Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

  • Leg 1: Baton Rouge

    Date: 2013.05.26 | Category: Family, Life, Mark, Sarah, Travel | Response: 4

    Despite residing in the same state as New Orleans, it’s actually a long drive from here to there. I had to be in the Crescent City at 11:00 Thursday morning, so we decided to leave Wednesday afternoon and head to Baton Rouge to stay with my aunt and her fiancee overnight. That left us with a short 1 hour drive to New Orleans the following morning.

    Sarah, who is normally very shy around people she doesn’t know well, latched on to Jay and Amy both, even crying when Jay had to leave for a meeting.

    She had a great time running around the backyard, kicking a ball, playing with the flowers and devouring most of the Pringles in Jay’s pantry.

    We all went for a late dinner at Chelsea’s, a great little pub tucked under a bridge off of Perkins Road. Both Jay and Amy knew all the waitresses there and, it turned out, one of the waitresses happened to know both of my sisters. Small world, huh?

    We had a great time catching up while Sarah devoured her food and colored lots of pictures for everyone.

    The next morning before we left, Aunt Amy, who is a long time photographer, photographed Sarah in all her early morning, just out of bed glory. I can’t wait to see how those came out!

    During the photography session, I was inside with Mark when we heard Sarah crying. We came out and she was sitting in Amy’s lap holding her foot. And, clear as day, she said, “My foot hurt.” Hello sentences, here we go.

    She had just stepped in a prickly bush, but of course she wasn’t thrilled about that. But it’s ok, because Aunty Aim took her to look at the rose bushes.

    Our stay in BR was short, but sweet as we took to the road again, this time New Orleans bound.

  • The Freaking Cat

    Date: 2013.05.25 | Category: Family, Health, Kitties, Sam Cat, Travel | Response: 7

    Pardon my long absence. I rushed over the weekend for a deadline so I could leave town and head to Baton Rouge, then New Orleans, then Ft. Walton Beach, FL first for work, then for a much needed vacation with my family.

    I have great pictures and stories about that to share with you. But before I do that, I have to tell you about what happened with the cat while I was away.

    We have the great fortune of having animal loving family members who live in town and volunteer to watch our animals while we’re away. My sister takes on both dogs, and my sister-in-law, Stephanie, both cats.

    Friday night, when we were in New Orleans, Stephanie texted us to let us know Sam Cat had some sort of sore on the back of one of his legs. He’s a long haired cat, so it’s difficult to see something like that. It means a lot that she took the time to pet him and saw it. She texted us a photo and it looked BAD.

    Fortunately for us, our vet has limited Saturday morning hours. I called them Saturday morning and they wanted to see him. So I called Stephanie at 8:10 a.m. I should mention she is single, doesn’t have kids and enjoys sleeping in on Saturday mornings. I told her they wanted to see him right away. And without any complaint she got up, managed to find our cat carrier in one of the three locations I said it might possibly be in, rounded up the cat, managed to get him in the carrier and to the vet.

    And wouldn’t you know it? The dang cat needed stitches for about an inch long gash. Turns out he somehow ripped the skin behind his front left arm. And this is a cat we’re talking about here, so stitches also meant sedation. And, you know, with him having an open wound for an undetermined length of time, that also meant a strong antibiotic shot. We’re also fortunate that we know our vet’s office well and they were willing to bill us for it, because there is no way I could have asked Stephanie to front us that cost.

    Sam Cat is fine now. He’s stitched up and back at home – just pissed we won’t let him outside until he’s completely healed. Stephanie checked on him while we were gone and kept us informed on his health so we were able to relax and enjoy our trip.

    Freaking cat. But really, I’m glad he’s ok.

  • Beautiful Carly

    Date: 2012.11.28 | Category: Friends, Love, Photography, Travel | Response: 6

    A month ago I went to photograph Carly’s wedding, who just happens to Cassie’s sister, all the way up in Pittsburgh. I waxed poetic about the barns and fall leaves on my visit. And while I miss being up there, I’m happy to say those of us in the deep south are finally celebrating our flaming leaves  just in time for Christmas. I guess that’s the way of things around here.

    Anyway, I’m getting ready to mail Carly her wedding photos, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites here.

