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Giving Thanks to Presence


Hours after the chaos that is my family’s Thanksgiving celebration in my tiny hometown, I crawl into my childhood bed accompanied by my feline friend Max. With a deep breath I take a second to reflect on this day of gratitude. There are various reasons to bask a little longer in the light that is my favorite American holiday, free of religious affiliation or political agenda, to simply celebrate all the beauty accumulated over the last year.

Any aspiring writer or visual artist today knows that social media plays a key role in marketing your talent platform, adding relevant stories and post every day to keep your audience engaged. Liking, commenting, and sharing certain hashtags to keep your own photos trending and build that follower number. This takes as much effort as a part-time job and in turn takes away from your life in the here and now. Social media and electronics have become a normal part of our culture, not just in the visual arts world, which leaves a lack of presence emitting through people of all career paths and age groups. Moving across the world for 9 months to New Zealand was eye-opening in the aspect of presence. Often cell phone service was nonexistent and Wi-Fi, forget about it, especially when you’re living out of a 1997 Honda CRV. Soon, you realize this one moment is mostly likely the last you’ll ever have with most of the fascinating people you encounter; that this glance is going to be the last one on that mountain or waterfall or valley, this holds true to almost every aspect of your travel. When looking back the only regret is wishing you would have taken it in for just one more second. Complained a little less about the rain and loved the feeling of cool drops on your finger tips a little more.

365 days ago I was drinking tea on the front porch of a ranch upon 10,000 acres of mountain space in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand. While overlooking the mountains and surrounded by new friends I felt at peace for the first time in my adult life. That peace has carried over, maybe not every second of every day but for at least one moment I feel it within me. I’ve developed a strength and a confidence that was lacking and will carry on to push me constantly out of my comfort zone, opening my mind, asking questions and speaking truths.

As of late photos from my time in New Zealand have been resurfacing, flashing back to long days of serving at Montieth’s followed by long nights of fun with friends from all over the globe, each there for their own specific reason. Countless interactions move themselves out of my mental filing system and have me lingering for one more laugh, one more smile, one more drink, and one more hug. What I will never regret is taking the time to document these moments, not only in a visual image or blog post but in my memory as they were, as they’ll always be. Because when all is said and done memories are what fuel our state of emotion, memories can help bring us up and into a present place.

This Thanksgiving I am not riding horses through the Sacred Valley of Peru, diving the colorful corals of the Great Barrier Reef, or strolling through a Tuscan vineyard at sunset, but I am on an adventure of another kind. I am on a path to presence, to appreciating the here and now, even if that means my childhood bed. The time I’ve spent with my family these past few months has been irreplaceable to any flight I could have taken.

This Thanksgiving I give gratitude to presence, to love, and to light. I set my intention for the next blessed year to be one of presence in every human moment.

xx Nicole Sheree

Vegan Cheesy Potato & Roasted Vegetable Soup


I’ve been back home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the last couple of months and feel so blessed to have full range of a REAL kitchen. Experimenting with plant based recipes is one of my favorite hobbies, here is one of my favorite plant based soup recipes nearly perfected and perfect for Fall! Enjoy xx

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


  • 6 qt pot with lid (5.7 L)
  • Sautee pan
  • Immersion blender or food processor
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Wooden spoon


  • 6 medium potatoes, washed and peeled
  • 1 whole garlic clove, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Fresh parsley to taste
  • Coconut Cream
  • Vegetable Stock to taste and desired thickness
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Olive Oil
  • Veggies of choice (I used carrot and celery for this batch)


In 6 QT pot, fill half way with water then cut the potatoes into one inch cubes and boil until soft. While the potatoes are boiling peel and slice the onion, chop the mushrooms and garlic then caramelize them in a pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Set caramelized mixture aside.

Once potatoes are soft drain all but one fourth of the potato water from the pot. Add in caramelized mixture along with chopped parsley and half a can of coconut cream (do not wash the sauté pan yet). Use an immersion blender (or food processor) to whip mixture into a creamy texture, then start adding vegetable stock to desired thickness. Once desired thickness is reached add in your 1 cup of nutritional yeast and more salt, pepper, and paprika to taste (extreme cheese lovers can add in more nutritional yeast for an extra cheesy taste). Put mixture back on stovetop to simmer, stirring occasionally.

