending move to Indonesia
  4. Decorating my place…I’m so stoked about my new house in Indonesia that I keep scouring Pinterest for ideas, shopping online, dreaming about my new place, and wishing time would go faster so I can be there already! It’s gonna be amazing!
  5. Teaching…being back in the classroom during this season of my life has allowed me to reconnect with this passion
  6. Laughing
  7. Popcorn and M&M’s
  8. Sweet tea…I can’t wait to get some Chick-fil-A sweet tea this summer!
  9. Researching and trying out new restaurants…I’m such a foodie!
  10. Donuts, especially from Shipley’s in Texas
  11. Holding babies
  12. Mango sticky rice…Thailand has spoiled me!
  13. Reading! I have been able to reconnect with that part of me during this season, and I am so glad…I’ve really missed it.
  14. Cooking…not being able to (no kitchen here, sadly) has really shown me how much I love it and how much I miss it
  15. Smoothie bowls…tried it for the first time in Bali and man, I’m hooked!
  16. My writer’s notebook…I’m loving the one Michelle gave me for Christmas
  17. Apple products…I’m a Macbook Air, iPhone, and iPad user (I know, it’s a cult. I’m okay with that.)
  18. My family…I get to see them in 22 days!!! Ahhhhh!
  19. Music
  20. Starbucks tumblers and mugs…I own way too many, but they’re just so darn cute!
  21. Snocones…from JJ’s or Bahama Buck’s only
  22. Traveling! Filling up my passport is my biggest hobby. I love planning trips…the anticipation of an upcoming trip is what gets me through the tough parts of life. Other than my trip home and my move, my next big trip is Paris in October! Sooooo excited to get reacquainted with this lovely city that captured my heart (and stomach) last time around.
  23. Greek yogurt with blueberries and granola
  24. Fresh fruit, especially mango, pineapple, dragonfruit, berries (all kinds), and green grapes
  25. Finding the perfect travel accessories and bags that make traveling that much easier and fun
  26. Making lists 😉
  27. Sharing stories
  28. A good smelling candle
  29. Bath & Body Works hand soaps
  30. Going to the movies…so many good ones coming out this summer!!
  31. Biking…can’t wait to get back into it!
  32. Surprises
  33. Coming home to a clean house that I didn’t have to clean
  34. All my Thai faves…Pad Thai, Panaeng and yellow curries, Kao soi, Tom Yum, Som Tum (not too spicy!)
  35. Throwing parties
  36. Photographing things that inspire me, foods that taste (and look) delicious, people I love, places I love, and things that make me smile or laugh

Last year’s 35th Birthday Bash…I miss these faces soooo much right now!

Hello There…

Hello There…

I am learning to love me again, to embrace the very me-ness I possess inside, and express myself freely.

I keep secrets, a writer’s notebook, and memories of my travels.

I wish I could travel anywhere and everywhere for a year, with no regard for money (Who wants to sponsor me? haha).

I love mango sticky rice, iced chai tea lattes, pomelo, new books, blogging, sleeping in, goat cheese, dragonfruit, sharing stories, laughing, and filling my passport with stamps.

I dance ridiculously when I’m excited about something, usually making my friends laugh in the process.

I sing along with most songs, regardless of where I am and regardless of my mostly off-key voice. I have this innate gift of being able to pick up a song after hearing it a couple of times. I can’t promise you the lyrics are exactly right, but they’re close enough!

I think often about going back to school for another Master’s, possibly in school counseling or early childhood education. I’m in the research phase at the moment.

I really would like to be able to walk right now without the aide of crutches- hoping my ankle heals quickly!

I need less stuff than I thought I needed a year ago.

I should exercise more than I do, which is something I intend on starting once my ankle is healed.

I can teach preschool, despite thinking that it was something I could never do. And I’m actually pretty good at it, too.

I make a difference in the lives of my students, and they do in mine.

I always put others first; I’m working on that.


Can I just go back now?

Paris is on my mind. I feel compelled to go back, and sooner rather than later. I think it’s a combination of creating my Year in Photos slice, which had lots of Paris pictures, and reading a fellow slicer‘s posts about life in France. Instead of working on my reports, which are due tonight, I’ve been researching all the best foods to eat while in Paris and using Skyscanner.com to look up ticket prices to CDG. Oh man…I’m jonesing for some Paris time!


