25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Be 17 Again

Welcome back! (I know it’s been awhile)

This installment of my list may seem a bit odd because the list is all about doing things before you turn 25 and this item is about going backwards a bit to when you were 17. Well, I am a firm believer in staying young and not aging “before your time”, and I want to make sure this one life that i’ve got to live is lived right. The way I want. I want to make sure the time I have here isn’t wasted. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of times where I could have gone out on the town or been off gallivanting around outside in the woods on a pretty day, but instead I stayed in and ..oh idk… binge watched Netflix (Supernatural all day erry day. AMIRIGHT!?) Don’t act like you haven’t done it either. Everyone needs a Netflix and chill kind of day every now and then. I also don’t mean that the way these youngins use it nowadays. My Netflix and chill means ‘I’m  going to sit around in my sweats with my dog and cat, eat noodles, probably drop a few on myself, and not give a single…’  you get the point. Yes, there have been many of those days throughout the years, but I do also believe that you are only as old as you feel. I’m not going to stop doing fun, silly stuff until I physically can’t anymore. Why would I? I can use my ‘old’ days when I’m actually ‘old’, like when i’m 104 and my search for the Fountain of Youth has finally failed.

For this list item, I tried to think back to when I was 17. What was I doing? What was I thinking? What horrible thing was I wearing that I thought was really cool at the time? I also tried to think of things that I could do that I wouldn’t normally still do. Watch Disney movies? No, I still do that. Go shopping and make occasional questionable purchases? Still do that too. I thought for sure that black and white tribal print body con slit skirt would be a hit. Well, I was wrong. So finally, I landed on something that I could technically still do now, but wouldn’t normally still do it. So I decided to make a trip to Masque.


If you are not familiar with the Dayton area, Masque is a gay club located downtown that is sort of a local ‘hot spot’ for many teenagers in and around Dayton. It has changed a decent amount from when I used to go there when I was a teenager (which I discovered when I was there), however, the overall nature of the place is the same. A loud 18 and up nightclub in a smallish metropolitan area that is fun while at the same time being a bit shady. More on that later.

So I gathered up some friends, read: 1 friend who agreed to go with me. Come on guys! Live a little!  We proceeded to get all fancy because you are going to Masque guys! Its the “hottest place in Dayton”! You have to look good. It had been awhile since I had been to Masque and some things were unavoidably different on this visit than when I was 17. (Also, the fact that I was 17 when I went to Masque and not 18 may be surprisingly to some who know that the age to get in was a strict 18. I, as the rule breaking rebel that I was at 17, used to use a friend’s ID to get in because I was the baby of the group and didn’t turn 18 until later. I am very aware that the fact that I used a ‘fake ID’ to get into Masque and not to, I don’t know, buy alcohol makes me suuuuppppeeerrrr cool.)


Love this girl. The only one to brave Masque with me again.

Here are the things that I noticed that have and have not changed. Let me set the scene for you:

First off, we started our night at a bar because we are adults (or something like that) now who can legally drink and let’s be honest, there is no way i’m going to Masque sober anymore. Also, now we drink things like craft beer and good whiskey and didn’t down beforehand some cheap liquor and random mixer (it didn’t really matter, as long as we could taste as little alcohol as possible). Not that I ever actually did that before of course… you know i’m just hypothetically speaking. We arrived at the familiar parking lot with its parking attendant stand that was never and is still never attended. The line was nonexistent as we passed through the oddly unmarked door to enter the club. I remember when the line used to be out the door and snaking around the building. It seems Masque has lost some of it’s popularity since I was in high school. As opposed to the times I went to Masque before, I did not feel like hot shit this time when I walked in. In fact, I sorta slunk in and felt real weird handing over my ID that said 24. Were the door guys judging me? I feel like they probably were. This time when I paid my $5-10 dollars to get in, I did not receive giant unwashable Xs on my hands. Thank god, I do not need to be waking up with residual Xs on my face the next day.

We wandered into the first floor room which was much different from what I remember. I remember the first floor always had drag shows and there wasn’t hardly room to pass through the crowd. Maybe it was just the night we went, but this felt more like I just walked into a better lit, less shady Hammerjax (remember that place?! Speaking of places no one should ever go. For all my similarly aged Daytonians, you know it’s not there anymore? There was just one too many shootings I guess.)  The music was definitely different on this first floor and there weren’t nearly as many people. I was actually able to walk through to the stairs without getting a brush of an arm or an unwanted hand on the small of my back. Talk about bliss. But the upstairs, the upstairs was always where the ‘party was.’ We climbed the stairs and got the obligatory up and down from at least one random dude who was just hanging out in the stairwell. You know, cause that’s the ‘cool’ place to be.

The second floor was similar to how I remembered it. The same multi-colored swooping lights, the same  platform in the middle of the floor, the same shady couch area where you could always find at least one couple vigorously making out, and you always wondered how nasty those couches would look under a black light. There were the same shirtless guys walking around offering shots of some unknown, sweet liquor shot. Obviously, these men were actually different people, or at least I really hope so, but their ‘uniforms’ were the same. Abs, underwear, and more abs. The same repetitive techno music, now with a little more dubstep mixed in, blasted too loud from the speakers as young hopefuls grinded (ground?) all around us. There were, however, many more young men without shirts on than I remember. Not the ones that were working, just guys frequenting the club. I understand it is hot, but is that an acceptable thing now? No. Put your shirt on. Stop it. There was also the same feeling of euphoria when they blast that fog over you, you know the one, and for the 10 seconds it’s on you don’t even care that there is a random dude creeping up behind you under the relative safety of the fog cover. When I was 17, when someone would come up behind and dance with you there were signals we used to tell one another if he was cute. Guys, if you are ever dancing with someone and their friends make a weird, out of the blue hand motion, they are signalling whether or not you are cute. I didn’t make up the rules, that’s just how it goes. If you creep up behind someone at a club and start dancing with them you evoke club law. Another thing that hasn’t changed: the utter determination of the ‘creepers.’ It was difficult to shake them when I was 17, and difficult to shake them now. Even though i’m much more direct now than I was when I was younger. Yet it seems that the 2015 creeper is in possession of the same deflection shield as the 2008 model.

Contrary to popular belief, and I can’t believe i’m saying this, I just want to dance. I did not come here to feel your hot breath on my neck, which is in no way welcome by the way. It is almost astounding to me the sheer resiliency of some people, or maybe it is just ignorance on purpose. I can’t see any other way that you don’t understand that when

A.) my friends pull me away to dance with them
B.) I “suddenly” want to get on the platform and dance there (we used to call it ‘high ground’ because they couldn’t get us there)(unless they were the more evolved form which tracked you there)
C.) I legitimately turn around to you and shake my head and step away. This is my technique now that i’m older. Shockingly, it still doesn’t work.

Now don’t get me wrong, i’ve danced with plenty a gent when i’ve gone to a club. But there is a definite difference between dancing with a creeper and dancing with a normal bloke. The latter are harder to find, but I can tell you they won’t try and grope you after half a JT song. This past time I went to Masque I did indeed dance with a few guys. It wouldn’t have been a trip to Masque without a few dances. Dare I say, I even ‘grinded’ (seriously, ground? I honestly don’t know) with one guy. Woo craazzyy! Although, then I saw that he had Xs on his hands and I got really weirded out and slunk quickly away. A huge difference from this visit was that I was able to actually buy drinks at Masque and not just annoy the bartenders for water. There are also bathroom attendants now. I don’t remember them ever being there before, but now Masque is apparently upscale enough to have them. I did have a lovely conversation with one on one of my numerous trips to the bathroom. Two huge differences from the 17 year old me’s trips to Masque and the 24 year old me’s trip was that 1.) we left before the lights came on and 2.) we didn’t stop at Steak and Shake or Speedway (for slushis) on the way home. Although, 24 year old me would have gladly stopped for chicken fingers and cold drinks we just decided not to that night. Also, 25 year old me really wants a slushi now.

That sorta wraps up my last (possibly ever) trip to Masque. I’m sure if you’ve ever been to Masque that one or more of these things i’ve mentioned you’ve witnessed as well. As much as the sarcasm and snide remarks I made in these last few paragraphs may lead you to believe that I had a terrible time and that I have a very low opinion of Masque, I assure you this isn’t at all true. I really did have a good time! I’m sure that probably has a lot to do with the company and my normally cheerful disposition, but regardless I had a fun time. We danced, goofed off with strangers,

paid for overpriced beers, avoided the creepers, threw our hands up in the cold fog, and had a good time. Not saying that i’m going to be at Masque every weekend because i’m definitely not. I’m also not saying that i’m super over going to clubs to go dancing. I went to plenty of clubs in China and elsewhere, but those feel different.


See look! I’m having fun at other clubs!

Masque feels like a different time in my life. A time that is over, and that’s OK. I know I said at the beginning of this post that I believe in ‘staying young’ and I still do. I think it has much more to do with the fact that I was such a different person when I was 17. Just because I thought a place was fun when I was 7 years younger, doesn’t mean I still have to think it’s cool now. It would be like still playing with those Polly Pockets you got on your 7th birthday, when you are 17. You’ve just sort of grown out of them. That’s ok, as long as you never feel like you’ve grown out of having fun and being goofy. You are never too old to laugh and goof around. Anyone telling you otherwise has obviously spent one too many nights in with Netflix. Go! Get out and be goofy. That is something that will never age. That and legos. Legos are always fun.


Until next time,
Adventure is out there (although sometimes you may have to make some yourself), so never stop exploring!




25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Go To A Professional Sports Game

Hello all!

Welcome back to another ‘edition’ of 25 Things To Do Before You’re 25! Today i’m checking off a professional sports game! Batter Up! (Sorry that won’t happen again.)

I’m originally from Dayton, and there aren’t any professional teams located there. So we had to travel a bit to find one which isn’t a problem since Ohio seems to be ripe with professional sports teams. Not that they are extraordinarily good sports teams, but some of them do alright and we love them regardless. So since it was summer before I turned 25 we went to the sport that falls right in line with summer, baseball.

IMG_2885 Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks!

I have been to a couple Cincinnati Reds games before, one semi-pro Lake Erie Monsters hockey game, a few very semi-pro Dayton Demonz Hockey games (which are sooo much fun) and Dayton Dragons baseball games, and recently I went to a preseason Indianapolis Colts game. In order to check off this list item, I returned to the Nasty Nati with some friends to go to another Reds game. It had been awhile since I had been to a Reds game, so this was my first time in the new stadium! If you are ever in Cinci, I highly recommend checking it out because you can find tickets for fairly cheap! I love that the new stadium is right by the river and you can see the riverboats floating by. I also love the smokestacks that shoot fire when the Reds hit a home run.

IMG_2869And they have only caught on fire once! 

I’m not a particularly huge fan of baseball, or of most sports, but I do enjoy going to actual games. There is something in the atmosphere when you are surrounded by hundreds of fans cheering on their favorite teams. You don’t have to be a sports fan to love the smell of hot dogs and popcorn all around you and a cold beer on a hot day (albeit overpriced). I love hot dogs regardless if I buy them at the store and cook them myself or if a loud man passed one down to me from a box hanging around his shoulders. They seem to taste better at a ballpark though.

IMG_2876 Get in ma belly!

You have to really hate life to not laugh at least a little bit at the antics of the mascots or partake in the customary singing  of  ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’.  Also there are few things that make me feel as American as when I’m singing the national anthem at a game of American’s favorite past time. The chants that seem to be ingrained in our DNA, the failed attempts at completing a wave, the people from all different backgrounds all there for the same reason; all these things are what make baseball games, any sports games really, a pretty cool experience. An experience that is one unlike anything i’ve experienced elsewhere. Baseball games and drive-in movie theaters are two iconic American things, that I always make sure to show to out of the country visitors.

