November 7, 2013 1

The Tools You Need for Seamless Business Travel

By in Uncategorized

Business Traveler's Toolkit

I’ve been busy working on a series of business travel posts with Gawker Media and Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott that ran across both Lifehacker and Gizmodo. They were fun to research and write, and I hope readers pick up some great tips from the articles. Here’s a list:

Happy reading and safe travels!

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August 1, 2013 0

Scout It Out Loud

By in Uncategorized

scout-badge-photography

It’s been a long time in the making, and I’m finally ready to reveal The Scout Project. The concept is part merit badge program, part online travelogue, and a complete labor of love. The idea is to encourage people to go beyond “touch and go” travel by encouraging them to bring the values associated with the scout movement—trust, loyalty, courtesy, kindness, and thriftiness—into their experiences. Hopefully, that means more people will seek out meaningful experiences and support local cultures, artists, businesses, and ideas while abroad.

The patches are available now on Etsy, and I’ll be continually updating the travelogue with posts written by myself and contributors. So if you want to join along, feel free to contribute something of your own.

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June 10, 2013 0

Around Maryland and Virginia in an Instant

By in Maryland, North America, United States, Virginia

ocean-city-boardwalk-fries

This week I’m at the helm of Gadling’s Instagram as I explore the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay. I’m celebrating National Great Outdoors month with a trip to the beach and some camping on Assateague Island National Seashore, famous for its wild horses, and then I’ll make my way up to Baltimore and eventually to Washington, DC. Follow @GadlingTravel for the updates!

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June 7, 2013 0

Familiar Faces

By in Uncategorized

bust-contributor-spot

Guess whose face is in the new issue of BUST magazine? Courtney Love, obviously, but look closely and you’ll find little old me, too. After contributing to the magazine in some way, shape, or form for the past six years, I’m especially proud to have a contributor spot in their 20th anniversary issue. The mention makes me feel like I’m celebrating with them!

I’m also honored to be a featured alumna in the latest annual newsletter from Ohio State’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department. If you’re able to pick up either of these publications, you’ll see it also hints at some new projects in the works. More on that later!

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July 8, 2012 0

The Colors and Textures of Peru

By in Aguas Calientes, Cusco, Lima, Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Peru, South America

Peru Pictures - Yarn and Other Textiles

 Soft: Yarn and hats in Aguas Calientes.

Peru Pictures - Machu Picchu Stones

Solid: Stones at Machu Picchu.

Peru pictures - Crystal and Pilsener Ads

 Faded: Beer ads.

Peru Pictures - Stacked Bags

Muted: Bags stacked in Aguas Calientes.

Peru Pictures - Potatoes and Beans

Organic: Potatoes, grains, and beans.

Peru Pictures - Clay Tile Roof

Weathered: Clay tiles in Ollantaytambo.

Peru Pictures - Dyed Yarn

Earthy: Hand-dyed yarns (learn more about textiles in Peru).

Peru Pictures - Graffiti in Lima

 Gritty: Graffiti in Lima.

Peru Pictures - Machu Picchu Steps

Uniform: Terraces at Machu Picchu.

Peru Pictures - Folded Scarves, Shawls, and Other Textiles

Vibrant: Scarves and other textiles up for sale in Cusco.

Alive: Flowers in Aguas Calientes

Peru Pictures - Cactus on a Ledge

Prickly: Cacti growing on a ledge in Ollantaytambo.

 

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June 17, 2012 3

Textiles of Peru: Weaving in the Andes with Amaru Women

By in Peru, Pisac

Sitting next to a pile of luggage in the back of a 10-seater van as we wound our way up and up through the Andes Mountains, I hoped nobody would turn around and notice my eyes were closed. I might have been able to pass my shuttered state off as jet lag — after all, I had just arrived to Peru by plane a few hours prior.  But it wasn’t a lack of sleep that had me in this state. Instead, it was the fear of looking out the window at the rocky chasm just inches from our van’s tires. Our driver was a true professional,  snaking the vehicle along a dirt path that came death-defyingly close to the ridge at rapid pace. But me? I was just an amateur passenger, a first-time visitor who wanted to take it all in but instead found myself squeezing my eyelids shut and grasping the vinyl seating until my knuckles turned translucent white.

Without warning, our van skidded to a stop. Gripping the seat even tighter, I opened my eyes just in time to see the door fly open. Out of a cloud of red dust appeared a woman dressed in a rainbow of woven colors, her outfit capped with a flat-top hat that looked like a cupcake paper turned upside-down. In a wrap on her back she carried a baby that couldn’t possibly have been older than nine months. As the woman took a seat in the van, another member of our tour group asked if she might snap a picture, raising her camera and pointing to it. The woman didn’t understand the request in English or Spanish, but smiled warmly and nodded at the hand gestures. As it turns out, this was no ordinary hitchhiker; this woman was from the Amaru community, the Andean village we were on our way to visit.

Textiles of Peru - Women of the Amuru Village Welcome Visitors

After a few more minutes winding up the mountain we arrived at our destination. Hopping out of the van, I took note of the surroundings: a dirt road surrounded by modest homes made of cement. Further out, a patchwork of small fields on the sloping mountains was being cultivated by farmers. As we passed through an archway decorated with flowers, more women dressed like our hitchhiker friend greeted us by placing magenta garlands made out of Peru’s national flower, the bell-shaped qantu, around our necks and sprinkling us with white flower petals. The women seemed genuinely excited to have us, hurriedly buzzing around like bees getting ready to show us their craft. With a translator on hand, a few of the women spoke about the importance of the textiles in their native tongue, a form of Quechua (the common ancestral language of the Andes). After thanking us for our interest in learning about their traditions, the demonstration began.

