¡Viva México!

Remember a couple months back, when I was in Belize with some of the best people? You may recognize two of them in the photo below:

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When they asked if I wanted to come to Mexico with them, of course my answer was YES! Who wouldn’t want to ditch the winter weather for some fun in the sun? We stayed in Playa del Carmen.

I thought by the end of the trip, maybe I’d be sick of Mexican food. But to this day, I’m not over how delicious it was. My mouth is still watering!

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Not only was the food delicious, the company amazing, and the beaches beautiful, but our Airbnb was the bomb. Check out the view below of our rooftop pool:

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And some sights wandering around the city center:

Having a group of ten girls together might seem insane, but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life. Our bond was stronger than the tequila.

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Excuse my tired face- but here I am at the local market, fueling up with tamales before our long day!

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A view of the seven wonders of the world. Oh, and behind us is Chichén Itzá 😉

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After we left, we took a frigid dip in the Choj-Ha cenote outside Valladolid:

(Coolest thing ever. We called it being rebirthed by Mother Earth.) Never seen anything like it in my life.

 

On my last day in Mexico, I took the ferry to Cozumel! Salted margaritas, sunshine, sea water, sunrises, and side boob for the win.

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As you can see, this trip was paradise. I’ll leave you with these favorite words of wisdom from our Airbnb:

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Until next time,

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DOPEnhagen

Q: What do you get when you gather seven friends, set them loose in a historic capital city, subtract your worries, multiply Carlsbergs and explored streets, and add in another country border crossing?

A: An unforgettable weekend.

My first impression of Copenhagen was that it reminded me somewhat of Amsterdam: the canals, the amount of bicycles, art and architecture, etc. But the Danish and the Dutch are quite different!

Our first stop was Nyhavn, the famous canal with brightly colored waterfront homes, shopping, restaurants, and more. We stopped for some smørrebrød before continuing past the wooden ships in the harbor.

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Nyhavn

On the way to the iconic Little Mermaid statue, we stumbled upon St. Alban’s Church and the picturesque landscape surrounding it.

The city itself was very walkable, and public transportation was also convenient. I got the tourist card for 72 hours at the airport, which came in handy for the metro, buses, and trains. By the end of the afternoon, we made a final stop at Tivoli Gardens, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it was an amusement park, but it was the middle of February. Surely nothing would be open and running. Wrong. Not only was this park a winter wonderland with its beautiful and brightly shining lights, but it was quite the happening place! We went for a ride on the antique roller coaster, screaming with delight as it whipped around corners and cut through the night.

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Tivoli- winter wonderland

The next day, we wandered Strøget window shopping and climbed Rundertaarn, a round tower with an incredible view of the city, as seen below:

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Other notable sights: Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace and the Renaissance-era Rosenborg Castle.

Sunday afternoon, we took a train to Malmö, Sweden.

It was awesome to spend the afternoon in another country, wandering the city squares, stopping for a drink, and seeking out the Turning Torso tower.

We saw Stortorget, the oldest square, and got our bearings as we searched for the next café or landmark destination.

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All of the locals we encountered in both countries were exceptionally helpful and friendly. It only added to the already charming cities.

Our final stop was Öresund Bridge, which was a breathtaking view as the sunset stretched across the sky. I’ve never seen such beautiful blue and peach hues. Crazy how many moments you want to bottle up just so you could relive them again.

After arriving back in Copenhagen, we explored Christiana (Freetown) in the dark, which was really trippy, but such an interesting place.

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If you ever get the opportunity to go, I can’t recommend it enough. Truly Dopenhagen. This was without a doubt a weekend for the books!

Until next time,

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Going For It

Not many people know this, but I started graduate school for my MFA in January.

I am still working full time, but I decided that this goal was one I seriously wanted to accomplish for myself and to push myself academically and personally, to become a better writer.

My motto for this new year has been to just go for it, and that’s what I am doing. The residency proved to me that I made the right decision. Never in my life did I connect so quickly to my peers and mentors. I felt like even though I only met these people ten days ago, it felt like we had been friends for a lifetime! I was surrounded by the most brilliant writers, and the energy was contagious. All in all, it was the single most overwhelming (but in the best way) thing I had ever experienced.

And now, the real work of practicum begins. For those of you who are or have previously been in grad school, especially a low residency program, what advice would you give?

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UnBelizeable

As 2017 drew to a close, I knew I wanted to take advantage of all my time off work for the holiday season.

My parents and I flew to Florida to spend Christmas with my brother, his wife, and their daughter. We visited Destin, Panama City Beach, and Pensacola, ate way too much, and truly enjoyed our time together as a family again.

It was a beautiful change from the snowy weather back north!

Shortly after, I flew solo to Belize City for one last international trip before the craziness of 2018 began.

