Ever put off a project or idea because, “I could never do that”? Maybe you thought you didn’t have the talent to accomplish that dream, or there weren’t resources at your disposal to execute your vision exactly how you would like. Maybe it’s just not the “right” time. When you maintain this fixed mindset, you limit your potential for the progress and growth that comes from learning as you go.

It’s crucial to think of life in terms of what you will learn from an experience rather than how you will perform while executing a task- particularly for the first time. If your project turns out different than you imagined, it is not evidence of failure, but a reflection of progress.

Don’t put off doing something because you don’t have the resources you need to do it or don’t know exactly how to do it. If you want to get into photography but can’t afford a high tech camera, start with your phone while you save up to buy one. Although it might not have the fancy features more advanced equipment can offer, it will teach you how to be resourceful, play with lighting and focus to create interesting shots. This might even lead to you becoming a better photographer once you get your hands on a camera since you will have had to learn how to take advantage of your space and environment to get those jaw dropping shots.

Similarly if you want to become an artist but don’t know how, or don’t have the means to obtain premium art supplies, start with any pencil you have around your house and draw on any piece of paper you can find. Use a pen and your grocery receipt, just keep working and trying and practicing your skills. Sculpt out of empty containers and candle wax. Then once you save for the supplies you need you’ll have the skills and ideas prepared to execute a vision that’s been mulling to perfection.

Maybe you just want to get out more, but don’t know where to go. Start by going for walks at the park closest to your house. Check out the fliers they have pinned on board, see if anything interests you. Look around while you’re there and see what you can see. Do you see any buildings? Any other trails or parks? any people? What are they doing? Just by gong somewhere, anywhere, it can lead to to your next step, even when your not sure where you want that next step to be.

More importantly, start talking to other people about what you want to do. You never know people’s stories, just like they don’t know all of yours, and they might also be interested in your passions, or have a friend of a friend who is and can help you. They might know a lot about grant writing, or showcase events, or where to get cheap courses in a particular subject. Or they might just be a place to come to for support. Talking to people is probably the scariest piece of advice from this article, but always remember that when you are doing your best to build the life you want, if someone has a problem with that it is a reflection on them and not you. Connecting with your community will open so many opportunities that you didn’t know existed. They may start small, but the more time and love that grows from you persistence, the more you will see your relationships, and dreams expand to places you didn’t dare dream possible.

If you start doing what you want with what you have, you will begin to develop the skills to become a master at your craft when you get to where you want to be faster. You are also training your brain to act resourcefully and always stay on alert for opportunities that are around you. As you immerse yourself in the world you want your life to become you’ll find a new perspective on what it is you wanted to do that will help you to evolve. The key is beginning. No apologizing for not being prepared, no procrastinating because you are not ready, no waiting because maybe there is something you might want more later. Begin today. With exactly what you have. Right where you are at.

You never know what can grow from those first steps

There seems to be a rift in the rhetoric surrounding the impact consumer choices have when it comes to helping the environment. Last month’s enormous demonstration of students (and other activists) demanding systemic change from political leaders in a world wide movement was largely inspired by the work of activist Greta Thunberg. It brought enormous attention to a wide range of industries and powerhouses impacting global climate change. Many argue corporate power houses need stricter regulations, and that nonrenewable energy needs to be immediately banned for any measurable change to take place. Many critics of small scale changes claim metal straws, package-free shampoos, and meat free life styles just aren’t enough to save the planet. Why bother with small changes like that?

Ignoring the power of small changes is the result of small thinking. These people think they are doing a service by pointing out the deep rooted societal issues that prevent immediately impactful change, but they ignore the critical benefits small efforts towards sustainable living offers. The mindset developed from making small changes keeps the concept of environmentally conscious practices in the forefront of people’s minds. It can start with switching to reusable bags when grocery shopping, and then move into reusable cups, then bringing silverware for lunch to work, and then choosing to purchase from companies who put effort into sustainable practices. The growing movement of people concerned about the environment compared to even just a few years ago shows evidence that knowledge and small changes to instill a sense of personal accountability do matter. The more we learn to then come together then in mass, the more we have the ability to send a powerful message to the powerful how we want the larger contributors to climate change to be handled.