    Katie also took a million photos, so it’s safe to say that Carly will have one of the best documented weddings ever. I’ve seen a couple of Katie’s photos, and I have to say, they’re amazing!

    Somehow I managed two destination weddings this year and I enjoyed both immensely. Too bad I don’t have time to squeeze one more in this year. Anyone want to get hitched in the Bahamas?

  • The Gift of Missionaries

    Date: 2012.11.14 | Category: Health, Life, Travel, Work | Response: 10

    As I’ve shared before, working in journalism I’m constantly running across stories and people who amaze me and open my eyes.

    In the works for a while now, we’ve been planning a story about a married couple who served as medical missionaries in Cameroon, Africa. In the states, he works at our local state hospital as an OB/GYN and his wife is a retired nurse. Through a Catholic-based medical missionary organization, the two of them spent three months literally living in a hospital in one of the poorest and most desolate area of Cameroon, primarily doing obstetric work. Assisted by a group of Franciscan nuns and other Catholic missionary doctors, they made do with three tables made out of boards with a shallow bowls in the center for delivering babies.

    Kelly conducted a lengthy interview with them and is writing the story for our publication, but I had the chance to talk to them for a while too and look at the photos they took.

    In the 30 minutes I spoke to them, I quickly became deeply grateful for the medical and obstetrical care I receive here.

    In Cameroon, you have to pay state hospitals up front or you’re turned away from medical care, even if you’re in active labor. Catholic mission hospitals will accept anyone, but the line to get into the clinic at 6:00 a.m. is already extremely long in the blazing heat. Women walk for days in labor to get to the hospital, and then line the hallways during their active labor, periodically being checked by the sisters and quickly ushered into one of the three wooden board tables when it’s time for delivery.

    The doctor told me about a woman who was eclamptic with extremely high blood pressure during her labor and she kept having seizures all day long. Without the medicine there to stop them, the doctors had to come up with their own cocktail to get them to stop. And they did. Both mom and baby were fine in the end.

    He showed me pictures of where they scrub up for surgery – rusty old sinks with a bar of soap, gloves that they wash and reuse, operating “rooms” made out of wall partitions. He spoke about the amazing work the sisters there do every day.

    And, of course, HIV is rampant there. Mothers and babies all suffer from it, and the medicine the government is supposed to supply is nonexistent.

    Their story makes me so thankful for people who are willing to put their own wants aside, and step in and help those who are most in need, especially these Franciscan sisters and the doctor and nurse team who so willingly spend their vacation time helping others and enthusiastically plan to do so again.

    I’ll post a link to the final story after it’s published.

    If you’re interested, you can learn more about the Mission Doctors Association by visiting this website:

  • Beauty in PA

    Date: 2012.10.30 | Category: Food, Friends, Life, Me, Photography, Style, Travel | Response: 17

    I went to Pennsylvania to photograph a wedding, hang out with Cassie and meet Katie. All those things I expected. What I didn’t expect was to fall head over heels in love with autumn in Pennsylvania.

    I’m a hopeless romantic on a good day, so when romanticized views of fall kept popping up all around me, I was a goner. I think Cassie may have gotten tired of my constant “oooo’s and ahhhh’s,” but I couldn’t help myself.

    And there were BARNS everywhere. That’s right, rolling hills of bright fall colors with BARNS. Swoon.

    I don’t think Cassie and Katie quite understood what was up with my barn fascination. But they humored my constant squeals every time we passed one. Katie even indulged me and took a photograph of me in front of a barn, but for some reason her photos are locked away on the other side of Manhattan and she’d have to hire a submarine to navigate through Hurricane Sandy to get to them. So you’ll have to wait to see me with the barn. Oh and there were colonial style homes with white fences and trick-or-treaters, you know, because perfection is Pennsylvania’s middle name.

    Not to be outdone by the fall landscape, Cassie took me to Oakmont Bakery, where this scene greeted me.

    And to repay Cassie’s kindness, I bought every pumpkin flavored thing there, including a gob, a muffin, a macaroon and a cupcake. And the smell of all that pumpkin combined with pregnancy almost made Cassie barf on her own steering wheel.

    Don’t worry though, I ate the gob and hid the rest so she wouldn’t drive us into the side of one of those beautiful barns.

