Friday, May 20, 2011


While most children were watching Rugrats or Saved By the Bell, Katie and I would lounge in our living room watching PBS. It was not because our Harvard schooled father passed the genius gene on to us, but instead because we didn't have cable. We did have enough Disney movies to sink a battle ship, but I guess that is besides the point. Bill Nye the science guy anyone?

To this day, our family home is equipped with 7 wonderful channels. That's right, there are about as many Houswives franchises as we have channels.  I do appreciate all of the advantages of cable-less tv now, but back then I'm pretty sure I believed my life was ending. Or rather, I believed it was ending until Fridays came around, because Fridays meant TGIF. And TGIF meant my very brief glimpse of cable-like programming. For a few years I think my life aspirations changed from being a teacher to being Sabrina the ever so talented teenage which, all because of those 4-ish hours of television once a week.

Of course now TGIF means something entirely different to me. In fact I can think of atleast four things it means:  "Thank God It's (the work week) Finished", "The (wine) Glass Is gonna be Full!" "Tonight's Gonna be Insanely Fun" and of course, the usual: THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY!!!

I'm sure everyone loves it as much as I do. I mean, Friday means the weekend and who doesn't love the weekend?! 

This weekend will of course be another action-packed one but I am already counting down the hours until I will be basking in sun, wine glass in hand, with pool boys bringing trays of fruit, with my tan quickly appearing....

...Ok, no that's not going to happen, but a girl can dream right?
Anyways, happy Friday to everyone! I hope you find as much comfort in those four little letters as I do!

And last but certainly not least: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the cutest little boy around: Colton! I know there will be nothing terrible about your two's!

Colton at VT right before his 1st birthday last year!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

While I Am On The Topic....

...I want to show you a few of my all time favorite things/places we have seen on our travels! Now, just as a little caveat: You should know I am not one to be crazy about ancient ruins. I like to see them and check them off the list, but for me it is usually hard to spend 3 hours looking at (what I refer to as) "a pile of rocks." So while I have seen some very incredible, historical things, I'll let you call my dad if you want to hear about them and I will focus on the "fun" (playing,talking,eating) stuff!  

While reading about a place is never the same as visiting it, I hope you enjoy the details. Who knows, maybe this will even inspire a trip or two!

Below is a video of the Magic Fountains of Montjuic in Barcelona. When I graduated from college last year dad and I jetted off to Spain for a father daughter trip, spending time in both Barcelona and Madrid. This was one of my favorite highlights. I, of course, included a video segment featuring Disney music, but they had everything from classical to pop - appeasing all types of tourists from around the globe. I loved it so much Dad had to tear me away after nearly 45 minutes of water watching and music listening. It is hard to capture the true beauty of water in a video, but it is worth a shot - enjoy!

My next favorite, Longtable in Istanbul, unfortunately has been replaced by a restaurant called Supermarket by Longtable - but since they are run by the same people I have high hopes! Usually people wouldn't consider restaurants in there best-of-trips highlights but this is by far the best restaurant I have been to anywhere in the world. I mean just look at the whimsical decor below! The food was equally impressive (mom and I had an appetizer of green shrimp...they were really green) and it was absolutely delicious! Perhaps the most outstanding part about this restaurant to me was that we never would have known about it if it wasn't for the ad in a magazine at our hotel in Istanbul. We had just arrived, utterly exhausted,  and I saw the beautiful images portrayed in the ad. I knew I had to see the decor for myself and spent the next hour begging Mom to come with me (since Dad and Katie wanted room service). A few hundred, "please please pleaseeeee it looks so incredible"'s later we were in a cab and on our way to one of the best dinners of our lives.

Our green shrimp appetizer
One other food-related favorite was when we got to have dinner in front of the library at Ephesus- also in Turkey. Now I know I mentioned the "pile of rocks" thing above, but this time I really loved seeing this beautiful structure. When you took away the hustle and bustle of the crowds, it was incredible to really sit and enjoy the ruins. Talk about really stepping into history, I think the picture speaks well for the incredibly rare experience so I will let it do its justice.

Jon, Katie, Jeremy and I at Ephesus

Ephesus Library at night
As for a little about people: I know I have talked a lot about Africa recently, but Tanzania was truly my favorite trip and part of that was due to the Masai tribe. We visited the tribe on one of our days off from safari-ing. Little did I know our day off would perhaps have the most impact of the entire trip. We went in their huts, laid on their bed (after being invited of course), and met the most wonderful and grateful people I have ever met, especially the children. The children did not complain or beg, instead they were inquisitive- asking us what level of school we were in and telling us about their education. Every single one of them mentioned how they hoped to continue and hope that school was available for them as they advanced. Their determination, resilience, and curiosity was incredible, and also made me realize how much we take for granted. Now we did have lots of fun while we were there - dancing with the women and playing with the amazing children. It was truly the opportunity of a lifetime.

Sweetest children I have ever met

The boys wanted to see their picture on the digital camera

Us with the Masai

I'll end this post with a little bit of animal fun. While we were in Thailand we had the opportunity to visit an Elephant Sanctuary in Chang Mai. We not only got to interact with the Elephants, but we also got to ride them over the hills and through a river in order to see the beautiful surroundings that would have gone undiscovered by car. And I, of course, left wanting a pet elephant...I guess there is always next Christmas?