Since small changes are so important here is a short, and by no means complete list of ideas as to how you can make sustainable and impactful choices everyday:

  1. Reusable Bags: basic, essential, and impactful. Many grocery stores sell canvas bags to pack with products, and there are insulated ones to keep frozen foods cold the entire trip home. These bags often hold more food- so less trips when unloading later. You can even find bags with fun designs that are personal to you. My favorite to take is my Spider-Man grocery bag that has tons of room to fill up. Keep a few in the car so you don’t forget them for any spontaneous trips. Here are some for as cheap as 54 cents.
  2. Take your lunch to work/school: preparing your own food will save you money, but many frozen meals or fast food places produce a lot of waste. The packaging and products are harsh on the environment. Packing your lunch in reusable containers, bringing reusable silverware, and cups/bottles for your drinks will cut an enormous amount of waste.
  3. Get crafty: re-purpose old materials to make something new instead of buying brand new from the store. My dad and I built the headboard for my bed from pallets that were going to be thrown out at a warehouse. Not only was this saving waste, it saved a ton of money, only costing a few dollars for a can of stain, and a day of our time to piece it together. Check out resources like Pintrest, YouTube, and HGTV’s website to find tutorials on how to transform old materials into something entirely new.
  4. Thrifting: Thrifting doesn’t just have to be for clothes- although I have found many of my favorite pieces second hand. I have an enormous desk that was only 10 dollars (chair included) I got when a local hotel redesigned their rooms and sold off all their furniture. Check yard sales, the oldie but goodie thrift shops, and also locally owned specialty thrift stores. These shops tend to select pieces that are more unique and stylish than a generic second hand shop.
  5. Shop Small: speaking of locally owned, shopping from small businesses and from businesses local to your area is a great way to connect with your community and to help the local economic environment. Your dollars go even further as demonstrated in study published on score.org, small businesses tend to pay it forward with 75% donating an average of around 6% of their profits to charities each year.
  6. Insulate your house: Make sure your home has proper insulation to prevent heat and cold from escaping during the particularly hot and cold months. Also make sure to keep up with windows and doors to ensure they are properly sealed. This will save energy and money on your bills.
  7. Stay informed: The more we learn about climate change, they more we know how to prepare and the steps we can take to help. This doesn’t mean you need to read piles of scientific journal articles or dry publications (although if that floats your boat, go right ahead). There are many sources to get information and stay up to date about what’s going on. Many Youtube channels offer sustainable solutions and ideas for limiting waste. Here is a link to one of my favorite channels offering a ton of sustainable content, run by Madeleine Olivia, who also has a book about sustainable living tips launching in January of 2020. Other fun ways to find information are websites set up by people you find interesting that are creating change. Rapper Lil Dickey released a song called “Earth” last April, and with it launched a website dedicated to providing information on climate change, with a plan of action as to how experts say we can battle the issue at hand.
  8. Speak up: If you see people littering, disrespecting the planet, or denying scientifically backed facts, stand up for the Earth. We may not be able to live completely waste free lives at every moment of everyday, but we can do our best and encourage others to do their best as well. Greta Thunberg started out as one activist who inspired millions to take to the streets. Kindly, respectfully, and courageously speak up when you see gross circumstances of denial and mistreatment of the planet.

This list is no where near complete, but offers a brief look into how no matter where you are at, you make choices everyday that will impact the world around you. Mass and systemic change will be necessary, but the shift in mindset of the general public is also a crucial component to overcoming the climate crisis. When we start thinking about putting the needs of the Earth before our immediate convenience, it begins to change a self-centered mindset to a more caring one. You don’t need to change every aspect of your life all at once, and be able to fit your waste for a year in a mason jar to make progress. Every choice, everyday is a step in the right direction. Even if it just means skipping on the meat twice a week and bringing your own silverware to lunch at the office everyday, every choice counts. You count. Your ideas and decisions matter, big or small , at the corporate level, on a personal level, in your home, on the street, you change the world from where ever you are at.

