Monday, August 29, 2011


Just wanted to say I hope everyone is fairing well post-storm. As for all of the family and friends who have been so supportive during this time, thank you! I love you all and appreciate all the inquiries.

Mom and Dad boarded up the house and headed for Roanoke with Katie, while Lexy enjoyed a weekend with her big sis (me!) in Richmond. Luckily, the water from the bay did not reach the house and everything seems to be better than expected. From what I have heard, Nama and Papa's house was also spared from any major damage and clean up seems to be going smoothly. We are all so blessed to have not received any bad news, and especially to have so many wonderful people checking in on us. Thank you so, so much!

I hope the same goes for all of you throughout the Eastern Seaboard! As for me, I am headed to Roanoke this afternoon for a big meeting in the morning. Not only does this mean I get to have dinner with Katie, but I get to sleepover at Roanoke College for the first time! I cannot wait to see her newly decorated place and spend a relaxing night with her after all of the excitement from the natural disasters. And yes, this probably does mean Disney movies and Zaxbys.....

What can I say, we are still children at heart. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"All Shook Up"

What a Tuesday!

The morning had quickly come and gone and we were on to the second half of the work day when our building started violently shaking for a little under a minute. A few "what in the worlds'" and panics later we were outside learning what we had just felt was, in fact, an earthquake. At that moment everyone was thinking the same thing "Hold on, an earthquake in Virginia?!?" At least I certainly never thought I would see that in my lifetime. I guess I can check "experience an earthquake" off my bucket list.
Luckily there was minimal damage, and I am so thankful everyone is ok!

Here's to hoping we all safely escape the next natural disaster targeting the East Coast, Irene. Everyone stay safe and enjoy the beautiful weather while you can!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Walk With Firm Feet" (Africa, Part 2)

While in Cape Town I picked up a postcard with a Nelson Mandela quote that said, "In my lifetime I shall step out into the sunshine, walk with firm feet."

This postcard is now carefully hung in my cubicle, next to a picture of the South African sunset. I somehow always find myself looking at this orange and yellow slab of paper when I need a little inspiration. I have always been a quote loving girl, and that probably will not change anytime soon. As for this one, I love it because it can apply to each of us in some way, but it also brings me back to Africa.

The level of joy and happiness scattered throughout, even the most impoverished areas, that continent always seem to level me. They make me thankful for what I have, and inspire me to become the person I have always dreamed of being. Walking with firm feet toward a bright future.

With that said I will take you from South Africa, to the country of Zambia. Imagine going from New York city, to a small city in Wyoming all in one trip. The houses/huts were far more spread out, infrastructure was dwindling, but instead of cars crowding what would be roadways, you were met on dirt paths by all sorts of animals. For me, this was just another part of my traveling paradise, though I imagine not everyone feels the same way. I think it is easy for people to say "you couldn't pay me to go there", but it takes a little risk for a lot of reward when it comes to vacations like this.

In Zambia, our days where filled with game drives, canoeing, walking safaris and nights were centered around amazing dinners, friends and a night drive. We stayed at extraordinary places with unmatchable staff, said hello to the Zambian President mid-safari, and spent many days searching for these beautiful animals in the natural habitat.

Giraffes (my personal favorite)

On a morning ride, crossing the river


Canoeing (well, actually stopped because my guide got out to take a picture)

 Yes, we did have a run-in with an elephant and a hippo, but hey we all survived. Katie and I were even greeted by animals elephants in front of our tents many mornings, and hippos at night. I like to think they were standing guard, even though we weren't allowed to enter or exit when they were visiting.

Elephant that almost charged me

Though I love the big animals, I am not a fan of the less threatening but ever so sneaky little ones (frogs, geckos, bugs) so you can imagine how much Katie loved being my roommate. Especially when I was greeted by a gecko in the closet and I screamed loud enough you would have thought a baboon had jumped the shower with me.

Roomie/sister love <3

The two camps we stayed at in Zambia were Puku Ridge and Sausage Tree. They were both lovely, but I was completely in love with everything about Puku. The staff, the views, the optional outdoor shower, the animals!....amazing.

Puku Lobby/Dining Area (taken from their website because I forgot to take one)

Katie and my tent at Puku

Took this to show how close we were to the lions

Surprise happy hour, mid-safari, from the Puku Staff....amazing
Needless to say we did have a few interesting/ borderline scary moments, but all in all this trip made me fall even more in love with Africa...if that was even possible.

The end! (check out the baby elephant in the middle!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Papa!!

Even though it is now 3 days late in the blog world, happy birthday to my amazing grandfather!! He is the one responsible for my love of homemade meals and southern food, but also the guy that has spent the last 22 years being a wonderful constant in my life. He has taken us cross country in the RV, been the source of more stories than even the best writers can produce, taught over half the family how to fish, and spent plenty of lazy Saturday afternoons watching cartoons with us. I think all of my family members will agree we have been blessed with two of the best grandparents anyone could ask for, ones who set an example for us every day in both love and life.

So here is to many, many more happy birthdays Papa! We all love you so much!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oh, Africa (Part 1)

It's here, 1/2 of what you all have been waiting for! And yes, by you all I mean my grandmother (Hi Nama!).

One month ago I was dragging my feet back into work after an incredible trip to South Africa and Zambia. While I am still wishing I was there, I also can't wait to share a few stories from the trip!

I guess I should start from the very beginning...

Mom and I decided to fly to Cape Town one day before Dad and Katie to really take advantage of our frequent flier miles, so we had one whole day to entertain ourselves before they got there. Now, I know what you all are thinking: shopping. And while we did shop a little, I also convinced Mom to do something a little more out of the ordinary......Abseil Table Mountain!!

