Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer Flowers

It's fairly grey and gloomy here in my hometown so I'm missing summer quite fiercely despite my love of all things autumnal. The truth is I love summer. I wish I had just a few more weeks of it before the chill sets in. I can already see my breath when I take my dog for his early morning walk.
I find myself looking at my pictures from Puerto Rico wishing for just a couple more days of heat, swimming and sundresses.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Puerto Rico: The Big News

Despite all the chaos of our trip to Puerto Rico that included hurricane evacuations, angry roosters and lack of electricity, the trip will always be special to me because my boyfriend, now fiance proposed to me. It's hard to be upset about all the little frustrations of the trip when something so wonderful happened too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bits of Boston

It happened again. I blinked and the summer is over. For a summer that did not involve any extended travel plans, I traveled way more than I ever imagined.
I'm still thinking about our trip to Boston, with all the amazing restaurants we tried. I still cannot get the mini biscuits and clam chowder of the Island Creek Oyster Bar out of my mind. One of my goals of the Fall is to replicate their Bergamot Buck, one of the best drinks I've ever had.
For a quick blitz of a trip, we packed so much into it, and tried so many new places.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Packing for Puerto Rico

When I taught my travel class this summer I confessed to my students that I am not a light packer. For a while I really wanted to be one of those people that could toss a pair of shorts, two t-shirts & a pair of sturdy shoes in a backpack, and be ready to travel around Europe for six months. However, I am not that kind of traveler. When I travel internationally I always use the exact same medium sized suitcase. When I travel in the U.S. I use a duffel bag. I pack the exact same amount of clothes in each, whether it's for a week or an entire summer. I can't help it. Variety is the spice of life, right?

Right now I'm having a lot of fun packing for Puerto Rico. We've got so much planned for this trip that I want clothes that are nice enough for beautiful dinners out on the beach, and things that will be light & airy for our days wandering around the rain forest of El Yunque.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Boston Favorites: Used Book Stores

One of my favorite things to do in a city is to browse around used book stores. In a city like Boston, the choices are overwhelming. It was Raven Used Books in Cambridge that stole my heart this trip. I walked away quite a few treats including a bunch of Nabokov books that will prove useful for comp exams.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Puerto Rico Countdown

My family vacation to Puerto Rico is less than a week away, and I'm practically exploding with excitement. As much as I love wandering around old cities in Europe, family beach vacations are pretty much at the top of my list as ways to spend large chunks of free time.

One of our biggest obsessions on vacations is jet skiing. It's not a real vacation until my mom is flying through the air after being tossed off of one. No matter how many times it happens, it's still hilarious. While my nephew is definitely too young to join in the jet skiing fun, I think he'll definitely enjoy watching that part of it.

Image via Moana Adventure Tours.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Olympics

On Friday I said good-bye to all of my summer students from both programs. My Chinese students are already safely back in China from the emails I've been receiving from them.
The last few days were busy and fun. We had our own summer Olympics, and the students got so into them, and truth be told, so did I. Maybe a little too much. I may have yelled, "Take no prisoners!" during the tug-of-war.

Monday, July 23, 2012


One of my favorite things is book dedications and inscriptions. I love a good dedication--from simple ones like the fact that Vladimir Nabokov dedicated every book he wrote to his wife Vera, to more elegant ones like this CS Lewis one. I have a very small collection of used books that have inscriptions in them from other people. There are a couple that make my heart do a little flip from their sweetness & simplicity. One of my favorites is a book I ordered for a travel literature course I took a few years ago. It simply said, "From one world traveler to another." I love imagining the scenario behind the inscription. Was it a romantic gift? A gift from one friend to another? Or something written impulsively by the person giving up the book & meant for the next person that found it?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Double Duty

I'm pulling double duty for the next two weeks, and teaching for two program. I've been teaching for my gifted and talented high school students for the past four weeks, but now I'm also teaching for a program for Chinese high school students. I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the past few days, but I'm loving the experience of teaching courses that are new to me. It also means that I'm putting in 12+ hours days between teaching, transportation, logistics and lesson planning.

In the meantime, my stepfather was bitten by an alligator this weekend, so there's that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Russia: What to Know Before You Go

The first in my three part series on traveling to Russia is up on The Lost Girls. I'm so excited to have this article out there. It makes me miss Russia something fierce.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tiki Tiki

A few weeks ago I headed up to Philadelphia to join my boyfriend for a special event-a pop up restaurant by Stephen Starr at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The pop up tiki restaurant was amazing. There were big drinks in tiki glasses, a whole roasted pig and more sides than I could possibly try (although I gave it my best shot). Although it was insanely hot out (nearly 100 degrees), it was still a fun and unique experience. How many people can say that they've dined on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Lobster Joint

This weekend involved a lot of chaos, a lot of traffic and a lot of fun. One of the highlights of the weekend was a trip out to Brooklyn to visit The Lobster Joint.

