Category Archives: family

a big announcement

February 1, 2016

i left on a grand adventure today.

well, a few days ago now. it has been a bit busy.

i have packed up my little apartment, loaded my pathetic puppy onto an airplane, and moved to san diego, california.

i have been transferred out here for work. for those of you who know me, you know that this was not really in my plans. not really a destination that was on my list of places to live. which sounds quite snobbish of me to say, it is san diego for crying out loud! i know, i know. some of you are cursing me right now, but hear me out.

california is two thousand miles away from home. two thousand. comfort, family, cornfields, familiarity are all two thousand miles away.

now i have been blessed with quite possibly the greatest family of all times and moving two thousand miles away from them does not sound ideal. they have always been a huge help, a huge support in my life, and i have loved being able to run home over the weekend whenever for whatever.

photocred: Always19 Photography

and now God is calling me to move my life two thousand miles away. to a beach. to warmth. to eternal sunshine and seventy degree weather. but the important part is that God is sending me. and i have no idea why, but i am going because His plans are more important than mine. clearly, He kind of wrecked the plans that i had in place and re-routed me. the great part is that He is big enough to do that and knows what is best for me. especially when i am being too stubborn to listen.

so what brings me out here? i will be working in logistics at a wholesaler. and we all know how much i love to nerd out on logistics. for those of you who are not familiar with the three-tier system of alcohol distribution, the wholesaler level sits between the brewery where we make the beer and the retail accounts where you buy the beer. this all came into play with the repeal of prohibition. when the twenty-first amendment was ratified on december fifth of nineteen thirty-three, the states began creating systems to regulate alcohol distribution. the amendment gave each state free reign to determine the methods in which alcohol would be re-introduced and regulated within the state, which leads to the fifty different legal precedents we have today. the three tier structure and additional taxes became the most common practice solutions to limit the shady back door deals and overconsumption of adult beverages. thus was the birth of the wholesaler in the alcohol industry.

and some where way down the line from all of that, here i am. in california. and so very excited about what comes next.

i can feel that God is using this. i am thrilled about the job i will be in. i think it is going to be a good fit for me. and i know He will make sure i am equipped.

but this takes me farther away from home. and per mother’s request, i am reinstating my blog. or at least committing to post more regularly as i have been slacking. but i need to find a place to live first, then i have some catching up to do. stories of ridiculous warehouse employees, the hogwarts express in harry potter world, the last superbowl and blinding blue lights, portland and seattle, my beautiful cousins at purdue, georgia tech and how to paint a football field, and the tacos of austin.

so here we go again. the start of a new adventure.

photocred: Always19 Photography

how many of you caught that i loaded Bailee onto a plane earlier? yeah, there will be a story coming about that one too.

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.

December 25, 2014

so it happened. i managed to let an entire month (and a few days) slip past. i knew that time would come. i have spent the last month learning about marketing. and marketing has taken us on a whirlwind of adventure that has involved many packed bags, hotel rooms, airplane flights, and even a trolley ride.

and i want to tell you all about marketing and the other adventures i have been on in the last month. but a quick update on my christmas break. yes, i still get christmas break.

well, break may not be the right word.

i came home and quickly was put to work. it was four days until christmas and there was plenty to be done.

my dad put me to work first, on a much over do project. and to be fair, at least half the stuff to be moved was mine anyways. i guess that is what i get for storing my entire college house in my father’s storage unit.

success one: cleaned out the the last storage unit.

my little helper.

a five minute trip by home and a quick outfit change later, i was looking like a girl again to help my mom finish christmas shopping. we would have a couple extra guests for christmas this year and we wanted their stockings be filled some a few of their favorite things, which fortunately were not raindrops on roses or blue satin sashes.

success two: obtain stocking stuffers for all to-be present individuals.

number three is always my favorite. and my unspoken official task. and truly a necessity anytime the family is together.

success three: make a double batch of secret recipe, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies.

much to my pup’s dismay, i had to take her to the veterinarian to have her updated on her shots. she was not too fond of it, but she handled it like a champ.

success four: update best friend’s vaccinations.

i even got all of my wrapping done.

success five: start and finish wrapping presents

in the end, i did not quite finish all i had intended to.

failure one: clean up the land mines covering my bedroom floor.

whoops. i had been doing so well. but family and friends took precedence. as they should.

my cousins were around for christmas.

my sister dressed us in onesies for christmas morning.

they are the cutest.

we ate delicious cinnamon rolls.

and i snuggled with my puppy.

all in all it was a wonderful, fifty-degree christmas in springfield, illinois. i would not trade it for anything.

my favorite view of the tree.

