I've never considered Thanksgiving to be a big holiday for me because traditionally my family volunteers all day. And I mean all day. Our big feast is on a random day the weekend following the big day. This means watching football and eating chips and dip while Dad hangs in the kitchen for a few hours.

I never considered Thanksgiving to be my favorite holiday, because I didn't have a big family to celebrate it with, so instead spent it slicing thousands of slices of pumpkin pie in a storage closet hour after hour. It felt like more of a coincidence and less of a tradition to go to my friend's house afterward and drink white wine with ice and Sprite and watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and walk around the neighborhood at 10PM to watch the Christmas lights illuminate house by house. 

I didn't think these were traditions or that I would crave them when I moved away. I didn't realize Thanksgiving would be one of the hardest days for me to be away from home. 

I'm very grateful to have new traditions to make out here, chock full of new experiences and cultures and people and food. Still, I find myself trying to find places and things to fill the void of what I left behind. 

Read More
, ,

drink the potion

Due to unforeseen events, Sharaya and I ended up spending a full day exploring the glorious city of New Orleans. Because we are who we are, we went full glam. There's truly no other explanation other than "we were together".

One of the most important things about travelling with people is making sure you travel the same. Some people are up bright early to head to the beach and tan, or check off one of the ten tourist spots they have on the itinerary. I am very much a "get out in time for brunch and probably take a bath around 7PM" kind of traveler. Thank goodness my sister is too. So needless to say, we strolled. We walked from one end of Bourbon Street to the other. Walked the Garden district and all along the Riverwalk.

On our travels we happened upon a black cat, a house in full Halloween regalia (there was a soundtrack), and a tarot card reader. I sat back and watched Sharaya  get her cards read. As the reader went through every card and explained their meaning and relation to Sharaya's life, I realized it all related to me perfectly. Sadly Sharaya didn't get much out it. When the reading was over we were given cards with instructions to go to a jazz club on Bourbon Street. We were to find an employee and give them a secret message. Upon this exchange, the woman unlocked a large wooden door in the middle of the club, sent us up the stairs, and hastily locked the door behind us.

We found ourselves in a small hideaway above the chaos of Bourbon Street the Saturday before Halloween. We were given drinks made by a small British witch - the vodka was blood red, and the drinks were strong. We were serenaded by Sinatra while we lounged on velvet.

(love how spooky this one looks!)

After a short reprieve, we ventured to the private balcony and admired the crowds. Men dressed in drag, women dressed as woodland creatures, and everything in between filled the landscape. The rhythms of pop, house music, and smooth jazz spilled out into the street with patrons crossing between clubs and bars and restaurants. And by 9PM, when the chaos reached new heights and the party crowd started rising from their slumbers, we were in bed watching the Kardashian's and eating chocolate. It was a magical day indeed.

Read More

how to ride a bike

About a year ago my boyfriend got me into riding bikes again - something I haven't done since Nixon was in office. Hugging the Delaware River is a canal path that runs up and down the Pennsylvania and New Jersey coast. When we want to go for a decent ride, this is where we go. It is beautiful, peaceful, and smooth. It has become one of my favorite workouts.

So when Sharaya and I were strolling down the street in New Orleans, on our way to VooDoo Festival, and we happened upon Blue Bikes, we couldn't say no. Literally. We stood there for a couple minutes toying with the idea before Sharaya pushed me over the edge.

Mind you, this one hasn't ridden a bike in the last two decades, and I haven't ridden on an actual road probably ever so the confidence here was completely unfounded.

We ended up in sketchy neighborhoods, major roadways, pothole-ridden parking lots, and -oh yeah!- the actual literal freeway.

Despite discussing packing it in and giving up, we ended up finding a nice bike path that brought us right to a gorgeous section of City Park. After a mini photo session, we returned the bikes to a nearby station and headed into the show.

The entire event really authenticated our "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" endeavor to get to the show. It had been just over two years since we saw our favorite band. After travelling by car, plane, bike, and by foot we finally made it to the front row for a truly amazing show.
Read More

carry-on must haves

It's finally time for my Girls Trip to New Orleans to experience Voodoo Festival with my sister! It's been just over three years since my last festival experience so I am very excited. My favorite band is playing, its Halloween themed and it's in Louisiana! One of the few states I have yet to visit!