While mixture is simmering cut your choice of vegetables and add them to the seasoned pan with olive oil, adding more spices to taste. Roast on medium heat for the first 5 minutes then crank up to high until you see outer edges of veggies start to blacken, stirring to prevent burning.

Mix the roasted veggies into your creamy potato base and let simmer for 5 more minutes then voilà! Enjoy.

*note this soup is perfect for leftovers!

Fall in Schoolcraft County of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Fall in Michigan's Schoolcraft County

Fall on the waters of the Northern Midwest is a magical time of year. A time of transformation from lush, green, warmth to  crisp, colorful foliage. A constant sweet scent of earthy, decaying leaves encircles the air on a constant level; the most beautiful form of death making way for new life after a long winters nap. With over 200 inland lakes, a plethora of hiking trails, protected national forest, and Lake Michigan shoreline my homeland of Schoolcraft County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula offers a more unique Autumn experience than your typical tourist destination. Life slows down just a little once the Summer tourist go home and the leaves start to fall, but Mother Nature is just getting started.

Click through my photo journal below to experience the essence of Fall in Michigan’s underrated Schoolcraft County.

*For more information on travel in Schoolcraft County visit discovermanistique.com.

Fall in Michigan's Schoolcraft County

Experience the Magic of New Zealand’s Kiakoura Coast


From sunrise to sunset New Zealand’s Kiakoura coast is nothing short of spectacular. Kiakoura was named by the native Maori for it’s plentiful crayfish population and is known for having a vibrant ocean life. Nestled between the rugged Kiakoura Range and the Pacific Ocean you’ll find a vibrant mix of modern Kiwi and native Maori culture making Kiakoura a must see on your New Zealand travels list. 


Crisp, cold water envelopes the wet suit hugging my body as I submerge myself in the depths of Kiakoura’s South Bay. Within minutes of plunging to the ocean floor a magenta starfish grabs my attention followed by a gang of rock lobster around the next corner, and soon I’m swallowed by a school of friendly fishies!

The local dive shop makes free diving easy – you can rent all your gear for a total of NZD$50 (USD$34.84) for 24 hours. A full wet suit is recommended for braving the cold water with average temperature at about 16 degree Celsius (60 degree Fahrenheit ). For those with their open water dive certifications you can also book guided tours at the same place, or obtain your cert. Keep your eye out for playful seals and sting rays!

Tip: Kiakoura’s South Bay boast’s one of the best East Coast sunsets on the South Island.

Guided Ocean Swims

For those not experienced with diving one can also book a dolphin or seal swim in the animals natural environment, none of the animals are captive making for sustainable tourism. A major part of New Zealand culture is the importance placed on environmental preservation by the locals.


The beaches of Kiakoura are known around New Zealand for the zealous waves and surf culture. Hapuku beach about 15 minutes North of the city center is recommended.

Tip: for an unforgettable sunrise make your way to the campsite on Hapuku Kiwa Road and don’t forget to set your alarm.

Land Dwellers

If getting in the water seems a bit too brisk there are plenty of activities on dry land, or by boat!

Kiakoura Peninsula Walk to seal colony goes from town center to Point Keen and close by are the rock platforms fur seals have made their home, among a plethora of other walking trails in the area. You can also access the seal colony from South Bay’s board walk.

*Please be respectful to all wild life you encounter along the way. This is their home and we are just guests.

The lavender farm is highly rated, but make sure to go early summer or late fall to catch it in full bloom!

For a fesh view on Kiakoura ocean life you can also book a boat or helicopter tour for whale watching.

Recommended Eateries

Cooper’s Catch is a well known, hole-in-the-wall must. Not only is their seafood fresh daily but they’ll also clean and cook your days catch for a small fee.

Kiakoura Bakery which has carnivorous, vegetarian and vegan pies among all the sweet treats one can imagine!

Bean Me Up Coffee Cart for New Zealand’s cheapest coffee accompanied by a scone.


13 Simple Ways to Conserve Water Today


Sipping my morning long black I flip through BBC to catch up on some world news for the first time in months, when a certain article catches my eye – “Cape Town Water Crisis, My Wife Doesn’t Shower Anymore”. Intriguing, alluring, hell I’ll see what this is all about.

By the end, I was shocked.

“A severe drought has forced the city’s municipality to limit water consumption to 50 litres per person per day in an effort to delay what has become known as Day Zero, which has been set for 12 April, when the water supply will be shut.