Kansas City, MO/KS

November 9, 2014

i have never particularly loved Kansas City. whether it was the Kansas or Missouri side.

it all started my freshman year of college. i went to the mizzou versus ku grudge match in arrowhead stadium. back in 2008. i should probably first mention that i do not particularly love football. but my friends were going. and i really like my friends. because they are incredible friends. so i went along.

well the weather was miserable that year. it snowed. and it rained. and then there was freezing rain. for the entire four hours. and even hail sometime in the second half. and as i mentioned in my last post, i am not a snow bunny. i hate the cold. i hate being cold. and i particularly hate when i am cold AND wet.

so after the game, i am frozen and on my way back to a friend’s. and mind you, i was rocking my savvy flip phone that did not have connection to the internet. or gps. so i managed to get  a little lost. but before you make an assumption about me being a terrible driver on the sole factor that i am a female, there is an exit for 87th street on both the Missouri and the Kansas side. and i forgot to cross over to Kansas before i exited. fail. i was cold and wet and lost. it was not my favorite evening. it was a poor first impression. and as i am sure you know, first impressions are crucial and memorable.

all that to say, i am growing more fond of Kansas City. slowly. it really has surprised me. but the more i visit, the more my heart softens. and it is no longer fair to say i hate it. because of weekends like this.

so anyways. my weekend.

i arrived in Kansas City to the sight of one of my best friends, who was a gem and picked me up from the airport. we talked nonstop on the way back to her apartment. because we are girls. and i missed her. i really am very lucky. i have great friends. i mentioned my incredible high school best friends here, but my college best friends were of no lesser caliber. i am spoiled.

flying the friendly skies.

we chatted and had a splendid time. she caught me up on the recent happenings in her life. and she laughed at my drama until she had to sleep. because she had to work in the morning. and i got to sleep in. on a friday morning. it was splendid. and then go for a run. if you want to know what happiness is, it is a long run on a crisp fall day in the midwest along a leaf-covered trail. that is my happiness.

it is necessary to step on all the crunchy ones.

to make it even better, i went to lunch with my roommate from college. and i don’t feel the need to specify which year we were roommates, because we were roommates for all the years. i moved in with her the second week of freshman year. and lived with her ever since. she is a beautiful girl. genuine, caring, spirited, independent. i had not seen her in a year and a half. that is a lifetime after living together for five years. and we had so much to catch up on. we ate delicious Indian food. and she told me of her recent engagement and trips to Haiti. it was just like old times sitting around the kitchen table or watching endless Disney movies as we knit scarves like old women. i had missed her and seeing her again so happy made me even more happy, if that was even possible.


miss molly.

then i spent some time with my parents. who i love dearly. and spoil me relentlessly. but i will talk more about that later.

i spent the rest of the evening with Jess and her beau, Nick. they are just phenomenal together. they often let me third wheel with them. or maybe it was technically Nick third wheeling with us whenever he came to town. doesn’t matter. the level of sarcasm amongst the three of us is probably unbearable for the average human being. and it is such fun.

we settled on picking up some famous Kansas City bbq from Oklahoma Joe’s, beer, and ice cream. no wonder i am friends with them. and then we proceeded to watch a terrible movie together. i had missed nights like this.

never enough ice cream.

there was a better picture of them. but it just wasn’t as fitting.

but now for the main event. the actual reason i went to Kansas City was a wedding. a very important wedding. because it was my cousin’s wedding. who is a complete goofball. and has the biggest heart. and is completely enamored by his darling bride. they were such fun the whole day. nothing makes a wedding better than a couple that is truly in love with each other.

photo cred: always19 photography

photo cred: always19 photography

photo cred: always19 photography

and i got to be with my family. oh, how i love my family. i got to see my parents AND my sister. which is often a rarity due to the hectic-ness of our schedules. but there is something about my family that always makes the world right. the fact that they have seen the best of me and the worst of me and still truly love me, is pretty irreplaceable. i am a monster when i am hungry. or in a bad mood. (i think it runs in the family). but they put up with me regardless. what more could i ask for?

i would claim them any day. photo cred: always19 photography

i assisted my sister for the day. who is an excellent photographer. she has clearly surpassed my skills. you can check her work out here. and my parents helped with the photo booth. and even took a turn dressing up. that is what is great about my parents. or one of the things that is great about my parents at least. they are still in love. after 32 years. they have their moments of irritation. we all do. but they really love each other. and that is the greatest thing they ever could have done for me. so throughout the reception, i helped take pictures and watched my parents be adorable and simply enjoyed being with my family.

they are the cutest. photo cred: always19 photography

photo cred: always19 photography

photo cred: always19 photography

when sunday morning rolled around, with a full tummy and a happy heart, i boarded onto my southwest flight for the trip out west. back to the land of the fun and the sun. but nothing can replace the midwest for me. it will always be home.


