A very climber Thanksgiving feast full of Floridians in Colorado

With twenty-two years of bacon-covered, avocado-filled Cuban Thanksgivings under my belt, I experienced a strong mix of emotions while preparing for this year’s November celebration – it was my first holiday spent away from home. Thanks to miniscule budgets and newly-acquired jobs, the rest of my Colorado climber family stuck around too – and we even had a Tally Rock Gym-er fly out to join us in the mountains.

I was determined to keep some of my Cuban meal traditions alive, and my fellow cohorts embarked on similar missions of creating dishes to mimic their favorite family fare. I cooked up black beans drenched in homemade sofrito with rice, avocado salad, and green bean casserole. McGoo experienced his first (and adamantly declared only) foray into chefdom with a delicious sweet potato casserole topped with pecans, and his grandfather’s savory stuffing. Niko made a great batch of garlic mashed potatoes, and donated a Honey Baked Ham gift certificate that got us a delicious brisket.

In addition to the first round of preparations, we had multiple waves of kitchen use that produced an enormous spread of Thanksgiving grub. Steve got a huge turkey from his new job, which Douso draped with bacon before popping into the oven. Steve’s mom pitied our homesick holiday and ordered a beautiful ham for our buffet. Hannah diced up a huge selection of yams, potatoes, peppers, and pearl onions that she doused in a brown sugar and butter glaze. Douso rounded things out with made-from-scratch pumpkin and apple pies.

And of course, McGoo made sure to keep the drinks flowing all morning, afternoon, and night long.


Before long, our guests arrived bearing edible and drinkable gifts. Jerimiah and Adam arrived with arms full of fresh bread from Whole Foods, exotic cheeses and prosciutto, and a hoard of spicy olives. Our bar was soon stacked with everything from Baileys, Kahluha, and cheap tequila to Absolute vodka, Red Stag whiskey, gin and tonic makings, and a huge variety of bottled beer. We made merry while the final casseroles and pies basked for a last few minutes in the oven, then it was time for our grand noshfest to begin.

The meal began with lots of chatter and silverware clinking against glass, then gradually grew into a quiet affair with a gut-clenching crowd. We pleasantly gorged ourselves on every morsel of food we could shovel into our mouths, and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to share my first ‘grown-up’ holiday with. We had all began our adventures down in Florida, and had journeyed to this very moment, crowded around a dinner table in Denver.

Our cookware was largely purchased last minute, upon realizing that none of us vagabonds had proper supplies of kitchen utensils suited for our needs. We purchased the table the night before our meal, and our chair arrangement consisted of every seating vessel scrounged up around the house, and an upside-down tub draped with fabric. It may not have been the fanciest meal, but to a vagabond like me it felt fit for royalty.

While my heart ached to have spent Thanksgiving shouting Spanish across the table and enjoying family traditions that I grew up with, this Colorado celebration was one of the best Thanksgivings I have ever experienced. We were all forced to spend the holiday away from home (besides Niko, who very sweetly came to Colorado to spend the holiday with me), but we had a beautiful time sharing this part of our current adventures. For some, this was the first holiday spent in their new home of Colorado, others saw their last true family meal before moving on to new countries, and some came from across the country just to spend the time together. Me, I was just in it for the bacon and black beans.

Completing my solo journey after 33 days, 17 states, and 6,657 miles on the road

That short succession of numbers will forever be engraved in my mind: I spent 33 days visiting 17 states along a 6,657 mile course. You may remember my projected route, which formed a fat, misshaped path through the southeast and mid-west. My car traveled along as planned, until I arrived in Denver, Colorado – and decided to stay.