It isn’t easy to reduce to just 50 litres a day per person: South Africa’s WaterWise notes a typical shower uses 15 litres per minute, while a standard toilet consumes 15 litres per flush.”

Read Full Article Here

Since this article has been published Cape Town’s residents have been making every effort possible to conserve and save their beloved water source. Guess what? It’s working, Day Zero has since been pushed back to July 9th, according to New York Times.

As our population rises clean, safe water sources become more scarce. When is the best time to start thinking about water conservation? The simple answer is when water is in abundance for all living beings. Unfortunately, that is not the case in most Westernized areas around the world. Seen directly in the water crisis in Cape Town, South Africa where this Summer all private homes could have their water taps turned off due to severe draught and lack of sufficient water supply.

Conserving water isn’t just good for the environment, it’s also good for your pocket book. Below you’ll find 13 simple ways you can start conserving water around your home TODAY!

 Turn off the Taps

While brushing your teeth and washing your hands turn off the tap until you need to rinse. If you hand wash dishes fill the sink instead of leaving the water running.

Skip a shower

It’s actually good for your body to use your natural oils. Skip a shower every other day, and if you must shower every day cut them short.

Collect rainwater – install a rain barrel

Use of a rain barrel will change your life and your water bill. Rain water can be used for things like guilt free of watering plants, washing the dog, cleaning your car, and washing windows.

Extra tip – You can also reuse water for cooking pasta to water your plants once it’s cooled.

Choose efficient fixtures

Shower head, toilet, faucets, dishwasher, washing machine. Efficient appliances can cost a bit more up front but will save you in the future, add value to your home and save the environment.

Only run appliances when full

Steer away from running your dishwasher or washing machine unless you have a full load. Also, try air drying your clothes when possible to on save energy.

Fix your leaks

Check your water bill monthly to see how much water you’re loosing through pesky leaks. It could be anything from your faucets to the garden hose. Getting into this practice isn’t only good for water conservation but will save you money!

Use a watering can to water the garden

Loads of water is wasted through using a  garden hose to water the garden. Also try watering in early morning and late afternoon to minimize evaporation.

Extra tip – mulching your garden will help hold in moisture, reducing evaporation and the frequency of watering.

Keep a jug of tap water in fridge

By keeping a cold jug of water in the fridge you not only save from running the tap every time you need a cold glass, but you’ll always have access to cold water! In addition, instead of buying plastic water bottles stock up on reusable ones you can fill and have on hand.

Shrink your yard

By installing path stones, a fire pit, or a patio you not only add value and landscape to your home but you reduce the amount of yard you have to water and keep up. If that’s not a win win I don’t know what is!

Go to the car wash

If you’re out of your rain water supply instead of using the hose to wash your car look into your local car washes to find which ones recycle their water and are energy efficient.

Only boil what you need

Most of us learned in grade school that when we boil water, it evaporates. By measuring the exact amount of water you’ll need for each cup of pasta, rice, or tea you’ll minimize your water waste.

Eat less meat

70% of fresh water used is used in production of the food we eat. 2,400 gallons of water goes into the production of one pound of beef compared to just 25 gallons used to produce 1 pound of wheat. That doesn’t even count the deforestation to house the livestock and crops planted to feed them. Can’t imagine giving up your burgers? Try to eat only naturally hunted, from local small farms or consider trying a Flexitarian diet.

In a Flexitarian diet one cuts out meet or animal products just a few days a week. Trying having a meatless Monday once a week!

Reduce Food Waste

In the United States alone we waste 40% of all food we eat every year, in return wasting 25% of all fresh water consumed annually. Save your leftovers at home, order less/smaller portions at restaurants, look into composting, or start a small garden! You can also reduce your water waste by 36% by switching to a more plant based diet.

By being more conscious about our individual impact on the world around us we can make a severe difference, be mindful and appreciate all the Earth has provided to make it a better place for generations to come.

Canterbury’s Hidden Gem – Lake Tennyson


Ahhh New Zealand, in all it’s natural splendor. Mountains and lakes and unbelievable scenery at every turn are what make this gorgeous country such a destination on everyone’s bucket list, but being on everyone’s bucket list comes with a price. Finding secluded areas is becoming far and few, especially in the busy summer months from December to February.

I present to you Canterbury’s hidden gem – Lake Tennyson. Keep reading below for directions, where to hike and what to bring!