IMG_2881 Murica.

What was really nice about this game was that the Reds won! Now the absolute best part of going to a game? Going with friends!

IMG_2875 I love my fraaaaaandz!

IMG_2873Props to the photobomb gents. You have my utmost respect.

Overall, it was a great game to go to on a beautiful sunny day. We had some food, some beers, some laughs, and some more beers. It can’t get much better than that. My only regret is that I didn’t get any cracker jacks.

What did I learn?
I will never be a huge sports fan, this I knew. However, I know how sports can be a huge part of people’s lives. I know the love of sports is something to be passed down to children, shared with significant others, or debated over with friends. I think, and feel free to correct me if you think i’m wrong, but there are few things in this country, even in this world, that can connect people better than sports. Every country, every place in this world has sports teams and it is one of the oldest past times (sex is probably the oldest past time, let us be honest). It brings people together, and pushes them apart, which is when I shake my head and walk away. You could have nothing in common with someone other than the love of soccer or basketball and suddenly you are connected. I think that’s amazing, and you should at least attend a pro sports game at some point in your life to be a part of the experience!

Although, i’ll still never understand the absolute day-shattering despair and moodiness of some people after their team loses a game. But I’ve given up on understanding that.

Until next time, never forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring!


25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Hike 25 Miles of the Appalachian Trail

Hello Explorers! Today we are actually going to talk about one of my list items that I was particularly excited about: Hiking 25 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Before we actually get started, a little housekeeping. We ended up hiking about 9-10 miles of the actual Appalachian Trail, but that is just how our trail happened to fall. We could have done all 25 miles on the AT, but then it would have created a whole ‘how are we going to get back to our car/dude where’s our car scenario’ and no one wants that. So we chose a trail that looped back around to meet up with where we left our car, and since this is my list i’m going to count it.

I began my backpacking travel plans with figuring out who was going with me. By that I mean I asked all my Boyscout friends to come with me so I wouldn’t get lost and go all My Side of the Mountain. Which is a good book, by the way, if anyone is interested. Most of my friends have real, big kid jobs now so a lot of them weren’t able to take off the days, but a couple had some extra vaca days to spare so we started planning for a backpacking trip for 3!

Our destination was Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, about an 8 hour drive from where we live in Ohio. So the plan was to start eeeeeearly in the morning (think 3am) so we could get a decent hike in on the first day. And get a decent hike in we did! But i’ll save that for later. Before we started the actual hiking, we had to do a little prep. As anyone who has ever gone camping or backing packing will know, it takes a decent bit of preparation. I have never gone actual backpacking before. I’ve only gone backpacking around countries for travel/shenanigan purposes, not legitimate hiking backpacking. Let me tell you, it was a very different experience. Obviously backpacking for travel is a lot easier than backpacking for hiking. True, my pack weighed about the same, true, I wasn’t hungover on the hiking trip, true, I got to take actual showers while traveling, but backpacking while hiking I thought was harder. I was pretty glad to have at least one person who had been actual backpacking before with me so I wasn’t completely throwing myself into this blind. Below, I have included a short list of tips from a beginner backpacker to other beginner backpackers. There are plenty of more knowledgeable resources out there, one of which is linked at the end of this blog, but here are a few things I found to be the most helpful and useful.

Useful Tips for Beginner Backpackers:

1.) Above all things, pack as light as you can. One pair of clothes for the trail and one pair for the camp site,and if you think you might not use it, especially for shorter hikes, don’t bring it. Obviously don’t leave out essentials like a compass, but are you really going to need that hammock? (note, I did use my hammock, but I didn’t really need it.)
2.) Take a plastic bag for trash. No one wants to come to a campsite to find it trashed. Literally.
3.) Remember to bring toilet paper!
4.) Get to know the area you are hiking in a bit first by studying maps or researching it online. There is something whimsical and exciting about exploring a new unknown place, but there is nothing whimsical about getting lost for days or exciting about meeting a bear you had no idea lived in the area.
5.) Invest in a good backpack and use the waist belt. Don’t throw it away like I did. In my defense I bought the backpack in China for travel backpacking and never thought I would use it for real backpacking. I ended up using an old gun belt and attached it to my backpack. It worked pretty well other than cutting into my waist a bit, but having the weight of my pack off my shoulders was worth it.
6.) Bring lots of protein. You’ll burn through it fast.
7.) Take some friends with you, the forest can get eerie at night and friends make everything more fun.


After about a month of preparation, done mostly in the week prior to the trip, the day finally came to set off on the road less traveled! We had our bags packed, our dehydrated meals ready, our water bottles filled and our hiking boots laced.

Day 1: The Journey Begins
Start time: 2:45am

Miles Covered: 10

We set off dark and early from Ohio to start our journey down to Virginia. We made only one stop along the way (respective rest stops for potty breaks not included) at Tudor’s Biscuit World! Now I’m not sure if you all have heard of Tudor’s Biscuit World or not, but it was a discovery my friends and I made a few years ago while traveling down to West Virginia to go white water rafting. It is one of the most delicious places I’ve ever devoured a breakfast sandwich in. Which is saying a lot because I’ve eaten at my fair share of breakfast sandwiches. Especially at Sheetz where the mot sticks are AMAZING when you are drunk and the breakfast sandwiches will save your life the next morning. So what i’m trying to say is if you are ever driving somewhere and pass a Tudor’s Biscuit World and think (much like we did) ‘What is that!?’ then do yourself a favor and stop cause it’s awesome.

We reached the park in good time and shortly after we were checked in and debriefed on bear stuff. Then it was time to hit the trail! Our first 15 minutes went about like this:

Us: “Yea! Woo! Let’s do it! Onward! Here we go! Let’s hit the ol’ dusty trail.” IMG_3858 Ten minutes later…and a straight mile up.

Us: “Oh dear god. *pant* Is the whole trail going to be like that? *guzzle water* Wait that was just the trail leading to the actual trail. F!#*.”
Obviously we need General Shang here to make men out of us.

Needless to say, it was a bit of a rough, and eye opening, start to the hike. But luckily the entire trail wasn’t like that, just most of it. Apparently Shenandoah has ‘never heard of switchbacks’. After we caught our breath we continued on our first leg of the trail, which happened the be the actual Appalachian Trail part of the trip.
This is also where we met our first thru hiker, who I believe was going South to North so he was probably about 1/3 of the way through and was really excited to meet up with his sister’s family for the weekend and eat hot dogs. I can’t blame him after weeks and weeks of eating dehydrated meals and Cliff Bars.

We started off the hike fairly high up and had a pretty fantastic view from up there. IMG_3861
But there was only one way to go from there. Down. And down and down and down. We must have gone down a straight 2 miles nonstop which was murder on the calves, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was knowing that we would have to eventually climb back up again! By the time we reached our camping area for the night it was starting to get dark and we were pretty exhausted. After a nice, cooling hobo bath in the river, we tried out our water filtration system for the first time and were pleasantly surprised by how tasty the water was, not a bit dirty at all! Science. IMG_3898IMG_3944

We set up camp for the night in pretty much the only spot there was, and made due. At that point, i’m not sure we cared. We had hiked about 10 miles, which granted isn’t a ton, but it was a fairly strenuous hike and we had been awake since 2:45am. We quickly set up camp and started dinner since it was getting dark and we still needed to set up the bear bag. After we scarfed down our instant mashed potatoes and dehydrated meal,
we went through the process of putting up the bear bag which went something like this:

Tim: “Do you think this tree will work?”
Me: “Uhh, sure. Did we put everything with a smell in the bag?”
Tim: “I think so. Sarah anything else need to go in here?”
Sarah: “Nope!”
Tim: “Cool, all done!”
Me: “Isn’t the bear bag supposed to be away from the tree? Can’t bears climb?”
All of us: “…”
Me: “I’m sure it’s fine.”
Ten minutes later in the tent…
Sarah: “Oops, I forgot to put my toiletries in the bear bag.”
Tim and I: “Dammit.”

Day 2: The Never Ending Trail
Start time: unknown
Miles covered: 6

We started our morning with some instant oatmeal and coffee and before long we were off again to blaze the trail! We passed a decent amount of people on the trail, and were glad to see that they were as equally sweaty as we were. Cause it was HOT! Soaking through our shirts, backpacks damp from sweat kinda hot. About an hour after we started for the day we reached a river crossing, not a big one granted, but a river crossing non-the-less. This seemed like the perfect time to bust out our Oregon Trails skills. So since there weren’t any Native Americans around that we could pay to ferry us across, and since we were fresh out of wagon wheels to caulk, we decided to forge the river. It was successful for the most part, none of the oxen (aka us) got stuck and we only lost one walkie talkie. Which was recovered, but never worked again.IMG_3949IMG_3952

Very shortly after we made it safely across the river, without any bouts of dysentery I might add, we started going up. I don’t mean a steady incline either, this was a very abrupt, sharp upwards angle. Sort of the mountains way of saying, ‘Hey, remember how you went downhill for awhile yesterday? Well now it’s time to work off some of those chicken fingers you’ve been enjoying at work.” Way to be a dick, mountain. I worked a double and I was hungry. So we went up, and up, and up, and stopped for a lunch break mid mountain, and then went up and up some more.
IMG_3918 IMG_3919
I honestly couldn’t tell you how long we hiked up for, I may have blacked out at some point just to stop feeling the crushing disappointment of going around another bend and finding out it continued up. Eventually, after what seemed like days we reached our stopping point for the day and scouted out a campsite. We managed to find a pretty decent clearing to set up the tent, but the only water nearby was just breeding ground for mosquitoes and was no good to us. Even having to travel a ways to get water was worth it though because I was able to set up my new hammock. Can I just say… Heaven. IMG_3925 This photograph was definitely not staged.

We actually had daylight left to relax with so after dinner, and after we properly put up the bear bag in a tree away from the trunk (and made sure everything was in it this time (Sarah…)) we took shelter from the bugs in the tent and played cards. Unlike the first night, sleep didn’t come so quickly this night. Mostly because a curious critter was outside the tent for awhile snuffling around for some good eats. It was probably just a possum or a raccoon, but when you’re in the middle of nowhere in the woods and there is no one around for miles, small critters seem much scarier. It could have also been the other, much louder, noises we heard a bit later. It was probably a good thing we put the bear bag up right this time because I’m not sure there are many other nighttime critters in that area big enough to make the loud footfalls we heard. Unless Bigfoot just happens to have gone wandering away from the Pacific North West. The evening progressed about like this:

Everyone: “Goodnight!”
10 minutes later… Outside the tent *snuffle snuffle snuffle*.
Me: “I think there is something outside the tent.”
Tim: “Just hit the side of the tent and it will scare it away.”
*smack side of tent* Ten minutes later… *snuffle snuffle snuffle* then giant *crack* from the opposite side of the tent.
Sarah: “That didn’t sound like a raccoon.”
Me: “Probably a good thing the bear bag is pretty far away.” This led to about 15 minutes of tense, alert listening for more noises from outside the tent.
Tim: “Ok, I think we can try and go to sleep now.”
Ten seconds later… *snuffle snuffle snuffle*

Day 3: The Waterfall Whoops
Start time: sometime around 8
Miles covered: 4 ish

When we awoke this morning I, for some reason, thought it was 10:30 and we were way behind schedule. Imagine Tim and Sarah’s confusion as to why I was rushing them, and imagine mine when I found out it was barely passed 9. Our actual early start worked to our advantage when we ended up at our campsite pretty early in the day. IMG_3960
However, we still had quite the adventure getting there. We covered the first 2 miles pretty quickly and had a nice long lunch at a little clearing of pine trees, but then we went down again on a trail that truly was a road less traveled. It felt like a proper jungle exploration, all we were missing were the machetes to cut through the foliage. We eventually made it to the bottom and were rewarded very shortly after with another steep uphill climb. Oh sorry, did I say rewarded? I meant punished. If I had been rolling a stone up that hill  I would have said that the bear from the night before had actually eaten us and we had all been fated to the same task as Sisyphus.

