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Okay, Fall. You Win.

I hate to get all Anthony Bourdain on you (except way nicer and shorter and not quite as pompous but let’s be honest — almost.) by writing one travel post after another and continuously waxing on about the importance of throwing out your itineraries and talking to locals and aimlessly wandering cobblestoned streets with no real plan in mind. (The exception, of course, being dinner reservations. Because food is awesome.)

But the thing is, I have to just go with what I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s painting. Sometimes it’s cooking. And sometimes — most times — it’s travel.

In fact, in an instantaneous and clichéd moment of clarity, I just now realized.

THAT is why I’m domestiphobic.

My love for travel.

While I definitely enjoy some domestic activities — especially those that improve my knowledge of wine, food, photography, turning my home into a comfortable retreat, reading with my husband, playing with my mutts, and wine, I am terrified — terrified — that I will allow these things entrap me in a vortex of stagnancy.

That alluringly hypnotizing momentum of mediocrity.

I don’t want that for myself.

Or my family.

So I write what I feel. And for right now, while I still have some stories and photos to share, it’s travel.

I know this confuses some people. Why do you love it so much? they ask. Don’t you miss your own bed? Your own home? Your closet, your husband (when he’s not with you), your dogs, your ability to relax and unwind?

Of course. Of course I miss these things. All except that last part. Because the thing is, if you haven’t learned to relax and unwind while you travel, I have news for you:


you just aren’t doing it right.


If you know how to relax, there are plenty of aspects about travel that counterbalance the things you miss, like meeting interesting travelers and locals. Tasting exotic foods. Repeating your tattered, worn-out stories to new and shiny faces. Absorbing foreign sights and sounds and experiences that keep you — your soul — young.


Interested in life.

Before heading to Asheville, Justin and I decided to spend a night at a B&B in the town of Banner Elk, NC at the suggestion of Andi, from My Beautiful Adventures. (Seriously. She has a top-rated travel blog, runs her own business, and still has time to council lil’ ol’ me on where I should take my husband to relax upon his return home from Afghanistan. Kind of awesome.)

After a romantic dinner at the villa (more on that in another post) and a coma-like slumber on the most comfortable hotel bed ever (more on that in another post), and a glorious breakfast of mimosas, coffee, blueberry/pomegranate(?) juice (because everyone needs at least 3 beverages with breakfast), eggy toast, bacon, swiss chard/purple potato concoction, home fries, and yogurt with granola and fresh fruit (more on that — well, here:


we asked Jackie, our incredible Chef/hostess/innkeeper/overall just awesome person if there was anything else we should do before heading to Asheville. Of course, she said we needed to head to the winery for our complimentary tasting, but since that didn’t open until noon, we should head out to the “high vineyard” to check out the views.

Her instructions were simple: Turn right at the stop sign, stay left at the place where there’s “kind of” a fork in the road, don’t drive off of the winding mountain path for 1-2 miles, turn left at the Christmas tree farm, park along the dirt road, unplug the electric cow fence, climb over the barbed wire, and viola! High vineyard.


If the travel mojo has taught me anything, I knew we had to go with it.

And of course, our skepticism exploded all over the inside of Justin’s practical 4-door sedan when we arrived at the high vineyard.

Banner Elk Vineyard

We wanted fall colors? We got fall colors.

Okay. So in the past I know I’ve been guilty of saying I dislike fall. And it’s still true. I mean, I like fall — I like the colors and the fuzzy socks and the crackling fires (well, not-so-much crackling in our case, since ours is gas, but you get the gist). What I don’t like is its implication of impending winter.

The cold. The ice. The lack of sun.

She’s so dreary and boring and long.



She does put on a pretty good pre-game show, doesn’t she?


(Yes, we brought a tripod to the top of a mountain. Pretty much just your typical day. And yes, I ran back and forth with a timer setting at a high altitude, which is why I look like I’ve been running back and forth with a timer setting at a high altitude. Just to get this picture for you. You’re welcome.)

I can’t tell you how long we lounged there, near the top of the mountain, bathing in the sun and warmth and wondering if the man with the sprawling estate on the next hill over was watching us through telescopes.


No place is perfect.

But this one, I think, was pretty damn close.

UPDATE: It would probably be helpful to mention that the place where we stayed in Banner Elk was the Banner Elk Winery & Villa. Highly recommend it. Also, check out a screenshot from today’s webcam:

This is just over a week after our stay. Travel Mojo, man. Dig it.

Travel Tip #257: No Commode Is Too Good for YOUR Derrière.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of public restrooms.

Especially in extra touristy areas.

Although, they’re admittedly worse in some of the not-so-touristy areas, like Bagaces, Costa Rica.

One time I got locked inside the restroom at a bar in Bagaces, which was really only a coffin-like broom closet with no toilet paper and a splintery wooden door and happened to be the only fully enclosed room in the entire bar, but damn it if it wasn’t the best and more secure closed room ever, because the proprietor had to kick the door in with her foot to rescue me from my claustrophobic-induced panic as the walls started caving in around me.

