I hope I wake up at River Farm…

It’s been a hot minute since I got a post up onto this blog. Some friends thought I would keep this going and talk about all the different stuff that had been going on in the DC-area while I was there from January to June. There was more than enough material to blog about but I got into other things and I think blogging is more of a traveling activity for me. I am planning on doing more traveling here in a month or so but more to come there.

101_1437To brief those not in the know (everyone but my mom) I was privileged enough to be the Editorial Intern for the American Horticultural Society’s magazine, The American Gardener for the first 6 months of this year. That was a lot of specific info for one sentence, so take the second to read it again slowly if you feel the need. The AHS has lots of great programs for gardeners around the US and I urge you to click that link and look a little more closely. Now, some of you hear the word intern and bile starts to rise in the back of your mouth from that time you sat around a hastily-made cubicle for a whole semester and paid nothing for work that was never going to be used. But never fear! This was a whoa-useful internship in which actual responsibility was bestowed upon my shoulders and writing (that I wrote, just to be clear) was printed to be shown to the world. On top of that ice cream mound, I got paid. For an intro-writing gig (which is a desert of unpaid, under-appreciated BS) this was killer.















The offices were on the property of River Farm, which is a goooooorgeous portion of what George Washington used to own back when he was still alive and such. It’s right off the Potomac River and one can crane their head due north and catch a glimpse of the Washington Monument and the Senate building on a clear day. There’s a large house where all the events are hosted (mostly weddings) and where all the HR/Membership ladies work. Off to the side, above the barn I suppose, is where the true magic happens, over in the Publications building, or “Pubs” if you want to be cool :P

101_1464 101_1465 101_1484 101_1429


101_1448I got to work on two issues, which you will never see unless you are an AHS Member or my mom/aunt. I have a few articles posted on my writing portfolio, which you can see a link for on the bottom left of this page, or here if you’re super lazy. I was surprised to be sort of the only one on staff who wrote consistently, though this wasn’t a set rule. David and Viv are editors, Mary lays out the mag and the big articles are outsourced by gardeners around the US. I suppose if you are making a magazine aimed at the entire US then it makes sense to pool from writers around the country. Maybe that’s how more magazines than I think work, ie, with a staff of mostly editors who gather content from an array of writers. Anyway, I got to pitch stuff, research it and write about it and then get a small paycheck every other week. I think I already typed this above, but for intro writing gigs this is pretty sweet.

101_1501The staff of The American Gardener is quite small. Just three other people for most of my tenure. We have David Ellis, Capt. of the ship, Viveka Neveln was the Associate Editor, who I probably got closest with, and Mary Yee, the Art Director. Everyone was really nice, and different in their own little ways. David was a bit of a DC father figure (though I am sure he’ll be horrified to read that) telling me about all the cool sights to see around the area. He has been living in the area and working at the AHS since I believe the nineties. Viveka was closest in age to me, so the greater bonding seems pretty obvious to me in retrospect. She started in the my same position nine or so years ago and was offered a job at the end of her tenure. Mary was a little reclusive back in her corner office but was quite down-to-earth when you got her talking. Plus everyone let me bust into their offices on an hourly basis to ask questions and always greeted me with a smile. Towards the end of my tenure, Charlotte was brought on board as the social media guru and was super pleasant as well. Above was my office, and I will never have such a view again.

Clockwise from top right, David, Capt. of the Ship, myself, Mary, Charlotte and Viveka. All BFF-material.


















As far as everyone else, there’s only about 10 other people who work at the AHS in general. A head president, an HR lady, a few membership gals and an event coordinator. That’s Ping to the left, a membership gal and Sylvia to the right, the Horticulturalist.  I’m not really sure what Sylvia and I are doing.

101_1493 101_1495


Whatever my supremely limited working experience is worth, I think working for smaller companies is where it’s at. Sure, you’re almost certainly going to get paid less and the ladder for growth is more like a step stool but the family vibe is something one cannot put a price tag on. I was for sure closer to some people than others, but everyone there was my BFF pretty early on.

