Two Roads Diverged

Life is all about choices – so which choice is coming next?

Hunter Hunted at MTV Studios

The traffic inches along. Just fast enough that I can’t e-brake, release the clutch, and relax my tensed leg muscles.

“Thank goodness for the gym,” I mumble to myself. But it’s worth it. Shortly, so shortly, I will be off the highway, and rolling into the parking lot of Viacom – aka, the MTV and many other tv stations headquarters.


I finally arrive. The elevator drops me in the lobby. The receptionist points. And there’s my band.

The only band whose every song they’ve sung, I’ve liked.

The guys who take the time to get to know their fans, to recognize them when they see them again.

A band who’s gone the extra mile by hand-delivering their first EP to my dorm door; and put my friend on the VIP list when I forgot to get her a ticket to their House of Blues concert.

A band where my friends and I have gone to concerts, and we left after Hunter Hunted played – as we had no interest in the headliners.

A band who’s growing whose stardom is catching up to the stars they’ve always been.

We all troop up to the MTV floor, into a little music studio, where Hunter Hunted will be giving a mini concert.

To some of the staff of Viacom.

And me. The only non-Viacom member.

I tweeted like mad a bit. Instagrammed a little.

The set was short – only a couple numbers, including one of my favorite of their new songs:

The staff filed out – back off to their jobs (don’t I wish I could have a musical break in the middle of my day!).

I was able to do a one-question interview. (No pressure!)

A little more time spent chatting with Michael and Dan – about their lives, my life. Whatever – because these are guys who make you feel comfortable.

All too quickly I had to leave to meet up with friends at UCLA. But every time I meet with this band, it’s memories I’ll never forget.


Santa Doesn’t Always Fly In a Sleigh

Flying Santa!

An early morning departure saw me sitting in the Charlotte airport, devouring a Cinnabon, and wishing I liked coffee.

When they announced our flight would be late (of course), the grumbling passengers settled down to wait, and to chat.

And that’s when he introduced himself.

Santa Clause

And his wife!

The Clauses

A lovely couple that lives in Charlotte, they spend their year waiting for Christmas.

For Christmas, their house becomes the talk of the town – and “Santa” dresses up (in his own homemade suit!) and goes visiting hospitals, malls, families, you name it, he visits it.

And his wife does it all at his side. She’s there every step of the way!

But the best stories he had to tell? Well this guy plays Santa all year long. When he goes on plane rides, children will ask him if he’s Santa.

“I listen to the conversations they have with their parents. Like this one boy, I heard his mother call to him – so I got his name. Then she had mentioned they were going, ‘home to Detroit’. So when the little boy came up to me and asked who I was, I said, ‘Well James, don’t you worry, I won’t miss you in Detroit!’”

Needless to say, kids go nuts!

On another flight some kids were whispering together and pointing and looking at him. Suddenly the flight attendant walked up, sat on his lap with a, “Santa, I already sent you my letter. Just wanted to give you the heads up!” and walked away.

Stories like this always make me so happy! I imagine how excited those kids must’ve been to “have Santa on THEIR flight!”

And I got to end up with him and his wife on mine.

Sure, they doesn’t have flying reindeer, but what they did have was a giving spirit.

What’d they give to me? An invitation that anytime I’m back in Charlotte I simply must come over for dinner and a visit.

What better gift could you ask for?


Disney Christmas Wonderland

So as I’m sure many of you already know (but this is my first time) – getting published on another blog is just super duper exciting, and fills you with happiness and warmth! :)

So if you’ve never checked out Bucket List Publications you should (Lesley Carter’s blog is here).

And if you want to learn all about Disneyland at Christmas time, click here!

So yes. That’s my excitement for the day!


Hidden Talents at County Fairs

It just so happens that my old college roommate lives in Winston-Salem, NC. The site of the Dixie Classic Fair!

So of course we had to go!

We planned to go on a Monday – so Sunday night, we spent at least an hour pouring over the schedule of events. Planning.

”Ok, dog show first. Then the pig races. Then we’ll find the woman on stilts. Ok, then the woodcarver display, then…” (and so on)

Monday dawned – dark and rainy.

But we were glad! Because rain meant the fair was empty. We didn’t fight crowds, we didn’t fight lines, we didn’t fight for seats. Everything in the fair was at our fingertips!

So our plan started off fine – we hit the first couple shows we’d planned on. Found the woman on stilts much faster than we’d planned on – and ended up with some extra minutes.

We wandered over to the “Town of Yesterday” where all the demonstrations were being held – tin making, loom weaving, etc.

We walked into the hut holding all the award-winning wines. As we’re purusing a man walks in and starts setting up some tables.

“I’m just setting up now, but if you guys come back in a half hour, I’ll let you help me.”
“With what?”
“I’m a glassblower!”

An offer to watch glassblowing? Heck yeah!

So we go wander around for a half hour, then scurry right back to the glassblower’s hut.

Jeff – the glassblower.

Dixie Classic Fair, Winston-Salem North Carolina, glassblowing

Melting glass!

Fascinating guy. FULL of stories. Full of facts.

He let us choose colors, and then turned on a blowtorch to make us glass jewelry.

As we were in 200 year old houses, he couldn’t really do full glassblowing. He could only use a small blowtorch – but it was still impressive!

So we chose some colors and he made us some glass beads. Told us to come back in a half hour when they’d cooled.

Because what’s sexier than eating deep fried reeses balls?

So we went off to eat (deep fried PB&J, deep fried reeses, and chili cheese fries. Yes – that is my arteries you hear clogging up).

Then we went back.

We all chatted some more. He made us a couple more beads. Showing us some different techniques like adding glass drops on the outside.

We left again to entertain ourselves (petting zoo, pig races).

And we returned AGAIN! And he made us MORE glass pendants.

As we left to allow him to get some dinner (and check out the Kellie Pickler concert) he told us that if we came back, he’d let us behind the blowtorch!

Some of the glass swag

So what could we do but go back?? And of course, try our hand at glass making.

I went last of the three of us. And it was exhilarating and terrifying. So cool to be holding molten glass – but I was holding molten glass and my hands were next to a pure blue flame!!

(All right, picture story!!)

glassblowing, glass bead making

This face: the trepidation of that flame

The face of amazement – the “this is SO COOL”

Molten glass – it’s dripping!

It’s a bead shape! Happy face!

Pretty much – I amaze even myself with how cool I look (ha, ha. Get it? Cause I’m cooling the glass??!?)

It turns out – I’m apparently a natural at glass bead making. Jeff complimented my skills, and the woman next to him looked at me and said, “Seriously – I’ve seen lots of beginner students and they don’t make beads that look that good.”

I know – I can hardly believe how perfect it is too.

*self-pat on the back* If I ever really find myself completely unemployable, at least I can make awesome glass beads to sell!

At the end of our 12 hour fair day we trudged home. More tired, wetter, and colder than when we’d first started out.

But in the end it was one of the better fairs I’ve been to! How often to you get tons of free glass swag, make a new friend with an awesomely talented artist, and try your hand at creating something in 1500°F flames?


“Life is too short to drink bad wine”

During my stay in Greece, one of the things my North Carolinian roommate always talked about was North Carolina Wine.

Now I’m Californian. I know wine.

Ok. That’s a lie.

I don’t like most wine.

Well, I don’t like reds.
Or dry whites.
Or dry rosés.

So really, I’m pretty picky about my wine.

But my Family! They know their wines. Especially my brother.

But – just because I don’t like wine doesn’t mean I haven’t tried it.

So with more than a bit of skepticism (and Californian wine-snoodiness), I went to a North Carolina wine tasting.

North Carolina Wine, Shadow ridge vineyard, Hanover park vineyard, wine tasting

Wine on a cold day: it is pretty perfect.

And it. Was. Delicious.

I mean – WOW! The things these people were doing with wine!

I had three favorites:

    Shadow Springs Vineyard, Strawberry shortcake wine

    Image: Shadow Springs Vineyard

  1. Shadow Springs Vineyard, Shortcake.
    This wine was made from strawberries. Yeah, you read that. STRAWBERRIES! Fermented Strawberries! Drinking that wine was like drinking strawberry juice. With 11% alcohol content. Om nom nom.
  2. Shadow Srings vineyard, Dark Shadow wine, Dark chocolate wine

    Image: Shadow Springs Vineyard

  3. Shadow Springs Vineyard, Dark Shadow.
    Now this was one of those ‘dark chocolate red wines’. Now I’ve had plenty of those. It’s just red wine. Right?
    Well this one. I sniffed it. Smelled just like dark chocolate. I tasted it. It was like drinking dark chocolate! Oh man, this was a decadent wine!
  4. Hanover Park Vineyard, Blueberry wine

    Image: Hanover Park winery

  5. Hanover Park Vineyard, Blueberry.
    Once again, a fruit based wine. This one: blueberry. And just like the name, again, it was like drinking blueberries!

(I brought a bottle of the strawberry and blueberry home to my parents, who vastly enjoyed it.)

When the wine servers found out I was from Cali, they were so tickled by how much I enjoyed the wine – and of course we got into a conversation about what I thought was so special about NC wines.

And I came to this conclusion: North Carolina is doing what California used to do. Experiment.

They’re making wines from different fruits – with great success! If you suggested that to Cali wineries? They’d wrinkle their nose in disgust at you – hardly believing you’re daring to suggest something different from their grape-y recipe.

So I’d come to see that what my roommate was always going on about was true – North Carolina has amazing wines! And I will eagerly search the wine section – hoping to one day see these wines gracing my grocery store shelves.


Charlotte Creativity

After I’d been home for a while, filling out work applications and such, I finally found an application that guaranteed an interview! (My dream as I can’t seem to get past the paper phase to save my life)

I just had to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Well, fine by me!

  1. I’d never been to NC before.
  2. One of my Greek roommates lived in a town close to charlotte.
  3. One of my college roommates lived in Another town close to Charlotte.

So really, all great reasons to go, interview, and visit!

First stop: Charlotte, NC.

Definitely a beautiful city – complete with cemetery parks that show Friday night movies! But seriously – I really loved the feeling of this place. Spent all day wandering around everywhere in the city.

Charlotte NC, Fourth Ward parks

See the tombstones in the background?

Met up with some friends I forgot lived in Charlotte and had real southern cookin’!

But some of the more memorable moments of Charlotte?

There’s one in particular:

The Best Pick-Up Line I’ve Ever Gotten

I was waiting at the bus station for a friend to pick me up and drive me to Greensboro. A black man approaches and asks if he can borrow my cell phone.

Being a nice person – I let him.

After several unsuccessful attempts, he returns the phone to me.

And immediately starts to hit on me.

“What’s a pretty lady like you doing here? Got a boyfriend? No?? Well honey, I will be your boyfriend.” And his arm goes around me.
“Um… I have a bubble, and you’re in it.”
“But honey, don’t worry cause I’m going to be your boyfriend.”
“Well, that’s a kind offer, but I’m only here for the next couple minutes.”
“Well, it’s fine, you’ll move here. And be with me.”

And then came the best line of all,

“You’ll be with me and have my honey-colored babies.”

Needless to say, this led me into giggling spasms. And our conversation continued in this vein for a good 20 more minutes with him asking all of his friends how beautiful they thought our “honey-colored babies” would be. (All of his friends were laughing too – he didn’t get much support.)

My friend arrived later and I jumped in the car and went on to Greensboro.

But Charlotte left me with an impression of its beauty, and of its creativeness.


Budget Travel: Sometimes You Get What You Pay For

Like any traveler, I have my favorite websites for cheap flights (namely Skyscanner). But sometimes… well sometimes you cheat on your favorite sites…

When searching for my return flights during Christmas, I found ones on CheapOAir for $500 less than anywhere else I’d seen!

Now numbskull me didn’t notice as I pressed the “purchase” button that the website had reset to 7 days later, rather than the original 7 months later I had set.

So that $500 saved? Yeah, spent it changing the ticket.

Did I learn my lesson? Well…

My parents then planned the cruise, which started out of Venice. And just happened to end one day before my return flight to Cali, which flew out of Athens.

No biggie – found round-trip tickets (Athens à Venice) on a budget website (that was not through skyscanner). I was going to arrive at 9 pm in Athens, and my flight out of Athens left at 7 the next morning.

So on my last weekend in Greece, I moved my things to one of the apartments. Made plans with my roommates who were staying behind. I was going to spend the night there, since I had a layover time allowing for a pretty good night’s rest, and then leave early the next morning.

Easy squeezy lemon peezy (as all the Greek kids like to say).

But then Murphy looks up from his law books and decides that things just aren’t going his way!.

So 2 days before I fly to meet my folks, the budget website emails me to say that my tickets have been changed to 2 days earlier; a date when I won’t be able to fly because I’ll be in the middle of the ocean!

I frantically call them (as this is my last chance for normal internet).

An hour and a half long phone wait (on Skype!) finally gets me talking to a person. We take about another half hour to work it out, but I do manage to change my tickets.

So the cruise ends, we all get off the ship.

And now I’m stuck in Venice all day with all my luggage until about 9 pm.

I arrive in Athens at 2am.

I jump on a bus. Jump off the bus. Find a taxi. Take a taxi.

Arrive at old roomates’ apartment around 3. Chat for a bit (my poor tired roommates!), grab my stuff, walk to a bus stop, catch a taxi to the airport bus stop, and catch the 4am bus so I can get to the airport at 5.

The nice night’s sleep I was planning? Didn’t happen.

But the plus side?

Not sleeping all night ensured that passed out once I got on that plane!

Another plus side?

That although I didn’t get any sleep, I did get through security SO much faster than in Israel!.

(Also: I hate to admit it – but I’ll probably cheat on favorite website again in the future – oh the bargain hunter in me…)


I <3 Turkey

Both the meat and the place.

But for now, I’ll be discussing the place (as the meat will not be a topic for another month or so for us Americans).

I can’t do it justice like my friend from Tinky Town, but I wanted to write a bit about the couple days I spent in this country.

This year was my first introduction to Muslim countries (Egypt, Palestine and Jordan), and by the time we got to Turkey, I’ll admit I did have some expectations of what I would find – how I’d be treated.

And once again my expectations were blown out of the water! Friendly people (like always!), and some very interesting perspectives.

Many of the Turkish people we met discussed with us how, while they are practicing Muslims, they have businesses to run, and so cannot always follow religious practices to a T.

As one man said though, “Just because I don’t do everything doesn’t mean I’m not a good Muslim or a good man!”

Hear hear!

It was so refreshing to find a country where they seemed to be blending new ideas with old.

I saw women my own age walking around!

And the women walked around dressed in full Muslim attire, or in jeans and tshirts. And they all interacted with one another! (I mean, t-shirted girls and fully attired ones)

No one yelled comments at me, nor commented on my, ”nice bosoms” (which in these countries was always hidden under long-sleeved shirts and scarves).

And the beauty of Istanbul and Kusadasi were INSANE!

I’m talking the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia (which blew my mind and took my breath away – hard to do when you’ve been in Europe awhile and Cathedrals all start to look the same), the Basilica Cistern, and one of the more impressive to me:

The Temple of Apollo.

Why is it so impressive? Well, it’s the exact twin of the seventh world wonder, the Temple of Artemis – but unlike the Temple of Artemis, many of the columns and walls are still around.

And talk about, “I can see why this became a world wonder!!”

So the beauty and history of – the parts I saw – Turkey were extraordinary.

And the food was so delicious! (Of course!)

And the people so nice!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But don’t worry – we did have our more colorful adventures, like getting lost in a cab with a non-English speaking driver for an hour.

Oh, and the Turkish carpet man who attempted to set all his carpets on fire to show us how sturdy they are.

Lessons learned:
Make sure I always enter a country with an open mind.

And beware of Turkish merchants when they pull out a lighter…
Turkish rugs


Pranks, pranks the magical fruit – the more you plan the more you do

So my pranking lifestyle probably started around 4th grade, when we stole my camp counselor’s underwear, froze it, and put it on the breakfast table to see how long it would take them to notice.

Then there was a time in college where my roommates and I convinced almost our entire dorm floor that we were being watched by a Peeping Tom. (Seriously, trick your friends, it’s HYSTERICAL! And I might, maybe, have used this to trick people in various other houses I live in…)

But it was a couple summers ago that I became an internationally known prankster.

And by internationally known – I mean that there might have been a summer spent camping on an archaeology dig in Canada where my co-Lab Director and myself were quite the prankster duo.