Being as it's over a thousand miles away, a flight was necessary. I went with a budget airline so I compiled my carry-on slightly differently than normal. One of my top tips for air travel is to utilize seat map tool on Seat Guru. No matter which airline I am flying on, I check there to see if bringing my own entertainment, power, and beverages are necessary. In this case they definitely are!

1. iPad
Whether or not there is in-flight entertainment, my iPad is necessary. This is my main tool for schoolwork and freelance writing. I found laptops to be too bulky, so I bought an iPad case that comes with a keyboard that connects via Bluetooth. I highly recommend it!

2. Comb / Hair Accessories
I have long, coarse hair and a lot of it, so bringing something to clean up with after a three hour long up-right snooze is essential! If the flight is going to be extremely long, or I have a long itinerary after I land, I'll put my hair into a high bun so it doesn't lose it's volume before the action starts.

3. Makeup Remover wipes
The air in planes is so drying that my skin feels the affects pretty quickly. In order to prevent clogging my pores and adding some moisture to my face, I use these makeup remover wipes to give myself a nice refresh.

4. Wallet
Duh! But really though, I keep all my travel cards (Oyster for London, SEPTA for Philly, etc.) in my wallet just in case. Never know where you're gonna end up sometimes!

5. Sinus medication
The shift in air pressure really affects my ears. There have been times where I couldn't hear for a few hours after landing. Now I take a small dose of sinus medication roughly thirty minutes before departure - when boarding commences - and have found that my ears don't get clogged or sore at all. I highly recommend this one!

6. Noise-cancelling headphones
I've found myself moving away from earbuds in general, but this big guys have been my go-to for air travel for some time now. I have found my ears pop less, the music is less tonal and I can't hear the crying baby a few rows back. Win all around!

7. Portable charger
You never know when your flight is going to be delayed, or you have to sit on the tarmac for a few hours. Also better to be safe than sorry!

8. Granola Bar
There have been too many instances when I arrive at an airport so late that all the shops have been closed and there is no where to buy food. Or, I'm in flight with three hours to go and the hunger overtakes me. In my youth I packed Pop Tarts, but those crumble so easily. Larabars are my favorite any time of the day but I especially love them on trips when I might not be getting the fruits and veggies I should be.

Read More

apple of my eye

Well folks it's the middle of October but I can finally say I've been ticking off things on my Autumn Bucket List

Last weekend, Peter & I took a drive to a local apple orchard, Solebury Orchards. To be honest, I had never heard of them before, but let's be real Bucks County is full of these gems. It was off the main road, down a wooded street. There was ample parking and a trail that led to the market. We were guided onto a wagon - the driver, we learned, grew his own apples on an orchard in Washington! What are the odds?! The wagon ride took us to a plethora of trees and we were basically told to have at it.

Pickings were a bit slim, which we chalk up to the fact that it was late in the day and we had a very wet summer, causing the newer fruit to blossom late. Or so I'm told - I know next to nothing about gardening. Some guys asked me the name of the flower I was looking at, and all I could do was stare at them. Black Thumb McGee over here. 

Despite how desperately I wanted the validation of wearing a jacket on this apple picking adventure, the weather was not working with me and it was definitely about 70 degrees. The picture is from this far away because otherwise the beads of sweat would just be too obvious and ruin the ~aesthetic~.

We ended up collecting about nine pounds of apples, with dreams of homemade apple pie and spiced applesauce in our little heads. In realty, after we stood in line for apple cider donuts (which sold out in front of our very sad eyes), and sipped some apple cider whiskey, it was too late to make pie - a sentence I never thought I'd have to string together. 

I am deeply ashamed to admit that all this fun was to be had while I lived in the Pacific Northwest - where the apples flow like wine - yet I never got around to going to one. If there's one near you, get out and do it. All the apple flavored breakfasts and pastries are at your fingertips!

Read More

2018 Autumn Bucket List

Summer is trying to stick around a bit here in the Mid Atlantic I mean Northeast


Summer is trying to stick around here in Philadelphia with temps staying in the 80s and the rain of the summer finally subsiding. My love of Autumn won't be squandered, though. Now that it's officially October and PSLs have been out for over a month! So, to make sure I don't miss anything this year, I have compiled a list of the top ten things I want to do this Autumn.