Saturday September 21, 2019 marked the 3rd annual “NEPA Veg Fest.” The festival was held at the Dunmore Community center, and featured vegan friendly vendors from across the state of PA. There was produce, baked goods, t-shirts, sustainability information, soaps, jewelry, and of course lots of delicious food. The indoor/outdoor setup allowed for visitors to enjoy the nice day, but also get out of the sun when they needed to. The event also hosted several speakers that covered a range of topics.

Something that holds a lot of people back from trying out plant based foods or switching to a more planted based life style is a perceived lack of access to meat and dairy alternatives in places that aren’t extremely urban. This collection of vendors proved to me several key points regarding accessibility to living a life you want to live. This doesn’t just have to apply to plant based foods either- but we’ll get into that in a moment.

The festival only started 3 years ago, and this was the first I had heard of it. That means that it’s reach and audience is growing. The more people who campaign for change and the getting the things they want to see in their communities, the more activities and events surrounding those interests there will be. This can be for vegan menu options, art festivals, musical acts, museums, anything that piques your interest you can bring to your area if you advocate and collaborate with others around you.

I watch a lot of vegan YouTubers and YouTube in general, and I see them going to fun events and festivals all the time. I wished that I could do something like that, or that someone around here would host something similar. Turns out there was. I just needed to look for it.

Sometimes people get so stuck up in the idea that “their town has nothing to do,” or “they don’t have access to that stuff,” because of where they live. While it might not be as easy to find, and it might not be on as large of a scale as a major city, smaller communities have a lot to offer. And if what you want to do isn’t already happening, talk to a few people and find out how to make it happen. Instead of sitting by and passively contributing to the narrative that small towns have nothing to offer- change the story. Create something worth spending time at. Get out and see what other people are doing to. You might be surprised that your neighbors are as ready to make a change as your are, it just takes some momentum to get started. And remember you can do whatever you want want, wherever you at- you might just need some extra creativity.

Chocolate cookie dough cake from Vegan Treats that was as amazing as it looks

Your world is tiny, but it’s detailed and it’s beautiful and it’s you. There are somewhere around 7 billion people living on this planet and yet you will probably never see most of them. You’ll never hear their voices, or see their faces, or know their stories, and they won’t know yours. An article published by Forbes explains, that the average person can create meaningful relationships with around 150-250 people at a time. This is known as “Dunbar’s Number,” which addresses the limits of the mind’s ability to retain information about other people and incorporate them into our own tiny worlds.

This notion at first seemed disappointing, and creates a sense of serious FOMO for all the people you might never meet who could really change your life for the better. Looking deeper, I find this concept beautiful, in that it allows us to build our own worlds and create more detailed relationships with the people around us. Quality friends over quantity. The natural world reflects this with tiny creatures creating their own little spaces within a vast ecosystem.

These baby slugs and millipedes have created a world of their own on a tree stump in the forest. Their whole life is on or near this stump of tree that once was so much more, and now the stump, and the slugs, and the mushrooms, and me all coexist in one moment. Then I left their tiny world, and went back to my own.

That’s the strange and wonderful part about being the center of your own universe. You have the power to determine where you build it, who is allowed in an out, and how you want to impact those 150 people Dunbar says you’re going to change. Some spiders build their webs between the bark of a dark tree, others in between a flower and it’s leaves. Some people spend more time going through the grass like this caterpillar. It doesn’t matter where or how or why you build your world the way that you do. All that matters is that you fill it with people who bring you joy, pass by the ones who cut you down, and are conscious that you might one of those 150 people leaving a mark on someone else.

Even if you are the smallest, palest, loneliest flower among a field of big orange blossoms, you matter. Your world is important, and it is vital to the the larger ecosystem around you. At the end of the day our worlds might be small, but the chaos and magic you create while wrapped up in the bubble of your inner circle can make a difference that stretches across oceans and back again. What you are doing is important, where ever you are at.

This year from July 26th- 28th Readington, NJ held their annual Festival of Ballooning at the Solberg Airport. This field at a town in New Jersey transformed into a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. Vendors from internationally recognized brands handed out samples and sold new products in between classic fair style rides. The festival also featured performances from groups such as The Band Perry and The Beach Boys.