The process begins by shearing a sheep.

First came the shearing of a sheep. After corralling her and binding her feet with yarn, three women held the sheep down and took a knife to her wool. The sheep wasn’t too excited about this — and neither would I have been, judging solely by the dullness of the blade — and began shrieking wildly. Even her young lamb swooped in to see what was the matter, but the women assured us it didn’t hurt the animal — she was just scared.

The women then clean the cloth using only water.

Next one of the women showed us how they clean the wool using only water. The process started with an empty bowl and one full of water. Placing the wool in the empty bowl, the woman covered it in a little water and rinsed it until the water turned black. Then she dumped the dirty water and repeated the process until the water turned murky brown and eventually clear, ensuring the wool was nice and clean. No bleach, no soap — just some water and a whole lot of patience.

Women of the Amaru community in Peru demonstrate how different plants and rocks create various colored dyes.

Most fascinating to me was what came next. The women showed us how they make natural dyes from various flowers and minerals. For each specimen they showed us the corresponding fabric that would result. From browns and burnt orange to bold greens and blues, I was in awe that they could create such intense hues.

Next, the women demonstrated how threads are dyed in a boiling pot of water. The colors were unbelieably vivid just after a few minutes.

In a nearby pot boiling with water over hot coals, the women demonstrated how to dye the fabric using just the hot water, wool, and some flowers. The colors that resulted after just a few minutes in the hot pot were remarkably vivid.

The women also showed us how they turn the wool into yarn, stretching it out on spindles. Everything was done by hand without the aid of machines. I should also note that there were no men present — they were all out working in the fields.

Finally, it was time to weave. The Amaru women explained that the geometric patterns in the textiles include very old codes that tell about the community’s identity, customs, and desires. Even the young girls wanted to join in weaving, with the adorable girl pictured above stealing the show (by far, she was the most photographed person in the community that day!). Watching the women pass down the tradition from generation to generation made me think of my own grandmother, a seamstress who knitted, sewed, embroidered, and crocheted. Unfortunately, without her around to show me how these textile arts work I’ve always found that I have little patience to learn myself. Still, it’s interesting to note that whether in the suburbs of Cleveland or high in the Andean mountains, many of our traditions are similar.

And finally, the end result are these beautifully intricate textiles. The Amaru women create blankets, tapestries, scarves, purses, jewelry, and dolls. I purchased a bracelet and have been proudly showing it off, explaining that I know exactly where it came from — from the sheep to the finished product. In the end, spending time with the Amaru community was well worth the stress of the harrowing drive into the Andes.

Visiting Peru and want to meet the Amaru Women yourself? The community is located about 30 minutes by car from Cusco and five minutes from Pisac. Tours (including a demonstration and lunch) and homestays can be booked through La Tierra de los Yachaqs (“The Land of the Wise”), a community-based tourism project.

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May 31, 2012 0

Playing Catch Up

By in Uncategorized

Balconies in Verona, Italy

Colorful balconies in Verona, Italy.

Hi readers, it’s been awhile. I’ve noticed you keep coming back, so my apologies for not providing you with more the past few months. Truth is, I have lots of ideas for this blog (seriously, you should see how many half-written posts are in my draft queue), but I’ve been running short on time. Did you know I have a full-time job? And on top of that I write a considerable amount of content for Gadling and About.com, plus a mini column for BUST Magazine? Well, I do. And I’m still traveling as well — or at least trying to. I went to Italy and Switzerland in April, Providence in May, and I leave for Peru this weekend. There were some weekends in New York and Washington, DC that somehow snuck in there, too.

What I’m trying to say is, if you live in Baltimore you should start reading About Baltimore because I’ve been working hard on updating, improving, and adding to the content over there. I’m putting together a summer guide to the city that’s eaten up many hours of my life. And if you live anywhere — especially if you love travel — you should definitely follow my posts on Gadling. If you need any convincing, here are some of my favorite posts over the past few months:

Other than that, local magazine Urbanite profiled me for their “Ask the Artist” feature, and I just got news that I won a writing award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization in the best online feature category for my “Seven Ways to Experience Bahamas Culture” piece on Gadling. Unfortunately I won’t have to prepare an acceptance speech because I’ll be in Peru next week during the award ceremony, but I hear the Bahamas tourism minister,  Obie Wilchcombe, is going to accept it on my behalf. Thanks to him!

So anyway, what I’m trying to say is: I’m still writing, and I haven’t given up on this blog — but there are a bunch of reasons why I don’t update as much as I’d like to. Thanks for sticking around!

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April 15, 2012 1

Photo of the Week: The Grand Canal in Venice

By in Italy

The Grand Canal in Venice

Recently returned from a wonderful week in Italy and Switzerland, where I spent a lot of time traveling on trains and tasted soda made out of milk (among many other things). Hopefully sometime soon I’ll have time to be a little more descriptive and post pictures, but for now keep following me on Gadling.

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April 8, 2012 0

Photo of the Week: California Dreamin’

By in California, North America, United States

San Francisco's Painted Ladies and the Skyline

Two months ago I spent a blissful few days enjoying the San Francisco sunshine with two of my besties. Well, mostly blissfull, anyway… there was a flat tire on our bike trip across the Golden Gate Bridge and a flight delay coming home. But other than that, a resounding success. Check out my review of the anime-themed hotel we stayed in, Hotel Tomo, on Gadling. More pictures forthcoming as soon as I catch up on this blog!

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March 25, 2012 0

Photo of the Week: That’s Amore

By in Europe, Italy

I’m off to Italy today for a breeze through Rome, Venice and Milan. Let the gelato, pizza, pasta and wine consumption begin! See you in a week.

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