This time when we climbed the mountain we seemed to have reached the very top. What kept us going was the promise of a waterfall and swimming hole at the next camping area. When we had just about reached the peak of (dear God please let it be) the final summit, we stopped to take a breather and were passed by four friends on a hike. One of whom was carrying a small backpack and seemed to also be breathing a bit heavy, but the other three were backpack free. I’m not usually one to judge, in fact I try to steal clear of it, but since when did it become a thing to hike in your underwear? Seems like a full body poison ivy rash waiting to happen. But I suppose to each their own, just don’t look at me like I’m out of shape when I’m carrying 35 pounds on my back and you aren’t even carrying clothes. But I digress.

We eventually made it to our stopping point for the day, only to discover the waterfall we were so looking forward to was another rock scramble a straight half mile down. So we hiked/fell down the trail and made it to the waterfall!IMG_3971
It was a pretty nice swimming hole, but it had begun to sprinkle so it cooled down a bit. After we ate lunch by the falls we realized that there was no good place to camp near there and we would have to climb allllll the way back up the scramble to the top with our packs.
IMG_3970 I’m not ashamed to say I resorted to climbing on all fours.
We did find a pretty sick campsite off the trail and set up camp before heading allll the way back down to the waterfall to wash off and get our water for the day. Thus began the 15 minutes of mishaps. What started off as a lovely, but so very cold dip in the water turned into a bit of a disaster. Whoops! Here’s what happened:

1.) I found a tick on my stomach. Not just on me, but in me. Just thinking about it makes me shudder. I guess that is what I get for changing in the woods.
2.) Tim slipped on a rock in the water and busted his shin.
3.) We found a whole bunch of teeny spiders covering our clothes where we had laid them out to dry.
4.) Tim got bit by something which we thought might have actually been a bee sting. Tim’s allergic to bees. (This ended up being a fortunate false alarm).

So after the 4th thing we gave up and went allll the way back up to our campsite to pack it in for the day. Curiously Sarah remained unscathed by all these things. It is possible she is working together with Mother Nature? Must warm Tim.
We took care of Tim’s wounds first because I mean the tick was already in me it wasn’t going anywhere. Ew. IMG_3982 Dawww true love.
That is until we burned it out of me. We could have used tweezers, but I’m not positive that is the lesser of two evils. You can either dig into your skin with tweezers and hope to get a hold of a tiny tick head and pull it out still intact so it doesn’t get infected, or you can heat up a knife and burn it out while in the process also burning your skin. Really how can a girl choose!? Can I just say that wasn’t the most pleasant experience i’ve ever had. IMG_3987 This is actually the face I make when I’m happy.
Also another 3 inches lower and Tim and my friendship would have been taken to another, super uncomfortable level.
IMG_3988 That’s a good friend right there.
So eventually the little bugger pulled his gross head out and I killed it with fire. I’m sorry that i’m not sorry, but it feeding off me. Nope. Nope. Nope.

It was still fairly early in the day when we finally settled down to have our last dehydrated dinner of the trip. We had saved the beef stroganoff for last, what a treat. (Actually, no joke those dehydrated meals aren’t bad). So without any bear or other incidents we laid down to sleep in the peaceful quiet of the woods for one more night.

Day 4: Journey’s End
Start Time: Close to 8
Miles Covered: 2-3

On this, our 4th and final day, we only had a small leg of our journey to finish. We were lucky in that the last few miles were relatively flat and we didn’t have any insane trail to climb to reach the car. And what a sight for sore eye (sore legs actually) it was to see Sarah’s beautiful car sitting there in the dazzling Virginia sun! It was a relief to sit down on something that wasn’t the ground or a rock. I absolutely admire people who do thru hikes of the AT or the PT or any long hike. It wears you out!

After we had driven to the visitor center and changed into non stinky clothes, we left the park on our way to find food and beer and then home! Except we sort of may have had a few set backs along the way. Tim may or may not have lost his phone in the parking lot of the visitor center, so we turned around to get that. Thankfully it was just sitting right where our car was. Then we tried to find a brewery that was supposed to be on our way home, but ended up being very far out of the way and we never made it. Oops. Then we tried to go see a local, silly tourist attraction when we passed through West Virginia and it was closed. Which was very pleasant considering we drove half way up a mountain to see this so called ‘Mystery Hole’ and all we got out of it was a brochure and some pictures of the outside. I expected better of you, middle of nowhere West Virginia. We finally did make it home though full of delicious Thai food and memories from the last 4 days!

What Did I Learn:
When I started doing research for this trip I read a blog about tips for first time backpackers. In this very informative blog the writer tells us that as a first timer it is probably a good idea to start off with a shorter one night backpacking trip. Well we just went ahead and shot that all to shit and went big with a 3 night 4 day 20+ mile trip, so I guess we don’t head advice very well. Still a good blog though! I learned several things from checking off this list item. I learned that backpacking is something I really enjoy doing, and it’s also harder than I thought it would be. I learned that I can go for extended periods of time without having an actual shower and still not smell too bad. Although I sorta already knew that from traveling, cause let us be honest showering is optional in South East Asia. I also learned that I enormously respect any person that attempts these hikes by themselves and someday I hope to be one of those people. I learned that my friends are people who I not only don’t think I could live without, but I never want to (although that one I kinda already knew as well). Finally, I learned that the more I experience and the more I do the more it makes me want to push even farther, to expand my horizons ever so much more. Finally, I learned that strapping on a heavy backpack with its makeshift waist belt cutting into my stomach, eating dehydrated meals and filtering my water through a plastic tube, pooping in a hole in the ground that I had to dig first (it’s first right? Yeah, definitely first), sweating and panting and fighting away bugs and making endless bad puns that would make even a dad cringe, I never knew all of that could be so much fun. Although the whole pooping in a hole thing… maybe I could do without.

Until Next Time, Never Forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring!

 IMG_3878  Ayyyyyyy

25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Perfect A Signature Dish

Hello adventurers!

So I have a bit of a confession to make… i’m already 25. Woo glad that’s off my chest. But! I wasn’t quite there yet when I perfected this dish. However, since we are confessing things I must admit that I was not able to finish all of my list before I turned 25. I know, I know how horrid of me. But before you throw your tomatoes and rotten lettuce, here me out. I would have finished the list before my big day, but I decided to high tail it to Alaska for the summer a full month before I blew out my birthday candles. I worked at a fish factory for the summer up in a tiny finish town in Alaska and trust me there was very little time and resources to finish the list. Paintball in Naknek? Doubtful, I didn’t even get phone service. I’m sure someone would have agreed to shoot at me with real guns, but somehow I feel like that would be less fun. More about Alaska later, but for right now let’s talk about my signature dish!!

I’ve actually used two different recipes for this blog, mostly because I was already making one fro my sisters graduation and also because i’m a fat kid at heart and who wants to make a signature dish without a little desert? So let’s start out with the main course: Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells.

Now let me start off by saying that I didn’t take a lot of pictures of this while I was making it because to be honest photography is not one of my skills, and food photography is even less so. Also, I forgot. So you will have to make due with my, dare I say, excellent descriptions of what I did. I’ll make it easy, don’t worry.

This isn’t the easiest dish to make, but only because it requires a few more steps than most pasta dishes. Really it’s pretty simple. I like to tweak the recipes that I find online or on the back of a pasta shells box, you know just for a random example, so that I truly can make them mine. The raw bones of this dish did in fact come off the back of the pasta box, but I added a little bit of me to it to make it all the better. Note: please do not actually add yourself to the dish in any way (blood), shape (sweat), or form (tears).

What you will need: Feel free to fiddle with the measurements if you want more or less of something

1.) 16 oz of ground Italian Sausage. I honestly just use the tube of Bob Evans brand and it tastes mighty fine.2.) 1 15oz can of tomato sauce (more if you like more sauce)
3.) 1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
4.) 12oz box of jumbo pasta shells
5.) 1 cup cottage cheese
6.) 1 15oz package of ricotta cheese
7.) 1/2 cup parmigiana cheese
8.) 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
9.) Garlic. lots of garlic. I use garlic that I mince fresh. At least several cloves, more if I don’t have a date later.
10.) Oregano
11.) Basil – fresh or ground
12.) 1 med/small white onion (no more than 1 cup chopped)
13.) 1 Red Bell Pepper
14.) 1 egg
15.) Saltine crackers or bread crumbs
16.) Olive Oil
17.) Wine – White or red works fine

What you do:

1.) Get a glass and pour a glass of wine. Any amount you want. I don’t judge.
2.) Great, now we can start! Chop up your onion into small pieces, half of that will go to the sauce the other half for the filling.
3.) Mince up several cloves of garlic, the more the merrier!
4.) Chop up the red pepper.
5.) Combine the tomato sauce, the crushed tomatoes, half the chopped onion, the bell pepper, as much garlic as your little heart desires, a healthy dose of oregano and basil to taste. You are seasoning a lot of sauce here so be generous.
6.) Bring the sauce to a boil and then bring down to a simmer. Make sure you stir the sauce occasionally and taste accordingly.
7.) In a large skillet cook the sausage until it is no longer pink. Drain and set aside.
7.) Fill a large pot with water and a dash of salt, bring to a boil and add the pasta shells. Make sure you cook them only to al dente (still firm when you bite into it). You are going to cook them more when you bake the dish, plus jiggly pasta is way harder to handle.
8.) While that’s cooking, take another big bowl and add your sausage, cottage cheese, ricotta, parmigiana cheese, most of the mozzarella, MORE GARLIC, the rest of the onion, the egg, a few crushed up saltine crackers or a few shakes of breading (this and the egg will make the filling stick together better) and a few shakes each of basil and oregano.
9.) Mix everything together really well. Don’t be shy, use your hands! Get in there nice and deep like.
10.) Once the pasta shells are al dente, drain them and rinse them off with cold water.
11.) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
12.) In a casserole dish ladle in a few spoonfuls of sauce, enough to cover the bottom. Then carefully, so as not to rip the pasta shells, pack each shell with the mixture. You can top off the shells if you have extra filling left.
13.) Add a thick layer of sauce to the top of the shells.
14.) Put in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
15.) When it’s almost done, pull it out and add the rest of the mozzarella to the top. Pop it back in the oven and let the cheese melt!
16.) You are all done! Serve this with some nice bread with olive oil and seasonings, or nothing at all! It is a pretty filling dish so you probably won’t need a lot more. Except wine, of course. If you even have any left, ya wino. (Alright I won’t lie, mine is mostly gone too).

So here’s the finished product! I hope you love it as much as I do! This is pretty much my go to meal when I want to impress or just make a meal that is serious Italian comfort food.

018d1c7e42a2ecf6a8951c10cb70c2dafe850c0da6010172f97f96fce6b2b05198dc0afb5c0554c29e8b Well obviously I was wrong before. Clearly I’m meant to be a food photographer.