So the path was shortened, you assume? A fair conclusion to draw, but in fact, my permanent move to Colorado generously added an extra leg to the trip. Here is the final version of my solo trip route:

The center stretch and loop down to Miami from Tallahassee were the result of Denver’s slick ability to make a girl fall in love with a city and decide to jump Florida ship in favor of mountains and snow. After my buddy Douso altered his 1,300 mile cycling tour from Vancouver to San Francisco to hop a train in Reno and join me in the Mile High city, we both abandoned any half-assed plans we had been toying with and decided to stay in Denver. We enjoyed a few weeks in Denver, then loaded up in my car for one final visit down to Florida.

After 33 days spent traveling across the country, I am settling into this suddenly unfamiliar lifestyle of stability. Of course, sleeping on a couch in a household with seven climber men may not be most people’s idea of calm and stable – but this sudden lack of constant change has made this cramped living room I share with my three future housemates the most familiar thing in the world.

What have I learned on this journey? I’ve collected a wealth of perspective and insight to share and remember throughout these upcoming chapters of my life, but the most outstanding idea I now carry is the concept of change and time. Everything is changing, all the time. Change is sometimes difficult to cope with, but will ultimately lead you to better things, with time. And time is always on your side – this trip has taught me that a destroyed perception of hours and minutes opens up your life to a whole lot of living.

In truth, I’m already planning the next trip.

How I survived my first night camping alone in Kentucky’s Lake Barkley State Park

Embarking on a solo trip implies a certain degree of, well, solitude. While my well-wishers gushed endlessly of their anticipation for all my adventures, one reoccurring issue continually arose from friends and family: “You’re going to be camping alone, Katie? I don’t like that, I’ll help you pay for a hotel instead.”

For me, the idea of camping alone for the first time wasn’t a necessity to save money – it became a right of passage in my mind. The idea of successfully building camp, starting a fire, and not getting eaten by a bear became the ultimate idea of accomplishment. During the first week of my trip, my host in North Carolina made damn sure I didn’t even think about trying to camp while she was around. Eventually, time pressed on and I had to continue westward. I chose Kentucky as my first overnight stop during the haul to Colorado, purely because I had never visited the state before.

I drove northwest through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the rolling hills of Tennessee, then eagerly crossed into Kentucky. My path took me past Fort Campbell North, and I had a great moment of patriotism watching military trucks and planes amid an enormous American flag. Finally, I reached my destination for the evening: Lake Barkley State Park, near Cadiz, KY.


I checked out the lakefront area and campsites while the day was still bright, then drove a few miles up the road to a gas station. As I watched an adorable old man filling his green tractor at one of the pump station, I stocked up on all the necessities: firewood (which turned out to be entirely moldy), a ‘KENTUCKY’ lighter, two cans of Coors Light, and lighter fluid that hillbillies convinced me to purchase upon hearing that I was planning on building my own fire.

When I returned to camp, I scoped out a site that faced the lake and was moderately close to the small handful of other campers. I found a soft spot in the grass, and pitched my tent – which was the only tent at camp, a little minnow in a pond of RVs and impressive trailers. The only evidence remaining of my site’s fire pit was a charred circle in the grass, so I combed the surrounding wooded area for rocks and rebuilt the pit. A large log sitting next to a fallen tree became the perfect fireside bench. Then I became a woman, and built a fire – without using any lighter fluid, mind you.

The rest of my evening was spent cooking up some pasta, reading a bit of my book, and feverishly tending to the fire. After the nightfall halted my reading, I focused all my attention on the needy flames. I must have spent a total of at least three hours scouring the spooky wooded area behind me for thick branches and bits of dry logs. This was the night I conquered my fear of the dark, and regained a slice of confidence. Aside from my little raccoon buddy who kept creeping up on me while I was absentmindedly poking at embers, there was nothing but hooting owls and a gentle lake breeze to alarm me. All that fuss and worrying, for absolutely nothing.

With two beers and a pot full of pasta resting in my belly, I finally decided it was time to retreat to my tent for some rest. I threw the last remaining leg of firewood into the flames, and zipped myself snugly into my sleeping bag. I had been anticipating a long night spent awake listening to the random sounds of the forest in fear, but instead drifted swiftly to sleep while my camp neighbor’s little dog howled at the raccoons.

