Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wedding Planning vs. Backpacking

I have been planning our wedding since March 2012, so it's been a while.  In that time, I have managed to find my way through many, many wedding blogs.  Since this will be the most expensive event I've ever planned, I usually click through websites that include advice on how to save money.  Some are great - did you know you can dress up a grocery store cake into something pretty fancy?  Even though picking our bakery (maybe five months too early?) has been one of my favorite parts of planning so far, I love reading through posts like this.

Making our cake tasting even better, we got samples to take home.
Other websites quickly leave me feeling inadequate.  For every gorgeous featured wedding, there's another wedding that was just as beautiful and cost half the price.  On a post about a $10,000 wedding for 100 people, there's an internet commenter saying, "$10,000?  My 200 person wedding only cost $5,000 and we served a seven-course meal with fresh-caught lobster."  For every $5,000 lobster-filled wedding, there's an internet commenter saying, "You spent that much on one day, you idiot?  I fed my 300-guest wedding with $20 and a box of saltines!  And they all said it was the best wedding they'd ever been to!"  This race to the bottom leaves me with the constant fear that I am behind on my research.  Clearly if one vendor's prices look good, I must have missed the other guy whose prices are even better, plus he'll throw in a puppy for the day.   

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Educational TV

Watching TV with Eric has been a learning experience.  Any program or movie we watch that has anything to do with law, legal issues, or lawyers results in a seminar-length lecture for me on what the show has done right or, more likely, completely made up.  Let me give you a few examples (plot spoilers ahead):

Eric got a mocha and saw Avengers on the same night in Malaysia. 
It was a big day.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Now what?

I've been slacking on posts recently.  Aside from the usual excuses of procrastination and stress baking, part of the reason for this has been my own uncertainty about what to do with this blog.  Do I keep it a travel blog?  Do I keep an urban theme and write about discovering Chicago?  Can I switch back to my pre-trip format and write about whatever I feel like?  Will my handful of regular readers be interested in my comments about the character development on How I Met Your Mother?  (As some unlucky friends have discovered, I have so many thoughts!)

Some things I've been up to instead of blogging
This blog started as an outlet for me to write down general thoughts, and I think that's where it's going to go for the time being.  I'll still chronicle any traveling adventures I have, but you'll also get to read about my latest farmer's market discovery, analyses of TV and movies, and experiences slowly becoming a real adult.  I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Coffee! (And Some Tea!)

Recently we broke in our coffee grinder with coffee beans that Eric picked up to remind him of his recent trip to Sao Paulo.  He raved about the coffee he tasted there and when he got back, he picked up some Brazilian beans at the Coffee & Tea Exchange in our neighborhood.  Eric and I have put together a good coffee-making set-up.  We have a one-cup coffee maker (which was passed down from my sister Val to my brother Tim to me) and a cappuccino machine that Eric has mastered.  While we enjoy coffee, neither of us is what I would consider a connoisseur.  We like good coffee, but we also go through creamer at a steady rate.  

It's tough to take a photo in our apartment without some sort of Michigan gear in it.
While we traveled last year (this time in 2012 we were in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia), we sampled local coffee everywhere we stopped.  Here's a round-up of some types of coffee or tea you might want to try on your travels or if you can find it at home.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Racing for the Train

The elevated trains in Chicago are both great and terrible. You can watch them come and go as you walk up to the stations that rattle a story above ground. It's a way to witness the motion of the city – traveling, transportation, energy, innovation, synergy! On the other hand, it means that each morning as I walk up to my station, I can watch my train arriving from a block away. 

I made the train that morning!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Since moving to Chicago, I've found myself rationing bath products. I've been buying new shampoo and soap, but I can't quite seem to finish the bottle of Garnier Fructis shampoo/conditioner that I bought in Paros. I don't know whether it's for dry hair or added volume. The pictures on the label don't do much to explain the Greek beyond indicating that it's for your hair and should be used with water. Still, it sits on the edge of my tub and I can't throw it away.

All I really understood was "two in one."
Similarly, I can't get rid of the last bit of St. Ives scrub I picked up in Oxford. The label is probably the same as the US version, but there's a seal assuring me that it is the UK's favorite brand. (Any Brits want to confirm or deny this for me?)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Vacationing on the Water, Part III: Le Mont-Saint-Michel

If you find yourself in the northwest region of France, take the time to get to Le Mont-Saint-Michel.  Located in Normandy, it is one of France's most loved sites.  During high tide, Le Mont-Saint-Michel is an island; during low tide, you can walk from the mainland to the city's walls.

It is not the most convenient place to visit.  When I went in 2010, I took a train from Nantes to Rennes and then a bus from Rennes to Le Mont-Saint-Michel.  The route is scenic, however:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vacationing on the Water, Part II: The Greek Islands

Anyone who has talked to me in the past few years has heard me rave about the Greek islands.  Eric and I have visited together three times since 2010.  Greece continues to be one of my favorite places to return to time and time again.  Here are some details on a few of the islands and some suggestions of what to check out while you're there.


Crete has been ruled by the Minoans, the Venetians and the Ottoman Empire at different times in centuries past.  After gaining its independence at the turn of the twentieth century, Crete became a part of Greece about ten years later.  While it reflects the Mediterranean culture of Greece, it also has its own distinctive mix of influences.  