The restaurant is tiny-just a few communal tables and a bar just big enough to fit one bartender. It was perfect. The highlight of the menu is the Lobster Claw Bloody Mary. It was spicy, cool and delicious. Considering that my boyfriend and I got horrifically lost trying to find the place (we ended up 12 miles away!), the drink was a great balance to the sweltering heat we'd been wandering around in. I ordered a lobster roll BLT to go with my drink, and it was perfection. There was more lobster than I could imagine on the sandwich, and the bread was buttery perfection. We're already planning a trip back.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July

This is my first 4th of July in the U.S. in five years, isn't that wild? And I will be celebrating it by...teaching all afternoon. So it might not be the most relaxing way of celebrating, but I'm hoping to sneak out to the pool for a little while in the early evening because that just seems appropriate.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jersey Girl

I can't help it. There are things about New Jersey that I can't help but love. Walking the boardwalk on painfully hot days will always be one of those things.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


The camera bags I won from the contest have arrived, and I am amazed at how beautiful and different each one is. The three camera bags I now own are Jo Totes, Kelly Moore Bags and Epiphanie. I'll be testing them out over the next few weeks, and then review them. It's no secret that I'm a bit of a handbag addict so I'm so excited to try them out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Florida Memories

I'm settling back into life in Charlottesville just in time to dash off to New Jersey again. I'm also missing my Florida family, and the adventures we had there.

One of the best discoveries of that trip was a new beach that I was introduced to by a longtime blogger friend. Pass-a-Grille beach was everything I love in a beach-perfect sand, crystal blue waters and great access to food and drinks. It was fun exploring it with my blog friends and a delightful to introduce my family to it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Puerto Rico Dreaming

We booked a trip to Puerto Rico ages ago thanks to a Groupon deal. My family, my boyfriend and I are renting a villa in a small town in Puerto Rico. Admittedly, we're a little nervous since it's a Groupon deal *and* we weren't thrilled with the last place we rented in Miami (not via Groupon, but a rental agency). While everything online makes our villa seem pretty fantastic--personal chef, daily baskets of fresh local fruits delivered to us, welcoming baskets of rum and local beer, we wanted to add in a another layer of safety just in case we weren't thrilled.

So for our last few days in Puerto Rico, we'll be staying at a nice hotel. Not just a nice hotel, but the Ritz Carlton. The hotel has its own private beach, a gorgeous pool and is right in Old San Juan--a place that I loved on my first visit there. It will be a perfect little spot of luxury before we hop back on the plane back home.

I booked the hotel rooms for us today, and I can taste the poolside pina coladas already.

All pictures via the Ritz Carlton's website.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Beautiful Monday

I have been so busy the past few weeks preparing for the new class I'm teaching (called "Why We Travel: Travel and Motion in Contemporary Young Adult Literature), that I've been neglecting my little blog. So imagine my surprise when I checked in on Friday and saw that my hit counter was through the roof especially with traffic from the inspiring blog A Beautiful Mess. I'd won their May Giveaway, and I didn't even know it. Talk about the perfect way to start the weekend.

Picture via JoTotes

I'm having so much fun picking out things from the various websites, it's the perfect break from lesson planning. This morning I got to order the Georgia Nautical Camera Bag from JoTotes. I love trying out different camera bags, I'm so excited for this one to arrive.

A big huge thanks to Elsie and Emma at A Beautiful Mess for being so thoughtful with this giveaway and to their sponsors for having such beautiful products to share!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day is usually a day that goes unnoticed by me. However, this year I do have a stepfather. This got me thinking about the day, and how lucky I am to have some really amazing father figures in my life.

I'm lucky to have an amazing and funny grandfather who is always full of tricks and is endlessly kind. Plus, he can play the harmonica and I recently learned that he's a stellar singer. When he was a school boy he was always called on to sing at events. Can you believe in 31 years I never knew that?

And then I'm lucky enough to have my Fred, a family friend that I've known forever. When I refer to him, I usually just tell people that he's my adopted father because he truly is the father I never had. Having him in Atlanta while I was at Emory was a wonderful treat when I felt homesick. When I was little, he'd take me to Friendly's for milkshakes and dorky conversations about sci-fi books. On the way home, we'd blast Billy Joel tapes. I can't hear River of Dreams without thinking of Fred.