The main event, of course, is watching 100 hot air balloons float across the sky, and for half an hour thousands have a reason to keep their heads held high. They stop thinking about the problems at home, the pain on the ground, all the reasons they stare at the sidewalk. Right now they can look all the way up.

I often wish I could fly away from everything on my mind. I feel like if I could climb into a hot air balloon and float off into the sun, I wouldn’t have to ever look back. But that’s not how hot air balloons work. They go up above the crowd of hate and negativity, dropping the weight of sand bags that keep them tied to the ground. Then they just float for a while. They get to rise and see things from a new perspective. Eventually, they must come back to the ground. When they do, they can touch down knowing how to get a little closer to the sun.

Standing in the crowd I heard at least 5 different languages, saw people of all ages around me dancing, laughing, and taking pictures. We were all so different, still on the ground, and yet so lifted during the experience. Taking the time to stop and drop the weights of whatever is weighing you down for even a few moments can be so freeing. Instead of running away from your problems, float above them for a little while. Then come back down with a clear mind, and a warmer heart. You will rise above whatever is hurting you, and you can float towards to sun, where ever you’re at.

A few weeks ago, I came across a concept that was put in a different context, but the way it was phrased resonated with me. I knew I needed to share it. It was a screen shot of a Tumblr post I saw on Pinterest, and the essence of the piece was this: Stop saying, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” Instead, change your view point to something like “the things you are doing now matter.” This type of language is equally, if not more important and validating. Please remember that.

Don’t get me wrong, having the courage to pursue your dreams, to live your passions is beautiful. I do believe that we can reach the stars with hard work, determination, and love. It’s also important to set goals and look to the future. The problem lies in only setting goals, only looking to the future, only working for tomorrow.

Sometimes, we need to take a step back and validate the work we are doing at the moment. The things you are doing right now matter.

We live in a time of final products. We consume a constant stream of media, from all different outlets. We idolize finished products, and we never see the work that went into creating those ads, stars, songs, films, photos, books. We never see that all successes began with a seed of an idea, and likely took months to years of labor to bloom.

We don’t realize that the things we do everyday are what matter. Your smile at the stranger in the grocery store. Going the extra mile at the job you might resent. Writing one page of a book a day. Completing one piece of art for a portfolio a week. Cleaning off the table after putting it off for a month. Doing what you can, when you can. The things you are doing now matter.

Living with this mind set, alleviates some of the pressure to eventually reach some most likely unattainable standard set in your mind. The small steps you take each day are what will get you to a place you want to be anyway. Recognizing your own power and importance allows you to act with intent and love. To make choices that will actually help you feel good about yourself. To keep yourself healthy. To keep yourself sane.

We are always growing. From the time we enter this beautiful world, we grow. We will continue to change and develop until we leave this world, and when we do, what will have mattered most is how we felt and made others felt while we were here. Our actions everyday make a difference. The way you drive- aggressively or compassionately, the way you talk- kindly or spitefully, the way you worked- honestly or hastily; these are what change the world. If you put your mind to it, you really can do anything. But always remember, that every moment of your life matters. That doing your best even when you feel you can do better is still something to be proud of. You don’t always have to be working to some greater purpose. You change the world. Exactly as you are. Exactly where you are at.

Clarks Summit serves as the central hub for the Abingtons in North Eastern Pennsylvania, and each year for the last 15, the Abington Business and Professional Association has presented a stunning display of ice sculptures for a weekend in February. The Clarks Summit Festival of Ice attracts residents from across the region who fill State Street to get a glimpse at the icy art. They can see how the pieces are sculpted and warm up in any of the several small business that open their doors with special merchandise, and have activities that correspond with the festival’s selected theme.

Many came out in full costume- braving the frigid temperatures to participate in the fun of the Star Wars inspired festivities. All the attention brings a spotlight to the local shops who join in on the fun.

I always make an effort to get out to the festival at least one day of the weekend. It’s one of my favorite parts of living in Clarks Summit. In all honesty, I would much rather live in a city. Somewhere always busy, always working, always creating, always moving. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. To find the places, the creativity, the inspiration, right where I was. The ice festival is exactly the type of event that lures people to want to live in more urban areas. No cover charge, just find a parking spot- if you can- and explore what the hard working minds the area created. But it’s not set in a side street of Brooklyn, NY, or in Adams Morgan in D.C. It’s right here, for me. It’s so worth while that it gets me, someone who hates winter in the depths of my core, to bundle up and walk the main street of my town to look at frozen ice every year. It’s exactly what I’m looking for from a community.