This is also a great dish to make and save for a nice you don’t feel like cooking. I usually put half in an aluminum dish and freeze it, so I can just defrost it and throw it in the oven for a rainy day.

01811c0e0fab394fa4c20f673c23d34520abdc93e7 Nomz for laterzzzz

So! Now that you’ve made an amazing meal to impress the parents, the boyfriend, the girlfriend, the parents of said significant other, yourself, your cat, whomever. Although, my cat is usually entirely unimpressed with what I try to impress her with. My singing especially. Now that you’ve got this amazing meal to eat, now let’s work on the piece de resistance!

Signature dessert: Death By Chocolate

This is a great dessert to make, but be warned this recipe is for a big batch. Like a giant punch bowl big, not fit for a romantic night in. Unless you want to spend it in the emergency room getting chocolate mousse pumped out of your stomach. Aaaaaand there you have the name.

What you will need:


1.) 1 box of chocolate pudding mix
2.) Milk (for the pudding mix)
3.) 1 box of regular brownie mix with or without chocolate chips (or you can get fancy and bake your own from scratch, but I’m actually quite partial to boxed brownies).
4.) 1-2 eggs (for the brownie mix)
5.) canola or vegetable oil (for the brownie mix)
6.) 1 small carton of heavy whipping cream
7.) Powdered sugar
8.) 1 package of mini Heath bars
9.) 1 plain dark chocolate bar (I actually used a dark chocolate Easter bunny the last time I made this, and I may or may not have eaten the ears off first).

What you do:

1.) Follow the directions on the back of the brownie box to make the brownies. I NEVER cook the brownies for as long as it says on the box. I think it dries them out. I usually start with 15 minutes, check it, and then check it at 5 minute intervals after that. I take it out when I stick a toothpick in the middle and there is only a tiny bit of brownie mix still stuck on it. They will cook a bit more when you take it out of the oven.

IMG_2761 IMG_2762

2.) While they are in the oven follow the directions on the back of the pudding box to make the pudding. Then put in the fridge and let set.
3.) Slowly add the powdered sugar into the heavy whipping cream and beat it together until peaks form. If you try and do this without an electric beater, it’s going to take a loooong time. It’s possible… just not at all fun.


4.) Mix together half of the whipped cream in with the pudding and put back in the fridge.

IMG_2764 IMG_2766

5.) Unwrap the Heath Bars and crush them into very fine bits. I use a small food processor to make it super fine.


6.) Either use a cheese grater or the food processor, depending on how fine you want the chocolate. I normally just grate it for the difference in texture.
7.) Now it’s time to layer it up! Take a large bowl, I like to use a clear bowl so that you can see all the layers, on the bottom put a layer of crumbled brownies, then on top of that add a layer of the chocolate mousse pudding, then a layer of the whipped cream, then a layer of the crushed Health bar, then add another layer of the brownies, then mousse pudding, then whipped cream, then health bar. Continue layering until you are done with all your ingredients. Then on the very top sprinkle the grated chocolate.

IMG_2769IMG_2767  IMG_2770 IMG_2771 If you need a moment alone with the bowl. I understand.

8.) Keep in the fridge until you want to eat it… so right away obviously.

So there you have it! An amazing desert to make for family functions, work picnics, parties etc. It looks fancy and time consuming and have I mentioned it tastes amazing?

What did I learn:
So I’m 25 now, yeah? I feel like at that age its high time everyone should know how to make a decent meal. Microwave meals are great for an every now and then, i’m super hungover and don’t want to leave the house kind of meal. But lets be honest, are they really an acceptable every night grown-up meal? Come on, you know the answer. From checking this list item off, I learned that it was time to start owning 25. I don’t have to go to bed at 9 and stay in every night of the week on the couch, but I should try and adult as much as I can. Making healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) food, spending less time watching TV, spending less money when I go out, not going on shopping sprees …these are probably things you should start doing when attempting to be an adult. Yeah, i’m not going to lie I slip from time to time, but honestly I think i’m pretty good at adulting so far. It might not look like it to some, but my version of adulting is probably just way more exciting than there’s is!

Until next time, never forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring.


25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Run a 5k

Hello All! Next up on the list is to run a 5k! A task that may be a bit daunting if, like myself, you absolutely abhor running. However, it is always a good idea to challenge yourself, and have a reason to get in shape at the same time! Just to clarify, I fully planned on training for the 5k I ran… how often that actually happened is .. questionable (read: embarrassing) at best.

I have been wanting to run a 5k called the Warrior Dash (https://www.warriordash.com/) for a long time, but i’ve never had the opportunity or someone to run it with until this year. My friend, Ranger, and I signed up for the May 16th Warrior Dash located near Athens, OH.

01ae8b18f7b81a597702b8a886482f96a22dc5f28b This was us pre-race, before the mud.

The Warrior Dash was one of the first of the trend of ‘fun runs’ that popped up a few years back. Instead of straight running, this 5k involves obstacles, 12 to be exact, strewn throughout the course. The course itself, as we found out very quickly upon starting the race, is set on trails through the woods. So no track or gentle incline here. We are talking hills and valleys, streams and creeks, oh and did I mention they are all seeped in mud? But let’s be honest here, that’s the best part. There is not a person out there whose inner child doesn’t shriek in delight at the thought of jumping around in giant mud puddles. Ah! Don’t lie to me.


So when we arrived for the Warrior Dash, we went through the normal motions of checking in etc. and we got out first look at the course. We could only see the end of it, of course, but by the look of those crossing the finish line and the obstacles we could see, we were in for a fun muddy ride. Although I had a ton of fun with just my one friend, I do think it would be even more fun with a group. Unfortunately, it was wedding weekend and everyone was busy. So it was just us dos amigos going it alone. Next time though, i’m going to get a big group together and coordinate with costumes. Cause if we aren’t indulging our inner children enough, adding ‘dress up’ will be the cherry on top of the cake.


After prepping to be absolutely soaked in mud at the end of the race, and by prepping I mean stowing our things in the ‘Gear Check’ tent and making sure we had fresh undees to change into. Secret time: we didn’t change. Turns out the ‘Warrior Wash’ at the end of the race was just a slightly less muddy pond to wash off in. I didn’t see any sense in changing out of my muddy clothes when my own skin was just as muddy as the clothes themselves. And trust me when I say, you will have mud everywhere and jumping in a pond isn’t going to do anything for that.

015d480c7b68a657ff9d945e4840dbf633aa885f56 There is mud where there shouldn’t be mud.

Our start time was technically 2:00 PM, but we ended up jumping up a time slot on accident and starting at 1:45. We were ok with that because it meant that we got to run with two guys dressed as Spy Vs. Spy.

The run to the first obstacle was longer than expected, and this is when we got our first taste of how the rest of the course was going to be: muddy and hilly. There were some parts of the trail that you couldn’t run because if you did you would have been on your ass in about two seconds. This might have been because we were running later in the day, after hundreds of bodies pounded down the trails and tracked the mud throughout the course. Or maybe i’m just a little bitch. I don’t know. I do know there was one point on a particularly steep and muddy slope that I lost all traction and just started sliding backwards on all fours. The gents behind me were kind enough to give me a push in the right direction.

The first obstacle was the ‘Shock Top Unfiltered’. I’ll give you three guesses as to who was providing the beer for the event.
shocktop Heineken! Is it Heineken?? No?

The second obstacle was the ‘Diesel Dome’.
WD_Deisel_Dome-2 Just like the good ol’ eagles nest in elementary school, just with less rust.

They don’t waste any time in making sure you are covered in mud because the third obstacle was the ‘Mud Mounds’. Just picture three giant mounds of slippery mud with barely any hand or foot holes to use to get over followed by a short fall, when you inevitably lose your footing trying to get down, and a sudden stop in a foot and a half deep pool of mud.

We had to wait a bit at the next obstacle called ‘Deadman’s Drop’. The tough part about this obstacle was that the top part that you climbed over jutted out towards you so that you had to sort of hang back from it before you could climb over. I have done inverted rock climbing before so it wasn’t too difficult for me, but I can easily see why some people had trouble maneuvering the top. Plus everything was slippery from the afford mentioned mud via the Mud Mounds.

We then had to cross the ‘Pipeline’. A word of advice: don’t try and army crawl through them on your hands and knees, instead flip over on your back and pull yourself up and through with your arms. Unless you have absolutely no upper body strength you should get through this one pretty easily.

Next up was maybe my favorite obstacle: ‘The Great Warrior Wall’. Who knew all the rope climbing in gym class would actually do me good? Actually, I never did that, but I did shimmy up the tether ball poles in elementary school to put up the tether balls. Yeah, I was that cool. As one of the signs on the trail during the race said, ‘Your 12 year old self would be proud.’ At this point there were a cluster of obstacles all within the last few legs of the course. Go time.

Then came the ‘Trenches’. These instantly made me think of crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, which prompted me to say, “This reminds me of when I was back in ‘Nam.” Said no one else in my generation ever.

A short run after and we were at the ‘Chaotic Cargo’. This one was a little tricky because a false move or slip of the (still muddy) rope and you’ll be tangled in the rope looking at the ground 12 feet below.

The next obstacle was a surprise because it wasn’t listed on the event page for this certain Warrior Dash. That being said I think it is called the ‘Tightwire’, and I got a sick picture from it, even if I do look a little stupid.
18017912_race_0.4595814703084554.display I’m not a mouth breather I swear, it was just … you know… from the running and all.

Some more sweet pictures came from the ‘Warrior Roast’, a Warrior Dash staple. Ranger and I gave this one a great big sprinting start, and were rewarded with cool pictures.
18035384_race_0.5198894614007876.display 18035388_race_0.6906549847797697.display 18035430_race_0.4260126720446994.display Worth it just for pictures like this.

Now comes the ‘Goliath’, the mother of all Warrior Dash obstacles. You start by rope climbing up a slanted wall then crossing over a beam of wood high above a muddy pond while being sprayed with water. They after a short second climb you get to slide down the chutes into more muddy water. Did I mention you’ll be covered in mud? Just a word to the unsuspecting: that water is deeper than you think it is, and you are going to hit it harder than you think you are. So that being said, hold on to your bandanas (I lost my American flag one, kinda mad about it) and hold onto your nose. I was blowing mud out of mine for the rest of the day. Now swim towards the shore, have fun getting up the mud, and your off the the last obstacle!

Which was the ‘Muddy Mayhem’ cause you weren’t already muddy enough. This obstacle isn’t hard it just requires you to army crawl through mud underneath real barbed wire.

Cross the finish line, give out a mighty Warrior roar and you’re done!!


Now comes the best part of the whole thing: beer. If you’re like me you enjoy partaking in a drink or five every now and now, so a delicious cold beer after the end of a 5k is just what I want. Not necessarily what I need, that’s probably water… but beer is mostly water anyway, right?


After you finish and take the obligatory muddy, guns out pictures (see below), head to the Warrior Wash (pond) and rinse off as best you can. I may or may not have found a creepy crawly in my shirt when I got out of the water, so you may want to check yourself. No, don’t worry it wasn’t a leech. This isn’t Stand By Me.


So a few words of advice to those looking to do a 5k, and specifically a Warrior Dash.
1.) Train, it’s harder than it seems. Sure it wasn’t the most difficult thing i’ve ever done in my life, but i’m in (semi) decent shape and there were times I was breathing pretty heavy. It was mostly the running that did me in, though, the obstacles weren’t too hard. My favorite part of the race was a sign that was placed right at the top of a particularily gruling hill that read: “Yeah, we wished you’d trained too.” Touche, Warrior Dash, Touche.