Katie and I riding through the river

I am only touching on about 1/10th of my favorite things so Mom and Dad don't worry when you read this I did not forget about the "incredible experience we had when _____" (insert what your thinking). Who knows, maybe I'll blog about those a little later!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dreaming of South Africa

It seems the weekends somehow pass by faster and faster and I feel like I barely have time to blink between Friday and Sunday. A few extra days off seem to be exactly what the doctor ordered, which is why I cannot wait for our annual family vacation. As I previously mentioned, this time we are packing up our bags and heading to South Africa! June 28th cannot come soon enough in my mind, but instead of wishing the days away, I've decided to just look at the pictures and daydream until then.

As for our itinerary: After a few days on our own exploring Cape Town, we will head to Zambia for our safari (I will save all of the in depth details for after the trip!). If the images below aren't what dreams are made of, I'm not sure what is.

Where we will begin: Cape Town

One of our camps in Zambia, Sausage Tree Camp. I think I may never want to leave.

Also at Sausage Tree Camp...just a causal swim next to the Elephants
 I cant wait to see this little guy on one of our Safaris!!

And, of course, begin the days with this....

....and end them with this.

Who wants to come in my suitcase?!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Here Goes Nothing!

Well, I finally did it. I somehow turned myself into a semi-domestic human being.

As I've mentioned in various other blog post I am queen of the microwave, and if it wasn't for Smartones I am not sure how I would survive. At least that was until I woke up one day last week with a little inspiration -which may or may not have been encouraged by a weekend full of constant trashing from my ever-so-loving family and friends..... I was going to cook a meal!

Monday after work I bought the supplies and headed straight to the stove. After a little bit of mental cheerleading, I was ready to cook my goes nothing!

Halfway through my new adventure I received a text message from Katie - as if she was a little guardian angel - asking if I wanted to grab an impromptu dinner since she was in Richmond. I will admit "YESS!!!!, abort mission, abandon the stove, get a good meal!" ran through my head several times. At least, that was until I realized an epic disaster had not occurred yet so I just might be on my way to preparing a good meal. Maybe.

When I turned down a dinner out and invited Katie over for a home cooked meal I could hear the doubt in her voice. "Uhhhh, ok Jess, I kind of wanted Sushi....maybe we can just discuss this when I get there." I wouldn't have been surprised if she showed up with a fire extinguisher and take out, but instead she came with her best argument. "Jess, Mom and Dad want me to take you out, you know, have a nice meal..." Touche Katie.

I almost gave in....until I tasted my homemade dinner just out of curiosity! "Katie....its actually....good....really good! Try it!!" She obliged....taking a bite smaller than a pea. In fact, not even a baby ant would be satisfied with the bite she took. I encouraged her to take one more human size bite and I could immediatly see the shock fill across her was as if I had just told her the world was really going to end in 2012. I had actually prepared a homemade chicken dinner!

As we sat and ate, I almost broke my arm patting myself on the back.  I'm so glad my sister was on hand to witness the accomplishment!

Goodbye microwave, helloooooo Top Chef....Chef Jessica is in the building!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy (Early) Mother's Day!

Well since Sunday is Mother's Day I figured I would dedicate this one to Mom. I mean who likes getting flowers or jewelry when you can get a blog post in your honor?!

I will start off by telling you a little about my mom.....Pretty much grow me 2 or 3 inches, dye my hair blonder, and age me about 15 years and there you have her! (No, she is (obviously) not 15 years older than me, but she looks like it.) Not only do we look a like, but I also take after her in many ways...the main way being our love for traveling.

We have three types of travelers in our family:
1. The "I hate getting there, like being there, but love getting home" traveler
2. The "It was fun while it lasted but I'm so happy i could will kiss the ground when I get home" traveler
3. The "this is heaven on earth/ Im so sad its over" traveler. (Me and Mom)

Before I could even say the word "Mama" I was traveling along side her in a plane, and well before I had a drivers license I had a passport. 

Over the course of the past 20-ish years Katie and I have been fortunate enough to visit  almost every continent (except Antarctica and Australia) and almost every state in the US. We have slept in tents in the Serengeti, rode elephants in Thailand, had dinner in front of the library at Ephesus, and so much more. Sometimes I cant even fathom how lucky we got to have parents that truly value the importance in us seeing the world. In fact, if I had to choose one privilege I feel the most fortunate about it would be the traveling - and I know it wouldn't happen without mom. She takes our opinions and runs with it, planning an incredible trip every time.

My mom has always been a fan of saying things "speak to her" and it wasn't until our trip to Africa that I truly understood what she meant (in fact, before that I thought she was a little crazy when she said that...). There is an unmatched beauty there, between the intriguing animals and awe inspiring people it is hard not to feel moved. And ever since visiting Tanzania 5 years ago, I have been dying to go back to Africa! Well, it finally looks like no time is better than the present because at the end of June we will be going to South Africa!!! Mom has, once again, planned the trip of a lifetime.