The pink flowers everywhere were one of my favorite sights

Monday, March 4, 2013

Vacationing on the Water, Part I: The Gili Islands

It is cold in Chicago.  It has been cold the entire time I've been here.  Every night, I curl up on my couch under my Red Sox fleece blanket and imagine being somewhere warm.  To indulge my fantasy, let me recommend some of the best tropical/seaside locations I've visited in the past few years.  Maybe you can escape to one of them soon.

Longboats on the beach
The Gili Islands, Indonesia

My favorite part of these three islands near Bali is that there are no cars or motorbikes.  People get around on bicycles or horse-drawn carts.  Though there is the risk of getting trampled by a pony, I loved not having motorbikes sneak up behind me.  Maybe because of this, the water seemed extra blue and the beaches extra clean.  Gili Trawangan, the largest of the three islands, is still small enough that you can walk around the entire coastline in an afternoon.  The main road is lined with hotels, guest houses, restaurants and snorkeling companies.  Eric and I spent six nights on Gili Trawangan, and I could have happily spent another few days.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Traveling Soundtrack

Frequently, popular songs end up linked in my mind to specific places.  LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" always takes me back to celebrating Eric's 30th birthday at the Blue Note Club on Ios (and a fantastic "Parks and Recreation" cold open).  "Young Folks" makes me think of the coffee shop in Philadelphia where I worked as a line cook for a summer.  During our nine months abroad, I ended up with my own personal mix CD of music I now associate with our trip.  Almost all of the songs are in English — no one is kidding when they talk about American culture being exported overseas.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I do, and please don't judge too harshly.

Pub Street in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is lined with clubs blasting American pop music

Monday, February 25, 2013

So, how was it?

Since returning to the United States, a lot of people have asked me, "So, how was your trip?"  Sometimes this is followed by, "Tell me everything!"  I answer, "It was great!"  and then there's an awkward pause because I have no idea what else to say.  How do I summarize the past year?

These photos don't nearly account for all the cities we visited,
and yet they're still hard to caption all at once.
Most of the time, I list the countries we visited.  People ask which was my favorite, and I pick a different one every time.  I talk about some of the people we met, my favorite cities, or the delicious food.  I have so many stories, but it's hard to bring them up all the time.  There are also only so many times I can segue with: "Speaking of Indonesia..."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Favorite Photos from Europe

Fishermen on a bridge in Istanbul
We flew to Turkey in August and from there traveled through Greece, Italy, the Czech Republic, France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Romania and Germany.  Here are my favorite photos from the second half of the trip!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Favorite Photos from Asia

One of the temples near Angkor Wat, Cambodia
In May, I posted my favorite photos from our first two months of traveling.  By that point, we'd visited Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.  Since getting back, I have been sorting through my many, many pictures and wanted to share my favorites from the trip as a whole.  I'm breaking the post up into two parts, Asia and Europe, to try to make it a manageable length.  I hope you like these as much as I do!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Caffeine Around the World

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Eric and I spent a lot of time in coffee shops around the world.  I was impressed everywhere we went with how pretty a cappuccino can be.  Here's a round-up of some of the most attractive coffee I had the opportunity to drink.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Last Stop: Berlin

We spent the last three days of our trip in Berlin.  In retrospect, it was an extreme contrast to the first city we visited, Phnom Penh.  Berlin is remarkably clean and organized.  Phnom Penh is crowded and overwhelming.  We started in humid summer weather and ended in chilly winter.  However, both cities have their histories constantly on display.  In Berlin, it seemed that every turn took us to a new monument or plaque commemorating World War II or the division of the city during the Cold War.  Unlike some cities that would have tried to separate from and leave behind a dark past, Berlin and its citizens have committed to never forgetting.

The Reichstag building is one of the most remarkable government buildings I've ever seen.
Eric and I visited the remains of the Berlin Wall and the museum Topography of Terror.  We walked by the Holocaust Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie.  We met a lot of German people when we were at one hostel in Malaysia, and they all had different opinions on this infusion of historical memory into modern national identity.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In Prague Again

After a quick trip to Vienna, Eric and I headed back to Prague.  We visited for five days in September and had been looking forward to going back ever since.

A view of the Charles Bridge when we visited in September
There's something about Prague.  It's not the cheapest city, the food is not Europe's best, and it can be damn cold to walk on those gorgeous streets.  The tourist area around Old Town Square is extremely busy and every other shop is trying to sell you Czech crystal or a souvenir beer stein.  Especially on the weekends, the Charles Bridge is so crowded with tour groups that you practically have to elbow old ladies to make your way across.  (There is also no way to avoid walking through someone's photo.  Sorry for being that blur on the left, other tourists!)  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Two Days in Vienna

Eric and I planned a short trip to Vienna.  We stayed near the Naschmarkt, a large open market filled with coffees, cheeses, sit-down cafés and prepared foods from all over.  At the Naschmarkt, I was able to witness what I hope will be a common sight in my future:

This is the dream, people.
Eric, buying cheese while a small dog wanders nearby. 

Friday, January 4, 2013


Several friends of mine had visited Budapest over the past couple of years.  When I mentioned we were going there, they were thrilled to talk about how much they loved the city.  I agreed almost as soon as we arrived from Romania. 

The view from the citadel was worth the uphill climb.