The Golden Years

October 25, 2014

my stop over from Atlanta to St. Louis landed me in a little town of Golden, Illinois.

it’s a little town. it’s a quiet village. where every day is like the one before. a little town. full of li…

okay, not really. but it is a quiet, little village full of very pleasant people.

now you may be asking what inspired me to stop over in a quiet, little Illinoisian town during my transition out of supply and into sales. not that this question needs an answer, because the answer is obvious. there could be no other reason but this exact reason. what other reason could there really be? i mean it is only the greatest reason ever.

so, i show up in the sleepy little town of Golden to a warm welcome of homemade chili. and questions about chemistry. i miss the studiousness of school. the constant barrage of theorems, concepts, and definitions. the ample flexibility to spend your time as one saw fit. sometimes i wonder why i left… then i remember what i do on a daily basis.

anyways. besides the point. i had a lovely time reteaching myself chemistry in attempt to assist my darling cousin. she rocked it out on her own though. because sometime in the midst of assisting i passed out on the floor. i guess that will happen when one does not sleep the night before.

some how i was transferred to an air mattress. where apparently my dog was insistent on curling up with me. but she did not like the air mattress. and she apparently was hopping between my bed and the couch. and apparently my aunts and uncles were well amused by it. and apparently the light was fully shining on my face. and apparently my cousin came in causing a ruckus to get ready for bed. and apparently my other cousin came in to sleep on the floor in the middle of the night. and i say “apparently” because i do not remember a single second of any of this. i was simply unresponsive to the world.

after my twelve hour coma and awakening to a mostly empty house, i readied myself and went down to the windmill (yes, those still exist) with my cousins to decorate for my grandmother’s eightieth birthday party. yes, eightieth. but she looks like she is twenty-five. ish.

the pride and joy of Golden, Illinois.

the party was a blast. there was food and cake and slide shows and pictures and quilts and live bands and elvis impersonators and people. so many people. i have a social family. and it all stems from my darling grandmother. she knows everybody. and everybody loves her.

what an appropriate sign…
photo cred: always19 photography

it was a great weekend of every good thing that starts with f: fun, food, frivolities, festivities, fossils. and family. that one can be thrown in there too. i think they are pretty great.

photo cred: always19 photography

however, it was a pain in the you-know-what to get there. i will never fly united airlines again.

between a long last night out and an early flight, i did not manage to rest my eyes. so after i arrived at the airport at 5:30 am, my flight was delayed. for an hour. guess how long my layover in Chicago was. you betchya, forty-five minutes. guess who missed her flight. you betchya, this girl.

so once i arrived in Chicago, i had to wait for another flight to Peoria, Illinois. and much to everyone’s surprise, it is not a frequent flight. so i finally arrived in Peoria six hours after i was intended to. six hours. that may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things. but i only had thirty-six hours. i lost one-sixth of my weekend sitting in an airport. seventeen percent of my weekend. just wasted.

oh, and they ripped my bag. i was not a happy camper.

in Peoria, my father and puppy were waiting to pick me up. i think united should pay for the emotional counseling my dog will need after the traumatic six hour waiting period she was subjected to. so once i finally arrived, they drove me to Springfield to switch out my bag. and then they drove me to Golden. it was a long day.

i will never fly united again.

and now i am in San Diego. but i will tell you about that later. so enjoy this pretty picture for now.

lunch spot day one.

my grandmother’s eightieth birthday party is the answer to your earlier question. for those of you who still did not get it.