    And last, but certainly not least, the most beautiful site of all (you know, despite the fact that when we finally got a photo of the three of us, none of us were wearing any makeup):

    Sort of amazing that we all met through blogging, huh? And I am thankful to say that our meet up wasn’t awkward in the least (besides that whole nearly barfing over the smell of pumpkin thing).

  • A Big Decision

    Date: 2012.09.27 | Category: Family, Home, Life, Me, Travel, Work | Response: 10

    Sometimes life has a way of kicking you in the head and making you take notice.

    After high school, I wanted to go away to college. I applied in several different states, but after getting a full ride scholarship to a fantastic local, private college, I stayed put. While I was in college, I traveled extensively, even studying abroad one summer. I was terrified to do it, and once I arrived, homesickness reared its ugly head. I stayed though, and I’m glad I did. I learned a lot and spent a good amount of time in another country. But man was I ever glad to be home again when it was over.

    Similarly, after college, I was ready to pick up and move again. I even applied and got into a graduate program in another state. But then I got sick, really sick. Like laid up in the hospital for a week, constant monitoring for months and then eventually surgery sick. It kept me home for a year. And by then my fiancee had started his own business locally, so I stayed again, this time with a twinge of regret.

    But, staying allowed me to finally dip my toes into the field I was so interested in – the print industry. And eventually, I got a really great job in this field. A job that I’ve pushed and grown. A job that I’m passionate about. A job that I can continue to grow creatively in.

    Then we had our little girl, bought a house, and I’ve been happy. Really happy.

    Having close friends in states both near and far away, I’ve joked with Mark about moving, He, of course, lists a number of reasons why he’s happy we’re here, including his business, and I always laugh and then agree. We’re settled, we’re happy.

    And then, out of the blue came an e-mail. An e-mail from a very prestigious and large company that wanted to interview me as the editor of their weekly publication. Oh, and it’s only 20 hours north from where we live now.

    My heart stopped. First of all, I’m beyond flattered. Someone trusted by the company submitted my name for the job. But then, an onslaught of emotions hit me. Could I uproot my family and move them 20 hours north? Could I move that far away from Sarah’s grandparents? Was I an idiot for even taking all of that into consideration when such a big opportunity and “move up” presented itself? Make no mistake, this opportunity would be huge for me. I would take a giant leap up in the publishing industry and probably increase my paycheck substantially. And being “wooed away,” especially at 27-years-old, is a rare thing, especially in this industry.

    So I talked to Mark about it for several days. Leaving would mean closing down his business, something we’ve sacrificed years and lots of money for to get going. So if I did this, I would be effectively asking him to close it down and try to find a job 20 hours away. And to his credit, he honestly considered the move. He told me he didn’t want to be the reason I was held back.

    It would mean going through the daycare saga all over again. It would mean telling our parents that we’ll see them during the holidays at best, and telling my mother, who has an intense fear of flying, that she would need to make 20 hour drives to see her daughter and granddaughter.

    All of those are huge sacrifices. And most importantly, in my heart of hearts, after all those years of wanting to move, I actually feel at home here now.

    But the ultimate deciding factor was this. I love my current job, and have been working with them to have more time with my family. This new job would be a huge increase in work and stress load and take away all that flexible time I’ve worked to gain. When it comes down to it, my professional decisions have always come down to this: “Would I rather have a more successful career if it meant less time with my family?” And the answer, for me, every time is “no.”

    I don’t judge those who do what they have to do to meet ends meet, and I applaud those who take giant steps to improve their careers. And in this economy, I know the weight of turning down a “better” job opportunity. But in the end, I only get one life, and right now my family is at the center of that life, and I really don’t want it any other way.

  • A Different Take on Austin

    Date: 2012.09.05 | Category: Family, Food, Friends, Sarah, Travel | Response: 18

    Mark and I go to Austin annually to visit our friends who live there. Prior to having kids, our visits usually meant floating down the Comal river with an ice chest of beer, going to bars on Sixth Street, frequenting the hip local restaurants and checking out the amazing music scene.

    And now? Well we have a busy 17-month-old and they have a four-month-old and we’re all just very tired. But that doesn’t mean we sat at home and did nothing.