Although Belize has a bad reputation and certain parts of Belize City are indeed VERY dangerous, (consistently ranking as one of the highest homicide rates in the world) I am so grateful that I did not let this hold me back from going.  I had a safe trip there and back, and made friends with other tourists and many locals. It was hard to not enjoy all the beauty the country had to offer. I stayed in San Pedro, and took the ferry back to Belize City where I met Carlos, who showed me the best parts of his country.  Here was my first full day- packed with lots of adventure:

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Visiting Altun Ha ruins.

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Ziplining through the jungle!

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Cave tubing 🙂

I would highly recommend those who are thrill seekers to check it out! And though I’ve explored caves before, I was pleasantly surprised by how different my perspective was with cave tubing.

That evening, some friends and I went to Wahoo’s Lounge for the world famous “Chicken Drop.” You guessed it- we bought tickets and watched as a chicken strutted around on the board, hoping that it would take a shit on our number. It was easily one of the most ridiculously interesting things I’ve ever experienced.

The next day I traveled to Caye Caulker, one of Belize’s most famous destinations, to relax and have some island fun. I couldn’t imagine being surrounded by these incredible views and calling this place my home. Would I ever get tired of it?

I spent the late afternoon at the Lazy Lizard enjoying a drink and jumping into the crystal water.

There is so much more I could say about this trip, from turtle talk to late night exploration, to the friendships I formed, but some things can’t be put into words. I’ll leave you with these highlights, until next time.

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AmsterDAMNNNNN

You guys, I just got back from one of the most fun trips of my LIFE! I flew to Amsterdam last week and took full advantage of my short time there.

Some quick highlights:

Van Gogh & Rijksmuseum

I Amsterdam sign

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Vondelpark- I stayed right near this gorgeous place.

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Heineken Experience- this was a BLAST. Tour of the brewery, boat ride to A’Dam, interactive experiences, bottling your own beer, everything!

A’Dam Lookout- come onnnnn, more like AmsterDAMN.

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Over the Edge- because why not?

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Anne Frank House- Truly an eye-opening and overwhelming experience to tour this annex and learn about this incredible young woman’s life and how her words have impacted us.

Dutch Pancakes & Coffee

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Floating Market

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Canal Tour- By the way, 12,000-15,000 of these bad boys get pulled out of the canals every year!

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Light Festival- so, so beautiful! Photographs don’t do justice. From November 30-January 21st, so I definitely picked the right time to go!

(These are just Christmas lights- but still, how spectacular?!)

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Dam Square

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Here, you can see bubbles in front of the Grand Palace.

Jordaan/Leidseplein neighborhoods

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Red Light District

I made fast friends with these lovely lads from Ireland and we had an amazing night out!

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I also got to see the charming countryside of the Netherlands:

Zaandam-  Behind me is the only working mill in the world that still makes paint.

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Volendam

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Cheese tasting is awesome. Until you’re a solid ten minutes in…

I tried kibbeling here, too. Delicious!

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Wooden shoes, anyone?

And I’ll leave you all with this bathroom stall wisdom from Friday night:

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Catch you wildly beautiful people somewhere in the world next time!

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The Launch

One day before my 27th birthday, I celebrated the release of my first chapbook, Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press 2017) at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Over 50 of my friends, family, and colleagues came out to support me as I launched this chapbook into the world.

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The author & the artist.

Books were for sale, as well as artwork by my dear friend Catherine (who also took the photograph on the cover of the book).

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Catherine’s creations with my poems.

Around 2:30 p.m., people arrived to mingle and get refreshments. Shortly after 3 p.m. my mentor, Tess, welcomed the audience and introduced me.

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Tess & I.

I became overcome with emotion as I looked around the room and thanked those that had helped me so much, for I knew without them this endeavor would not have been possible.

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After the reading, I signed copies of books and spent precious, too-short moments with the guests- even my high school English teachers came!

It was an intense whirlwind of an event, but I’m thankful for how smoothly it went. Seeing the people I love come together to show their support for my passion was the highlight of my birthday weekend.

Check out some pictures below:

P.S. For those that were unable to make it to the launch party but would like a signed copy of the book, please message me!

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The guest book!

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Pacific Northwonderland

I needed no excuse to go to Seattle- Alex (my oldest high school friend) lived there, it was surrounded by water and soaring mountains, and I had no plans for Memorial Day weekend.

I arrived late on Friday night.  On Saturday, Alex and I went downtown to fit the most of Seattle sights in during one day. We strolled the iconic Pike Place market and wandered down the alley to the famous gum wall. Tourist attraction, but I couldn’t miss it. It was equal parts fascinating and gross.

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Alex wanted me to get a better view of the city, so we (just barely!) caught the ferry across to Bainbridge Island. Once the ferry pulled back, I could see the whole city and encircling mountains. It was a sunny 75 degrees and the clearest day, so the view was unreal. Alex pointed out landmarks: the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, etc.