But I digress.

There’s really nothing to do about those kinds of restroom situations except to carry a roll of toilet paper on your person and hope that someone — anyone — can hear you scream.

But there is something you can do about nasty restrooms in many heavily populated, touristy, first-worldy locations — the kind where every single commode is stuffed to the brim with toilet paper (if you’re lucky), bowel contents (if you’re not lucky), or covered in urine because someone was too dainty to sit fully on the seat and ironically has become the very culprit of the crime she was so worried about falling prey to, which, we all know, is sitting in someone else’s piss. So because she was so worried about getting some on herself, she dribbled more than a drunken sailor and worse, didn’t bother to clean it up.

Because she’s too good to wipe her own mess.


And obviously that scenario mostly applies to women, but I’m sure men can relate too, when it comes to the concern of cracking their heads on a porcelain urinal after slipping on an unknown wet floor substance likely deposited by an over-hygienically concerned patron who refuses to touch anything after he washes his hands and streams water across the chipped ceramic tiles as he maneuvers the door open with his elbows, therefore making life much more dangerous for everyone else.

Because these things happen.

And if everyone would just keep their pee in the toilets and the water in the sinks and thoroughly wash their hands like good boys and girls, we really wouldn’t have to worry about any of this.

But again, I digress.

Sometimes there’s something you can do to avoid these public human waste dumping monstrosities all-together.

When my friend Stacy and I were wandering around The River Walk in downtown San Antonio, Texas, we found ourselves in need of a facility. We were, however, on a fairly quiet sector of the walk, away from the bustling restaurants and shops and public restrooms. What was nearby were hotels. Seemingly dozens of high-class, glass-doored, glimmering, shiny, luxurious hotels with back door access to The River Walk.

For some, we could just walk right in.

What? We’re not in a public restroom? We totally thought ALL River Walk restrooms had marble tiles and wicker wastebaskets and totally private stalls. Huh.

For others, we coyly conversed just outside the doors until a Chanel-draped guest exited with her toy poodle (I swear that really happened, although maybe it wasn’t Chanel. Or a poodle.) and we slipped inside before the chance was lost forever.

Solid granite counters, anyone, with an intricate mosaic tile surround? Doubt they had THESE in the public restrooms.

Stacy feeling extra privileged as she enters the molded wood stall.

The thing about hotels is that once you’re inside, no one really dares ask whether or not you belong there.

And most have public restrooms in the lobby or better still, for us, in the finished and rarely occupied lower levels.

And we’re not really doing anything wrong — we’re just peeing, for crying out loud.

I’m sure the hotels would rather we go inside than whip out a shenis (don’t watch video at work) and go on the side of the building like common vagabonds.

I introduced my upscale hotel restroom crashing method to my baffled husband last week when someone — let’s just say it wasn’t me — announced that we’d have to leave the lovely Biltmore Village soon because someone — let’s just say it wasn’t me — had to do something that one would rather not do in a crowded restaurant restroom or other public facility.

Grabbing his hand and hauling him across the street, I whispered, “Act cool — we totally belong here,” as we strolled past the valet and crept in the back door of The Grand Bohemian Hotel.

Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville

It turns out we didn’t actually have to sneak since this stunning space is very much open to the public with an art gallery, restaurant, and — you guessed it — public restrooms.

Back entry.

Antlered ceiling, anyone?

I’m pretty sure these are the coolest mirrors ever.

I have more photos of this amazing hotel to share with you later, but, lucky for you, this post is specifically dedicated to bathrooms.


The next time you’re wandering around Tourist Land searching for a restroom, head for the hotels instead. I’m pretty sure this is sound — and totally legal — travel advice.

If it’s not, don’t call me from prison. You don’t know me. We never even had this conversation.

I will not take responsibility for your decision to poop in a hotel where you’re not paying to stay.

(But do write and tell me about it so I can amend this little post. Thank you.)

Guest Post: Around the Balearic Islands

Dear readers: The following article is a sponsored guest post written about a place I’ve traveled and loved — the Balearic Islands. Since you know I have this terrible habit of quitting my “real” jobs, this post is an example of a way I might try to monetize this blog without introducing a bunch of pop-up videos and floating ads and all of that. I don’t know if this will become a common sight around here, but when I do have sponsored guest posts, I will always let you know that’s what it is in the title. Also, I will do my best to make sure they’re interesting and informative, and I think this one definitely fits the bill. Click “read more” below the photo to read the article.

If you haven’t been to the Balearic Islands, you should add them to your list. I’d go back in a heartbeat!

Ibiza Town

Read the rest of this gem…

Mostly The World Is Filled With Good People. You Should Meet Them Sometime.

Well. I’m back.

I didn’t mean to neglect you for the entire week — I really didn’t. But there’s just something about the B&B atmosphere — the bed and breakfastry of it all — that makes one sloggy.

See? Thirty-five words in and I’ve already made up 2 of them.

I even brought a computer along with perfectly good intentions of using it, but I find that when I’m surrounded by food and wine and luxury bedding and fall leaves and wine, I have absolutely zero motivation to turn it on.