Yes that is right, somewhere between the jet lag and glasses of champagne at dinner we had signed up to abseil 1000 meters above sea level, 112 meters down. I will admit the cheerleader in me quickly dispersed when I 1. saw our vertical descent, and 2. learned there was no guide, but somehow we managed to navigate through the mist and survive the incredible experience!!

Right before we took off  (can't tell how high we are because of the fog)
The day after our potential near-death experience, Dad and Katie arrived. I must admit I was super excited to have a roommate (although I am not sure Katie can say the same)!

They arrived!

Lovin on my roomie <3
We toured the townships of Cape Town, visited Robbin Island, and Katie and I somehow convinced M & D (as they love to call themselves) to have an extra long day of touring one day and add Boulder Beach, Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope to the agenda (so worth it, btw). Every single thing was amazing, and brought about something unexpected.

Now as for a particular unexpected event: we were very surprised to meet a Medicine Man in the townships of  Cape Town. Let me just set the scene for y'all: We were walking/driving around through one of the townships of Cape Town when we heard our guide say we must meet "the medicine man". We had been in the township for a couple of hours now so we knew what to expect from the location, but not from the man. About a minute later we rounded the corner and came upon this hut:

Medicine Man
It was pretty much what we were expecting, until we walked inside. As we each took a seat inside the medicine mans hut, we looked up and were surprised to be surrounded by dead animal skin/bones/etc. For those of you who have heard about my immediately a vegetarian for 3 months following the Cambodia market experience, you can imagine how I felt about this. But I took a deep breath and made sure to sit between Dad and the door. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until the Medicine Man put on his feather headdress and took out his "healing wand".  I wish I had a picture to insert for right here, but I was too busy consentrating on avoiding getting "healed". Not because I was not open to the experience, but because I saw the special wand/stick/item. This wand was a horse's tail attached to a stick that he was swooshing around at us, the same way a live horse would swat a fly. Begin get-me-out-of-here mode. While I appreciate the culture, I do not love dead animal parts in my face, so what seemed like the longest 5 min of my life later we were on our way.

Below are some more of our wonderful Cape Town experiences, stay tuned for Zambia next week:

Church in the Township

V&A Waterfront in Cape Town

Enterance to Robbin Island

Nelson Mandela's Prison Cell on Robbin Island

Me, Katie, Mom at Robbin Island

Boulder Beach

Cape of Good Hope

Cape Point

Such amazing sunsets!

Hope everyone has wonderful weekend! Happy Friday!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In My Mind I've Gone to Carolina....

...well technically that is true, but there have also been a lot of places in between. I was trying to think of a good excuse for my extreme blog neglect but I don't really have one....other than that crazy thing called life.

I guess I should start a MONTH ago (I seriously cannot believe its been that long) with South Africa and Zambia. In short, I fell in love all over again with Africa. I absolutely feel drawn to that country, and (of course) enjoy all the crazy stories a trip like that can produce. BUT, having said that, Africa will need a few blog posts of its own, so unfortunately you will have to hold off. Good news is I promise it will be in the extremely near future.... I'm back on the wagon, as they say.

Cape Point, South Africa

As for the present, there is a very important thing happening in the 804.....

....Jon has finally moved to Richmond!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I do not think all of the exclamation points in the world could really capture my excitement, but I figured a few extra couldn't hurt. :) As I told him, "I am so excited to be in a real relationship instead of just dating on the weekends!!!" Based on his expression I don't think it came out the way I meant it, but what else is new. After giving me a hard time for a good 5 minutes (i.e. Ohhhhh I see, so we haven't been in a "real" relationship the whole time, wish I'd known that before ---- *again, what else is new), he finally gave in to the fact that he knew what I meant and we haven't stopped celebrating since.

While I am clearly excited about this news, I was not so excited about the whole moving process. Just add mover, designer, and craftsman to my resume. After helping him carry 100 boxes, build a dresser (that I may have broken 2 times during the process) and headboard, and hang pictures in the new casa - I took a very long mental note of the importance of movers and pre made furniture.

Before the big move we spend one final night in DC, which also happened to be the first anniversary/month-iversary we had ever seen each other on (see what I mean about "real" relationship?!). Jon indulged me in every nerdy-touristy-guilty-pleasure I have ever had in DC by taking me to the American History Museum, Dinner in the City and Drinks/Desserts at the W. Jon had heard about P.O.V. at the W from one of his co-workers and decided it was a must-do for the occasion. Let me just say, I was completely blown away. We had a table directly in front of the Washington Monument and White House! It was one of the most beautiful settings you could imagine.

Us with the White House in the Background

Of course the nerdy tourist didn't stop there. I was determined to see the Lincoln Monument at night. One final "pleaseeeeeeee Jon" and a cab ride later we were standing in front of this:

Even more beautiful than I imagined
Again, incredible. We ended the night at the piano bar at Mr. Smiths, and I could not think of a better way to say goodbye to one of my favorite cities.

Now, finally - and most importantly, back to Carolina....

Last night I went to stay with Concetta for some much needed best friend/catch up time. But also to be with her on a day that means so much to all of us, what would have been Paul's 61st birthday. I think she summed it up the best in her blog here, but I think it is important to mention the day of a man who changed so many of our lives for the better. So even though it is now one day late, Happy Birthday Uncle Monster! <3

Playing Hair Salon when we were younger

Last year at Paul's 60th Birthday