Watching a live carving, snagging a selfie with Chewie, and warming up talking to local shop owners, brings me a feeling of pride to live in my town every year. We have so many unique places here, that if you didn’t need to go to a hospital, you theoretically could live your entire life with out leaving the Abingtons. Grocery stores, both local and chains, tatoo parlors, clothing stores, art studios, diners, coffee shops, cooking lessons, salons, candy stores, and so much more. All squeezed on State Street in Clarks Summit.

Traveling is a beautiful and important experience. Sometimes for sanity’s sake it’s best to pack up your Millennium Falcon and go explore a new planet. You don’t always need to go to a galaxy far far away to experience something you’ve been craving though. Sometimes you just need to look around at the beautiful minds, the hard work, the creativity, the passion already around you. Sometimes you are meant to be exactly where you’re at.

Monuments around the country memorialize the creators of the past, and inspire those who pave the path to the future. The United States boasts beautiful architecture across the country as reminders of the possibilities of hard work, determination, and courage. The major monuments that first come to mind are massive tributes like The Statue of Liberty, The Washington Monument, or Mount Rushmore. The nation is scattered with smaller and equally as important pieces throughout the countrysides. This week, Stephanie Juarez takes us to her hometown in Grant County, Washington. Her written details and pictures bring life to the uniqueness and beauty of her home.

Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies also known as The Wild Horses Monument is a sculpture of 15 life-size steel horses. Located in Grant County, Washington. It was a sight that mesmerized me every time my family would drive by it. I’ve only been there a couple times but now that I’m older I can really appreciate not only the view, but the craftsmanship and the hard work that went into each horse. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend a visit to the monument. Getting to the sculpture is a steep but short hike that you will not regret. My only advice would be to stay low to the ground. I would even suggest crawling. The trail has many lose rocks and if you think it’s bad going up the hill, coming back down will take extra precaution. Watch your step! Be mindful of the little ones if you choose to take them up with you. It’s quite the view from the top but you’ll find yourself wondering why they feel so comfortable getting TOO CLOSE to the edge! Whoever you chose to take with you, it’s a breathtaking experience.” – Stephanie Juarez.

Photo by Stephanie Juarez

Beautiful art, breathtaking views, and lifelong memories are all around us. Take the time to visit your local landmarks. Breathe in the air of your surroundings. Check out the trails, and shops, and plaques, and sculptures you pass on your commute everyday but never stopped to look at. The diversity of this country’s landscape is incredible. The entire world is full of wonders I’m sure I can’t even imagine. It would be impossible to see them all, but the best place to start is by learning to take in the beauty of exactly where you’re at. Wherever that may be, there is magic around you- of that, I am certain.

Photo by Stephanie Juarez

Special thank you to Stephanie Juarez for sending me this piece! If you want to see your hometown featured head over to our contact page and send us the details. We would love to read your story!

When I talk to people in my area about career goals, the first response I always get is, “There’s nothing here, get out as soon as you can”. Living in a small town- especially one outside of a declining city like Scranton can feel uninspiring and limiting. The opportunities in a small town are not as vast as those available to the urban communities. Even further than career opportunities, finding things to fill free time seems impossible too. We’ve all seen the meme floating around “You know you’ve grown up in a small town when Friday nights meant driving around the same streets for hours.” It’s true. While I firmly believe smaller areas offer unique benefits that cannot be matched in the city, big dreams die fast in small towns. Below I’ve compiled a very short list of the many tools you can use to begin turning your dreams into reality exactly where you are at.