1. Go apple-picking at an apple orchard
Sad to say, all those years living in the Pacific Northwest never once caught me at an apple orchard. Now I pay $3 a pound for apples with my home state's sticker on them!

2. Have a scary movie marathon
I'm terrified of scary movies and suffer from sleep paralysis with the occasional sleep paralysis demon, so this is gonna be an interesting one. *Must remember to sedate self with lots of Halloween candy.

3. Bake
My apple pie is legendary and I'm determined to make something pumpkin flavored this year!

4. Go to a haunted house
I've only been to one and it was in high school and I vaguely remember enjoying myself. Bring it on!

5. Carve pumpkins
This is something I did for the very first time, two years ago. Last year I was in my tiny apartment with nowhere to put carved pumpkins so I had to skip the festivities. This year I have a porch and can carve and display all the pumpkins I want!

6. Take a mini road trip and ogle at the fall foliage
 This is another uniquely East Coast thing - trees with leaves that change colors! In the PNW you get a few trees here and there but driving along the Delaware with trees ranging a spectrum of bright red to dark green, it's a sight to behold!

7. Go to a football game
Professional, high school, I don't care! The act of sitting, bundled up in a sweater with a thermos while you cheer on the home team cannot be beat.

8. Attend a county fair
Back in Washington these were well known. I'm having a hard time finding a true county fair - with pig racing and a rodeo and elephant ears. But I've got a couple weeks left! I'll find one!

9. Visit a corn maze
I get to pull my Hunter boots out one time during the year and this is it! My first autumn here in the East Coast, I was going for a job in the state park by my house when I broke off onto an unfamiliar path and found myself in the middle of a corn field. I was the only one around as far as I could see (which, of course, isn't very far.) Everything was silent. Then before me was a deer, just staring at me. Apparently I had startled it. I watched it squeal and hop backward and out of sight. So, to me, corn mazes symbolize the beginning of the autumnal season!

10. Write a book
Since 2009 I have challenged myself to write a novel in the month of October. It started because I am competitive and wanted to complete a novel before NaNoWriMo started on November 1st, but now it is a way to ensure I spend some time each year really getting my creative juices flowing. So far I have written about 1,000 words. Someone send help!

Read More

last rays of summer

Since I was a child, I have been in love with Southern California - and really, who isn't? You can take LA with its smog and glamour. Give me a nice warm day in Mission Valley, with a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint and freeway car fires.

We only got to spend two days in sunny San Diego this year, and I'm so thankful one of them was spent in the waves and the sand. First things first - a stop at one of my favorite breakfast places. Being an official East Coaster now, I have an affinity for diners. The first time Sharaya and I stumbled upon this chain, we found ourselves in a stylish little diner. After learning there was a location close to our hotel, we dragged the family there after church.

(I feel like you can really tell how great the food and ambience was by these photos.)

When we finally finished stuffing our faces with alcohol and acai bowls, we headed to paradise: La Jolla shores. I've spent many a summer day playing in this sand and jumping the waves (very small waves - being as I was afraid of drowning and never quite figured out how to swim). I've enjoyed bonfires and acquiring sunburns on this nice stretch of land, but this time was different. 

Being the youngest in the family meant I grew up often feeling either like a novelty or like an outcast. Aside from my sister and one cousin, we were literally in different generations, and it showed. I remember spending most visits as a bystander because I wasn't quite Old Enough to hang out or be privy to their conversations. Up until recently, I never understood the importance of extended family because I didn't feel like I really had one. I mean, sure I had one. We share DNA and I would hear about their lives via my mother, but after being surrounded by an Italian extended family, I knew I was missing something.

 Last year, when Sharaya and I did a Girls Trip to California, I got to sit at the big kids table. We did small, every-day things with our cousins but I finally started to get it. We bonded over our crazy grandma and laughed over the misconceptions of childhood, and how we were all made to feel like the outcast at one point or another.

 This time around, it seemed we all needed a dose of true cousin time.

Our beach day was spent jumping waves, getting tan, hanging out with lifeguards, sage older cousin advice, and watching the next generation form familial bonds. At one point I was jumping waves with two of my cousin's kids that I've only met a handful of times and I called one by name. Her sister piped up and asked how I knew it. I feel like we have a lot of lost time to make up for but I am very excited to get going.

Oh San Diego, you never disappoint...

Read More