Zero. (This image is straight from the iPhone. No filters or instagrammin’ or enhancements. Just pure, unadulterated, vineyardy goodness.)

Plus, we had a full case of Travel Mojo happening, and you don’t interrupt the flow of good TM with trivialities like technology.

Especially when there’s a full case involved.


You’re unfamiliar with Travel Mojo?

Well that could be because I made it up.

In fact, maybe I should trademark that.

And its acronym. So it’d be: TM™.



Travel Mojo is what happens when a trip just has good vibes. You go into it all, hey. Whatever happens, happens. I might make reservations at a couple of restaurants just so we don’t turn into B&B porch lumps and starve to death, but other than that, I’m not going to over plan it.

And you know what happens?

Rainbows and butterflies and fantastic people and complimentary drinks and entire free meals, that’s what.

It’s letting go of the anal schedules and planning and trying to squeeze every possible attraction into an already overstuffed agenda because the thing is, the world is full of wonders.

And trying to see them all will only stress you out.

It’s about kicking off your shoes, enjoying the drive, and sticking your toes into random photos of fall foliage.

It’s about books.

And conversing.

And sometimes just silently admiring a particularly interesting view.

I know.

We’re getting old.

But don’t get me wrong — there was also raucous laughter, swing dancing attempts and inebriated strolls through the city of Asheville.

And the TM was with us then, too.

And while it really was with us the whole time, it culminated on our last evening in Asheville.

See, I actually spent an entire day planning the basic milestones — food and lodging — of this trip before Justin came home from Afghanistan (which for me and my miniscule attention span is remarkable). I’d heard that Asheville is the type of town where you need to make reservations pretty much every night of the week. Many of the restaurants are small, privately owned boutique eateries that concentrate on quality over quantity, so I spent an impressive amount of time just deciding where we should dine.

And the winner for our last night was a place called Cúrate (cu-rah-tay), which apparently means “to cure yourself.”

And that, it did.

They say they serve authentic Spanish style tapas (“small plates”), but having been to Spain and eaten Spanish tapas, I would say the ones at Cúrate are significantly better. By far.

The Chef, Katie Button, quit her prestigious PhD program in Neuroscience (yes, and that’s after earning her master’s from L’Ecole Centrale in Paris, France, and her bachelor’s from Cornell University) in “pursuit of passion, life, and happiness.

Sounds like my kind of chick.

All of this information is available on the restaurant’s website, but I’d actually read it in a book about North Carolina chefs just down the street from the restaurant while we waited for our reservation, which meant I was super excited when I saw Katie in person. Like, celebrity sighting excited.

I used the Open Table app on my phone to reserve us a place at the bar. (If you’ve never used Open Table to make reservations, you should start immediately. It’s so simple to use.) From there, we could see all of the action because the restaurant’s kitchen actually runs along the back wall of the bar.

We were practically inside it.

Curate Menu

The atmosphere was my favorite — small, energetic, and full of shiny glassware.


We ordered many phenomenal dishes:

Butternut squash soup with smoked Spanish paprika.

pimientos de piquillo con queso de cabra

Piquillo peppers stuffed with caña de cabra cheese (my favorite dish).

gambas al ajillo

Sautéed shrimp and sliced garlic.

pincho moruno

Lamb skewers marinated in moorish spices.

berenjenas la taberna

Fried eggplant with honey and rosemary.

Tapas dining is perfect for me because when it comes to menu options, I’m often paralyzed with indecision. But at a tapas restaurant that doesn’t matter, because I can try a bit of everything until I can’t try no mo’.

We were pretty much at that point when I stared talking to one of the couples sitting next to us. In an intimate setting like the one at Cúrate, it’s easy to start commenting on what your neighbors order and from there, strike up a conversation. (If the thought of starting a conversation with strangers terrifies you, start thinking of it the way I do — if they’re rude and unreceptive, they’re not the kind of people I’d enjoy talking to anyway.)

It turned out they were celebrating a birthday, and they ended up sharing their intricate sugar raspberry dessert with us and the couple I’d been talking to on my other side.

Before long, the birthday couple was ordering us more drinks and we ended up having a grand old time — it felt like we’d been friends all along, even though we didn’t even know each others’ names.

Then they were saying goodbye as we wrapped up conversation with the couple on the other side. I snapped a photo, we hugged, and they walked out of the door.

A few minutes later, we asked for our bill.

Server: Can I get you anything else?

Us: No thanks, that was fantastic! Could we please have our ticket?

Server: Um. It’s already been taken care of.

Us: What?

Server: The couple that was next to you. They took care of it.

Us: No, they just bought us drinks. We still have to pay for our food and original bottle of wine.

Server: You’re not getting it. They paid. They picked up your entire tab.

Us: ….

Server: Have a nice night!

Seriously? Speechless.

Maybe they’d had too much to drink and felt overly generous. Maybe they just really liked us. Maybe it was their way of thanking Justin for his military service. Maybe they’re just extraordinarily nice people.