A Surprise Visit

September 29, 2014

week 3 was an in-depth look into utilities. i won’t subject you to that.

week 4 was an in-depth look into packaging. i could subject you to that. especially because i am working on a project on a bottle line packer. i could subject you to mind boggling statistics about how much beer we package and ship every week. and how fast we package and ship beer every minute.

but instead i want to tell you about how great my last weekend was.

i had a VERY important visitor. i might even venture out to say one of the most important visitors. he is the man who has had the single greatest impact on my life. he is the best person to go to for a funny story, great advice, or a big bear hug. not that i need to further introduce him, but my rascal of a father came to visit. it was the highlight of my weekend.

he made the ten hour drive down to visit me in style. as always. but unfortunately got stuck in traffic behind a pretty bad accident. so what would have been a ten hour drive became a twelve hour drive. but he was a champ and even stayed up to chat with me when he finally made it here around midnight. he must have been exhausted, but he is my dad and he is the best.

i sure hope you were at a complete stop for this picture…

we had a perfectly lazy saturday morning. complete with good books and a delicious breakfast. Marc had to leave early in the morning to volunteer at a bike race, but Ryan and i had a great time sitting around, chatting with him. he is great to talk with. his years and experiences have developed his wisdom. but don’t tell him that. i’d hate for it to go to his head.

then we drove him the thirty minutes out to Cartersville to show him around the brewery. it was weird explaining the process to someone outside the industry. i didn’t realize how much i had learned in a short two months. the time has gone quickly.

cartersville brewery

after our lengthy walk around the plant, we meandered our way back home where i had the pleasure of a few more visitors. i have some crazy friends from college. one in particular that has a habit of making spontaneous, mildly irresponsible, and fantastic decisions. well he acted on the splendid idea to drag his brother, sister in law, and roommate down to Atlanta, Georgia from Columbia, Missouri for a Garth Brooks concert. they are awesome and ridiculous all at the same time. my time with them was short, but as always, splendid*.

*to be said in Alex’s mildly menacing, evil villain tone like he is up to no good. 

then it was out to creole for dinner. and jazz for entertainment. i think the band might have been more focused on providing comedic relief than playing jazz, but the man could play the saxophone. he managed to hold a note for over three minutes. i lost track of keeping time. he lasted longer than my attention span. although that isn’t much of a feat.

cafe 290

sunday was another lazy day. more breakfast. more reading. thai food. captain america: winter soldier. i like lazy days.

i had a rare pleasure on monday of meeting one of my dad’s friends and mentors. his name is Chuck Reaves. he wrote this awesome book about how to turn your ideas into actions. i now understand why my dad likes him so much. he is a mixture of logical reasoning, personal connection, useful application, and intuitive insights. so it was no shock that i greatly enjoyed his company, his opinions, and his conversation. between my dad and him, they made me think. they made me laugh. they made me consider something new. it made me genuinely evaluate ideas that i hadn’t given merit to before. i hadn’t been challenged in that way in a while. i greatly appreciate people who challenge and motivate me to be more. especially when it’s based on logic, research, and passion. those kind of people are rare and immensely influential. and time spent with such individuals is never undervalued.

my monday then concluded at the braves baseball game with Marc, Ryan, and Alaina. the game was not particularly great. the lack of postseason allure dulled most of the enthusiasm. but i will never object to a live sporting event in fair weather.

so much excitement.

and pretty dang good seats.

oh. and here are a few pictures of packaging to satisfy your curiosity.

i filled this tub of bottle caps all by myself.

living it up on the high lines

so. many. cans.

2 am real talk.

August 30, 2014

i’m not sure i can fully describe what is going through my mind right now.

it’s 2 am. and i’m doing laundry. in a hotel. while writing this post. and i leave for Georgia in the morning. my life currently doesn’t fit into a category.

today was the last day of training in St. Louis before our rotations. this means that it was the last day of endless power points. the last day of hotel living. the last day of the American GMTs being in the same location. the last day of eating out for every single meal. the last day of knowing my surroundings. the last day of someone making my bed. the last day of this pampered lifestyle.

don’t get me wrong. i don’t think my life is hard. or that this upcoming segment of my life will be hard. but it will be closer to real life. i am so ready for it. i have been itching to actually get into the thick of things for a while. to get my hands dirty. to learn first hard. to realize how incredibly inexperienced i am. i am ready to learn in the real world. i no longer want to be talked at. i want to watch. i want to do. i want to interact. i want to participate.

now let me rewind.

i started this week a little worn down. global week took it out of me. those kids are crazy. i cannot keep up. i am so inferior.

the group of 147 global GMTs dispersed back to their lands of origin until only the Americans and Canadians were left. a mere 30 people. that dwindled even more quickly to 23 when our dear Canadians left on wednesday. this week, we began our training of the information technology and business services department, affectionally known as IBS. we learned about the different roles that information technology and business services play in the company. about how the information technology is the continuous improvement aspect and the business services are the foundation of the company’s everyday transactions that keep the beer flowing.