How to get there:

Lake Tennyson is located in the Northern most part of Canterbury in the St. James Range near the boarder of Malbourough and Canterbury/ Canterbury and Tasman. From Hanmer Springs take Jacks Pass Road to Clarence Valley Road up the mountain until you hit a fork. From there you’ll see a sign directing you to turn to the left and drive 40 Km, past Molesworth Station, the St. James Cycle Trail and through 4 gates. Pay attention to the signs.

Where to camp:

If you’re looking for a quick and easy over night stay there is a free camping spot right where you pull in next to the lake shore, equip with toilets. In this camping area you generally won’t be alone, but if you’re up for a little hike and are looking to have the entire North end of the lake to yourself throw your tent on your back and walk a little further. Roughly 40 minutes to be exact. You’ll get a bit wet but it’s definitely worth the trek. To get to this secluded paradise just walk the lake shore to the right (the Eastern side). There will be a few spots with trails jutting into the woods to keep you out of the deep water.

The second secluded area is on the Western side of the lake. If you have a four wheel drive vehicle and the gates are open you can drive to this area, but the road is not for low riding vehicles and be warned that the gate is closed in very wet months. In that case you can also trek there, but you’ll need to cross a small river.

Where to hike:

My favorite part about Lake Tennyson is that there are so many opions on places to hike. Around the lake, up a variety of mountains, the choice is yours. If you walk across the river to the left and along the Western side of the lake you’ll find a trail leading through a fairytale forest and up the mountians. Be aware a lot of the trail has grown over, so you’ll need to use a bit of detective work. The entire lake can be hiked and takes about 2.5 hours depending on how many stops you take. None of the mountains in the area have direct trails to the summit, but most are easy to free climb and relatively safe.

What to bring:

If you want to stay at the normal campsite a camper van or tent will do with the normal supplies for living out of your vehicle (gas burner, food, camping chairs, sleeping bag, etc.). If you’re looking to trek to the more remote spots then you’ll want:

  • light weight tent
  • sleeping bag
  • food and water
  • waterproof boots and extra socks
  • rain jacket, basically all weather gear
  • your camera
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray

*Keep in mind, South Island temperatures can drastically change day to day. Make sure you have both warm and cold gear.

24 Rustic Retreats in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula


What do you know about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?

Commonly referred to as the “UP”, did you know that in 16,377 square miles (42,610 sq km) there is only 312,000 people? That’s just 16 people per square mile (7 per sq km)! The population to landmass ratio is so small that there’s but one area code for the whole UP, 906.

Of course where population squanders wilderness blossoms. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula holds 1,700 miles (2,700 km) of continuous shoreline nestled between three of the Great Lakes. As an added bonus there are around 4,300 inland lakes, Lake Gogebic being the largest, and 12,000 miles (19,000 km) of streams!

The most prominent perk is that about one third of the peninsula is government-owned recreational forest land, including the Ottawa National Forest and Hiawatha National Forest. This leaves space for a tranquil, untouched retreat.

My favorite informational tidbit is that the Upper Peninsula is connected to the better known half of Michigan’s lower peninsula by just one 5 mile (8 km) long bridge, The Mackinac Bridge.

Click and scroll through the gallery below for more information and a taste of 24 of my favorite rustic retreats in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Check out the links below to help plan your next trip!

Plan your trip with the links below. Questions? Contact me here!

Mackinac Bridge

Discover Manistique

Michigan DNR

Grand Marais 

Travel Marquette

Keweenaw Heritage Site 

Backpacking the Porkies

Copper Harbor

*** Always remember, it is a privilege to play outside. Please pick up after yourself and take all trash with you.

A “Half American” Thanksgiving


It’s December; holiday celebration back in the United States of America has come into full swing. Red and green mixed with twinkling lights mask all avenues of major cities, shopping centers, and suburban homes. Figures representing Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, among other holiday traditions, are spread across the nation. Yet I am in New Zealand, still wrapping my head around the first Thanksgiving to give me a true comprehension of its significance.


What a strange experience. The first time you celebrate a tradition that’s truly “American” outside of the United States. Invited by two American guys, residents of New Zealand for the past 30 years, who’ve started their own Thanksgiving celebration just three years ago.

My boyfriend met James while working on a building project in Hanmer Springs.


