Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

I'm sitting curled up under a big fluffy blanket on my Mom's couch. My beagle is next to me snoring obnoxiously loud while my mom's jewel-toned Christmas tree is in its full glory. This is my favorite way to spend the holiday. I cannot believe that this might be our last Christmas in New Jersey. How quickly life can change in a year. Even so, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & lots & lots of good cheer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cookiepalooza 2011

This is first year in quite a few years that I have not decorated my house for Christmas. Even though I usually spend most of December and January in New Jersey, in the past I have still put up my tiny tree and my ever-growing pile of Christmas decorations. Despite the fact that I love Christmas, it was stressful to come back late January with all of my luggage from my time in NJ, and find my house still fully decorated for Christmas nearly a month after the holiday.

I decided that this year I would skip decorating my house for the holiday, and hope that I could still get in the Christmas spirit. Luckily, I had two very brilliant friends who decided that making a bunch of Christmas cookies from a recent Washington Post article was the thing to do this weekend.

It was nearly nine solid hours of cookie baking with 7 different types of cookies by the end of the night.

Christmas spirit? Oh yeah, it's there.

Tonight, for my last night in Cville in 2011, I'm hosting Bunco for my friends. There will be wine, loads of Christmas cookies and just a bit of Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Beautiful

As I have said before I am someone who falls on the unattractive side of being organized and Type A. I don't even think the word "perfectionist" is a good way of putting it because it sounds like a good thing.

This week I'm in New Jersey to get some quality time in with my family. Today's activity was to build a gingerbread house. In my mind it was going to be a work of art and architecture. Straight lines of perfectly piped icing and gently created icicles hanging from the roof.

What I didn't factor in was the very antsy three year old who was absolutely dying to help with every.single.step of the project--from holding the walls while the icing dried to piping the walls himself. Not only that, the kid was consuming the vast majority of our building supplies. With a single "Jill!!! I want to do it!" I realized my perfect holiday gingerbread house was going up in smoke.

Instead of a perfect gingerbread house, we got something that would be dangerously close to being condemned if it were real--crooked windows, a detached roof and uneven walls.

When we'd used up (or more accurately when I realized that Evan had consumed the vast majority of) our candy, and our quick-dry icing was a solid brick, I was ready to give up and call it a day, but then I heard Evan let out a squeal and launch himself at me.

"It's beautiful, Jill! We did a great job." Now, how can I argue with that? His way of viewing it is so much better than mine.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Semester at Sea: Lip Dub

In the summer of 2009, I was fortunate enough to teach on Semester at Sea. It was one of the most unique experiences of my life. One of the things I like about the program is that each voyage has it's very own feel to it. I was so happy to see this video come across my Facebook feed. It encompasses all the good of the program--the bonding, the willingness to try new things and just the joy that the program brings people.

I'm hoping one day I'm lucky enough to be a faculty member on the ship again.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Travel Writing: Saint Petersburg

I was given the opportunity to write a travel guide for Saint Petersburg, my favorite city in the world, for

Today I'm in their Itinerary Writer Spotlight for this guide, and I got to share some of my favorite and least favorite things about Piter.

I love this city.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


My Mom and little nephew came to visit me the week before Thanksgiving. As always, the visit was just about perfect.

Great Food.

Okay, really great food.

And really great adventures with my favorite little guy.
The semester is quickly winding down, and my To-Do List has been growing at a rapid rate. Having my family visit was the perfect little break I needed before getting caught in the whirlwind of December.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Glass House Winery

Glass House is another favorite winery of mine. It's one of those places that I just can't get enough of. It's one of the newer wineries in the area, but what makes it stand out is the beautiful glass house within the winery with its beautiful tropical plants. I mean, really, what's better than drinking a glass of perfectly chilled white wine beneath banana and cinnamon plants?

The winery has a lot going for it other than the glass house, and some pretty delicious wine. One of the owners is a chocolate chef, and each tasting comes with a bit of her homemade chocolate. They are so good, that when my guy and I went there back in August the box of 4 chocolates we purchased didn't even make it to our house. We ate them in the car on the way home. With flavors like salted caramel and early grey tea, saving them for later was more of a challenge than we could stand.

