Jan 27, 2012

Things to do during a snowstorm

Stay warm with vegetable soup. 

 Ooo and Ahh out the windows while taking pictures.



Start walking.

Not pictured- drink lots of hot tea and coffee, stay in pajamas all day, watch episodes of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, snuggle a sweet baby.

Jan 24, 2012

Vagabonding: Welcome to Miami

For my 26th birthday Martin surprised me with a trip to Miami.  I had lived in Central Florida from 2005 to early '08 but had never made it down there.  I was pretty excited to get back to the sunshine state, if only for a few days.

When I think of Miami, I picture a scene straight out of The Birdcage- beautiful people crowding the streets and beaches day and night, a city full of culture, tropical drinks and delicious eats, all those fun things.  What greeted us in Miami was quite a different scene.

We stayed in a nice enough hotel in Miami beach, a little farther up from South.  Just about every other building along the street appeared empty, or in some state of disrepair.  It seemed that the economic crisis had hit hard.  Even huge resorts and hotels along the beach were abandoned, construction clearly came to a halt and the only inhabitants left were homeless cats.  Hundreds of homeless cats.

September in Miami is still the low season.  For the most part we had the beach to ourselves.  We wandered down to Ocean Drive and it was pretty quiet there too.  We were both surprised and maybe a little disappointed, although we aren't the type to go out clubbing all night.

We went downtown to explore, got rained on (par for the course in Florida), ate tacos, drank sangria, and bought silly souvenirs.  Speaking of which, we nearly had our gator snow globe confiscated by the TSA until one reasonable supervisor realized that we were just a couple a touristy kids and the palm-sized tchotchke in our backpack probably wasn't a threat to national security.  Remember folks- weapons, flammables, snow globes- not permitted!

Jan 23, 2012


 Today we went downtown to the Ministry of Interior and picked up my lichna karta, my Bulgarian i.d.  I am now officially a resident of Bulgaria for the next year.  Looks like I'll have to start carrying my wallet around with me again.

It's been a bit of a long road to get here, a lot of documents and bureaucracy, a lot of money.  But it feels good.  I feel settled, if only for the next 11 months. 

 As if that isn't reason enough to celebrate, I'm also marking 6 months as an expat.  I've been thinking a lot about what that means to me.  And to be honest with you, I'm really not sure.  My life here in Bulgaria feels normal, in my day to day life I don't feel like an outsider.  Despite the obvious language barrier, I feel comfortable and at home for the most part.

I think living in a few different cities in other parts of the US and my previous stays in Bulgaria have helped acclimate me.  Life in central Florida was quite a change of pace from Philly and life in Alaska was worlds away from the Northeast and the South.  I don't spend much time focusing on the cultural differences like I did my first two times here.

In all honesty, my role as a stay-at-home Mom has been more of an adjustment for me.  I took on both of these new identities at the same time and "Mom" has certainly trumped "expat".  In some ways, it probably helped significantly to be focusing on my daughter instead of myself in this new experience.  My days of navel-gazing are long gone.

All of this isn't to say that my life as an expat has been a breeze.  But it hasn't been a struggle either.  We've met somewhere in the middle, my expat life and I.  I have my moments of frustration, my moments of longing for the comforts of home.  Some days all I want to do is wake up to a Dunkin Donuts coffee, wander aimlessly around Target, eat a buffalo chicken cheesesteak, and top it off with a chocolate milkshake.  (To be fair, I could have 2 out of those 4 things here, but it's just not the same!)

 It is what it is.  American life is there waiting for me, waiting with open arms and Target shopping trips and 20 ounce coffees.  But for now, Bulgaria is home.

So tonight we'll toast to the next step in the journey, to the next 11 months and my newfound status: Official resident of Bulgaria.          

Jan 22, 2012

Scavenger Hunt

My first scavenger hunt post in quite awhile.  Without further ado, a glimpse into my world this week(mostly)-

Downtown Sofia, winter 2009

Black and White:
Exterior design at Rila Monastery

A day in my life:

4 oranges

Jan 17, 2012

Vagabonding- In Transit

This travel story is really less about any one place and more of that time the airlines screwed me and flew me all over the US.
Ted Stevens International Airport, Anchorage

The thing about air travel these days is that you should never expect your trip to go on as scheduled.  Sure, you booked an itinerary, you bought the ticket, you will probably get from point A to point B, just don't expect it to happen the way it's supposed to.  This is the story of the time that an airline who shall remain nameless (but only because I have forgotten) took me on my own personal tour of airports throughout America, the beautiful.

June, 2009.
I'm on my way to Alaska to work a second summer in Skagway.  I want to make it easy on myself, my father recently passed away and I'm in a big hurry to run far and fast from all the heartache.