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Once the ferry docked safely back at Seattle, we decided to explore downtown more. Grabbing a donut and coffee (no, not Starbucks!), we walked to the neighborhood of Capital Hill. This is where Alex is moving soon. He showed me his favorite bookstore, Elliot Bay, and we popped into a couple shops. Next, we drove to Discovery Park where I saw the West Point Lighthouse and stuck my feet in the cold, refreshing water. The bright colored sails of sailboats contrasting with the blue of the water and jutting mountain ranges left me speechless.

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Since we only had limited time, and there was still so much more he wanted me to see, we didn’t stay long. We drove to Green Lake and laid out in the sun, people watching. It was the most perfect day. Came back to his apartment, got ready for dinner, and walked around his neighborhood of Ballard. I could see why he loved it. We chose Ballard Annex Oyster House for dinner. Since it was happy hour, we filled up on fish and chips, clam chowder, and calamari for almost half the price. Dessert is not optional for me, so a stop to Hot Cakes dessert shop was in order.  Just when I thought the day couldn’t get better, we ended it with a trip to Golden Gardens park to watch the sunset.  The beach was packed, so we stayed further down on the rocks, but the skies couldn’t have been more clear. It honestly was so breathtaking, I wanted to cry. The sunset was this indescribable golden orange and calming blue. I wanted to bottle it forever.

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On Sunday, we got up early to pack Alex’s car for our camping trip to Steamboat Rock State Park. We met up with another friend, Michael, and set off, stopping about halfway in Ellensburg for food and gas. It was a beautiful drive, the first part through Snoqualmie Pass was all evergreen forests,  rich blues and dark greens, and then later, all desert. We wasted no time, setting out to hike the rock as soon we pulled in to our site.  The beginning was steep uphill on loose rocks. Once at the top we did a long loop, admiring the views from the cliffs.

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Top of the rock.

We weren’t the only ones out & about: we passed a deer, two groundhogs that ran away, and only one other couple on top of the rock. When we cut through higher grass to circle back to the trail head, Alex heard a rattlesnake. And suddenly it was HIGH KNEES like I was in boot camp. (I’m terrified of snakes, not to mention a rattlesnake!) Once back, and sweating hard, we changed into our bathing suits and waded in the water. As the sun cooled off, we set up camp, made hot dogs and chili for dinner, and climbed a little sand dune to look at the stars at night.

The next morning, I woke up to sunlight spilling across my pillow- sure that it must be at least 7 a.m., but it was just barely 5 a.m. So bright out already! We enjoyed breakfast, then got back on the road, stopping at Dry Falls overlook, and Ellensburg again for gas and food. Due to the holiday, traffic was really bad coming through Snoqualmie Pass.  When we finally returned to Seattle, I was lucky enough to meet up with another great high school friend, Frank, who I hadn’t seen in years!

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Over coffee, we caught up on each other’s lives and talked Washington and traveling. He was nice enough to drop me off at the airport, where my next big adventure awaited: ALASKA.

(To check out my trip to Alaska, read about it here.)

When I returned from The Last Frontier, I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Tacoma, just south of Seattle, where my boyfriend J.J. was spending two weeks training at Lewis-McChord AFB. He had the weekend off, and spending it with him was much better than just coming home to Pittsburgh early!

When I landed on Friday (June 2nd) afternoon, he met me at the airport and we checked into our hotel. Soon after, we set out to Wapato Park, then walked along the waterfront: Jack Hyde Park, Hamilton Park, Dickman Mill Park, etc. and ended with a delicious dinner on the water. Drove through Point Defiance Park after, which was gorgeous as the sun was setting.  On the way back to the hotel we stopped to get some food for our hike we were planning on doing the next day. And also a huge bag of Skittles. Totally healthy and good for sustaining energy.

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The next morning, Saturday, we got up early for breakfast, repacked our bags and programmed the GPS to Mt. Rainier.  We stopped in Longmire for coffee, but it was so necessary. It helped wake us both up and instantly rejuvenated. Paradise was still covered in snow, but it was another beautiful, sun-shining day and we still hiked through it. What a workout! We also covered the Silver Falls trail which was in completely different conditions. And had to see the famous Grove of the Patriarchs before driving through to the other side of the mountain to exit the park and head back to Tacoma for dinner and much needed rest, at that point.

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No words.

Two very different conditions: Snow-covered Reflection Lakes, and Silver Falls.

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Grove of the Patriarchs

Sunday, our last day together, we caught the ferry to Anderson Island. We weren’t really sure what all was there, but walking around looking at the incredible homes and enjoying the sunshine and the company of one another made it a wonderful outing. Once we took the ferry back over, we drove to Seattle to spend some (very short) time before my flight. Got Dicks drive-in which was so good, it would have been worth the drive just for that. Delicious burgers & shakes! I showed J.J. Pike Place Market, the view on the deck of the Seattle Great Wheel and waterfront, and we marked our spot on the gum wall with Bubble Yum.

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I was lucky enough to visit during the most perfect weather, and could easily see why so many people loved living here. Seattle and the PNW surely left its mark on me!

Until next time,

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