Friday Five: Best Travel Adventures

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

We’ve covered our travel nightmares of past and present…and seeing as we’re currently on one of our best adventures to date we thought it only fair to share a few of our favorite adventures from our decade together. It was near impossible to whittle down this list, but here we go…pack those bags.

5. Amsterdam

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We’ve been to “Venice of the North” twice. The first time was a forced overnight layover that KLM handled beautifully: paid hotel, paid meals, paid transportation, free night to explore the city and first class back to the states the next morning. (American? Delta? Are you reading this?). The second time was one of the many stops along our European tour with our Chinese orchestra. Both times we were pressed for time–you could spend a week here–but we made the most of it, running around like crazy people trying to see as much as possible. Highlights include: The Anne Frank House (always, forever, haunting, beautiful, life-changing, a must), the canals, witnessing the hot mess that is the Red Light District (disgusting, but you should at least see it), staying overnight in Monnickerdam (stunning) and touring windmills from the 17th century (wowza). I’d go back in a heartbeat. One of my favorite cities ever.

4. Salzburg

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On said European tour, the Russians in our orchestra (namely, one) got into an arguement with our bus driver, so the orchestra decided to leave all of the non-Chinese members at a remote hotel outside of Salzburg until a new driver could get there. Meanwhile, all of the natives toured the city and had a fun day. Um, I will not get that close to Fraulein Maria and the Von Trapp Family only to sit in a lodge by the highway. We jumped on a public bus (horns on our backs) with the others and did a running tour of the city. I’m serious…most of my photos are blurred from us running down the street. Clearly, we need to go back sometime and do this right, but it was enough to tide me over. Highlights include: seeing Mozart’s birthplace, hoards of Sound of Music tours (yes, please), seeing the hills that are alive, and not shutting up about The Sound of Music for hours after.

3. Hong Kong

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Traveling to Hong Kong was by far one of the best parts of living in China. That city knows what’s up. We loved spending as much free time as possible among its clean streets and English-speaking people. Highlights include: Po Lin Monastery, Kowloon Road, the medicine shops you could smell for miles, Starbucks, Christmas shopping, being there with Sean, my dad and Joe’s mom, Mexican food (omg, yes, every time), avocado sandwiches at La Baguette, entire Lan Kwai Fong district, Victoria Peak, the gardens, sunsets on the harbor, and the ferry. Bonus: looking through old photos and finding the one above. (Thanks, Dad, this is going on the wall!)

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2. Honeymoon

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Few things have felt as good as stepping on a cruise ship the day after you get married, knowing you don’t have to plan, think about, or do anything. It was the way to go for us. Highlights include: snorkeling in the Caribbean, biking through a rain forest, exploring the ruins in Mexico, drinking coke in Belize (they use brown sugar and it’s a game changer), watching the series finales of both Lost and 24, the buffets, the sun, and–Joe’s favorite–cleaning bird poop off my neck in Honduras. Such romance!

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1. Italy

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This is the place that started it all and since it’s also the place we’ve explored the most, the entire country gets a shout-out. Highlights include: two summers in Lucca, weekends in Cinque Terre (pictured), day trips to Pisa, Florence, everything in Rome (love. it.), Venice ($$$$$), Milan and Verona, gnocchi and gelato, our apartment with Chris, parmesan pizza at La Drogheria, Turin (shroud, Olympics, cold), and, oh yeah, falling in love.

Let’s do it all again.

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# miami trip (May 2015), part 3

A week ago today started out as planned: Joe and I were packing up in Miami and heading to the airport, ready to be home with our pup and non-humid climate. We flew different flights, different airlines, so we said goodbye outside my terminal with a “see ya tonight!” at around 8:30am. My first stop was to browse the airport’s Books & Books, my absolute favorite Miami bookstore.

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My flight was a little delayed to Dallas/Ft. Worth, so I lost myself in dust jacket previews and pretty covers.

But then my flight was delayed a lot. My layover in DFW wasn’t supposed to be that long anyway, so I asked the front desk if I should be worried. Should I book a later flight out from DFW? Noooo, no, no no, no, they said. Apparently everything was getting delayed in DFW because of storms. “You’ll be fine.”

I should have known better.

After a two hour delay in Miami, we finally flew out and reached Texas during a break in the storm. When we landed I quickly turned on my phone and googled my next flight. “Cancelled” it read in big red block letters.

There was a lovely older lady waiting at the gate and before I could open my mouth to ask her how best to proceed she just said “Gate 25.” Oookay, so off I hustled down about 10 gates only to be greeted by the longest line I’ve ever seen in my life. Every flight cancelled, every flight missed, every plane grounded or delayed….their passengers were in a winding line of at least a thousand people trying to reach the three customer service agents at Gate 25. The line was seven gates long itself.

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There just had to be a better way! I frantically called the American Airlines customer number and reservation number in vain. They were so slammed with calls that they wouldn’t let you stay on hold. They just said to call back. The website was down. Nothing was working. The line was all I had.

Lucky for me I was standing next to two awesome people: Jaci (pronounced Jackie) and Tommy.

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Jaci was heading to Spain for a summer study abroad and Tommy was trying to get back to Salt Lake after a cruise with his friends. The three of us stood in line together for six-and-a-half hours! 3:30 to 10pm! Our conversations started out as you might expect “where do you live, what do you do, tell me about your family,” but that only got us so far in the line. By hours 3 and 4 we were asking “what’s your favorite place you’ve ever been, best book you’ve ever read, favorite movie” and by hour 5 we were making up stories about other people in line. “What do you think his name is? What’s his story?” By hour 6? We were in tears.

Tommy, a member of the LDS church and native of Provo, told us that Mother’s Day and Christmas were the only two times a year that an LDS missionary could call home. He had left Miami early to be home for Mother’s Day and to be there when his brother called from Japan. In all honesty, the entire line was filled with these stories with it being Mother’s Day. I told Tommy he should just join the skype call from his phone, so around hour 5 we all got to say hi to his brother in Japan before holding Tommy’s space in line so he could talk to them privately.

Since we hauled it to the line right after the plane, I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast in Miami, so at one point Jaci ran to Taco Bell and picked up dollar tacos and burritos for the people around us. Seriously, these situations bring out both the best and worst in humanity.

Fast forward to 10pm. We finally reach the front of the line. Tommy and I get added to the 150-person strong standby list and learn our first confirmed opportunity to get out would be Wednesday morning. Cue my jaw on the floor. Jaci is told she should have been in a different line for international flights that entire time. She immediately burst into tears and, I admit, my eyes were wet too. It was so sad. Being a TCU student, her friend came to get her for the night and Tommy and I were left to figure out how to spend the rest of our airport party.

Unfortunately all of the shops and food vendors close at 10pm, so we just missed any opportunity to get more food or a toothbrush or a pillow. We had heard there was a 24-hour restaurant in another terminal, so we set off for that. But first we tried to find some cots, which had pretty much all been claimed by the time we got out of the line. We found a family with a stack of them and asked if they could spare two. They said no, but as we were walking away they called us back and gave us each a cot with a swift “we’re getting a hotel, we can’t do this.”

Tommy and I met up with Sue, an older lady who had been visiting her daughter. She didn’t have a cot, so Tommy gave her his and we all found a somewhat-safe, somewhat-clear, somewhat-clean gate to set up camp.

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This is the photo I sent Joe that night. Sue’s in the background and Tommy’s a few rows over.

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This was my view. I figured I stared at it so long I should take a picture of that too.

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Sleeping was impossible. The fluorescent lights were relentless in their brightness and buzzing and the TVs set to the most obnoxious news were screaming at us all night. I finally put the blanket over my face and tried to just rest as much as possible.

By 5:00am new flights were landing at DFW so another level of commotion was added to the mix. I just got up and went in search of food and coffee…even a non-drinker has her limits. When I was walking back to where Tommy and Sue were I noticed that people were already standing in line at the first SLC flight gate, hoping to up their odds at getting on. Crap. So I got in line too. What’s another line at this point? I waited for an hour and when the lady in front of me got to the desk, the agent said “I’m not supposed to be here and I don’t know if anyone else is coming” and walked away. I thought I was going to faint.

So I went back to where I left Tommy and Sue and both were gone, but I quickly found them and told them about the gate agent madness. We walked back over together and got back in line…in case someone came back. Long story a bit shorter: Tommy and I were numbers 80 and 85 on the standby list. Nothing could be done to move us at this time and we’d just have to sit at every flight leaving for SLC to see its availability.

At least we got to watch the sun come up.

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Amongst the abandoned cots everywhere.

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And the horrible footage of the storm that left us there in the first place. Absolutely heartbreaking.

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But we finally were able to eat some real food between our gate hopping all morning.

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At some point before lunch I emailed work and asked them to see if the travel agent who booked my flight could find me a way out of there faster. After a few emails back and forth, she said she could fly me to San Diego and get me the last seat (on Delta!) to Salt Lake that afternoon. “Will that work?” YES, YES!, all of the yeses!!!! And, after a few more lines to wait through, that’s how I got this.

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I had five boarding/standby passes littering my purse–each a little token of hope–but this was my Golden Ticket. I was going home. It was sad leaving my partners in this crime, but they understood. Get on that plane! they said.

As grateful as I was to be on ANY plane, this was my view.

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I didn’t know I could be so claustrophobic! San Diego was the anti-DFW. Clean and empty. I still can’t believe I flew from Miami to San Diego–coast to freakin’ coast–to get home, but I would’ve done anything at that point.

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When I landed in Utah I was told to go to the Delta counter to file paperwork for my American-tagged luggage. I took a chance and just walked to the American terminal, hoping my bag made it before I did. Sure enough, it was there and we had the most glorious of reunions.

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As I waited outside for Joe, I was hit by the fact that I was breathing my first fresh air in 40 hours. I wanted to kiss the ground.

We pulled away from the airport and my phone dinged. It was Tommy. He was going to get on the last flight out that night. No Wednesday flights needed! It was amazing to find those friends in that horrific line. It was a bond forged fast and furious in ridiculousness, hope and sore feet. But, at the heart of this mess are the tornado victims, whose losses were not lost on us, even in our own misery.

And now it’s Sunday again and I’m back at the airport for another two flights. Apparently I just can’t quit. Let’s hope no cots are needed for the next 10 days.

# miami trip (May 2015), part 2

Like I said yesterday, Joe and I really wanted to trace our relationship milestones while we were in Miami. We managed to hit all of the major highlights. Ready to read some sappiness and see a million photos?!

First up: You know, YOU KNOW, we had to hit up Big Pink. Here’s a glimpse of the sky when we got there. How foreboding.

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We managed to beat the downpour by a few minutes, but were too distracted by these dishes to worry about its duration. There’s really no better place to be stranded. Just look at HALF of their menu.

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Here’s Joe’s Malted Waffle Burger.

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Lord, this Hollywood Breakfast. I think it would be my final meal, should I ever have a choice.

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Lucky for us, by the time we devoured our food, the storm had quickly passed. We didn’t even need to stall with dessert, which is unfortunate.

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Big Pink is just a short walk from South Pointe Park, where Joe and I got engaged. We were just going to make the sunset if we hurried…hence me speed walking.

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A few ocean glimpses along our way:

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I showed Joe the new pier before walking to our grassy spot, where a question and an affirmative set us on our current course.

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Here’s what the scene looked like over five and a half years ago.

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Ah, #Falvey2. That’s me!

And here’s what it looks like now. Pretty much the same!

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Totally breathtaking sunset thanks to that storm.

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It was beautiful; it was romantic; it was just as I remember it.

Saturday brought a break from work for me and so we took advantage of our rental car to head off the beach and explore our former hood…our old stomping grounds…The Gables.

It’s silly, but I started getting excited just seeing the streets I drove endlessly.

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And by the time we reached our old place, I was in full-out freak-out.

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We. Lived. HERE!

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I guess I’m not the only person to bust their butt on these concrete stairs. New addition: grip strips. Old souvenir: nerve damage

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I once saved a kitten who fell out of that drain hole in the top left. And that’s our living room window.

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To make this totally legit, we parked our car at our building and set off on foot. It’s a walk we did almost weekly and where we had some of our best conversations about hopes and dreams and future dog names.

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It felt amazing to walk these familiar, picturesque streets. We loved this neighborhood. Still do.

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Destination: Miracle Mile.

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We spent so, so, so much of our free time here, just walking and watching. It’s 90% bridal couture shops, 7% restaurants and 3% weird.

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I found my wedding dress on this very strip. I’ve never been a couture kind of girl, though.

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Our old burger joint was long gone, so we tried their new one: BurgerFi, which was really good. Gotta appreciate a good veggie burger.

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On the way back to the car, we made one last stop to bring everything full circle. Our wedding venue!

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It looks a little different now and when we walked up they were prepping for that night’s wedding. So I did what anyone would do….trespassed!

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For some reason I felt like shimmying down the side of the building was my best bet at getting a look at the courtyard where we said “I do.” Here’s Joe coming after me when I realized they built a wall around the AC units. This is all I could see by holding my camera over my head.

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Didn’t stop me from trying to climb the dang wall. Unsuccessfully.

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I was not about to leave without seeing this spot, so I (much to Joe’s alarm) marched right into the building and found a woman who invited us to take as much time as we liked. Well…that was easier!

I caught my breath upon seeing this familiar room. I can still remember standing in here with my Dad before the wedding started. It looks exactly as it did five years ago.

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As did this courtyard.

Before:

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After:

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After:

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Our wedding tree!

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After:

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Many smiles and a few happy tears later, we were on our way back to the car. Our route brought us to this roundabout that we used to run with Bella. Actually, she knew what “run the roundabout” meant and would dash to it as soon as we’d say it.

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So, of course we ran it for her. #allthesniffs

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All that about tapped my emotional reserves, so we only had one more thing to do before leaving the next day. File this under “Obligatory,” see also “Awesome.”

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Much like when we lived there, we went to the beach fully clothed. Pale people problems.

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The beach was quite a bit more busy than when I was there in January.

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Final stops for the trip: to eat the pizza we had at our rehearsal dinner…

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…and, no surprise, Shake Shack. Just for this beautiful cup.

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It was the best of trips, largely in part to our Saturday full of chasing memories. We’ve come a long way, but there will always be a part of us in these Gables.

# miami trip (May 2015), part 1

Last year we learned the hard way that May is our only down month of the entire year. I think we were too wrapped up in getting through last year to plan ahead and once June hit we quickly realized our mistake.

Well, not this year! We’ve already had a jam-packed 13 days, starting with a wonderful trip back to Miami. And this time together.

Out of all the places we’ve lived, Miami has been the most important in terms of relationship landmarks. We moved there on a dare and fell in love with the place. It’s where we got engaged, where we got married and where we loved to be. I like to think it’s where we truly became ‘us.’

When we left in 2011 it was for Joe’s job and once he accepted the position he had about 36 hours in Miami to throw as much as he could in his car and get to Virginia. I stayed behind to finish work and pack everything up. I didn’t think of it at the time, but because he left so quickly, we never had a chance to say goodbye to Miami together. It was the swiftest of cuts and then we were gone.

So, after almost four years later, we returned to rock the place like we never left.

You’ll see more of this in the Part 2 post of this trip, but we really wanted to make this a nostalgic/sentimental journey…to revisit all of our favorite places (including all five of our favorite eats). Here’s how it went down…

Joe met me at work for lunch and that first Monday was mild enough for us to enjoy a picnic in the picturesque SoundScape Park right outside my building.

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That night we jumped in the car and headed far north for our ultimate date night, circa 2009-11. Oh, how quickly we forgot about this tiny detail. Welcome to I-95, my friends.

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But after about an hour we finally arrived to…drumroll, please…Skyline Chili, a throw-back to our Cincinnati days!

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I’m sorry, but you just don’t know happiness until you’ve had Cincinnati chili. Heaven on a plate! (And their vegetarian chili is just as awesome!)

This was our view when leaving dinner. Oh, Florida…stop showing off.

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Another thing we loved to do after getting Skyline was hitting up the drive-in. You have to go at the right time of year, though, or it’s way too hot. Luckily our night had a refreshing breeze while we watched the new Avengers movie.

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We both agreed that our lives were so much simpler in Miami (hard to imagine, but yes) and it was fun to revisit these cheap nights out that, at the time, we thought were quite a big deal.

Joe and I spent a lot of time with Jason, who has been our close friend for seven years and who is also really close to our Utah friends Chris and Chilali from their University of Michigan days. Jason and Kate invited us to their place for dinner one night. Check out their view!

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Not too shabby to be in a penthouse in downtown Miami! I didn’t get a pic of us together, or of the food, but they made the most delicious Thai stir-fry for dinner and glazed pears over ice cream for dessert. Drooool!

We also visited Jason one night at his other job at one of Miami Beach’s finest eateries: Meat Market. I kept telling them that I felt like I was chaperoning their own date.

They shared a deep-fried Porterhouse steak.

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Here are our Gouda Tater Tots and Homemade Mac-n-Cheese.

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And here are the boys sharing a dessert sampler. Seriously…get a room, you two!

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We ended the incredible meal with a special shot: Baby Guinness, which is this Patron topped off with Baileys. #wow

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Other highlights included fun lunches with my work team at Miami Beach’s Botanical Gardens:

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I wouldn’t be where I am without these two guys. The best bosses and friends I could ever imagine.

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We also celebrated Cinco de Mayo at Lime, our favorite place for quick tacos and nachos. It was delicious. Loud, but delicious.

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Here are more pics from another one of our picnic lunches at the office.

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That time you try to take a rooftop selfie and you forget you’re zoomed in:

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Highlights that I didn’t capture on film: dinner at Books & Books with Joe, lunch with my girls Julisa and Michelle, hipster coffee with total bad-ass Hilary, and several Starbucks runs with Siggi and Michael. So much food…so few photos.

I’m feeling incredibly lucky I get to still call this place my home (even from the mountains) and also that Joe could join me. Next up: our sappy trip down memory lane and one girl’s 40-hour trek back to Utah.

# texas trip: the farm

I didn’t plan on it taking me this long to blog about Texas, but sickness has draped my house from corner to corner this week. First (and ongoing) Bella, then Joe and, as of last night, now me. I thought we’d come out of this wintry season of germs unscathed, but no such luck it seems.

But, tissues and tea aside, I really want to tell you how wonderful and special my trip was, so I’m going to break it down into more manageable parts. Starting first with The Farm, which is appropriate since my grandparents, “Mimi and Gramps,” are celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary TODAY! This has always been one of my very favorite photos of them.

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You’d think that flying to Texas would mean warmer temperatures for this Utah girl, but you’d be wrong. The night I landed in Dallas a huge ice storm was near, causing me to rework my plans and drive directly across the metroplex to my grandparent’s house before the worst of the weather would strike. They had no idea I was coming and by the time I arrived that night they were ready for bed and absolutely stunned to see me waltz through the door just when the weather was turning very sour. Luckily my dad was already there and helped me pull off the surprise so I wasn’t sitting outside a locked house for the night!

We spent the next few days iced in for the most part, playing a lot of games, telling stories, looking at old photos, laughing, and taking care of some four-legged farmmates. My grandparent’s house…I don’t know where to begin. It holds a very special place in my heart as it’s the last place I have from my childhood to call home. The final relic left untouched through the decades. They’ve lived there for over 50 years and so much of it is exactly the same as I remember from when I was itty bitty. It’s comforting to know it’s ready to welcome me back whenever I’m there. Its walls, adorned with family photos, form a time capsule preserving my very happy childhood—a reminder of when life was easier and my greatest concern was not putting on enough sunscreen or tracking manure into the house after playing outside. I left my childhood home when I was 17, so I’ve never known that feeling of truly coming home-home as an adult, but this is as close as I’ll ever get and I can attest to its power and comfort.

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There were plenty of non-human welcomes, too. There are three horses and a slew of llamas making a home in the pasture, and they love to be close to you and search your hands for food. The first day we went out in the ice (that’s not snow!) to feed them. Lucy, a red-haired, blue-eyed beauty, instantly became my best friend and relentless companion. Oh, you’ll see…

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The next day was a lot less icy and a lot more muddy. How many times have I watched him open this shop door?

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Baby llamas were not having it!

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I’ve always been a bit of a spectacle.

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Oh, hello!

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Helping Gramps with his daily exercises. Fact: A peanut butter jar serves as a pretty good free-weight in a pinch.

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Let’s talk games. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been playing card and domino games with my grandparents. We hit the ground running and I think I’ve lost my touch! I only won ONE GAME the entire time I was there. Don’t let those sweet faces fool you, they mean business!

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It was a thrill to be in the kitchen with Mimi, who is basically responsible for everyone’s love of cooking. We made a birthday cake—a classic chocolate sheath cake—for my Aunt Connie. Sheath cake is the same as sheet cake. I’m sure you’ve heard of Texas Sheet Cake? (Cue the drools.)

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Instead of the classic frosting of chocolate and nuts, she showed me how to make my great-grandmother’s boiled icing.

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They called her “Grandmother,” so I guess calling it “Grandmother’s Boiled Icing” works for both her and me! Here’s the how-to: Place 2 cups sugar and 1 cup milk in a cast iron skillet, cooking on medium low heat and stirring constantly until sugar dissolves, mixture thickens and bubbles, and comes to a soft ball. (Test in a cup of cold water.) Let cool just slightly before adding two pats of butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Poke holes in cake and pour over slowly, using a spoon to cover evenly and fill the holes. Let cool completely before serving.

Happy Birthday, Connie! It was so fun to celebrate with you and your family!

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On my last day there I spent some time saying goodbye to my furry friends. Here’s our last huddle-up of the trip. #goteam

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Just call me Dr. Doolittle. They’d follow me anywhere.

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Lucy would follow me the closest.

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Sometimes just a little *too* close.

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No shoulders were harmed during this trip.

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One final goodbye nudge from my new best friend.

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My goodbyes to the places around the farm I know and love.

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And, most importantly, the two that I love so much and who gave me the most wonderful visit. I wish we could do this way more often.

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On my way out of town I had to stop at the landmark my family knows so well…the “put your shoes on” spot of our family roadtrips. The perfect ending to a perfect stay.

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# southern Utah

After spending a week in Miami, I was in no hurry to give up the sun and palm trees and food options. I was in a hurry to see my husband, though. All of these factors led to me following him to St. George–the southern-most city in Utah–for his conference last week.

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Southern Utah is really absolutely nothing…NOTHING…like northern Utah. In Logan it’s wintry and crisp. In St. George it’s sweltering and d-r-y dry. Logan is all grays and blues. St. George is all reds and oranges. For just six hours between them, it’s a world of difference.

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We’ve been meaning to explore this area since we got here, but haven’t had the time to dedicate to both national parks and the Grand Canyon. None of those things happened this time since we were both working, but it at least gave us a taste.

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In fact, the only free time we had was late Saturday afternoon after his conference ended. We made a quick drive to Pioneer Park to climb the red rocks and enjoy its killer overlook of the city.

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Being an Oklahoma girl, I’m quite familiar with red dirt and rocks. But this is something else entirely.

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Did I mention it was hot? In February? Like over 80 degrees. Joe wears all black and I wear all the colors. #balancedmarriage

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We found a cool cave with a split in the rock ceiling.

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I, of course, made Joe pose like his head was bursting with power.

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Overall a pretty rockin’ place. ….see what I did there?

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We left the next morning and I was so sad to see the exit before ours was the one you’d take to Zion and/or the Grand Canyon. #soclose  Oh well, we’ll be back.

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Since we drove down at night, we totally missed the landscape changing from mountains to rock formations. At one point they overlapped for a while. It was pretty fascinating.

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We particularly liked this natural-occurring amphitheater-like opening.

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Bella, our resident road warrior, of course joined us. She was not so impressed by southern Utah’s dusty, dirt-filled landscape. Poor thing needed a bath as soon as we walked through the door.

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She also had a relapse of her earlier sickness, causing us to take multiple trips to the vet earlier this week. Good news is that, after three long months, they *think* they’ve confirmed the bacterial infection and have medicated her appropriately. In other news, I almost fainted when I googled said bacteria strain and read that it can cause digestive problems every two weeks for years at a time in canines. God help us all. Good thing she’s the most adorable thing ever.

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On to the next adventure!!

# miami trip, part 2

Yesterday’s Part 1 detailed traveling, eating and reconnecting, but Part 2 is all about music and the beach!

Our homebase, the New World Center, hasn’t changed much since I left in 2011.

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I still love that dreamy façade that projects Miami Beach’s sky du jour. This late afternoon display was particularly gorgeous.

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The SoundScape park was also its same lovely self, though definitely sporting much fuller foliage.

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The end of the work-week brought a weekend of concerts that featured THREE world premieres. To prepare for the craziness, Michael, Siggi and I made one last Starbucks run on Friday. Even though I don’t drink coffee, these runs were an essential part of our bonding when I lived here. We’d walk over to vent or to collaborate on projects. We went a couple of times together while I was back, but spent most of it catching up.

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These salted caramel caramel pops cure any afternoon sluggishness. ….I speak from experience.

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I needed it too, since Friday turns into a pretty long day when you work 8 hours and then stay for a concert!

Walking into the concert was the first time I’d been back in the Performance Hall since September 2011 with my Dad. I had managed to avoid the rehearsals all week so I could be surprised at the actual event.

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I sat with other staff in the back, but any seat in that house is pretty incredible.

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MTT, who injured his shoulder, came out first to announce his being “benched” by doctors.

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The first half featured a commission by New World, the San Francisco Symphony and music publisher Boosey & Hawkes, and then welcomed Grammy-award-winner Bruce Hornsby to the stage for the world premiere of newly-orchestrated songs from his musical, SCKBSTD (which stands for Sick Bastard).

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He was so entertaining. I couldn’t get one of his songs out of my head for days after this.

The second half featured the highly-anticipated El Sol Caliente (The Hot Sun), which was a music/video collaboration honoring Miami Beach in its centennial year.

The piece started with swelling music in the orchestra in sync with the ocean tide on  the screens.

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Perhaps the most moving part of the piece was when it showcased footage after the 1926 hurricane that almost ruined Miami Beach. The images and video of people rebuilding together brought more than one teary eye to the place.

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As someone who enjoys creating photo slideshows set to music, I loved this fascinating piece.

The next day was my last full day in Miami and I found myself with a few free hours to myself that morning, so SPF’d up and hit the road.

I walked past the building again and enjoyed the calm before that night’s impending Wallcast storm.

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This area would be a zoo in a matter of hours!

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I couldn’t believe how much the bougainvillea had grown in the park’s pergolas! They were mere babes when I left!

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Now they almost meet in the middle, creating a shady canopy.

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The beach was, well, the beach. I’m not the beachiest of people, but I figured I needed to soak up the vitamin D while I had the chance, even if it was a little windy.

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Not very many people out, which was nice.

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First things, first…

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There are few things better than toe squishing in wet sand.

Speaking of toes, I had to take an obligatory toes-in-the-sand pic for friend Ica. It’s kinda her signature when she’s on vacation.

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I spent most of the morning reading about this year’s best movies, so I had some quality time with Michael Keaton. We had the same idea here.

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On my way back to get cleaned up for the concert, I decided to swing my sand-covered self through our old haunt on Lincoln Road…The Lincoln Theatre. …which is now a thriving H&M!

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So. weird.

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My old office window is now over a Swatch store.

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And they have a placard at the front of the store explaining the site’s history and what it looked like “back in the day.”

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I was seriously covered in sand and sunscreen, so I didn’t stay long, but I did walk through to see what they did with the main stage and seating area.

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That big ad screen in the back is the original stage. The overhang above me is the old balcony. Kinda cool to see it repurposed so well.

I worked that night’s concert outside for the Wallcast. For any not familiar with this, it’s when the live concert inside is broadcast live outside on the exterior of the New World Center for anyone to enjoy in the park with a picnic or with friends. It’s hugely popular and fun. The City of Miami Beach also uses it every week for free movies in their SoundScape series.

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Michelle and I rocked the sign-up table.

Check out the crowd! (Shot from the building’s rooftop garden.)

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Here’s what the actual experience looks like from the park.

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We had the A-team working the Wallcast Concert Club table.

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It was windy, so there was some hair-holding involved in these pics!

Afterward, a bunch of us went out for my last night. These friends are seriously the best.

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(Not pictured, but definitely there in laughs and smiles: Julisa, Michelle and Rayna.)

Julisa, amazing friend and best chauffeur ever, picked me up at 7:30 the next morning for one last Big Pink stop and walk to the beach.

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It was stunning out there.

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She took me down to the new South Pointe Park pier. South Pointe Park was where Joe and I got engaged, so it made me feel all the feelings.

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This girl. She’s my hilarious bestie.

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One more round on the Hollywood Breakfast of my dreams and it was off to the second worst airport in America! (That title goes to Atlanta, but I’m sure you all already knew that.)

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My first glimpse of home:

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My, the difference 10 hours makes.

Even though these pics provide a pretty clear picture of how my week went, I can’t really describe how full my heart felt. Miami will always be a special place for me and Joe, and I always wanted to stay in touch with all of my old friends and colleagues, but nothing can beat being back in the fold with them and getting to reconnect after so many years. They are truly my peoples and I absolutely love them.

Hopefully I’ll be back in another few months and we can do it all again.

# miami trip, part 1

Most of you know, but for those that don’t: I live in Utah, but, as of December, my work is in Miami. Part of the deal is that I’ll fly in a few times a year to debrief in person and eat a lot of really good food. Last week marked the first of these trips, so, naturally, I took hundreds of photos. (I hadn’t been back in 3.5 years!)

Two things became very clear right from the start of the trip:

1. January is the most perfect time to visit Florida, when the rest of the country is buried under snow and ice and Florida’s raging humidity calms down for a brief respite.

2. Going back without Joe was borderline torture. Luckily I had a lot of work and friends to keep me busy, but seeing so many places, landmarks and familiar foods that were special to us was hard. I was texting him about 50 times a day (not counting the photos of my blisters) and wishing for him every second. Next time, he’s coming with me.

Here’s a recap in photo form of one of the best weeks eveaahh:

The first thing you do when you’re traveling to Miami is check the weather. I could have told you what it would say, but it is nice to be validated by meteorologists.

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Granted, Utah isn’t having a typical winter right now so our temps were only about 20-25 degrees off from Miami’s, but…still. I was over the moon to see those numbers.

The next thing you do when leaving town for a week is smother your dog in hugs and kisses, and carry her around the house like she’s a child.

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She’s been breaking my heart since November by not feeling 100% and I was so nervous to leave her for that long while she’s still trying to recover. Heartbreaking, but she (and I) survived. I promise she is as attached to me as I am to her.

Leaving for the airport that morning proved to be a little difficult. We were suffering from one of our seasonal inversions–when pollution gets trapped like a cloud in our mountain valey and can’t escape. It resembles a really thick, really foul-smelling fog. This is what it looked like that morning….granted, you should have been able to see mountains all around us.

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I was terrified that our entire trip to the airport would be this bad, but luckily as soon as you climbed into the mountains you broke free of the cloud and everything looked normal.

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Pretty scary stuff. Utah’s air quality is a hot-topic for sure. Here’s the view looking back after we exited the nastiness. You should be able to see a town there.

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I wasn’t totally in the clear after that, either. I traveled the day the Snowstorm of the Ages was set to hit the east coast. And even though I didn’t venture north for my layover, it still had quite the delaying effect on my own travels. I didn’t arrive to Miami until 10:40ish that night–over 12 hours after I left home, but Julisa was a saint and played late-night chauffeur to get me to the beach. Bless you, my child. (No, bless you.) #insidejokeonapublicblog

I got to stay in housing owned by my employer, which is in a new area from when I previously worked there. I wasn’t expecting much, so my mind was blown when we arrived to this huge two-bedroom suite in Miami Beach.

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You walked in to a nice living room and open, fully-stocked kitchen.

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To the left was a third bedroom turned library.

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And on the right were two bedrooms (with walk-in closets) and a shared bathroom. It was about five times the size of our place when we lived in Miami.

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I collapsed hard in that blue bedroom, with MTT looking down from his old concert poster to creepily usher in the sleeps.

Good friend Jason picked me up the next morning for our first order of business: Breakfast at Big Pink. You remember Big Pink, right?

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I had my absolute favorite dish: The Hollywood Breakfast (thick polenta fries topped with garlicky spinach, scrambled eggs, and the most decadent cheese sauce–like a breakfast queso, richer than regular hollandaise.

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Are we drooling yet?? Seriously, the best breakfast in the world.

Big Pink is right next to the beach, so we had to grab a quick sighting before heading into the office.

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Cue the blisters…

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Had to take this sunny selfie for Chris and Chilali, who are Jason’s friends from their time together at the University of Michigan. (It’s the smallest of worlds, isn’t it?)

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The rest of the day was spent running around the office, doling out hugs and high-fives like it was my job, and–you know–doing my actual job. That night my boss and great friend, Craig, and I grabbed drinks at a rooftop bar on Lincoln Road that overlooks the bay. Totally gorgeous and WAAAAYYY too swanky a place for me to whip out my camera. Sorry. It truly was spectacular, though.

Speaking of rooftops, the next day at work I headed up to our own rooftop garden for a quick break. The trees are fuller, but the view is still its incredible self.

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That line of bright blue behind those buildings would be the ocean. *swoon* Many a quiet moment have been had on this roof. It’s like our company’s little escape and I took full advantage of it.

The next two nights were some of the most fun moments of my trip, but I don’t have any photos of the craziness. The first night had me, Julisa, and Michelle reunited for a girl’s night of awesome pizza and desserts, all enjoyed in the comfort of my living room while I was wearing PJ pants. We laughed until we wheezed and talked about subjects both light and heavy. It was perfection, the only thing missing was Rebecca, who had to work. Here’s us before I left in 2011.

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The Four Musketeers of Miami Beach. (on that same rooftop!)

The next night I drove to Fort Lauderdale with Michael, another colleague/friend, who married his longtime partner, Tyler, in August. It was time to celebrate, so we hit up their favorite Thai place and swapped wedding stories for Utah stories and gushed over photos. I couldn’t be happier for such a wonderful, loving couple…who have been together almost 28 years. (Here’s an older pic of the newlyweds.)

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The next day I walked to Shake Shack for lunch (cue more blisters)…another one to cross off my list!

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In the interest of time, I brought it back to my desk, which was long enough for it to cool down before that molten-hot cheese came spewing out of the fried mushroom cap.

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It wouldn’t be a Shake Shack run without the custard!

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That sweet note concludes Part 1. Next up…the building! the concert! the beach! Stay tuned….

Friday Five: Miami v. Logan

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to take a month to tell you about my Miami trip, complete with all of my sunny, beach-laden photos. Not taking my BGC and only using my “purse camera” and phone makes it a lot easier to cull through all of my photos. Lucky you me. I hope to have everything up by tomorrow.

But, let’s start the conversation now about just how wonderful Miami is. Turns out January is THE. BEST. time to visit. I was overwhelmed by everything and everyone I saw. Julisa will attest to this when I freaked out upon seeing my first palm tree. I was a bit like the kid who never gets to watch TV that’s suddenly at a sleepover and camps out in front of the tube all night. You know the one. I wanted to OD on Floridaness.

I’ll fill you in on all of that Floridaness soon enough (and how much I missed being there again without Joe by my side), but I thought it was interesting that in almost all of my conversations with old friends and colleagues the theme ALWAYS turned to Utah v. Florida, Logan v. Miami. “How do you like Utah?” “Is is better than Florida?” “How much do you hate snow?” It was fun sharing about our new mountain-dominated life, especially watching their faces contort in confusion when describing the temperatures and the months of cold that are now our new reality.