And of course, there's my stepfather, who puts up with all of my family's insanity and remains endlessly calm through all of it. I'm so excited he and my mom found each other, and that he never really seems to mind the fact that I will install myself into their Florida house for weeks at a time.

I'm a very lucky girl to have all three of these guys in my life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Back & New

After three weeks in New Jersey and two and a half weeks in Florida, I am finally back in Virginia. I had an amazing time in both states & loved how much time I got to spend with my family and my boyfriend.

I am also excited to experience Cville this summer--my first time ever being here in the summer despite living here for nearly six years. I celebrated this fact by chopping off six inches of my hair. It's short, and I love it. I'm excited to teach two new classes this summer, and I'm excited to see a whole new side of my town.

Here's to new adventures!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Heading Home

My two and a half weeks in Florida have flown by so quickly. I've had a ridiculously fun time with my family. I'm sad to leave them--as always, but I know I get to see them next month for my nephew's birthday party in New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Mother's Beauty Bar

One of my favorite things to do when I visit my mom is to raid her bathroom cabinets & counter space. She always has the coolest & most luxurious beauty products. It instantly makes me feel like a 10 years old again. Another confession: I always raid my stepfather's stash of extra deodorants too (sorry, Mike!). I love the more manly smelling scents, it's so much better than smelling like tuberose & pineapple. This time I'm completely obsessed with Benefit's Dear John face cream. I've been using it every day since I arrived in Florida, and my face has been drinking it up. That one might "accidentally" find its way into my suitcase. Ssssh, don't tell my mom!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

60 Wonderful Years.

Today is my lovely mama's 60th birthday. It's astounding to all of us because we all so clearly remember her 40th birthday (I made her a card that looked like an Oreo because those are her favorite cookies).

For her 60th I wanted to do something extra special since I knew she'd be spending it in Florida, away from her family & friends. The past year has been an especially big & exhausting year--retiring, choosing to spend the bulk of the year in Florida, getting married, and getting custody of my nephew, so I wanted something to make her smile.

Yesterday we got the celebration started early with a spa day of new hair (her first time straightening her hair since her hippie days!), manicures, shopping and a delicious oyster lunch.

But her big present was this morning. Two months ago I asked friends & family to send me their favorite memories & wishes for Barb. I wrote them all in colorfully cards for her to open this morning. These will all go in a photo book accompanied by all the old pictures I've been saving.

She was so thrilled. The tears started flowing after the second letter & the process of opening them included lots of tears, tissues & laughs.

I'm so thrilled with how it turned out, and so grateful to her friends & our family for being so thoughtful.

Now we'll spend the day lazing at the pool, eating a delicious dinner out, and helping them pack for their cruise tomorrow (the Bahamas for 4 days, lucky duckies).

Happy Birthday, Mama. You are the best of the best.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sweet Sunshine

Despite having absolutely no scheduled activities, the days are passing remarkably quickly thanks to the perfect combination of tropical drinks, sunshine & perfectly warm water.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Birthday Surprise

I have been very busy this week planning a little surprise for my mom's 60th birthday. I can't say what it is just yet, but it's been taking up a bit of time that normally goes towards blogging.

I leave on Monday for just over two weeks in the sun. I cannot wait to celebrate this huge milestone with my little mama.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Good Weekend

This was one of those weekends where everything worked out perfectly, and yet nothing was planned. At the last minute, my boyfriend and I decided to take a little trip up to New Hope, PA after he finished work on Sunday. We were halfway to the little town, when I said, "Hey! We're always talking about stopping for a wine tasting at one of the wineries up here, why don't we do that today?" When deciding which one to visit, I remembered that my mom said that she was pretty sure that relatives on my birth father's side of the family owned one called Buckingham Valley, so we decided to stop there.

And guess what? Yes, the owners are my relatives. We chatted briefly about the family connection, and we got to sample some of their wines. The rest of the afternoon was spent eating a very late lunch/early dinner in New Hope & visiting the extremely weird stores there (there's a store there that sells bird cages *and* photos from funerals, no I don't understand the connection there either). The rest of the weekend was full of relaxing on the back deck, and enjoying some fabulous meals.
Grilled Steak with corn on the cob, baked potato and pea shoots

Breakfast this morning, eggs cooked in a bread bowl topped with cheddar cheese and bacon.