James originated from San Francisco travelling the world a few times over; a culinary genius speaking several languages. Now in his late 60’s he’s left much of his consciousness back in the 70’s, an old, wise soul leading a mostly nomadic existence, living only on absolute necessity.


Burt is a friend of James’. Initially from Duluth Minnesota; Midwest country boy who fell in love with a kiwi girl, transplanted into the mountains of New Zealand thus setting roots. His three children consider themselves half kiwi and half American. Joining us is the youngest Isaac and his wife Robyn. We’re welcomed into their home with a captivating presence of genuine kindness.

Wait. Half American? What a strange concept for my ears.


It was of great appreciation that we attend this year’s Thanksgiving. As the smell of fresh basted Turkey danced through the air Burt explained how his older two children have spent many vacations travelling around the United States, his daughter even living there on exchange. As years went by and family ties started to dwindle less time was spent in the red, white, and blue bringing about the start of the family’s own Kiwi Thanksgiving.


“I want Isaac to know his heritage as an American,” Burt explained. “Tell him about the traditions back home, how it began. What you learn in school. You know, I haven’t had a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving in over 30 years!”


“His American heritage”.

Words my conscious mind continues to dwindle on. After explaining the pilgrim’s first harvest with the Native Americans. After explaining my own family traditions. After answering a series of questions about American heritage, and how delicious pumpkin pie is I realized, I’ve never truly stopped to recognize this heritage as my own.


Anyone born and raised in the United States knows how we view our heritage: half this, a quarter that from a great-great grandmother you’ve never met. When is it time we stop this initial thought process? In the grand scheme, unless you’re one hundred percent Native American, we are all immigrants. Is it time we all start looking at ourselves as one nation instead of a whole of individual parts? I’m not insinuating to cease celebrating our ancestry, because that is indeed the beauty of American tradition, but when can we look at ourselves as a people? As just Americans, whose country was founded on the belief that your current circumstance does not determine your future outcome?

Continuing to dwindle on the past will consequentially cause us to make the same mistakes.

Racism, skepticism, sexism, fraud, and corruption.

Money and power over humanity and social justice.

Wasn’t America founded for the people, by the people?


This Thanksgiving got me thinking, when did we lose righteousness? There is no question that in our current state we are no longer the greatest country in the world. The question is when did we fall from grace? How long before Trump? Before Clinton and Monica? Before Bush and the War on Terror? Hell maybe even before Watergate? Everyone will give you a different answer but my point is, let’s learn from the past but not let it encompass us. Without the past there is no future. In contrast instead of focusing on the wrongful doings why not focus on how to apply new models to our future.


To truly understand America, one cannot rely on one outlet, one person, or one general consensus. We are a plethora of colors, languages, beliefs and traditions. We are a multitude, a melting pot and that my friends is something to be damn proud of.


We are not perfect, but with a prolonged path to follow we are all in this together. In the end we are Americans and that is something to be thankful for.

Backpacking Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains


Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the only US location rated in Lonely Planet’s 2017 Best Value Destinations. Known for its sea of tree’s, rustic atmosphere and small town charm, enticing tourists to come back year after year. One of my favorite areas is the Porcupine Mountains, known as the “Porkies” to locals, located in both Ontonagon and Gogebic counties.

*** TIP: Take advantage of the backcountry cabins option. They fill up quickly so make sure to book well in advance, read more information below!

The Porcupine Mountains State Park is the largest state park in Michigan, encompassing 60,000 acres of mountains. Tree tops, water falls, hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, swimming, wildlife and more; there’s a laundry list of outdoor activities to explore including a very prominent part of the famous North Country Trail; the entirety of the trail is shown in the image below.

Aside from the numerous backcountry campsites available within the park you also have the glorious option of renting two, four, or eight person back country cabins or yurts. No running water or electricity, but a dry bunk away from the unpredictable weather we experience in Northern Michigan.

The rustic cabins and yurts come standard with a woodstove, bunk beds, table, chairs, outhouse, cookware and tableware, an ax and saw. Cabins on lakes or ponds include a canoe or boat as well as life jackets and oars. Below I have marked the path I took and cabins I stayed in on this excursion as well as highlighted key items to carry with you when planning a long weekend in the porkies.

**remember everything that is carried in with you must be carried out. Please help preserve our wildlife and don’t leave your trash.

More Information and Reservations

Now grab your pack! The mountains are calling.

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