2.) If you have long hair, put it in some kind of braid. It will stay out of your face, and out of the mud (at least as much as it can).

3.) Don’t take it too too seriously. It’s a ‘fun run’ for a reason. Go with friends, mess around, crack jokes, stay awhile, drink some beer and have fun.

4.) Unless you are going for the competitive waves and need to finish fast, take your time. The race will be over before you know it, and if you are like me, you will want to do it again and again.

5.) Run earlier in the day. This way you can finish earlier and watch all the other people come through the finish line. Also, this way you can enjoy the party afterwards for longer. There will be a stage and a DJ and tons of like-minded people who just finished this crazy race and are pumping with adrenaline, go mingle!

6.) Stretch after! I was a bit too excited for beer and pictures that I forgot to stretch after the race. I was kicking myself the next day for not doing it. Or I would have, if I could have moved.

7.) If you have a Go Pro, bring it. I’m thinking of investing in one just to have it for these kind of races. You will have the coolest video by the end.

What did I learn?
I learned that I can push myself to accomplish something I never thought I would do, and even enjoy it! I also learned, however, that I still hate running and probably always will. Call me crazy, but I do plan on doing more runs like this, maybe the Spartan Run or even the Tough Mudder. Although i’m not so sure how much i’ll love being shocked and jumping into ice baths. Who knows maybe i’ll be into it?

Until next time never forget,
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring!


25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Take Your Family Out To Dinner

Hey Explorers! Cristina here with another installment from the list! I’m sure they will be coming much more frequently now as I begin to realize I have many more to do and much less time to complete them. Why’s that you ask? Well my feet have grown restless being (mostly) in Ohio since November, and I have decided to spend my summer elsewhere. So on June 10th I’m off to Alaska for 7 weeks to work for Leader Creek Fisheries! ‘But Cristina! Isn’t it cold in Alaska all year?!’ Have no fear! I’m built for the cold! I’ve also been to Alaska once before, albeit when I was in 4th grade, but I do remember it being pretty much the perfect temperature of jeans and a t-shirt during the day, and maybe a light jacket at night. To me, that’s perfect because I am not built for hot weather. I am short, have short limbs, and have very pale skin. Over all, i’d say my ancestors weren’t exactly beach people. So that is why i’m hopping a flight to Seattle in June to pop on over to Alaska and make a bunch of $$$! I am effectively shooting myself in the foot in doing so, however, because I have over a month less time to polish off this list. I better get crackin’. So without further adieu:

Take Your Family Out To Dinner (To Thank Them for helping you make it through this quarter century mostly unscathed (and for not messing you up too much))

I took my family to a place called Dorothy Lane Market. It is technically a high-end grocery store, but on Monday’s they do a special where you get a burger and a beer for $10. Also one of my family friends works there and my parents and his have taken to going every other Monday. This time, however, I was able to go because I was off work and my sister and her boyfriend were also in town so it was a real gathering.

I didn’t tell them I was going to pay because I didn’t want them to not order something they wanted. I knew they wouldn’t want me to have to pay a ton of money for dinner so that is why I figured this Monday burger night would be a good choice. The burgers were fantastic, the company was great, and the beer (and wine) was cold (and room temp).

After dinner we ate cannolis curtsey of our friend Glen and the extensive dessert and pastry selection at Dorothy Lane Market, wandered around the store sipping on our drinks and perused the wine section. It was a really nice, relaxing evening and one that I hope to do again!

I wish that I had time to scan some old photos to my computer to add them to this post, but I don’t have time to fall into that particular rabbit hole right now. So instead i’ll just write down a few things that make me thankful for my family, and why I decided to make this an item on my list.

1.) Thanks for my childhood. One time a guy I was talking to said to me ‘Oh here comes the bad childhood stories.’ I was a little offended to be honest. I told him that he was wrong. I had a great childhood, full of love and wonderful memories. I really didn’t want for anything, and, if I do say so myself, I turned out pretty OK! Needless to say, I didn’t keep him around very long.

2.) Thanks for spoiling us on Christmas (and continuing to do so even now). It truly makes me feel that Christmas time is the most wonderful time of the year, and I look forward to it every year. Not just for the gifts, but for the memories and the time spent with my family. The year I missed Christmas while I was in China was honestly one of the hardest things about leaving. It made me realize that no matter what I chose to do with my life I want to spent my Christmases sipping hot chocolate underneath the Christmas tree we cut down ourselves, and waiting patiently until it is my turn to open presents.

3.) Speaking of Christmas… sorry for all those years I handmade half my presents. I realize now that some of them were probably pretty bad and really weird. So thanks for always putting on a happy face when you opened that ‘voodoo doll’ of myself I made that one year complete with my own hair. (I’m not joking. I know, it’s weird.)

4.) Also, i’m sorry for all those awkward preteen/teen angsty years where ‘no one understood me’. I know everyone has them, but i’m still a bit embarrassed. I hope that those journals have been beheaded, burned and scattered in four different rivers so that they may never again see the light of day.

5.) Thanks for inspiring me to do my own thing and dance to the beat of my own drummer. It probably got a bit weird there in middle school and high school, but you guys stuck with me and look at me now! I’m only weird in the privacy of my own home! (And let’s be honest, you’re all just as weird as I am!)

6.) Thanks for exploring the world with me. Our family trip to Italy was comprised of some of the best weeks of my life. I love that we have a jet setting family even if you probably get tired of picking me up from the airport as a result of it. Where should we explore next??

7.) Thanks for all the advice you’ve given me over the years, and continue to give me now (even if sometimes I don’t want it). I know it may seem like i’m not heeding your advice, but I value your counsel and take everything you say into account (also maybe with a grain of salt at times).

8.) Thanks for letting me make my own choices even if you didn’t think I was making the right ones. “Ok Cristina… as long as you think moving to China for a year is a good idea…” I know you were really thinking ‘Oh good lord here we go again.’ Thanks for putting up with my shenanigans.

9.) Along those lines, thanks for never throwing your beliefs on me. I never knew growing up what you thought about important issues or how you voted. I can pretty much guess now, but it forced me to decide for myself based on what I thought was right, not what I thought my parents/family wanted.

10.) Sorry for all the temper tantrums. I know they probably lasted way too long. My bad.

11.) Thanks for being strict, but not too strict. I appreciate not being told that if I drank or had sex I would get gonorrhea and die, or that I was never allowed to date until I was married. That was nice of you. On the other hand though, I appreciate having a curfew, not having cable and not having a cell phone until I absolutely needed one etc. I am absolutely positive I didn’t appreciate this growing up…. but I see now that there was a method to the ‘madness’. (Although a 12 AM curfew when I was home on college breaks… come on, Pop.)

12.) Thanks for always being there for me. Whether it’s Skyping when i’m overseas or letting me move back in when i’m in between jobs and annoyed with the world. I am beyond thankful to have people who are there to catch me when I stumble. I know it probably seems like i’ve been doing more stumbling than walking lately, but i’ll get there and it will be thanks to you.

I can only hope that some day, should I decide to have kids, I will provide them the same loving, supportive environment that you gave me, and continue to give me. I’m a little nervous that I won’t be able to fill the same shoes. After all they are pretty big shoes to fill cause I turned out pretty fantastic!

(13. Thanks for putting up with my occasionally inflated ego (and helping me through my occasional sad patches)).

I love you so much.

Until next time, never forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring!


2 Girls, 1 Fabric Market

Hello adventurers!

This blog is definitely a bit behind in schedule… almost a year behind if i’m being honest. But better late than never!
While I still lived in China, I heard tale of a magical, beautiful place where I could have clothes tailored specially for me without having to pay exorbitant prices. True, similar places exist in many a country/city, within Asia especially, like Vietnam or Hong Kong, but this was like a mecca for specialty made clothes. When I went in search of details of such a place I thought the information I found to be a bit lacking, but enough to peak my interest. I thought that if I did end up visiting this magical place that is the fabric market in Shanghai that I should share my findings so that other expats and clothes lovers in China looking for ways to make all their friends back home jealous would have a place to find information about it.

I was lucky in my journey to visit the fabric market in that when I mentioned my desire to go my neighbor, an avid shopper as well, she was kind and excited enough to go with me! So our journey begins..

The South Bund Soft Spinning Fabric Market / The South Bund Fabric Market / Heaven

Now i’m sure that there are other fabric markets in the vast expanse that is Shanghai, but this is, based on my research, the largest and best one to go to. It is 3 glorious floors of endless rows of shops surrounded on the outside by picnic blankets of unique jewelry sold by women dressed in the traditional garb of their respective cultures.


How to get there:
I took the subway to get there, and while there isn’t a subway stop right by it, the walk from the nearest stop is 10 minutes tops. You can also take a taxi, obviously, but coming from a girl who grew up in a place without a subway system I find subways charming and convenient. You know despite the crowds and the toddler who just peed in the trashcan. The address is 399 Lujiabang Road (Lu), Huanpu District.
When I went to the market, I was going from the train station, but regardless of where you are going from you want to get to the Nanpu Bridge subway stop on Line 4. Leave from exit 1 and it should be only a left turn from the station and another left onto Lujiabang Road. Continue on this road until you come across the market, it is kinda hard to miss.

Navigating the market:
The easiest thing to do is walk around the shops and check out the samples and examples they already have hanging up to get an idea of what shop will have the expertise and experience to make you what you want. I ended up also ordering several items that were identical to the shop front examples because I liked them so much.
IMG_2983 There may or may not have been tears of joy at this sight.

Some times you might be able to purchase something right then, but the majority of the time the shop keepers will measure you and custom make your item for you. It will usually take about two weeks with exceptions being made for more elaborate items or things that need multiple measurements. You can also have an item rushed and done in a week or less, but it is going to cost you.

Once you find a shop that you think will make you a kickass… whatever it is you want (and there are shops that specialize in just about everything from tshirts, to suits, to bathing suits, to coats) you’ll want to describe the item you want made to the shop keeper. It helps if you have examples or pictures. This is also where it would help if you spoke some Chinese or had someone with you that spoke Chinese. I would say that about 70% of the shop keepers speak English, or at least all of them do and 30% of them just didn’t want to talk with me. You know… I get it. Sometimes I don’t want to talk to me either.


I did have a native Chinese speaker with me, so it made explaining the details of some of the things I was buying a little easier. I also probably got a better deal to be honest. So here’s the part that might intimidate some and excite others: you have to haggle!!! I actually love to haggle because the majority of the shop keepers are fun, easy going people who will gladly haggle with you on the price as long as you end up buying from them! They are trying to make a living after all. A tip? Take the original offer they make you and cut it in half. Obviously they are going to turn it down, but they are most likely starting off at a high number to catch those few tourists who are unaware of or unwilling to haggle. I usually try and have an idea of the price i’m willing to pay in my head before I start haggling. That way I don’t end up paying a lot for something I didn’t deem worth it.

IMG_3251 My lovely neighbor getting measured for a dress.

After you agree on a price and get measured, the booth owner will right you out a little receipt and you will be required to pay a deposit, usually half or 3/4 of the price of what you are ordering. Make sure you hold onto the copy they give you because that is how you are going to pick up your finalized items. Some stores will ship them to you for a small fee if you absolutely cannot make it back to Shanghai.

IMG_2976 Fueling up on soup dumplings before hitting the market.

