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.

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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!

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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!

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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...

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lessons on motherhood

When the rain is blowing in your face
& the whole world is on your case
I would offer you a warm embrace
to make you feel my love.


People ask me when I started working with kids, and I find myself hard pressed to answer that question. I grew up with a mom that ran the childcare department of our church, and began volunteering in the church nursery when I was 14. My first job was at (what is now) Justice in the mall, and I became a toddler teacher at 16, which I stayed with for almost ten years. In my time as an infant teacher, I became an expert in allergies, diaper methods, and the swaddle. Much like a stay at home mom, my entire life was child rearing, even though they weren't my own.

The interesting part about being with little people from their infancy into their elementary school days is the inevitability of seeing them through hardships. From teething to the separating of their family unity, There were nights where it was us against the world. There were days we were all crying from exhaustion and frustration.  

I learned what it was like to be an anchor for little people. At first it was simple: to be there to mend their owies and sit in a steamy bathroom while their cough works its way out. To bring a change of clothes anywhere we went and to have snacks on hand at all times. To give them rest when they needed it and play when it was due.

As they've gotten older, it's been interesting to adapt to what they need now. It's less about snack accessibility and more about being there in the middle of the night when the nightmares hit and they need a reassuring presence, and in the middle of the day when they need some calm in the midst of chaos. It's about being the one they tell secrets to so they don't hurt someone's feelings when they feel like they're forced to take sides. 

For the moments when they're sitting on a bicycle without training wheels for the first time in their tiny lives and they want to be independent and prove they can do it themselves, but they plead with you to stay close "just in case". When they're frustrated because something isn't going the right way and they bury their face in your legs because they know you'll be able to be their voice. It's about training the voice in the back of their heads to tell them bravery can only be achieved if fear exists, and that their worth is not tied to a number, a job title, or romantic partner. 

I'm not a mother, but if that day comes, I think these little people have given me a pretty good trial run.

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around the river bend

Lately I've been motivated to get out and try new things. The weather has been topsy turvy, with one day experiencing torrential downpours and the next a cloudless summer dream. This weekend was two full days of the latter, and I couldn't wait to get outside and explore it. 

Right near my house is the great Tyler State Park. I regularly visit the hiking trails and biking paths. And on the occasions I have little people in tow, we hit up the playground and soccer field. Winding through Tyler is a river, with several dams, waterfalls, and rope swings. Well, the perfect summer day called for a canoe trip.

The last time I was seen in a canoe was the summer of 99. Sleepaway church camp, to be exact. I wasn't great at it then, either, what with the overwhelming fear that I didn't know how to swim and a simple rock one way or the other could send us all overboard. But this time, I steeled myself, zippered up that life jacket, and pretended I had it all under control. The boat and my life vest matched my outfit, so at least I had that going for me. Plus, I've learned to bring along my handy-dandy Eagle Scout for occasions such as this. 

The first twenty minutes into the hour long journey consisted of me trying to figure out which way the paddle was supposed to go, and trying to avoid imaginary rocks. I'm not great if I don't have visual instruction, so sitting in the front was a trip. You can tell I wasn't straining myself at all what with that iron grip and the flexed muscles.

Once I decided to chill out, it was a nice ride. Pennsylvania - and Bucks County, specifically - is known for it's abundance of wildlife. While floating through the river, we caught sight of deer peeking out through the bushes, and a blue heron coasting just above the water. Every so often we'd pass kayakers sunbathing, or kids jumping off a rope swing. As much as I sweating, I was enjoying every minute of it. 

*for the record: yes, the only pictures I have from this excursion are of me. this is simply because I didn't want to bring my phone in the boat due to the inevitability of being capsized. iphones aren't waterproof.

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the best coast

I was under the impression that the longer I lived on the East Coast, the fewer differences I would notice between the West Coast and this one. There were some obvious culture shocks when I first moved here, like how much people consume alcohol, and how close everything is. As time goes on I'm finding there are some parts of the West Coast that are so ingrained in me, they may never fully disappear.

When I first moved across the country, that was one of my largest identifiers. A lot of the cultural and social differences could be explained away with, "Well she's from Seattle". It was understood that over time, I would assimilate and that excuse wouldn't be necessary. For the most part this has become true. If I'm asked where I'm from, I say Bucks County. The naivety and ignorance that plagues most transplants has, for the most part, worn off. I've gotten used to bringing my own alcohol to certain restaurants (more on that in a minute) and leaving the house later on Fridays in the summer due to the volume of traffic.

At work last week, I stumbled upon someone from my neck of the woods. This is so rare. The number of people I know out here that have lived on the West Coast can fit in an elevator. This stranger and I had a moment - I asked how long she's lasted out here, she asked me if she should regret it. It got my brain buzzing. Which really is the best coast?

The East Coast - the Jersey shore, specifically - has the better beaches, hands down. California can fight me on this one. Most beaches in Jersey are accompanied by boardwalks, filled with arcades, soft serve ice cream, carnival rides, and shops. Depending on which town you are in (Ocean City, NJ is notorious for being a dry town) the boardwalk comes alive at night with club music and the bar scene. I used to think Fitzgerald was making it up in all of his novels, but Summer Fridays are a real thing in the corporate world: work a few hours extra during the week, and take off early on Fridays to get down the shore.

Sorry, Mom. This is an interesting topic because it's plagued me ever since I moved here. Back in 2016 when I first landed, alcohol wasn't even sold in grocery stores. It was in the last two years that Acmes and Giants have expanded to sell wine & beer. Also a recent change: liquor stores are open later than 5PM. Finally. Food is romanticized out here - and for good reason. It just tastes better. Which makes this next bit more infuriating: there's this ridiculous notion that only so many restaurants and businesses per town can hold a liquor license. This means if you're eating at a place that doesn't have one, you can bring your own. I've heard every argument in favor of this rule, but I still hate it. This policy is written on store windows and Google reviews like it's some kind of frat party. I won't have it. Deduct a point from the East.

Believe it or not, some have said that I'm laid back. I laugh whenever I hear it, but it's been said on more than one occasion. The West Coast is low-key and chill compared to the East Coast. One of the biggest pulls for this place was that it's more my speed. I remember one Sunday as a preteen I asked my parents if we could go downtown after having just gotten home from church. My mom responded with something along the lines of, "why can't we do one thing at a time? Take it easy." Take it easy - the West Coasters mantra. Out here, just about everyone speeds because just about everyone is late to something.

I live forty five minutes north of Philadelphia, a hour and a half from New York City, an hour from the Jersey shore, and an hour from (what they call) mountains. I'm three hours from the nation's capital and six from Boston. There is always something to do and somewhere to go. I suffered from my favorite musicians never touring in Seattle, indie movies that were shown only in LA and NY passed me by. Now there are endless possibilities!

For the time being, I'll ride it out here. But by god, I miss those mountains.
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