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Because it’s Wednesday + if you’re like me you need some pictures of pretty places to help you get through the mid-week slump. And this is one of the prettiest places I know.

My family has been going to Elk Mountain Ranch for years (and if you want to see some embarrassing photos of my unfortunate awkward-teen-stage, just go back far enough in their photo albums – everyone totally has an unfortunate awkward-teen-stage, right?). We debate about this every time we’re back there: has it been 4 visits, or 5? Maybe more? But essentially, this little ranch near Buena Vista was my home-away-from-home in Colorado long before Colorado was my for-real-I-live-here-pinch-me home.

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I think everyone should have a secret place they can escape to, where the cell reception is spotty + the internet is too. Bonus points if you can get there in less than a three hour drive. Reception has actually improved there over the years but I almost wish it wouldn’t. As a person who is professionally shackled to the internet (although I’m not complaining), those kinds of retreats beyond the reach of the world wide web are increasingly rare.

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There is nothing like the wind through the aspens + no other sound to be heard for miles. Or a completely dark night after the generator is turned off when you can see stars and stars and stars and stars. Or homemade Oreo ice cream – because how could this be one of my favorite places on earth without Oreo ice cream?

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It’s funny how as you grow up, the things you cherish about a place grow up too. After my first visit, it was the food, the awesome staff, the super friendly horses, boundless activities + Oreo ice cream that endeared Elk Mountain Ranch to my heart. All those things are still true. But these 14(ish) years later, what I hold on to is the quiet, the choice to do nothing, the way time passes slowly, the sitting + talking.

And of course, always + forever, the homemade Oreo ice cream. Because I guess there are some places in the world where I’m still a kid.

Side note: I’ve migrated everything over from annabellemintz.com to annabelleneedles.com – if you subscribe by email or through WordPress, everything should have switched automatically. If you follow via Bloglovin, I’m working with them to get everything switched over so that should update automatically as well. If you just have a bookmark in your browser, first of all, I’m flattered; + second of all, you might want to update it. And if you spot any bugs, let me know so I can squish them. Thank you guys so much for following along with me! So much love.

gift guide 2014

{ 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 } * affiliate links

This whole scenario is atypical for me, being that it’s Christmas Eve eve + I’m still finishing up my Christmas shopping. Buying gifts for my loved ones is arguably one of my favorite pastimes, and as a result, I’m usually the girl who’s got everything checked off on Cyber Monday. But this year, a move + living out of a suitcase for a month have put me in this unusual position of heading out to fight the crowds two days before Christmas to finish up that one. last. gift.

If you’re like me, and some of the people on your list might be getting New Year’s gifts instead, here are some ideas for you. I’m always looking for new pretties to hang on my wall, and am a total sucker for anything that reminds me of my travels. So if you have a fellow traveler still hanging out on your “to buy for” list – consider something for their home base that will continue to inspire adventure all year long.

I love love these art prints and maps from Minted (they have gold foil now! fancy!!) – and if I could cover my wall entirely with Chicago-themed things, I probably would. What can I say, I am certainly not lacking in hometown pride. Every globetrotter likes to be reminded of their home, even if they’re now a transplant in another awesome city somewhere.

And nothing says “Happy New Year” like a 2015 calendar (especially the kind that’s pretty enough to be repurposed as framed art once it’s 2016) – I love this vintage-inspired travel calendar or perhaps this one for your foodie-traveler friend. Side note – can you BELIEVE it’s almost 2015?!

Wishing you my beautiful friends a most happy holiday season + I’ll be back after the New Year!

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I know, I know. It’s December. But, the weather has been toying with my heart lately + I can’t help it. We’ve had the most lovely sun-drenched days (it’s almost 60 today!), yet I can hardly enjoy it because while my heart is wandering back to sunshine + summertime, my ever-logical mind is reminding me that snowy times are headed our way.

But today, I’m going to let my heart win for a while, at least for as long as these daydreams of picking blueberries with my cousins in Michigan will let me. Doesn’t get much fresher than eating – er, I mean picking – blueberries right off the bush. Summer at its finest.

MI Blueberries 2014_Mintz-collage3 MI Blueberries 2014_Mintz-resize2 MI Blueberries 2014_Mintz-collageEvery year about this time, I start lamenting how expensive berries are at the store and how sad all the tomatoes look. It’s wintertime + one can only eat so much kale (I know some would argue this; however, I stand by it). Then, I remember that I have a bag of these blue beauties in my freezer just waiting to be made into a pie + everything is better again. I’m easily pleased, especially when there’s pie involved.

Do you associate tastes or foods with certain memories?

When I was a little girl, we would drive up to my grandparents’ house in the summertime, and after throwing ourselves into the lake + digging for clams with our toes in the sand, or trying to out-jump each other on the trampoline, my cousins + I would run back up to the house + there would be pie. Blueberry pie, because it was Michigan, after all. And we would get bowls of ice cream and ladle that sticky sweet blueberry sauce from the filling of the pie right on top.

That’s what summers in Michigan taste like.

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The rain followed me everywhere in Europe it seems, from Munich to Paris + now to Bordeaux. So I spent most of my days here huddled under an umbrella staring at the cobblestone streets + listening to the rain fall in our hotel courtyard while I caught up on some work. After leaving Bordeaux, I’ll admit I felt a twinge of regret that my visit was so low key (I didn’t see any major sights or do any of the day trips I was hoping to). But Travel Annabelle typically has much more grace with herself than Home Annabelle.

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Do you notice that certain parts of yourself show themselves more while you’re traveling? I like my travel self. I kind of wish I could be my travel self every day. Travel Annabelle is much more spontaneous + open to trying new things.

Sure, I’ll add Bordeaux to my itinerary at the last minute (admittedly, my hand was kind of forced here but I didn’t complain about it). Sure, I’ll try that scallop risotto with truffled lobster sauce even though Home Annabelle would have skipped it. Sure, getting lost for the afternoon + just wandering seems like a perfectly legitimate use of my time. I won’t even get mad about it. Because I’m in Bordeaux!

Travel Annabelle gets butterflies in her stomach over that stuff. And they’re the good kind of butterflies.

My travel self is much more present + observant of her environment. She makes time for museums + parks + that pastry shop on the corner. She people watches + reads books + finds inspiration in the tiniest of things around her. She appreciates simplicity, like a good glass of wine + some crusty bread. While I sometimes bring Travel Annabelle home with me for a while, she never stays long enough.

But I keep hoping that someday, she’ll stay for good.

  • RochelleNovember 7, 2014 - 11:44 am

    Brilliantly said!!! I love how much more I see and notice the world around me when I travel. And how much more willing I am to get lost and wander.ReplyCancel

    • Annabelle MintzNovember 12, 2014 - 9:15 pm

      Thanks Rochelle! Glad you can relate. Sometimes it’s nice to remind yourself that you don’t have to go through every day on your default settings :)ReplyCancel