Paris was never really on my radar prior to my trip last year. I thought it could never live up to the hype. That it was highly overrated. A tourist trap of the extreme. Boy, was I wrong! Despite only being in Paris for 3.5 days, not to mention the fact that it was cold and rainy most of the time, I fell in love with the city of love. ❤


It has all of my favorite things I look for in a place to visit. It’s a foodie’s haven, with more food to possibly try than time in which to do it. Full of culture, there are jaw-dropping historical monuments to visit (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur to name a few), as well as museums with world-renowned artwork. My all-time favorite museum is The Lourve. I could meander its maze of hallways for days and never tire. There’s something indescribable about that place. And it’s charm…Paris has charm for days! Every corner you turn is just so damn picturesque that you can’t stand it.


I’ve been thinking of a few things I’d love to do on my return trip to Paris, a Paris bucket list if you will.

  • Walk up the Eiffel Tower. Last time I took the elevator, but I think I’d like to walk up next time.
  • Eat a picnic lunch of a crusty baguette, good cheese, luxurious butter, olives, roasted veggies, grapes, and macarons from Laduree for dessert in Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Have breakfast at Angelina’s at least once, but knowing me, I’d go there a couple of times. It’s just one of those iconic places you can’t miss.
  • Spend some time alone sitting at a small, quaint cafe, preferably overlooking the Seine, at an outdoor table with a large mug of warm tea, a buttery, flaky croissant, and my writer’s notebook, just observing the city pass by, jotting down ideas, observations, and musings.
  • Eat my way through this gastronomical city, mapping out my days’ activities based on where I want to eat. I want to have a plan so I can get in all the yummy foods I’ve read about, but I’ll also leave room for spontaneity, as I know hidden gems will pop up that I just have to try!
  • Get to The Lourve early, wandering my way through at my own slow pace, savoring the magic of this place. My writer’s notebook in tow, I just know I’ll stop and sit a while in front of one of my favorite pieces of art and write.
  • Take more photos, focusing in on the little details of this beautiful, charming city.
  • Get lost. I love getting lost in a new city…you never know what you’ll find!

With that…who wants to take a trip to Paris with me? 🙂


9 Things on Day 9

As I was reading through some slices for some inspiration, I came across All Things Purple’s blog, where her slice was full of lists of her favorite things, 9 per list, in honor of the ninth day of slicing. I love lists, as anyone who follows my blog or knows me in real life knows, so this was right up my alley! 🙂

9 Everyday things I wouldn’t want to live without:

  1. Books! (actual books or ebooks)
  2. A device (laptop, iPad, or iPhone)
  3. Wifi connection
  4. Tea kettle
  5. Toothbrush/toothpaste
  6. Live plants
  7. Backpack
  8. Reusable water bottle (loving my Camelbak Eddy at the moment)
  9.  My writer’s notebook

9 Adventures I want to have before I die:

  1. Step on all 7 continents (before age 40!)…just 2 more (Antartica and South America)
  2. Take a year off and slow travel around the world
  3. Write a book…and publish it!
  4. Meet someone I want to share my life with
  5. See the Northern Lights and sleep in a glass igloo
  6. Spend at least one month living in Inle Lake, Myanmar, volunteering at a school or an orphanage, riding my bike every day
  7. Go on an African safari
  8. Take my parents to all my favorite places around the world
  9. Show up at the airport, buy a ticket, and fly some place I’ve never been, with absolutely no plans whatsoever

9 Pastimes I never tire of:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Talking about reading and writing
  5. Cooking
  6. Throwing parties
  7. Visiting new restaurants
  8. Planning for a new trip
  9. Talking to my friends and family

9 Treats I could eat everyday (if they weren’t unhealthy):

  1. Chai tea lattes, preferably iced and from Starbucks
  2. Goat cheese
  3. Mangos
  4. Homemade ravioli
  5. Brownies
  6. Chips & Queso
  7. Hot Shipley’s glazed donuts
  8. Mercato’s homemade ricotta and jam with buttery, toasted bread
  9. Pavlova