 Flying from Pennsylvania to Alaska requires several flights, a non stop from Philly to Seattle is almost unheard of at a price that a budget traveler like myself can afford.  I spend a few days on travelocity and expedia seeking the perfect scenario.  Like a gift from the travel gods, an offer comes up- one way Philly to Seattle, non-stop, then Seattle to Juneau, all for the reasonable price of about $500.  I'm sold- booked, done and done.  I'm scheduled to depart Philly in the morning, fly directly to Seattle and connect to Juneau, then take a small plane from Juneau to Skagway by 9pm.  All in one day!  It was simply too good to be true.

I arrive at the airport, get all checked in, find the gate and join a restless crowd of passengers.  The airline has been cancelling flights all morning and mine is delayed.  It is a fabulously sunny summer day, no weather troubles in sight.

I sit and wait.  Boarding time comes and goes without a word.  Sitting, waiting, trying to remain optimistic.  Then the announcement- technical difficulties with the plane.  20 minutes delay.  Sitting, waiting, 20 minutes comes and goes.  The announcement- cancelled.  I grab my stuff and book it over to the desk agents, running down the terminal and beating out the crowd of angry and frustrated people behind me.

With barely a word exchanged between us, the desk agent hands me a new boarding pass- I'm flying to Chicago, then connecting to Seattle.  But this time on a different airline, a "codeshare" partner as they call it.  Whatever.  Okay then, fine.

We arrive in O'hare, it's rainy, windy.  Literally as soon as I step off the plane I see it on the connections screen, my flight to Seattle- Cancelled.  At this point, I am cursing the travel gods and their dirty tricks.  The terminal is packed, apparently the winds and rain are causing big delays.

I find a sympathetic desk agent and beg her, I tell her I do not care how you get me there, just get me to Alaska.  She offers me to stay in Chicago but then whispers to me, "you DON'T want to be stuck here".  No, no I don't.  A glimmer of hope- she can get me out of Chicago!  Until she can't.  Because I am now on a different airline (you know, the "codeshare partner", I have to go to the original airline.

After being totally ignored and rebuffed by grouchy desk agents I am approached by one very kindly older lady.  To this day, I regret not getting her name and sending her a thank you.  She can get me to Alaska, but not to Juneau- I'm headed to Anchorage.  A little farther north, but that's okay.  Once I'm in Alaska, I'll be golden.  She arranges for me to stay in Anchorage for the night, calling hotel after hotel until she finds one that accepts airline vouchers.  She gives me meal vouchers.  She says "I worry about you, young girl traveling by herself".  I was 25 at the time.  I'm on my way to Anchorage, but not before stopping in Las Vegas, and connecting in Phoenix.

As I'm waiting to board my flight, I call my Mom to let her know what happened.  I am so exhausted at this point that when I hear the "last call" announcement over the speaker, I'm thinking to myself, wow- there's someone else with my last name!  At the last possible minute, the light bulb goes on- they're calling me.  D'oh!

We fly to Las Vegas, the couple next to me are excited for a week of gambling.  I stay on the plane during the layover and admire the strip, what I can see of it from my seat.  The Luxor, The Mandalay Bay, golden windows glowing in the desert heat.

On to Phoenix.  I book it to my connection, my laptop bag banging against my hip as I run down a terminal that never seems to end.  The flight to Anchorage was a typical flight to Alaska, 95% male passengers in their Carhartts, hunting and fishing gear undoubtedly packed in their checked luggage.  Somehow despite my exhaustion, I purchase a sandwich and eat it slowly, savoring every bite.  It's the only thing I eat all day.  I barely sleep.

I arrive in Anchorage, glorious Alaska, at last!   At this point it's after 1am Alaska time, that's 5am Philly time.  I've been awake almost 24 hours.  I get to the hotel and find my room.  It's 3 am before I finally sleep.

At 6 am my alarm goes off and I head to the airport.  I get a coffee and a stale bagel from Starbucks.  My flight to Juneau takes off on time, thank you Alaska Airlines.

Once in Juneau I get checked in for the flight to Skagway.  It's on a 10 seater, single engine plane.  If you've never flown in one, it basically feels like your floating through the sky in a tin can.  Scary stuff, my friends.
Views from the small plane

We land safely in Skagway, the city that stole that my heart.  I will never forget walking off the plane and into the warm embrace of my Bulgarian boy, his smile lighting up my weary soul.  It was worth every inconvenience I suffered.

A happy ending to one crazy trip.

Jan 15, 2012

My Worst Habit

I am quite possibly the world's biggest procrastinator.  At this moment, I currently have 37 posts sitting in my drafts.  37!

Some are finished, some are half finished, and some are just ideas that haven't quite been hashed out yet.  It's not bad to have posts ready to go for a rainy day, but 37 seems a bit excessive, don't you think?  

The problem is, I start a lot of things that I never seem to finish.