i could tell you so many more things about IBS. i interned in that department for the last 2 summers. it was a blast. i loved the people. i learned more than i ever cared to know about ETTL codes, DLLs, and software platforms.

but this week was really about the people to me.

people from my previous summers. people from this program. people from the company. people from home. just people. all kinds of people.

now let’s be real here for a minute. because it’s 2 am. and 2 am is the perfect time for raw, honest conversations.

it’s amazing how much of an impact people make on your life. they shape you. mold you. encourage you. discourage you. build you up. tear you down. laugh with you. cry with you. grow with you. teach you. correct you. just hold you.

i have spent a month with 23 people. some that i feel really close to. others that i wish i knew better. a few that i would not mind a break from. but all of which i care deeply about. they are great people. they each have their quirks. they each have their weaknesses. they each have their downfalls. but don’t we all? isn’t that what makes life so interesting? i have more than my fair share of faults, shortcomings, quirks, weaknesses, and straight up failures. but i hope these  people can see past that. because while i see their weaknesses, i also see immense strength in them. i see hopes, dreams, futures. i see something beautiful.

that’s what it is all about to me. it’s about people. always has been. always will be.

i am learning incredible skills, processes, and aspects of this company through my program. but those things pale in comparison to the people. inside the company or out.

a friend shared an article with me about a man that spent too much time focusing on his career and lost everything that he really had been working for: his wife, a family, someone to care about him. regardless of the job, the money, the toys, he was miserable. it was depressing. he forgot what life was truly about. have you ever got caught up in that? thinking that toys will make you happy. that a salary will make you happy. that a promotion will make you happy. that recognition will make you happy.

don’t get me wrong. i get caught up in it too. and i absolutely think that having a job and contributing to society is important. essential even. but my first priority should never be my job. it may work for some people. it doesn’t for me. people are the first priority to me.

so what do i really remember of this week?

watching Frozen with 6 guys from the program. yes. they voluntarily chose Frozen when i was the only girl present.

a friend that had glass stuck in her foot, but was just happy because it brought everyone together to get it out. she was a champ.

real, honest conversations with new friends. and old friends.

a mentor that is willing to spend her evening with me. to teach me, to give solid advice, and to be honest with me.

lunches with people that care about me.

quippy jokes about something stupid that i did.

dinner with friends that have known me forever and dinner with friends that haven’t even known me a year.

hot, sweaty country concerts and party buses.

my parents coming to visit this weekend. to love me. support me. laugh with me. remind me of how truly blessed i am to be their daughter.

that’s what is really all about to me. what is it really all about to you? because whatever it is or whatever you want it to be… make sure you reflect that in your choices.

usa usa canada, eh?

Venezia, Italia

July 27, 2014

i immediately fell in love with Venice. we stepped off the train and into a boat for our transport to the hotel. for those of you who don’t know me, i was raised on a boat. my parents have been boat owners since before i was born and my fondest memories are from tube rides and learning to ski and being rocked to sleep by the waves.

Venice is a compilation of 118 islands separated by canals and connected by bridges. that being said, there are no cars because there are no roads. i was in heaven. a town that relied solely on water transportation and walking? yes, i would happily live there.

now once we arrived at our hotel, we were informed that my immediate family would be staying in a suite. now that’s sweet. so the concierge calls the bellhop to take us and our luggage to our room. we all stood befuddled for a minute when the bellhop walked out the front door. after a little encouragement from the concierge, we followed him out. around the corner into a small alleyway. around another corner into a smaller alleyway. to a door. and he rang the bell. my first thought was that we were staying in someone’s home. now i am all up for bunking, but i was simply not expecting it. and remember, it’s all about expectations. the door clicked open and the bellhop showed us up the stairs to a beautiful, massive suite for us 4 to share. was it a little sketch? yes. was it awesome? absolutely!

after we were settled and situated in our secluded suite, we embarked out to find food since we were all ravenous (and i become a bit of a monster if i don’t eat). i inherited my love for the water from my father, which he intentionally cultivated through my entire childhood. so it was no wonder dad opted to find a place on the water to eat. the recommended place was farther than anticipated, but well worth the hike. an afternoon of pizza and beer sitting out over the water. ah. it was my perfect afternoon.

eventually the time came to see the city. we quickly learned that maps were pointless and took the local’s advice to get lost and see what you find. we wove through an unending maze of alleys, “streets”, bridges, and dead ends. seriously, you stand no chance of maintaining your path. we found the very first ghetto on our first day. it originally housed Jews that were subjected to curfews, strict rules, and complete segregation. its original inhabitants are now honored by memorials adorning their homes. it wasn’t what i expected. it was clean. colorful. very Italian looking. and there was a group of local boys playing soccer in the courtyard. it no longer held the oppression of the original inhabitants.