9 People I’d be lost without (Only 9?!?):

  1. My mom & dad (I know, this is more than one…)
  2. My brother, sister-in-law, niece, & nephew (this one, too…)
  3. Shaggers
  4. Michelle
  5. Linner
  6. Kathy
  7. Sarah
  8. Sally
  9. Callie

9 Places I want to visit:

  1. New Zealand
  2. South Africa
  3. India
  4. Russia
  5. The Maldives
  6. Iceland
  7. Spain
  8. Bhutan
  9. Chile

9 Words I believe hold magic:

  1. Savor
  2. Love
  3. Vulnerable
  4. Change
  5. Play
  6. Serendipity
  7. Authenticity
  8. Gratitude
  9. Delicious

9 Gestures that make me smile:

  1. Receiving a gift from someone who knows me well
  2. Hand-written notes
  3. People who go out of their way when you’re sick/injured
  4. Quality time
  5. Playing a board game with me
  6. Hilarious texts, particularly ones accompanied by poignant GIFs 🙂
  7. A good book recommendation
  8. An engaging conversation where no one looks at their phone
  9. Little kid hugs

9 Favorite songs (as of this blog post) (How can I pick just 9?!?):

Click here to listen to my favorite songs


What are your favorite things?

Hello There… SOL #20


Hello there…

I am silly yet serious, friendly and finicky, loving and loquacious.
I keep my word, memories, and a writer’s notebook.
I wish I could live in Sydney, Australia or Inle Lake, Myanmar or Edinburgh, Scotland.
I love goat cheese, a good book, lazy days, traveling the world, challenges, and the anticipation of something new.
I dance more when I’m around my friends, but never very well.
I sing loudly and generally off-key.
I think about where to visit next, about what’s best for kids, and about my family often.
I really love my family and friends and the richness they bring to my life.
I need a massage right now. Good thing I’m planning on one later today.
I should work less and relax more.
I can talk about literacy all day long.
I like familiar routines as well as change, trying new restaurants, swapping funny stories, and writing.
I make friends easily.
I always like to sleep in. Mornings are meant to be eased into… 

Writing Can Change the World- SOL #9

It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this video, I fall in love with it every time.

Lucy Calkins, one of the most inspirational and influential writers and writing teachers of our time, shares some nuggets of wisdom with writers the world over. She reminds us to read our writing like it’s gold. What a difference that makes. Honoring our words by reading them like they’re gold really does make the difference. Finding the parts that work and keeping them, and reworking the parts that need a little tweaking is how we improve our writing. And writing can change the world. Words carry so much meaning and depth and they have the power to move mountains. It makes me wonder how I will choose my words carefully, how I will change the world with my words.

As I participate in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge, I am reminded again that writing can change the world, and that when we write, we share a little piece of who we are. So, no matter how rushed we might be when we write, no matter how much we think we could have done better, we must read our writing like it’s gold. All of us deserve to honor our own writing and the writing of others.

This writing community has been just what I’ve needed this month, during what has proven to be the most difficult time of my life thus far. Thank you all for your comments. They may not have changed the world, but they have changed me, and I truly appreciate it!

A Few of My Favorite Things- SOL #26


Here are a few of my favorite things…

  • my writer’s notebook, a place where I can play with words
  • belly laughs
  • the smell and feel of a new book
  • fresh ripe strawberries
  • hugs, especially from children
  • goat cheese, of course!
  • waking up without my alarm, slowly easing into the day with some reading or writing
  • reading a book aloud to a group of kids
  • my niece and nephew, who I don’t see often enough
  • Pizza Marzano, my own Cheers, where everyone knows my name
  • a good story
  • igniting the spark of writing in others
  • friends that listen and put things in perspective
  • no-agenda Saturdays
  • Ande’s cupcakes
  • manicures and pedicures…in fact, I’m in need of one of each right now!
  • using the Internet in a non-censored country–VPN-less makes me happy!
  • putting on comfy clothes after a long day
  • English breakfast tea
  • reading in the bathtub
  • bike riding–can’t wait to get back out now that it’s starting to warm up!
  • participating in the SOL Challenge…can’t believe it’s nearly over 😦

An ABC Book About Me!- SOL #12



The other morning I woke up with an idea for a slice. It was one of those fleeting moments that occur just upon waking. Those ideas that, if not written down, float out of our heads, never to return. I’ve been working on this slice in my writer’s notebook for a few days- an ABC book about me!