    We did, after all, manage to go downtown and hit up the flagship Whole Foods store and raid their amazing, organic buffet. Sarah ate over half of “my” food and we learned that she likes pot roast and Indian food. Who knew? The store was really amazing. Triple decker parking garage, countless fresh prepped food counters, chocolate truffle center, fresh bakery, produce for days and great shopping.

    The kids thought it was ok too.

    The other thing that happens is that I now take lots of pictures… all of children. Sorry about that, but you’ll just have to live our trip by staring at photos of little ones.

    Sarah suddenly started talking more during the trip too, which floored me. “Good girl,” “Yay, slide!” and a form of her own name all emerged while we were there.

    Maybe she was just trying to get our attention because the baby was stealing her thunder in the bouncer.

    And even though the heat of the day was brutal, the mornings in Austin were divine. Upper 70’s, wind and no humidity. And since Sarah likes to attempt to wake the household at 6 a.m., we spent a lot of time outside in the mornings.

    Yep, things were different this time around, but I loved seeing a little bit of Austin with Sarah in tow.

  • Roadtripping with a Toddler

    Date: 2012.08.31 | Category: Baby, Family, Food, Mark, Me, Sarah, Style, Travel | Response: 15

    We’re headed out of town tomorrow to one of my favorite cities, Austin, to visit some friends of ours and meet their new baby.

    After our last ill-fated trip to Texas, I decided to be more proactive with our travel plans this time.

    I spent a lot of money at Amazon stocking our car to keep the toddler entertained for the 6 hour drive there and back. At first Mark balked at spending the money on the in-car dvd player, but then I did an impression of the baby screaming and reminded him that would last for HOURS and he quickly agreed that the dvd player might be worth its weight in gold. Glad that’s settled.

    1. Philips PD7012/37 7-Inch LCD Dual Screen Portable DVD Player, Black

    We also stocked up on dvds. We had a few laying around, but there are only so many hours of Veggie Tales Silly Songs I can take before my head explodes, so we bought some of her Disney Junior favorites: Doc McStuffins and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

    2. Doc McStuffins: Friendship Is The Best Medicine (DVD + Digital Copy with GWP Stickers)

    3. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey’s Big Splash

    Bets are, these will pretty much keep her entertained.

    But just in case they don’t, I’ve packed an insane snack bag, guaranteed to keep the three of us alive in case a snow storm hits in August in Texas and we’re stranded. Cheerios? check. Fruit pouches? check. Snack bars? check. Sammies? double check.

    4. Plum Organics Tots Mish Mash-Peach

    5. Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars, Strawberry

    6. Plum Kids Organic Jammy Sammy, Grape Jelly and Peanut Butter

    Scout will also be joining us, because she can’t get enough of him.

    7. LeapFrog My Pal Scout

    So tell me, what else am I forgetting? We want Mark’s and my sanity to be intact when we arrive in Austin.

    p.s. We’re going shopping at the MEGA Whole Foods in Austin and my head is about to explode in anticipation. There is a chocolate fountain and a buffet!

    p.s.s. This isn’t a sponsored post, it’s just for fun, but I did use Amazon affiliate links.

  • Plans = fail.

    Date: 2012.08.06 | Category: Baby, Family, Life, Mark, Sarah, Travel, Weirdness | Response: 18

    I’m a planner to a fault. For the most part it’s an extremely good thing. I run a magazine and keep it on deadline, so that planning part of me is essential to what I do. Baby shower? Bridal shower? I feel bad if you’re planning with me because I tend to take over the plans.

    So when this weekend’s plans got turned on their head, I quickly reformulated a new and improved plan! Mark decided we needed to go to his cousin’s wedding in Weatherford, Texas, which is about four hours away. I knew we would be taking Sarah, so round trip in one day was out of the question. Instead I called my uncle, who lives in Dallas, and made plans to stay the night with them. After that, we would hit the Dallas aquarium on the way out of town because I’d wanted to take Sarah there for a while.

    Plans, done!

    We left on time Saturday morning, met up with Mark’s parents along the road and stopped at Dairy Palace, a Texas food institution. We didn’t realize, however, that Canton Trade Days were going on and the line was crazy long. Between waiting in line and waiting for food, we were there an hour and half and had to book it to get to the wedding on time.