Venetian Jewish Ghetto

the next day we stumbled into Piazza San Marco where St. Mark’s Basilica stands. did you know that St. Mark’s remains were stolen by the Venetians to be placed into the basilica that bears his name? do you want to know how them smuggled him back from Alexandria? in a box of pork after they bribed the Alexandrian priests to relinquish the body. it seems like an odd way to honor your patron saint.

the piazza is also home to Torre dell’Orologio, the coolest clock tower that told the time of day, the current month, and the lunar phase. and it was created in the 500’s. now that’s some impressive work. and it looked pretty. across the square is the Campanile, a large bell tower that provided beautiful views of the city. are you noticing a trend? i like to go up to the tallest part of the city and look out over everything. it makes me feel so small and insignificant and it is such a freeing feeling. 

Piazza San Marco

top of Campanile

Venice also held adventures in the Doge’s Palace with the golden staircase, to Murona to watch the glass making process, over to Burano which specializes in making lace, across the Rialto Bridge that houses the financial hub of Venice. the glass making process was really interesting. we saw 2 main techniques: blowing and pulling. i’m sure there is some dirty joke in there. but i won’t dare try to coax it out. regardless, i would burn myself. or break the glass. or both.

one night after dinner, we managed to get ourselves lost walking off dinner and thanks to my sister’s guidance, we even found a beautiful waterfront view of Santa Maria della Salute.

of course a trip to Venice would not be complete without a gondola ride. did you know they can fit 6 people in those gondolas? our guide easily maneuvered through tiny canals making 90 degree turns on a boat longer than a bus. talk about skill. the best part of the whole ride was actually the gondola in front of us. a duo of musicians were riding along and serenading the passengers of the boat ahead of us. the accordion sang out a sweet melody to accompany a deep baritone that had a voice as rich as mahogany and as smooth as honey. of course, i really have no idea what i’m talking about when it comes to music, but man, it sounded good.

gondola ride

my parents are adorable

our last night was relaxing, as it should be. after a delicious dinner on the waterfront (during a rainstorm) we listened to jazz on the patio of a bar, drinking wine while it continued to rain. if Venice hadn’t stolen my heart the first day, it definitely had it by now. the quartet played a mixture of tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones, a clarinet, the piano, and drums. nothing could have been more romantic. except, of course, if i had a boy to take with me. but it was a perfect ending to a wonderful trip.

or at least i tell myself that because i intentionally block the horrid memories of a 3 am wake up call for a 6 am flight, 24 hours of traveling, and a very grumpy group of family members. that last day just didn’t exist because we are a sweet, perfect family that never loses their tempers. yeah right.


Firenze, Italia

from Rome, an hour train ride deposited us in Florence (Firenze according to the locals). now the train ride itself was uneventful. getting on the train was another story.

my father has a habit of wandering off from the group at the most inconvenient times. so it is no wonder that he disappeared 10 minutes before the train was to arrive. and we only had 10 minutes to board. that probably seems like an eternity to board a train. but my grandma was accompanying us and we had 6 bags to load. rushing the process seemed like a poor choice. 5 minutes before the train is to arrive, i depart to find my father with his and my bags. being daddy’s little girl, i have a knack for finding him. or he has a knack for finding me. one of the two. and we are to then meet the family at the train to board.

i find my father. or he finds me. no problem. we return to the group that has an individual helping them load bags onto the train. okay. cool. we manage to situate everyone onto the train and the two individuals helping load the bags follow us to our seats. my mother tips them generously because that’s what my family does.

but they won’t leave.

they want more money. how much? i’m glad you asked. they wanted 10 euros per bag. yes, per bag. that’s 60 euros for 2 minutes of work. while we are appreciative of their help, i know that money won’t be recorded or taxed. so after 2 minutes of them insisting on 10 euros per bag, they left in a huff with 10 euros each. sometimes that was all i would make waitressing an entire lunch shift. and that income was taxed! needless to say, we didn’t allow anyone to help us when we boarded the next train.