A is for Australia
I have been obsessed, and I mean obsessed, with Australia since age 7. I love everything about this unique, beautiful country! From ANZAC biscuits and pavlova to the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House. I even moved there right out of college. If I could live anywhere, that would be it!

B is for Brunch
Who doesn’t love a lazy weekend brunch? Living abroad has made me a ‘brunch-er.’ I long to go to a fancy (or not so fancy, depending on my mood) restaurant with friends, savoring the delicious food and conversation that swirls around me.

C is for Cook
I love to cook! Especially for other people. My specialties include cakes, appetizers, and making vegetarian food taste good!

D is for Dr. Pepper
As a Texan, I grew up with Dr. Pepper. It was in my veins, and for a long time, the addiction to the perfect combination of flavors held a firm grasp on me. I still enjoy Dr. Pepper, but I’m trying to cut back. It’s not easy.

E is for Education
Education is, and has always been, very important to me. Growing up, I loved school. I did well academically, and I longed to be a teacher. I’m in my tenth year of education, during which time I’ve been a teacher, literacy coach, and administrator.

F is for Firsts
I just love firsts. First time jumping out of an airplane. First kiss. First scuba dive. First day in a new country. First bite. Firsts bring excitement and energy, and I relish these moments.

G is for Goat Cheese
First of all, have you tried goat cheese? If you haven’t, you should go out right now and buy some. Seriously. Do it. I’ll wait. Goat cheese is one of my obsessions. Honestly, it’s one I thought would be a fad, like my obsession with Element Fresh, but it’s stuck around and I couldn’t be happier. Goat cheese is amazing on a sandwich, salad, or pizza. Spread it on some toasted bread and drizzle it with honey. Yes, please!

H is for Honest
I’ve been told I’m honest, whether you like it or not. Not sure yet if this is a good thing. Guess it depends on who you are. 🙂

I is for Ideas
I’m full of ideas. Some good, some not so good. I love to come up with new things and ways to do something better. As a general rule, I’m good at following through with my ideas, but sometimes I have a good idea that is discarded because I’m too busy or lazy to go through with making it happen.

J is for Jennifer
A little obvious, right? ‘J words’ are just so hard…

K is for Kesler
Another obvious one, I know, but this isn’t just my last name. It’s also the name I identify with most. A lot of my friends call me some variation of this name. Kesler. Kes. Kes-Kes. I like it. It’s unique. It’s who I am. 🙂

L is for Leader
I’ve always been a leader, taking charge of things for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was called bossy. I think that was just my inner leader trying to bust out. Throughout my life, I’ve held many leadership positions. Most recently, I moved into an administrative position at my school. While it isn’t always easy, I enjoy the challenges it brings.

M is for Memory-Keeper
Memories are important. They are the things that last. You can buy something, but it can be broken, lost, forgotten. Memories are there. Forever. I love to keep memories alive through my writer’s notebook, oral storytelling, blogging, and photography.

N is for Neon
Neon is so much fun! Fluorescent yellow, green, orange, and pink adorn my closet. Wearing a little (or a lot!) neon is my way to show the world that I’m bright, fun, and energetic!

O is for Organized
Organization makes me happy. Everything neatly in it’s place makes it easier to find things and it’s aesthetically pleasing. Give me some cutesy bins and organizational tools, and I’m one happy girl. 🙂

P is for Picky
I like things the way I like them. When I order something at a restaurant and it’s not exactly like I want it, I’ll make a request to change it. I have a special way I like things arranged in my bathroom. When ayi moves things, I move them back.

Q is for Quote Collector
My writer’s notebooks and Pinterest boards are filled with quotes- inspirational ones, funny ones, writerly ones, uplifting ones, sad ones. Words are luscious, and I simply have to write down quotes that move me.

R is for Reader
Reading has always been one of my biggest passions. Ever since I learned to read, I have collected books, carrying them with me always. Reading lets you into another world, taking you on an exciting ride. It teaches you something. It opens your eyes and gives you perspective. Reading makes me happy.

