A Tail of Three Kittens: Live Photo Collection (Video)

Since last August, I’ve been sharing countless stories and pictures from our adventures with our three kittens who live in our backyard. And pictures give a great view of the lives of our cats, but with Apple’s Live Photo feature, I had the idea to take such a perspective to an additional level.

I’ve compiled a video using the live versions of some of my favorite photos, put it to some pleasing music, and uploaded it to 12 and Beyond’s YouTube Channel for you to view.

Click on the image to watch:

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In Tune: The Les Misérables Collection

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Les Misérables has held a tremendous presence in my life over the past several months, and the experience was incredible. As a member of the pit orchestra for my school’s production of Les Miserables, we held our finale performance this past weekend.

One of the things I loved most about the pit was being able to play and listen to every song in the soundtrack (all 2 1/2 hours of it), an advantage you usually don’t get in the cast. Within the music, there were plenty of defining moments (usually in the main melodies) where I found so much confidence and triumph, and would get very expressive and joyous in my playing. That feeling was amazing.

And even then, I could really appreciate playing the smaller melodies that serve as the backbone of the play, especially with the accompanying vocals (which were phenomenal). The soundtrack as a whole is wonderful.

So, I’ve chosen a few of my favorite songs from the play, all for various reasons. Here they are:

Continue reading “In Tune: The Les Misérables Collection”

Finding Inspiration

landscape tree water nature wilderness mountain meadow lake mountain range pond reflection autumn park blue reservoir body of water sunny mountains alps loch atmospheric phenomenon mountainous landformsLast April, after purchasing my new laptop, my mom, who is a writer, and I purchased the app Scrivener. It’s truly worked wonders in allowing for her to prepare a manuscript.

I, however, haven’t gotten as much use as I have wanted to, and that’s due to one factor: I’m waiting for inspiration.

Inspiration happens all the time, especially for me. Every day, for example, I’m inspired by the writing pieces I read. They might lead me to write a new book review, or simply provide a new Word of the Day. Each month, when I write a special edition, new ideas come to mind as far as what beyond my education I can explore. Our backyard kittens, for example, inspired not only a new series, but inspired us to care about and interact with an animal species in ways we could never have hoped to before.

Perhaps one of my greatest sources of inspiration was my Cross Country trip this past June. It was a life-changing experience, and I really got to observe the beauty of our country and the culture, nature, and landmarks within. It inspired a whole slew of posts thereafter, but also inspired me to gain a new perspective on the way I thought of our country, which I wrote about in this special edition.

As you can see, inspiration occurs to me every day. But for something as large as a novel, it has to be just the right idea. Once you find the right base for a story, that’s where all the smaller ideas can come into play. I’ve jotted down several smaller ideas, but none have come across as just the right one. And I’m okay with that.

Last Spring, I wrote about how I would strive to begin a novel over the next year. I’m still waiting for the right time, but that time will come soon enough. And I’ll keep you updated when it does. For now, I still have so many little inspirations to build off of, those that fuel my favorite content on 12 and Beyond.

I have yet so much content to release, and I look forward to continuing to share my story.  The next two months will be very exciting, as I have multiple special posts (especially in April) and a video planned that I can’t wait to release.

Finding inspiration isn’t easy or hard- it comes across in the smallest (or largest) of ways, and you never know when the right idea will hit you. I’m still waiting. 🤓👏



A Tail of Three Kittens Winter Update

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Our kittens, miraculously, are surviving the cold. Each day, they continue to venture out into the snow-flooded landscape that is our backyard, and return countless times throughout the day for a meal. It’s hard to believe how much food our kittens eat. Mac and Callie have evidently thinned, but still look healthy (and just as cute) overall. Goldie even returns at night on occasion.

See, when the last edition was published, our kittens had only had to accommodate to a few inches- not a few feet, like we experienced at one point, where our kittens were absent for several days until the snow lessened. As of now, it looks like they’ll stand to live another year, and just might bring another litter of kittens for us to enjoy.

