2015 Year-in-Review


If I had to sum up 2015 for me with one word, it would be freedom.

I made a lot of goals for 2015 at the beginning of the year. I wanted to:

  1. travel as much as possible
  2. illustrate a children’s book
  3. read more
  4. write songs
  5. do yoga every day
  6. have better posture
  7. successfully grow some mushrooms
  8. become a knitwear designer

I did three of those things. Almost did most of them.

My intentions for 2015 year were vague: be more compassionate and bring happiness into the world.

I’m pretty sure I was successful in doing those things.

Having quit my full-time job in December 2014, I had a lot of free time last year and I spent a lot of time reflecting on my goals and intentions. Definitely a ‘first-world-problem’, but quitting my job was also the shedding of an identity. I could no longer introduce myself as, “Mandy, a web designer.” I was free from a job title but this left me feeling that I needed to define myself.


How do I want to feel? (These came from reading The Desire Map)

I have no clue how many self-help books I read last year trying to find my new purpose but my favorites were:

  • The Renaissance Soul (basically how to split up your time between multiple hobbies/callings so you don’t have to drop everything to work towards one goal)
  • The Desire Map (figure out how you want to feel rather than what you want to do)
  • The Crossroads of Should and Must (for makers/creatives, how to stop following what you think you should do and do what calls you)

My walls are covered in goals and intentions to remind me of what I’m hoping to move towards. My time was so open and free, I wanted to make sure it counted and that I didn’t forget what I really wanted to accomplish and feel.


My main goal for the year was to travel and travel we did! We fell in love with Oregon and are making plans to move there in the next few years. We worked on a farm in West Virginia, visited my mom in Pittsburgh and took a road trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Right before John started school, we took a trip to Colorado to visit my sister and headed to Alaska from there. Here’s a smattering of photos from our trips last year but if you want to see and read more about them, head over to our blog, Off to Earth.

I thought working on the farm would dissuade me and my husband from this crazy dream I developed a couple of years ago to start my own alpaca farm. I thought it would be way too hard and I would be over it in a day or two. And it was really hard but I loved it. I wanted to stay forever, waking up with the sun, working in the fields and with the animals until I was so hungry I couldn’t stand it, eating lunch and working again until I was so tired I could fall asleep in my dinner.

I tried here and there to illustrate the children’s book John had written, but again, never got anywhere substantial. I don’t know why my heart isn’t in it.

Alpaca after a shave

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

I took an online course to learn how to write a song, but never got anywhere.

I read about 15 more books last year than I had in the previous year. Goal met!

I did yoga a lot, but definitely not every day. Sometimes not even weekly. I’m still working on it. This goal goes hand-in-hand with better posture.

The mushrooms are going to have to be a 2016 goal. We’ve got the log plugged with shiitakes, ready to go!

Become a Knitwear Designer

The last goal somehow managed to happen. I struggled with it all year, not sure where to start, not sure how to come up with ideas and then actually knit them. Winging it when it came to knitting just wasn’t happening in my brain.

Then I saw a call for submissions for a collection that Kate from A Playful Day was curating for Knit Now magazine. At first I thought there was no way I could ever get into a magazine — I hadn’t even written one pattern yet! And I’d probably have to knit faster than I am able to meet a deadline. But then I learned that a submission is only a sketch, a swatch, and some written ideas. I could do that. And there’s no way they’d pick me anyway, right?

I submitted an idea. And I was actually commissioned!

I knit my sample like a mad man and shipped it off to the UK. It should be published in April, but must be kept a secret until then! It’s a small step, but one that really helped to boost my confidence.


In between traveling, I started volunteering on a weekly basis at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey and volunteering irregularly at other places when the opportunity arose. It’s been a great way to meet like-minded people and generate compassion.

Photo taken on Monday of Owen, the barred owl

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

I also decided to stop eating meat unless I knew it was humanely raised or wild-caught. I started paying more for eggs from pasture-raised chickens instead of saving a few bucks on eggs from chickens kept in tiny cages. The switch to eating meat (usually fish) only once per week or less was not difficult, though I thought it would be.

What’s in store for 2016

My main goal for this year is to work on designing knitting patterns. I created a map for the first 6 months of 2016 and would like to create and self-publish 6 knitting patterns.

In the gaps, I’ll still be teaching at Valencia, doing a bit of freelance web design (still my most lucrative source of income), volunteering, and coming up with a plan for moving to Oregon, including purchasing land for a farm.

