On Holiday Potlucks, Cupcake Decorating and Climber Boys Who Do My Dishes.

Genuine friendship, mutual gratitude and warm hospitality are rare qualities to find collectively within a group of friends. I hosted a holiday pot luck, climber-style, at my house last night, and enjoyed a great evening of homestyle cooking, rowdy conversation, marshmallow roasting and even a mini-baking lesson – but let me digress.

I spent all afternoon preparing treats for my guests. I started off by baking about 20 cupcakes, then moved on to a batch of sugar cookies. Naturally, I  doused it all in creamy frosting. During my kitchen escapades, my housemate’s boyfriend wandered over to the smell of warm pastries. I was in the midst of putting colorful gel frosting on a cupcake when he offered to teach me a little trick. Check out my fabulous Seminoles cupcake!

After a few hours of furious baking and cooking, my personal pot luck spread consisted of chicken and ground turkey handmade dumplings, a pesto spread with loads of bread rounds,  frosted sugar cookies, decorated cupcakes and a bowl of dried fruit bits with nuts. Not too shabby, right? Well, I was quite upstaged by the buffet of treats contributed by my lovely guests. Our final selection included: spinach and artichoke dip, a phenomenal green been casserole, freshly baked crescent rolls, garlic mashed potatoes and a sweet potato with cinnamon apple casserole. Not to mention the enormous sampling of different beers, ranging from good ‘ole Pabst Blue Ribbon to the entire holiday line of Magic Hat brews.

Naturally, we made a huge mess of my kitchen, but I was hardly worried about the chaos in the midst of all my festive cheer. When I finally decided to tackle some of the dishes, I opened my dishwasher to a surprise – one of the climber boys had slyly filled it up with dirty plates and utensils. How often do you find a strong, burly hunk of man who will also clean your kitchen?

It was a wonderful evening spent munching on holiday foods and warming our fingertips by the fire.  The event reminded me how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to associate myself with the folks that make up our community at Tally Rock Gym. If you are looking for a simple way to celebrate the holidays with friends, I highly suggest a pot luck. Tell everyone to bring either food or booze, and you’ll see your kitchen become overloaded with delicious treats. I love this season!

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Folks, there are two things that I truly love in life: feasting and bacon. I headed to the Boue family Thanksgiving dinner celebration anticipating a rowdy afternoon of Cuban ruckus, but what I ended up with was the most phenomenal turkey dinner I have ever tasted. Aside from the fact that Tia Mirti managed to burn my abuela’s precious black beans, our dinner was perfect. I almost had a heart attack when the glorious turkey was summoned from the oven – this enormous hunk of bird was smothered in crispy slices of thick bacon.

Yes, my friends - that is indeed a bacon encrusted turkey. Needless to say, I was overjoyed.

It may not be the most photogenic turkey, but let me tell you – that sucker was amazing. The bacon on the top was cooked to perfection, and the turkey seemed to absorb the juicy goodness of the pork. While I will continue to rave about this turkey for days to come, the true star of our thanksgiving feast was the avocado salad made with fresh picks from our backyard tree. There are few things more satisfying than eating fruit you’ve grown and plucked from your own tree.

My family's freshly made avocado salad, topped with chopped onions, olive oil and salt.

Aside from stuffing myself with good eats, I had a great day of family and friends. The afternoon began with a gathering of my Cuban relatives, which is always guaranteed to turn into a shenanigan. Between my cousin asking inappropriate questions and our youngest cousins making a giant mess with chocolate cupcakes, it was definitely a Thanksgiving to remember. After letting my belly settle down, I stopped by my second family’s house to surprise the Harringtons. I have never been greeted with such warmth and adoration in my life, Kurt and Dena are truly second parents to me.

I ended the evening at my friend Xue’s swanky new digs in downtown Miami on Biscayne Boulevard. As we passed a bottle of red wine around our cozy circle of comrades, Xue’s girlfriend and I demanded that everyone give thanks. My companions gave thanks for their health, their income, our friendship, families and feasting. I declared my gratitude for the following: the beautiful group of people that were surrounding me, my supportive family, avocados, the cityscape of Miami, nature and my love, Niko. What are you thankful for?

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Long lost photography from Chattanooga & my birthday potluck!

I’ve kept you waiting long enough, so here you go readers – the long-awaited film photographs from my 22nd birthday potluck and my trip to Chattanooga have finally been developed.

I had a wonderful pair of birthday weekends, and naturally must thank my amazing friends and boyfriend for their company. My birthday potluck illustrated how many people care about me – largely folks from the rock gym, no surprise there! I can’t thank Niko enough for the beautiful weekend we spent together in Chattanooga. Twenty-two might be old, but I’m ready for another year of growing up and adventuring.

Next set of photos: my developed film shots from the FSU Climbing Club trip to Horse Pens 40 – but first, three more photographs from Chattanooga can be found by clicking the link to see more! The rest of the photos will be posted on Facebook within the next few days, and I’ll be sure to include a link to the album.

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In Loving Memory of Donny Foster.

Two years ago, while I was walking out the door of my old apartment to take a Biology final, I received a painful phone call from my friend Stephanie Parness. Through hysterical bursts of tears, she told me that our amazing, wise, loving and kind friend Donny Foster had taken his own life. It was the first time that I had ever experienced the loss of a close companion, and the thought of that day still leaves me with shaky emotions.

My old best friend, Mikahila Berkman, took Donny’s passing the hardest of anyone. Donny was the most phenomenal young mind to grace this earth, and the world will never recover from the loss of his intuitive wisdom that would have inevitably conquered huge issues in our society to make this world a better place. I think Mikhaila was moved by the idea that what we lost in Donny can never be replaced. No one will be able to match his rib-crushing hugs; no one can retell his ridiculous jokes in outlandish accents; no one can fill the void he left behind.

In honor of his memory, Mikhaila is walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s ‘San Francisco WalkOut of the Darkness Community Walk’ today in California. Alongside thousands of other participants, Mikhaila is working to spread awareness in hopes that other lives can be spared from senseless acts of self-harm. I highly encourage that everyone takes whatever they can spare, and donate to her mission – by clicking here. Even if you can only donate a few dollars, everything counts.

I want to thank Mikhaila for walking on behalf of all of Donny’s friends, peers, family members and everyone who still yearns to wake up one morning and see Donny’s floppy-headed curls bouncing around as he attacks us with his famous hugs. I wish I could participate in this cause, but hope that this post will do its part to raise awareness and spread the word. We love and miss you Donny Foster.

Again – click here to make any donation you can to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You don’t just have to donate in the memory of Donny Foster; this is an event to memorialize everyone we have lost to the crippling act of suicide. Thank you for helping me to spread awareness about this heavy subject, I promise for a more light-hearted post soon.

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