Education is power, and no one can ever take away the knowledge you have gathered. The first step to growing your future and working on seriously pursuing your passions is to learn as much as you can about the field you want to enter. Even if you cannot afford advanced education, there are so many resources you can utilize for free or at a low cost. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. https://www.coursera.org/ This website offers a variety of courses in anything you can imagine, from business to photography, government to nutrition, astrophysics to foreign language. Some of the courses have a fee, but many are free and they are all taught by university professors. They also offer certifications, which are great resume builders. I took a free marketing course on here a few years ago after my dad told me about the site and had a wonderful experience. It can be a great tool to learn about finance if you want to start a business. It can also allow you to test the waters in a topic if you were thinking about going to school for a specific degree, and wanted to get a feel for what it might be like to study that area.
  2. https://www.khanacademy.org/ Khan Academy is a wonderful tool for students and also another resource to learn about an area that you want to grow your knowledge in. Their resources are free of charge, simple to understand, and engaging. While geared towards younger students, they have entrepreneurship classes, mindset growth classes, and personal finance as well. They also offer a variety of courses in computer skills that would be extremely helpful if you were looking to grow an online presence, or do some creative computer work- a field in high demand that you can find work for anywhere.
  3. https://publicdomainreview.org/ Another great resource for learning on a budget or with limited access to resources! This site monitors when resources, literature, and art become part of the public domain (aka the copy rights expire and it becomes free!). It’s a cool tool to find both work and leisure materials for free.

Beyond learning about achieving your aspirations, you also need tools to put your plans into action. Here are some fun sources that might come in handy for anyone who has an interest in starting a business, building a brand, and growing your passions into a career.

  1. https://buffer.com/ This site allows members to manage all social media accounts from one central platform. You can review traffic stats to your pages, and even schedule the sight to post your content at prime times for you if you won’t be available to do it yourself. You can begin with 3 social accounts for free or upgrade to 8 for 15 dollars a month. It’s a great tool to help out businesses get organized and analyze social media to maximize their potential with an online presence.
  2. Fhttps://fontstruct.com/ Font Struct is a free site where you can create custom fonts to spice up your business’ website, your business cards, or create a signature style of writing to help you with the branding process.
  3. https://99designs.com/ Essentially, if you need a logo designed for your business, self brand, etc., 99 Designs is a life saver for the artistically limited. You submit a request describing what you have in mind for your logo, book cover, site header, whatever you need, and artists will fill the order and compete for your business. You look at the designs and only pay for the one you pick to use.
  4. https://wordpress.com/ If you want to start a blog or build a website but are unsure how, I would highly recommend beginning your journey with wordpress. I am far from tech savvy, far far far from tech savvy. My mom had to connect my laptop to my wireless printer because I could not figure out how to set it up, and was on the verge of tears in frustration. WordPress is so user friendly that even I am able to manage a blog. It also has a massive community of users which connects you to limitless resources when building your site, and comes with the assurance of reliability.

I also found a few sites to help you focus and work on productivity. Simplifying your life and getting organized can clear away room in your mind to begin working on more important, bigger goals.

  1. https://ifttt.com/ IFTTT stands for “if this then that.” The site allows you to link your technologies and apps together to keep you organized and up to date on anything that interests you. It’s a cool and free way to connect your apps to work together and eliminate some of the extra steps from your day.
  2. https://www.any.do/ Any.do is the ultimate calendar app. You can create a to do list in a central space so nothing gets forgotten. You can also link other apps like email to immediately add meetings or requests directly to your list so you won’t forget to go back later, or have to leave the screen you’re currently on to grow your list. Anything from planning your day to groceries, Any.do is a perfect way to start getting organized with out paying 35 dollars for a fancy planner you’ll probably lose next week anyway.

Finally, I found some great resources for when your environment isn’t providing the inspiration you need to keep creating and working towards your goals.

  1. https://www.pinterest.com/ Pinterest is old news, but I utilize it everyday as a source of inspiration. It’s a personalized experience to the max, full of incredible ideas for personal and professional growth.
  2. http://www.languageisavirus.com/index.php#.XD4itlxKjIU Language is a Virus is a unique tool I recently found to inspire and motivate writers. Whether you enjoy writing for personal expression, or want to pursue the craft as a profession, or need help with ideas for an essay in school, this site is full of prompts and resources to light your creative spark into a full flame.
  3. https://wepresent.wetransfer.com/ We Present is a site that provides back stories to works of art, music, writing, etc. They tell how some of the most incredible creations on this world came to exist. Reading about the creative process of others might help you build or refine your own.
  4. https://www.artistsnetwork.com/ Artists’ Network is a site that posts inspiration, articles covering all things art, and posts dates for art competitions. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to get creatively inspired, grow their artistic abilities, and learn about the art community.