The next morning, I awoke at the crack of dawn, and swiftly packed up camp. I was eager to make good time during my leg from Lake Barkley to Kansas City, so I quickly hit the road. On the winding road out of the park, I hit a huge blanket of fog that covered the fields sitting below the guardrails. The sun was just beginning to shine on the day, and everything was sprinkled with cold dew.

I experienced the best mood of my entire trip after I left Kentucky. I drove over the state lines of Illinois and Missouri reflecting on my sense of self-satisfaction. Shamelessly, I felt like a bad ass. At first, I felt accomplished for being one of the only ladies I know who have camped alone, and then my thoughts expanded to realize that the majority of my male friends hadn’t either. I had doubted my ability to enjoy camping solo because I had always gone with a boyfriend or climbing buddies, but really, all I needed was myself.

Check out my campground review, area information, and more at the
Lake Barkley State Resort Park page on MyCampingRoadTrip.com

An ode to Mr. & Mrs. Kirby Crider, and the most charming wedding in Flat Rock, NC

Readers, on this romantic occasion, the documented evidence of one of the most beautiful evenings of my life cannot begin to be supplemented by my feeble words. Instead, I’ll offer a meek exposition to introduce you to the night, and then I’ll let photos and video handle the rest.

In a slick twist of fate, I was invited to attend the wedding of an old Tally Rock Gym climber, Kirby Crider, as my dear friend Matt Wood’s ‘plus-one.’ The nuptials coincided with the dates during which I planned to be in North Carolina, and the venue turned out to be a short 15-minute drive from Hendersonville – so I hopped onboard, and packed a single satin dress along with all my dirty vagabonding gear.

The wedding was held at the Highland Lake Inn, and the ceremony took place beside a large lake on a sprawling, green hillside. The non-traditional proceedings included violin playing, recitations from both Hemingway and Neruda, and a splash of Judaism with the smashing of clothed wine glasses at the conclusion of the vows. I wasn’t quite planning on taking too many pictures, but, you know me.


The reception was a wild celebration of love, friendship, and a shared happiness that radiated amongst the guests and bridal party. The collective of people was described best by the lovely man who wed Julia and Kirby, who brought to attention the fact that never before had this particular group of individuals congregated in one spot, and that it would likely never happen again. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

I was schooled on the art of true love throughout the entire evening. I learned the definition of everlasting as I listened to friends and family toast the newly weds and recount the tales of their relationship. I was reminded of chivalry by my date – and my quasi date, Jason – who pulled out my chair, linked arms with me as we walked, and ensured I was treated like a lady. Perhaps most importantly, I was taught to love and live for each moment as I stole away to the lakeside and dipped my bare toes in the lily-pad laden waters with a new friend.

Here my words fail, and I must leave you with a stunning video taken by a charming new friend, Ian. I do believe he also shoots with a Nikon D7000, and he gets extra points for picking up my lens cap for me when I dropped it on the floor in a drunken haste. Anyways, this kind gentleman put together a video of the wedding – and I simply had to share it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QCiZx7CpUg]

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

Kirby and Julia, thank you for inviting me into your beautiful evening. I was delighted to be a part of the beginning of the rest of your lives, and wish you everything wonderful in the world – although you two hardly need anything more than what you already have together. Thank you for sharing your love, it was inspiring to encounter.

Guest Blog – The Bronxonia Yacht Club, Mr. Softee, Swans, and Uncle John’s Birthday

Editor’s Note: As a special birthday treat to honor my ‘Uncle’ John, enjoy a guest post written by my father, George Boue. Every year, he embarks on a boys-only trip up the Hudson River – and every year I find myself turning green with envy as he regales me with tales of his mishaps and experiences out on the water. Dig in, and get ready for a great northeastern adventure. Happy Birthday, Uncle John! 