Whatever the reason, we won’t forget them.

The Travel Mojo – it works in mysterious ways.

I actually feared discussing the Mojo because I was afraid that would weaken its power.

But you know what?

I think it’s like most positive forces in the Universe: The more you give, the more you get.

It’s not about hoarding and saving and tucking it away where no one else can see.

It’s about spreading the wealth. Sharing the fortune. Pouring butter over everything and not adding any calories.

If you see this couple, please let me know. Pronto.

Travel Mojo.

It’s energy and smiles.

Can you feel it?

Cúrate on Urbanspoon

What? Kokomo Isn’t A Real Island?

Right now, I’m in the mountains.

Or at least on my way to them.

Not the craggy, hassleback peaks of the Alps or the snow-capped and rugged expanse of the Rockies, but the rolling, layered, ripples of the Appalachians.

Specifically, the Blue Ridge.

Unlike the jaggedly exuberant and youthful Himalayas (they’re still growing, you know), the Appalachians are ancient. Worn. Wrinkled remnants of a continental collision between masses of land that no longer exist. Like so many humans, they shrink with age and their beauty takes on the understated glow of wisdom.

In the summer they’re covered in blankets of green and blue, but in fall? Their famed and fiery warm hues are nationally — and perhaps internationally — renowned.

I can’t wait to see it.

And neither should you.

But right now, you can’t. So in the meantime, take a gander at these juxtaposing images from my 30th birthday celebration in the Florida Keys last week. (My little sister, Kelly, is the beauty with the long blond hair. My bff, Alaina, is the beauty with the short blond hair. I know. I like to surround myself with beautiful people.):

It’s hard to believe. One week I’m riding around a string of tropical islands on a motorized scooter with my new homosexual sugar daddy, and the next I’m facing autumn’s cool mountain beauty, nestled snugly in the warmth of crackling fires, spicy red wine, and a well-known embrace.

Life, when I travel, is difficult to grasp.

And that’s just the way I like it.

Where We Stayed:

Island: Key West
Hotel: Sheraton Suites
Recommendation: I’m not going to lie. I was initially disappointed when my sister Kelly, best friend Alaina and I waited until the last-minute to book a room for a Friday night in Key West because it seemed like all of the great B&B’s near Duval Street (the island’s “main drag”) as well as some of the larger beach hotels were completely booked. But Kelly pulled through with a 2 room suite at the Sharaton. For just shy of $300 for the night (after taxes, fees, and all of that extra hotel jazz), it was an excellent place to stay. The lobby (complete with complimentary virgin mojitos) was chic and welcoming, as was the staff. The outdoor bar was great, and the ‘tender made sure my non-virgin mojitos were very tourist friendly. The room was stunning with 2 queen beds, a pull-out couch, and an exemplary bathroom (granite counters and a tile shower surround). I’ll admit I was baffled by the fact that the hallway outside of our room had the ocean view, but really. Our main purpose for the space was to sleep. And I can guarantee that we probably slept much better there than outside of the crowded bars of Duval. Of course, it was a bit of a drive (5-10 minutes) to get to town, but we had a car and some locals with a free parking space, so it wasn’t too cumbersome. Also, the hotel offers a free shuttle and the phone numbers for cabbies if you don’t care to drive.

Have you ever seen so much cabinetry in a hotel room?

Also. If you can drive from Miami to the keys, do it.


Driving across a dotted chain of islands, over a series of bridges and out into the Caribbean ocean is an experience best tried first-hand.

And the thing is, you never know what gems you’ll unearth along the way.

Travel Tip #232: Dress Maybe Not to Impress, But At Least to Get Free Upgrades.


Until a few years ago, I had pretty much been one of those I’m-going-to-dress-as-comfortably-as-possible-because-I’m-never-going-to-see-any-of-these-strangers-ever-again kinds of people when I was traveling.

It was just… easier.

I’m pretty sure it’s my mother’s fault (love blaming the parents) because I can trace it back to my family’s trip to Disney World when I was 8 years old. My little sister and I had never been on a plane, and for my mother, it was a rare treat. She was so excited that she ran out and bought all 4 of us those zippered nylon track suits in posh color schemes of the late ’80’s — my dad in blue, mom and sister in matching pink, and me, ever the coolest tween (so not), had the best one in all black with splashes of the hottest fuchsia.

At least, that’s the way I remember it.

(Not us. But it could’ve been. source)

We represented the epitome of stereotypical American tourists as we swish-swished down the airport corridors.

I’m pretty sure we wore visors.

And while at the time we honestly thought we were trendy as hell, the truth is that we were dressing purely for comfort. “And the jackets unzip!” my mom explained that morning as she tucked my long-sleeved turtleneck into the pinched elastic waistband of my swishy pants. “So you can easily take it off if you get too warm on the plane.”

Had I been at all in tune with my surroundings that day, the only warmth I would’ve experienced was that of embarrassment as we swish-swished past the besuitted occupants of business class and tucked ourselves safely into coach. Instead, I occupied myself by creating masterpiece drawings in my sketchpad of the wonders I saw outside the airplane window: a network of rectangles depicting farmlands on one page; some puffy clouds — aka. “The Kingdom of the Care Bears” on another page; and a genius blank page in between representing the time we actually flew through the clouds.