    Hanging out at Dairy Palace

    The wedding was nice. Mark’s cousin was beautiful and he had a great time catching up with family. It was during the wedding that I discovered I had brought my camera along… and left my battery at home on the charger. I was furious with myself, but figured we could hit Best Buy up before the aquarium and get another one.

    Wedding lights and grandaddy.

    Dinner that night in Dallas with my uncle was also nice (despite wading through the busy Dallas restaurants to find one where we could feed the baby quickly).

    Hanging with Uncle Al

    I should have known that night we would have the standard traveling-with-Sarah problems. She wasn’t in a familiar place, she was sleeping in the room with us and woke up all night long.

    At one point, around 4:00 a.m. she woke up, cried, and when we ignored her, happily started singing on and off until we finally got up with her at 7:30. Despite that, I was determined we would go to the aquarium.

    Upon arrival at the aquarium the next day, Sarah was asleep. And not the just-wake-her-up-and-let’s-go sleep, but bobble-her-head-around-with-no-reaction sleep. We debated for about 5 minutes before Mark convinced me we just needed to go and let her get some rest on the way home. I was disappointed and tired, but he was right.

    Conked out.

    And then about 45 minutes into our drive home she woke up angry. Not enough sleep and she refused to go back to sleep. At one point we stopped at a truck stop and got her a caterpillar neck pillow which entertained her for about 20 minutes.

    Gas station souvenir!

    We tried Youtube videos, but between Sarah repeatedly pushing the home key and turning them off and screaming, hitting low signal areas and buffering videos and screaming, and my car phone charger dying it was miserable.

    When we finally made it home, we fed her, put her to bed and immediately bought an in-car dvd player for our trip to Austin at the end of the month.

    Plans = fail.

  • Online Friending

    Date: 2012.07.17 | Category: Friends, Life, Travel | Response: 13

    I’m not sure what I expected when I started blogging.

    A place to keep my thoughts and share life stories and books? I thought a few of my close friends and family would stop by, read every once in a while and say hello in the comments.

    While I still do all those things, it’s also evolved into a place where I share my life and interact with my friends. And by friends, I mean all the people from across the United States who I’ve somehow befriended through this little place of Internet real estate.

    It’s funny, I often hear people embarrassingly explain how they met their spouse or significant other on the Internet, like it’s some great, big, bad, disrespectful thing. When I hear that, I quickly wave my hand and tell them that I’ve met some of my best friends on the Internet, people who I’ve flown to see and people who have, in turn, laid down their hard earned money to come see me. And while I find that some people tend to balk at such notions, more and more people tell me how great it is.

    So often I hear people complaining about the blogosphere: complaints about how blogging opens them up to hate and scrutiny from others, complaints about the overabundance of parenting advice and opinions, complaints about over sharing and differing opinions. And I know all of that stuff is very real and out there, but as a whole, I’ve found my blogging experience to be the exact opposite of that.

    I have found more support and friendship through blog buddies, most of whom I’ve never met in person. It starts with words of comfort, sharing stories, fears, similar experiences, advice. Then someone will send a chat, an email, a Facebook message or friend request and a personal conversation begins. And occasionally, you meet a brave soul like Cassie who just cold calls your phone to talk to you in person. And just like that you have a bonafide friend.

    Over the past couple of years blog friends have inspired me in so many ways. I’ve learned that coping with PPD is ok; that getting off your butt and going to the gym is actually possible with a busy life; that using natural and organic products isn’t just some hipster crap; that reading and discussing books gives you some very satisfying and intellectual adult conversation; that it’s ok to still write fiction even though I’m not in college anymore; that even though I’m married and have a kid, it’s still ok to have personal style; that it’s ok to be a little more adventurous in my culinary pursuits; that it’s ok to laugh and have intelligent conversation, even when you don’t agree; that you can take comfort that other parent’s kids aren’t saying full sentences at 15-months-old.

    I’m constantly amazed that all of these great people continue to engage in conversation and talk with me both on and off this blog, and I’m incredibly thankful for all the socialization my little piece of the Internet brings me every day. I mean, how else would I have befriended people in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Kentucky, New York City, South Carolina, and even in my own city?

    So if you’re not commenting on blogs, my advice to you would be go out and do it! You never know who you’re going to meet along the way.

    Cassie, me and Bluz at the Pittsburgh blogger meetup.