The Bronxonia Yacht Club is one of those gems in the rough”that few people are fortunate to experience. Labor Day weekend found me and two family friends getting together for an annual boating adventure. The Club is a located by the Throggs Neck Bridge, and features inexpensive booze and blue-collar folk who are always willing to lend a hand – which is always needed if you own a boat.  It is truly a piece of “Americana,” and always serves as the start of our boating trips.


Mechanical concerns and the probability of floating debris from TS Irene kept us from our typical trip up the Hudson River, so we ventured to other places, including one night to LaGuardia Airport to watch the planes swoop over the boat. Afterwards, we continued cruising to the Arrow Yacht Club.

Following a couple of beers in the bar, we decided to walk the neighborhood. Danny and I were instantly brought back to our childhood in Elmhurst, Queens. College Point, also in Queens, has similar middle-class, brick and siding 2-story homes similar to those seen on King of Queens. We recollected playing games of manhunt that would encompass a whole city block, lasting for hours with all the kids in the neighborhood.

The nostalgia was heightened when we heard a familiar sound, evoking a Pavlov response. We rushed just in time to catch up with a Mr. Softee truck. It has probably been more than 20 years since I have enjoyed a Softee root beer float. What makes these special is the way you can suck-up the soft vanilla ice cream along with the root beer through the straw. It was delicious. Danny had a hot fudge sundae, and he too was brought back in time.

The top adventure was cruising down the East River on a sunny Labor Day, en route to the Statue of Liberty. Just as we passed under the Brooklyn Bridge the engine made a sudden whirring sound followed by smoke and the smell of burning rubber from the engine compartment. We were dead in the water, smack in the middle of the river with barges and ferries cruising by. We couldn’t drop anchor right away, so we let the tidal current take us further north. John was able to engage the engine in short spurts just to move us out of the way. We slowly drifted toward the Brooklyn side, eventually anchoring between the Williamsburg and Queensboro Bridges.

We had a fantastic view of Midtown, including the 23rd Street Heliport which also has seaplanes. After a comedy of phone calls with BoatUS and Sea Tow that took 3 hours, we were saved by a Bronxonia member, Richie, who towed us back to the Club. The most harrowing part of the trip (at least to John, Danny and Annie who were on the disabled boat) was navigating through Hells Gate, where multiple waterways converge to form strong currents that have sunk many a ship. Both boats swayed and rocked and I really thought the rope was going to snap. This was the biggest test of our Honey Badger theme for the trip.

But as with all our adventures and debacles we made it back safe, and added one more story to our collection. This blog is in honor of one of the nicest guys on the planet, someone who is not daunted by any setback, and who has always seen the glass as not only full, but spilling-over. Happy Birthday, John!

It’s official: I’m moving to DENVER for fall, baby.

Let’s play a little game – You’re going to pretend that you didn’t see the answer capitalized above, and you’re going to guess where life has decided to take me based on five clues/photos.

So, at this stage of my life, I clearly need to high-tail it out of Florida. My tan lines can’t get any deeper, I’ve nearly had my fill of Cuban food, and the mountains are calling my name with earnest. The option to move to San Francisco was looking like the best plan for a while, and then something unexpected fell onto my plate. Shall we solve the no-brainer mystery?

I’ll be shipping off to a city where the springtime brings fat bundles of delicate blossoms sitting right in front of your door step. Even the weeds that cover kitchen windows glow with the glory of living in such fresh, elevated air. Except I’ll be living here during the fall, so it’ll look a lot more like this – and I’m certainly not complaining. Celebrating my 23rd birthday in an autumn wonderland? Yes, please.


When it’s rainy outside, this city still delivers climbing. I can head to a local playground for some sweet artificial bouldering in Central Park, or I can head to the indoor rock gym(s), Rock’n & Jam’n – yes, there are even two different locations to chose from. Of course, I’ll be toting a sizable supply of Tally Rock Gym rubber in my chalk bag to keep the mojo flowin’. Oh shoot, I need some new outdoor gear – no worries, I’ll just take a little drive down to the Boulder Sports Recycler to snag some discounted swag.


Better yet, when it is sunny outside in my new city, I’ll have a buffet of options for outdoor climbing. Within an hour’s reach, I’ll be able to travel to more crags than I could ever possibly conquer. The above photo was taken in Chautauqua Park, better known to climbers as the Flat Irons. Then, there are places like Boulder Canyon and Lincoln Lake – which my future housemate keeps torturing me with photos of, like this one (that she didn’t take) – but I am now determined to find myself a goat while I’m out there. The best part is that my darling housemate is a local whiz when it comes to the best climbing spots in the area, so I won’t be a fish out of water when I move up.

After all the climbing I’ll be doing, mama’s gonna work up an appetite – and my new city is bursting with edible options. Take the kalamata olive bread I scooped during my last visit in May. Do you see that beast? These folks don’t skimp on the olives, and that is something I can stand behind. Not in the mood for baked goods? That’s alright, I can just stuff my face with green chili and mash from Bull & Bush Brewery, or perhaps I’ll cool down with a scoop of homemade frozen flavors from Sweet Action Ice Cream. In the mornings, I’ll take a stroll down the street to Cafe Europa and sip on black tea while I do my daily writing tasks.


Excuse me while I get sentimental, but one of the greatest parts of my move will be the people I’ll be fraternizing with, like my dearest, most beloved McGoo – when he’s not too busy jet-setting all over the country. Skype is simply not enough to quell my need to hang with my Colorado boys, so it looks like I’ll just have to relocate and join in on the fun. There’s McGoo, and Rob, and my new housemate Sara, and it’s going to be a glorious experience to dive into a new social scene and experiment with all sorts of new people.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m moving to Denver! Thanks to a very conveniently-timed sublease opportunity, I’ve decided to pack my Scion up with the bare essentials, and I’ll be residing near Wash Park from September through December. I plan to head out a few weeks in advance, and spend my time meandering up to colorful Colorado during the last bits of summer. The entire fall season will be spent playing in leaves, sipping on espresso, writing religiously and taking thousands of photos that will clog my hard drive with autumn hues and Denver discoveries. Then, just in time for the real winter to set in, I’ll retreat back to Florida for a few months of hibernation before my next big adventure.

Can I express again just how incredibly excited/anxious/amazed I am? Life threw me quite a curve ball, but I think I’ve come back swinging. Not to mention the fact that it takes less than one beer for me to get lifted up in those Colorado mountains – it’s going to be a good season for this spud, and I expect everyone to visit.

On spuds in the dirt, lemons from life, and rediscovering everything you thought you knew.

Well, a lot has changed since my last update on June 17, 2011, and I feel like I owe my readers an explanation before I dive back into the world of travel, photography, and adventure. I’d offer a choice between the long story or the short story, but the long version could fill a book. Here’s the spark notes version:

The last we met, I was living in Tallahassee, freshly graduated and itching to travel with my wonderful beau, Niko. The plan was to stick around Florida until he also graduated and could join me on worldly adventures. I had two jobs (amongst a million side projects), too many options, and about 2,000 photos that needed editing. We’ll use this as the before shot:

Cue the oohs and aws – aren’t we adorable? Ready for the after shot? Both were taken during the same day on my road trip in Death Valley National Park, but I think they provide a pretty damn accurate visual contrast to assist in describing the huge changes in my life. Here’s the after:

So here I am. Suddenly standing very alone in a very big sea of nothing. After almost two years of teamwork, and the most amazing trip of my life, Niko ended our relationship with no warning and a very vague explanation. With no clue and no plan, I packed up as much junk from my Tallahassee condo as I could stuff in my little Scion, and this lady promptly sped 7 hours back home to Miami.