Hey. This was pre-camera and my first taste of travel enthusiasm. I worked with what I had.

The thing is, I’ve never been a proponent of doing something solely for the benefit of others.

I mean, hey. If you like that 6-gauge septum ring, then you wear it with all of the pride of the bull that you apparently think you are.

But when traveling? I’ve just learned over the past few years that dressing up, even just a tad, has several more significantly positive aspects than that of well-dressed strangers not wondering if you smell as wrinkly as you look.

For example. I was headed to the middle-of-nowhere North Carolina last Wednesday morning to drop my dogs off at their kennel before driving over an hour in the opposite direction to get to the airport in time to catch my flight to Florida. I’d taken Justin’s car since my beloved Chevy Tracker’s back right tire seemed a little flat and I didn’t think I had time to fill it before I left. So of course, as seems to be the general law when you make a decision that’s supposed to make your life easier, one of Justin’s tires blew when I was 45 minutes away from my house. And when I say “blew,” I mean exploded.

So there I was, on the side of the road with 2 mutts strapped into my back seat, cursing myself for never bothering to learn how to change a tire. It didn’t take long though, as I stood there making phone calls, for a friendly military officer to stop and change it for me.


I’d like to think he would’ve stopped regardless of what I was wearing, but let’s face it — my airport-ready sweater dress, tall boots, and leather jacket probably didn’t hurt.

And I don’t think it’s just because I’m a woman. I think a well-dressed man looking helpless on the side of the road is more likely to find assistance than someone looking bedraggled. It’s just human nature. Accurate or not, general scruffiness, ball caps, and saggy jeans conjure images of serial killers.

And people don’t tend to stop for serial killers.

Also, I think better dressed people are more likely to get assistance from airport employees. Think about it: They have one of the most under-appreciated jobs in the universe. They show up to work wearing pressed suits, uncomfortable shoes, immaculate hair, and they have to take orders from tourists all day. Have you ever had to work for someone who knew less about the job than you? Now imagine that person showed up to work every day wearing sweat pants and a fanny pack. Would you resent him more, or less?

Point made.

Finally — and this is really the kicker — it turns out that “uncomfortable” dress clothes can actually be more comfortable than “comfy” clothes.

Think about it: Well-worn jeans can be the best if you’re working around your house or your yard or off running errands. They’re industrial, don’t wrinkle, and can wear coffee spills like they’re in style. But for travel? No way. After a couple of hours on that plane, you notice them squeezing in places they never used to squeeze — pinching in places they never used to pinch. You find yourself tucking belly folds of skin back under the waistband and urging them to stay there. And they ride up. They ride up like they’re in some epic race to see which leg can crawl up your butt the fastest, except for when you squeeze yourself into that miniscule airplane restroom. Then? Then you couldn’t pull them up if your life depended on it.

Jeans are no good for travel.

Think dresses. Long or short, depending on the season, in soft wools, light cottons, and other breathable fabrics. If you’re a man, think slacks. Again, soft. Breathable. What’s not comfortable about that?

Think layers. The more you wear, the less you pack. Airplanes can get chilly, so bring that cardigan or jacket on board.

Think comfortable shoes, but not tennis shoes. Unless you wear tennis shoes on a regular basis, don’t even pack ’em. Get yourself a nice pair of flats or boots with chunky heels — something you can wear rushing through terminals if need-be, but will also look nice with that sun dress or those khakis you packed and plan to wear later.

The greatest thing about looking good is feeling good. When I got off the plane in Florida, I was ready to grab some dinner with my sister without stopping to freshen up.

My sister. (Okay. Admittedly, at the Taco Beach Shack in Hollywood, Florida, dressing “up” means putting on a shirt. But whatever.)

And while my pasty northern skin will always give away the fact that I’m no beach local, the dress made me feel good.

Katie Domestiphobia

It also allowed me the room to eat this:


Never could’ve happened if I’d been wearing jeans.


“Missed” Doesn’t Really Begin To Describe It.

I’d like to think that, aside from the occasional electric dog fence malfunction or memory card stuck in a CD drive debacle, I can mostly handle things around the abode while Justin is deployed.

That is, apparently, up until about 2 weeks prior to his return.

That, my friends, is when normally functioning cogs in this massive network of machinery operating our 1,600 square foot ranch home decide to methodically malfunction, one by one, and end up resembling nothing more than a smoking pile of dead robotic waste by the time he sets foot in the U.S.

Normal people would think this would be great timing.

Normal people would think, Hey — perfect! The modem crapped out and the electric fence blew a fuse and that tire decided to explode just in time for the Man to come home and fix them.

Because tires and modems and electrical thingamajiggers are Man jobs.

But me?

I’m not normal people.

And the timing couldn’t be more horrific.