If you can go back to pick them up they will most likely have you try it on in the booth to ensure it fits right. This was a part that I found to be funny and charming and very unique. If you couldn’t tell from the pictures these ‘stores’ are very small and don’t have room for dressing rooms. So instead they usually have a rope with a large curtain or piece of cloth hung on it that they will pull up to section off a corner of the booth to use as a makeshift dressing room. I love it. You really can’t get any better than that.

IMG_3303 Don’t forget to stop and get some street eats before you head home with your new purchases! I may be a little biased…. but street food may be the best thing ever invented.

I could be wrong, but when I was there in the spring of 2014 there didn’t seem to be a complete rhyme or reason to the layout of the market. The one thing I did notice is that the majority of the fancier dress booths were located on the first floor. Which brings me to the first item I bought…

1.) A bridesmaid dress for my best friend’s wedding!
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Our only requirements (by our lovely, oh so laid back bride) was knee length and black lace. I figured why not have one made specifically for me while I was in China!? I assure you it only made me sound a little pompous when asked where I got my dress.

Where I got it: I got this dress from Ceci on the 1st floor in booth 159! Ceci is nice, but when I came back to pick up the dress it was missing the V-cut back that I wanted. She said that she couldn’t do it because of the fabric and style of the dress, but that may have been code for I forgot. I’m not sure. Other than that the dress fits very well and I have no complaints about it! I paid 400 yuan (about $65) for this dress.


2.) A fabulous trench coat all my own!
IMG_1039 You’ll have to excuse the dumb face i’m making, this was after the getting ready mimosas, the shot of bourbon to steal the nerves, the cocktail hour after the ceremony and a reception filled with yummy craft brews. If I had a better picture of my trench I would have used it. I will say, however, that I am absolutely IN LOVE with this coat. I can’t tell you how amazing I feel every time I wear it. It has a slightly flared skirt so it fits more feminine than a normal straight trench coat does. It also has black and burberry details, and the stitching is amazing. It is such a good quality that I honestly recommend anyone going to this market for a trench to go to this booth!

Where I got it: I couldn’t find the exact business card from the woman who made the trench for me, but I’m almost positive it was on the first floor. The woman running the stall was super nice, and I honestly couldn’t recommend her more! The picture below is of the stall when I went there, so if it still looks the same and you have hawk eyes you may be able to find it again! I think I paid about 470 for the trench coat (off season) (about $75).


3.) A 50’s style dress perfect for wedding season!
IMG_2683 image201406160002 IMG_3046 This was one of the dresses that was a display item that I loved so much I had to buy it. My neighbor also bought one, so we were twinsies… despite .. you know…us looking nothing alike and being born in opposite countries.The dress itself fits very well and isn’t super tight, which is good. I also love the pattern, and the fabric is a good heavy quality.

Where I got it: I actually have two business cards sitting in front of me and one of them is the correct one from the booth where I purchased this dress, but I cannot remember (it was a year ago, forgive me) which one is it. But it is either stall # 321 or stall # 308 both on the 3rd floor. I am leaning towards #308. I paid about 270 yuan for this dress (about $48). The woman running this stall is also super nice, and was proud to say that her husband did all of the sewing!


4.) A traditional qipao (pronounced chi-pow) dress!
IMG_2686IMG_3009 When in Rome right?! I wanted to get a traditional Chinese dress and this seemed like the perfect time and place to get one. This was one of the more expensive items that I bought at the fabric market because of the material and the amount of work that goes into one. They had to take the original measurements and then had us come back to get a second set of measurements done when the dresses were half complete. I’m pretty sure there were some comments about my rather large hips/bum being thrown around when I was getting measured. Although I only got second hand versions of them from my neighbor. I imagine I may have been the hippiest gal they had ever made a qipao dress for. I am very happy with how the dress turned out though… now I just need a place to wear it.

Where I got it: This dress was from stall #361 on the 3rd floor. You may need a translator for this one because i’m not sure any of the women running it speak English. I paid 500 yuan (about $80) for this dress. I think that we could have gotten it for cheaper, but I think my neighbor felt bad and stopped negotiating. Oh well!


If you have any questions, please let me know! I would be happy to share any other knowledge I have of the fabric market! To be honest I’m pretty happy that I was only able to go shopping at the market one time while I was in China because I don’t think I would have come home with any money at all if I had discovered it sooner!

IMG_2977 Happy Shopping!!

Until next time never forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring!


25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Learn Something New

Hello Adventurers! Cristina here with another addition to the list! In addition to this list item, and because of the content of it, I will be shortly posting another blog about my (heavenly) time spent at the fabric markets of Shanghai! So stay tuned for that! But in the mean time here is another item to be crossed off my 25 Things To Do Before You’re 25 list. This time i’ve learned something new and it’s sew so much fun! (see what I did there… huh huh??) Pardon the not sew funny pun… oh god I can’t stop…. what I decided to learn was how to sew. Not just sew a button back onto a jacket, but actually sew with a sewing machine and make things.

It started when I decided to be Harley Quinn from batman for Halloween this past year. Halloween in my favorite holiday, and I tend to go big or go home when it comes to costumes. So this year I decided to go all out and create my own Harley Quinn costume circa the cartoon not the new video game Harley.

Harley_Quinn Not the easiest costume to create…

What I ended up doing in the end was hand sewing parts of the costume (some of it in the car on the way to Chicago) and using my aunt’s sewing machine for the large parts of it. Here is a quick tutorial of what I did should you want to attempt it yourself.

What I used:
1.) Two pairs of leggings, one black and one red
2.) Two long sleeved semi large shirts, one black and one red
3.) Two sheets apiece of black and red felt
4.) Two sheets of white felt
5.) White pom pom balls
6.) Two pairs of cotton gloves, one black and one red
7.) White ruffled or lace fabric
8.) One pair of black boots
9.) Red spray paint
10.) One black harlequin mask
11.) Small square of Velcro
12.) Black and red hairspray
13.) Black lipstick
Here is the finished product of my labors: IMG_0857

Step 1.) The hardest part is the pants. I carefully cut down the center seam of both of the leggings, so I had 4 separate legs at the end. Then I doubled checked to make sure I had the black and red on the right sides and I sewed two of the leg pieces back together on the seam. It is important to know that I bought leggings that were slightly too big for me so that I wouldn’t have to grease myself in baby oil to get back into them.
Step 2.) Then I marked both the shirts with chalk and cut them both into four pieces. I then used the correct pieces (left arm should be red, left torso should be black to match up with the pants and the right arm should be black and the right torso should be red to match with the pants) and sewed first the arm pieces to the torso pieces and then I sewed up the middle to connect all four.
Step 3.) The hard part is over! Now just use of elastic thread and sew your white ruffled fabric onto the wrists of one of your red and one of your black gloves. Elastic thread is sew (dammit! I’m sorry…) much easier to use when you are going to be stretching the gloves to fit over your palm. Try to scrunch up the white fabric to sew pleats into it as you go so that the fabric sticks out from your wrists.
Step 4.) Cut out the appropriate number of diamonds from your red and black felt. I looked at Google images of the cartoon version of Harley Quinn (like above) to figure out how many diamonds and what sizes should go where. I ended up hand sewing all the diamonds on, but it would have taken considerably less time to just use a sewing machine.
Step 5.) Take your white felt and draw out a sketch of the jester collar you want to have. I drew a pretty basic collar, cut it out, and then sewed pom pom balls to the ends. I also took a small amount of Velcro and attached it to one side of the collar and sewed shut the other. This will make it easier to get on and off.
Step 6.) The last read step is to take one of your black boots and spray paint it red. I just found black boots at a thrift store and used those!
Step 7.) Instead of doing the weird jester hat/head covering thing the original Harley Quinn wears I took a page from the book of the new video game/Suicide Squad Harley Quinn and put my hair in pig tails and spray painted (with temporary colored hair spray) the ends of one red and the other black.
Step 8.) The final step is to don your outfit, rim your eyes and lips heavy with black (I decided against the white face paint as I’m already pale as it is), throw on your Harlequin mask and paint the town red.

IMG_0867 Here is the full costume sans mask. Jelly Fish not included. IMG_0870 And a creepy one for good measure.

After Halloween my next big project was to make a dress for New Years. This was, as I will now willingly admit, much too advanced a project for my rudimentary, budding sewing skills to handle. I ended up scrapping the project after I realized that in my haste to finish the dress before our New Years shin dig in Columbus I would have had to take the dress down again to bare bones to fix it properly. However, It was satisfactory enough for me to wear it to ring in 2015.

IMG_1547 This is the only shot I have of the dress, but know that it was full length pleated semi sheer red satin with a lining on the bottom and one shouldered black on top.

One thing I learned from this project is not to rush. Had I not procrastinated on it, I may have been able to salvage it in the end, but it was too much work in the end to try and fix it. It will have to go down as a score one for the scrap pile. I do have hopes to make another dress, this time a cocktail length with this beautiful flowered fabric I found, but this time I will probably invest in a good dress pattern before I jump in!

To take a break from my clothes making I decided to start making small zippered pouches because… well to be honest you can never have enough small purse/clutch bags. Is that a girl thing or just me? I have ended up making three so far, a jewelry one for my sister, one for my friend Sarah, and a travel undee bag for me because i’m forever losing my underwear in my suitcase. These bags were pretty easy to make and all you really need is a small bit of fabric and a zipper! I followed this tutorial by Girl. Inspired with only one small change. Instead of sewing the inside lining and the outside lining separately I sewed them together so that I wouldn’t be able to pull out the lining (which has always annoyed me on purses). The only downside is that you will be able to see the seam on the inside of the bag. I just make sure to cut as much of the excess fabric off after I finished the seam and ran a large zigzag stitch over the seam to finish it.

IMG_2287 My first attempt at a zippered clutch! IMG_2303  A larger version of the above for my underwear bag with lighter fabric to cut down on luggage weight!

IMG_2319 IMG_2318 IMG_2320
The inside views of the jewelry bag made with a ‘bar’ (stuffed with cotton balls) to hold necklaces and bracelets and a small pocket on the opposite side for smaller items. I also made a small bag with a Velcro top out of matching fabric to hold rings and earrings.

I blame Pinterest for all of my sewing projects really. If I didn’t have an abundant amount of tutorials and cute ideas at my disposal i’m sure I wouldn’t spend my time off sewing like i’m 80 years old. (I also enjoy jigsaw puzzles, scrapbooking and being adorable with my cat just in case you were worried I wasn’t cool enough.)

So after a perusal on Pinterest one day I decided to try my hand at making some skirts. My first attempt was to make the currently oh so popular circle skirt. I used this tutorial here which was very easy, but there is also a plethora of DIY circle skirt tutorials out there so find one that looks the best for you. I would suggest making the waist measurements a bit larger than you need. Maybe you will be fine when following her directions, but my skirt ended up being a bit tighter than I anticipated. Maybe I also just have larger hips/disproportionate proportions than the average gal. That is a very good possibility, to be honest. One that I have come to accept.



Here is the pattern I made for the circle skirt. Next time I will make the wait larger. Also please ignore my dirty socks in the background.



Naturally, my cat needs to sit on all of my projects while I work on them. 












IMG_2289 Snack break!

IMG_2301 IMG_2633
The finished project! (Please ignore the cheesy picture) I, unfortunately, had to redo a few of the seams after I completed it because they ripped apart in the washer. I learned that the type of fabric you use for something really does have a huge part to play, especially when attempting to make clothes.


The next skirt I attempted to make was a maxi skirt. Because who doesn’t love being able to wear skirts and not have to shave their legs? This girl. I used this tutorial by A Small Snippet. It is actually for a maxi dress, but I just left out the tank top and attached the waist belt to the actual skirt so that the top hem with the elastic didn’t show. Again there are tons of tutorials out there for maxi skirts, and they are actually quite simple! If I can do it, so can you!