once in Florence, it was a breath of fresh air after the hustle and bustle of Rome. our first stop upon arrival (after the hotel to deposit the bags) was a little restaurant for a delicious meal, monstrous beers, and an impressive duo playing the accordion and singing. it’s what i thought of when i think of an italian lunch. and it was perfect.

after some much needed naps, we found the bus route to Piazza Michelangelo. i don’t have a clue why it’s named after Michelangelo, but it was a beautiful site to see. there were panoramic views of the city, and we even stayed for sunset. it was my favorite place. but probably not for the reasons you think. i loved the view. i loved the sunset. but what really set it apart was the fact that it was the first place that we had really stayed at for more than 2 hours. it was nice to just take it in. slowly. and i got to just hang out with my sister for an hour taking pictures. talking about nothing. we don’t get to see each other often because we are rarely in the same location. but she’s my favorite. she’s my role model. if you know my sister, then you know why. she’s awesome. it was nice to catch up.

Piazza Michelangelo

sunset at Piazza Michelangelo

the next couple days were another whirlwind of sites. we saw the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza del Repubblica, Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, the church of San Lorenzo, and the Piazza della Signoria. we also saw the famous Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) the different colored marbles constructing the facade were fascinating. i don’t often think of the green, blue, and red marbles, but they adorned the picturesque exterior of the Duomo. it was far prettier than St. Peters… but only on the outside. we even took a trip through the Tuscan countryside one day to see San Gimignano that boasted breathtaking views from the top of the bellower and world champion gelato (which of course we had to have), a winery tour at Tenuta Torciano to enjoy the delicious chianti wines and where i volunteered my parents to demonstrate the swirl, dunk, and taste dessert ritual (i know, i’m the best daughter ever), and to Sienna for the gothic architecture and town’s horse racing traditions. 

el duomo

San Gimignano

another must see of Florence is Michelangelo’s David. now i’ve already mentioned that i am particularly amazed by statues. but words cannot even describe the sight of this masterpiece. a 17 foot tall marble statue in the Galleria dell’Accademia that is as life-like as an actual human being. it was incredible. i didn’t expect to be struck dumbfounded, but i was. you can see the tendons in his hands, the veins running up his arms, the dimples on his knees. it looked so genuinely real. he was incredible. but i must say that he had some very large ears and a very italian nose.

Michelangelo’s David

Vatican City

let me first say, i had no idea what i was getting into when we went to Vatican City. we did a combination tour of the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, and Basilica di San Pietro. for those of you who don’t know, this place is huge. the dimensions of St. Peter’s are 730 ft by 500 ft by 452 ft.* but those numbers do not have the same effect as the whole imposing mass standing before you. 

first we toured the Vatican museum, where hundreds of rooms hold thousands of pieces of art. paintings, statues, canvas prints, maps, elaborate ceilings. i mean thousands of pieces of art. i’ve never seen so much art in my whole life. i found that i am fond of statues. paintings are pretty. and i won’t even pretend to be capable of such work. but something about the artistry of marble shaped, life-like forms mesmerizes me. there was a room of mythological gods and heroes that i could’ve spent hours in.

Basilica di San Pietro

the museum gave way into the Sistine chapel. it stirred a mixture of emotions in me. the idea of a man craning his neck to spend years painting a ceiling stirs strong feelings of respect. the depiction of every man, woman, and child from those days perfectly muscled with at least a 6 pack, if not 8 rippling abdominal muscles, stirs feelings of envy. for real. every. single. one. the hundreds of originally nude figures of the Last Judgement covered by painted ribbons of fabric stirred feelings of laughter**. the paintings of the prophets and biblical stories on the edge of the ceiling stirred feelings of amazement. they looked three dimensional. as if they were statues. but overall, it was anticlimactic. now before you bristle at my nonchalance, hear me out. we walked through hundreds of rooms, looking at thousands of paintings while our guide constantly referenced the Sistine Chapel. over and over and over again this great masterpiece was constantly built up. to the point that it couldn’t fulfill the expectations. so it was anticlimactic. it’s all about expectations. and unfortunately pictures aren’t allowed in there.

next was St. Peter’s Basilica. as i mentioned earlier, this place is huge. and we had already been walking for 3 hours. our feet were tired, our backs were sore, and my neck hurt from looking at the ceilings. but as soon as i walked into the church, my breath caught in my throat. it was beautiful. ornate. intricate. sprawling. the ceiling was speckled with gold. rays of natural light were streaming in around the altar. the statues looked like real people trapped inside stone. beautiful pieces of art covered every surface. it was as impressive inside as it was out.