As far as intentions: compassion, compassion, compassion. More meditation, more yoga, more gardening, more reading, always creating.

Design challenge, day 29, travel to Kyoto for some tea


When I was little, my grandpa bought this movie from a discount bin called My Neighbor Totoro. If you haven’t seen it, the story starts with a family moving into a ‘new’ home. It’s old, rickety and to me, full of charm. I fell in love with the architecture, the shoji (those Japanese sliding doors covered in washi paper) and how they might make you feel like you were barely separated from what was outside.

My Neighbor Totoro led to my becoming a semi-otaku and an interest in some day visiting Japan.

On top of that, during my early twenties I became obsessed with tea so Japanese tea ceremonies are also on my list of things to experience.


Have tea in Kyoto

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/geraldford/3079701360/

Design challenge, day 24, Redwood National Forest


John and I have been thinking about traveling a lot lately. My bucket list is pretty much all travel-related. On our honeymoon, we’ll be visiting a few places in California, including the Redwood National Forest. My parents took me here when I was a wee babe and of course I don’t remember. It’s always been somewhere I’ve wanted to go.

I always love simple travel posters and graphics, so I thought I’d try my hand at one. I can only hope to get lighting this amazing when we’re out hiking in California.

Redwood National Forest, California

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whostolecookies/2782874131


Christmas Vacation


It’s really late for me to be posting about my Christmas vacation but I thought I’d do it any way. I haven’t been knitting as often as I’d like, nor drinking tea ceremoniously and I’ve had this yearning to just be able to read a little bit. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve had nothing much to blog about – so instead of trying to write something up, I’m just going to post a few photos from my vacation that I took up to Pennsylvania to visit my family.

My dad and step-mom live in Thorndale, PA; my sister & co. live in Bethesda, MA; and my mom lives in McKees Rocks, PA. (Yes, there was a lot of driving done during this trip.) During my visit, my dad and step-mom also took me to New York City for the first time in my life! Needless to say, I saw a lot of new places in the span of two weeks. I tried to take my camera everywhere I went but failed.


There were desserts.

Another stolen shot

Stolen photographs.

Christmas Gift

Gifts galore.

Statue at the Met

Museums full of beautiful art.

Giant Ornaments

Giant ornaments in the street.

Over Debbie's Shoulder

And there was waiting for taxis.

Strawberry Fields

Imagining in the park.

Dad in NYC


Beautiful Sky

There were beautiful skies.

Seat belt


Pittsburgh at Night


It snowed some more

A little snow.

Tea Time

Tea time.

My mom

And smiles.

I had so much fun with my whole family and the visit just made me miss everyone so much more. I’ll have to travel up there again soon! 🙂

Another week without updates, sorry!


I’m going to be visiting my sister in Chicago starting tonight! I’m really excited to see her, my niece and brother-in-law again! I’m not going to be bringing my laptop with me. I figure I’ll worry about it through the airport the whole time and I’m pretty sure I can go without it for four days. (Especially when all I do at work is stare at a computer screen. Why can’t I get enough of the glowing screen??) I will have my iPod for checking emails and comments.

If anyone has any suggestions for fun, cheap things to do while in Chicago or the surrounding area, comment on this post! I’ve never really thought about going to Chicago before so when I was asked what I wanted to do the whole time I was there, I had no clue what to say! Are there any good tea shops? Cute cafes? Extraordinary yarn shops? Awesome used book stores? Give me suggestions!

I can’t wait for the weather! It’s 79 degrees here while it’s raining. It’s been sweltering lately and the mosquitoes have been swarming around our apartment like I’ve never seen before! (I’m thinking the mosquitoes are a result of the recent tropical storm + rain, which equals way too much standing water.)

See you all in a week!

Late photography and a little update


Sandhill Crane

John and I went to Moss Park last weekend so that I could take a million pictures. The Sand Hill Cranes there seem to love little photo shoots.

The other update is that John and I are going to be in Beach Colony Key, FL for this week. I was going to write a post over the weekend warning everyone that we’d be here but we’re having too much fun for me to remember to do that. 🙂

If I have time, I thought it would be fun to write random posts about things that we’ve done here in the Keys. So, until then, have a good week!

Photography Friday: Castillo de San Marcos


Waiting for the Cannon

This was taken while everyone was waiting for the cannon-shooting reenactment.