IMG_2600 IMG_2603
Here is the finished product, again sorry for the cheesy photo, I was home alone and had to make due. The material I made mine from was sorta stiff, and will wear with time but for the time being it holds its shape a bit which is why it seems a bit ‘bell shaped’.

Another sewing project that I recently completed was to make a bathing suit cover up. Not like i’m going to have any opportunity to use it any time soon considering i’m spending my summer in Alaska, but it will be cute for the next time i’m strolling around a beach somewhere (preferably in SE Asia with a drink in hand and a hammock waiting for me). The idea actually came from a Victoria Secret cover up that I saw and went ‘Huh…. I could make that.’ So I did. And apparently other people had the same idea because you can find tutorials for this as well. I just kinda winged mine because it is super easy.

IMG_2646IMG_2637  IMG_2647
A yard of fabric, some simple cuts, two braided straps and a few stitches and you are done! I made mine a bit longer and left it looser than I originally planned, but I find that it is much easier to leave something bigger because you can always take away in sewing and it’s much, much harder to add.

In case you haven’t noticed, i’m not all that great at taking pictures, but here are some other craft projects, sewing and non sewing, that i’ve done over the past few months. I try and make it a point to do something crafty every week to keep my creative juices flowing… or at least to keep Netflix from judging me on how often I re-watch Supernatural. Don’t judge me… I can’t get enough Sam and Dean!

DIY Glitter Heels:
IMG_1579 IMG_1581

Lace detail added to sweater to ‘Upcycle’ it instead of throwing it away because of the hole in one sleeve:

Lace detail added to jeans to cover a hole on the side (that I may or may not have caused when drunkenly bumping into a table edge… which I will neither confirm nor deny):
IMG_2325 IMG_2328
With lace bow added to the bum for fun!

Sew (sorry, last time I swear) those are all the projects i’ve completed recently, short one or two that I didn’t have time to include. I am off to Columbus tomorrow morning to complete another of my list items… which one?! You’ll see!

What did I learn from all this?!
Well, obviously, I learned how to sew. Which is definitely something that I am pretty proud of. It is an awesome feeling to get a compliment on something you are wearing and be able to say that you made it. It is also nice to know that if I happen upon an item of clothing that I love, but it doesn’t fit 100% perfectly there could very possibly be something I can do to fix it and make it perfect. And I think that’s pretty cool. Also, if you want to know about any tutorials that I didn’t post, or how I did something feel free to let me know!

Although… I will say this about sewing. I have never found anything else that I truly do enjoy doing … that also makes me so overwhelmingly furious. I usually listen to soothing, calm music when I sew because it is not uncommon when I am using my sewing machine (I have my own now, by the way, courtesy of a hand-me-down from my Grandma!!) to hear the whir of the machine interrupted by a shriek and a steady stream of profanities to rival a swarthy sailor. To be honest, i’m surprised my machine made it past my learning how to work with zippers. That was a rough day for anything within grabbing and throwing distance in my room.

So to end here is a picture of my cat’s little paw. Pardon me, I mean her witty bitty paw.

IMG_2323 Oh it’s so wittle!!

Until next time, never forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring!


25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Fall In Love (and, Ironically, 7 Reasons Why I Love Being Single)

Welcome back, explorers!

Time for another post from the list! This one’s a bit unorthodox, but I promise there’s a point to all this. I thought for a long time on how to write this blog. I don’t want to air any dirty laundry, but I still want to talk about the more important (the only one, really, if i’m being honest) relationship in my life. I’ve thought and thought and i’ve decided to form my thoughts on falling in love and relationships into a handy dandy list. Since the internet (and I) love lists.

Now right off the bat, let me just say that i’m not an expert on love or relationships, obviously, nor do I think that I am. I also am aware that there are tons of lists similar to this floating around on the internet. I am still further aware that not everyone is going to agree with what I say here. Not everyone has to. Everyone makes their own choices based on what they feel is best for them, and everyone chooses their own path, and the speed at which they take their journey. Some people are content to put the pedal to the medal on the express way and go speeding right on by, but i’ll tell you right now I’m a much bigger fan of taking the road less traveled and stopping to take in the view. If that doesn’t really sound like something you’re into, then you’ve been warned.

39804_429448013215_537858215_4783489_2398304_n Ahh the road less traveled. She’s a beaut.

I’ve always thought that I’m pretty practical when it comes to men and relationships. When in elementary school, I strongly believed that boys had cooties, as one should. Then in middle school I was WAAAY too awkward and confused about what the hell my body was up to (I’m supposed to shave my legs now? Since when? How? WHHHYY?) to worry about boys. Then in high school when most of my friends were highly concerned about not having boyfriends (god forbid if it was near Valentines Day. UGH.) I was honestly having none of it. Most likely much to the relief of my Pop. You’re welcome by the way, Pop. Don’t get me wrong I noticed guys then. I was voted biggest flirt one year in marching band. A sentence, i’m sure, that is highly humorous for most people to read. Also, i’ve never been sure if that is something that I should be proud of.. or? So…. sorry for that one, Pop. Anyway, I noticed boys, but aside from finding one to escort me to the various high school dances and whatnot, I just never really was that interested. I didn’t really start dating until college.

IMG_0070 College. The good ol’ days with the ol’ house mates.

I casually dated people on and off, a lunch here or a hangout there. Apart from two very short lived relationships I had my sophomore and junior year, it was mostly just causal flirtations and a tryst or two. Until the summer after my junior year when I met the guy who would end up being the only guy in my life (so far, of course) that made me want to be stick around. He was cute, funny, smart, and just as weird as I am. We ended up dating for almost 2 years, with a break in the middle when I went to Switzerland to study abroad and shit hit the fan, but not bad for my first actual relationship. In the end when we broke we just weren’t the same people who met two years before. We wanted different things in life, and had different approaches on how we were going to get there. I have always been a free spirit, and i’ve become quite a wanderer. I get that that can be frustrating for some people, but it’s who I am. If I learned nothing else from that relationship (I learned a lot of things actually. I’ve always been a glass half full kinda gal. I think you can learn something from even the worst of situations.) I learned that just because two people don’t work anymore, it doesn’t make either of them wrong or their relationship bad. I won’t be ashamed of who I am and my flaws and mistakes because that makes me… me. I’m not mad at him, although he may be still mad at me. I don’t know. I’m also no longer going to apologize for breaking things off. It wasn’t working, and the fact that I saw it first just makes it my burden to bear. He’ll always be my first love, but he will also be the first guy who ever made me cry. I will always be thankful for the time we had together because I learned so much about myself and about relationships, but I wouldn’t change the eventual outcome.

IMG_3690 Just me being weird ol’ me. Courtesy of the past experiences that have brought me here.

I think it is really important to be in a serious relationship and to fall in love at some point in your young life. If you don’t, no big. But I really do think you learn a lot about yourself, and what you do and do not like, by being in a relationship. It is especially important for when you get into more serious relationships later on.

But what am I trying to say here? What is the point of all this and that? We all want to find love at some point in our lives. For some people it comes very quickly and they are happy to settle down and start a family right away, hence the ‘peddle to the meddle’ analogy in the beginning. So here’s the point i’m trying to make. As much as I do think relationships can be really good for you and help you grow as a person, i’m also not at all one of those ‘peddle to the meddle’ people. I truly enjoy being single. Sure, some day I would like to get married and have a partner in crime, but that day isn’t right now. I’m still reaching towards my own goals and dreams, and to be completely honest i’m not ready to share that with anyone yet. Some people might call that selfish, immature, fickle. Fine. Call it what you may. I won’t judge you for wanting to settle down early and have 2.5 kids right away, so don’t judge me because I choose to be carefree, remain single and go live in China for a year. Then go backpack southeast Asia and have the freedom to explore the beauty of meeting someone and sharing a beach with them under a Thai moon before they’re gone and become just a hot, beautiful memory. (Also, that didn’t actually happen, but boy do I wish it had.)

IMG_2856 Don’t lie to me, you know you want it too.

Do you see what i’m getting at here? I cherish the long term relationship that I had, but I’m happy it’s over. I think relationships are important, but that doesn’t mean I HAVE to be in one. I want to get married someday, but I love being single right now. And that’s ok! I will wait to meet someone who knows I don’t like grand romantic gestures like giant bouquets of flowers and chocolates, but would rather have him make me a lunch to take to work if he knows i’ll be there all day. I can’t wait to discover the person who can keep up with me when I get my hands dirty gutting a basement and later that night will don a dress for dinner. I can’t wait to find the guy who is intelligent, and confident enough in himself to know that simply because I speak with another man, it does not mean i’m flirting with him. Buck up gents, you’re the one I came here with, not the dude at the bar who asked me my name. I’ll settle down when I meet the man who isn’t going to profess his undying love to me after a week of us dating. I’m happy to wait for this man to come alone, but until then, face it, i’m happy to be single, wait it out, and not waste my time with someone I know isn’t going to be ‘the one’. Unless that someone is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I’ll waste my time with him any day.
Joseph-Gordon-Levitt-joseph-gordon-levitt-34334848-640-960 AmIRight!?

So with that super long (sorry) intro here are…

7 Reasons Why I Choose to be (& Love Being) Single:

1.) My Calender is Mine and Mine Alone

In a relationship:
“No, I would absolutely love to go to your friends house and watch you all play video games all day. There is nothing at all that I would rather be doing.”

Supernatural marathon on Netflix while I work on a new arts & crafts project? Don’t mind if I do. Impromptu girls night out on the town? I don’t have to check anyone else’s calender! Great concert to attend in a different city? Good thing I don’t have to also make sure my SO can go! I have so much time on my hands when i’m not making plans around anyone but myself.

2.) No Drama
IMG_1684 Note: Staged fight.

In a relationship:
“I didn’t text you back because I was in the shower! Also, I’m at work so stop texting me, and before you ask, no i’m not flirting with the new guy. Chill out.” Well now I’m getting yelled at for something I didn’t do. Fantastic.

….. Nothing. Blissful peace and quiet.

3.) I Can Look The Way I Want
Wearing anything other than a shapeless shift is clearly the mark of a harlot!

In a relationship:
“You don’t want me to wear yoga pants when I go to the gym because they are too tight… but i’m going to yoga…so..”
“Look at this new white shirt I bought! Isn’t it cute? Well, I guess it is slightly see through because it’s … you know… a white shirt. Well i’m not returning it. Aaaand now we’re fighting.” Please refer to #2.

I can wear what I want, when I want. I can also do whatever I want to my hair or my body. If I want to get some new ink or dye my hair a funky color I can do so without worrying about whether or not my SO is going to like it. It’s my body, I’m sharing it with you out of the niceness of my heart and i’ll do with it what I please.

4.) I Can Look Out For Number One… All The Time
This is my bowl of poutine, and you can’t have any of it!

In a relationship:
“I’m sorry ma’am i’m going to have to turn down the job offer because I can’t move to another city. My SO is unwilling to move with me and we will not be able to handle a long distance relationship.”

You can call it selfish if you want, but when i’m single I don’t have to worry about how my relationship is going to handle being long distance if I get offered a job or another opportunity in a different city. What if I find a great grad school program… but it’s in England? I don’t have to consider not applying because I don’t want to break up or force my significant other to have to move with me. The ability to do things that are best for me and my future is something that I don’t want to take for granted.

5.) Alone Time
Just me and mother nature.