The physical opportunities available to you might be limited due to your location, finances, or situation. The internet has a variety of useful tools that you can take advantage of for free or at an extremely low cost to start taking over the world, even if you live in NoWhereVille right now. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Reach out to people in your community who have found success, and learn from them. Reach out online to the people you admire and learn from them. The internet has opened an unlimited resource of knowledge and connection for people to be whatever they want to be. You might not be able to move to LA and become the next Food Network Star, but you can amass a huge following on YouTube with your own online cooking show, that might even bring in more viewers than the T.V. chefs. You can create an album and release it on Sound Cloud. You can open an e-commerce store if you can’t afford to rent out a building, or don’t live in an area where you would get enough traffic to sustain a brick and mortar store. You can do anything you want, right where you’re at.

If you have any favorite online resources for personal, creative, or career growth, leave them in the comments! We would love to see what else is out there to explore!

This past weekend I took the 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Scranton to the town of Bethlehem, PA- a perfectly named place to find some Holiday Cheer. They say there’s no place like New York at Christmas, and while I will admittedly also be traveling there this upcoming weekend, this PA market will be a life long memory. Celebrating 26 years, the Christkindlmarkt features over 150 vendors. After paying an entrance fee of 10 dollars, you enter lavishly decorated tents, all exploding with the scent of cinnamon and butter. 

The tents are packed with a wide range of businesses selling everything from alpaca wool socks, to local art, to gourmet peanut butters, and so much more. The fascinating parts of markets like these, is their ability to create personal connections with unique products that can’t be found in one place anywhere else. Even large corporations get in on the fun like Crayola, who had a creativity booth set up, perfect for young kids to design their own Christmas dreams. 

My favorite tent was the German company Kathe Wohlfahrt display. I had taken German for 6 years through school and have always wished to travel there and experience a real German Christmas market. I never knew I could get so close to the real thing without a passport. My former teachers would tell stories about the traditions of the German people, and their incredible artistry that is unmatched at Christmas. Detailed cuckoo clocks, nut cracker men, and wooden displays, all hand carved and painted lined a maze through the tent. 

I took home a stunning handmade ornament of a glittering green snail- my favorite animal, made in Germany. Never would I have dreamed of combining two of my favorite and seemingly random interests into one, but unique markets like these allow for those exciting connections to be made. 

We also found a stand specializing in creating family trees. The company would take the names of each member you wanted to include, and write the meaning of their name a next to a pressed flower. My dad has spent hours and hours and hours researching his family history, and piecing together the people of his past. We even took a trip to Canada a few summers ago to find the places where his family was buried and lived. I have a slight obsession with flowers and this small stand was an interesting way for us to connect with each other. 

On our way out, we got stuck in a crowd which turned out to be a line for a Danish desert called Stroopies. We decided their aroma was too enticing and since we were apparently in line anyway, to give some a try. The young woman in front of us gasped with excitement as she realized what she was inline for. My dad asked her if they were good then, and she went on to tell us about her recent trip to Copenhagen where she first encountered the cookie. It’s essentially two thin waffles with caramel sandwiched in between. When you’re ready to eat, you heat up a cup of coffee or tea and sit the pastry on top of the mug, letting the steam soften the caramel. To see a stranger have a beautiful moment of bliss as she found a connection to her life she never dreamed of finding in “nowhere Pennsylvania” was incredible. The Stroopie Co., are a Lancaster, PA based Sweet Shoppe that runs their business by employing refugees resettling in the area. This small business is taking their talents and creating good through extending opportunities to those in need while bringing immeasurable joy to customers. 

The market beamed with beautiful decorations, live ice sculpture carvings, and more elaborate booths than we could visit in one afternoon. Going into the market I had planned to write about the interesting finds and activities that can be found in my own backyard, but I didn’t realize how personal the experience was going to be. I challenge you to look at what’s close to your home. Who is making a difference near you? What opportunities can you find? What magic can you create?