S is for Sweet Tea
A product of the South, sweet tea is my comfort drink. Bringing back memories of sitting on the front porch swing at Mamaw’s house and many (too many!) trips to Chick-fil-A. A good glass of sweet tea will cure anything that ails you!

T is for Traveler
Traveling is my life. If I’m not traveling, planning my next trip, or reflecting on a recent trip, I’m sad. I think I was born with a traveler’s spirit. I’ve never been content to just stay in the same place and do the same thing day after day. I get such a rush from encountering a new culture. The sights, smells, tastes, people, sounds, and experiences I encounter when traveling have made me a different person.

U is for Unique Glasses
I love glasses. No, like, really love them. I have over 15 pair of different glasses in all manner of colors and shapes. Glasses allow me to express who I am- a little bit nerdy, a little bit sexy. I also enjoy matching them to my outfits. Glasses markets make me smile, and I can’t ever leave without a few new pair.

V is for Vegetarian
I’ve been a vegetarian for 3 years now. I didn’t do it intentionally. It wasn’t for the animals (although it kind of is now). It wasn’t for health reasons. It was more of a dare that just stuck. At first it was hard, but now I can’t imagine going back to meat.

W is for Writer
Duh! Of course W is for writer. If you’ve made it this far, you know I like to write. Collecting words is one of my favorite things. I hope that my words impact others someday.
**W was really hard to choose. Tied for second place were witty and wig phobia. Seriously, wigs are scary!

X is for eXpensive tastes
Yeah, yeah, I know…I cheated, but with a letter like ‘X,’ I don’t have many options. I like fancy things. I like nice clothes, decadent food, traveling in style. I can’t help that these things are expensive!

Y is for Young
I’m young, relatively speaking. To the students at my school, I’m ancient, but as a 32 year old, I’m in my prime. I love living, and I love that my youth affords me loads of opportunities.

Z is for Zaijian
For those of you who don’t speak Mandarin, zaijian means goodbye. Now before you go getting all jealous that I can speak Mandarin, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I only really know conversational Mandarin, which is actually quite pathetic when you think about it. Having lived in Shanghai for nearly 4 years, I really should know more. I’ll work on that. 🙂


S-T-U-C-K- SOL #19

SOLS button 2013


I’m stuck. S-T-U-C-K. Stuck. I’ve been sitting here for over an hour trying to find inspiration for a slice of life. Just a little something that would spark an idea. What I ended up with was nothing. A blank slate. An empty mind.

I know we’ve all been there. That place commonly known as writer’s block. What I normally do when this happens is mine my writer’s notebook for ideas. I’ve done that. Trust me. I’ve looked back at my heart map, perused my neighborhood map, reread my lists, and tried to find inspiration in the quotes scribbled on the pages of my writer’s notebook. But writing a ‘slice of life’ is what’s tripping me up today. I want to find something in my notebook that reminds me of something that happened today. I want my slice to connect to today. The problem with that is that nothing out of the ordinary happened. Nothing happened that I could write a whole entire slice about.

Maybe I’m putting too mush pressure on myself to write this amazing slice. Yeah, that’s probably it. I tend to do that– put too much pressure on myself to get things just right. Writing is a process, right? And part of the process is not knowing exactly what to write. So today, I’m deciding to live in that moment of uncertainty. That imperfect moment. And today, that’s OK.

Today I… – SOL #10

SOLS button 2013

Two Writing Teachers‘ Throwback Thursday post linked to an older post about writer’s notebook strategies, and one of them was “Today I…”. Thought I’d give it a go.

Today I slept in later than I had intended.

Today I shared a pizza with a good friend.

Today I swapped book recommendations.

Today I got a manicure, and now purple and light blue adorn my nails.

Today I wrapped up in my winter coat again due to the 40 degree drop in temperature.

Today I read.

Today I did some work for school, but not much.

Today I caught up with two friends, frenzied conversations flitting across the table.

Today I blogged.

Today I read and commented on fellow slicers’ posts.

Today I went grocery shopping for lunches this week.

Today I wished for more time to devote to reading.

Today I sent a few emails.

Today I was semi-productive.

Today I was happy.