The other selling point? They sell chocolate wine. Not that gross Yoohoo looking stuff, but this beautiful garnet red wine that the chocolate making owner created. Anytime I take someone to Glass House, they are always hesitant to try this one, but after one sip they're converted. It's this beautiful rich red wine with just the tiniest hint of chocolate aftertaste. It is divine.

My Mom is coming to visit me this week, and this is one of the wineries that I can't wait to take her to.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Flu-2, Jill-0

I have had the flu of all flues for the past two weeks. Whatever this Fall bug seems to be, it's hit me hard and hasn't left yet. I haven't had much energy to do much other than zone out on the couch and sleep.

This weekend was the first weekend I was feeling well enough to be upright for long periods of time. Luckily for me this coincided with The Virginia Film Festival and First Fridays.

My wonderful little town had a whole host of events going on including open studios and galleries offering wine, snacks and performance art.

The weather was crisp enough to allow for a trip to the Farmers' Market which was still chock full of veggies.

The weekend ended with a trip to Pippin Hill Winery to sample some of their new sparkling Rose and to listen to music. It was a nice way to welcome myself back to the land of good health.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Yesterday Jessica and I had the opportunity to take maternity photographs for a very dear friend of ours. As a general rule, I know virtually nothing about the mechanics of photography. I've never taken a class, and while I regularly cruise the Digital Photography School, I can't really say it's more than a hobby. It's a hobby I got into only a few years ago as I really started to travel. I figured if I was going to be traveling so much, I should at least do myself the favor and start taking semi-decent photographs of all the cool things I was seeing. After all, it would be a shame to try to take a picture of the Sphinx, and accidentally get just my thumb instead.

I get excited to try new things with my camera. With a bit of arm twisting, we got our friends to pose for these photos. While I'll never have "the perfect shot" my sharpness will never be spot on, and I'll never be sure if I'm using quite the right lens, this is a hobby that continually allows me to grow and create.

And if every once in a while, I can take a photo or two that makes a friend smile, I'm perfectly happy with that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Marbleized Manicure: First Attempt

I should never be allowed to have free time. When I have free time, I spend it pouring over the different craft ideas on Pinterest, and attempting them on my own.

I was shockingly productive today, and did nearly everything on my to-do list, so I decided to spend the night catching up on old episodes of Weeds, and attempting to give myself a marbleized manicure--something that has been on my Pinterest to-do list for a while now. The process is shockingly easy if you're patient, and I think with a few more attempts I'll have it nailed down. It's definitely a fun task for a lazy night.

I used the tutorial here. This is going to be my fun nail polish for all the upcoming holidays. I think black, silver & white will look pretty fantastic for Halloween.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Traveling Home: Philadelphia

I'm just hours away from heading to New Jersey for what feels like the hundredth time in the past few weeks. Even though I am biased, I feel like this is the best reason ever to make that drive (ugh Maryland traffic)--my mom is getting married!

My Mom and Mike have been together for the best part of a decade, and are amazing together. I am impossibly excited for them, especially since this exact same weekend last year I was heading back to NJ for Mike's surgery for prostate cancer. This will be an infinitely better Fall Break.

On Saturday 50 of my mom's and Mike's nearest and dearest will gather in Philadelphia to celebrate.

Mom asked me to put together a list of my favorite places in Old City just in case people wanted to go out and celebrate later after the official celebration. Here are just a few of my Philadelphia favorites.

My two big favorites right now in Old City are Swanky Bubbles and Farmicia. Swanky is an old favorite of mine. I love their ridiculously girlie drinks that contain things like lychee and chocolate. Farmicia is a new favorite. I love the food here, and the drinks so far have been fun and delicious. I'm excited to see what else they do with the space.

Another old favorite is The Continental. When I lived in Philadelphia, this was one of the regular places for my friends and me. The martini menu is huge, and bartenders were cute. What more could you want?

A newer favorite is National Mechanics. It's big and dark and kind of funky, plus they have 34 different beers on their beer menu. Again, what's not to love?

Other standard favorites are Cuba Libre, and Revolution House. Cuba Libre has to die for mojitos, and Revolution House has a really spectacular happy hour.

So those are some of my Philadelphia favorites, and this weekend I get to see some of my favorite people there. I can't wait!