This post will be different that those previous- instead of providing journal entries in chronological order, I’ve put together a photo gallery, and each photo contains a caption. For the near future, I’m going to be continuing seasonal updates (the next one releases in April), though I have a special video post planned for late February / early March. All of this is subject to change. But for now, of course, please enjoy.

Click on the photos above to zoom in and read more of the description.

Thanks so much for reading! Stay tuned for the next edition, as we approach Mac’s first birthday, and share our latest adventures as our kittens adapt to Spring.


12 and Beyond in 2017 | A Year in Review

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So much happened in 2017, between our country, our culture, and our community. And despite the countless strifes we faced together throughout the year, we must also acknowledge what made the year great, and ring in 2018 with a face of optimism.

There are countless news outlets that have covered their stances on 2017 as a whole, but today, I want to focus on 2017 at a much smaller level, and acknowledge my own blog. There’s a lot that changed (for better or for worse) in regards to 12 and Beyond, so for now, let’s reflect on some of my favorite highlights.

Continue reading “12 and Beyond in 2017 | A Year in Review”

What the Holidays Mean to Me

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If I had to think of one word that encompasses the holiday season, it’d be family. And I’m sure that so many others share that same view- and perhaps that’s for a reason.

For me, the Holiday Season is made so magical simply because of the little joys that come along with it.

And I’m not just talking about Christmas morning. While coming downstairs on Christmas morning, taking in the elaborate array of presents my mom had set out for us, and unwrapping our presents together as a family is arguably one of the most special feelings of the holidays, there’s so much more to be found, if only you look for it.

I’m very corny when it comes to things like this- I get excited for the little traditions, even for things that would bore most people (especially those my age) out of their minds. That might mean spending hours on end wrapping presents for my sisters, or spending time looking around Crate and Barrel, picking out ornaments, stockings, and other elements to our celebration.

This Christmas, I’m not asking (nor have I ever) for the latest xBox, PlayStation, or whatever Nintendo console is all the rage today (is it the Switch that’s incredibly popular right now?). I’m asking instead for a very nice desk light, boxes of clothes from Abercrombie that still carry the scent of their Fierce colognes, among other, more sentimental gifts. And with that comes a greater appreciation for the holidays- you feel the desire to put more effort into the gifts and thoughts for others, as well as appreciate the effort that others put in for you.

Especially as you grow older, and grow out of the “Santa” stage, your whole perspective changes. Instead of being weighed down by my childhood beliefs being utterly contradicted, I found myself taking on new traditions. I’m in charge of moving our elves at night. I’m in on Santa’s gifts far in advance, and help my Mom with shopping and wrapping, which is so awesome, because my youngest sister is at her prime time when it comes to this. She continues to be filled with the childhood joy that comes from this time of year, and unlike I thought years ago, that feeling never really goes away. When I’m an adult and have kids, I’m sure I’ll be carrying the same passion along with me.

For now, there’s still so much joy to be found in the Holidays, between partaking in the annual Christmas cookie decorating, decorating the tree, waking up to snow covering the trees, stuffing stockings on Christmas Eve, and watching my sisters shriek with joy on Christmas morning.

Having been in this new position for a few years now, there’s so much to love about it. I still feel the same joy that would greet me Christmas morning for years, just in different ways. That, to me, is what makes the holidays so magnificent.

For the holidays, I want you to pass on this joy to others- to your siblings, your sons and daughters, to a random stranger on the street. Be optimistic about the future to come- the life we live now is so extraordinarily wonderful.

And so, I want to thank all of those who have visited 12 and Beyond as I matured over the past year. The passion for writing you have evoked out of me is something I’m so grateful for. I wish everyone the greatest of holidays!

Gabe ☃️

A Tail of Three Kittens | Part 4

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Welcome to the 2017 A Tail of Three Kittens 2017 Finale!

I’ve had a phenomenal time sharing photos and stories of our three kittens- and that’s not ending anytime soon. However, starting in January, A Tail of Three Kittens will be transitioning to a seasonal series. I’ll use today to catch us up to the present, but in reality, if I keep pushing out posts every month, the content will kind of become monotone (that’s why you won’t see many entries today that happened recently).