I left and lost everything that was real to me. I scribbled ‘I love you TRG, always’ on my locker at the rock gym, grabbed my climbing shoes and filled up a mason jar with that dirty gym rubber so I could keep it close forever. I said a few goodbyes (and still owe most of you a proper one, I’m sorry!), and now it’s time for a new plan.

So here I am. The boxes and bags that cluttered my room in Miami were overwhelming, so I ditched my hometown to spend 4th of July weekend in Key West with my two closest lady friends. With a little help from tequila, fresh salty air, and Marisa’s no-nonsense attitude, I put on my big girl panties and am ready for a new plan.

So here it is: I put in my two weeks notice at my Tallahassee job, decided to purge myself of everything I left up in my condo (anyone need some furniture?), and I started dreaming of my next big adventure. I left my comfortable recluse shell, and have begun exploring everything and everyone in Miami. I’m mapping out an autumn trip to North Carolina, New York, and the rest of the eastern coast up to Maine.

I’m still trying to find peace without Niko, but eventually I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that we’re all just spuds in the dirt. I’m learning how to roll with the punches, and am enjoying suddenly not having a plan. I’m just going, and it’s been working out so far. I even had the pleasure of being approached by a fan during an open mic event – Lori, you really have no idea how much it meant to me for you to introduce yourself that night, you may have saved the fate of this blog.

Enough rambling. Ha, that was the short version too. Told ya the long one could fill a book. Folks, I am back. No more pity parties, no more sulking in bed – life is calling. I only have my job with LivingSocial now, and my unedited photo count is pushing past 5,000 images. I’m back on my grind, and vow to pleasure your eyes with plenty of photos and daily updates.

And while we’re at it: ADD ME ON TWITTER! @themorningfresh – I’m twitter-tarded, but why not? Keep calm, and carry on my friends.

Road Trip America Day 1 – Five states, three heaping plates of barbeque, one sunrise, and too many cheez-its

As I write you, it’s 9:33 PM on May 9, 2011, and we’re trudging through Texas towards the outskirts of New Mexico after a tasty pit stop at Taco Bueno just outside of Dallas. The bulk of our day has been spent in the Pilot, which has already proven itself to be a worthy road trip vessel.

The morning began with a blur; I was too caught up in my residual freelance work to catch any sleep before our 5:30 AM departure from Tallahassee. Niko promised me bacon for breakfast, but all I got were two soggy hash browns from McDonalds – yuck. Every time we eat fast food, we vow never to touch it again, and yet somehow convenience always sucks us back in. Fortunately, the scenic sights on the road offered an easy distraction from my greasy belly.

Our route today was an exhausting maze. We started west on I-10, meeting Steve at the DeFuniak Springs exit to snag some ropes and draws. After that we popped through Alabama, traversed Mississippi, skirted past Louisiana and rode towards the pink hued sun as it set over Texas. Have I mentioned how amazing this Texas air is right now? It’s warm, but dry, and breezy and cool, but not chilly. It’s perfect.

For this trip, I decided to dedicate myself to two little projects to help preserve thus experience: First, I am diligently tracking our route on the enormous atlas my dad donated to the trip. Our path is brightly highlighted on both state pages and the big country map. Second, each blog post will have a short list of 5 daily experiences (sights, sounds, tastes, random billboard quotes, etc.) – hell, the entire post for some days may just be a list like this.

Here’s your first top 5 of the day:

  1. The crazed wild dog sitting in the thick thistle and wildflower patches between the east and west bound lanes on the interstate in Texas. His patchy-colored fur complimented his wicked eyes that pierced the lanes of traffic in defiance, “yeah, I crossed all those lanes, and I’ll do it again!”
  2. Lunch at Goldie’s Trail Bar-B-Que in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Quite possibly the best baked beans I’ve ever had, this place will be getting its own blog post next week!
  3. Niko spotted an enormous 13-foot Santa figurine peeking out of the woods off the interstate in Texas. – Who put him there?
  4. Little fields, patches and sprouts of skinny golden sunflowers and bushy purple blossoms lining the edges of the roadways throughout the southeast. It’s the floral personification of Brooke and I, and it made me miss my roommate terribly.
  5. The quirky cashier from Taco Bueno near Dallas, who chatted up every single customer and walked around the dining area to continue conversations left discarded at the register. She has a bright future in sales if she ever ditches the taco biz.