In a relationship:
“All I just want to do is relax, read a book in peace and quiet and unwind after my long day, but I know it will be a fight if I don’t come sleep over at your place.”

Sweet, blissful alone time, when and where I want it. No explaining, no excuses, no nonsense just very welcome alone time with me, myself and I.

6.) I don’t have to bother slogging through the vapid and annoying swamp of dating
Hurry up! It’s almost Valentines Day, there’s gotta be a man in here somewhere!

In the dating world:
No more awkward talks about ending things.
No more 1st dates that end in painfully awkward goodbyes.
No more 2nd or 3rd dates that end in professions of undying love. YOU JUST MET ME! Pump the break a bit will ya? Or better yet, slam on them. That might work better.

Outside the dating world:
Instead of going around and around the endless race track of the dating world, I can live blissfully outside where I don’t have to explain why I don’t want to go on a date. Or why there is no way that you can be in love with me after only our 3rd date. I find it infinitely easier to just sit in the bleachers and watch the races go on until I find that i’m ready to pull on a helmet and speed off towards the finish line. And when that day comes…

7.) I have the Freedom To Do So If I Want
IMG_2409 So many men, so little time.

In a relationship:
Obviously, i’m in a relationship and can’t date other people. That’s called cheating and it isn’t a very nice thing to do.

Cute guy at the bar wants my number? Sure, why not. I’m single and can say yes or no as I see fit. How about moving forward in a situation that isn’t necessarily a date? Mr. Muscle guy at the gym wants a work out buddy? If you’re in a relationship that is pretty big no-no (unless you have the coolest dude ever). If you aren’t in a relationship, sweat away with Mr. Muscles as you see fit!

If I meet someone who happens to pique my interest I will decide if I want to move farther with them or not. But if I don’t happen to meet anyone who meets my interests then i’m probably not going to date. And you know what’s shocking?! There is nothing wrong with not dating anyone. Believe it or not, having standards is a good thing. Someone once told me I was too picky when it comes to the people I date. I, however, disagree. I’m not picky, I just know what I want and I know when someone isn’t it. I’m not going to date simply so I have a boyfriend. I don’t see the point in dating only to break things off in a few months having wasted their time and mine. I’ve done that and i’ve learned from it. My time is too precious, and so is theirs. This is why i’m perfectly happy with being single.

I know that eventually i’ll find someone who will go backpacking with me and not be repulsed by the relatively low  number of times I shower a  week. I know that someday a person will turn up who won’t judge me for spending my whole day with a scrapbook or my sewing machine cause they have their own hobbies. Eventually i’ll find someone who is willing to clean out my cat’s litter box when it’s trash night and i’m not home yet. I am aware that all of these examples make me sound very much like a cat lady, and so be it. In  the meantime I’m going to live it up while I can. There is a poem called Every Woman Should, the author of which is under debate, but when I stumbled upon it a while back one line stuck with me and continues to resonate.

‘Every woman should have a youth she is content to leave behind, (and) a past juicy enough that she’s looking forward to retelling it in her old age.’

I’m getting there, but i’m still not content enough to leave this youth behind.

Until next time, never forget
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring.

Thoughts? Comments? Concerns that i’ll die alone surrounded by cats and fabulous shoes? I’m open to all your opinions!



25 Things To Do Before You’re 25: Volunteer (5 Reasons Why You Should!)

Hey Explorers!

Today’s addition to the list is something that is near and dear to my heart: volunteering.


Let’s start out with this. Raise your hand if you’ve ever volunteered somewhere. Ok, now raise your hand if you’ve ever volunteered somewhere because you wanted to, not because you had to for class or for extra credit. And no, volunteering to take the attendance to the office in middle school doesn’t count. We all know that was a coveted job that got you out of class for 5 minutes, or longer if you played your cards right. So now, raise your hand if you’ve volunteered in the last 10 years? The last 5? How about the last year? I can almost see the dwindling hands in the air and hear the excuses brimming on mouths across the nation (nations? How far does this reach?).

Now don’t get me wrong, i’m not  accusing you of not caring. You’re busy, I get that. We don’t all have the spare time to go to a different state for a week to clean out moldy basements whenever we feel like it. But, for the most part, I bet you have the spare time to spend a few hours one night a week volunteering at your local food bank or community blood center. Come on, don’t lie! You know that episode of Scandal can wait.

What i’m trying to get at here is that everyone should go volunteer at least once! There are countless reasons why volunteering is an amazing thing to do with your time, but for this post i’ve listed my top 5.

Top 5 Reasons Why Volunteering Kicks Ass:

1.) You meet new people with similar interests.
Maybe you really like animals and want to go volunteer at a local animal shelter! I did that when I was younger and it was a fantastic time.

‘You mean you want me to sit in this room and play with kittens for an hour? Am I on Punked? Where’s Ashton!?’

I’m sure now that i’m older I would have to do more grown up things like clean out cages before being allowed some kitty cuddle time, but still… worth it. The best part about you going to an animal shelter, for example, and volunteering is you’re going to meet all kinds of awesome people who also love animals and puppy kisses. Maybe you’ll even meet a cute guy whom you can cuddle with while also cuddling puppies, and that is never a bad thing. Although if you do find said guy (who we already know is awesome because he is volunteering, but maybe he also has some tattoos and knows how to cook and drinks beer with me… ahem.. sorry) if you do find aforementioned guy (or gal!), make sure to invite me to the wedding! And find out if he has a brother, yeah?

Even if you don’t find a handsome man in a rom com like scenario cute enough to star Katherine Heigl, you will still meet some awesome people! For example, while recently volunteering up in Detroit I met some amazing people. One of whom I’ll be spending 7 weeks with in Alaska this coming summer! Having people around who share your common interests is never a bad thing!


2.) It looks fantastic on a resume.
I may not be an expert, and clearly there are other things on a resume that are more important, but if I were looking to hire someone I would be very interested in hiring someone who volunteers in their spare time. Who else would have more passion, more drive, more willingness to work than someone who spends their free time in service to others and to their community. Call me crazy, but I can’t see that being viewed as a bad thing.

3.) You get to do things you normally wouldn’t in ‘real life’.
Ever wanted to live in another country for free? How about learning how to use power tools while singing T-Swift at the top of your lungs? (That one might be a bit of a targeted audience, but I thought it was pretty fun.) How about spend time with someone from another country and learn all about their home and culture? You can do easily do all of those things when volunteering.

Find a volunteering organization and donate your summer vacation helping develop a community in a country or state that needs it. There are many organizations out there like International Student Volunteers or Cross-Cultural Solutions who will take you on a fantastic adventure abroad where you’ll spend half your time volunteering and half your time exploring. These are great options, but they do cost a considerable amount of money. There are, however, organizations that don’t cost money (aside from your transportation there), but offer you a great volunteering experience. Organizations such as my personal favorite, All Hands Volunteers.

Or if you don’t have that much time to donate, find a local literacy program in your area. Trust me if Dayton, Ohio has one yours probably does too. Project Read in Dayton is one such organization that matches volunteers up with both local youth and adults and new immigrants and refugees in the area to help improve on or learn English. All I had to do was attend one day class and i’m waiting to be matched with a student as we speak! What a great way to learn about someone else’s culture, and share your own as well!

0162cb7501ed7b236b5d92966b331d9556ab5b1e38 Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out
Shel Silverstein…. Anyone? No?… okay.

4.)  You gain valuable life and job experience.
This one kinda goes hand in hand with #2, but it also has value on it’s own as well. Not only did I meet some awesome people while volunteering in Detroit, I also found a field of work that I truly enjoy. A field that I had never quite considered before, but because I volunteered it opened my mind up to, and pardon the overused cliche, an entire new world of possibilities. Now i’m also taking classes at my local chapter of the Red Cross and after one more class next week, i’ll be able to begin being on call for the Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the Dayton Area. Not only is this a great way to give back to a community that I love, but I’m also gaining skills and experience that will be extremely beneficial when I continue pursuing this type of work. Because if i’ve learned nothing else from 2 years of soul crushing job searching it’s that you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job (or tons of money and free time). It’s like a catch-22 from hell.

5.) It feels awesome.
This one should probably be pretty much a give in.You are helping others so why wouldn’t you feel good? One could also say that people volunteer simply because it’s the right thing to do. The first house I ever worked on in Detroit was owned by this sweet little old lady who insisted on hugging all of us when we were done even though we were still wearing our bleach stained coveralls. Another time a man in camo overalls almost broke down in tears because he was so grateful to us for helping him fix up his house. It is times like those that I realize the power of what you can do by just volunteering your time to help others.

01d377f981e699641d2bf9998291ab6351f6b7e93f Pardon the Asian tourist pose, but I make these coveralls look gooood.

So i’ve mentioned a few times that I spent time volunteering in Detroit. Let me elaborate. I decided back in November that because I had some spare time on my hands that I would go up to Detroit to volunteer with an organization called All Hands Volunteers. The organization had been previously recommended to me by a friend who volunteered with the organization in the Philippines. All Hands is a volunteer based disaster relief organization that works both domestically and abroad. They responded to the August 2014 flooding that happened in Detroit and were (and still are) working to help pick up the pieces. A team would go into houses and gut them and take away all the moldy furniture and wood etc, then another team would come in and sanitize everything to stop the mold from coming back. I took a good ol’ Greyhound bus up to Detroit and made myself comfortable in the old monastery they were using as a base.

I have to say that nothing I expected came to pass during my time with All Hands Project Detroit, and it was everything I could have wanted it to be and more. Just one example, I expected to go to bed early that first night I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed so that I would be fresh as a daisy for my first day! Nope. As I would soon learn the term ‘work hard, play hard’ never had a better model than with the volunteers on project. What started with a few drinks at a local dive bar turned into a late night and a very early morning. But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. It was a blast.

10959687_10153034840604454_287112999151681406_n Beast mode.

I’m sure that people think i’m crazy when I say that I truly enjoyed crawling around in moldy basements, being covered in bleach and spiderwebs and lord knows what else and using community bathrooms with people I don’t know. But to be honest, not only did I enjoy it, but I went back to Detroit twice more after my first stint. It was fun, rewarding and the best part for me was that I realized what I wanted to do with my life. Sounds kinda dramatic, I know, but it’s true. I’ve always wanted to work internationally, that is pretty obvious from this blog, but i’ve also always wanted to help people. From what i’ve learned in the past two years i’ve been out of college is that the non-profit world, especially if you want to work in the field, is very hard to get into. My time volunteering with All Hands in Detroit not only opened up my mind to all new possibilities, but it also helped me narrow down my options. Now I have a much more achievable goal in mind, and i’m working my way towards it. All that because I was too bored to stay at home and spend another day watching Archer and scrap booking. (Not that that isn’t an awesome way to spend one’s time.)

013b1927a65b4ed32707b6532a15278b95853f37dbAnd here we have our next model, Cristina, wearing an assortment of ceiling on her face.

I’ve been volunteering for a long time… a night sorting presents for those less fortunate, a day volunteering at a Red Cross Booth, a week spent fixing homes in Detroit… there are countless reasons and benefits to volunteering. I could go on for days, but I would probably get fired from work and you would never want to read my blog again. I’m not saying this to make it seem like i’m an amazing person or anything, although I am pretty good at Foosball and I make kick ass ramen… just saying, i’m just trying to impress upon you that it’s awesome to give back.
I’ve been given so much in my life; I’ve never truly wanted for anything. I volunteer because I feel like It’s my turn to give back to others so that they can have a better, happier life.


Until next time, never forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring.