The Astromaid Chronicles

Slow Travel, Creative Living, and Speculation

Category: Creative Living (page 2 of 13)

Wake Up And Smell The New Release!

It’s time, folks.

My fabled Cordoban saga has rocketed to immortality on the coattails of the shining comet that is the Travelers’ Tales anthology!

Listen, pooping is basically one of my hobbies. And the fact that I live in a world where I can not only write about poop, but also publish that story AND get paid for it?

This is unreal. My life’s dream.

Because maybe I HAVE been waiting my whole life to publish a poop story. In fact, this may be my culminating moment. If I die tomorrow…it will happen with the knowledge that somebody in the world paid me for a story about my bowel movement. 


And guess what? Wake Up And Smell The Shit is now available for purchase! Not just online, but also in real bookstores (if any still exist near you). My story is alongside plenty of other HILARIOUS and amazing tales, not all of which are about poop, mind you.

The front cover proudly displays some of the best praise I’ve ever seen in the English language–“Kirsten Koza is like Judy Blume on acid”. When your editor gets that sort of feedback, holy crap, you know it’s gonna be good.

I’m off to see how many copies I can find (and take pictures next to) in the bookstores near me. If you find one, send me a picture of you with the book…preferably pointing like a goon to my story or at my bio!

Buy it here: Wake Up and Smell the Shit: Hilarious Travel Disasters, Monstrous Toilets, and a Demon Dildo (Travelers’ Tales)

Anniversary Unintended

This blog title sounds like the name of a bad TV drama series, like something destined for Lifetime. I swear the contents of this post won’t be that melodramatic and full of bad acting. But I can’t promise there won’t be any babysitters wielding kitchen knives while the parents laugh gaily in the other room.

*looks around*

What? Anyway, I’ve been in reflective mode recently. Call it the full moon, the blood eclipse (that doesn’t sound right), the start of fall or the fact that I like to test my memory every once in a while; any way you slice it, I’ve been ruminating on facets of the past. In a good way. Like, the stroll down memory lane that makes you want to roll around in meadows and stuff your orifices full of flowers. Not the stroll down memory lane that leaves you mass-facebooking your friends for a new therapist recommendation.

It occurred to me, about two weeks ago, that just around this time two years ago, Jorge and I were moving into our first home together in Valparaiso, Chile.

What serendipity! What memories! What an accidental yet totally appropriate way to celebrate our unintended Moving Into A New House Anniversary. From here on out, I think we’ll ALWAYS have to move into a new place at the beginning of September. Even if it would be more convenient to do it in April…nope. Gotta be September. Just to adhere to the tradition that we started on accident.

But it’s true—on September 17th of 2013, I wrote about the sweet, new, empty house we had just scored in Cerro Carcel.  Ohh, there’s that lovely stroll down memory lane again (the one with the flower-stuffing). And this stroll includes that time that Jorge and I found a free mattress on our way to visit the house before we moved in. We thought, hey cool, free mattress. The house wasn’t so far away, we figured we could just haul it ourselves. On our shoulders. But then before we left with the mattress, the owner of the mattress was like hey, I have another mattress, do you want another mattress? And we were like, how can we say no to TWO free mattresses? To be fair, they were twin-size. So, two twin mattresses on two pairs of shoulders–easy, right? Well, when you haul two mattresses on your shoulders up a vertical,  twisting hill in Valparaiso, what seemed like a no-brainer turns into a hellish, gasping, panting sort of trek up a mountainside.

And this time, in 2015, I didn’t have to haul any mattresses anywhere, but my father and Jorge sure did! They lugged a memory foam mattress up to the second floor and my dad swore he almost had a heart attack. I’m glad to have missed the mattress penance this time around.

In that post from September 17th, 2013, I wrote the following:

In several more months, I will know what the next step will be. But for now, I’m excited to upcycle, recycle, compost, and create new collaborative works within the walls of this delightful house in Cerro Carcel.

And I feel like those words are still true, except this time for Vine Street. We don’t know what the next step is after our (year) lease runs up. But in the meantime, we’re upcycling, recycling, AND composting—in fact, my dad just made me a compost bin using some scrap (upcycled) wood that Jorge got from his job, so, I consider than a big win.

To me, it sorta looks like maybe I buried someone next to the compost bin, like the flowers are marking the grave...but I swear I didn't.

To me, it sorta looks like maybe I buried someone next to the compost bin, like the flowers are marking the grave…but I swear I didn’t.

And in the vein of unintended anniversaries…

Anyone remember that time I crossed from Chile into Argentina en route to go meet Jorge’s family, and it just so happened to be the EXACT DAY that I had arrived to Chile for the first time a year prior?

Pretty weird stuff, ya’ll. It’s like unintended anniversaries are woven throughout my life like the glow-in-the-dark-fabric of this new shirt I just bought.

But it’s not done yet.

Jorge and I started dating on March 18th of 2013. That day is ALSO my maternal great grandfather’s birthday.


Also, our wedding day—August 18th? That’s the wedding anniversary of my grandfather’s parents.

If you asked me to describe these unintended anniversary phenomena? In a word, I’d say ‘cray’.

I don’t know what the strange proliferation of shared, and unintended, anniversaries means. Maybe it’s coincidence; maybe it’s a cosmic, higher-level funny; maybe I’ve got a real knack for accidentally celebrating dates that are not only important to me, but to others within my family.

Whatever the reason, I’m happy to note the occurrences.  It provides a fun, glow-in-the-dark background to my otherwise pretty normal t-shirt. And if you shine the light on it long enough…you’ll see the spectacular array of strange patterns and designs that congregate in the background.


What about you guys? Any strange repetitions of dates, anniversaries, or other important events? Have you celebrated anniversaries without meaning to? Do you even care about anniversaries?

From Backpacks to Three Bedrooms

It’s September, folks! So that means a couple things. One, summer is beginning that slow grind into fall, the time of year that you invariably get stuck behind the slowest school bus EVER, when my father supposes he can shut down the pool right before a 90-degree heat wave comes through, and I wonder whether or not tanning is still a thing because of the tilt of the earth, or whatever (I’m guessing, yes).

It also means that Jorge and I have officially occupied our new home. Hallelujah! My gracious and loving father let us stay at his house while we got ourselves established in town, and having our own space to ourselves again is lovely (though we miss you and Storm, dad!). This means I can finally walk around naked for most of the day, and leave all the lights on that I please. I’m paying the electricity bill, so YES, I can afford the softly-lit-kitchen mood lighting! SCORE!

Okay,'ll look nicer soon, I swear.

Okay, well…it’ll look softly-lit soon, I swear.

Jorge and I are no strangers to occupying (and then un-occupying) homes and apartments for lengths of time. We’ve flitted between homes in Valparaiso, Chile, Lima, Peru and Cusco, Peru. And between them all, we’ve run the gamut of living spaces—from mini-apartments with about 300 square feet, to multi-bedroom houses with wood floors. This will be our first American home, and the differences are enormous.

Here’s why: there’s this little nagging gnat called a wedding registry that’s been buzzing around my head since the second we announced we’d be getting married. Most people look either shocked or totally relieved when I say we don’t have one. Others give me a knowing smirk, to tell me Yeah, I expected that. It’s not that we’re opposed to receiving help around our wedding time. It’s just that, accumulating lots of shit doesn’t help us right now.

We do need shit, though—don’t get me wrong. We need things to put in our house, and our kitchen, and our bathrooms, etc. We need those basics like a bed and a dining room table and toilet paper and a slightly inaccurate map of the world that makes Russia look like the largest mass of land on the globe. But all of those things were provided for when we moved into the house. Seriously—we amassed an entire house of necessary shit before we even moved in, and it all came from friends and family, or those friends and family knowing someone else who was giving away said thing for free, etc.

So between the generosity of friends, family, and strangers giving away their own STUFF that they didn’t want anymore (nothing purchased new, minus silverware and plates), we were able to outfit the entire house.

Majority of these things were lent or gifted. Imagine that!

Majority of these things were lent or gifted. Imagine that!

Talk about feeling blessed.

At the same time, it’s been hard. Because a couple years ago, I gave away all my STUFF (or most of it, at least). Having lived out of my backpack for the past couple of years, it’s been slightly upsetting to watch my possession count swell. To see that my backpack can be filled and emptied several times before the entire load is moved from one house to the next.

So this is why we will be asking for no gifts from our general public when the reception invites are sent out (which should be this week!). Wedding and reception gift-giving is about helping the new couple get on their feet, and it’s a lovely tradition that I have seen put into practice in an astounding way.

Without the directed and invested support from my family and friends, this type of move-to-the-USA-and-rent-a-house undertaking would be impossible. But part of the glory has been that we receive the help where we need it most—in cash, or used furniture, or assistance with our reception planning and wedding make up, or frequent runs between Dad’s house and New House to bring all those hangers I forgot, or a special trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick out my first (and probably last) set of silverware, and on, and on.

I’m not interested in combing through fifteen million objects at the local stores only to receive a bunch of hand towels and cutesy spoon rests that I don’t actually need.

That’s just a waste of our time, and the thought of showing up at Target or Penny’s and saying the words “I’m here to start a wedding registry” makes my skin crawl.

But that’s just me—because in our particular instance, we received a LOT of objects and items either on loan or gifted. And I cannot repeat it enough: I feel so, incredibly, stupidly, otherworldly blessed. And frankly, it’s not that important to me that my hand towels match a purported kitchen décor. Though I do admire houses that have a discernable decoration theme and demonstrate a lot of attention to those details.

Living in a house with three bedrooms isn’t directly contrary to the backpacker philosophy, even though we can’t pack all this stuff into one literal backpack. After all, we use these things every place we go—whether it’s Peru or Argentina or India, etc. Even though it feels like a weight with each new thing that enters our house, I remind myself that as long as I own the stuff and the stuff doesn’t own me, everything will be fine.

Not getting too attached to objects was one of the reasons I moved abroad in the first place. I wanted to sever those emotional ties.

Now I’ve got a pretty great chance to find out whether that lesson has been learned.

With This Relic, I Thee Wed!

On August 18th, 2015, Jorge and I TIED THE KNOT!

We kept it small and intimate, and a little inconvenient: business hours on a Tuesday afternoon! Just to, you know, see who really loved us by calling off work. Just kidding! 

Being that I’m the Astromaid, I delight in the inappropriate, zany details that comprise the periphery of daily living. And some of the highlights of this event were the following:

  • The wedding was in the municipal courthouse, and in order to “check in” for the wedding, I had to go to the office labeled “Criminal/Traffic Division”. Romantic!
  • Our wedding was inserted between totally normal, daily proceedings. So when we walked into the courtroom for our wedding, several pairs of unfamiliar eyes stared back at Jorge and I–and my friends and family were nowhere to be found. These people must have been waiting for their own hearings, or verdicts, or whatever, and had to go through my wedding before they could wrap up their own business! Sorry guys, just a quick wedding to perform!
  • The judge not only was a total jokester badass, he also spoke Spanish. But the wedding would be performed in English, so I made sure to translate the whole set of vows just so my future husband knew what he was getting himself into.
  • The backdrops of the courthouse were sometimes hilarious, and also informational. My favorite was posing near the poster advertising the physical effects of abusing heroin. It’s a courthouse wedding, you guys!

As Jorge and I were running over the vows in the judge’s chambers, I noticed the part that reads With this ring, I thee wed. We opted to not purchase or exchange rings, since its a tradition that doesn’t resonate with us very much. If we do ever decide to do rings someday, it will be jewelry that we find somewhere in the world, some day–and not just some bands we pick up because tradition dictates.

Instead of rings, we brought two pre-Incan statues that we picked up in Lima, Peru over a year ago. They spoke to us because its a male/female duo that were used in actual wedding/religious ceremonies, and used to hold the coka leaves mixed with whatever powder, to be consumed throughout the ceremony. Both the husband and wife would attach the figurine to their clothing or belts, so they could partake in coka leaves throughout the procession of the wedding celebrations.

A year ago, we knew we were life partners, and purchased these as a token of our commitment. It was fitting to use these instead of rings on Tuesday.

Pointing at the infamous line, I asked the judge if he could change the world ring to relic. He shrugged, unfazed. “Sure, why not?”

As 1,100 times before, a couple was wed during business hours, in the presence of friends and family and complete strangers waiting for their court date. But maybe for the first time in Ohio history, the deal was sealed with two small pre-Incan relics as a symbol of our love and commitment.

“With this relic, I thee wed!”

We're married!

We’re married! Where are our relics? Jorge must have pocketed them. But that’s the marriage license in my hand! Judge Erich O’Brien waves himself off the stage, like the rock star he is.

The Changing of the Tides

One of the only certainties of life is change. What goes up comes down, what recedes will swell, what backpacks to South America will someday return to North America with a frightening array of alpaca sweaters.

It’s the only constant. Back, forth, up, down, back, around, and again.

Despite knowing this, I didn’t quite expect myself end up back in Sandusky. I knew I would always be visiting home, but I hadn’t counted on my roots calling me home so quickly.

There’s something sublime about Home. It’s not just one characteristic, but rather the seamless and elegant blend of so many blessings. How could I choose just one? There’s family here; there’s four seasons and marshes; there’s my community of friends; there’s art and music; there’s my childhood memories; there’s the freaking lake; there’s Cameo pizza; there’s hummus freely available in the grocery stores.

I’ve pined for these different characteristics to varying degrees for about three years, sometimes missing each one viscerally, like a knife point in the heart; and other times just feeling the absence like a dull throb, a lingering stubbed toe.

There’s no world journey without feeling the quiet pulse of one of these sensations, like a quiet murmur in your ear. You just can’t quite shake it entirely, whether it’s the scorching smell of spring that nearly brings you to your knees with it’s familiarity of home, or maybe overhearing compatriots speaking with your accent or hometown slang. Jorge feels it when we are away from Argentina, too; we both feel it when we leave a place that we made home, like Valparaiso, Chile, or the Sacred Valley in Peru.

We’ve left pieces of our hearts around the world, a trail that leads us back to good times and fond memories. And in following the trail around the world, we’ve made our way back to Ohio.

But why OHIO of all places?

Well, for a few reasons.

One: because missing home began to hurt. Like, a lot. It took leaving home to realize how strong my roots were, and that call finally reached a fever pitch. I want more time than the frantic, one-month whirlwind; more elbow room to make plans, have dinners, make memories with my people.

Two: because Jorge wants to learn English! And boy, is he cute when he speaks it.

Three (and most importantly): because we’re getting married!

In my wildest fantasies of where my life might take me, three years ago I never imagined that this path might lead me right back to my hometown, with the love of my life at my side, preparing to seal the legal deal.

I never even imagined meeting a man like Jorge, or that he would become my partner so fluidly, so effortlessly. I have yet to write about how we met, or what it was like in the beginning (and that story is coming!), but he was the man who met me and wasn’t afraid to take the leap with me. Sure, let’s move around cities in South America and see what happens. He’s a badass and I couldn’t be more grateful to have him in my life. Oh Jorge, let me count the ways!

Jorge and I when we met, in March 2013 -- Valparaiso, Chile.

Jorge and I on the night we met, in March 2013 — Valparaiso, Chile.

Jorge and I in July 2015--Akron, OH

Jorge and I in July 2015–Akron, OH

I also never imagined I might be moving into my own Sandusky pad, complete with a tiny orange office space and back yard and free landscaping reign, which will mark my first ever rental in this fair city. (And the first time I’ve had to schedule garbage pick-up. Can’t I just tie it in a plastic bag and toss it in the plaza corner like every other South American country?)

I never imagined I’d be scouting reception venues and gathering my girlfriends so we can hunt for a damn dress (groan). Or that I’d even be confronting the issue of marriage and reception planning. Spoiler alert: I never wanted a traditional wedding, and I STILL don’t!

I couldn’t have seen any of this, and despite the fantastical weirdness of it, despite how surprising it still sounds even to my own ears, it is the truest and most organic journey I’ve ever been on.

The Horgs is the only man I’d say yes to. We’re life partners, a fact that we both feel to the marrow of our bones and back again. Travel has had a lot to do with our certainty on this front. We’ve shared so much  together, and being on the road has fortified us in a way that makes it easier to look to the unknown and know that it’s gonna turn out all right with him by my side.

People write a lot of articles about why travel is the best thing a couple can do together. I might be the next writer to add my two cents to that debate, as well.

So that’s it, folks! We’re going to be in Ohio for about a year. That’s all we can commit to for now—the travel urge pricks hard, and there’s no telling what we might be ready for in a year. If you’ve ever talked to us about our future plans, you’ll know that we have business ideas in Central America, and other ideas for around these parts. The future is brimming with possibilities!

But for right now, first thing’s first.

Time to marry this Argentinian.

Back In Ohio

Jorge and I landed in the USA mid-June. Per typical summer protocol, we were instantly swept up in a tornado of Midwestern fun, revelry, cookouts, and camping trips. Things have slowed down slightly, though not much, and I can’t complain. Being home is so special to me, made sweeter by the taste of missing the damn place so much.

In getting re-acquainted with the sights, smells, and language of home, I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments since returning. Some moments that really reminded me that I’m in Ohio, and that, for better or for worse, this is where I’m from.

1. Awkward compliments about my hair. I’ll be the first to admit that most people don’t know what dreadlocks are. I know this because most people ask me about them, fully admitting their ignorance in either baffling or hilarious disclaimers that only offend me some of the time. From being asked if I’ve ever found insects living in my head (I haven’t) to what percentage of the dreads are made of yarn (0%), sometimes I think I’ve heard it all when it comes to dread-speak. But then comes Mr. Drunk Ohio Guy at the bar the other night. Ruddy and happy on his artisan beers at the Small City Taphouse, he leans over to me while I’m waiting (patiently) to order my Malbec.

“That’s a heck of a weave you got up there,” he says, grinning, eyebrows wiggling in the direction of my hair, which is piled unceremoniously on top of my head in something akin to the Marge Simpson hairstyle. I look at him, expression somewhere between Complete Confusion and Distant Amusement. I try to speak several times, but nothing comes out. A weave? For real? That’s not even…but…OK. Whatever.

Finally, I say, “These are dreadlocks. It’s my actual hair. But, thanks, I guess?” He laughs, a little relieved, and says, “Well I don’t know what you call them. I just wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or if you were gonna hit me.”

His expression is endearing; he means well. He offered me a compliment using the only word he could muster; a weave. Thanks for trying, Drunk Ohio Bar Guy. I appreciate the compliment. And I told him so, before leaving with my glass of Malbec.

A shot of Small City Tap House in Sandusky, OH.

A shot of Small City Tap House in Sandusky, OH.

2. Unsolicited advice about cruises. I went to a wine tasting the other night at a local wine shop. It was my first wine tasting in the USA, but after hosting a wine club in my own house for 6 months back in Valparaiso, Chile, I was a little worried it wouldn’t hold a candle. I mean, inviting backpackers and vagabonds into my home space to share hand-picked, South American wines curated by one of my best friends? How could I ever top the fun and conversations?

What the Ohio-based wine tasting lacked in South American wine diversity (re: it had none) it made up for in interesting vegan food accompaniments and amazing music played by talented musician friends. And, in terms of unexpected conversations on the heels of a few varietals, it didn’t disappoint.

Before I left the tasting that evening, another attendee and I began chatting because of his curiosity about what my t-shirt meant, which led to conversations about where Jorge is from, why are we here, etc. Once some travel chatter had come and gone, he asks, “Have you ever been on a cruise?”

“They aren’t really my style,” I tell him, “but I’d like to go on at least one someday, just to try. Besides, I hear you can get some really good prices!”

“Oh yeah, you can,” he says. “You know how? Go during hurricane season.”

I stare at him a moment, wondering if I’ve misheard him or missed a necessary piece of sarcasm. But he wasn’t kidding.

“If you go during hurricane season,” he says, “not only are the prices rock-bottom, you also have the chance that they’ll completely re-route the trip in order to avoid the hurricane. So if you’re up for a little adventure, that’s the way to go.”

He and his wife do this whenever they can. I’m inclined to take his advice. Because, hey—if you’re gonna go on a cruise, might as well add a dimension of terror and spontaneity to it.


3.  Dealing with tornadoes. Three days after landing in Ohio and settling into my childhood home in Sandusky, Jorge and I are lounging in the guest bedroom, caught somewhere between jet lag and exhaustion from unpacking. It’s been raining on and off since we got home, with some impressively ominous storm clouds lurking on the horizon. Jorge, who is from a part of the world that doesn’t see tornadoes with any regularity, can tell that some of these storm clouds mean business.

Stormy Ohio skies...though not quite funnel cloud-grade.

Stormy Ohio skies…though not quite funnel cloud-grade.

“That sky over there looks pretty bad,” I tell him, nodding toward the particular swell of garish black cumulonimbus cloud. “It’s easy to tell if the weather will get weird, here. There’s something in the air that changes. You can just feel it.”

“So what happens if there is a tornado? How do you know?”

“A siren will go off,” I say. “That basically means run to your basement and hang out until the funnel cloud goes away.”

“Funnel cloud? You can actually see it?”

As if on cue, the curdling wail of the siren picks up. We look at each other; tension spikes in the air. We rush downstairs to find my father, who is looking out the back door and into the sky.

“Just keep an eye out for funnel clouds, basically,” I say, straining to see if the clouds are doing anything interesting.

“But it looks calmer now,” Jorge says. The winds had been a little boisterous before, but the world beyond our screen door featured a calmer scene. An eerie tranquility. “Maybe it’s going away.”

“That’s what we call the calm before the storm,” my dad says, his voice punctuated by the shrieking wail of the siren. “That’s when you know things might really go bad.”

Luckily, we didn’t see any funnel clouds, evacuate into the basement, or have a tornado touch down. But it’s a pretty spooky introduction—Tornado 101, if you will—for the foreigner visiting Ohio.

Interviewin’ A Badass Series: VANESSA ALVARADO

Vanessa Alvarado is another stellar member of the #LoudLadies community who lives a life full of passion and creativity. Her blog, Thrift Core, is one of the most interesting spots on the world wide web, where she shares inspiration for living a life outside of the status quo. Plus, she’s the only herbalist I’ve met with an affinity for both anime AND cephalopods. Let’s learn some more about this awesome ex-pat #loudlady!

Thank you so much for appearing on my blog! Can you give my readers a summary of what your current projects are?

Right now I’m finishing my studies to become a certified herbalist and loving it! I’m working with my mom and boyfriend to launch a line of natural body care products and plotting behind-the-scenes on some fresh re-branding for my blog. I was selling vintage and taking clients for random projects but cleared most of that from my plate. I’ve stopped trying to do one million projects at once…for now!

Phew! That’s a lot of awesome projects! And WHERE are you right now?

I’m in the best apartment in Riverside, Jacksonville, Florida with my best friend and boyfriend 😀 But you probably meant in life? I’m feeling dizzy from the array of choices I have with my two big projects right now and just trying to buckle down, focus, and make them the best they can be.

Ms. Vanessa herself, in a hotel in Tampa rather than in her lovely apartment.

Ms. Vanessa herself, in a hotel in Tampa rather than in her lovely apartment.

Your life location AND physical location both sound pretty dang great. Mmm, Florida! I’ve only ever visited Fort Myers, and that was for a wild whirlwind vacation with my girlfriends where I think all of us technically got married on the beach. So you were raised in Naples, Italy and Jacksonville, Florida. Did you split your time between both places, or spend a set number of years in each place?

My dad was in the Navy so we moved around a little bit. I was born in Norfolk Virgina. We moved to Naples, Italy where I only spent four years. We then moved to South Carolina for two years. After that we moved to Jacksonville, Florida where I’ve remained ever since. It’s been two decades since I’ve lived in Italy and I still miss it.

What is your mother tongue, and where else do you consider home?

I’m half Mexican (mom) and half Puerto Rican (dad) but my parents raised my brothers and I to speak English and only English. They said we rejected Spanish completely by about age 3 and refused to speak it. I consider my eclectic bohemian neighborhood (Riverside, Jacksonville) home but I have severe wanderlust and love to explore everywhere and everything. I want to travel the U.S.A in an RV and travel the world from there!

USA by RV is also one of my travel goals. I salivate thinking about exploring the Wild West that way. Do you travel much during the year to new places, or do you mostly make the rounds to visit family and friends in the same spots across the globe?

I visit family in Puerto Rico sporadically, they live in the Southern part (Ponce) away from the tourist scene so I get to indulge in the “real” Puerto Rico. We rarely explore the island outside of that, but try to. Otherwise, I try to go somewhere new in my area at least once a week or go on weekend trips to areas that are 2-5 hours away. My friends and I have a big calendar of explorations booked for the summer and I’m saving up for future, farther trips!

Caracoles, La Parguera, Puerto Rico

Caracoles, La Parguera, Puerto Rico, where you get dropped off via boat to reach one of the tinier Caribbean Islands.

What is something you’ve learned about travel the HARD way that you can share with my readers?

Really be alert when planning your trips and when you’re on your trips. I had a friend book a trip to Key West for us and he accidentally booked the hotel one hour away from Key West. We had to drive an hour each time we wanted to see more in the key! Also, pay close attention in the airport. I had a fast connector flight from Tokyo to Washington and didn’t hear that I got to skip ahead in the customs line for it. I had to dash across the airport and nearly missed my flight!

Just hearing about your near-miss at the airport made my heart rate spike. That’s really good advice, especially about double-checking your hotel bookings. RyanAir in Europe likes to make their own airports, claiming they’re in a city like Barcelona, for instance, and then when you land there you realize you’re actually an hour outside of Barcelona and have to spend even more money to get to the freaking city you wanted in the first place. SIGH. But, moving on…

You have a self-proclaimed love for cephalopods. Would you still love them so much if you woke up with an oversized, creepy, bottom-of-the-sea-feeder, electric blue mollusk poised to suction cup itself to your face?

I really would.

That’s so creepy. Have you ever been deep-sea diving and/or handled a mollusk? If not, can we try it together?

Nope, but it’s been a childhood dream. Let’s do it!

You’re one of the nerdy website girls of the late 90’s, like I was. Most of my time between ages 11 and 15 was spent teaching myself HTML so I could perfect the frames on my Hanson fansite (yes, yes, I know…) What were your websites about, and did you ever use Angelfire?

Haha, no shame. I had two of their CDs and my friends had wall-to-wall Hanson “wallpaper” (pages ripped out of teen magazines.) All the eyes everywhere made it terrifying to attempt sleep! I made several different anime fan-sites on Angelfire before switching to hosting them off my own domain name in the future! Oh, memories! I was sucked in and addicted from my very first Angelfire website. I had stupidly long URLS and abused the animated gifs.

The animated GIF’s! Ahh, what great times with those!

What is the biggest lesson you learned from your time spent as a corporate copywriter? And how do you use that experience to direct your freelancing career?

It would be hard to narrow it down to one! I value the search engine optimization tricks I learned, but learning how to phrase things to sell is my favorite lesson. The importance of communicating value was practiced and refined during my time in an office.

And those aren’t easy things to learn or refine! I certainly could stand to learn more about it (so I’ll probably let you know when I need a crash course sometime down the road…)

What’s your favorite non-American recipe? Share as much details as possible, because I want to make it like, tonight.

A classic comfort food staple I learned to make in Italy was a classic Italian-style Caprece salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella. It’s very healthy and fresh, a beautiful reflection of “real” Italian food, which is lighter and fresher than the Italian-American counterpart. You cube ripe tomatoes, cube fresh buffalo mozzarella from the market, julienne freshly picked basil and toss it all with extra virgin olive oil. Top with a dash of sea salt. Simple. Perfection. Makes your mouth very happy and takes very little time, too!

Dinner tonight = ready. Thanks for joining us, Vanessa! Don’t forget to check out her blog, Thrift Core!

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