I also made some extra cash covering a few events happening at River Farm. These turned out to not quite be worth the money, though to be clear I would have just been reading at home. River Farm makes some extra cash allowing events, mostly weddings, to be hosted at their river-front establishment. So naturally, they need someone at the front desk of any event to ensure no one burns the building down and such. I could get paid time and a half to sit at the front desk and tell everyone, twice, at a wedding where the one set of bathrooms were. Easy money, right? Sort of. These are 10+ hour days, and rotate between supremely boring and whoa stressful. When something goes wrong, like a blown fuse, the best friend of the bride, always angry, always drunk, comes looking for me. It’s also hard to sit down the hall in a chair listening to everyone have fun for several straight hours, especially someone so prone to feeling sorry for themselves, like your truly.

101_1430 101_1441







101_1477 101_1468

029 032









That was kind of my time at the AHS in a nutshell, which is south of DC and actually south of Alexandria proper, pretty off the beaten path in a cool way. I arrived in the area during the second week of January and just left during the first week of June. A very nearly almost exclusively enjoyable experience, and who could ask for more in a job?

Whilst in the area I stayed with old UF pal and family Christina Heddesheimer (of old-time Sweet City Action fame) and that went just fine. Really nice people, that whole family, and quite gracious of them to let some red-haired ogre stay in their home for basically a half year. As I type this, I realize I don’t have many images of my time there outside of the AHS and that’s kind of a drag.

I did a ton of hanging out with another old UF pal, Cody Samet-Shaw and his lovely wife Amy. No pictures, sorry. Cody is a runner and overall active type so we did some runs and roamed around the National Mall. Hmmmmmm, what else? I don’t want the brevity of these past paragraphs to underscore my time with the Heddesheimers or Cody, but nothing is coming to mind specifically to write about just now. I got a lot of experience cooking for other rustling up a family dinner ever Friday or so with the Heddesheimers.

As a quick side here is some fun stuff from the AHS plant sale. Fun hats, cherry blossoms and a few ornery alpacas were the highlight of that weekend!

063039 042 010 027 001















That’s about it though. I did a lot of alone time in DC. I read maybe two books a week, took a fiction writing course and wrote about two drafts of a story I will hopefully pick up again someday (alsoooooo within the writing portfolio). I’m getting to be more and more like my Dad every year, and my interest in making friends just wanes. It’s so much effort now! I used to think finding girlfriends was a lot of effort (which is now considered very nearly impossible) but just people to hang out with are hard to find. I suppose this is one of the many “perils” of being single. Oh well :P

I also ran a marathon with brother-extraordinaire Bret and played in a fun floor hockey league, in which you run around in shoes instead of skates. I did make exactly three friends I will probably keep up with over the years, to varying degrees. Ping was hired at the AHS in some sort of membership role and we did a lot of stomping around town together. Maria, I met at a karaoke night and we also did some stomping and Steve Hug and I carpooled to floor hockey together. We only hung out once outside of floor hockey but good lord, he is one of the funniest monkeys I’ve ever spent time around. I’ll hear from him the least but I cannot wait to be back in DC in the next ten years and have some lunch.

IMG_0738 IMG_0931 IMG_0939









101_1507That’s it for now. I am back in Tampa with my folks, gone after ten years in Austin and around the US. In August I want to start in Mexico City and make it as far south as I can. This is also the last blog I will make here; I am putting money into a new theme and combining a new blog with a slick-looking writing portfolio for the next few years of my life. My plan, albeit riddled with holes and not super-well thought out, is to take an trip into a foreign land, write about it, come back and get another writing/editing/web design-ish job. Sometimes, companies hire someone to run a blog, do the research for the articles, write/research, post them, make the blog look slick, and I think that would be a cool job.

But, I got the rest of my life to get jobs, and only a small window to spend money thoughtlessly and travel.

More to come! But it will look different…

If you go to New York, be prepared to spend most of your savings w/o even realizing it.

When we last parted ways, I was moving on from cousin Ellie in the Boston area for a month of culture and subways in New York. Putting me up was high school friend extraordinaire Lewis Starkey, who is by default a best friend of sorts. We haven’t been very close at all since we graduated Plant High, eek nearly ten years ago, but you know boys, whenever we talk it brings us straight back to our hacky sack-playing days outside of Wendy’s off Neptune/Manhattan in the glorious sun of South Tampa. Those days seem like almost 100 years now, or maybe even some weird dream, but a whole yearbook proves it happened.

101_1258Heading into that Empire State, I tried to set up a few friends to stay with so I did not have to load into Lewis’s place for the entire month, but those girls ended up being super flaky so I was w/him for the entire month, which did not prove to be a problem. Lewis is a sommelier at Quality Meats and I unfortunately saw very little of him throughout the month and his roommate Victor mostly did his own thing and was there very little as well. There was a lot of time I had to myself at their place which is never a bad thing, in fact, I probably spent too much time around the place playing Lewis’s Taylor Big Baby acoustic than I should have. It’s the same acoustic guitar I had so I was missing it, ya? I have an electric, acoustic and a bass living in Austin…who knows how I will ever get those back?

101_1344 101_1342

101_1292 101_1267 101_1266 101_1265













Ok, let’s cut into the meat. NYC wasn’t for me. In fact, I hated it to a level. I am so glad I went and do not want this paragraph to reflect any ungratefulness towards Lewis but that city was not for me. If I never go back, that is just fine people. The city is incredibly cramped and unbelievably expensive. There’s no room to move around! I rarely saw the sun, I blew through my month-budget in about a week and the subways as a main source of transportation were nothing short of depressing. You would be flabbergasted (and I try to limit that word to only a few times a year) by how tiny Lewis’s apartment was and how much he paid for it. You meet people who just have to go and be a part of that [NYC] action, which is completely beyond me. I met plenty of strangers who seemed poor as hell and no doubt paid out the nose for closets to live in, and I wanted to scream at them, “Move to Florida! Move to Texas! Move ANYWHERE else!” The appeal of that city sailed clear over my head.

Now that I’ve gotten some bitching out of the way, I had a pretty good time. I went to the Metropolitan, the Cloisters, Coney Island, the Central Park Zoo and Katz, among other things. Probably the best part of the trip was catching up w/Garth, who my last roommate in Austin, along with Ryan Simmons. Garth grew up here in the Big Apple, but hadn’t been back since he moved to Austin in the early 90s. He was staying w/a friend of his dad’s who needed someone around to go to doctor’s appointments with and just in case something went wrong. Most (and by that I mean all) of my friends turned out to be total flakes and Garth was the one guy I caught up with on a regular basis. We did some museums and had a pretty good time stomping around the city.

A gloomy view down into Coney Island...

A gloomy view down into Coney Island…

The Metropolitan Art Museum I had been to before. I’m not super into unfunctional visual art but the people watching at these high-end art museums is always awesome. That’s the wrong reason to be at a museum! Forget you…I do what I want. What was really cool was The Cloisters, an offshoot of the Met way way uptown which featured medieval tapestries and door frames. That probably sounds like the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard, but hear me out. They had door frames, built into the building itself, that were 1500 years old. How they got them there (on a large boat probably) and how they built them into the walls (very carefully probably) is beyond me. They also had the oldest known deck of cards that we use (four suits, set of 52, face cards all that blah) in existence. All of it was pretty cool I thought. Not a lot of art exists from 2000 years ago. Deal with it.

101_1319 101_1316













The other cool thing that everyone has done but I am going to write about anyway is the American Museum of Natural History. Pretty up my alley as far as things go. Lots of dioramas of animals of similar genus straight chilling. This was one of the many events attended with old ATX partner-in-crime Garth, who came to The Cloisters too and is awesome. Anyway, I wish I had some suuuuper deep things to say about the museum but I don’t. It was cool, and you can pay what you want to get in. So go and give them $1 like I did if you’re ever in the city.

101_1300 101_1297


What ended up being a quite informative yet slightly depressing afternoon was the visit to Ground Zero. In a country where we one-up the hell out of everyone else, something like five or so new buildings are being built to replace the original two. Sept. 11 happened when I was in tenth grade and I can remember sitting in Driver’s Ed when a teacher came in to tell us some planes slammed into the World Trade Centers. Honestly, at the time I didn’t know what the twin towers were and it didn’t really mean much to me. It never did actually. I lived 1000+ miles away. I didn’t know anyone who knew anyone effected. Life went on and it just became something people “remembered”  once a year. Maybe this sounds callous to you, but when something horrible happens that doesn’t directly effect you, you sort of just move on when the press does. But wow, being there. REAL. Just, WOW. There were tons of clips of people calling from the hijacked planes, dads talking about their lost sons, 1000s of missing posters up all over the city in the aftermath and just WOW.

101_1242 copy


Maybe the single most emotional ten minutes of the past 10 years was the enormous room covered from head to toe w/photographs and newspaper clipping and race bibs and just any momento of anyone lost. It was so sad friends. There where boxes of tissues and these two older ladies and I just cried together. Eesh we all just lost it for a few minutes. I’m tearing up now. It’s easy to just forget all the people lost where just as special as anyone of us. Most poignant NYC afternoon. Where the original towers once stood are two pit-like waterfalls as a memorial. I hate using words like “reflective” but the whole experience make you see yourself differently. Go there if you find yourself in the area. It’s real real REAL.

101_1240 101_1248


So that was NYC. Lewis, who is as mentioned a TOTAL BOSS put me up in his Brooklyn bachelor pad and Garth and I stomped around town a fair amount of times. I was at the time disappointed not to see any of my other friends there but life as a current hooked me up w/the golden oldies. Below that’s Lewis in the subway with me, Garth with the straw hat and LEGO Batman with the cape. Three (LEGO Batman included, duh) great friends and I wish them all the best as we stumble down our separate paths. Sheesh, I’m tearing up again…




101_1345 101_1323



















Happy New Year to all my friends where ever you might be! I luff all of you… Don’t do anything dumb like drinking and driving or giving $ to the Catholic Church! If you need a ride call me and I will drive the necessary 100′s of miles within minutes to give you a ride.



More to come!

When I think of a classy title, this is where it shall go…

So Chicago tried to have me at hello. I said, girl, chill. I’ve read about your muscle. I’ve seen Blues Brothers and we can all agree Michael Jordan has a nice butt. When initially traveling east-bound I-290 it was impossible not to smell that funk. And I appreciate funk. Everyone knows a good bass line is the best remedy for the common cold. Myself, I like to let meat sit around past its date in the fridge and develop some nice funk. Some think that date is the time when you shouldn’t eat steak anymore, but it’s actually a date when things get interesting. Nonetheless, I kept my poker face cool landing in the city. You gotta make ‘em sweat a little.

However, I was pretty quickly swooned. Chicago takes you in, flashes you w/it’s pizzaz and shine and before you know what’s black or white you’ve paid two months rent and are wondering what the hell just happened. I already did a blog post when I first came here, so I will only get into this for those just joining us now. I only planned to go steady with the city for a bit, Cover Riot Fest for the Monarch Daily, break a few hearts and be out before the month of September. A good house w/new friends and a nice spot to make mine caused a stay that ended up being a little over two months long. For a hot minute I thought of staying for good, but alas, the road calls. I can travel right now, so why on earth would I want to stay in one place? In the sage words of Stefan Brown, “I could stay, but I’m traveling right now.”

At 8-9 residents and about 5k sq-ft of space to dance around, Warren Blvd did me well. I had the upstairs living room as a bedroom and think I did alright with the place.

101_1182 101_1181 101_1115










101_1117 101_1112











101_1210So to tell the end of this story right at the beginning, I have left, am currently on a greyhound from Boston to NYC. And as a side note I am really hungry and slowly getting grumpier. What factor is really scary here is I don’t have anyone to bitch at. Hmmmmmm.

Six weeks ago I thought I was staying. Two weeks ago I thought let’s leave at the start of the December. Then after a talk with old-ATX-roomie Ryan Simmons, I decided to leave as soon as possible. I told him I wanted to get into NYC the same I did into Chicago. Rather, wanted to live there for more than just a stint and see what the city was all about. Go live in Chicago for 8 weeks and bike everywhere you go. It’s a great way to see what a city is all about. I want this for NYC too. I went once in college and know I would never want to live there, waaaaaaaaaaay too claustrophobic. But, 600 million-ish people live there so some cool stuff must must be around ya?

So off I am. The Steevers, my mother’s sister’s family, were kind enough to allow me to keep Nancy (my fox of a ’01 Corolla) in their garage in Medfield, a suburb of sorts to Boston so I won’t have to worry about her vulnerability in the streets of NYC. I left Chicago around 11pm on a Monday night, bound for Cleveland so I could see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and then off on my final leg towards Medfield, about 16 hours of driving all together.