What kind of pranks?

  • Hiding the camp silverware, therefore making everyone scrounge up the spoons, forks, and etc. hidden in their tents.
  • Switching everyone’s shoes in the middle of the night so upon waking in the morning they had to search other tents for their footwear.
  • Purchasing some goods from a charity shop and creating an Nsync shrine in a boy’s tent.
  • There’s the age old: re-stringing of a tent upside down between some trees.
  • And of course, the stuffing of real-frogs-turned-coin-purses in the bottom of sleeping bags.

(Thank you my friend, for being such a good sport about us doing that to you ^.^)

(I’ve also been the recipient of some pretty awesome pranks – one of the best being a crocheted spiderweb locking me inside my tent.)

Needless to say, my prankster life really picked up there.

So on the cruise, when I was invited to prank some parents, I was in.

One night while the parents went to a show onboard, we snuck into their room, and proceeded to flip everything upside down.

And I mean everything. Chairs, couch, glasses, shampoo, bed, dressers, lights, shoes, EVERYTHING.

We left, hung out, and later fell asleep.

But what I hadn’t understood was that we were dealing with not ordinary parents – but more pranking masters.

Around 5 in the morning there’s a knock on the door.

“Room service!”

Then the phone rings.

“This is your wake up call.”

A minute later the door knocks.

A minute later the phone rings.

The steward calls out, “Room service!”

The phone rings 2 minutes later.

This continues – the alternating knocking and phone ringing – for a good 15 minutes before someone goes to the door, and informs the poor steward that no, room service had not been ordered.

The phone rings for another 15 minutes – every 2 to 4 minutes.

No one unplugs the phone (my first suggestion), but finally sleepy brains think to call the front desk and cancel the rest of the phone calls. Which had been set up to run for AN HOUR.

Silence finally descends, and sleep comes again.

And the idea became firmly planted in my brain, that I’ll probably be a prankster until a ripe, old age.


Cruisin’ for a… well, um… for fun actually

I often have people ask what is good about a cruise, why anyone would want to do it.

There’s loads of reasons, the biggest being that once you pay, it’s all-you-can-eat included! Plus loads of games and activities, and being on the ocean is always beautiful.

But in my opinion, the best thing about cruising (to places you’ve never been) is that it’s a fantastic way to get an overview for places. A taste of countries that you might now want to have invested in otherwise – a way to see if you want to go back.

Obviously there’s downsides too – but we won’t go into that. Suffice it to say that my parents really, really love cruises, hence the main reason we went on one when they came to visit.

As this was my fourth cruise, I was ready. Knew what to expect. And was more excited for this cruise than any before.

Why? Because the first three: I was 13 years old, 17 years old, and 20 years old. Really, the most awkward ages you can be on a cruise. (Awkward teen, not-yet-adult-teen, and “What do you mean I can’t drink on the ship even though I can drink in every port?!”)

But this one? I was drinking age baby.

Suffice it to say, this led to,
“What happens on a cruise ship, stays on a cruise ship.”

Ah, I can hear the groans of frustration from wanting to hear the stories.

Let’s just say I did find out:

  • That along with free food, it’s also possible to get loads of free drinks!
    On that note: I gleaned just how many drinks it takes to get a two-day hangover (but being the hearty soul I am, the ever-present urge to expel did not keep me from exploring Turkey! Neither strep throat on a previous cruise or a hangover on this one would keep me from seeing new places!!). Also my new drunk-conversation-topic-obsession: getting a job.
  • My brother’s not as protective as he used to be. (Apparently living away from home for several years in other countries makes him feel that I can take care of myself. What??)
  • That when there are others your age aboard cruising is WAY more fun!
  • That 18 < 23.
    Cough… yes, well… some math learners are slower than others…
  • The expensive cabanas are much easier to sneak into at night (go figure).
  • The gyms onboard are quite nice!
    (Who knew? I’d definitely never stepped in one before! And running on the treadmill while facing the ocean makes it feel like you’re running on water!)

So you know, I found out the really important stuff in life. Or rather, “not-so-important”.

But as with all travel whether profound or not – it left me with great memories, and LOTS of great stories.



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