Next up: We’ll be finishing this first big haul through the tip of New Mexico and up southern Colorado, then we’ll time in Denver with old Tally Rock Gym friends, for a few days of bouldering, microbreweries and delivering the huge wooden wine cellar we drove up from Tallahassee.

A Mother’s Day Ode to The Most Amazing Mother

Here’s wishing a very happy Mother’s Day to every mother reading this, but especially to the best mom of the bunch – mine.

For twenty-two years, I have been blessed with the most amazing mother on the planet. On October 16, 1988, she gave me the ultimate gift that I will never be able to repay her: my life.

Her selfless giving didn’t end there. She raised a happy little tot the best way a mother could, wrapping earth worms around my fingers like rings to teach me not to be afraid of bugs, and taking my sister and I on adventures all over the world.

Here’s to the woman who cooks everything you could possibly imagine, with a new specialty in quirky sweets like white-chocolate covered Chinese crispy noodle bunches. To my mother who dealt with me through my oh-so-lovely teenage years, and saved my rear-end from all sorts of trouble. To my mom who isn’t afraid to slap a little sense into me when I really need it, literally. To the mommy who always finds me the best frog figurines, unusual bacon treats, and post-it notes that proclaim, ‘Jellyfish are awesome!’ In short, to the perfect mother.

It took a lot of work, but Mom, I think you whipped us up into two pretty darn good daughters. Thank you for forcing us to cook family dinners once a week, and thank you for sending me little packages filled with love, it always makes my day to get something in my mail from you. Thank you for your unwavering generosity, your dedication to your family, your constant support of everything I do, and your timeless beauty, which I hopefully inherited. And thank you for always taking my side, even when Daddy’s right.

Mommy, I love you. And Eric O’Rear says ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ to you as well. Happy Mother’s Day to all my mommy readers, and to all the women in my life. Lori Welbon, Happy Mother’s Day to you, and thank you for reading my site, Will always tells me that you’re a fan, and you are wonderful for that!

A very, very special Happy Mothers Day para mi abuela. Mama, te quiero con todo mi corazon. Espero poder visitar Miami en junio, por que queiro dar muchos besos y brazos a ti. Tu eres el mejor abuela en todo el mundo! Soy una nieta de suerte. Look at this woman, she’s absolutely beautiful. Eighty-million years old, and the woman has less wrinkles than I do thanks to a relentless regime of moisturizing and avoiding the sun. She’s my hero.

Happy Mother’s Day to all! Readers, get off my blog and go call your mother!

Oh, hey – I’M GRADUATING IN FOUR HOURS! Photos and live video galore.

Wow, how did that happen? Fast-forward through four years of Florida State University, and suddenly I have a cap and gown sitting in my room, waiting for my 7:30 graduation ceremony. I spent the morning as usual, munched on bacon and avocado sammies for lunch, and now just four hours away from graduating, I’m totally losing my mind.

My parents are opening up a bottle of prosecco, and while I celebrate, I’ll share a few of my favorite graduation photos that I have taken over the past week. For all my fans (haha) that couldn’t make it to the ceremony, you can watch the Florida State University Commencement Ceremony online! Anyways, enjoy.

Thank you for all the kind words, letters, comments and love. The biggest thank you as I graduate belongs to my parents, the most amazing people on this planet. Without them, I would be no where. I am so blessed. Next time you see me, I’ll have a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, baby!

Congratulations to all my fellow graduates, and to the class of 2011. After four years of all-nighters at All Saints, chugging watery beer at The Strip, and having to be on time to class even after the FSU Alert commands you to stay inside – WE DID IT!