But for those cute, never-seen moments that we just happen to catch, they’ll be compiled into a seasonal post. It’ll consist of photo galleries and brief summaries of our time with our kittens. Here’s how the tentative new season will go:

  • Late January: Winter Update
  • Late April: Spring Update
  • Late August: Summer Update
  • Late November: Fall Update

But… I say tentative for a reason. It’s safe to assume that nothing dramatic will occur between now and the Winter Update (unless our kittens decide to leave us). With the Spring update though… it’s possible that either a) we no longer have kittens or b) our kittens are presently having more kittens.

The latter would mean even more episodes during the year. After the August edition, you’ll see monthly posts for the remainder of 2018. The first? The end. We’ll hope for the best, and see where the future takes us. For now, though, let’s start where I left you last.

Continue reading “A Tail of Three Kittens | Part 4”

Cross Country Travel Tips

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Good morning!

Back in July, I promised one more special post about my Cross Country Trip from June, but never got to releasing it. While on the trip, I began brainstorming ideas for this post (in fact, my grandfather suggested the idea for it) and have kept them in a note screen on my phone- until now.

These are genuine tips based upon my experience, and I tried to add some personal touches into a few ideas as well. Here’s my list:

  1. Take pictures- but only so many. I’m so glad to have the photo galleries from my Cross Country trip to reflect upon, but once you’ve taken say, a few dozen or so pictures of the Grand Canyon, put your camera away and physically take in the view. Anyone can view an image, but you’ll want to remember what it actually was like to be there. Savor the views- the sounds, the feel of the air…
    November Featured Photo
    November’s Featured Photo: Flying above the clouds over Lake Michigan during June’s Cross Country trip.
  2. Get the window seat. You won’t regret it. This trip involved me taking my first plane ride since I was 3- and I have a severe fear of heights. But when on the plane, it all went away- I felt safe (in fact, I pictured the plane as just a really, really big car) and was so glad to have the window seat. Between the views of the clouds, the horizon, and the Earth below, the plane made for some of the best views of the trip.
  3. Bring headphones. I find that if I have my headphones in, listening to music, I could zone out for hours on the train just taking in the scenery around us.
  4. At the same time, be alert, too- you never know when you’ll miss something extraordinary, like wild cows roaming along the train tracks.
  5. Talk to people- just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you can just be antisocial. Put work or school behind you. If you’re traveling with someone, talk with them. Traveling can be a great bonding experience- and you’ll be able to share these memories for years to come, like me with my grandfather.
  6. Write things down as soon as you think of them. Keep a journal- this will help you treasure exactly what each memorable moment – like looking down into the Grand Canyon for the first time – felt like.
  7. Talk about it at home- share the best stories of your trip with those back at home. They’ll (probably) want to hear about it, and you might just inspire them to go out and explore the world too.

And most importantly:

  • Take a moment to step back and admire the beauty of nature. You’ll gain such an appreciation for the world around us- the Grand Canyon moved me to tears.
  • Go back. Don’t go somewhere just to say you went there- create for yourself that yearning to return and discover more.

And lastly…

  • When traveling coach overnight on a train, bring a pillow. We learned the hard way on that one. 😅

Thanks so much for reading!


Want more stories and photos from this trip? Visit the Traveling Beyond category for many more galleries and highlights from June and future travels to come.