101_1208Also in Cleveland is my old UF peep, Gloria, who was in carillon studio with me back in the day. She is, an absolute angel. Someday I will win some metaphorical lottery and get to marry a girl like that. Purely, lovely. In serious contention for the prettiest girl I’ve ever met. Inward and outward. She’s also working towards a Ph.D in the middle of med school, and getting the entire thing funded w/a living stipend for herself. Try reading that sentence again and not feeling like your life isn’t going anywhere. The R&R Hall of Fame was ok. Really it’s just a bunch of junk but there are some movies worth sitting through. The Stones are about to be 50 as a band (!) and the entire top area is devoted to them, and there was some great vintage footage of them chilling out and being cool in the 60s. Though, I’m pretty into all that old music and still thought it was pretty eh. Though I has spent the previous night driving from Chicago to Cleveland and was spending the day escaping to my car for periodical naps. As a result, I was in a pretty bad mood for most of the day and may be understating the presentation of the R&R Hall of Fame. Though, both guitars below I spent a tween-hood admiring: the white tear-drop Vox belonging to late, but founding rhythm guitarist for the Stones, Brian Jones and the combo electric guitar-electric mandolin as used by Robbie Robertson on and off, but most notably in The Last Waltz, a simply fantastic going-away show for The Band, a must see, really. Right below is a link to the The Weight, from the show mentioned. You can see Robbie with the half-mando right off the bat.

101_1205 101_1203


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located right on the tip of Lake Eire in Cleveland, OH.












Also in between destinations was Niagara Falls. I had a day to drive from Cleveland to that of Medfield, MA, where I was leaving my car w/a cousin for the break. I didn’t want to get there super late in the night (though when I arrived it was pretty apparent no one would have cared) so I spent no more than an hour at the falls. I don’t think I can type anything better than what these pictures can offer, so we’ll leave it at that. Though, as a small note, it was an interesting perspective to simply gaze across a river and say, “Oh hey, there’s Canada!” The large spire you see just below is a Toronto mainstay. 101_1216 101_1211 101_1214



That brings you up to what I’m doing now so let’s hop back for a hot minute. Not much to report from the rest of my time in Chicago. I thought I was into this certain lady. Things (shockingly) didn’t really materialize and I wish her and her puppies the best. I had TONS of fun hanging out with cousin Lucy on many an occasion and shout out to her quite-cool roomies as well, Isaac and Michaeljit. I also exercised more in Chicago than I had in the past…I dunno, six years combined? As stated in these parts before, Stefan is an absolute athlete and it rubbed off. I wake up and  do crunches and push-ups, go running at least three times and a week and bike around tons. Go me!

The final hurrah was a little going away thing I hosted at Warren Blvd. It got pretty wild and in every good way. There were stuffed peppers, craft beer, a spades tourney and everyone learned how to roll cigarettes. I usually dislike blogs with all words or all pictures but there were tons of great images that night so I am going to lay them all on you.

101_1119 101_1156 101_1155

101_1149 101_1154 101_1184 101_1159101_1124

101_1125 101_1129 101_1142101_1133 101_1143 101_1147101_1175 101_1177
























































Love all the great friends I made in that slightly-dumpy-but-shining-in-many-other-ways city.

Ethan, Banke, Julie, Brendon, Sam, Isaac and of course Stefan: Thanks for the laughs, you have a lifetime friend and keep the wings spread wide.

Outside of a restaurant in Cleveland, pretty funny I thought....

Outside of a restaurant in Cleveland, pretty funny I thought….

More to come…

Build a cob oven & be the envy of everyone you know.

So with helpful hands from various friends, a buddy of mine and I built a cob oven. Sometime it’s called an earth oven. Think of it like a small clay cave up on a platform. You build as big of a fire in it as you can, push the embers to the back, throw something in the front and wait for it to cook. Before conventional ovens were around this is what people did whilst sitting around in the loin clothes.

Stefan, old UF pal, was the capt. of this ship. He had read (and stolen) the book from the library of how to do this and had an idea of how things were supposed to pan out. I was his trusty first mate, unless you prefer a cooking metaphor to a sailing one, whereas I was his unfailing sous chef.