See, this makes it seem like I couldn’t hold down the Fort. That while he was off in some foreign land doing whatever it is that he does over there, I wasn’t Man enough to hold it together. I couldn’t keep my eye on the prize. I couldn’t grease the wheels and tune the gears and keep everything functioning. I managed for just most of the time, but that was probably a fluke because it all went to shit mere days before his return.

And that, to be perfectly honest, feels like crap.

So instead of being all, Oh hi! So glad you’re home! Here’s a beer! Put your feet up while the chicken bakes and I’ll turn on the fireplace while you pick something to watch on Netflix, I had to be all, Oh hi! So glad you’re home! I’d give you a beer but it all went to skunk when the blown fuse broke the electric fence and stopped the fridge. You can’t watch Netflix because the internet’s down, but feel free to read a book while I run to the store to buy some chicken for that meal you like because I actually thought you were coming home tomorrow — not today — and don’t turn on the fireplace because the propane guy was supposed to come this morning but I had to cancel on account of picking you up because — again — I thought you were coming tomorrow and apparently I suck at everything.

Which actually turned out to be okay because really, there’s only one thing a guy who’s been deployed for 4 months wants, and it ain’t chicken.

And that is probably the strangest thing about a military homecoming. Everyone — and I mean everyone — knows when you’re having sex. And then they call you. Seriously. This happened more than once. And if you pick up the phone, they say, WHY are you picking up the phone?!

Then I say, Oh, didn’t you know? I’m a multitasker. That’s right. A little to the left. So what’s up? I haven’t talked to you since yesterday. Oooh. That’s it.

And then they hang up.

Okay, I made up that last part. But really, I say, He’s been home for 5 hours! Do you REALLY think we’re still having sex? It’s been 4 months. FOUR MONTHS. This ain’t 50 Shades of Grey. Real people need real recovery time. And if you thought we were still having sex, then why are you calling me? Perv.

And then they hang up.

Okay, I don’t say that last part, either.

Really, I just tell them he’s out picking up our takeout pad Thai, and then I listen to the judgmental gasps before I have a chance to explain just why I didn’t buy the damn chicken have a home cooked meal ready for his return and that he’s been craving Thai food for months anyway and you know what? I’m not sure why I picked up the phone, either!

And then they hang up.

Not really.

But the thing is, no one really knows what goes on in a relationship besides the two people who are in it. We might think we have ideas on how others function based on stories they’ve told or semi-candid moments we’ve witnessed, but really.

This is us we’re talking about.

All I know is:

  • The weirdest feeling in the world is getting nervous to see someone you’ve lived with for 9 years.
  • We like Thai food from the little place in the strip mall in Spring Lake, and he hasn’t been able to eat it for 4 months.
  • I’m terrible with computer stuff and electrical stuff and anything involving preparation whatsoever and honestly, if everything had been perfect upon his arrival, he probably would’ve thought I’d been cheating on him.
  • Fires are overrated when you finally get to experience the touch of another person again.
  • Four months. It’s a long time. A long time of worry. A long time without touch. A long time without sex. A long time to get used to a place without the other person in it. To form new habits. To become set in our ways.

And so.

No one else really knows.

No one, except us, knows how much time we should be spending together. How much time we should be spending apart. Or whether or not it’s acceptable that one of us — let’s just say it’s not me — has somehow developed the idea that it’s okay to now pee with the door open.

(it’s not.)


It’s just us.

We’ll figure it out.

And that’s the way I like it.

Here’s a little video I made of his homecoming. It’s called, “Justin’s Homecoming,” or also known as, “You’re Home! Will You Please Weed the Patio?”


(This was my first foray into internet video making. Yes. Next time I will turn the camera horizontal. Thank you.) :)

30 Before 30. Except After.

So I meant to do this whole 30 Before 30 bucket list thing you know… before I actually turned 30.

I did.

But not really.

I knew that I never would, because I am an accomplished procrastinator and as such, I’m very well aware that some of these things that I plan for myself will, in fact, never actually happen.

But to avoid the inevitable crash that comes with the realization that I didn’t actually achieve a goal that I set for myself (hell — I didn’t even achieve the goal of listing my goals), I’m going to list some of the things I actually DID do before I turned 30. I feel like this is a much more effective way to feel good about myself, and hey. Life’s too short to not feel good about myself. And also, it’s difficult to see where you might be going if you don’t first analyze — or at least glimpse at — where you’ve been.

1. I have been to 9 countries. (This is not NEARLY enough, mind you, but considering I’m fortunate enough to supplement overseas travel with quite a bit throughout the continental U.S., I feel pretty happy about this.)

2. Went skydiving in Hawaii.

Skydive Hawaii

3. Went scuba diving in St. Lucia.

4. When I was 16, I got my belly button pierced. Then? Big deal. Now? Cliché. And I know that now that I’m 30 I should probably take that sucker out, but by this point it feels like an old friend. I’ve had it almost as long as I haven’t had it. It knows my deepest secrets. We’ve been everywhere together. Sometimes, we like to drink wine and listen to the Gin Blossoms and reminisce about less complicated times. Like when belly button piercings were cool.