I’d been to St. Augustine before when I was younger for school field trips but coming back on your own when you’re older and actually want to is much more fulfilling. John and I realized we had taken advantage of the school field trips to St. Augustine as a day away from school but had never truly appreciated the city for the beauty and history that it has. It’s filled with so much history and is the oldest city in America.

Road Trip!


John and I went on our second road trip together this past weekend. Traveling from Orlando, FL to Savannah, GA. Savannah to Myrtle Beach, SC. Myrtle Beach to Kill Devil Hills, NC. Kill Devil Hills to Asheville, NC and from Asheville back home.

Savannah was gorgeous. We stayed in Savannah Bed and Breakfast Inn with a comfortable bed, quiet courtyard and delicious breakfast. Neither of us had ever stayed in a Bed and Breakfast. We were weary of not having privacy and having to make small talk with everyone staying at the inn. Not so! We were left alone when we wanted to be and helped tremendously when we needed to be helped. Everyone was so friendly, I didn’t mind talking to people. (And I am not a people-person.)

We walked around all night looking for somewhere to eat dinner once we checked into the Inn. I’d read a short review of a place called Jazz’d while searching for a B&B to stay in, so we decided to try it out. Loud music, live singer/piano player and lots of food. They served tapas, which neither of us had tried before. $55, Tapas for Two! We each had our choice of a soup or salad, we shared four tapas and we both we served our choice of dessert. Great food, great service, great price. I would recommend it to anyone (as long as you could handle the noise)!

We continued walking down River Street, bought some chocolate, took some pictures.

The next morning, we walked around like tourists, taking pictures of every monument, building, house and street we came to. 🙂 It was so much fun! Of course, this was after the incredibly relaxing, quiet morning we’d had out in the courtyard of the Inn. I wish I lived there!

We ate lunch at a little cafe, then we were on our way to Myrtle Beach!

I can’t say that I was too fond of Myrtle Beach.  I must be really old for 21, but it was just too bright and too crazy. It actually reminded me of a large-scale Waterford Town Center–too many teenagers and way too many things packed into one area.

We stayed at Compass Cove. It was really busy. There were a lot of children running around in wet bathing suits, shoving their way onto the elevators before anyone could even get out. The beaches were nice though and we got some really nice pictures of the sunrise on John’s camera.

After Myrtle Beach, we drove off to Outer Banks, North Carolina. Our hotel was in Kill Devil Hills–a nice little Days Inn.  The whole area was beautiful. The beaches, the houses, the sand dunes everywhere.

It was quiet and slow-paced, just the way I like it. (Am I boring or what?) We ate at Miller’s Waterfront in Nags Head. AMAZING. John had fried crab cakes, I had a sampling of broiled seafood. The crab cakes were the best part, 100% crab, no fillers. So far from the Red Lobster seafood I always have. I think I dream of crab cakes at night now.

The next morning we had our continental breakfast, went out to watch the sunrise (though we were a bit late), then set out to see the lighthouses. We drove all the way down to Hatteras and back up again. I had never seen a lighthouse before, so they were pretty amazing to me. Got some great pictures.

After the lighthouses, on the way out of Outer Banks, we went souvenir hunting. 🙂 I wish I had bought more for myself!

Our next drive brought us to Asheville, North Carolina. The drive there was pretty long, a nice 7.5 hours. We crossed through so many tiny towns that were sprawled out over so many miles. I don’t know how people live so far away from the nearest grocery store. I’d go nuts!

I loved Asheville! The mountains were beautiful and the people were friendly. I wish that we had had a little more time. By the time we got there, it was around 10pm, so we decided to just order some pizza and go to bed. I really wish we had gone to look for something that might have been open. I’m sure we wouldn’t have found much, considering it was also a Sunday.

The next morning, we just walked around downtown Asheville. Got some coffee. Checked out a bunch of shops. (I got the best coasters! “Mommy loves you, but if you leave a ring on my table, I’ll kick your ass.”) Ran out of money for parking, so we had to find somewhere else to go. We ended up eating at a sushi/hibachi restaurant. It was good but nothing out of the ordinary as far as Japanese restaurants go.

Then we left for home. 9+ hours of driving. It was tiring.

So, about 2,000 miles and 30-something hours of driving and we got to see some of the east coast. I loved the places we went, I almost feel homesick for them! I should probably get out of Orlando as soon as I can.