101_0986Cob is easy to make. We got some clay from a friend redoing a house. It’s pretty hard to work with at first but with it you mix sand and water, thus completing the mix. We did it over a large tarp, but I supposed there are a lot of ways to skin a cat. Pile some clay into a tarp, pour water and sand over it and begin jumping and running and stepping up and down bare-foot on this pile until you have some gloppy, yet pretty malleable mix. The book probably got into specific amounts, but in the end you have to add more sand and water than you think so just start low and move up. You want it to be pretty sticky though. You’ll know when you have it right.

We were pretty DIY about it, so I am positive you could put some money into this and make it’s appearance more presentable. We didn’t care though. Functionality or Death! we sometimes chant from rooftops. A new friend of mine Beatrice has a lot she let us build the oven on and kudos to her for being so awesome.

So, we need to build a brick column about 3′ in diameter and probably a little over 4′ in height. We scored some bricks from Bea’s neighbor, Todd, and in two or three sessions mixed some cob and crudely (but not too crude, mind you) built the column up. Stagger the bricks as the layers go up (rather, the next “ring” of bricks above is rotated slightly to more evenly distribute the weight) and make it as high as you like.

101_0989 101_1000 101_0991 101_0990














101_1004Once we have the column done, the next step is filling it in and topping it off. Bea (unfortunately for her but more fortunate for us) lives about 30 yards from a train track. Why would anyone ever do that you ask. Well in Chicago, trains are everywhere through the city and someone has to live by them. Anywho, the edges of the track are littered with cement debris and the rocks that make up a railroad track. We filled the column with larger rocks and then dumped a few wheelbarrow full of small rocks to fill in the gaps, making layers of cob going up.

This next step was the most interesting part of the whole process to me. At the top of the column (which in turn is the bottom of the oven itself) we read it was wise to put a layer of glass bottles there, which serves as insulation while the fire is going. Because it’s a dome, the heat that shoots up out of the fire it directed back down into the column. The layer of glass bottles traps some of that heat (the air in the bottles rises in temperature). With a good layer of cob between the glass and the floor of the oven the glass will hopefully not shatter and play a solid role in keeping the oven temperature high and constant.

101_1016 101_1017 101_1018 101_1015


Once we rose above the lip of the column, we flatted it out with cob and carefully placed some thicker, more-square bricks that a friend of ours gathered he called “patio pavers”. For whatever reason someone knew (probably Stefan, b/c he read the book) that these types of bricks would be suitable for what would eventually be the floor of the oven itself. From here, we shape the dome, which is a sort of light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel for this while project.

101_1022Make a pile of sand, which represents the negative space inside the eventual oven. We’re going to build a mound, then build cob over it, then wait for it to dry, then dig out sand and voilà you have an oven! We got a little lazy and didn’t want to fork out the necessary $20 for good sand and used dirt from the ground around us, to our eventual dismay. The issue arose when the dirt mound sunk down while the top cob dried. Perhaps dirt is more porous than sand and loses more volume as it dries? Really I have no idea why but the mound sunk when it wasn’t supposed to. We were supposed to use sand and we didn’t. It’s not super difficult to draw a few conclusions from this. Use sand.

We then covered the mound with yet another layer of cob, gave it a week to dry out and dug out the insides. That was it really. Not too bad, ya? If a group of monkeys in street clothes w/day jobs can build one you can too.

101_1023 101_1025












101_1094 copy 101_1095








This I should have brought up earlier, but an oven must be more-or-less covered from the elements. If the cob were to be rained on it would get wet (big surprise, I know) and lose its form. This is the step we’re at now and currently a tarp lives over ours. I’m keeping my eye out of sheets of scrap metal to fashion up as a roof of sorts.

All that’s left to do is mix up a few doughs, invite friends over and cook some pizza. Add a little whiskey to that mix and it’s perfect. As a closer, we ended our night playing a game of truth or dare which culminated in Stefan jumping on and off a moving train out back on a dare. Like I said, he’s the captain of this ship.

101_1097 101_1102 101_1100 101_1103








The oven ended up being a little smaller than we had anticipated, and we were only afforded enough space to cook little personal guys. Remember, use sand and not dirt and it won’t shrink on you. Anyway, the night was a huge hit and the cob oven a success. Thanks to new friend Bea for supplying the space and Stefan for trail-blazing.

Writing Portfolio