5. At 18, I got a tattoo. It has since also turned into a huge cliché, and though I’d like to get another tattoo one day, I figure I will have to first decide what I want and then wait at least 10 years to make sure it doesn’t turn into a cliché. Because by now I’m like — the Queen of Cliché Body Modifications.

Hawaii Beach
Photo by: Leah B Photography

6. I quit college when I was 20 due to family complications. Quitting college was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

7. I finished college when I was 25. The kids in my freshman English course kept asking me to buy them beer. Instead, I told them I’d edit their English papers and probably made more than one cry with my extensive use of red ink, but all of their grades improved drastically.

8. I’ve had at least 17 (taxable) jobs (that I can count), effectively making me a Jack of (almost) All Trades. So THERE, stupid college career counselor.

9. I put 5,500 miles on The Tracker during a self-financed month-long road trip through the western U.S. when I was 20.

10. In high school I had a 4.2 GPA. Because it’s cool to be a nerd.

11. At my first college, I was convinced to join a sorority. The one I chose (and subsequently chose me) had just gotten reinstated after being kicked off campus for excessive partying. Those girls changed my perspective on sororities. They still change my perspective on many things today.

12. When I was 20, I learned that my parents were actually real people. It was terrifying.

13. I traveled to Europe for the first time when I was 23. I haven’t forgotten the feel of cobblestone streets, the taste of tarte flambé, or what it means to be a foreigner.

14. I once survived a vicious wiener dog attack.

15. I’ve only gotten one speeding ticket. Ever. For going 19 over the limit. While driving on a military installation. In a government vehicle. (Hey. Go big, or go home.)

16. I’ve gotten my writing and photography published on Apartment Therapy.

17. I had a beer with D.B. Sweeney. I think he was mad I didn’t ask him to say, “toe pick.”

18. I made hot sauce for 2 months in Costa Rica. And rappelled waterfalls. You know, the usual.


19. I’ve eaten authentic paella from a nondescript restaurant house on Ibiza.

20. A real artist — Valerio Gentile — has drawn my eyes on a balcony in Malaga.

21. I’ve sunbathed topless on the beaches of Formentera. It was pretty much the best feeling in the world.

22. I’ve conquered my fear of cooking.

23. I have been a (semi) consistent blogger for over 2 years. It seems so small, but it has encouraged me to try new things and meet new people and has given me the courage to consciously decide to stop sleepwalking through life.

24. I’ve designed, constructed, and hung a kick-ass industrial closet organizer out of plumbing fixtures and never finished telling you how to make it.

Plumbing Pipe Closet Organizer Domestiphobia

25. Across states and continents, I’ve managed to build and maintain some of the best friendships a woman could ask for.

26. I’ve effectively come to grips with the fact that sometimes, in order to avoid sounding awkward and uptight, I have to end a sentence with a preposition.

27. From childhood we’re taught to not talk to strangers. Ignoring that advice is the best thing I’ve learned. It’s how I learned the story of the most generous waiter in the world. It’s how I gained the confidence to try and chase my dreams. It’s how I learned the phrase, Reason, Season, Lifetime and its significance in my life. It’s how I turned a chance meeting on an airplane into an informal job interview and potential offer with a prestigious technology firm. These things happen. You just have to converse.

28. I survived a 3-hour formal job interview with a spider bite on my ass.

29. It took me 30 years, but I’ve finally found my sense of direction.

30. I’ve managed to land myself a pretty incredible guy. I’m still not quite sure how that happened. He comes home this week.

So. All-in-all, I feel pretty good. I may not be able to fix my electric fence. I may not be able to get my wireless internet working again. I will likely never learn how to dougie.


Life, so far, has been a trip.

And I think I’ll stay on this train for as long as they’ll let me.

It’s Just Another Countdown.

So there’s a chance I’m not taking this whole about-to-turn-30 thing as well as I’d thought.


Soon, my forehead will look like this.

I used to be all, Oh, 30? That’s no big deal. I’ve always been mature for my age, so it’ll finally feel like the number has caught up with the personality. Seriously. No big deal. Now, 40 — that’s my scary age. Not that any age is all that scary since really, we should all BE so lucky to celebrate every new birthday. Amiright? Right. So. Turning 30 isn’t a big deal. Just another day. And when you think about it, I haven’t changed that much. I still fit into some of my high school clothes. Okay, so my actual body parts are a tad saggier than they used to be, but the fit? It’s still there. -ish. Like, if I hold my breath and lie down on the bed and suck everything in to the vortex of my core and pretend that my hips aren’t screaming, “WHY AREN’T YOU PREGNANT?! WE ARE SO READY TO SUPPORT THIS WOMB! LOOK AT US! WE’RE SUPPLE AND WIDE AND OH-SO-PREPARED TO BEAR! ALL THAT’S MISSING IS THE BABY! WHY DO YOU INSIST ON BEING SUCH A FREAK???”

So really. I haven’t changed much at all.

Except for last night.

Last night, it seemed like the reality of my situation hit me all at once.