the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica

the sweet Swiss guard uniforms at the Vatican

the end of the day left us tired and sore from walking over 8 miles. don’t get me wrong. i will happily go run 8 miles. i find that enjoyable. that’s a quick hour long endeavor. but the slow, monotonous tread of walking 8 miles is torture. needless to say, sitting down to dinner was magical. and delicious. however, we came to learn that they don’t really sell wine by the glass in Italy. just in bottles and half bottles. and i’m the only one of my family that usually wanted red wine. so by the end of the meal, i was happy to continue our walk to find gelato and see the beautiful sunset over the Spanish Steps. when we finally got back to the hotel, my feet didn’t hurt, but i definitely had to pee.

Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti

* those numbers came from wikipedia, by the way

** don’t know the story? so Michelangelo painted the entire wall behind the alter to depict the return of Jesus to the world and the Last Judgement of all people. well, he believed that the naked human form was God’s greatest masterpiece. so everyone was naked in the massive mural. Cardinal Carafa thought it was awfully inappropriate and threw a temper tantrum. (which Michelangelo responded to by painting a portrait of the Cardinal descending into hell after his judgement). after Michelangelo finished his masterpiece, Daniele da Volterra was commissioned to cover the exposed genitalia, earning him the nickname of “the breeches painter”. moral of the story? don’t piss off a painter. and don’t get involved in the cover up.

Rome, Italia

my darling mother has always wanted to go to Italy. always. and who would blame her? the food. the wine. the architecture. the art. the history. the countryside. i sigh just thinking about it.

so when discussions about a big family trip began to circulate in january, Italy was discussed. slowly ideas of Napa Valley tours, Ireland adventures, Mediterranean cruises, and tropical beach vacations were neglected for the rich history, food, and culture of beautiful Italy. and in a blink of the eye, flights and hotels were booked for my parents, my sister, my aunt, my grandmother, and me.

our first stop was Rome. oh bustling Rome. and we didn’t want to miss any of it. so our jet lag was vanquished by a brisk walk to the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti, where a man proposed to his girlfriend and fulfilled every cliche perception i had of the Spanish Steps, before we transversed over to Fontana di Trevi, where we touristically tossed a euro into the scaffolding covered Trevi Fountain. of course we had to stop to appease our disoriented appetites with the tasty gelato from crispino’s. you’ll quickly learn that gelato was a recurring theme of our vacation. mostly due to the fact that i inherited my grandmother’s brown eyes and her insatiable craving for ice cream. energized by our sweet treat, we went to explore L’Altare della Patria and some surrounding ruins that were still standing from the time of Christ. talk about built to last. these buildings were constructed, covered with dirt, built on top of time and again, and are still there. maintaining their shape. supporting the infrastructure of modern Rome. providing a glimpse back into history. 

what i found more amusing was in the midst of these ruins hundreds of people were sitting in the street. as cars drove around them. watching the world cup on a big screen. these people are dedicated to their soccer. cheers and shouts would erupt denoting the sections of corresponding fans, echoing off the 2000 year old buildings. try and spot the car.

the next day held more adventures to the colosseum. did you know it was originally called the Flavian Amphitheather and it was only renamed the Colosseum because of the monstrous statue of Colossus that was located outside the building? because i didn’t. and now i do. and so do you. then we walked Palatine Hill, an imposing display of the grandeur of the old Roman empire, even though half of it has not faired well through the weather and the centuries.

Palatine Hill


one of my favorite adventures in Rome was to the top of the L’Altare della Patria, or the Wedding Cake as it is informally known. not only did it offer breathtaking views of the city, but my selfless sister and altruistic aunt hoisted me into the air, in the blistering heat mind you, so that i could capture an infamous foot picture from 230 feet in the air with the sprawling Roman landscape in the background. i have the best family. 

the top of L’Altare della Patria

L’Altare della Patria


in Rome, we also visited the Repubblica with an intricate organ larger than a whale, the Circus Maximus- the location of chariot races, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore- the largest church in Rome, the Pantheon, the Piazza del Popolo, and many more piazzas, churches, and beautiful landmarks than i could ever give credit to. i was simply awestruck by the ingenuity, creativity, and accomplishments of the Romans. just dang. it was cool.