It really is an incredible thing to be able to experience so many different, exciting - and in some cases life changing -  people and places with your family. I think it has played a large role in making our family as close as we are today...and we owe that to both of our parents.

Of course Mom isnt just the designated travel planner...she is the business woman Katie and I both hope to become, the fashionista any girl would be lucky to know, and the mom that makes sure you never feel a shortage of love.

So even though this is just a very breif glimpse, I hope that everyone takes the time to thank their mommas this weekend! I can't imagine how hard of job it is and I hope that one day I am atleast half the mom, and woman, our mother has been.

So Mom, Happy Mothers Day! I love you!! <3

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Inspiring Article

I'll keep this one short and sweet....

Concetta forwarded me an article she received on her birthday and I thought it was a great thing to share with all of you. It is both inspiring and relateable, especially to the many of us who are "25-ish". I have spoken many times about the transition to the "real world" and I think this puts it all into a great perspective.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's That Time of the Year Again...

...time to celebrate!

This time last year I was preparing for graduation. Now, the proud playing of "Pomp and Circumstance" is canceled out by "I Left My Heart in San Fransisco" and "Walking in Memphis", and the diploma is replaced by wedding bands and birthday shots.

Two weeks ago my family headed up to Alexandria to spend Easter weekend celebrating my cousin Whitley's wedding. Before the evening wedding, my family spent the morning exploring Old Town. In between trying on shoes and picking out purses, dad somehow escaped from us and found a farmer's market. Imagine our surprise when he reappeared with the most adorable cookies for our pre-Easter celebration! Not only is Old Town beautiful, it has everything you could ever need!

It is no secret that I am in love with Alexandria, so the fact that I thought Whitley's wedding was absolutely beautiful should not come as a surprise. The ceremony and reception were a balanced mix of traditional and modern, incorporating family traditions from both the bride and groom (have you ever seen a Norwegian wedding cake? I have!). Oh and the location was so beautiful (as was the bride)!

Shelby and I before the wedding
The wedding weekend flew by and, before we knew it, my family was on their way back home early Sunday (we wanted to avoided the traffic). This meant mom and dad were headed to Hampton, Katie to Roanoke, and I was headed back Richmond...which also meant I was orphaned for Easter day. Or at least I would have been if the Fernandez family had not graciously invited me to partake in their Easter festivities. Jon's mom prepared a wonderful (and delicious!) spread, and even had taken the time to make me an Easter basket for when I arrived. It was all so sweet, and a perfect way to spend the holiday.

Two short days later, Mom and I were on a plane headed to NYC.  Since we usually go to New York at Christmas, it was strange to be there without the "fashion or frost bite?" debate, but I was more than happy to embrace the warm weather.

We started out at the Plaza, where Mom and I received a free glass of Veuve Cliquot in honor of Mom and Dad's 26th wedding anniversary (I know, I know, I am a terrible daughter for stealing my Mom away during the anniversary BUT trust me, the trip was so worth it)! One delicious meal and glass of champagne later, we off to hit up the major shopping stops, as well as the venue of my dream wedding: St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Celebration at The Plaza
Inside of St. Patrick's Cathedral
Thursday morning we woke up bright and early to attend the Fast Company Innovation Uncensored conference. Let me tell you, this was by far the best conference I have ever been to/will probably ever go to in my life. From the decor, to the food, to the speakers, it was amazing. How many events can you meet executives from Starbucks, the NBA, Hulu, OWN, and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation all in one place? Not to mention the vast array of other companies represented. I am still in complete amazement.

beautiful food display that greeted us at the conference
Speaking of amazement, after the conference Mom and I headed to Sister Act on Broadway. Imagine our surprise when Lea Michele, Amber Riley, Chris Colfer as well as other members of the Glee cast, came and took their seat right next to us!! They were by far the most down to earth and appreciative celebrities I have ever spoken to, so now I am a proud supporter the Gleek community! I am also a full supporter of Sister Act...the show was outstanding! Even though no show will ever compete with my love for Lion King, I would say this one was definitely in the top 3. Between the laughs and vast display of talent, I could not have thought of a better adaption.

When I left NYC on Friday, I had a slight sense of that terrible feeling in my stomach I so often get when amazing trips end. However, this time that terrible feeling quickly subsided because I was about to spend the weekend celebrating the birth of my best friend!

As I mentioned, Jon and I had a few surprises in store, so when Concetta and Will arrived we whisked them off to Bobby Mckey's in National Harbor. This dueling piano bar is the perfect celebration destination: singing, wine, glow necklaces, amazing company....what could be better? Once we all of our favorite songs has been played we headed over to the bar next door for a traditional birthday bull ride! A few bruises later, Concetta was a record holder and we were off to continue the celebration.

The Birthday Girl!
The rest of the weekend was filled with a visit to Old Town, lazy relaxing/catching up at Jon's, Whole Foods visits, a game night, and of course a ton of laughs. I could not have imagined a better way to spend the weekend, and I am already counting down the days til our next double date.

All and all (after the longest post ever) there has been so much to celebrate recently and I am so happy to be a part of it all.

And of course, HAPPY (now belated) BIRTHDAY CONCETTA!!! I love you!!