Random example: I had every intention of stringing up some popcorn garland on the Christmas tree this year.  When did I get out the needle and thread and pop the corn?  30 minutes before everyone was going to arrive for Christmas Eve dinner.  You can imagine how far I got (not very).  No big deal- I could finish the next day.  Christmas came and went and my 1/4 strung garland sat untouched.  I made a mental note to finish by New Year's Eve.
Big surprise, I never picked up the garland again until I tossed it in the trash on January 1st. 

And that is just one silly incidence.  There are a million times when I start things and lose motivation, or even worse, wait until the last possible minute to get moving.  Many a late night (and early morning) was spent finishing reports and papers for school.

I think procrastination may very well be my worst habit.  And like most bad habits, it's one that I'd like to break.

 Do you suffer from this productivity-stifler too?  I stumbled upon this article, "3 Proven Ways to Once & For All Beat Procrastination".  They are:

1) Decide to Change (obviously)

2) Make a List (seems like a delay tactic)

but it was the third that is the key-
3) Do it Now

It's really as simple as that, isn't it?  Whatever it is that you're putting off doing, just do it now!

So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to tackle my drafts folder. 

Jan 8, 2012

GlassesUSA (sponsored)

I bet you didn't know that I'm nearsighted.  That's no big deal, right?  Well actually it kinda is.  Not that you know, but that I am.  You see,(ha) I have terrible vision.  We're talking like negative-double-digits-prescription terrible.  My poor vision was first discovered when I was kindergarten.  Today, in my day to day life, I wear contacts but when my eyes grow tired in the evenings, I switch over to glasses.

For the last few years I've been wearing seriously blah (and dare I say ugly) frames for two reasons- 1) I can't afford really cute designer frames and 2) I get so overwhelmed trying to pick from the small selection available in the Dr's office that I just end up settling for a less than stellar pair.  It happens to me every time.  I would love to own a pair of eyeglasses that I actually loved.

 In April, I'm due for a new prescription and you know what?  I'm going to get really cute frames this time.  Because I've just discovered this retailer where I can buy eyeglasses online!  Growing up, this certainly wasn't an option, there was usually only one or two shops in town to choose from.  Thanks to the internet, today there is a retailer I can shop at that offers a huge selection of frames and styles at great prices.

GlassesUSA.com offers high quality frames and lenses at discount prices and your satisfaction is guaranteed.    Go ahead, check them out and see for yourself.  I've been browsing around and have already picked several pairs I'd like to buy.

So if you're in the market to buy glasses, do yourself a favor and check out their affordable, stylish selection before settling for a pair from the Dr's office at a price you can't really afford.

You can take 10% off any order of prescription glasses with the code: Blog10.

*Thanks to GlassesUSA.com  for sponsoring my writing!

Jan 3, 2012


It's no secret that I'm a vagabond at heart.  I can honestly say that nothing thrills me more than travel.
Try as I might, I can't pinpoint just when I was bitten by the travel bug.  Growing up, I always loved reading books, watching movies and imagining what life was like in this or that place.  I was probably the last person my family expected to venture away from home, but in 2005 I did and moved 1,500 miles away.  I haven't really stopped venturing since.

Looking through photos of my various trips isn't something I do often, but the memories stay with me and I find my mind wandering back to those places all the time.  My travel memories run the gamut from tales of travel woe to unexpected awesomeness to typical vacation-like days.  I'd love to share some of them with you and maybe it will spark a little wanderlust in someone's soul.  So every Tuesday starting next week I'm going to revisit some of my trips.  See you here?

Wekiwa Springs, Florida

Oh, Alaska...

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon



Ocean City, NJ

Jan 2, 2012

Untangling the Threads

Welcome, 2012!  Take off your coat, stay awhile.

This year, more than ever, I am loving the fresh start that the calendar change seems to bring.  It's so full of promise and hope, it can be whatever you shape it to be.  The opportunities for growth and change are endless.  And I am not the type of person who sits idly by and lets life happen.

Last year was a hard year for me.  I consider myself lucky to have had a healthy and relatively easy pregnancy.  Physically, I felt better than I had in years while pregnant.  But I struggled with feeling out of control.  I was not in control of my body and in some ways, my life.  Pregnancy does not allow for control.  It is a complete giving over of one's self to another.  Even after the birth, my body was not my own.  I was healing from labor, nursing for months, trying to meet the needs of this new person.

All of this in addition to the first year of marriage, the first year of not working after 10 years of making my own money, the first year after 3 consecutive summers spent in Alaska that I did not hop on a plane to the last frontier.  Then there was that whole moving to Bulgaria and becoming an expat thing- no big deal, right?

I feel like I have the opportunity to find myself again this year.  I want to walk out of the fog that I've been wandering through.  I don't expect this to be easy, but I know it's doable because I know me.  So 2012, I hope you're ready.  I've got big plans for you.

"Your life is always under construction.  It is your job to learn how to untangle the threads and weave a tapestry that matches your desires."
-Dannye Williamson



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