A Tail of Three Kittens Part 3

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Welcome to the continuation of 12 and Beyond’s original series, A Tail of Three Kittens. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to read the first two parts of A Tail of Three kittens. Click here to do so: Part 2 | Part 1

Like last time, this post will be set up in a journal format that goes day by day full of plenty of new photos and stories. Let’s begin on the night where I left you last…

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It was around 9:00 at night, and my mom and sister had just returned from dance practice. As they were pulling into our driveway, the car’s headlights illuminated our shed- and what do they see? Not a kitten, for sure, but a skunk and a humungous raccoon chowing down on the food we had left out for the kittens. (Pictures 3 & 4) When I came out, I saw them first. But little did I know, right behind me, sitting on the sidewalk, was baby Mac! Supposedly, while my mom was watching the raccoon, Mac started walking across the yard and eventually passed right by the car. She called out, “Mac!”, and he stopped. And he just sat there, watching her. As we’d come to learn, he’s so laid back and is so comfortable around humans. He didn’t run like we’d experienced with Callie- after a few minutes, he slowly walked back into the bushes. The girls had seen their kittens- this was my reassurance that my kitten was okay too.

Continue reading “A Tail of Three Kittens Part 3”

A Sense of Autumn

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Autumn is finally here- and I couldn’t be more excited. Summer is always so much fun- but eventually, the heat gets old and I am ready to just settle in for the colder months and absorb everything Autumn has to offer us. As I was thinking, I began to think of ways Autumn impacts all five of our core senses. That gave me an idea for October’s Featured Photo post, especially as I am now in a Yankee-Candle phase, and have picked up a few fall candles myself.

Sight: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think Autumn? Fall foliage. The leaves changing color, and lazily falling down to the ground. Seeing empty tree

The fall foliage was just beginning to arrive, but the peaceful sense of Autumn was already there, between the color of the sky and the relaxed state of nature. This picture was taken with a brown-orange filter to highlight the qualities of fall.

branches signals the coming of winter, which always comes too soon- but amongst ourevergreens, it provides a very pretty sight.

For a while, I’ve been studying the clouds and the sky. Come Autumn, the sky turns a perfect shade of Cornflower Blue- a slightly darker, more mellow blue than the summer previous. The clouds remain wispy and peaceful, fraying away from the dark, ominous clouds of summer and the overcast, pure-white snow clouds of Winter. It’s this peace of Autumn that I really enjoy, and I try to absorb the sights around me as much as I can. Plus, the sights that surround us only feel like fall when combined with everything else.

Sounds: Sometimes, it’s just so nice to hear nothing. Coming from the busy, always-active Summer, I find Autumn to be a retreat from our busy lives. Plus, I always take pleasure in the gentle breeze that pushes leaves along, or the slight drizzle of a short Autumn rainstorm. This is my kind of season.

Taste: Food is a humongous part of Fall, and for me, Fall wouldn’t be Fall without it. Between the Pumpkin Pie, cinnamon spice, apples (yum) and comfort foods, Autumn is the place to be. Not to mention, I’ve fallen under the Pumpkin Spice craze with a Pumpkin Spice Creme Frappuchino over at Starbucks (their Caramelized Apple Bread is fantastic too). Really though, what would Fall be, if things didn’t taste like fall?


Touch: While going out and feeling the crunch of the leaves (like jumping into a leaf pile, for example) might be awesome, for me, as I mentioned before, what I love about Fall is the slight breeze, and the cooler temperatures. I’m so glad once we lose the Summer heat, but have yet to transition to the harsh cold of Winter. Just walk outside- it feels completely different, once Fall fully arrives. My favorite part? No allergies.

Scent: I mentioned this at the start of this post: right now, my Mom and I, we are going through a Yankee Candle phase. For a while, I had imagined coming home to do my homework, and be greeted by the scent of fall. For me, Fall smells warm and comforting, full of spice and pumpkin.

So, when we visited Yankee Candle a few weekends ago, I had the time of my life smelling all of the different fall scents. I eventually settled on “Apple Spice”, the candle in the image above, which combines traditional fall spice and apples, delicious apples. I also settled for something more sweet- a candle I’ll probably start lighting in November, still in the midst of Fall: Sugared Pumpkin Swirl. Whoever names the candles at Yankee Candle- you’re doing something right. We also purchased a few Votive candles, ranging from Moonbeam on Pumpkins to Sweet Apple Cider. The smell of Fall is wonderful, and it adds to the experience of a new season in so many ways.

Fall is going to fly by. Enjoy it. I know I will. 😁