My “situation” being that I’m 3 days from 30, I don’t have a job, my husband’s in Afghanistan, and I don’t even have — or necessarily even want — any babies to at least distract myself from all of the above.

The truth is, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

But I do know a couple of things that I didn’t know last year. Or when I quit my “real” job 2 years ago:

1) I want to be a writer. Simple. That’s what I want to do.

2) The biggest thing holding me back is myself. There are a lot of genuine fears that accompany striking off on one’s own, and I’m pretty sure I’ve run the gamut: What if I don’t make it? What if people make fun of me? What if I can’t handle the pressure? What if it’s not as great as I thought it would be? What if my family and friends don’t believe in me? What if they do?

And that’s it, really. The biggest fear of all is success.

Then I might actually have to do this thing.

And so last night, after a day spent researching and reading and watching how-to videos and generally focusing on everything but the actual doing of a thing, it hit me all at once.

I’m pretty much 30.

And I’m not where I thought I would be.



And then, I got over it again.

Because maybe I just need to be a “grown up” before growing up. Maybe this new stage — this new decade — is what I need to make me stop feeling like it’s okay to procrastinate because I think I have all the time in the world and instead, I will finally grasp the fact that the time is now.

Right now.

To make the next move. To take the next step. To stop blaming my partner or my friends or society from holding me back.

So it all begins.

But not exactly right now because first, I have to get on a plane.

Because I can’t very well welcome 30 sitting by myself on a sofa watching Sex and the City.

(Which is exactly what I did last night.)

You know me.

I have to move.


Here’s a hint:

(This photo was taken around Thanksgiving last year and is the best recent-ish photo I have of my brother and me. I mean, I don’t know about you, but my best photos are the ones where I’m covering half of my face. Just sayin’. Where were we? Have you been reading that long? Bonus points to the first person who gets it right.)

Bye, North Carolina. Bye 29. It’s been good. Really.

But I think 30 might be even better.

And Two For Tea…

As much as I’d like to be, I’m not really a tea drinker.

I enjoy thinking of myself as misplaced Euro trash, but more of the waify, carefree, wine and cigarettes with lunch variety than the humorless, pearl-wearing, yellow-stained teeth variety.

More this:

Less this:

Of course, we’re talking strictly in stereotypes.

And I don’t smoke.

And I look nothing like Penelope Cruz.

Because it’s a cruel, cruel world.


My point is that despite all of the wonderful things I hear about tea, I much prefer getting my nighttime antioxidants from fermented grapes over sticks and leaves, and coffee is too ingrained into my mornings for me to wake up to anything else, and for those reasons I will probably never be a true convert.


When I was in San Antonio a couple of months ago, my friend Stacy took me to a tea room that almost changed my mind.


See, I’ve always maintained that when you visit a new city, it’s wise to make yourself friendly with a local.  Stacy and I go back to our cubicle days on Fort Bragg, but we kept in touch after I ran off to make hot sauce in Costa Rica and she ran away with her husband back to Texas.

In a city like San Antonio, it’s easy to get lured in by its magical River Walk filled with overpriced restaurants, twinkling lights, touristy shops filled with trinkets to take home, and plenty of beautiful spots to sit and contemplate how many drunk spring breakers have peed off the boardwalk into the murky depths of the waterway. But with a local, you might be more inclined to visit the city’s rusty edge or the King William Historic District, where resides a squat maze of rooms that comprise Madhatters Tea House & Café.

Beamed ceilings, crooked rooms, mismatched chairs and local art define the quirky decor, and one look around made instant my decision to ignore the long line at the counter and treat it as a true sign that this was the place to have lunch.

The line traveled quickly, leaving us just enough time to peruse the extensive menu.

Of course, since this was a tea room, we decided to embrace our girly girl selves and ordered the Tea for Two, complete with crustless sandwiches, scones, and little mini desserts with fancy French names.

After ordering at the counter, we selected our tea cups and I was reminded for a second of what it’s like to just play. To make tea cup selection a big, stinkin’ deal. To forget for a minute about mortgages and Homeowners’ Associations and quitting my job and just have a tea party because dammit, sometimes you just want to lift a delicate cup from an intricate saucer, stick your pinky in the air, and curse your decision to leave the house without your wide-brimmed hat.

I don’t remember what kind of tea we drank, but it was delicious, served hot and steeping at our table in its own funky pot.

And excuse me? Crustless sandwiches? I always thought that was wasteful as a kid and so never requested my bread sans crust, but whoa. I was missing out. There’s something about thick, fluffy bread unimpeded by stiff crust, and tell me — will people start looking at me funny if, at almost-30-years-old, I start cutting the crust from my sandwiches?

If so, I’ll just tell them my teeth are rotting because I’m getting so old.

Meager as it looks, it was actually a pretty filling amount of food. And the trick, my friends, is to eat slowly. Savor the flavor. Sip warm tea. Enjoy conversation with long lost friends and pretend, just for an hour, that life’s as simple as we want it to be.

It wasn’t wine and cigarettes, but the effect, I think, was the same.

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