So let’s set the record straight. Place your bets on this geographical showdown of the two most unlikely places. It’s Logan vs. Miami…in five categories, of course.

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5. Good Eats

I’ll start with the no-brainers and this is the no-brainiest of them all, especially if you read this earlier post.

The winner is…

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There were several times on my trip I wanted to faint with glee over what was on the plate in front of me. There were some serious swoon moments where I needed to stare and appreciate the culinary delights that I can never find in my new home. People of Utah, there is life beyond Chili’s and Olive Garden. Let me show you the ways!

4. Sound Factor

Another no-brainer for anyone who knows me. In this scenario, Simon and Garfunkel had it right.

The winner is…

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While I love the hustle and bustle of city life, I do not miss for an instant the constant rattling of noise that comes with it. I can’t write enough about how my quality of life has improved once I lived in a quieter setting. Hearing horns blaring and sirens wailing past my bedroom window all last week (at all hours of the night) was enough to make me run home and whisper thank-you to Utah.

3. Fashion Police

When it comes to my clothing, comfort is king. So sorry, style capital of the world…

The winner is…

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I appreciate Miami’s clear fashion-forward nature, but it’s not for me. Clothing in Utah is not only modest, but it’s allllll comfort driven. Warm sweaters, boots, wool socks, flannel shirts. I can’t get enough. I took a pair of wedge heels with me to Florida and then spent the next six days texting photos of disgusting blisters on my toes to my husband. #truth & #truelove.  I was missing my fuzzy socks and sweatshirts the entire time.

2. God Bless America

This was THE MOST asked question. Mountains v. Ocean? “From the mountains (check)….to the prairie (hi, Oklahoma)…to the oceans, white with fooooooammmmm (check)…”  There’s room for it all in this country…and in my heart.

The winner is…

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I love living in the mountains just as much as I loved living next to the ocean for the five years before it. They are both equally beautiful and wonderful in my mind. The real difference should be in the air — dry vs. humid, but even then it would be a draw. Visiting Miami in January makes you forget what that 110% humidity feels like in August when you can’t stop sweating, but it still had enough moisture in the air for me to forget my dry, winter skin for a few days. Seriously, we should all buy stock in lotion companies while I’m in Utah.

1. Friend Factor

Leading a nomadic life requires introverts like myself to make new friends quickly. It’s not always easy, but it helps to be surrounded by amazing people all of the time. So…

The winner is…

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This was a hard one because we have incredible friends in Utah, especially Chris and Chilali, but I can’t describe how much I love, love, love my Miami friends. Just thinking about them, our shared history and our laughter-packed week, makes me tear up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is the very best, funniest and most talented group of people I’ve ever met, much less worked with. I was on such a high after visiting–my face muscles sore from smiling, feeling the overwhelming comfort of being able to be my dry, sarcastic, deadpan self without judgement or feeling the need to censor myself in any way. It was glorious. I can’t wait to show you our most recent shenanigans.

When it all adds up, here’s what we get…

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Surprised? I’m feeling pretty lucky to get to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Friday Five: Miami Eats

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

I found out this week that my first trip back to the Sunshine State will be later this month. Let the freakin’ countdown to friends, warm weather and THE BEST FOOD EVER begin.

Seriously, after my initial happy dance, Joe’s initial “I want to go!”s, and the excitement over seeing all of my wonderful friends from NWS, I immediately started thinking about the food. I know there are SO MANY places to eat and my friends will have their own list of places to go, but here are all of our old haunts that–at some point–I want to revisit. Maybe not this trip, but other ones for sure.

Here are the places I’ll be wanting to beeline to as soon as my plane lands:

5. Skyline Chili

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This is a stretch. It’s about 45 minutes outside the city, but if Joe comes with me next time I’m sure we’d rent a car and make this happen. Thankfully, I can also get my fix in Tampa or Dayton, so that’s why this comes in at #5.

4. The Daily / Lime

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One’s in midtown, the other’s downtown, but I ate here all. the. time. when playing for the FGO. I’d love grabbing a huge sandwich or basket of veggie tacos and slamming it down before hurrying to the pit a 3+-hour opera. Luckily the entire section would usually go together, so no one was harmed in our dinner experiment. Extra onions, please.

3. Shake Shack

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Lincoln Road’s little piece of burger/fry/shake magic. Their veggie burger consists of a mushroom cap filled with cheese and then thrown in the deep fryer which results in fabulous crunch and lava-hot cheese that you wash down with custard. I’ll definitely be having lunch here while I’m in town.

2. Books & Books

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I can’t tell you how many great conversations I’ve had over lunch at Books and Books on Lincoln Road. Great spot for people watching and the food is always incredible. It’s actually what Joe and I ate on our picnic the day we got engaged. Special food for a special place.

1. Big Pink

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Ding-ding-ding. My number one Miami meal: Brunch at Big Pink. Seriously, I loved it here (for any meal) and hope it’s my last stop before heading back to the airport for Utah. I can already taste it. *smack, smack*

Get ready, Miami…I’m coming for you!